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History of Women in Comic Strips

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Great women cartoonists

The Great Women Cartoonists by Trina Robbins

See also: History of Women in Comic Books and History of Women in Manga

Inclusive of newspaper strips and webcomics

Newspaper Strips and Gag CartoonsEdit

In the early 20th century, when the US newspaper comics market was in its infancy, William Randolph Hearst brought the artist Nell Brinkley over from the competing Denver Post, and although not doing comics herself, her romantic and glamorous imagery became an inspiration to a generation of female comics artists.

Another style popular around the time was cute comics with doll-like round-cheeked children. In 1909, Rose O'Neill created The Kewpies, a series continuing for decades and widely used in various marketing purposes.

Another cartoonist, Grace Wiederseim (also known as Grace Drayton and Grace Gebbie), worked in a similar vein and, from the 1910s until the 1930s, created a multitude of series with cherubic children bearing names such as Toodles, Dimples, Dolly Dingle, and Dottie Darling. She was also the creator of the "Campbell kids", which Campbell Soup employed for marketing purposes up until the 1930s.

Edwina Dumm created a long-lasting series in 1918, Cap Stubbs and Tippie, about a boy and a dog, although the frisky dog soon took over the strip as its most popular character. The series ran until the 1960s.

In the 1920s, the USA underwent an economic boom and widespread social change, leading to the appearance of the "flapper", a female subculture receiving a lot of media attention at the time. Flappers enjoyed partying, jazz music and free dating, and defied many of the social norms surrounding women at the time. Several female cartoonists picked up on the flapper stereotype, often working in a stylish art deco style, including Ethel Hays (with her comic strip Marianne and her famous cartoon Flapper Fanny), Virginia Huget (Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, Babs in Society), Gladys Parker (Gay and her Gang) and Marjorie Henderson Buell (Dashing Dot).

Also in the 1920s, there was proliferation of magazines that featured gag cartoons, most notably The New Yorker. From its earliest days, The New Yorker featured women cartoonists such as Barbara Shermund, Mary Petty, and Helen Hokinson.

In the 1930s, the great depression had struck the USA, and stories about poor but happy families, and their stoic struggles to make a living, became popular reader fare. Martha Orr created one of the most successful series, Apple Mary, about an old lady selling apples around the neighborhood, in 1932.

The accounts on the series' final fate differs. Most sources state that in 1938, she left it to her female assistant Dale Conner, who renamed it Mary Worth, although King Features Syndicate's own account claims that Apple Mary folded and Mary Worth was its replacement. In 1940, a new writer Allen Saunders was brought in, and Conner and Saunders began signing the strip with the joint pseudonym "Dale Allen", which remained after Conner left the series. Mary Worth has proven a successful concept, and is still syndicated around the globe.

In 1935, Marjorie Henderson Buell (signature "Marge") created the comic panel Little Lulu, later spawning a successful comic book series by John Stanley and Irving Tripp. This character inspired the name for the organization Friends of Lulu, an organization promoting reading and authoring of comics to girls and women.

In 1940, veteran artist Dale Messick created the comic strip Brenda Starr, about a glamorous reporter with a soap opera-like love life. After Messick left the series, it was continued solely by other female artists.

In 1941, Tarpé Mills created the superheroine strip Miss Fury for the Sunday pages. Striking a chord among the readers, she was drawing the strip until 1951.

Jackie Ormes was the first nationally syndicated female black cartoonist with her series Torchy Brown, created in 1937 as a humoristic adventure strip lasting for three years, and picked up again in 1950 as Torchy Brown's Heartbeats, basically revamped as a black version of Brenda Starr, with the young black eponymous character stumbling onto adventure after adventure, and going from one love interest to another, although the series also took up more serious subjects such as racial bigotry and environmental pollution. The series never became a widespread success, since it was only picked up by black-owned newspapers.

In the 1940s, teen comics became a popular genre. This was a rather down-to-earth genre, mostly comedy-inclined and marketed towards young teenage girls, where young, often gangly, teenagers went through different problems with the opposite sex and dating. Notable artists to mention include Hilda Terry (Teena, 1941), Marty Links (Emmy Lou, 1944) and Linda Walter (Susie Q. Smith, together with her husband Jerry Walter on scripts). These three artists all had earlier works in the fashion field. In 1951, after some internal arguments within the organization, Terry became the first female cartoonist to be accepted to the National Cartoonists Society.

Women cartoonists continued to appear in such humor magazines as National Lampoon and Mad. Shary Flenniken's "Trots and Bonnie" strip ran in National Lampoon from 1972 to 1990, and she served as an editor for the magazine from 1979 to 1981. Other notable female Lampoon contributors include M.K. Brown and Mara McAfee.

Other successful strips include Cathy Guisewite's semi-autobiographical Cathy, about a neurotic city woman and her problems with shopping and romance, and Lynn Johnston's For Better or For Worse, about the Patterson household and their family relationships. Due to the syndicates' often strict demands on recurring characters and an unwillingness to risk offending readers, some cartoonists have gone into self-syndication to maintain control of their work. Some long-running self-syndicated comics are the feminist Maxine or Laughing Gas by Marian Henley and the surrealist Way Lay or Story Minute by underground veteran Carol Lay.

In 1993, Françoise Mouly was made art editor of The New Yorker.

WebcomicsEdit

The first webcomics were published on CompuServe in 1985, and later utilized early social networking like Usenet and FTP servers. Holley Irvine was one of the earliest female webcartoonists with her comics "OzonePatrol" and "Café Angst" (in collaboration with Hans Bjordahl). The term "webcomic" was coined in 1995.

As web access spread in the late 1990s, more and more webcomics appeared on the scene, notably Maritza Campos's College Roomies From Hell (1999), Shaenon K. Garrity's Narbonic (2000), and Dorothy Gambrell's Cat and Girl (1999).

In 2000, cartoonist and comics theorist Scott McCloud published Reinventing Comics, which posited the effect the limitless "space" and new rendering technology would have on webcomics. Whether directly influenced by McCloud or merely taking advantage of the technology, webcomics started to become more experimental. The first long form online graphic novel was Justine Shaw's Nowhere Girl, with pages formatted specifically for the Web, launched in October 2001. Meanwhile, a loose group of teenage cartoonists calling themselves Pants Press launched their own longform comics, including Dylan Meconis’s vampire comedy Bite Me!, Jen Wang’s supernatural romance Strings of Fate, and Vera Brosgol’s surrealistic comedy Return to Sender. More online graphic novels followed, including Jenn Manley Lee’s sci-fi epic Dicebox (2002), C. Spike Trotman’s alternate-universe bildungsroman Templar, AZ (2005), and Tracy Butler’s anthropomorphic 1920s gangster comic Lackadaisy (2006).

As the indie print market shrunk in the mid-2000s, many established creators began distributing their work online, either exclusively or to supplement their market reach. Most notable among these was Phil and Kaja Foglio's Girl Genius became a phenomenon only after moving online. Other creators began placing their old, completed works online where they found a new audience; among these were Colleen Doran's A Distant Soil and Donna Barr's The Desert Peach.

There have been several attempts to create centralized webcomics hubs, many of them founded or run by women cartoonists. In March 2000, Teri Crosby, Chris Crosby, and Darren Bleuel founded the webcomics portal Keenspot. Girlamatic, started by Joey Manley, launched on March 31, 2003 with Lea Hernandez as its original editor. A member of the Modern Tales family of subscription-based webcomics anthology sites, it publishes comics with a particular appeal for young adult women. Lisa R. Jonté became the site's new editor on Oct 1, 2005.

By 2010, many of the most popular cartoonists of the day were female webcartoonists, including Kate Beaton, Danielle Corsetto, Jennie Breeden, and Erika Moen.

SourcesEdit

This page uses Creative Commons Licensed content from Wikipedia (view authors).

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