Monday, November 12, 2012

Literature Review: Confessions, Romances, Secrets, and Temptations: Archer St. John and the St. John Romance Comics

Confessions, Romances, Secrets, and Temptations: Archer St. John and the St. John Romance ComicsConfessions, Romances, Secrets, and Temptations: Archer St. John and the St. John Romance Comics by John Benson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

My girlfriend bought me this book for my birthday just a couple days ago, largely because I've been interested in the St. John Publishing Company for the past couple of months and needed to know a little more about some of the creators who worked there; specifically Dana Dutch. Conveniently enough, Dutch was one of the primary focuses of this book! Unfortunately, the man is still a bit of an enigma. If you're someone who is also interested in learning about Mr. Dutch, you won't find a whole lot of information here about what work he did exactly, or even how much of the uncredited St. John library was done by him.

However, the book does provide some insight into Archer St. John, the company's founder, and his star artist Matt Baker, both individuals who have been somewhat shrouded in mystery for a very long time. While there certainly are still more questions than answers, through the interviews conducted by Mr. Benson I was given a fairly solid characterization of both Archer and Baker, and even got a better feel for the kind of person Dutch was despite there being very little known about him.

The book brings some attention to a few of the company's non-comic forays, such as magazines and a line of novels, but these were never truly the focus and are somewhat grazed over. Which is a shame, because the more they were mentioned the more I wanted to know about them, and so little information exists about the St. John Publishing Company that I feel like there's a lot of stuff that will simply go unrecorded and ultimately be lost as the interviewees reach the end of their age.

Benson and his interviewees have a habit of coming off topic for long stretches of time, with a number of the creators being more interested in discussing aspects of their history outside of St. John Publications or pushing their current endeavors. This is to be expected, but so is the editing process that typically keeps the transcription of these interviews on track. There didn't seem to be enough of that.

Despite its tendency to lose focus, and a few sections in the end that drag for much too long, Confessions, Romances, Secrets, and Temptations: Archer St. John and the St. John Romance Comics is an invaluable resource for Golden Age historians and fans of St. John's publications.

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