Tag Archive for Trina Robbins

Pretty in Ink Remembers Women of Comic World’s Past

X.PRETTYININKSAN FRANCISCO, CA – The Cartoon Art Museum has unveiled Pretty In Ink: The Trina Robbins Collection, featuring highlights from the personal archives of legendary comics historian, Trina Robbins. Based on Pretty in Ink published by Fantagraphics Books, The Cartoon Art Museum’s retrospective of the same name has been assembled from Robbins’s own archives, and features many of the top women cartoonists from the early 20th century, including Ethel Hays, Edwina Dumm, Nell Brinkley, Ramona Fradon, and Lily Renée.  Original artwork, rare photographs, and other memorabilia is also included in the retrospective.

As an exhibit, “Pretty” is an array of illustration styles, including art deco, and film noir, that amasses works ranging from large, hard-lined comic pages to playful drawings done in colored pencil. Original photographs of the artists themselves, gives presence to their lasting work.

According to Robbins’ 30-plus years of research, more women than men worked in the comics industry in the 20th century. After most of the men in comics left their jobs to fight in World War II, women “drew beautiful, courageous women who didn’t need to be rescued by men: girl detectives, girl reporters, counterspies, and jungle Queens.”

Take “Miss Fury,” the first-ever costumed action heroine, who debuted six months before Wonder Woman and garnered a million readers. It’s illustrated and authored by June Tarpe Mills, and a 1944 promotional sheet on display reads “100% of the MEN; 90% of the WOMEN; (And Why Not?) Voted for MISS FURY!”

According to the placards accompanying the pieces, when fighting female characters went out of vogue in the late ‘40s, women found a place in romance comics. Unfortunately, after World War II ended and men returned to their jobs, women were deprived of significant comic work.

But if there’s anything this exhibit shows, it’s that female cartoonists adapted to every shifting trend of their time, finding new work to capitalize on and new characters to represent. No matter the era, there will always be women in the readership to illustrate for. These female protagonists who led their own adventures and the brave artists who inked them to life rightfully hold a place in comics history.

“Pretty in Ink” is on display at the Cartoon Art Museum until Aug. 24.

The New York Comics Symposium: Women’s Comix

Wimmnen's Comix Issue 7  Cover by Melinda Gebbie

Wimmnen’s Comix Issue 7
Cover by Melinda Gebbie

The New York Comics & Picture-Story Symposium is a weekly forum for discussing the tradition and future of text/image work. Open to the public, it meets Monday nights 7-9pm EST in New York City.

Samantha Meier, Gender and Politics Editor for PolicyMic, spoke at the New York Comics and Picture-Story Symposium last weekend, giving a talk entitled “Women’s Comix: Where Were the Gender Politics in Underground Comix?” Meier’s talk focused on the interrelations among underground comix, women artists, and second wave feminism from the 1960s to the 1990s, a subject she has studied since she began researching her senior thesis in Sociology at Harvard.

Meier’s research regarding the earliest women of underground comix in the late ‘60s revealed pattern typically experienced by women trying to enter fields where men had a dominant position. Until 1970, only a handful of women created comics for underground newspapers.

Among the artists, Trina Robbins did the most to popularize the story of women’s comix. Robbins’ path to comics was uneven. She began as a fashion designer in Laurel Canyon before doing her first comic for the Los Angeles Free Press. After being put in touch with the managing editor of the East Village Other (EVO), Robbins began drawing comic advertisements for EVO featuring a character named Suzy Slumgoddess. Without much financial success as an artist on the East Coast, in 1969 she returned to the west, this time settling in San Francisco to try to join the burgeoning underground comix movement.

After meeting with no success in her attempts to get into male-dominated anthologies, she began to do work for It Ain’t Me, Babe, one of many feminist underground newspapers, which began to sprout up around the country in the early ‘70s. This was part of a growing trend of Feminist publications, some of which were more mainstream, others separatist. Robbins’ work on It Ain’t Me, Babe was successful enough to get the attention of other publishers who wanted to produce something like it.

Robbins contacted Meredith Kurtzman, daughter of Harvey Kurtzman, the publisher of Mad Magazine, hoping to draw her into the production of a comics anthology featuring women artist. She later was contacted by Ron Turner, a publisher who had bought It Ain’t Me, Babe, and wanted another. The founding mothers, who would receive Turner’s financial backing, met at the house of Patty Moodian in 1972 to discuss the production of what would eventually become Wimmen’s Comix. Later that year, Robbins and the others opened to submissions by mail, and organized the title with a rotating editorship. The first issue was 36 pages, 34 in black and white with color covers. Over the course of its run, Wimmen’s Comix was published by Last Gasp, then Renegade Press when it rebooted in 1987, and later by Rip Off Press until it folded. Ironically, Wimmen’s Comix met with resistance from the mainstream Feminist movement – when Robbins applied to advertise the title in Ms. Magazine, Gloria Steinem rejected her. However, the title did succeed in establishing the careers of many of the artists now at the center of high-quality comics art, including Alison Bechdel.

%d bloggers like this: