I am completely stunned and amazed, but this is apparently happening!
I am giving a short speech about LGBTQ and PWD characters in the media at the White House on Thursday. I haven’t had much notice and I spent a full day imagining that it had to be a prank or a terrible mistake, but it is actually going to happen.
I want to thank the literally hundreds of people in those groups who have written to offer support. I wish I could express my appreciation in person. I know I am lucky to have the readership I do. It’s the thing I still can’t believe about this job.
Anyway, I am not an authority on these topics and I think true activists are heroic but are working on a much higher level than I am, so I thought my speech would be about something I actually DO know a little bit about, which would be how things have changed for representation in the media, specifically comics. The progress we have seen, and of course, the long distance we have to go.
So I am posting this thread, for people who are lgbtq or pwd who have a thought they would like me to keep in mind. Anything you would say if you had the chance at an event like this. I can’t guarantee it will be included, but I want to be a messenger rather than a fake ‘expert,’ if that makes sense.
I have said this many times. The only reason I know ANYTHING about these topics is because people like you right here on Tumblr were kind and patient enough to share your world with me a little bit and I hope to use this opportunity to pay you back.
Your thoughts are MOST WELCOME.
Congrats, Gail! This is amazing.
My two cents as a bisexual who fortunately never felt all that “confused” and always respected myself above anyone else’s opinions: Education and visibility are vital. They don’t have to be major— simply learning the word “bisexual” at the age of 10 and knowing that women like Melissa Etheridge and Ellen DeGeneres existed was enough to keep my head up.
One of the things I came to love about comics fairly quickly was the amount of queer characters I found almost immediately. I went 16 years without seeing any trans people in media. After I started reading comics, I encountered three in two years (Wanda in Sandman, Lord Fanny in the Invisibles, and Mel in American Virgin.) The democratization of webcomics brought dozens of new queer perspectives to me as easily as breathing, that were about more things than just “queer issues”. Bisexuals seemed like they were everywhere. Queer teenagers who were also superheroes? Only in comics.
And this translated in to real life, too. Being able to chat with a new friend about X-Men as a means of entry into talking about queer rights and identity, both to find out where they stood and maybe if they also were… The first Pride parades I marched in were with my comic book store. For most of my young adulthood, my comics community (online and off) doubled as my queer community. When people ask me why I love comics so much, a lot of the time I don’t even think to bring up how queer they are, because to me it’s so ingrained. Whether we’re talking about characters and creators, themes and metaphors, or even just the often “camp” aesthetic, comics have always brought to me the full spectrum of queerness.
Heroines of the Comics for Drew Friedman's perusal
I was recently made aware of Drew Friedman’s upcoming Heroes of the Comics, coming out in August, featuring full-color portraits and profiles of important comic book creators from the 1930s through the 1950s. My initial reaction was some delight, because Fantagraphics put up a picture of Lily Renée’s profile, and that’s always good when people remember her. But of course my delight was tempered the more I read on. The table of contents in the preview lists only two other women in addition to Renée, Marie Severin and Ramona Fradon (misspelled ‘Fraden’), out of 84 people. The summary on the back of the book says, “Featuring subjects popular and obscure, men and women, as well as several pioneering African-American artists.” When women make up 3.5% of your list, (and “several” African-Americans = 2 of them), you’re almost better off not trying to pass them off as a selling point of the book.
What makes this list all the more disappointing is that Friedman himself stated at MoCCA Fest that he felt it was important to profile creators overlooked by both fans and people in the industry, specifically citing Bill Finger. Of course, lists like this are always going to cause some kind of debate over inclusions and omissions, and I understand this book isn’t just about introducing people to forgotten creators, but the people who know Bill Finger was the real creator of Batman still vastly outnumber the people who have even heard of Lily Renée.
Bearing all that in mind, here is my list of women who could have been in this book.
Elizabeth Holloway Marston
Friedman features the team of Superman’s creators, Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, as a single entity (#8), so why is Wonder Woman co-creator William Moulton Marston (#24) all on his own? Elizabeth’s contributions to the creation of Wonder Woman are well-documented. And if you wanted to be thorough, you could include the Marstons’ third partner, Olive Byrne, as the inspiration for Wondy’s metal bracelets!
No Golden Age comics history is complete without mentioning #22 on Friedman’s list, Charles Biro and his lurid Crime Does Not Pay. Until recently (with David Hajdu’s The Ten-Cent Plague) however, no one mentioned that most of “Biro’s” stories were actually by a young woman known as “Ginny”. Her colleagues Pete Morisi and Rudy Palais praised her as a superior creator to Biro. Palais even said that “Charlie couldn’t do what she did in a million years.”
Hermann (aka Rae or Ruth) was a publisher, editor, writer, (and possibly penciller and inker) whose career spanned fron 1940 to 1955. Her company, Orbit Publications, was a founding member of the Association of Comic Magazine Publishers, for which she served as Secretary and Board Director. The ACMP was founded in response to the rising anti-comics sentiment in the United States, creating the first Publication Code for policing the content in comics, but comics were not subject to formal review to use their seal of approval, and it was largely ignored, but its Publication Code formed the backbone of the later Comics Code. She was also one of the few “advice columnists” in romance comics who was actually a woman
Whenever comics history discusses Dr. Frederic Wertham and the Kefauver hearings on “juvenile delinquency”, EC publisher Bill Gaines is lionized as the only person in the comics industry who stood up to and demanded to be heard. That, my friends, is what we call a damn lie. Helen Meyer was the publisher of Dell Publications and was instrumental in securing the Disney, Warner Brothers, Little Lulu, and Popeye licenses for Dell’s comics line. What follows is from Meyer’s testimony:
We must give our American children proper credit for their good taste in their support of good comics. What better evidence can we give than facts and figures…Dell’s average comic sale is 800,000 copies per issue. Most crime and horror comic sales are under 250,000 copies. Of the first 25 largest selling magazines on newsstands - this includes Ladies Home Journal, Saturday Evening Post, Life, and so forth ─ 11 titles are Dell comics…With the least amount of titles, or 15 percent of all titles published by the entire industry; Dell can account for a sale of approximately 32 percent, and we don’t publish a crime or horror comic.
Dr. Wertham, for some strange reason, is intent on condemning the entire industry. He refuses to acknowledge that other types of comics are not only published, but are better supported by children than crime and horror comics. I hope that his motivation is not a selfish one in his crusade against comics. Yet, in the extensive research he tells us he has made on comics, why does he ignore the good comics? Dell isn’t alone in publishing good comics. There are numerous outstanding titles published by other publishers, such as Blondie, Archie, Dennis the Menace, and so forth. Why does he feel that he must condemn the entire industry? Could it be that he feels he has a better case against comics by recognizing the bad and ignoring the good?
Meyer was made CEO of Dell Publications in the early 1950s and remained so until its sale to Doubleday in 1976.
Either created or co-created the long-running Marvel Comics characters Millie the Model and Patsy Walker. Comics history is cruel to the pioneers of genres that have fallen out of favor, but both Patsy and Millie kept Marvel afloat in the 1950s. Even amid the Marvel superhero revival of the 1960s, Millie the Model comics were still among the top 100 series circulated each year, bringing in almost $220k at its peak that decade in 1965—equal to almost $1.7 million today.
Roberta Strauss Feuerlicht
Feuerlicht was the Editor-in-Chief of Classics Illustrated as well as an acclaimed historian. She began working at Gilberton, the publishers of Classics Illustrated, as an assistant editor in 1953. By then end of her tenure in 1961, she had been made Editor-in-Chief and created spin-off titles like Classics Illustrated Junior and other non-fiction comics like The World Around Us. She was known around the Gilberton offices as “Roberta the Conqueror”.
Ruth Roche: Friedman lists Jerry Iger (#6), who with Will Eisner (#7) founded the Eisner-Iger shop. He leaves out Ruth Roche, his later business partner. Roche started as a writer at the Eisner-Iger studio in 1940. She soon became Iger’s associate editor; later they became business partners, and the studio became the Roche-Iger studio. She stayed with the Roche-Iger studio until it ceased publication in 1961.
Marion McDermott was an editor for St. John publications, including one of the first graphic novels ever produced, It Rhymes With Lust. She also edited such titles as Teen-Age Temptations, Teen-Age Romances, Authentic Police Cases, and Fightin’ Marines. Artist Ric Estrada credits her encouragement for helping him develop his style
Joan Bacchus. Though her first attributable published comics were in 1966 as part of the Black history series Golden Legacy, it is very likely she contributed, under her maiden name “Cooper”, to 1947’s All-Negro Comics, making her the first African-American woman published in a comic book.
Patricia Highsmith. Though best known as a thriller novelist, Highsmith’s only “honest” job her whole life was writing comics for various companies including Timely (Marvel) Comics!
please don’t delete the blog, even if you give up on it, because it could still be used as an archive of your posts and stuff
Don’t worry, I think I’m constitutionally incapable of doing anything of the sort. I’m a packrat of both things and ideas (merely looking to my left right now I can see a pair of socks that I got on a Virgin Atlantic flight on my way to study abroad in London, oh, seven years ago. I have never worn these socks and have kept them in the package because they have the logo of the Lord of the Rings stage play that was going on in London at the time.)
If I believe there is the slightest chance that even one other person in the world might be interested in something, I will take great pains to preserve it however I can (anyone want to see some promotional airline socks?). I really should have been a librarian or museum curator or something. Anyway, this blog will probably be up at least as long as I’m alive; even if Tumblr goes down I’ll find some way to save it and post it somewhere else.
You could schedule a reblog feature of old good posts of yours! I miss that tumblr doesn't allow to make a dashboard of old tumblr posts to enjoy bite after bite.
That’s not a bad idea! I’m still shocked that my last post (the obituary of Barbara Hall) has gotten over 1300 notes and was blue-tagged with the #history tag :O And there are definitely posts that I made early on that I’d like to think could get up there.
Someday when I’m feeling particularly lazy, I’ll comb through the archives and see what I can find.
*or, not quite the announcement you may have been expecting.
No, I’m not dead, though you would be forgiven for thinking so
given that my last post was a month ago. I have been mulling over the
question of whether or not to officially retire this blog, so long and
thanks for all the fish and whatnot. But then I’ll get lost in a stack
of comics, or go through my collection of women’s anthologies, or
flick through Previews and see all the great stuff coming out, and
I’ll just melt over how much I love comics and especially all
the great female talent out there. So I finally had serious
conversation with myself that went something like this:
I don’t want to give up LMC because I still love the subject
matter, both the ladies and the comics parts, but I barely update any
more. Accounting for work and other personal obligations, the main
reason I don’t update as much is because whenever think about it, I
just think about how much I fail at putting up my self-imposed
Monday/Wednesday/Friday features. Mondays are the biggest problem
because putting up all the week’s new releases is long, tedious work,
and if I don’t post on Monday, I can’t help but write off the whole
week as a loss.
Then why do I insist on trying to do it? The only real reason that
I keep telling myself is that “it’s useful” (but only if you actually
do it, self!). What it’s not is interesting. And I get bored
easily. To a lesser extent I also feel this way about Webcomics
Wednesdays and ProFile Fridays. While I certainly want to spread the
word on new releases and great webcomics and shine a light on pros
worth knowing about, the regimented way I’m going about it stopped
being useful a long time ago. It worked while I was still in school
and I could supplement them with many other posts of substance
throughout the week. It doesn’t work with a full-time job, because it
makes posting just another chore I have to do with my limited personal
time when I get home.
So I have decided to officially retire those features. On LMC 2.0,
I will still post about new comics, webcomics, and creators
themselves, but in a more organic fashion in posts of some additional
substance. I also want to focus more on doing reviews and talking
historical things. I still intend to continue my unofficial policy on
not commenting directly on the Sexism in Comics Crisis of the Month
and pour my energy into pushing women creators and their work forward,
showing the Boys’ Club of comics that we don’t need them and they’re
making themselves obsolete, but sometimes I have a lot of feelings and
I may impose them on you from time to time. Also, I’m going to get
back into curating new, interviews, events, crowdfunding campaigns and
such on the Pinterestbecause unlike Tumblr I can access Pinterest at
Moving on, it’s June! Which means it’s LGBTQ Pride Month! And I
already have some things lined up to write about there, which will be
crossing your dashboards in the weeks to come.
Thank you everyone for sticking with me while I took forever to
come to this very obvious solution. It feels good to be home.
The Ormes Society, named after the legendary pioneering cartoonist of color Jackie Ormes, is an organization dedicated to supporting black female comic creators and promoting the inclusion of black women in the comics industry as creators, characters, and consumers.
Of course, don’t forget The Ormes Society, run by the wonderful Cheryl Lynn Eaton. That list of creators grows longer every year, bringing some amazing work to the table. Help it grow more by sending Cheryl Lynn any absent names you’re aware of—or start creating comics of your own ;)