Does the Count of Monte Cristo read romance comics? Books read

While I’m a huge fan of Alexandre Dumas’ THE COUNT OF MONTE CRISTO I’d never read the unabridged version before this past week. Having done so, I must confess I prefer the unabridged one I’d read previously (though that abridged one major element, the final downfall of the scheming banker Danglars). The book tells the  story of Edmond Dantes, unjustly imprisoned for fifteen years, escaping and acquiring almost unlimited wealth, then using it to bring slow, relentless doom on the three men who framed him. It’s a great yarn and I love some of the subtle webs Dantes spins. I also like how deftly he uses his wealth: to enlist the aid of a bandit chief he drops one bribe so that the chief’s imprisoned man gets a long stay of execution, then another to get the guy out of the slammer.

However even allowing that the nineteenth century had the time to read really big books (this paperback is 1100 pages) this feels very much like Dumas, writing this as a serial, padded it out to add a few extra installments. The bandit chief Vampa doesn’t need much of a backstory, but we get the history of how he became the chieftain anyway, and there are endlessly long displays of Dantes’ spectacular wealth. I may try reading this again, or I may go back to the abridged. I must add that the happy ending works better than I remembered, though the relationship has an unpleasant power imbalance to it. Still, it’s a great story and I have hopes of doing a fantasy variation on it some day.

HOW TO GO STEADY: Timeless Dating Advice, Wisdom and Lessons From Vintage Romance Comics by Jacque Nodell (granddaughter of Golden Age artist Martin Nodell and romance-comics blogger at Sequential Crush) gives a good overview of the advice columnists who populated the romance comics of the 1950s through the 1970s, sharing tips on dating, finding a guy, going steady, S-E-X and fashion in response to reader questions (including some from boys — the comics were less the province of female fans than I assumed). Nodell gives a list of the various columnists (some real people, others staff writers hiding behind pseudonyms) and looks at their advice which she argues was more liberated than a lot of what was out there back in the day. No, they weren’t encouraging kids to use birth control or anything, but they did put a lot of emphasis on girls having their own interests rather than building their life around Him, and not putting up a false front to land a guy (I have seen books and articles even from later eras that suggested the opposite). Though that said, I can’t imagine any columnist today not freaking out about a teenager having a boyfriend a decade older. Obviously not for everyone, but even as a non-romance comics reader I found it interesting.

#SFWApro. Cover art by Jay Scott Pike, all rights remain with current holder.

2 Comments

Filed under Comics, Reading

2 responses to “Does the Count of Monte Cristo read romance comics? Books read

  1. Zosimus the Heathen

    “Going steady” seems such a dated term now. Funnily enough, I first heard it myself in some lovely (not) book of “spiritual exercises” for Catholics entitled “Mental Prayer”, which used it in a cautionary tale about some poor unfortunate teenager named Larry, who was committing the “mortal” sin of going steady with his girlfriend. After dropping off said girlfriend from a date one night and starting to drive home, Larry suddenly remembered with a sickening feeling in his gut that going steady was a mortal sin. He panicked. He sped. He crashed his car and died, whereupon the jaws of hell opened wide to receive his miserable, damned soul. Yeah… That was kind of a messed up thing for someone who was probably only eleven or twelve at the time to read. It definitely caused me to have a bit of a weird reaction to a(n in retrospect rather harmless) scene in a teenage romance novel I’d read a few months later[*], in which the female protagonist and her boyfriend decided to go steady. (I was even more shocked to later have my (very Catholic) mother later tell me that she and my father had gone steady for a time before they’d married.)

    Interesting how ahead of their time a lot of advice columnists from old teenage romance comics apparently were[**]. I actually think their advice that girls shouldn’t put up a false front to land a guy would be just as applicable nowadays to all those clueless young men who get tangled up in the so-called seduction community (or even more toxic and cult-like Redpill subculture). It’s depressing how often that “movement” so often preaches that a guy needs to change pretty much everything about himself in order to be “alpha” and therefore (supposedly) attractive to the opposite sex (while simultaneously acting like he’s the “prize”, ironically enough).

    *I went through a period as a boy/young adolescent when I positively *devoured* teenage romance novels. It was probably one of the reasons why my mother later admitted that she and my father went through a period where they were sure I was going to end up gay.

    **That said, I’m not completely surprised – I once had a bit of a craze for looking up old copies of my local newspaper in my city’s main library, and I was always pleasantly surprised at how thoughtful and open-minded a lot of the people who wrote letters to the editor “back in the day” were, even during the 1940s and 50s!

    • Jeez, that Larry story sounds like the Catholic equivalent of a Chick Tract.

      Going steady was such an unremarkable thing when I was a teen in the 1970s, I was surprised to realize how controversial it had once been (first you date one person! Then you have sex! Then comes the pregnancy and the shotgun marriage! QED!). Yes, it does sound quite antiquated now.

      I’ve read romance novels off and on. Only occasionally romance comics, but Nodell’s blog does a great job making them interesting.

      There are a number of rom-coms where the underlying premise is the protagonist getting mentored in how to get a woman by smooth-talking friend, only to discover Be Yourself works (The Knack, Swingers, How to Pick Up Girls, Hitch). I agree grasping that concept would be healthy for a lot of people.

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