Alter Egos is a column that highlights talented geeks in the Chattanooga area, tracing the origins of their favorite pop culture obsessions to their present-day hobbies.

Jacque Nodell would be the first person to tell you that comics run in her blood-almost literally.

“My grandfather, Mart Nodell, created ‘The Green Lantern’ in 1940, and I had the amazing fate of growing up surrounded by comic books and the comic book industry,” Nodell said. “I would say I really came into my own as a geek when I realized that being a geek is really just about being extremely passionate about something.”

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While she grew up with no shortage of comics to read, her bookshelf resembled most other girls’ her age: “Little House on the Prairie,” “Anne of Green Gables” and the “American Girl” series. This natural love of reading has stayed with her, as the 32-year-old and new-to-Chattanooga resident is both a writer and historian.

Taking a historical look at a forgotten comic genre
While most of today’s comics are action-packed and romance is often woven in as a backstory, there was a time when romance-based comics were front and center in the 1960s and 1970s, and Nodell’s passions include exploring these comics through her blog, titled Sequential Crush.Her blog covers comic greats such as Stan Lee and subjects including puppy love, weddings and diet advice, as well as harder-hitting topics such as the Vietnam War and interracial dating.

“When I finished graduate school and really got in to reading romance comics, I saw that there was a serious lack of information about the genre and its creators,” she said. “I’ve always been very interested in pop culture and media created for girls and young women, so the romance comics were a perfect way to bring together all of my passions.”

Her blog has become a hub for the “few but mighty” romance comic fans around the globe. She currently has over 1,000 fans on her Facebook page.

“The internet has made connecting with other comic book fans and pros a breeze,” Nodell said. “While I wish I had been around when the comics I love were on the newsstands, I am grateful that I am [able] to study them and [have] dialogue with others regardless of location.”

Since starting her blog and gaining a dedicated following, Nodell has also been invited to speak on the topic at well-known conventions such as Comic Con and Heroes Con.

“I love attending conventions,” she said. “It is where I’m truly in my element. I love small conventions where I can find back issues from dealers.”

‘Kickstarting’ romance comics back into the spotlight
Earlier this year, Nodell launched a Kickstarter for her next project, a book titled “How to Go Steady: Timeless Dating Advice,Wisdom andLessons From Vintage Romance Comics.

“I started Sequential Crush with the goal of eventually writing a book,” Nodell said. “[The book] will be a great starting point for anyone interested in the oft-forgotten comic book genre.”

True to the process of writing and inking comics, the project has also given Nodell a chance to collaborate with illustrator and designer Jenny Cimino. Their initial attempt at Kickstarting the project led to them raising nearly $15,000.

“Our creative visions mesh fantastically, and she really gets the aesthetic feel of the romance comics but brings her own modern flair,” Nodell said. “I’m hopeful that we will be able to take what we learned during the first Kickstarter campaign and succeed the second time so the book can finally come to fruition.”

So why is it important to shine a spotlight on these comics now and possibly introduce them to a whole new audience? For Nodell, the answer is simple.

“[These comics] are important because they show that comic books and sequential art can be so much more than just superhero stories,” she said. “They are comics filled with stories of people overcoming obstacles and inner turmoil-things I think we can all identify with.”

Nodell also pointed out that many of the main superhero comic book creators of the period-including Jack Kirby and Joe Simon-also worked on romance comics, which she said “created a really interesting overlap in genres and styles.” And where would modern superheroes be without a love interest?

“There is also a recent resurgence of romance comics as a standalone genre,” she said. “I think [that] is really exciting and hopefully will continue to grow and impact mainstream pop culture.”

Rachel Stewart grew up in the ’80s on a healthy diet of pop culture. In 2005, she discovered “Doctor Who” and never looked back. Since then, she co-founded the Tennessee Who Authority-a “Doctor Who” fan group-and has served as a panelist at fan conventions across the Southeast, including Con Nooga, TimeGate, Hurricane Who and ConGT. She also reviews “Doctor Who” novels and “Big Finish” audios at “The Oncoming Storm” podcast. Want to show off your alter ego? Email Rachel at [email protected].

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