Archive for Feminism

Friday Night Fights: Girls Kick Ass!

Alright, kids, it’s time to put on your rubber pants and batten down the hatches, ’cause it’s time once again to get the weekend started the right way — with… FRIDAY NIGHT FIGHTS!

Okay, listen, this one right here. Everyone tells us, OMG, no one will ever believe a girl beating people up in a movie, no one will buy that, it’s just insane, moviegoers want male action stars, comics readers want macho man superheroes. We can’t put Wonder Woman in a movie — no matter how excellently woman-led movies do at the box office. But lookit here, comics writers didn’t always think that way. Even all the way back in 1947, they knew you could have some fun with women who kick much ass. So here’s August 1947’s Wonder Comics #13 by Charles Stoddard and either Al Camy or Bob Oksner. Our star is Jill Trent, Science Sleuth, along with her friend Daisy — two women who are tougher than and smarter than anyone else in the comic. Here’s how they treat a dangerous murderer named Arthur Benson.

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Man, look at her go! Daisy is a woman who very obviously loves getting into fights with gunmen wearing weird green suits. Unfortunately, Benson narrowly avoids his richly deserved beating… for now…

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And then Jill and Daily unleash a curb-stomping so severe they have show it in silhouette to shield our innocent eyes from the brutality of the beatdown.

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Lookit that — they should be giving Batman pointers in butt-whuppery.

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This Week in Comic Book Diversity

NewMsMarvel

It’s been a weirdly excellent week for diversity in the comic book world.

The biggest news has been the announcement that Marvel was introducing a new Ms. Marvel, a shapeshifting Muslim teenager who idolized the current Captain Marvel, Carol Danvers. Kamala Khan made a very brief debut in this week’s issue of “Captain Marvel” and will be appearing in her own comic book in February. She isn’t the first Muslim female character in a comic book, but it’s very likely she’s the first to grab her own starring role in a comic from the Big Two.

As was pointed out to me by a friend, while this is good news, it would be even better news if Marvel hadn’t even felt the need to publicize this — that woulda meant that having characters who were not white straight male Christians was no longer considered shocking or surprising or uncommon — that there was no longer an “other,” just people who had interesting stories we could tell.

Nevertheless, a lot of the excitement about this is because readers are excited that there are new interesting characters to read about and who are happy that the comics world is becoming a more open, less exclusionary place.

Outside of the printed page, there’s a lot of other news about TV shows. DC announced that the CW would bring a new superhero to the screen. No, not Wonder Woman — she’s still considered too weird and obscure and non-penis-endowed for TV. Instead, they’re going with Hourman. Yeah, a little-known Golden Age character who only has powers for an hour at a time after taking a pill. That’s so much more mainstream and cool and sensible than Wonder Woman, isn’t it?

On the other hand, the CW also announced that they’d be producing a new TV show based on Chris Roberson and Michael Allred’s “iZombie,” which of course stars a female character. This sounds like it may be a bit more interesting — the CW’s superhero shows (Well, “Arrow” — more are planned, of course) seem to be oriented around brooding shirtless hunks being angsty. A zombie who solves crimes by snacking on brains sounds like a meatier premise, though still probably pretty angsty, too.

Perhaps more encouraging on the TV front is that Netflix is going to make a number of shows based on Marvel characters, including Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage and Iron Fist, and the Defenders. This is pretty exciting news — Marvel has been a lot more successful with superheroes in the mass media, and it means that Marvel stands a very good chance of beating DC to getting a female superhero into a starring role on TV. If there’s anything that could push DC into taking Wonder Woman seriously as a media property, it might be Marvel stealing their thunder again.

(Though on a semi-related note, what’s up with Marvel still not starting up a Black Widow movie? You’ve got one of the most famous, most marketable movie stars on the planet playing backup roles in other people’s movies, guys. For the sake of Croesus, make a Black Widow movie and put Scarlett Johansson’s name above the title.)

And finally, dropping back to comics, former Lubbock artist Rachael Anderson was just spotlighted in Comics Alliance’s new “Hire this Woman” feature! We have our fingers crossed that this will help draw more attention to a really outstanding artist. We’d love to see her name on big-name comics soon.

Does all this big pro-diversity news mean the struggle is over, or even close to over? Obviously not. For one thing, DC Comics still exists, and it’ll be years before they let go of the “Comics are only for white male geeks” paradigm. But any progress forward is good news, and if television success can drag the comics industry a bit closer to the 21st century, I’m all for it.

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Poison in the Well

Obviously, I never read the “Weird Tales” pulp magazine back in its glory days — or really, any other time, since it mostly hasn’t been published while I’ve been alive. But any fan of horror or weird fiction reveres it because it was one of the first magazines to publish authors like H.P. Lovecraft, Robert E. Howard, Robert Bloch, Clark Ashton Smith, Ray Bradbury, Fritz Leiber, Manly Wade Wellman, Theodore Sturgeon, C.L. Moore, and many others. It’s been revived periodically, mostly because the “Weird Tales” name and logo still carry a lot of weight for fantasy and horror fans, but the revivals have only rarely been successful or long-lasting.

The latest incarnation of the magazine seems to have screwed things up badly. It seems that the current publisher decided that the magazine’s connection to the past would be to the poisonous racism held by the pulp writers in the ’20s and ’30s…

Victoria Foyt’s self-published novel Revealing Eden: Save the Pearls Part One is set in a dystopian future where solar radiation means the Coals (with dark skin) can survive better than the fair-skinned Pearls. Pearls cover their white skin with dark make-up, and the black love interest of the 17-year-old white heroine Eden – shown in blackface make-up on the front cover and in promotional videos – is described as a “powerful, beastly man”. At one point, Foyt writes: “Eden flinched. One of them was touching her. White-hot light exploded in her head. Before she knew it, she blurted out an incendiary racial slur. ‘Get your hands off of me, you damn Coal!’”

The novel has been the subject of widespread attacks across the internet, with readers criticising it as “incredibly racist to pretty much every reader. Especially readers of colour”, and as a “white supremacist fantasy”. “The coals/pearls contrast is itself offensive: after all, coal is dirty and cheap, whereas pearls are beautiful and valuable,” wrote one blogger. Some readers have said they are considering boycotting the magazine.

Foyt, who self-published Revealing Eden but has previously been published by HarperCollins, has defended herself on Facebook and in blog posts, saying that she “abhor[s] racism”, that the book has received many positive reviews, and “if you ask if all these reviewers are white then consider that you have a racist point of view”.

Here’s some more info from the previous publisher and from an author whose first story was published in “Weird Tales.”

Obviously, it’s really sad to see a magazine with the pedigree of “Weird Tales” lower itself to publishing white-supremacist screeds, and to support them by publishing editorials claiming it isn’t racist, especially when it’s clear to everyone that the editor wrote it strictly as a cynical Cover-Your-Ass maneuver.

But it’s also part of an ongoing problem we’ve seen in the geek community — particularly in comics and gaming. Most of the recent controversies have been tied to the sexism and homophobia in the comics and gaming worlds, but the only reason that racism isn’t more noticeable is because the racism hasn’t been nearly as blatant as the sexism or homophobia.

The good news is, I think, that opposition to all the -isms in geek hobbies — sexism, racism, and homophobia in particular — is growing and becoming more vocal. It used to be that this kind of garbage was just accepted, but it isn’t anymore. Wanna publish a racist story in your magazine? Guess what — you’re going to get metric tons of angry letters about it. Wanna put rape fantasies in a Tomb Raider game? You’re going to get a ton of bad publicity about it. Wanna promote sexism in your comics? You’re going to be met at every convention by people who will call you out about it.

Doesn’t mean the struggle’s over — the struggle’s probably never over. It’s still important for people like us who hate getting our geekery mixed up with racism, sexism, homophobia, and other hatemongeries to keep speaking against hate. But from a business perspective, it’s becoming more clear all the time that the way to success means you have to avoid anything that’ll make you look like a hater. It’s a big, diverse marketplace out there, and you can’t make much money by excluding potential customers.

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Wonder Women and Power Girls

Womanthology: Heroic

Hopefully, you’ve heard the story of this comic anthology by now. Artist Renae De Liz sends out a tweet asking if anyone would be interested in contributing work for an anthology comic featuring nothing but female creators. She gets very positive responses and takes the whole thing to Kickstarter to get funding — and the results go entirely beyond expectations. “Womanthology” raised $109,000 — over $75,000 over the project’s goal — and is the most funded comic project in Kickstarter’s history.

So this is what we’ve got now — a gigantic comic anthology, published by IDW, with well over 300 pages of comics and artwork by over 150 women, ranging from well-known comics names like Gail Simone, Barbara Kesel, Trina Robbins, Stephanie Buscema, Colleen Doran, and Fiona Staples (and many others besides) to unknown pros to inexperienced wannabes to kids and teenagers who are dreaming about becoming professional artists someday.

The theme of the book is heroism — so we get quite a few stories starring superheroines, but we also get more low-key heroism, too — people being kind to others, sticking up for the oppressed, mini-epics for science fiction and sword-and-sorcery fantasy.

And scattered among all the stories and pinups are tips on writing, art, and making it in the business of comics from certified pros, as well as thumbnail profiles of every single contributor. And it all wraps up with interviews, how-to tutorials, and biographies of women who were comic art pioneers.

Verdict: Thumbs up. There is so much stuff here, I’ll never be able to pick out favorite stories — it would take too long to go through the book, select my picks, and list them all — but there is a lot of extremely good storytelling and art on display in this anthology, by a vast number of talented creators.

I love the fact that this functions as part brag-book — “Look at all these great artists and writers, and see all the awesome stuff they do!” — and part instructional manual, with how-to tips and tutorials to help other artists learn their craft. It’s clear that a lot of the reason the book came together so well is that the creators wanted to both teach and inspire. That alone is a great mission for a comic like this.

Probably the thing I love about this the most is that it ends the argument once and for all about whether women care about comics. Here are a hundred and fifty women of all ages who love the snot out of comics. And a lot of them use their thumbnail profiles to talk about how much they love comics. And in an era where one of the Big Two comics publishers can’t seem to stop itself from ignoring and insulting women and female creators and female characters, that’s a very powerful statement, all by itself.

The price on this is a bit steep. It’s $50 for over 300 pages of comics goodness. I still think you should go pick it up.

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Dumbest Day

Okay, just ’cause I’ve quit reading DC’s “Brightest Day” miniseries doesn’t mean I’m gonna quit making fun of it. Especially when they release previews of the next issue that have this much wrong with it.

First, there’s the cover. The Black Lantern version of Firestorm is on it, and the alternate cover features the Black Lantern versions of Hawkman and Hawkgirl. Even DC’s preview blurb points this out: “If this is the BRIGHTEST DAY then what is Black Lantern Firestorm doing on our cover?!”

Yeah, DC, other people are asking that, too. But we’re not really seeing it as a reason to buy the comic. We’re seeing it as a reason to ask what the heck is wrong with DC.

“Blackest Night” is over. It was a successful series. I’d even say it was a good series — one of the best comic crossovers we’ve seen in years. But it’s finished and done with. And when you keep going back to that well over and over and over, people have a right to ask if you’ve got any other ideas you can offer, or if your creativity is completely tapped out.

As for the preview itself, it focuses on Hawkman and Hawkgirl, who have discovered that Hath-Set — an ancient enemy whose spirit possesses his descendants as he eternally seeks to ambush and kill the Hawks whenever they reincarnate — has been collecting the bones of their predecessors in order to build some kind of magical gateway. Hawkgirl wants to destroy the gateway so they can get back to their lives; Hawkman wants to go through the gateway, find Hath-Set, and kill him before he can kill them again.

Well, here’s the thing — Hawkgirl’s idea makes a lot more sense. Because Hawkman’s idea is just entirely stupid. How do you kill a spirit? I’m pretty sure you can’t do it by hitting it with a mace. And even if he manages to kill Hath-Set’s current host body (great job killing the innocent possessed victim, Hawkdork), he’s still left with the problem of Hath-Set’s spirit possessing yet another person and trying to kill the Hawks. So yeah, there’s no reason not to wreck the gateway like Hawkgirl said — that’s the kind of chore that a mace is perfect for anyway — then dispose of the bones so Hath-Set can’t use ’em again.

But here’s the bit that really bugs me about this preview. In a situation where Hawkgirl has all the smart ideas and Hawkman’s argument is basically “ME AM MAN, ME WANNA KILL MAGIC SPIRIT,” Hawkgirl finally responds with these words:

“If that’s your final decision then I’ll stand by it just as I’ve always stood by you.”

Shorter Hawkgirl: “Whatever you say, dear.”

Alternate slightly longer Shorter Hawkgirl: “You’re the man, and I’m just a dumb girl, so we’ll do whatever you want. Tee hee!”

So in addition to DC sidelining or killing off most of their non-white characters, I can now add “lazy and alarmingly dumb Barbie-doll anti-feminism” to the list of reasons why DC makes me want to kick the crap out of comics publishers.

Here ya go, DC Comics, Geoff Johns, and Dan DiDio — this song is for — and about — you.

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Night Nurse and the Struggle to Address Non-Mainstream Culture

Texas Tech associate librarian Rob Weiner is making with the comics scholarship again, this time with a paper in the International Journal of Comic Art about the very short-lived Marvel series “Night Nurse.” Marvel apparently figured it had a typical “girls-only” comic, but writer Jean Thomas (wife of Roy Thomas, longtime comics writer and editor) had other ideas…

In the first issue, Carter actually breaks up with her boyfriend in order to pursue her nursing career. In later issues, she fends off the chief of police and faces down a killer.

“From its cover, Night Nurse looks like it would be a typical nursing comic, but it’s not,” Weiner said. “The stereotype of the submissive nurse isn’t there.”

By the fourth issue, the series had begun fleshing out side characters and tackling deeper plots, Weiner said.

So he finds it telling that the series, written by a woman and starring a strong female character, was cancelled so quickly.

“I think Night Nurse ultimately wasn’t successful because no one knew what to do with it,” Weiner says. “It was really pretty progressive for the time, even though the Women’s Movement was in full swing.”

Of course, the biggest problem comics (and frankly, every other form of mass media out there) have had with covering non-mainstream groups has been that the writers, artists, and publishers have often had no connection at all to the groups they were writing about.

Sure, sometimes, you ended up with a woman writing a comic about a woman, or an African-American writing about other African-Americans — and sometimes you get white writers who just do an astoundingly good job of writing non-white characters.

But for a lot of comics like “Night Nurse,” there was a mandate from the higher-ups for “Let’s have comics about women!” And then, when the comics about women didn’t sell as well as established characters like Spider-Man and the Fantastic Four, the higher-ups decided “Let’s have no more comics about women!” And that was that.

Again, this is the sort of thing that almost all mass media has problems with — there are plenty of TV shows out there where all the lead characters are as pale as they can be, and there are apparently a lot of Hollywood execs who’ve decided they never want to make an action movie with a female lead (which is gonna make filming a Wonder Woman movie a bit difficult). Still, it often seems like when comics misstep on issues of race, gender, and class, they misstep as embarrassingly as they can.

Night Nurse still exists as a Marvel character — she’s now an occasional associate of Dr. Strange and often shows up as a guest star whenever a superhero needs medical treatment. But there’s something very cool about a ’70s comic focused on drama and adventure that featured non-superpowered women as the main characters.

So I’m glad that Jean Thomas was given the chance to produce those four little issues of “Night Nurse,” and I’m glad Rob was able to use his paper to throw a little light on the series. Kudos for him, and as always, I’m looking forward to seeing what he’ll have for us next…

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Geek Girls Triumphant

Well, the crazy wild news on the general geekery front is all about, believe it or not, Barbie. Mattel had an online vote recently to determine what Barbie’s newest “career” would be — and the vote went pretty overwhelmingly for “computer engineer.” They unveiled the new doll yesterday:

I’ve heard a few positive and negative reviews so far. First, a lot of people are jazzed because it’s a nice little shot of respect for a career that doesn’t often get a lot of respect. It’s also seen as something that could encourage more girls to pursue computer careers.

What are the complaints? I’ve read some folks who feel there should be a bit more nod to computer geekery — one person I read suggested that the new Barbie’s clothing choices should come from someplace like ThinkGeek. It’s not a bad complaint, but I’d just recently read about a study that found that women who were exposed to the more geek-oriented stereotypes about computer sciences were much less interested in computer careers than those who weren’t. So maybe a less-geeky Barbie would actually be more encouraging than an especially geeky one…

Another complaint had to do with that laptop. Glittery pink? Really? I don’t know anyone who owns a pink laptop, or who would want to own a pink laptop. It’s one of those dumb marketing things you see from time to time — “Oh, girls like pink stuff, right? Let’s sell a pink laptop and the little ladies will buy ’em!” That kind of thinking gets companies selling pink power tools, pink handguns, pink musical instruments. And most people, male or female, don’t want that stuff. They look freakin’ ridiculous, and who wants to look that goofy?

And the other complaint I heard was about the glasses. Part of it is just: Why buy into the “nerds wear glasses” stereotype? There are plenty of computer folks out there who don’t wear glasses, or who wear contact lenses. On the other hand, it’s been a while since anyone really believed the “guys don’t make passes at girls who wear glasses” bulldada, so it’s not exactly a bad thing either.

So what do you think? Good news for geek girls, or bad news for everyone?

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Face-Punching Rage

supergirlpunch

Ever since I’ve been a kid, there has never been anything that’s made me madder than stuff like racism, sexism, homophobia, all the various haterisms. Hating and abusing people because of the way they were born has always been something that just plain makes me see red.

Part of it is that my folks raised me right. They’ve always been conservatives, but they always taught us kids that people are people, and genetic differences are absolutely no excuse to treat anyone as an inferior.

Part of it is — I dunno. I hear a co-worker tell about someone in the grocery store dropping the N-word on him from outta nowhere, and I get mad. I read about studies that show that female bloggers are much, much more likely to attract abusive trolls than male bloggers, and I get mad. Most people can just let this stuff slide off, but haterism sets me off for reasons I really just can’t fathom.

So there’s stuff like this, and it makes me mad. And John DiBello seems to be happy with folks reprinting the whole thing, so here it is:

Overheard at San Diego Comic-Con while I was having lunch on the balcony of the Convention Center on Sunday July 27: a bunch of guys looking at the digital photos on the camera of another, while he narrated: “These were the Ghostbusters girls. That one, I grabbed her ass, ’cause I wanted to see what her reaction was.” This was only one example of several instances of harassment, stalking or assault that I saw at San Diego this time.

1. One of my friends was working at a con booth selling books. She was stalked by a man who came to her booth several times, pestering her to get together for a date that night. One of her co-workers chased him off the final time.

2. On Friday, just before the show closed, this same woman was closing up her tables when a group of four men came to her booth, started taking photographs of her, telling her she was the “prettiest girl at the con.” They they entered the booth, started hugging and kissing her and taking photographs of themselves doing so. She was confused and scared, but they left quickly after doing that.

3. Another friend of mine, a woman running her own booth: on Friday a man came to her booth and openly criticized her drawing ability and sense of design. Reports from others in the same section of the floor confirmed he’d targeted several women with the same sort of abuse and criticism.

Quite simply, this behavior has got to stop at Comic-Con. It should never be a sort of place where anyone, man or woman, feels unsafe or attacked either verbally or physically in any shape or form. There are those, sadly, who get off on this sort of behavior and assault, whether it’s to professional booth models, cosplayers or costumed women, or women who are just there to work. This is not acceptable behavior under any circumstance, no matter what you look like or how you’re dressed, whether you are in a Princess Leia slave girl outfit or business casual for running your booth.

On Saturday, the day after the second event I described above, I pulled out my convention book to investigate what you can do and who you can speak to after such an occurrence. On page two of the book there is a large grey box outlining “Convention Policies,” which contain rules against smoking, live animals, wheeled handcarts, recording at video presentations, drawing or aiming your replica weapon, and giving your badge to others. There is nothing about attendee-to-attendee personal behavior.

Page three of the book contains a “Where Is It?” guide to specific Comic-Con events and services. There’s no general information room or desk listed, nor is there a contact location for security, so I go to the Guest Relations Desk. I speak to a volunteer manning the desk; she’s sympathetic to the situation but who doesn’t have a clear answer to my question: “What’s Comic-Con’s policy and method of dealing with complaints about harassment?” She directs me to the nearest security guard, who is also sympathetic listening to my reports, but short of the women wanting to report the incidents with the names of their harassers, there’s little that can be done.

“I understand that,” I tell them both, “but what I’m asking is more hypothetical and informational: if there is a set Comic-Con policy on harassment and physical and verbal abuse on Con attendees and exhibitors, and if so, what’s the specific procedure by which someone should report it, and specifically where should they go?” But this wasn’t a question either could answer.

So, according to published con policy, there is no tolerance for smoking, drawn weapons, personal pages or selling bootleg videos on the floor, and these rules are written down in black and white in the con booklet. There is not a word in the written rules about harassment or the like. I would like to see something like “Comic-Con has zero tolerance for harassment or violence against any of our attendees or exhibitors. Please report instances to a security guard or the Con Office in room XXX.”

The first step to preventing such harassment is giving its victims the knowledge that they can safely and swiftly report such instances to someone in authority. Having no published guideline, and indeed being unable to give a clear answer to questions about it, gives harassment and violence one more rep-tape loophole to hide behind.

I enjoyed Comic-Con. I’m looking forward to coming back next year. So, in fact, are the two women whose experiences I’ve retold above. Aside from those instances, they had a good time at the show. But those instances of harassment shouldn’t have happened at all, and that they did under no clear-cut instructions about what to do sadly invites the continuation of such behavior, or even worse.

I don’t understand why there’s no such written policy about what is not tolerated and what to do when this happens. Is there anyone at Comic-Con able to explain this? Does a similar written policy exist in the booklets for other conventions (SF, comics or otherwise) that could be used as a model? Can it be adapted or adapted, and enforced, for Comic-Con? As the leading event of the comics and pop culture world, Comic-Con should work to make everyone who attends feel comfortable and safe.

Yeah, that’s the kind of stuff that just sets me off. It’s hard for me to think of very much I can say about it, without either going the Spider Jerusalem route and dropping the F-bomb about 8,000 times, or booking a ticket to the next Comic-Con just so I can hit people with hammers.

There’s no excuse for anyone to be harassed or assaulted anywhere or any time, and there’s also no excuse for a huge event like the San Diego Comic-Con not to have anti-harassment guidelines and procedures in place. Granted, there’s no way to stop creeps from being creeps, but any convention that doesn’t have policies to eject harassers, stalkers, and abusers, or to protect convention attendees from assault, abuse, or harassment — well, they need to get those policies in place now. If only to keep my blood pressure and killing rages under control.

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Friday Night Fights: Playboy Fight Club!

You may find yourself thinking, “Self, I want more from my Friday nights than just gratuitous violence, horrendous beatings, and drunken barroom brawls. I want love, happiness, peace on earth, a friendly game of foosball, and a can of domestic light beer. Is that so much to ask?” Well, frankly, yes, it is. Please don’t bother us with your sick, disgusting fantasies of Friday nights without fights. Because we normal folk prefer FRIDAY NIGHT FIGHTS!

From “The Mother of the Movement” by Darwyn Cooke and J. Bone, from DC’s recent Justice League: The New Frontier Special, Wonder Woman, with Black Canary along for the ride, encounters a small horde of male chauvinist punching-bags in a local gentlemen’s club:

 

“Hola, dogs!” is our Phrase of the Weekend, by the way. Make sure you say it to someone before Monday hits.

Anyway, this leads to some of the best comic-book sound effects I’ve seen so far this year.

 

By the way, folks, when you’re facing an angry Amazon, your best weapon is probably not a Zippo lighter and a snifter of brandy, okay?

 

 

Luckily, Wondy isn’t harmed by — Whoa, wait a minute!

 

Oh my.

 

Oh my.

 

A little pain, a little pleasure. That’s what Friday Night Fights is all about. Hola, dogs!

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Comics in Color

jackieormes

Here’s something for you comic historians out there: Jackie Ormes, the first African-American woman cartoonist.

 

Nancy Goldstein’s Jackie Ormes: The First African American Woman Cartoonist is a scholarly yet highly readable account of Ormes’ life and work. Born Zelda Mavin Jackson to a well-to-do family in Pittsburgh, Ormes, in Torchy Brown comics and the single-panel Patty-Jo ‘n’ Ginger, created stylish black female characters who scrutinized Cold War policies, advocated for civil rights, and poked fun at human foibles. Her drawings found a grateful audience in black-owned newspapers such as the Pittsburgh Courier.Author and doll collector Goldstein discovered Ormes’ story while researching the Patty-Jo doll Ormes designed. It was the first high-quality dark-skinned doll for girls, meant to replace stereotyped mammy dolls. A treasure-trove for any reader interested in African American history or American popular culture, Jackie Ormes includes more than 125 of Ormes’ cartoons and color comics, reproduced for the first time since their debut. Many are annotated with explanations of current events.

In 1948, little Patty-Jo urged, “How’s about gettin’ our rich Uncle Sam to put good public schools all over?” Her high-heeled big sister holds a pamphlet for the newly begun Negro College Fund. Way ahead of its time for showing how pollution unequally affects minorities, in 1954, Torchy in Heartbeats depicts a handsome black doctor who saves a black community from environmental poisoning masterminded by a bigoted industrialist. Naturally, Torchy, a nurse, falls in love with the doctor.

The book captures the sophisticated whirl of Ormes’ social life, with photos of Ormes rubbing elbows with Eartha Kitt and Duke Ellington. Her life wasn’t without tragedy: her only child, a little girl, died at age three, and the FBI investigated her. Yet her talent, supportive husband, and convictions assured her successes.

Ormes never seems to get much publicity, partly because she didn’t draw superhero comics, partly because, let’s face it, she got a double dose of marginalization because of her gender and her skin color. That’s starting to change, thanks in part to Goldstein’s book and the Ormes Society website. And here are some other good resources about Ormes’ life and artwork.

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