DC Comics made a heroic effort to produce modern, relevant romance comics. But they never dared cross the line into the sexual revolution (or even the social revolution) that was the key to reaching the mass of women. All the comic book heroines were still crying over men and living soap opera lives and hanging out at the country club.and Irene goes on to make her case as to why the romance comics died in a very conclusive manner. Comics could not approach sex, premarital sex, whatsoever, and so lost the little relevance that they had.
What I have always rather discounted was the effectiveness of the Gothic Romance culture from the 1960's, something that Irene brings up:
A strong line of female-oriented Gothic romances might have worked a few years earlier to transition the romance comic audience, but the Gothic comics eventually produced were mostly male-oriented weird mystery tales. And they were all started too late, after the subgenre had peaked, and after the romance comic audience had wandered away.... This would be like doing vampire love stories à la Twilight (but from a male point of view) five years from now. Too late.Ah yes, this is comics all over. Late to the party and poorly done even when they finally show up.
The discussion in the comments section then veers off of this question from Pat:
One question I would have asked her is whether she feels that the reason comics are so male-dominated is that men are much more visually oriented.And that is an interesting question. My personal take, without having the time to go research things on line and see what studies might or might not have been done: men are more visual when it comes to sexually oriented material, but certainly not more visual over all. Far from it. I think that women are extremely visually oriented, and that there is a likelihood that they will process visuals differently, taking different cues from them.
I believe that romance comics suffered from being stuck in a male oriented industry: male writers, writing from a male point of view, with male artists doing their level headed best to do comics that they might want to look at (and thus with a male-centric point of view when it comes to storytelling as well as character design). Certainly 40 years ago you wouldn't have had a huge stable of female artists with the chops and skills to draw from when putting together your gothic romance comics, even if you could have found a distributor. You only have to go find a collection of female written porn edited by Suzy Bright to see that there while there are certainly similarities to porn written by men, there are clearly differences as well.
The reality is that, had you founded a magazine (so as to get around the comics code) in 1972, and found someone to print it and distribute it, you'd have had a tough sell to put enough sex into the romance to have found an audience.
I also think that very few artists in comics excel at the smaller moments which are easy to describe as a writer, but harder, much harder, to pull off in a comic format. Anyone who has read Love and Rockets thinks it looks easy because Los Bros. pull it off so easily... and pretty much everyone else fails miserably. Since comics oriented towards women wouldn't be about people punching each other through walls, you really would have to find artists who could communicate on a more sophisticated level as well as making art stylish enough to intrigue the readers. Some of the Filipino artists in the 1970's that DC employed certainly had enough style to do that (although everyone looks a bit swarthy, but the women were always very sexy.).
Manga sales demographics have shown us that the old chestnut that women don't buy comics, don't like comics or aren't visually oriented is just that: an old cart before the horse myth brought to you by the old men of comics who couldn't figure out how to sell comics to girls. Way to go guys, way to go.