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NUM-INOUS COMICS PT. 2

This essay is a very belated response to a " part 1 " published in February 2015. The gist of that essay was a response to a corre...

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

XX, MARKING THE SPOT FOR-- FEMALE MYTHS?

The month devoted to "Women's History" is almost over, but I decided to assemble a shortlist-- aided by various Trina Robbins works--  as to some of the early (up to 1980) landmark comics-creations of female creators, whether alone or in collaboration with male creators: This is not an all-inclusive list: just a snapshot of the more notable accomplishments.

1909-- Rose O'Neill creates a somewhat intermittent series of cartoons and/or comic strips called THE KEWPIES, which become a marketing sensation in the early 20th century.

1934-- Martha Orr creates a soap-opera strip, APPLE MARY, that is revamped into the better known MARY WORTH by other hands later on.

1935-- "Marge" creates LITTLE LULU as a one-panel strip, though the character becomes more famous through cartoons and comic book incarnations.

1940-- Dale Messick creates the comic strip BRENDA STARR

1941-- Tarpe Mills creates a female superheroine in MISS FURY.

1965-- Ramona Fradon collaborates on DC's METAMORPHO

1972-- Marie Severin and Linda Fite collaborate briefly on the short-lived THE CLAWS OF THE CAT from Marvel Comics.

also in 1972, Trina Robbins edited and contributed to the underground WIMMEN'S COMICS

1978-- Wendy Pini's co-creation ELFQUEST debuts.

also 1978-- Rumiko Takahashi debuts her break-out comic URUSEI YATSURA

Now, one of the reasons I compiled this list was because I was trying to see whether early female creators had at any time equaled their male compeers in terms of creating literary myths in comic strips and books. I think I can dismiss a lot of the earliest works, like those of Rose O'Neill, as being either too focused upon either kid-cuteness or upon girly glamour at the expense of any more involved storylines. Orr's APPLE MARY-- which as R,C. Harvey speculates, was probably influenced by the 1933 Frank Capra film LADY FOR A DAY-- sounds like it might have more potential, especially since Orr worked on it for about five years. But there don't appear to be any readily available collections of MARY WORTH's precursor. It does have mythic potential in that Apple Mary was supposed to be a once rich woman reduced to poverty by the Depression, which means that the strip as a whole might have incarnated a sociological myth, as do many of Capra's contemporaneous films. But there's no way I can tell for the present.



As a one-panel strip, LITTLE LULU is probably not too mythic, though it would be interesting to see how John Stanley's later comic-book work stands up to the mythopoesis test. I also confess general ignorance of BRENDA STARR, but it doesn't seem to have the symbolic richness of contemporary strips like DICK TRACY, which was taking on deeper symbolic intonations in the early 1940s.



I have read the early years of MISS FURY, and those adventures don't seem to be more than passable thrillers, though I applaud Mills' ability to do action-scenes and take chances with risque material. I actually see more potential in an earlier series Mills did for comic books, MANN OF INDIA, but I wouldn't term this as more than a "near myth."



I liked at least "The Origin of Metamorpho" well enough to put it on my mythcomics list, but I tend to think that the dominant creative partner on that series was writer Bob Haney, stylish though Fradon's artwork might be.


As for Marvel's CAT series, only the first issue, chronicling the heroine's feminist origins, succeeds as even a "near myth," The next three issues in the series' short run for some reason focused on pitting the Cat against Marvel villains with animal-names: the Owl, the Man-Bull, and Commander Kraken. Happily the Cat was revamped as the character of Tigra, and her costume was assigned to one of Marvel's early teen-humor characters, Patsy Walker. All very interesting, but none of that came about due to female creators.



I admit that I don't have a thorough grasp of European or Asian comics from the early 20 century, so there may be some literary comics-myths promulgated from female creators in those domains, But at this point it begins to look like the first verifiable comics-myths unequivocally marked by "XX" creators both appear in 1978: ELFQUEST and URUSEI YATSURA. 






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