Women in Comics

Wonder Woman

It’s unlikely that the art form of comics, at least insofar as it has been practiced to date, will be remembered for its sterling treatment of female characters or women creators. The track record is pretty awful, to put it kindly. But two articles this week highlight hidden strains of women trying valiantly to carve out their space within the medium, and of previously obscured ties to real world feminists in one of its most recognizable characters.

Over at Collectors Weekly, a fascinating repository for reflections on just about anything you can collect, writer Lisa Hix offers a profile of comics creator Trina Robbins, a longstanding proponent of women in comics and a historian of her gender’s participation in their making. The profile, which traces Robbins’ book “Pretty in Ink: North American Women Cartoonists, 1896-2013,” outlines the contours of female creators in the industry going way back to the dawn of the form, before even the so-called Golden Age of Comics which was initiated by the debut of the first super-heroes. It’s a truly fascinating overview. Read it here.

In this week’s issue of The New Yorker, staff writer Jill Lepore unearths the “secret past” of Wonder Woman—not just the origins of the plainly feminist ideals that formed her, but the very real roots of her creator and his family in the feminist struggle during the early part of the last century. It’s a complex story about people who held presciently progressive ideas during a period of American history that was blatantly unkind to deviations from the norm, and about how they managed to smuggle those notions into the mainstream, creating one of the most enduring pop cultural figures along the way. Read it here.