Though I’d normally provide a respite from the all pervasive influence of special days, I regret to inform you that I’m jumping on the bandwagon for today’s post, with the Valentine-friendly Fresh Romance.
Despite the unlimited scope that comics provide, it’s strange that so little is done in the realm of romance comics. When more mainstream publishers try their hand at the genre, it’s often very conservative and ‘traditional’ in terms of the love stories they cover. Indie creators have traditionally been much more open to exploring beyond heterosexual romance, but this frequently takes the form of more autobiographical stories, albeit fictionalised in a few ways at times.
So it was really refreshing to see an independent publisher try their hand at much more diverse and inclusive romance fiction, as Rosy Press did with their anthology comic Fresh Romance back in 2015. Running to 17 issues (with two volumes collecting those stories in full) and other volumes collecting the different stories individually if one of the featured stories piqued your interest more than any other, it really did – and still does – feel as if the series has something for everyone. There’s an effort made to ensure that there’s plenty of diversity and representation, which is something that should definitely be applauded in my opinion.
Opening the first issue is the start of School Spirit, a story that initially seems to be heading for a heterosexual love triangle, but by the end of the all-too-brief chapter has become something much more – and definitely unexpected. Teens Malie and Justine seem to be competing over the same guy, Miles, but in reality they’re hiding something from everyone. Miles has a secret of his own, however – one with a more supernatural romantic twist…
The second tale featured is Regency romance Ruined, which sets up an arranged marriage between Catherine and Andrew; neither of whom seem to want their union to go ahead. It’s very good at establishing time and place within the dialogue and excellent attention to period detail in the art, but feels a like a bit of a downer after the exuberant, upbeat set up of School Spirit.
Finally, The Ruby Equation sees barista Ruby (who is seemingly not from Earth) finding love matches for the patrons of her coffee shop. It’s a nicely colourful and sweetly optimistic opening chapter for the story, with some wonderful character design and details (Ruby’s little alien pet is gorgeous!).
As well as the stories, there’s background material on the covrr’s design and The Ruby Equation – showcasing character ideas and sketches. There’s also a section of advice on love lives from The Divorce(e) Club and an intro from editor Janelle Asselin that welcomes readers to the comic with a little mission statement, as well as a list of thanks to Kickstarter backers and other creators who helped bring the issue to fruition.
It’s a wonderful anthology and it really is great to see an effort made to represent a really diverse range of situations, people and preferences; as the series goes on and new stories are introduced, even more diversity is included. It’s a very well produced first issue and demonstrates that despite what the term ‘comic book’ conjures up images of (likely superheroes for most people), there’s an awful lot of genres and stories out there, whoever you are or however you identify. Today’s a good day to be reminded that love is love, after all.
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