Over 50 women cartoonists from vintage comic strips to cutting edge graphic novels explore themes common to the female experience such as love, sexuality, motherhood, creativity, discrimination, and independence. 75 works drawn from the collection of the author and herstorian Trina Robbins show a progression of witty women from the Flapper era to the psychedelic women’s comix of the 1970s, including original drawings from Nell Brinkley, Dale Messick, Tarpé Mills, and Lily Renee. Women struggled for recognition in the male-dominated field of newspaper comic strips and thrived with popular characters like the Brinkley Girls, Flapper Fanny, Mopsy, and Brenda Starr. Women drew adventure, superhero, and romance stories for comic books during World War II, until the men came home and claimed their jobs. Women came back to comics in the 1970s. Artists Ramona Fradon (DC) and Marie Severin (Marvel) drew mainstream characters like Aquaman and Plastic Man, while artists Trina Robbins, Barbara “Willy” Mendes, and Jewlie Goodvibes created independent underground comix aimed specifically at female readers.
Building on this foundation, 20 contemporary women cartoonists will be showing work from new or upcoming publications including Lynda Barry, Colleen Doran, Trinidad Escobar, Joyce Farmer, Margot Ferrick, Emil Ferris, Mary Fleener, Ebony Flowers, Noel Franklin, Lee Marrs, Alitha Martinez, Barbara “Willy” Mendes, Summer Pierre, Afua Richardson, Fiona Smyth, Ann Telnaes, Carol Tyler, Jen Wang, Tillie Walden, Gabrielle Bell and Kriota Willberg. From new work by founding mothers Farmer, Mendes, and Marrs to current bestsellers like Flowers’ “Hot Comb,” Doran’s “Snow, Glass, Apples,” Wang’s “The Prince and the Dressmaker,” and work by Richardson and Martinez on “World of Wakanda,” all of these skilled artists represent a diverse range of genres within the comics medium such as personal memoir, children’s stories, superheroes, epic fantasy, graphic medicine, and editorial cartooning.
Women in Comics: Looking Forward and Back is curated by Trina Robbins and Kim Munson, with special thanks to John Lind and Karen Green.