Today on the site we have an obituary of Jess Johnson, written by former TCJ-editor Robert Boyd.
And we’re pleased to have part one of a two part oral history of Wimmen’s Comix, the complete run of which has just been published in a great two-volume set by Fantagraphics. Alex Dueben’s interviews with many of the key cartoonists (Trina Robbins, Sharon Rudahl, Barbara Mendes, Aline Kominsky-Crumb, Diane Noomin, Phoebe Gloeckner, et al) covers a ton of new territory, not least of which is each contributor’s fascinating paths to the medium, as well as publishing biz history, tons of context about the sexual politics of the time, and so much more. With a few exceptions, these cartoonists are rarely interviewed. Earth people, here’s an open call: I want feature length interviews with everyone in this oral history. Let’s open up the history of underground comics. Email me.
Here’s a bit:
Trina Robbins: I get to San Francisco and I discover, isn’t this wonderful we’re all here doing underground comics–well, it wasn’t. The guys didn’t include me. Later there were so many [cartoonists] but in the very early seventies, the first few years, it was a small group of guys and they all knew each other. It was a clique. Most of the comics in those days were still in anthology form so if they were going to do a comic, they’d call each other up and say, I’m going to do a comic, do you want to contribute six pages or four pages? Nobody called me. Nobody invited me into their books. Nobody invited me to their parties. The underground newspapers in the Bay Area were still carrying comics and they were a whole other group. They were much more open and that was wonderful because I wanted to draw comics for somebody. Underground newspapers had just started and if they were going to do an article, I’d read the article and on the spot, draw an illustration for it. I was getting published and I was drawing for people who wanted me to draw for them.
Meredith Kurtzman: I was at the School for Visual Arts. I had one comic published in The East Village Other, but that was it. I can’t remember how I got involved with It Ain’t Me, Babe. My father knew Trina and Kim Deitch and I remember visiting them when they lived in a storefront on Ninth Street. We weren’t great pals or anything, it was more my father knowing all the underground comics people. They’d come to our house for dinner sometimes. I don’t think there was anyone else in that first issue who I really knew.
Trina Robbins: Someone showed me what must have been the first issue of It Ain’t Me, Babe, which I had always thought was the first feminist newspaper on the West coast, but I later learned that it was the first feminist newspaper in America. I phoned them and said, I’d like to work for you. There was a be-in at Golden Gate Park and we met at the be-in and I wore a t-shirt that I had designed that had this strong and angry looking heroine and said under it “super sister.” They thought it was wonderful. They were in Berkeley so after that every three weeks or so I would show up at Berkeley and be doing drawings for them. I was also doing a lot of their covers and a comic on the back page. After working with them for a while, they gave me the moral support to say, I can put together a comic book.
Lisa Lyons: As I remember, Trina called and asked if I’d be interested in taking part in It Ain’t Me Babe. No email or texting back then. How did she hear about me? I don’t know. Everybody knew everybody, or at least everybody knew somebody who knew somebody else on the Left in the Bay Area. I was a political cartoonist for the Independent Socialist Club and its newspaper Workers Power, and did work for many anti-war, civil rights, and social justice organizations, including the Black Panther Party, the Free Speech Movement, SDS, the Farm Workers, and the Peace and Freedom Party. My work appeared regularly in Liberation News Service. I illustrated Barbara Garson’s MacBird, which was translated into many languages and became a stage play.
Also today, Ginette Lapalm’s cartoonist diary, day 4.
On a related note, Rachel Miller wonders about one of the cartoonists in It Ain’t me Babe.
Sean Howe on another mystery: What has become of the Comic Magazine Association of America files? It’s possible these are gone forever, but it’s equally possible some collector acting as a “historian” has them and is “saving them for a book.” I’ve heard that a lot about a lot of stuff.
Frank Santoro’s Comics Workbook is aggregating news over on its web site. Check it out.
Over on Facebook, here’s a look at the great Spain Rodriguez’s last freelance job.