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Love Hurts, Amuses, Confuses and Astounds

Alec's new girlfriend is a bloodthirsty zombie who likes to devour young men. But he doesn't mind at all. He's just happy that he finally has someone to join him in a game of Scrabble.

That's amore in Project: Romantic, a new anthology that aims to rekindle the flame for romance comics. It also amuses, confuses and startles. The collection has 33 comics by some of the most innovative indie graphic artists around. A few pieces miss the mark, but most deliver with wit, charm and stylish art. "Kingdom Animalia, Illustrated" offers a faux-scientific guide to mating rituals (don’t miss the octopus's guide to safe sex). In other stories, the lovers are doodles, blobs, dolls, breakdancing robots -- and animals. Turtle to rabbit: "I feel like maybe you're moving too fast for me."

As the book's introduction points out, the 1950s romance comics were far more formulaic. Typically, bombshells pined over quarterbacks. Those old comics also gave advice, warning single girls against being an expert in "technical things." The closest Project: Romantic comes to advice is a look at how to tell your parents you've gotten engaged to your boyfriend ... who happens to have turned into a bear.

Paula Rogers, a freelance writer in San Francisco, reviews culture for member station KQED.

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Paula Rogers