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} Men Women :

Of Blind and Talented

A brief history of women in american comics

GRACE DRAYTON Dolly Dimples, newspaper strip, 1932

By Trina Robbins* If the average reader relied only on comics histories written by men, she would not know that American women have been drawing comics as long as American men. Jerry Robinson, in his 1974 book, The Comics, devotes exactly two pages out of 248 to women cartoonists. The 1977 Smithsonian Collection of Newspaper Comics exceeds Robinson by including no women at all in its 336 pages. Yet the earliest known comic by an American women artist that I have found was drawn by Rose O’Neill for Truth Magazine in 1896. Comics scholars date the birth of the American comic as 1895, the start of R.E. Outcault’s strip, The Yellow Kid. Rose O’Neill is best known as the creator of the Kewpies, elfin, cupid-like creations that started in 1909, appearing in early comic form in The Ladies Home Journal, Women’s Home Companion, and Good Housekeeping. The Kewpies became a national craze, spawning everything from clothing, tea towels, dishes, and kewpie dolls which today sell for hundreds of dollars. By the 1930s, O’Neill’s Kewpie strips were running in national newspapers. She continued to draw Kewpies until her death in 1944. But years before the birth of the Kewpies, other women had already entered the comic strip world. The Angel Child, by Kate Carew, known in her day as “the only woman caricaturist,” debuted in 1902 and may be the earliest newspaper strip by a woman. Grace Drayton appeared on the scene a year after Kate Carew with her comics, featuring pudgy apple cheeked Campbell Kid lookalikes. The resemblance was hardly coincidental, since Drayton created the Campbell Kids in 1905. The prolific Drayton drew endless strips about adorable children with names like Toodles, Dolly Drake and Bobby 30 · ARTECONTEXTO · DOSSIER

Blake, Dolly Dingle, Dolly Dimples, and Dottie Darling, as well as numerous children’s books and paperdolls, until her death in 1946. Both O’Neill and Drayton created icons which exist to this day. With a profusion of Kewpies, Dolly Dimples, and Angel Children, women cartoonists of the very early 20th century obviously specialized in cute kids, but this changed with the advent of Nell Brinkley. Brinkley came to New York from Colorado in 1907 to work for William Randolph Hearst’s newspapers. By 1908, her beautiful women, known as the “Nell Brinkley Girls” had found their way into the hearts of America, had become an annual tableau in the Ziegfeld Follies, and had inspired at least three popular songs. Nell Brinkley’s art sold products like Djer Kiss face powder and Hennafoam shampoo, and her name sold “Nell Brinkley Hair Wavers.” Young girls colored in her black and white drawings, pasted them into scrapbooks, and copied them. When she died in 1944, the same year as Rose O’Neill, American Artist magazine wrote, “The late Nell Brinkley...attracted more amateur copyists than did Charles Dana Gibson.” Brinkley also attracted professional copyists. She opened the door to stylish pretty girl cartoons, and artists like Virginia Huget and Ethel Hays crossed the threshhold, following in Brinkley’s satin-shod footsteps. Soon the newspapers were full of flapper strips drawn by women. Ethel Hays, Duchess of the flapper strips (Brinkley, of course, was Queen) produced numerous comics, single panel cartoons, and large Sunday pinup pages, paperdolls and children’s books, in a unique art deco style. Her popular single panel cartoon series was titled Flapper Fanny. The prolific but overworked Hays passed her Flapper Fanny panel

Profile for ARTEHOY Publicaciones y Gestion SL

ARTECONTEXTO Nº10.  

Dossier: COMIC WORLD / MUNDO CÓMIC 2006

ARTECONTEXTO Nº10.  

Dossier: COMIC WORLD / MUNDO CÓMIC 2006

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