Don't Believe the Hype
(This Stripped column originally appeared in the February 12-18, 1998, Long Island Voice. Click on the artwork for a larger image.)
by Beth Hannan Rimmels
I'm a hopeless romantic, but I hate Valentine's Day. I love love, but the hype is impossible for even the happiest couples to live up to. So pardon me if my Valetine's offerings are a bit bent. It's not like I didn't warn you.
First up is Steve Darnall's Empty Love Stories series (Funny Valentine Press, $2.95). Darnall's brilliant work on Uncle Sam for DC's Vertigo line wasn't his first pairing with artist Alex Ross, who provided the cover for the first issue of Empty Love Stories. The artists change for the individual stories in each issue, but the writing is all Darnall. He's a charming guy, judging by his SPX '97 appearance, not at all the sort of person you'd expect to write these darkly tongue-in-cheek riffs on old-time romance comics.
The first issue's "White Trash Romance" was amusing, although wife abuse, regardless of the circumstances, leaves a bad taste in my mouth. I should have seen the punchline a mile away, but I didn't, and it was still funny. "One of the Walking Dead" was worthy of the Crypt-Keeper, but the closer was presented by his lesser-known relation, the Love Keeper. "My Target" is a touch tasteless but proves there's someone for everyone.
The latest features a great cover by Ty Templeton (from my favorite Batman book, Batman Adventures). Interior art is provided by Batton Lash (the hilarious Wolff & Byrd: Counselors of the Macabre) for "One Humiliating Incident After Another," a story of a shy woman trying to open up. Steve Remen does the art chores for "Corrupting the Master Race," an interracial love story, and Lenin Selsol draws "Love Behind Bars," an unlikely prison relationship. I also loved the "ad" for the Empty Love action figure — "Promises nothing! Demands a lot in return!" — and "Ask Jackie Barbour, the easily disappointed advice columnist."
All the stories in Janet Heatherington's Eternal Romance (Best Destiny, $2.50) have some sort of otherworldly angle, be it vampire, supernatural, etc. This matches the trend on the paperback shelves these days, where alongside the usual bodice-rippers you can find romance novels featuring time travel, angels, magic and science-fiction motifs. The latest sub-genre has pets playing matchmakers, so Hetherington's work looks downright normal.
The book's hostess is Destine, a sexy vampire matchmaker (imagine Elvira playing Dolly Levi). Sometimes she just introduces the story and sometimes she's a supporting character. None of the stories have a sad ending but don't assume everything's perfect. "Angel or Alien" had an ending that reminded me of the film Green Card — neither sad nor perfect. Eternal Romance is a fun, G-rated read that is especially good for preteen girls scouring the comics shelves for anything interesting.
Both Empty Love Stories and Eternal Romance can be hard to find, so if your retailer won't even try to order them (it's depressing how often I hear that), contact the creators directly. Hetherington's e-mail address is EternalRom@aol.com or write her at 50-2845 Cedarwood Dr, Ottawa ON, KIY 0G6 Canada. Contact Funny Valentine Press at firstname.lastname@example.org or PO Box 578155, Chicago, IL 60657-8155.
Easier to find (I hope!) is Scary Godmother: Bloody Valentine (Sirius, $3.95). Jill Thompson is back with a new story in which Hannah and Scary Godmother help a vampire couple get back together. It's a blast. Personally, I'd like to see a Scary Godmother story for every holiday.
A belated mea culpa: When I wrote about the original Scary Godmother book for Halloween, I said it was dedicated to Thompson's daughter. I was wrong. Hannah is one of the creator's nieces, and Thompson says she'll "be dedicating a volume to each one, but since Hannah was the first, she became the inspiration for the series."
Column © 1998 Long Island Voice. Empty Love Stories © 1998 Funny Valentine Press. Eternal Romance © 1998 Best Destiny. Scary Godmother: Bloody Valentine © 1998 Jill Thompson.