cover image From Girls to Grrrlz: A History of Women's Comics from Teens to Zines

From Girls to Grrrlz: A History of Women's Comics from Teens to Zines

Trina Robbins. Chronicle Books, $17.95 (142pp) ISBN 978-0-8118-2199-5

At mid-century, female-targeted teen comic series like Archie, My Date and Lovers' Lane dominated the fledgling comic-books market. By the late '50s, macho-fantasy superheroes had taken over, and women's comics were pushed to the margins, much to the detriment of the industry. (Robbins estimates that comics were read by 90% of the population in the 1940s; today it's less than 1%.) As the editor in the late '60s of the first women-artists-only comic, It Ain't Me, Babe, and as a member of the team that recently produced a Barbie comic-book series (meant to bring back mainstream comics for girls), Robbins is a uniquely qualified tour guide through the tangled history of women's comics, from the squeaky-clean, lindy-hopping antics of Betty and Veronica to the raw mayhem of ""Hothead Paisan, Homicidal Lesbian Terrorist."" In segueing from mainstream comics to underground comix, this history grows schizoid. In the first half, Robbins offers a distanced, if informative, third-person account of early characters and genres; in the second half, she becomes a character in the story, offering an admirably humble, sometimes even self-critical, first-person account of a scene she helped create. With 150 color and 30 b&w reproductions of panels that are by turns kitschy, acidly funny and confrontational, this lavishly illustrated volume reveals the forces that have shaped contemporary comics and the pleasures they offer, be they aimed at girls or grrrlz. (July)