Trina Robbins – RIP

Comix cartoonist and comics “herstorian” Trina Robbins has passed away.

Trina Robbins (née Perlson)

August 17, 1938 – April 10, 2024

Trina’s daughter Casey informed the world of its loss yesterday:

My mother Trina Robbins passed away this morning. We miss her so much already

Trina was among the first group of underground comix cartoonists appearing in the late Sixties and took a stand against the sadistic, misogynist comix of the chauvinistic cartoonists that dominated the comix genre at that time.

From The New York Times obituary:

Her comics about sex were often playful — the two-page strip “One Man’s Fantasy,” for example, was about a man captured by a group of attractive women who force him to make a tuna fish sandwich. But she found that many male cartoonists were threatened by any hint of feminism.

And Ms. Robbins was repulsed by the dark material in Robert Crumb’s comics and the way the underground scene followed his lead. “Rape and humiliation — and later, torturing and murdering women — didn’t seem funny to me,” she wrote in her memoir. “The guys told me I had no sense of humor.”

As over-the-counter comic books’ situations caught up with under-the-counter comix books (though not as graphic) and the underground market began to disappear Trina found work in the mainstream.

From the Comic Book Resources (CBR) obituary:

As Robbins began doing more and more mainstream work, her unique sensibilities continued to permeate her work. She was an art history expert, and as such, she could adapt her style to evoke any sort of style, like her take on classic Chinese artwork in this Epic Illustrated tale…

Check out her chameleon-like ability to evoke the work of H.G. Peter in this Wonder Woman mini-series she did with Kurt Busiek (this made Robbins the first female artist to actually draw Wonder Woman in her own comic book)…

Or see her kids-oriented work on her mid-80s Marvel comic, Misty (which somehow manages to evoke the feel of Dan DeCarlo without simply riffing on his style)…

As major and independent comic book publishers became obsessed with superheroes Trina became consumed with a life-long interest – the women cartoonists who had preceded her and those who were currently working. This led to her becoming a “herstorian,” as she called herself, of comics.

From the Comics Beat obituary:

As a writer and scholar, Trina Robbins would use her authoritative, politically-charged insight to bring the completely ignored history of women in comics to the fore, starting with 1993’s A Century of Women Cartoonists from Kitchen Sink Press and more recently with 2013’s Pretty In Ink: North American Women Cartoonists, 1896-2013, 2020’s Flapper Queens: Women Cartoonists of the Jazz Age – both published by Fantagraphics – and Babes in Arms: Women in Comics During the Second World War from Hermes Press, in 2017. Through these endeavours she became an invaluable starting point for anyone looking into the hidden history of the comics medium. In 2017, then 77 years of age, she published her memoir – Last Girl Standing.

But Trina did not give up her art for her histories. She continued with both, sometimes combining them.

The Grand Comics Database has a list of her comix and comics, Bleeding Cool’s obituary lists her research:

She was also a major feminist comics historian, and her books including The Flapper Queens, Women Cartoonists Of The Jazz Age, Gladys Parker: A Life In Comics, A Passion For Fashion, A Century of Women Cartoonists, The Great Women Superheroes, From Girls to Grrrlz, The Great Women Cartoonists, Pretty In Ink, Eternally Bad and last year’s Dauntless Dames and the Pro Choice anthology published late last year, Won’t Back Down.

Her memoir, Last Girl Standing was published in 2017 by Fantagraphics.

This is a tragic loss for those of us who only knew her through her books and comics,

and much more so for her family, friends, and colleagues who knew her personally.

From Mark Evanier:

Beautiful…talented…important…I don’t know which quality of Trina I should start with. I’ll start with important. Trina Robbins was one of those cartoonists who did things that mattered. No one did more to elevate the awareness of and the opportunities for females in the realm of cartooning and comic art. And along the way she did not neglect the males; did not neglect anyone or anything worthy of attention…

It was just a pleasure to know her…to talk with her…to dine with her. If this reads like I’m a little in shock, I am. We heard she was ill but she was one of those people who just seemed too full of life to ever run out of it.

“Trina takes her paints and her threads
And she weaves a pattern all her own”

Joni Mitchell

3 thoughts on “Trina Robbins – RIP

  1. I had the greatest admiration for Trina as a comics historian, her books were always very well done. She certainly ensured that female cartoonists got their due, especially back in the days when comics historians tended to show them little interest.

    Our paths only crossed on occasion via email, but I deeply regret we never got to meet. I have no doubt that a real geekfest of a long conversation would have ensued.

  2. I met Trina at Reed Waller and Kate Worley’s table at the first Wonder-Con in Oakland, CA many years ago. Had a great 3 minutes with her before she moved on. Great educator. Made it a point to seek her out at future conventions on the West Coast. She had a great body of work and will be sorely missed. Rest In Power.

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