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Series: New York Review Comics
Publication Date: October 1, 2019
Return to RomanceThe Strange Love Stories of Ogden Whitney
by Ogden Whitney, edited by Dan Nadel and by Frank Santoro, introduction by Liana Finck
Ogden Whitney was one of the unsung masters of American comics. He is perhaps best remembered for co-creating the satirical superhero Herbie Popnecker, also known as the Fat Fury, but his romance comics of the late 1950s and 1960s may be even more unique. In Whitney’s hands, the standard formula of meet-cute, minor complications, and final blissful kiss becomes something very different: an unsettling vision of midcentury American romance as a devastating power struggle, a form of intimate psychological warfare dressed up in pearls and flannel suits. From suburban lawns and offices to rocket labs and factories, his men and women scheme and clash, dominate and escape. It is darkly hilarious, truly terrifying—and yes, occasionally even a bit romantic.
This NYRC edition is a lightweight paperback with extra-thick paper and features fifty-year-old artwork lovingly restored to its original vivid color.
Click to enlarge images
Ogden Whitney was one of those very unique artists who caught my attention with everything he did. Comedy or drama, I could always count on his natural style to take me on a pleasant ride.
Ogden Whitney’s comics are about everything I’ve ever been interested in reading about, from make-outs to makeovers. Which is to say, they’re a little bit about men, but more importantly, they’re about women. This collection is both significant and delicious.
With just nine tales, Return to Romance doesn’t wear out its welcome. For me, it did more than fulfill the sort of “lost classics” reissue project that is New York Review Comics’ mandate. It took a once popular, now defunct genre, and for 112 pages made me believe that one of its practitioners held all the secrets.
—Ed Park, The New York Times Book Review
New York Review Books' laudable project of reviving under-appreciated text and visual works of the last century hits a bullseye with this appreciation of Ogden Whitney. . . . Whitney’s truly disturbing take on the genre surfaced sinister, psychologically dense power-struggles that motivated his lovers. All this was in stark contrast to the anodyne cartoon styles of the journeyman artists who illustrated them. Prepare to be unsettled.
—Steve Smith, Folio’s “Best Books for Print People 2019”
[V]ery funny and savage and knowing. Daniel Clowes and Liana Finck . . . regard [Whitney] as something of a hero.
—Rachel Cooke, The Guardian’s “Best graphic novels of 2019”
This reprinting stays true to the comics' original look and feel, in saturated colors on grainy, newsprint-effect paper . . . In his afterword, Nadel echoes [Finck’s introduction] to remark on the psychological precision and refreshing directness of Whitney's storytelling, which is sure to ensnare new readers in this well-presented throwback volume.
—Annie Bostrom, Booklist
[Whitney] was a master of deadpan absurdity.
—Drew Friedman, Print
Unlike many artists from that era whose work is vivid but rushed, seeming almost primitive today, Whitney’s aesthetic is basically timeless, with ultra clean lines and bright coloring drawing out the exceptional level of detail in his backgrounds.
—The Cultural Gutter