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Pretty In Ink: North American Women Cartoonists 1896-2013

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With the 1896 publication of Rose O'Neill's comic strip The Old Subscriber Calls, in Truth Magazine, American women entered the field of comics, and they never left it. But, you might not know that reading most of the comics histories out there. Trina Robbins has spent the last thirty years recording the accomplishments of a century of women cartoonists, and Pretty in Ink With the 1896 publication of Rose O'Neill's comic strip The Old Subscriber Calls, in Truth Magazine, American women entered the field of comics, and they never left it. But, you might not know that reading most of the comics histories out there. Trina Robbins has spent the last thirty years recording the accomplishments of a century of women cartoonists, and Pretty in Ink is her ultimate book, a revised, updated and rewritten history of women cartoonists, with more color illustrations than ever before, and with some startling new discoveries (such as a Native American woman cartoonist from the 1940s who was also a Corporal in the women's army, and the revelation that a cartoonist included in all of Robbins's previous histories was a man!) In the pages of Pretty in Ink you'll find new photos and correspondence from cartoonists Ethel Hays and Edwina Dumm, and the true story of Golden Age comic book star Lily Renee, as intriguing as the comics she drew. Although the comics profession was dominated by men, there were far more women working in the profession throughout the 20th century than other histories indicate, and they have flourished in the 21st. Robbins not only documents the increasing relevance of women throughout the 20th century, with mainstream creators such as Ramona Fradon and Dale Messick and alternative cartoonists such as Lynda Barry, Carol Tyler, and Phoebe Gloeckner, but the latest generation of women cartoonists--Megan Kelso, Cathy Malkasian, Linda Medley, and Lilli Carre, among many others. Robbins is the preeminent historian of women comic artists; forget her previous histories: Pretty in Ink is her most comprehensive volume to date.


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With the 1896 publication of Rose O'Neill's comic strip The Old Subscriber Calls, in Truth Magazine, American women entered the field of comics, and they never left it. But, you might not know that reading most of the comics histories out there. Trina Robbins has spent the last thirty years recording the accomplishments of a century of women cartoonists, and Pretty in Ink With the 1896 publication of Rose O'Neill's comic strip The Old Subscriber Calls, in Truth Magazine, American women entered the field of comics, and they never left it. But, you might not know that reading most of the comics histories out there. Trina Robbins has spent the last thirty years recording the accomplishments of a century of women cartoonists, and Pretty in Ink is her ultimate book, a revised, updated and rewritten history of women cartoonists, with more color illustrations than ever before, and with some startling new discoveries (such as a Native American woman cartoonist from the 1940s who was also a Corporal in the women's army, and the revelation that a cartoonist included in all of Robbins's previous histories was a man!) In the pages of Pretty in Ink you'll find new photos and correspondence from cartoonists Ethel Hays and Edwina Dumm, and the true story of Golden Age comic book star Lily Renee, as intriguing as the comics she drew. Although the comics profession was dominated by men, there were far more women working in the profession throughout the 20th century than other histories indicate, and they have flourished in the 21st. Robbins not only documents the increasing relevance of women throughout the 20th century, with mainstream creators such as Ramona Fradon and Dale Messick and alternative cartoonists such as Lynda Barry, Carol Tyler, and Phoebe Gloeckner, but the latest generation of women cartoonists--Megan Kelso, Cathy Malkasian, Linda Medley, and Lilli Carre, among many others. Robbins is the preeminent historian of women comic artists; forget her previous histories: Pretty in Ink is her most comprehensive volume to date.

30 review for Pretty In Ink: North American Women Cartoonists 1896-2013

  1. 5 out of 5

    David Schaafsma

    In less than 200 pages Robbins glosses more than a century of women's comics. An archivist, she has been collecting and sharing and writing about this work for decades. This collection gives you a sense of the range of work done in various periods. It's like an introductory history, to give scholars and enthusiasts some keys for where to dig deeper, but it is still pretty special in revealing how much was in play all the time. And it's invaluable as an artifact for the historical record. I knew In less than 200 pages Robbins glosses more than a century of women's comics. An archivist, she has been collecting and sharing and writing about this work for decades. This collection gives you a sense of the range of work done in various periods. It's like an introductory history, to give scholars and enthusiasts some keys for where to dig deeper, but it is still pretty special in revealing how much was in play all the time. And it's invaluable as an artifact for the historical record. I knew some of the work from the sixties Wimmens Comix and after that, but knew very little prior to that. Brenda Starr I knew, growing up with that. But the early stuff is interesting. And overall this is just great to have for the history. Robbins organizes the work into various chapters so you can see what women drew: The Queens of Cute, Flappers, Babes (but as drawn by women, not men!), Blonde Bombers (again , not as men see "blonde bombers".), superheroes, and so on. There's feminist comics, lesbian comics, and answers to the testosterone-driven comics that dominated and still dominate the industry. For instance, I just read Cannon by Wallace Wood which is a good example of the variety of adult war comics with naked women on every page supposedly for the soldiers. Not drawn FOR any women, obviously. Uh, the women, even in flapper or "cute" versions, never look like the fantasies men cartoonists draw. Just sayin' the obvious. This is fun and enlightening. And a lot of these women could draw, in the early years! Clearly we know, women everywhere drawing now. But you have to believe access to publication was denied many of them just because they were women in a male-dominated profession.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Diz

    The quality of this book is a bit uneven. The sections on the women comic strip artists of the first half of the 20th century and the women working in comic books in the golden age of comics were very good. I learned a lot about some really talented artists that I had not heard of before. The weak section is the one covering modern comics (since 2000). It pretty much reads as a list of comics available by women creators without much commentary or analysis. In fact, there is not a lot of transiti The quality of this book is a bit uneven. The sections on the women comic strip artists of the first half of the 20th century and the women working in comic books in the golden age of comics were very good. I learned a lot about some really talented artists that I had not heard of before. The weak section is the one covering modern comics (since 2000). It pretty much reads as a list of comics available by women creators without much commentary or analysis. In fact, there is not a lot of transitioning from one age of comics to the next, so it's difficult to see the big picture. In the end, I would recommend this if you want to learn more about early 20th century artists. However, if you want to read about the role of women in post-golden age comics, there are better books to read.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Kim

    Must-read for anyone interested in comics. especially who loves comics!

  4. 4 out of 5

    Robert

    My review of this fine book can be found on Panel Patter: http://bit.ly/1gBplrF My review of this fine book can be found on Panel Patter: http://bit.ly/1gBplrF

  5. 5 out of 5

    Mackenzie Walton

    This is a fascinating subject and should have had me on the edge of my seat, but frankly the dry writing made it a bit of a slog. The book itself is oversized, which left me wondering why they bothered with using some of the images, which were too small to really admire the art therein. A lot of the more recent images just consisted of book covers, which aren't really the best example of an artist's work in many cases. Example: Does the cover for Hark! A Vagrant give you a sense of Kate Beaton's This is a fascinating subject and should have had me on the edge of my seat, but frankly the dry writing made it a bit of a slog. The book itself is oversized, which left me wondering why they bothered with using some of the images, which were too small to really admire the art therein. A lot of the more recent images just consisted of book covers, which aren't really the best example of an artist's work in many cases. Example: Does the cover for Hark! A Vagrant give you a sense of Kate Beaton's unique style? Not really. Having read some of Robbins' previous books, I know that a lot of the images used were also recycled from those books—it would have been nice to see more fresh content. On the editorial front, there were some glaring mistakes. At one point the copy referred to a strip called The Boyfriend when a sample image, immediately next to the copy, showed that the title was really The Boy Friend. A little thing, but something a halfway decent copyeditor/proofer should have caught. There were also quite a few instances of misattributions in captions, probably due to images getting rearranged at the last minute. Basically, the book itself is a bit boring when it shouldn't be (Trina has done better work on this subject), and the workmanship was pretty shoddy. I expect better from Fantagraphics.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Catherine

    Not my favorite of her histories to date, I must admit. There are too many panels that really needed context and commentary that they didn't get from the author. I recommend Robbins' "A Century of Women Cartoonists" and "Great Female Superheroes" as better intros than this one. That said, I have a list of interesting female creators to check out at the end of this and that's never a bad thing.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Miss Lasko-Gross

    Solid overview of the early years but the book really takes off when Trina begins discussing her contemporaries and the modern era.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Kelly Funk

    Entertaining, though it read more like a list of women cartoonists with reproductions of their comic strips acting as illustration. As much as I loved the comic strips and the fact that they were printed large enough to read thought and speech bubbles, I would have foregone them for the sake of more on the women themselves.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Phil

    Pretty in Ink is a history book about women who have drawn comics and comic strips. The content is well researched, and there are a lot of great examples for each of the eight time periods covered. It was nice to see how the drawings progressed over time, and in some cases how things have stayed the same. The book took me a couple chapters to get into it though. This is because a lot of the early works are comic strips and the subject matter in them doesn't particularly appeal to me. Plus, I got Pretty in Ink is a history book about women who have drawn comics and comic strips. The content is well researched, and there are a lot of great examples for each of the eight time periods covered. It was nice to see how the drawings progressed over time, and in some cases how things have stayed the same. The book took me a couple chapters to get into it though. This is because a lot of the early works are comic strips and the subject matter in them doesn't particularly appeal to me. Plus, I got a couple of the artists mixed up. That wasn't a huge problem though. As the book progressed through the different time periods, it was clear how events shaped the creators and their pieces. The later chapters presented a different problem for me: the writer brought in her own works and experiences. This isn't necessarily an issue, but it signaled a change in objectivity to me. I think that could have been handled better. The chapter covering the most recent time period felt stunted to me. There are so many female artists working in comics now that it is difficult for all of them to be included, but the last chapter felt lacking on artists and really important works. Even a listing at the back of the book covering some of these items would have been great. Despite the few things that didn't work for me, I enjoyed this book. It gives another perspective on the development of comics. There are a wide range of creators included, most of whom have at least one example of their art included. I was impressed by the skill of the artists and some of the content they were able to get away with.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Samuel

    This was a hard one for me to review. It's extremely valuable for all of the sample panels, illustration examples, and rare photos that it contains, and the information for the 1896-1950 time period is pretty solid. However, I found the organization of the information to be hard to follow and ill-defined; there was no shortage of content, but the job of a literary historian (or as Robbins would put it, ~herstorian~) is to arrange the information in a logical way so that the reader can make sense This was a hard one for me to review. It's extremely valuable for all of the sample panels, illustration examples, and rare photos that it contains, and the information for the 1896-1950 time period is pretty solid. However, I found the organization of the information to be hard to follow and ill-defined; there was no shortage of content, but the job of a literary historian (or as Robbins would put it, ~herstorian~) is to arrange the information in a logical way so that the reader can make sense of it. I rarely felt like this was done adequately. Additionally, it's natural that, given her background in underground comics, this would be the style and subject matter that appeals most to Robbins, and indeed, the section on the underground comics of the '60s and '70s is one of the book's stronger parts. However, the idiosyncrasy of Robbins' tastes sometimes leads to strange elisions; she spends 2+ full pages on the strip Six Chix, while the entire careers of Cathy Guisewite (Cathy) and Lynn Johnston (For Better or For Worse) get half a sentence each. It's certainly possible to argue that Robbins spends more time on women drawing and writing cartoons and comics with more literary merit -- I'm not much of a Cathy or FBoFW fan myself -- but in a history of North American Women Cartoonists, I'm not sure it's a good idea to spend that little time on the only two women to win the Reuben award at the time of the book's publication. Be that as it may, this book is worth it for the treasure trove of material from the first part of the 20th century. I think the definitive history of North American women in cartoons and comics remains to be written, however.

  11. 5 out of 5

    rêveur d'art

    An essential work if you're interested in the history of women cartoonists.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Jacqueline Valencia

  13. 4 out of 5

    Andrew Cooke

  14. 4 out of 5

    Bob

  15. 5 out of 5

    Ann Santori

  16. 4 out of 5

    Linda Brewster

  17. 4 out of 5

    Cassandra Gillig

  18. 5 out of 5

    Madameraziel

  19. 5 out of 5

    Katie Alexander

  20. 4 out of 5

    Marie

  21. 4 out of 5

    Morgan Podraza

  22. 5 out of 5

    Tisse

  23. 4 out of 5

    Josh

  24. 5 out of 5

    Christy

  25. 4 out of 5

    Ange

  26. 4 out of 5

    Riegs

  27. 4 out of 5

    Stacey

  28. 5 out of 5

    Sjortautumn

  29. 4 out of 5

    Robyn S.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Jeannette

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