Comic Book Historians

Trina Robbins, Superstar Part 2 with Alex Grand & Jim Thompson

May 15, 2019 Comic Book Historians Season 1 Episode 41
Comic Book Historians
Trina Robbins, Superstar Part 2 with Alex Grand & Jim Thompson
Chapters
Comic Book Historians
Trina Robbins, Superstar Part 2 with Alex Grand & Jim Thompson
May 15, 2019 Season 1 Episode 41
Comic Book Historians

Alex Grand and Jim Thompson interview the illustrious Trina Robbins in our sequel to episode 34, where we dovetail into 1985 and the beginning of her comic history career examining her evolving Women and Comics book that explores various women in comic history, A Century of Women Cartoonists, The Great Women Superheroes, Nell Brinkley, Women Who Kill, Goddesses with Attitude, The Golden Age of Chinese Nightclubs in San Francisco, Miss Fury, Lily Renee, and her autobiography Last Girl Standing discussing figures like Forrest Ackerman and Vaugh Bode. Find out more about underground women's comic pioneer and comic book historian, Trina Robbins, Superstar. Music - Standard License. Support us at https://www.patreon.com/comicbookhistorians

Podcast and Audio ©℗ 2019 Comic Book Historians

Support the show (https://www.patreon.com/comicbookhistorians)

Show Notes Transcript

Alex Grand and Jim Thompson interview the illustrious Trina Robbins in our sequel to episode 34, where we dovetail into 1985 and the beginning of her comic history career examining her evolving Women and Comics book that explores various women in comic history, A Century of Women Cartoonists, The Great Women Superheroes, Nell Brinkley, Women Who Kill, Goddesses with Attitude, The Golden Age of Chinese Nightclubs in San Francisco, Miss Fury, Lily Renee, and her autobiography Last Girl Standing discussing figures like Forrest Ackerman and Vaugh Bode. Find out more about underground women's comic pioneer and comic book historian, Trina Robbins, Superstar. Music - Standard License. Support us at https://www.patreon.com/comicbookhistorians

Podcast and Audio ©℗ 2019 Comic Book Historians

Support the show (https://www.patreon.com/comicbookhistorians)

Alex: Well, welcome to another episode of the Comic Book Historians Podcast. Today we have part two of our exciting interview with Trina Robbins. I’m Alex Grand with my cohost Jim Thompson. Jim, how are you doing today?

Jim: I’m doing great.

Alex: Trina, thanks so much for joining us today.

Trina: My pleasure.

Alex: So last time Jim and I spoke about and your history in producing comics and that dovetailed into 1985 and today around that time in the mid 80s, we’re going to start discussion of your comic history career, which kind of starts around that same period of time and I think Jim’s going to start this particular topic off and we’re going to talk about Women In The Comics, 1985 published by Eclipse. So Jim, take it away.

Jim: Well, I just wanted to say how excited I am to do this part of it because I think that what you’ve done, we all owe you a great debt for the historical work that you’ve done and you went in areas that nobody was doing and you really made a tremendous difference in terms of us understanding the history of comics and I just wanted to personally thank you for that.

Trina: Thank you. I have to small correction, I know I’m always correcting you guys. The book was called Women and The Comics, because Maurice Horn had done a book previously called Women In The Comics and had nothing to do with women who created the comics. It was all about that sexy pictures of women in comics that necessarily weren’t even necessarily main characters, but just some babes who were put in the picture.

Alex: Right.

Trina: So when we came out with women and we had to call it Women and The Comics, and when we came out with that, we actually got a letter from Maurice, a cease and desist letter, like how dare he. So I challenged him to a duel, but we never, it never happens.

Alex: Yeah. Rick Marshall told us about some dealings he had with Maurice Horn as well. So when I had read about that story in your biography, it made sense with what I’ve already come to understand about the character.

Jim: Okay. So let’s get started in terms of this now, this was your first comic related book rather than comic, is that correct?

Trina: It was my first book period.

Jim: Yes, and it’s also, it would be fair to say it’s a very first book on women comic creators exclusively.

Trina: Yes. Oh yes, the very first and remember that the first one I co-wrote with Cat Yronwode. She needs to get half the credit for that first book-

Jim: Absolutely.

Trina: Eclipse that published they’re also needs to get a lot of credit for being the publisher of the first book on Women and The Comics.

Jim: So could you tell us the backstory about how that book came to be? Whose idea it was, how it got started and how long it took to write, the details about how it came to be?

Trina: Well, I was really getting sick of editors and publishers saying and artists saying women didn’t read comics and women had never drawn comics and I knew that was not true. Simple as that, I knew it wasn’t true and Cat and Dean, Dean Mullaney who was the publisher of Eclipse Comics and Cat was the editor. She said, “Well then let’s do a book”, and at the time, okay, this was my first book, I was still very unsure of myself. I didn’t think I could do it myself. So I co-wrote it with Cat and that’s how it came about. However, I have to say, it’s probably a real collector’s item, but I would not use it for research because a lot of our research proved wrong. This was pre-computer days and it was very hard to find information on Women Cartoonists and a lot of the information we found was incorrect, but we didn’t know was incorrect because like I say, it was pre-computer. So don’t use it for research.

Alex: Do you find that the Internet has helped your research a lot more now than pre-internet?

Trina: Oh my God, yes. Oh my God, absolutely. In every way. The book that I’m currently doing that I actually finished and is coming out in the fall, I researched a lot of it through old newspapers that I got electronically because this book is about Gladys Parker. I’ll tell you more about her when you ask me, but it just so happened that the gossip columnist loved her and they had wrote about her a lot and this is where I got most of my information.

Jim: So, you guys were essentially almost starting from scratch in a lot of this. Well, what were they? Were there resource books that you did use a Horn’s book or anybody else’s?

Trina: Maurice Horn’s book? Not ever. I mean-

Jim: Okay.

Trina: Because it reminded about women who created comics.

Jim: Yes.

Trina: Really, really nobody’s book. We had to go with small self published what you would today call zines, in many cases mimeographed. There was a woman who, Lorraine, oh gosh, I can’t think of her last name now, but she had a kind of a fan group I guess is what you’d have to call it about women. It was specifically about paper dolls, but as you know, a lot of the women cartoonists drew paper dolls. So she had a lot about these are only women. I got a little bit also from … Okay, there was this group in Los Angeles who were fans of illustrators, just historic illustrators and each little small self published thing, booklet, pamphlet, whatever you’d call it, that they put out every few months I think. Was a better different illustrators, so they did one on Nell Brinkley and all of their information was wrong, but we didn’t know that because this was the only information we had. But even we were wrong about her politics. They were wrong about saying that she stayed married to the same man all her life because they divorced. They even got her hair color wrong, but we didn’t know this.

Jim: Yeah. How were the writing duties divided between the two of you? Did you take certain areas or certain individuals or did you just collaborate on each chapter?

Trina: Basically we collaborated on each chapter. I would also like to say that I got a lot of my information, a lot of help from Bill Blackbeard. The late Bill Blackbeard who had the Academy of Comic Art in San Francisco and the Academy of Comic Art really consisted of just an entire basement crammed full of newspaper, mostly newspaper strips. Bill was lovely, you had to phone him and if he could hear you leaving a message, if he wanted to talk to you, he pick it up and I was very lucky because Bill liked me and he helped me a lot.

Alex: So he was a friend of yours?

Trina: Yes. He was really … He was a great guy.

Jim: Now, this book was the illustrations were all in black and white, is that right?

Trina: Yes.

Jim: Who decided which illustrations to go? Was that the editorial or was that a decision from?-

Trina: I think again we decided together. In some cases it was all we had. You know, all we had that was printable.

Jim: Did it break down in a similar way to the way the subsequent books that are similar, The Great Woman Cartoonist and the various versions of that. Did it have that same chapter notion of starting in the very beginning and then going through to basically where you were at? Or-

Trina: They were all chronological.

Jim: Did it break down definitely?

Trina: No, they were all chronological. But after Women and The Comics, the books that I did myself, I simply concentrated on women cartoonists and didn’t talk about women who worked as editors or in offices or anything like that.

Jim: So this one actually talks about writers and things as well as the artist?

Trina: Yes.

Jim: I see. Is this one had at least had some aspect of international comics among them and other things? Is that right?

Trina: Yes, we did.

Jim: How was that? Was that an area that you already had some existing knowledge about or was that a lot of new information coming in?

Trina: I had a little bit of knowledge because I had already been to Europe, and met women cartoonists that were familiar with the work of a lot of the European women.

Jim: I see, and what was the reception of the book? Was it received … It was received positively by mainstream critics, wasn’t it?

Trina: Yes, yes. It was actually even reviewed in the San Francisco Chronicle and they have now since then, they have never reviewed any of my books and that’s my home town.

Jim: One question I would have is, you’re obviously part of comics history yourself as well as Cat. How did you all deal with having to write about yourselves in terms of your contribution toward the historical moment you’re writing about?

Trina: I think that in all of my books I have been very modest. I haven’t pushed myself just because I’m writing them. I have simply included myself where it’s necessary to include myself historically.

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Jim: Is it awkward writing about your friends and people that you were working with at the time?

Trina: No, I treated everyone equally.

Alex: All right.

Jim: Have you ever had any pushback from people where they didn’t like how you portrayed the events?

Trina: I think it was in the first book, Women and The Comics, that I left a couple of people’s out by mistake. It was not on purpose and they were kind of upset until we explained that we had knocked on this on purpose.

Jim: I see. Okay. I think we can come back to some of this, but let’s move on Alex to the next book.

Alex: All right. So a Century of Women Cartoonists in 1993. That was published by Kitchen Sink-

Trina: Kitchen Sink.

Alex: This was just you writing at the time, correct?

Trina: Yes.

Alex: So how would you say this project was different from Women and The Comics? Would you say that it was just more research? Tell us some of the contrasts between the two.

Trina: Well, it was ever so much more research. At that point, we even had the internet. I had just started using computers in 1993 but we had] them. We didn’t have what we have now, but we had something. Also, the reason that I did it was that Women and The Comics met a very sad fate. What happened was it was published in what, ’86? Was it ’86 or ’85?

Alex: ’85.

Trina: ’85, okay. Well all the copies that had not immediately gone out to stores were stored with Eclipse’s other books in the basement of the house where Cat and Dean lived.

Alex: Yeah.

Trina: In 1986 came the great Guerneville river, Russian river flood in Guerneville, and is that if you know much about the bay area, we do have this happen every now and then it rains too much and the rivers flood. Okay, well it really flooded and everything in the basement was turned into paper basically, paper mache.

Alex: Yeah.

Trina: So that was the end of Women and The Comics.

Alex: Yes.

Trina: So by 1993, I knew there was a need for another book and this time I was competent enough to do it myself.

Alex: Did you pitch the idea to Denis kitchen or did Denis kitchen come to you? How’d that work?

Trina: I pitched the idea to Denis.

Alex: Okay, and was Kitchen Sink in Massachusetts at this point when you pitched it to him, or was it more by phone? How did that happen?

Trina: We did it by the phone, but are they still in Massachusetts?

Jim: They had moved from Wisconsin-

Alex: Yeah, they were in-

Jim: In 1993 was when they first moved to Massachusetts from Wisconsin.

Trina: Okay.

Alex: So as far as the differences and more research, were you also able to conduct more interviews with past creators for this particular edition versus the Women and The Comics book?

Trina: Yeah, I did. I was able to find, again, thanks to the Internet, I was able to find these women, many of whom are no longer with us.

Alex: Great.

Trina: In one case, Ruth Atkinson who is turned out had drawn the entire first year of Patsy Walker comics. In that case, she walked into a local comic book store, looked at the comics and said to the owner, “I used to draw this stuff” and he got her phone number and phoned me immediately-

Alex: Right.

Trina: It turned out she was eight blocks away from me.

Alex: That’s amazing.

Jim: That’s great.

Alex: Yeah. because I was going to ask you about Ruth Atkinson and Pauline Loth with Miss America and Patsy Walker and Timely in the forties-

Trina: Yes.

Alex: And in 1945, Ruth Atkinson did a story about demanding equal pay and it seemed like Timely was more women friendly in their content than some of the other publishers. Is that the correct saying?

Trina: Timely was very girl friendly. But the story that Ruth Atkinson did was not about equal pay. It was about allowing the girls to wear pants to high school because in those days the rule was you had to wear skirts.

Alex: Okay.

Trina: The girls all spoke up and they said something like, “We are here for the liberation of all women”. They really said that and wore pants to school, broke the rules.

Alex: Yeah. That’s pretty cool.

Jim: Okay. So I’m getting just curious, the Century of Women Cartoonists, did that also received a good media reaction or did it get publicity?

Trina: Yes it did. No, people loved it. I mean it was the only book of its kind. There was no other place where you could find out about these women.

Alex: Right.

Jim: That’s what I’m thinking. That’s great. So then three years later you did the next book, which wasn’t a history of creators book. It was called The Great Women Superheroes, also published by Kitchen Sink.

Trina: Yes.

Jim: That’s a very different book. How did that come to be?

Trina: Well, I had done a book about Women Cartoonists and I felt that people needed to know about women superheroes. At the time during the 80s and also the 90s, it was all guys and the women were treated to these kind of add-on characters, the teams, the super teams would be like three guys and a girl or four guys and a girl and people needed to know there had been these fabulous super heroines in the past.

Jim: My feeling about this book was it was in some ways more political in that you were talking about it in a way that like Bell Hooks might talk about film that it was talking about it in terms of critiquing what was happening in the 90s-

Trina: Yeah.

Jim: And using the prior decades to show what was there and what it had been lost by that current time. Is that fair to say?

Trina: Absolutely. I think that with the exception of Wonder Woman, maybe Supergirl had the wrong book, I’m not sure. But these women were usually part of the team. They were like, I say three guys and the girl and then they didn’t have their own books and yet they had had their own books in the past. They had starred in their own books.

Jim: Now, I noticed they thought it was an interesting subject matter for you to take on though because you had said in our prior interview that you didn’t have, besides Wonder Woman, you didn’t and Mary Marvel. You didn’t really have a lot of connection with the superhero genre as compared to so many of the other genres that did have a lot more women in it. Did you just pick superheroes because one, it was needed to discuss the lack of them and also because it was going to sell easier than talking about jungle princesses and some?-

Trina: No, none of my books have I thought of in terms of, this will sound-

Alex: Monetary?

Trina: Yeah, I can’t help it. That’s why I’m so poor. But it needed to be told. I mean, it’s something needed to be told by the 90s when you had with those horrible bad girl comics. I mean the only way they started their own books were like Lady Death and these horrible hyper-sexualized soft core porn characters.

Alex: Right.

Jim: Did you get any pushback by the industry or by others or by their mail infrastructure about what saying about comics at that time?

Trina: No.

Jim: That’s interesting.

Alex: Do you think that the industry was pretty welcoming to your input on it from that historical perspective of the female?

Trina: Well, most of the people in the industry that I spoke to or that spoke to me, thought it was fine thought it was great.

Alex: Yeah. That’s great. A book that I read of yours, I love it actually because it’s almost like an alternate history, but it’s actually a true history and I’m surprised no one else has talked about it from this perspective was From Girls To Grrrlz: A History of Women’s Comics from Teens to Zines, in 1999. I love the book because it really, it’s like the history of comics from a female perspective and I’m surprised that it’s not mentioned in other comic history books I’ve read this perspective, but so how did this project come into being?

Trina: Well, I’d already written histories of women cartoonists and super heroines and I was really so sick of hearing editors say girls don’t read comics and people really believed that and I knew that this was, may I use the word bullshit? This was bullshit.

Alex: Yeah.

Trina: I had read comics when I was a kid and it wasn’t just me. I wasn’t just the Geeky girl in the corner who reads comics, everyone, my age, all of the kids read comics. My girlfriend’s read comics and we would trade comics and what the girls read, I knew what the girls read cause I had read them and I knew that really what I was trying to prove was that of course girls read comics. When you give girls’ comics they like to read, girls will read comics. But if all you give them is muscular guys with big chest punching each other out, they’ll all say, “I’m not going to read comics”.

Alex: Right and that it’s an interesting call to diversifying the genres and comics so that all demographics can read them and so it seems like it becomes self defeating what used to in the book, how to direct the market almost became more of a funnel for more of the superhero genre and then it becomes a self limiting, self destructive force where then boys only read superhero comics. Only superhero comics are put out and now girls are almost edged out off the side. When there was decades, like in the 40s you mentioned Archie Comics being very attracted to female readers and then in the 50s, romance comics attracted female readers. Can you tell us a little bit about that transition from teen comics to romance comics and why that shift occurred?

Trina: Romance comics started right after the war. I believe Simon and Kirby, I believe their first comic book, what was it, Young Love?

Alex: Yeah, Young Romance-

Jim: It’s Young Romance.

Trina: Okay. I think that started in 1947. They were just out of the war, they were veterans, and they come home and there was … The teen comics was doing great. The teen comics which were also about teenage girls. But they just decided “Why don’t we”, because the love magazines did really, really well. But those were like older women, women … By older, I mean women in their 20s, even late teens might be 18 or 19 were reading the romance magazines and they said, “Well, why don’t we do a comic” and the first one was a huge success, enormous success and of course what happens when one book is a success is other people start copying it. So just, you know, all of the comic publishers had their romance titles.

Alex: Did it feel like maybe the teen comics readers just grew a little older and now they wanted romance comics? Is that why the industry shifted toward more romance?

Trina: No. Because after all, if the teen girls became a little older or were reading the romance comics, they were younger girls who have just been reading like funny animals or something and they were reading the teen comics and the teen comics still did very well in the 50s.

Alex: yeah, like Archie did really well. Now there’s another phenomenon you mentioned and you touched upon it earlier, but Katy Keene and Torchy from 1947 and the divide and how women are portrayed, you mentioned that Torchy is almost more fetishy, sexy. Katy Keene is more classy and sophisticated and more for like an innocent female perspective. But you evolve that, you’ve also mentioned like Al Feldstein, Sunny in 1947 for Fox and Quality’s 1947, Candy, had a similar polarization and then in the 90s, you have Lady Death versus the Real Girl comics. Why do you think this polarization exists and how women are portrayed in comics?

Trina: Well, because there are always going to be guys who do comics specifically for other guys. Torchy was not really done for girls. Torchy was a pinup comic done for guys and you said something about fetishy. I mean, it was totally fetishy. Bill Ward was totally a fetish artist. He couldn’t help himself, that’s just what he drew. So he had to draw those legs with the super high heels shoes and the seams on the stockings, it’s just was what he did and this was not for teenage girl.

Alex: Right, and it makes sense cause he started that in the military for military guys. So it kind of makes sense, right? The last thing about that particular book I want to mention is in the 1970s, there’s almost like a crisis you mentioned in the way women are reading comics and what they’re looking for because it becomes more about women’s liberation. But then the mainstream comics, they have a hard time really connecting with them-

Trina: They were really didn’t get it.

Alex: So then what happens is you have Stanley who wrote a lot of female comics in the 40s and 50s but then that approach didn’t work in the 70s anymore and then so you have more the rise of the independent comics coming out from a girl perspective and then romance being faded out of comics in the 70s. What was going on in women readers at the time that this would happen?

Trina: Well, by the 70s and so many of us have become feminists, the love comics, the traditional love comics were just something to laugh at because the stories they told had nothing to do with our lives. You know, girl meets guy and is afraid he doesn’t love her for some reason or other and then it turns out he really does love her. I mean really these simple, simple stories and so cliché … Well, they had also become very much more cliched by the 70s. The love comics that still existed or incredibly cliched if you compare them to the earlier love comics, which sometimes were absolutely brilliant.

Alex: Right. That’s right. So now The Great Women Cartoonists, 2001 so was this essentially an update of the Century of Women Cartoonists? Were there new chapters? Was it re-edited? Tell us about that one.

Trina: It was an update in certain cases. I corrected mistakes I’ve made in the first one. It was basically an update with better pictures because we had color finally. It was a major New York publisher and I was very excited about the fact that it was a major New York publisher, but the editor was terrible. I’ll say that right now cause I’m not working for her anymore. She was awful. She led a lot of, and not just her, but the copy editor actually rewrote things that I had written, thought she knew better than me and I tried to correct them and they were never corrected. So there are some mistakes in there that are not my mistakes, but that made me cringe.

Alex: I see.

Trina: But it looks good, the book looked good.

Alex: Yeah.

Jim: That’s really interesting to me because I have that book and I was cross comparing it with Pretty in Ink just last night and there’s a lot of difference just in any basic sentence, the way that one is phrased and it’s so much more specific in Pretty in Ink, and I saw where those were correct and the earlier version was broader and incorrect in some ways. So that was-

Trina: In Pretty in Ink, we finally got it right. Yes. Now I don’t have to do those books anymore.

Jim: All right. The next that I have listed which came out the same year as Pretty Women Cartoonists was Neil Brinkley and the New Woman in The Early 20th Century-

Trina: Nell Brinkley. Nell, not Neil.

Jim: No, no, I’m sorry. I’m sorry. Yes.

Alex: That’s my mistake. I made that mistake. Nell Brinkley, yeah.

Jim: Nell Brinkley. Yes, absolutely. I’m going to save that and do it together with the other Brinkley book and so I want to skip that and go to, is it Canary Press?

Trina: No, not Canary, con something.

Jim: Con. Okay. Con, it’s C.O.N.A.R.I.

Trina: Conari.

Jim: Conari. Yeah, you did three books for them in the early 2000s. One in 2001, 2003 and 2004. Now, are those your first non comic related books that you did?

Trina: Well, I actually did a children’s book sometime in the 90s. If I had it right in front of me I could take it and look at the publication date. It was done by Ten Speed Press and it was called Catswalk.

Jim: I’ve never heard that one. Please tell us about that for a minute.

Trina: Yeah, says anybody else, they must have really had that distribution. I ran into a couple of editors for Ten Speed Press at a convention and they said they were fans of mine and would I like to do a children’s book and I said, yeah. So I did children’s book, it’s good to. Really, it’s good too, but nobody knows it exists because they had awful distribution.

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Jim: I would love to see that. So tell us about the Goddesses with Attitude.

Trina: Goddesses With Attitude. I decided I wanted to do a book on goddesses. They were books on goddesses, but not from the viewpoint that I wanted to do and no one was interested until, I guess I found Conari Press or they found me, I’m not sure how it worked. But by that point I had tried other editors and the kind of editor who I thought would be interested in goddesses books and they were all … Basically they wanted me to make it politically correct. Can you talk about the earth and can you talk about, you know, the wisdom and all these very politically correct new age terms and so I didn’t want to do that. So when I finally got to do a goddess book, I said the hell with that. I’m going to just do outrageous goddesses as bad goddesses.

Jim: So talk about some of the guy who like, for example, who did you cover?

Trina: Okay, well, geez, there’s so many. We could even start with Isis. I don’t know which one. I think I started with the Inanna because again, it was chronological to a certain degree. Inanna really is the first major goddess and how she decides to visit her sister, who is the queen of the underworld, Ereshkigal and Ereshkigal is so horrible and she’s so jealous of her sister who rules up in the sky that Inanna has to pass each of all these gates to get to finally see her sister and in each gate, the gate keeper takes an article of cloths away from her. So finally she ends up stark naked in front of her sister who that doesn’t satisfy her sister. She stills just so pissed off at Inanna that she strikes her dead and hangs the body up on a hook in the underworld. She’s a horrible person and these little, tiny little spirits have to help Inanna and bring her back to life by giving her the food of life and the water of life.

Jim: How international was this in that, did you do Japanese and trying like, did you go all over the world?

Trina: I did. I did Japanese. I think it was Izanagi and Izanami, if I got the names right where she … They are like the two first humans created by the gods and she gives birth. She gives birth to the mountains and to the islands and she’s the mother, but then she gives birth to fire and it kills her as it would, you know. So she has to go to the underworld and he misses her so much. He tries to get her back. But unfortunately she’s been in the underworld and she’s eating the food of the underworld. So she’s really a corpse and she’s rotting and die and it’s disgusting and she comes after him and he’s like, “Oh no, I changed my mind. Go back”.

Jim: You know, my niece recently got a tattoo of a pomegranate when she turned 18 and I said, “Well, did you do this because of Persephone and she was like, “I don’t know who that is”

Trina: Similar story. I mean, really what happens with all these goddesses is they die and return, and it’s all tied and of course with the seasons. When they die, it’s winter. When they return, it’s spring. It’s very similar.

Jim: So you go from that to Women Who Kill, which this to does well. But this is different. Alex, what this is your crime area, take it away.

Alex: So tell us about Women Who Kill.

Trina: That’s one of my favorite books that I’ve written. Maybe it’s my very favorite books that I’ve written. These women are so interesting and basically that’s what I wanted to do. Okay, I did bad goddesses and what interested me, was women who kill. Because there are very few of them are mass, are serial killers or mass murderers and we all know about the women who killed men who husbands who abused them and beat them. That wasn’t what I talked about because that’s all too obvious.

Alex: Right.

Trina: But women who really do kill and, gosh, I have some winners there. Here’s the old, the landlady from Sacramento who poisoned all her boarders and took their social security checks. She’s still with us. I believe she’s still in prison.

Alex: Yeah.

Trina: But she was fascinating, because she seemed like such a sweet old lady. Maybe the worst of them was Belle Gunness, the ogre of the planes. Let’s see, where was it? Was it a Midwestern town. She lived somewhere in the Midwest and she put ads. She was Scandinavian and she put ads in the Scandinavian papers that she was looking, she was a widow. She had already knocked up her husband and she was looking for a husband. But that because she had a ranch and everything, they had to prove they weren’t just after her for her money. They had to bring $1,000 cash with them. So she poisons them as they come by and she keeps the cash of course and buries them in the pig pen, feeds them to the pigs.

Alex: Yeah.

Trina: She was worse. She was the worst.

Alex: There’s something about feeding people to the pigs. It’s so graphic and awful. So now that’s interesting. There’s this funny thing where when it’s also it looks like with homicide and also with suicides, the difference between men and women when they commit these things that when men do it and tend to be more physically violent forms, and then when women do it, it’s a little more subtle. Like in the forms of poisons or taking overdoses or things like that. It seems like the homicide suicide flavors are different between these genders.

Trina: Yes. I like that you’re calling them flavors or whatever. Maybe men are chocolate and women are strawberries.

Alex: There you go.

Trina: But yes, I mean, well, to start with, none of the women killed for the sexual pleasure of it, you know?

Alex: Yes.

Trina: That’s the only men do.

Alex: Yeah.

Trina: Most of the women who killed it was very practical. They wanted his money, usually it was because they wanted his money.

Alex: Right. They had … So they had a better heads on their shoulders. It sounds like during these events.

Jim: Wild Irish Roses, was the third-

Trina: Yeah.

Jim: Was the third of those … That publisher-

Trina: Yes.

Jim: So let’s complete and hear that one too. What was it?

Trina: Well, I’m a Celtic fun. I’m not as actively a Celtic fun as I was when I wrote the book, but I am the Celtic fun fascinated with not just Irish history, but really all Celtic history. But I had to narrow it down to one nationality, and I made it Irish. I’ve traveled a lot in Ireland and Scotland and the English countryside, and I love it. I love their history. I love their mythology. So-

Jim: I love the environment too. It’s my favorite place to go.

Trina: It’s so beautiful and my partner and I, in traveling in Ireland, we’ve always looked for the mystic stuff for the stone circles and the standing stones, just wandering. At one point a farmer told us, he said, “I’ll let you in on a secret. I’ve got a standing stone in that meadow over there. I don’t tell the government because the marshals come rushing in, you know, and just disturb you know, my beautiful farm”. But we went and found the standing stone and another time there was a stone circle in the middle of this pasture and after we had found this stone circle, suddenly we were set upon by a herd of angry cows and we just got over the fence just in time.

Alex: That’s a great story. That’s, I don’t know why that reminds me of the Mel Brooks movie, Spaceballs, where there was a Planet Druidia and then when they talked about the Druish Princess, John Candy says, “That’s funny. She doesn’t look Druish”.

Trina: She doesn’t look Druish, yes.

Alex: Yeah, I thought that was funny. So the next book, Jim caught me out to this Forbidden City: The Golden Age of Chinese Nightclubs, 2009. What a fascinating topic. So was this inspired by Sax Rohmer’s Dope? Is that-

Trina: Not at all.

Alex: It was just your own thing? Okay, tell us about that.

Trina: Well, some of these women were in my dance class. These beautiful Chinese women, older, older women, but really just beautiful and always wore makeup and were fabulous dancers and I finally found out that they had danced. The only nightclub I knew at that time was the Forbidden City and one of them told me, “Yes, we used to dance at the Forbidden City”. In fact, it’s funny because I told my daughter, she thought I was talking about the ancient Chinese, the one in China, the Forbidden City. I said, “Wow, these women in my dance has danced for Forbidden City” and she said, “Good grief. How old are they?”

Trina: But anyway, so they invited me to one of their performances because of course the nightclub scene had died. It died by the early 60s really.

Alex: Yeah.

Trina: But they had formed a dance group called the Grant Avenue Follies, and they performed for charity. They performed all over the place and they were great. They were great, because when you danced all your life, you’re still a great dancer. It doesn’t matter how old you are.

Alex: Right. It’s part of it. Yeah.

Trina: So I went to see the performance and I was hooked and I said, “Oh my God, I’m going to do a book about you” and they didn’t believe me. So I took them each one at a time, took them out for lunch and taped them.

Alex: Nice.

Trina: They showed me about even the older women, who had danced in the 40s-

Alex: Yeah, before them.

Trina: And gave me phone numbers and most of them were perfectly willing to be interviewed. It was one woman who had been a stripper and she was shy. She didn’t, she never let me interview her, which was too bad, you know. But I interviewed these women and a lot of guys too and was able to borrow and scan in their photos. Beautiful, beautiful women with dark red lipstick and pompadour hair cuts and men in tuxedos, just so swamped off and a lot of them, most of them, the older ones have since passed away. Just a few, yeah. So I’m really, really, really glad that I got to interview them when I did.

Alex: Yeah, and for background, for the listeners, it’s about Chinese nightclubs in San Francisco from the 30s to the 60s. Something mentioned in there that I want to just bring up is that a lot of the Oriental or Asian entertainers were then compared to Caucasian counterparts, like the Chinese Fred Astaire or something like that-

Trina: And the Chinese Frank Sinatra. Yes.

Alex: Yeah-

Trina: The Chinese Betty Grable because she had great legs, but of course they all had great legs.

Alex: That’s so great and that even older Hollywood celebrities would actually go there and enjoy an evening there.

Trina: Yes. Oh yes. They showed me photos of sitting at a table with Boris Karloff with Bill Cosby.

Alex: Wow.

Trina: With hope, this one photo I think of by Jadin Wong who was the queen of the night clubs with how people got Lauren Bacall.

Alex: Wow, that’s great. That’s amazing.

Jim: Okay, so going back to comics. The last book that you wrote, comic related before doing this series of books that we’re talking about, have been talking about was Nell Brinkley and the New Woman in The Early 20th Century and the next book you did after doing Forbidden City was The Brinkley Girls. So both before and after you’re doing Brinkley, could you tell us first tell us about Brinkley so that we as an audience knows.

Trina: Well, of all the women that I researched, she was just the most immediately likable. You didn’t have to kind of get into it and say, “Oh yeah, I can see that style is very old fashioned, but I think I could, I could understand it”. Not with Brinkley. I mean, you look at her stuff and you’re just, you’re stunned. You’re stunned. She was so … The thing is she was so well known, she was so famous and she had so many fans but she was forgotten because nobody wrote about her, which is my big discovery and writing all of these books is that if you’re not written about, you’re forgotten and these women had been forgotten because when guys write books about comics, write histories, they want to talk about Jack Kirby and Stan Lee, you know what I mean?

Jim: Yeah.

Trina: Maybe throw in a little Steve Ditko. So for me the most obvious … oh wait, wait. There was a reason, not just that she was so incredible but that, okay, 19, I think it was ’96, and I was still new to computers and the Internet was still a very new thing and someone forwarded me the email saying, “My mother, who has since passed away was a big Nell Brinkley fan and just, and saved her work and has even written about her and you know, my mum, she’s passed away now. Now I’d like to give all of this literature, all of this, her collection to someone who knows about Nell Brinkley” and I immediately answered. I said, “I know Nell Brinkley, I’ve written about her and I have to tell you that if you want money, I can’t pay a lot because I’m a writer and writers are poor” and she emailed me back and said, “I wouldn’t dream of charging you. I just want you to take it” and she … Okay. Okay. This was the internet. She could’ve been anywhere in the world, right? She was about 20 minute drive away from where I live and she came over and delivered this huge stack of scrapbooks with original, not original work, but original comic pages. Very neatly placed in plastic, not pasted down or anything awful like that.

Jim: This would have been images you’ve never seen probably?

Trina: Yeah, because how much can one see? I just, at the time I was working on another project, a lot of the project before that. But then I just sat down surrounded with all this stuff and went through it and went, “Oh my God, this is a book”.

Jim: Now, what is the difference between the two books, the one that you added it in 2009 and the earlier one in 2001?

Trina: But, see that was for McFarland, the earlier one and it was much … It was smaller in size, it wasn’t smaller in information and it was black and white. So I was really limited. Yeah, so I was really limited to only showing her black and white work and also because she did work for newspapers and the work was so big in many cases I just had to extract one part of the illustration to show. But it was all there was for Nell Brinkley and it’s still in print and I even still get small royalty checks. So obviously people are buying it and one reason they’re buying it is because they can’t get the full color coffee table book that Fantagraphics published because it’s out of way out of print and Fantagraphics is not reprinting it and if you look for it on Amazon, it’s that they want so much that it’s really ridiculous.

Jim: That seems almost criminal to me. I’ve given this book out to four of my nieces. I can’t keep it. I’ll keep this one because-

Trina: Everyone loves it.

Jim: I think is your most beautiful book. I mean, it’s just the-

Trina: It is. That’s because she was so beautiful. Her work was so beautiful.

Alex: That’s great.

Jim: It’s so important historically. Do you know why it’s not in print?

Trina: Gary Groth, the publisher, he has a problem with reprinting books. He says, well they sold fairly well but what about the next time, will it sell 10,000 copies or will it only sell 300. It’s a gamble. However, my next book that I’m about to start is for Fantagraphics and it’s on the fabric cartoonists and they were a lot of women, but specifically there were three who did huge beautiful, full color Sunday pages and Brinkley is one of them. So people who have just been agonizing cos they couldn’t find the Brinkley book for under $400, can and will be able to buy the flapper cartoonist, which has a lot, a lot of beautiful full color, Nell Brinkley work.

Jim: When is that coming out?

Trina: I haven’t even started it yet. I promised … I’m about to start it. I did promise Gary that I would have it finished by 2020.

Alex: Nice. Okay.

Jim: Was there a reason that you took off most of the … From 2001 to almost the end of the decade where you weren’t doing comic related books?

Trina: I wasn’t.

Jim: Well, other than the history books, you were writing other things instead. Were you taking a break from comics history at that point?

Trina: I would have my books with me. Can you tell me what was the next book I published after that?

Jim: What I’m saying is like you did the Brinkley book in 2001 and you didn’t work in comics history. At least you didn’t publish in comics history for almost that full decade until 2009 when you edited the new Brinkley book.

Trina: When did I do the Miss Fury eBooks?

Jim: The Sunday volumes of 2011 to 2013.

Trina: Okay. I guess you’re right. So I was doing other stuff. Other books I guess.

Jim: Okay.

Trina: The ones that we’ve just talked about.

Jim: Alex, that’s your lead, Miss Fury.

Alex: Now you edited the two volumes of Sundays, let’s talk about Tarpe Mills and Miss Fury. For the audience, it’s a Sundays collection of Miss Fury, female comic hero dressed in black leopard outfit working in South America against Nazis in 1940s. Tarpe Mills, a creative woman who made this trip. Tell us about your work on the project.

Trina: Well, one of the more fascinating things is how women will turn themselves into the main characters of the trip both identified so much that the main character is them. Because Tarpe Mills looked exactly like Miss Fury and she even gave Miss Fury a pet cat that was Tarpe Mills’s cat. Tarpe Mills had a white Persian cat named Peri-Purr and Miss Fury had a white Persian cat named Peri-Purr. So-

Alex: That’s interesting.

Trina: When I’m really, and she’s not the only one who has identified with his character like that, Dale Messick who drew Brenda Starr dyed her hair really, really bright shade of Orange to match her character’s hair. She basically, she didn’t turn the character to herself, she turned herself into the character and she always dressed to kill, surely you know it, Brenda Starr was very fashionable and the book that I have just completed for her release press, which will be coming out in both fall, it’s about Gladys Parker, who drew two … Well, the first strip she drew was in the 20s called Flapper Fanny. But after that she drew Mopsy, who was her main character and who she identified with most and she was the spitting image of Mopsy. She looked exactly like her character. So this is something that women do, men don’t.

Alex: That’s interesting. Yeah, because you mentioned that in your Teens to Zine’s book that like women’s comics, 1974 was sort of a birth of autobiographical graphic novels and that will end and you quote and there’s, or you have a quote in there that women love to share confidences and they put themselves in their stories a lot. I thought that was a really interesting pattern you noticed and I never thought of it that way, but I can see that. I can see what you’re saying.

Trina: Well, like Milton Caniff did not look like Steve Canyon.

Alex: Right.

Trina: You know?

Alex: That’s right. He did not. All right, and then another thing about is a … Okay, so we talked a bit about Pretty in Ink, 2013 being this ultimate update to your Women Cartoonists book. But I want to talk a little bit about some of the women you highlighted in the Rose O’Neill’s comic strip, The Old Subscriber Calls and native-

Trina: Yes.

Alex: Right, and a Native American woman cartoonist from the 1940s who was a woman’s Army Corporal Ethel Hays, Edwina Dumm, Lily Renee. So how was it researching these women, finding out about them, putting it all together? Was it just what a constant sense of discovery? Tell us about getting all this information.

Trina: It was a sense of discovery.

Alex: Yeah.

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Trina: Yeah. Sometimes I do believe that there’s a comics goddess who steps in every now and then because the old subscriber calls by Rose O’Neill is generally, unless we find … Make another incredible find is generally accepted as the earliest comic drawn by a woman.

Alex: Yeah

Trina: 1896 and the way I found that is don’t tell me there’s no goddess in there somewhere working with me because there was a sidewalk sale right around the corner from where I live. This guy had set up a bunch of things that he was selling on his front steps and some of them, I think they were about maybe four or five issues, maybe four of a magazine from the late 19th century called Truth and I happened to know from my research that Grace Stratton had drawn for Truth and that possibly Nell Brinkley had also drawn for Truth and they were $5 each. I bought them and I brought them home and I looked through them and look at that, there’s a comic strip by Rose O’Neill. The Old Subscriber Calls from 1896 and that is as I say, accepted generally as the earliest known comic strip by an American woman cartoonist.

Alex: Which is incredible because a lot of times people start out with The Yellow Kid and they talk about the 1890’s-

Trina: Yeah, but you know the The Yellow Kid is 1896 too, isn’t it?

Alex: That’s what I mean is that women were part of comics from essentially year one or day one or however way we want to look at it and I think that’s an incredible thing that everyone should realize.

Trina: Yes.

Jim: Even going further back Alex, a little bit. If you take into account European comics, because there was Marie Duval doing Ally Sloper in 1867. Trina does say American when she does that which is-

Trina: Yes, I had to limit myself for it, what had been an encyclopedia.

Alex: Yes.

Trina: I limited myself to American.

Alex: Yeah, we got it. Yes, it’s true.

Trina: I straighten some of her comics. Beautiful Sunday pages from like 1902 and 1993. I mean, this is some of her earliest work and it’s wonderful. God, she was so good.

Alex: Wow. So now one of the people I mentioned and Jim’s going to talk about, this one is Lily Renee. So go ahead and take it away, Jim.

Trina: Yes.

Jim: Yes. This is a different Book. Lily Renee Escape Artist: From Holocaust Survivor to Comic Book Pioneer is different from anything else you did. Please tell us all about that.

Trina: It’s a graphic novel. It’s a graphic novel. Well, Lily, again, thanks to the Internet. I received an email from, I can’t remember what year it was, but from Lily Renee’s daughter and of course I knew that Lily had written about her in my books, but I had no idea she was still with us. I didn’t really know anything about her except that she had drawn these wonderful comics and we were into comic books now and I got an email from Lily’s daughter’s saying, “Well, I knew my mother had drawn comics. So I thought I would look on the internet, Google her and see what I could find and your name kept popping up” and I just even to hear from her daughter, I was so excited. I just screamed. I ran to my partner and I said, “I just got an email from Lily Renee’s partner, daughter”, excuse me.

Trina: So then I said, “Well, what can you tell me about your mother?” She said, “Well, I’ll let my mother tell you, here’s her phone number” and that meant, “Oh my God, she’s still with us”. So I think it’s been at least 10 years, hasn’t it?

Alex: Well, since your book.

Trina: Yeah.

Jim: No, I don’t think so. I’ll tell you when it is, but I don’t believe it’s been that long.

Trina: Anyway, I was writing at that point, I was writing graphic novels for young readers, for a publishing company called Lerners and I had wonderful editor who unfortunately left the company. But I adore her and I would write for any publication she worked for and I just told her the Lily Renee’s story because when I spoke to Lily and Lily told me that she had been this talented Jewish teenager in Vienna and then what happens is the Nazis march in the 1938 and she escapes to England in 1939 and having to leave her parents behind, not knowing if they’re dead or alive. Her parents not knowing she’s in England but not knowing anything else and they escaped to America and they find her and she comes to America and they’re living hand to mouth with a bunch of other refugees in this tenement building and she gets a job for fiction house drawing comics and she’s wonderful. She’s so great and just talking with Lily with her wonderful Lily’s accent.

Trina: But, hey Lily is still with us. She is 98 years old and in a month, in less than a month and in about two weeks she is flying, being flown to Vienna and we are flying to Vienna too with my partner and I because the Jewish Museum in Vienna is having an exhibit of her work after, this just the city that wanted to kill her, wanted to send her to a concentration camp and kill her except that she escaped. Now, they’re honoring her with this exhibit and they’re showing … I have 11 pages of Lily’s original art and I lent them to them for the exhibit and this is probably more pages of Lily’s art than anyone else has.

Alex: Are you going to take a lot of pictures of this exhibit? Trina, please tell us you will.

Trina: I’m taking lots of pictures and putting them all up on Facebook.

Alex: Nice.

Jim: So I was at San Diego comic con when you were promoting this book and I went to the panel of the two of you with you introducing her to us to a lot of people that probably had no idea who she was in that room and it was probably, I’ve been 25 years to comic con. It’s one of my favorite panels or favorite experiences I ever had there. Was the sense of history of you sitting next to her and were you all talking about comics?-

Trina: It was wonderful.

Jim: And about her life, it was beautiful. Did you do very much of that? How many, did you all travel to Jeffrey Conventions or was that the only one that you appeared at together?

Trina: Together, no. We went … There was a museum in New York at the time called Mocca, M.O.C.C.A. They were having an exhibit a lot, including a lot of my work of Women Cartoonists and I went and first I visited the [inaudible 00:56:19] and interviewed her and then we went on to the museum and we had a talk there.

Jim: It was wonderful and she was wonderful. I bought the posters she was selling and it was autographed. I have it hanging in my room. It’s just-

Trina: That’s great.

Jim: So, yes, absolutely. That had to be one of a special moment for you too. I would imagine amongst all you mentioned appearances.

Trina: Yes and then I think, time flies. I think it might have been about five years ago that Lily was visiting. She has, her son lives in San Diego and she decided she would like to come to the convention and so he emailed me, he said “Lily would like to come to the San Diego Con”. So I quickly got in touch with Jackie Estrada and of course they arranged everything so that she wouldn’t have to wait on line or anything horrible like that-

Alex: That’s nice.

Trina: And she came, she was in a wheelchair and her wonderful son and her grandsons who are just darling, and her daughter-in-law, they all came with her of course. But I took her around and it was so cool. These were people, I introduced her to people who knew who she was, but they were totally just blown up when I said, “This is Lily Renee” and they went, “Oh my God”. Maggie Thompson, you know who Maggie Thompson is.

Alex: Yeah, of course.

Trina: Yeah. Well I ran into her at the convention, I was with Lily at the point. That point Lily was with her, I guess with her grandsons, but I knew where they were. They were still at the table and I saw Maggie and I just grabbed her. I said, “Quick, come with me” and brought her over and I said, “Lily Renee”, and when I introduced her to Sergi Aragones, he kneed down and kissed her hand. I mean, it was wonderful.

Alex: That’s great.

Jim: So, Trina, does look like this was in 2011?

Trina: Mm-hmm (affirmative)

Jim: So around the same time that the Miss Fury book came out when this was released.

Trina: Yes.

Alex: Okay. So now we’re going to Last Girl Standing 2017. You wrote your autobiography, which is a great book because you really start from … You go from start to finish. What made you decide to write an autobiography at this juncture?

Trina: I’ve been wanting to do it for a while. For one thing, there’s so much misinformation about me out there and I’m really tired of correcting the misinformation.

Alex: Right.

Trina: So I decided I would just tell my story and Gary Groth loved the idea. That’s why I love that man. I told him last time I emailed him, I told him I would go to war for him.

Alex: That’s nice. So we talked about your autobiography last episode, but just some little finagling questions. So Forrest Ackerman, you were a friend of his and it was interesting in that he was a science fiction guy and you were a science fiction fan as well, and that he was doing magazines that had some nude women in them and you had gotten involved with that in some way. Tell us about that experience and your impression of Forrest from going through that.

Trina: I don’t think that he did any magazines with nude women. We’re talking about the growing mags that was-

Alex: Right. They were growing mags, that’s what I meant.

Trina: But they were not Forrest. No, but he kind of convinced me somehow that if I were to post for the men’s magazines, I would become famous like Marilyn Monroe, I’d be a famous actress and he would be my agent and I was like 19, so I believed him.

Alex: Then well, did something happen or a conversation or something that you realized that it was not correct or just tell us about like thinking out of that in that process.

Trina: Well, really the things that at that point, as a 19 year old, I had a whole series of really disastrous boyfriends who had really managed to destroy my self esteem and I didn’t know. I didn’t know I can have faith in myself, I didn’t know that I was very smart and very talented. But I knew I had my looks and it seemed like that was all I had.

Alex: I see. Yeah. So this it’s somewhat transformative in a way. Then last episode, you mentioned your friendship with Vaughn Bode and that he wasn’t in the Boys Club of underground cartoonists. I’ve learned quite a bit about Vaughn Bode since then and he had a different gender expression than other guys in the comic industry-

Trina: Yeah, exactly.

Alex: Definitely. Yeah. Would you say that was a part of him not being in that Boys Club and tell us about your kind of friendship.

Trina: I think so, because the Boys Club was very, very male, extremely male, and Vaughn would wear like long robes and he had this wonderful curly rock and roll star hair down to his shoulders and painting his nails black or green. He was definitely heterosexual, but he liked to play with gender and he looked great that way. The guys, and it wasn’t just that, it was what he did was very different from what the underground cartoonists were, the other underground cartoonists were drawing. He just wasn’t part of the club and I wasn’t part of the club either.

Alex: Yeah. Right. Interesting. Then evidently did you know about him and Jeff Jones before it was Catherine Jeff Jones and how they actually had an interest in the same woman and both of them had like a gender expression that are different from other people-

Trina: Certainly.

Alex: Did you know about that?

Trina: I didn’t know that they were both interested in the same woman. Who was that? Do I know her?

Alex: I don’t know her name, but there was a Jeff Jones documentary you may like, I think it’s called The Life and Choices of Jeff Jones and you can get it on DVD on Ebay for like $17. But it’s really fascinating, you may like it. But they liked the same woman and something happened where that woman then goes from Vaughn Bode to Jeff Jones and then a lot of Jeff Jones’s later 70s paintings and things are based on her and what’s fascinating is during this transition, there’s a lot of high emotions going on between all three and I don’t know if that factored in when Vaughn Bode died, but around that time is when Jeff Jones gets notified that Vaughn Bode had died in the way he did, and that is a very devastating emotional highs and lows and I was just-

Trina: That was devastating to all of us.

Alex: Were you shocked when you heard about his death?

Trina: Of course I was shocked. I mean, he was what, 33?

Alex: Yeah, really young. Yeah. Okay. Last question, and this is more of a fan question. It’s a little, it’s in your autobiography, but Jim Morrison. You actually a new Jim Morrison. Tell us a little bit about that.

Trina: You’ll have to read the book. Of course the audience would like to read.

Alex: Yeah. I’ll highly recommend it for everybody. It’s a fantastic book. Next one is next book that Jim’s going to talk about Babes in Arms: Women in the Comics During World War II.

Jim: Yes. Now, this is almost, it seems like this is a longer version of one of the chapters in your Women Cartoonists book. Is that fair to say or is that?-

Trina: Yes, it is because I felt that I needed to show much more and to tell much more about this wonderful phenomenon of what happened during World War II when, as you know, in every industry in the factories, everywhere, women stepped in to take the jobs that the men had left when they went off to fight the war and so they were doing things that women had never done before. They were building planes and ships and in many cases flying the planes, driving trucks and buses, doing things women had never done before and the same thing happened in the comics industry. The guys were off fighting the war and suddenly I’m talking comic books now, not newspapers, because the comic books had been very male. They’d been very young superheros stuff, were only superhero stuff, very male.

Trina: Suddenly women were drawing for the comic books and what they drew was very different for what the men drew, which was so interesting. They were drawing heroines, they were drawing beautiful, smart, competent women who fought the Nazis, and who could take care of themselves and didn’t need to be rescued by some guy, which in before that, the role of women in comics, they’d been girlfriends of the superheros who get tied up and rescued.

Jim: So talk about some of the women that when you were first writing, not this book so much is the chapter that this book is partly derived from, but like where their discoveries that you made in terms of some of these women and their connection to their roles or even that they were women. Were you surprised to find out cause some of these were not advertised necessarily as women while they were working, correct?

Trina: No, actually not true. In Fiction House the women who worked for Fiction House signed their names. Lily Renee’s work is usually signed L. Renee. Fran Hopper, simply signed who worked Fran Hopper. There was no secret about the fact that they were women. Maybe sometimes they would use an initial, I think Barbara Hall hold herself B. Hall.

Jim: I was thinking of that one.

Trina: Yeah. But Pauline Loth, well of course she drew for a girl’s magazine, Miss America. But it was … Everyone knew that it was Pauline Loth.

Alex: Just a quick question about Babes in Arms. So it’s interesting just for the listeners is a lot of people think about Rosie the Riveter and women going into manufacturing during World War II. But it’s interesting you highlight that there was a need for women comic people are people that fill in those spots and so there’s actually a whole slew of women that you highlight in the comic industry, and I think a lot of people should realize that.

Trina: Well, what comes along with the whole slew of women, it’s a whole slew of women comic book heroines because that’s what they drew.

Alex: It’s amazing.

Jim: Now with Girl Commandos, I had a question which relates to and that’s a wonderful strip and wonderful encounter-

Trina: That’s Girl Commandos. Yeah, they’re great.

Jim: They are great. When Robert Crumb uses … Does the title say Girl Commandos, was that meant to be disrespectful or was he even aware of that comic even? Did you say he was even-

Trina: I don’t think he was aware of Girl Commandos. I don’t think so.

Jim: Okay. So it’s just a coincidence. Now, you knew the creators or were you friends with her daughter and no, sorry-

Trina: Yes.

Jim: Yes.

Trina: Yes, I was friends with Barbara Hall’s daughter, Ladybelle and she said, “My mom used to draw comics” and I said, “Really?” I just still didn’t think, I thought, well maybe she drew a comic once and then I spoke to her and I found out not only has she drawn Girl Commandos, but she had drawn Black Cat, which is like a major historical comic era.

Jim: Yes. So one of the things I’m getting from this conversation, which is interesting is how much a historian depends on luck to a certain degree that you have come across in your work, amazing connections that provided so much you may think just by good fortune and nothing else.

Trina: Yes. That’s what I chock up to the comic goddess.

Jim: Then I think that’s everything you have currently published in terms of nonfiction and non direct comic books themselves. Did we miss anything?

Trina: No. There’s the Gladys Parker book that’s coming out in the fall. It’s called Gladys Parker: A Life in Comics, A Passion for Fashion because besides drawing this comic strip, Mopsy, which she was most identified with and she drew it from 1937 until 1965, she died the year after that. She also, all throughout the 1930s, she had a line of clothing, very successful fashion designer who had drew and so beautiful high end dresses and high end department stores and by 1940 she moved to Hollywood and was designing clothes for movie stars like Barbara Stanwyck and Hedy Lamarr. So it’s really, of all the women that I have written about, she’s the one I wish I could have lunch with.

Alex: Yeah. That’s great.

Jim: That’s interesting.

Alex: So with your experience in fashion and clothing, cause you were actually doing … You were in clothing, tailoring and to retail and you design clothes for different people in different mediums and different rock bands and things. So is that always kind of in the back of your mind when you’re looking at a comic page, the fashion design that’s going on a page?

Trina: Yes, and I have noticed in just checking out historical comics, comics history, that women pay so much more attention to the clothes than men. There are exceptions, like Katy Keene is a real exception. But of course Bill Woggon interpreted designs that had been sent to him by fans.

Alex: Yeah. That’s really interesting. Now Bill Woggon, yeah, when he was doing Katy Keene and doing those fashion tips, do you feel like that makes him somewhat Bill Woggon, I guess for Katie Keene? Do you feel like that makes him somewhat unique as far as male comic creators and looking at fashion? Is that kind of a rare thing in the-

Trina: Bill Woggon was very, extremely unique. What he did was so unique, just that taking designs that had been sent to him by readers. I can tell you that I am in a class, I’m taking a class that is all seniors right by me and we got into a discussion, men and women. We got into a discussion about the old comics that they had liked. Like our teacher said he loved The Little King. Remember The Little King? Okay, and we-

Alex: Yeah, loved that.

Trina: Yeah. Well my teacher loved it too. We brought up the comics we had liked as a kid and somebody said Katie Keene and all of the women went, “Oh yes, Katie Keene”. You know people, girls loved it. Girls loved it, and one woman even said, “They should bring it back”.

Alex: That’s great. So Trina, thank you so much for joining us today. This was really riveting and we covered everything we wanted to cover where enormous fans of yours and what I think I personally enjoyed it and I think Jim does too, is how frank and how forthcoming you are with all this wonderful information and you’ve done so much research on comic history. I think it’s fair to say that you are the goddess of comic history because what you’re doing for comic history it’s unmatched. I’m really happy that we’ve come to know more about you and that you’ve taken the time to hang out with us these past couple episodes. Really, I look up to you personally and we’re just such huge fans of your work. Thank you so much for joining us.

Trina: Thank you and now I’m going to lunch.

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Alex: All right.

Jim: Have a good lunch.

Alex: All right. Thank you Trina.

Jim: Thank you Trina.

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