Underground comic icon Trina Robbins also produced the first all-women’s comic book
This story is part of “Ceiling Smashers,” a series in which successful women across industries tell Moneyish how they broke down professional barriers.
Underground comic icon Trina Robbins, credited as both the first woman to draw Wonder Woman in her own series and the first creator to feature an out lesbian protagonist, once had to explain to her male contemporaries that rape and murder weren’t funny.
“The first thing I did was complain about the misogyny in underground comics … It seemed as though no one else saw it,” the 79-year-old comic historian told Moneyish. “The (phrase) ‘rape culture’ didn’t exist in our dictionaries in those days.”
As soon as Robbins was old enough to trek to her local candy corner store in South Ozone Park, Queens, she said, she would buy comics with her weekly allowance. “Comics: They’re the perfect method of communication, aren’t they?” she said. “They say a picture’s worth a thousand words — but what if you have a picture and a thousand words?” After dropping out of stints at Queens College and Cooper Union, Robbins worked clerical jobs for cash and launched an East Village boutique in the 1960s making clothes for “hippies and rock-and-roll people.”
By 1966, she was drawing comics in the counterculture-saturated underground scene, a “revolution” worlds apart from the “bunch of guys with big chins beating each other up” typical of mainstream DC and Marvel comics. Robbins, who says she was often excluded by the circuit’s male gatekeepers, produced the first all-women’s comic book, “It Ain’t Me, Babe,” in 1970; two years later, she co-founded the long-running feminist anthology “Wimmen’s Comix.” “For a while, with ‘Wimmen’s Comix,’ it was a safe place,” she said.
In 1986, DC Comics asked her to draw a four-issue series, “The Legend of Wonder Woman.” The publisher agreed to let her draw the Amazon princess in the Golden Age style of original Wonder Woman cartoonist H.G. Peter: “It was incredibly exciting,” she said, “because the Wonder Woman that I knew and loved was the Wonder Woman I had read as a kid.”
After “Wimmen’s Comix” ended in 1992, Robbins said, she “wasn’t getting much support” from industry peers, and withdrew from drawing. She now lives and writes in San Francisco, collecting and chronicling the work of women cartoonists. “My big discovery is if you’re not written about, you’re forgotten,” she said.
Robbins says she “absolutely loved” the Patty Jenkins-directed “Wonder Woman,” attending the Hollywood premiere last May. As the movie began, she recalled, a woman in the audience shouted, “I’ve waited all my life for this!” “That was how a lot of people felt — you know, finally, her own movie,” Robbins said. “And damn, if it isn’t good.”
© 2018 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved