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Women Who Conquered the Comics World

Comics creator and historian Trina Robbins recently published Pretty in Ink: North American Women Cartoonists, 1896-2013, and an art exhibit from Robbins’ collection, inspired by the book, is on display at the Cartoon Art Museum in San Francisco. Robbins tells us about the history of the women who write and illustrate comics, including her own experiences in the 1970s.    

The underground comix scene was taking root in San Francisco, in part, because the Print Mint, a publisher in San Francisco and Berkeley, California, that started out making psychedelic rock posters, regularly published these comix, such as their anthology called “Yellow Dog,” which Robbins contributed to, and Robert Crumb’s “Zap Comix.”

“The underground comix movement grew as more and more people said, ‘Oh, yeah, we can do our own comics. They don’t have to be superhero comics. We can do comics about the life we relate to as hippies in the counterculture,’” Robbins says. “And it seemed like the exciting stuff was coming out of San Francisco. Underground cartoonists on the Lower East Side moved to San Francisco, and so did I. But then, when I got to San Francisco in 1970, that was when I discovered that maybe it was the mecca of underground comix for the guys, but not for the girls. To start with, there was only me and one other woman there, Willy Mendes, drawing comics, and we were left out of the scene.

“The guys would call each other up and say, ‘Hi, I’m going to put together a comic. Would you like to contribute?’” she continues. “But nobody ever called me. However, both Willy and I were good enough. Both of us eventually did our own comics with the Print Mint because the male cartoonists wouldn’t put us in their comics.”

The entire post at Collectors Weekly is a fascinating look at the history of comics, and how women have always been a part of it.


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