Although traditionally women artists have long been a minority in the comics business, they have made notable impact since its very beginning, and more and more female artist gain recognition, along with the maturing of the medium.
Women creators have worked in every genre, from superheroes to romance, westerns to war, crime to horror. Their modes of expression and subjects of discussion have expanded as women's role in society has changed. The pressure of market forces may result in more stereotypical depictions of women and their concerns, or they may be shut out by male colleagues due to their frankness and thus resort to alternative publishing routes. However, many still have found mainstream and/or underground success telling the stories they want to tell.
Mainstream comic books Edit
Comic books have had a number of female artists from the beginning. One Golden Age publisher in particular, Fiction House, used many female cartoonists, both on staff and through the Eisner & Iger studio, one of the era's comics "packagers" that would supply comic books on demand to publishers testing the emerging medium. Action and adventure-oriented genres were popular at this time, and Fiction House's forte was capable and beautiful female protagonists, working as pilots, detectives, or jungle adventuresses. Women working for the publisher include Lily Renée, Fran Hopper and future romance artists Ruth Atkinson and Ann Brewster. These stories were frequently written by a female writer, as well: Ruth Roche, later an editor. Before finding fame as a crime novelist, Patricia Highsmith wrote for Black Terror and other comic books.
In the 1950s Marie Severin, sister of artist John Severin, was a frequent EC and Atlas/Marvel colorist, later drawing her own stories as well. Her cartoon style made her a frequent contributor to Marvel's Not Brand Echh satirical title of the late 1960s. Another prolific artist was Ramona Fradon, who drew Aquaman and was co-creator of Metamorpho.
Later artists and writers include Ann Nocenti (creator of Typhoid Mary and Longshot), Louise Simonson (Power Pack writer), June Brigman (Power Pack artist), Gail Simone (Welcome to Tranquility) and Devin Grayson (Batman writer).
Underground, alternative and independentEdit
The underground comix movement did eventually attract female artists, being a venue that allowed more mature themes and personal work than the commercial newspaper and comic book industry of the time. A pioneer in this market was Trina Robbins, a driving force in the creation of the early all-female comix books It Ain't Me Babe and All Girl Thrills, and later founder of the anthology series Wimmen's Comix. Robbins has continuedon to a long career in comics, and has written several books about female cartoonists and their comics.
Another all-female comix book series was Tits & Clits Comix, founded by Lyn Chevely and Joyce Farmer, who were inspired by the honesty in the underground comix, but appalled by the frequent macho attitude. With the conviction that sex was political, the series was created with the focus of sex and sexuality from a female perspective.
Artists who grew out of this movement include Lee Marrs (Pudge Girl Blimp about an overweight self-obsessed wannabe hippie girl), Shary Flenniken (Trots and Bonnie about two precocious girls trying to make sense of their suburban life), Aline Kominsky (The Bunch, autobiographical depiction of her least flattering sides) and Dori Seda (autobiographical stories).
After the underground scene turned into the alternative scene, female artists have continued doing personal work, such as Debbie Drechsler (Daddy's Girl, 1996, about incest and sexual abuse during childhood) and Phoebe Gloeckner (Diary of a Teenage Girl, 2002).
The scene's unapologetic attitude also inspired artists outside the US, such as Canadian Julie Doucet, whose surrealist semi-autobiographical series Dirty Plotte became a worldwide cult favorite in the 90's.
The underground/alternative market allowed for a more open depiction of sexuality, and in the 70's and 80'swo open lesbian and bisexual artists started telling their stories in comic book form, such as Mary Wings (artist of the first all-lesbian comix book Come Out Comix (1973)), Roberta Gregory (Bitchy Bitch, and frequent contributor to Gay Comix) and Alison Bechdel (Dykes to Watch Out For and graphic novel Fun Home, 2006).
In the independent market, that began to appear from the 70's, Wendy Pini, together with her husband Richard Pini, started the manga-inspired series Elfquest, which soon became a major sleeper hit. In the 1980's, Colleen Doran's space opera series A Distant Soil was originally published in fanzines, and then published at the Pinis' company WaRP Graphics, although Doran left due to copyright disagreements.
In 1993, DC Comics editor Karen Berger was given her own imprint to manage, soon called Vertigo, following her success with such "mature reader" titles as The Sandman. Vertigo evolved from a "darker" corner of the DC Universe to a largely creator-owned imprint, and has featured work by women such as Pia Guerra (Y: The Last Man) and G. Willow Wilson (Air).
Other popular artists include Donna Barr (Desert Peach, about Erwin Rommel's fictional gay brother), Jill Thompson (Scary Godmother, a friendly witch in a Halloween environment) and Linda Medley (Castle Waiting, daily lives of fairytale characters).
Although a minority, there have been female artists working in the medium even since its earliest days. One of the earliest female artists was Marie Duval, who, together with her husband Charles Henry Ross, was co-creator and artist of one of the earliest recurring characters in modern cartoons and comics, Ally Sloper.
Tove Jansson is best known as a prose writer, but she did also write and draw comics featuring her characters, "The Moomins" in the 50's, containing the same poetical qualities as her books.
In the UK, Posy Simmonds started her career in 1979 with the weekly comic strip The Silent Three of St. Botolph's for The Guardian about the daily life of three former schoolfriends, which lasted for a decade. She had also written children's books, often in comic form, such as Fred (where later a successful animated special) and Lulu and The Flying Babies. For the 90's and 00's, she has done more serious works, inspired by literary classics, such as Gemma Bovery and Tamara Drewe.
An early veteran on the Franco-Belgian market was Liliane Funcken (née Schorils), who, after meeting her husband Fred Funcken (himself a comics veteran), teamed up with him to embark on a long-lasting career for the magazine Tintin from the 50's up until the 80's, where the couple collaborated on comics and illustration. They have adopted a realistic style, and mostly specialise in historic works.
One of the earliest successful female artists was Claire Bretécher, who started her career in the 60's and is famed for her humor series Les Frustrés and the co-creation of the magazine L'Écho des savanes along with Gotlib and Mandryka.
In 1976, the French magazine Ah ! Nana was launched. It was inspired by the feminist underground comix from the USA, published by Humanoïdes Associés and was an attempt to branch out of Metal Hurlant by the same editor with a majority of female artists. It tried to adhere to the rock'n'roll attitude of the former magazine, and sometimes featured male artists from the magazine, such as Jacques Tardi and Moebius. Every issue was built around a theme, such as nazism or homo- and transsexuality. Issue 7, 1978, about sadomasochism was deemed pornography and was forbidden to sell to minors below 18 years of age, a rule which by extension forbade kiosks to advertise the magazine, thus cutting off many of the magazine's market outlets. In the end, this forced the cancellation of the magazine due to bad sales, through means considered by the authors as censorship of a feminist voice. The last issue was issue 9, themed around incest. No similar comics magazine has since appeared in the Franco-Belgian market, but it helped launch or consolidate the careers of Chantal Montellier (gritty, feminist, political sci-fi), Nicole Claveloux (surreal fantasy) and Florence Cestac (funny cartoons).
Another author that appeared during this time was Annie Goetzinger, who worked in a realistic art nouveau style and drew adventures with female protagonists. She frequently collaborated with Pierre Christin, and has won two awards at the Angoulême festival.
In the beginning of the 21st century, Iranian expat Marjane Satrapi released the critically acclaimed Persepolis about her childhood and coming-of-age in a politically turbulent Iran, and in Europe. The Ivorian-French writer, Marguerite Abouet, wrote the acclaimed Aya series about an Ivorian girl growing up in the 1970s.
- ↑ Paley, Nina. "Nina Gives Up", Nina's Adventures. Reprinted in Robbins, Trina. A Century of Women Cartoonists, Northampton, MA: Kitchen Sink Press, 1993. pp. 172
- ↑ "Women would submit things to the underground publishers and they'd be rejected because men were grossed out by what women had to say." Flenniken, Shary, as quoted in the DVD insert of Comic Book Confidential (dir. Ron Mann, 1989)
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