Diane Noomin, a groundbreaking comics creator and editor who joined with other women to bring feminist voices and women’s issues to the Underground Comix movement of the early 1970s, died on September 1 at her home in Connecticut. She was 75.
Noomin is best known for creating the character DiDi Glitz, who both satirized 20th century notions of femininity and channeled Noomin’s own experiences. DiDi Glitz began life as a Halloween costume, including the enormous blonde bouffant wig and fishnet stockings that became DiDi’s signature look. The character debuted in Noomin’s self-published 1973 minicomic Canarsie Creeps, then appeared in Wimmin’s Comix #4. A single mother who lives on Long Island and is rapidly approaching middle age, DiDi papers over her problems with the signifiers of a fabulous lifestyle—flashy clothes and fancy drinks, mostly.
In addition to creating her own comics, Noomin edited several high-profile anthologies, including the Eisner Award–winning Drawing Power (Abrams ComicArts, 2019). At the time of her death, she was working on a graphic memoir about her parents who, unbeknownst to her when she was a child, were active members of the Communist Party.
Born Diane Rosenblatt in Canarsie, Brooklyn, in 1947, Noomin attended the High School of Music and Art in New York City, later taking classes as Brooklyn College and the Pratt Institute. She had a short, unhappy first marriage, and after divorcing her husband, changed her last name to “Noomin,” a slight variation from her married name.
In the early 1970s, just as the underground comix movement was reaching its peak, Noomin moved to San Francisco. Almost immediately, she met cartoonist Aline Kominsky, who eventually met and married celebrated cartoonist R. Crumb, and the two became lifelong friends and frequent collaborators. Noomin and Kominsky were also members of the Wimmen’s Comix collective, a group started by artist/historian Trina Robbins to produce comics by women creators. Noomin’s first story, “Home Agin,” appeared in Wimmen’s Comix #2 (1973), and her work appeared in several subsequent issues.
Noomin and Kominsky left the Wimmen’s Comix collective in 1975, due to both creative and political differences, and created their own comic, the one-shot Twisted Sisters (Last Gasp, 1976). Noomin returned to Wimmen’s Comix in 1984 and contributed several stories, as well as the cover for issue #11, the fashion issue, before the collective folded in 1992.
Noomin met Zippy The Pinhead creator Bill Griffith in 1980, and the two were married for over 40 years. Their circle of friends included such noted 1970s underground cartoonists as Roger Brand, Kim Deitch, Willy Murphy, Spain Rodriguez, Gilbert Shelton, and Art Spiegelman.
Noomin’s editing career began with Lemme Outta Here! Growing Up Inside the American Dream (The Print Mint, 1978), a collection of comics about suburban life by Noomin, Kominsky, Crumb, Griffith, and others. She also edited Twisted Sisters: A Collection of Bad Girl Art (Penguin, 1991), which collected previously published work by women cartoonists including Joyce Brabner, Julie Doucet, Mary Fleener, and Carol Tyler.
The motivation for Drawing Power: Women’s Stories of Sexual Violence, Harassment, and Survival (Abrams, 2019), the last anthology collection Noomin edited, came from Donald Trump’s sexist boast in 2016, about “grabbing women by the pussy.” Noomin began collecting comics in which women described their experiences with sexual harassment and sexual assault, a project that gained momentum with the advent of the #MeToo movement. The anthology featured comics by 64 different creators, including Noomin, and won the 2020 Eisner Award for Best Anthology.
Like many of the underground comix creators, Noomin used over-the-top humor and exaggerated visuals to tell stories that ranged from hilarious to gut-wrenching. In addition to being an accomplished cartoonist, she engaged with the larger comics community, offering both inspiration and opportunity to younger creators and bringing them into the comics community—just as she had been welcomed when she first arrived, divorced and alone, in San Francisco in 1971.