Diane Noomin, the pioneering underground cartoonist whose work inspired generations of women artists, died at her home in Hadlyme, Connecticut, on September 1, 2022. The cause of death was uterine cancer, according to her husband, Bill Griffith. Noomin was 75 years old.
"I'm devastated by the loss of someone so alive, so funny, so complicated, so important to me, so beautiful," said Griffith, Noomin's partner for nearly 50 years.
"My heart is aching," said the cartoonist Aline Kominsky-Crumb, with whom Noomin founded and co-edited the women cartoonist anthology series Twisted Sisters Comics (Last Gasp, 1976).
Best known for her semi-alter ego DiDi Glitz, a flamboyant, uber-fabulous character with polka dot dresses and a bouffant hairdo, Noomin's comics career began in the early 1970s and included appearances in Wimmen’s Comix, Young Lust, Arcade, Titters, Weirdo, and many others. DiDi first appeared in a story called "Restless Reverie" in Short Order Comix #2 (Family Fun, 1974). Set in a world of garishly glamorous fashion, overly-stylized homes and romantic angst, Noomin tackled real life topics like abortion, body image, masturbation, motherhood and miscarriages, and presented them in intricately stylized comic strip panels. And they were often extremely funny. Noomin has said that she used DiDi as a shield in addressing material which in later years was increasingly autobiographical.
"I could do satire and use real-life situations and have DiDi experience them in her way, so that I'm one step removed," she told Nicole Rudick in a 2012 interview at the TCJ website.
"DiDi Glitz actually started out as a Halloween costume," Noomin told an audience at a comics conference held at the University of Florida in 2003. "I think we were going to a costume party at Gilbert Shelton's house. I found a blonde wig at the Salvation Army and this is what I came up with. My roommate at the time was Willy Murphy and he called me DiDi. He was the only one that ever called me DiDi. So, I was DiDi for the night. And, Glitz, I guess is self-explanatory now - at the time that I did it, I was constantly asked where it came from."
Noomin described DiDi as "a suburban Sysiphus striving... to redecorate her life. She thrives on highly charged emotional scenes, valium and pepperoni pizza. She scrupulously examines and catalogs her physical flaws and any sign of incipient aging sends her into a panic. Wrinkles, dewlaps, crowsfeet, cellulite, flab and grey hairs are all featured in her self-flagellating litany of disgust." In 2012, Fantagraphics published a collection of Noomin's short comics, DiDi Glitz front and center, called Glitz-2-Go.
Channeling DiDi: Noomin as DiDi Glitz, and Jim Turner as Zippy, in one of the Zippy Stories segments produced by the television studio Videowest that aired on KQED TV in San Francisco in 1980. "What was amazing was how Diane was able to really channel DiDi very fully," said Art Spiegelman. "All of a sudden this very strong, vulgar Canarsie accent would be there when you were talking about something else. She was now in character and then out again. And she was so fully able to go into it. And one of her qualities, in general, was she was just clearly very, very intelligent. So it would be great to have her slide from somebody who one could have all kinds of rather serious conversations with, then all of a sudden this phantom third person would be with us who would break in for a moment or two and then go back to being the thoughtful person she often was."
Beyond her talent as a cartoonist, Noomin was a skilled editor and brought to light the work of many gifted women cartoonists. Besides co-editing the original Twisted Sisters Comics, Noomin also edited the sequel anthologies Twisted Sisters: A Collection of Bad Girl Art (Viking Penguin, 1991) and Twisted Sisters 2: Drawing the Line (Kitchen Sink, 1995, collecting a 1994 limited series), which featured the work of dozens of contributors. The first book and the limited series that comprised the second one were both nominated for Best Anthology at the Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards in 1992 and 1995. Noomin received an Inkpot Award at the San Diego Comic-Con in 1992.
Most recently, Noomin edited the award-winning anthology Drawing Power: Women's Stories of Sexual Violence, Harassment, and Survival (Abrams ComicArts, 2019), which was inspired by the Trump presidency and the global #MeToo Movement. The book, which brought together the talents of more than 60 women cartoonists from around the world, portrayed stories of sexual abuse and harassment against women. The book won a 2020 Susan Koppelman Award for Best Anthology, Multi-Authored, or Edited Book in Feminist Studies in Popular and American Culture, as well as the 2020 Eisner Award for Best Anthology.
The artists in Drawing Power are "truth tellers, shining light on the dirty secrets of abusers," Noomin wrote in her preface to the collection. "I began asking women cartoonists to join me in making a book that would depict their own experiences of sexual assault, harassment, or rape. Out of all the women I approached, only one said she had never had such an experience…. In the time it took to get this book published, one contributor was raped, and another dropped out of the project because her accused rapist is suing her for millions."
In an interview with Jon B. Cooke on his Subterranean Dispatch podcast in 2019, Noomin said her inspiration for the book came from remarks uttered by Donald Trump during his 2016 presidential campaign. "It was Trump. It was... that thing that they showed [on Access Hollywood] where he came off the bus with Billy Bush and he said 'grab 'em by the pussy.' That's the title of my story [in Drawing Power], 'Grab 'Em by the Pussy.' I was just so angry and I couldn't think of anything that I could do. And I started having a lot of flashbacks. I think a lot of women did from that, like memories of things they had forgotten or they hadn't realized, that they were either abused or [harassed]. I think you realize when it's rape. Like a lot of people also suppress that memory. And so I just wanted to get as many people as I could, from as many age groups, as many ethnic groups, as many sexual preferences as I could, and I think I could have made the same book with, like, 60 other women that were out there. It would have been good. I mean, there's huge amounts of very talented women doing comics now.... I've been on panels with young women in the last 5 or 10 years where they say, 'I didn't know any other women cartoonists, I was isolated.' And... I guess, with the internet, people are more connected now than they used to be. I've had a lot of people who I asked to be in the book say, 'oh, Twisted Sisters was very important to me. It's why I started drawing comics,' and you never know that. I would never know that, because it's very insular world, being a cartoonist."
Diane Noomin (née Rosenblatt) was born in the Canarsie neighborhood of Brooklyn, NY, in 1947. She attended the High School of Music & Art, Brooklyn College, and the Pratt Institute. Like many future underground comics cartoonists of the time, Noomin said the early art training she received heavily pushed Abstract Expressionism.
"I think my cartooning had to work its way through the art, because when I went to school, they were trying to turn everybody into Abstract Expressionists, Jackson Pollock juniors," she told Rudick in 2012. "They once showed us a film where somebody was throwing paint onto a canvas on the floor and then rolling balls into it, and this was High Art! The worst thing you could be was illustrative or narrative, which of course defines comics. They told you how to look at art—you're looking for the movement and all this stuff. In order to be a cartoonist I had to try to forget all that."
Noomin moved to San Francisco in 1972, where she soon met future husband Bill Griffith.
"I first met Diane at Art Spiegelman's apartment on Abbey Street in San Francisco in 1972," Griffith told TCJ. "Art and his then girlfriend, Michele Gross, invited Diane and me to dinner there. I suspect Art was doing a little matchmaking, thinking Diane and I might get along. Diane told me years later that she thought I was a bit snobby that night, which I probably was. I just thought she was gorgeous and possibly out of my league. We met again a few months later at a cartoonist's New Year's Eve party. I'd seen some of her comics by then, which I thought were very funny, mostly sketchbook stuff that Aline Kominsky showed me. One thing led to another that night and I drove her back to her aunt and uncle's house on Potrero Hill where she was staying. We agreed to meet again and within a few months we were a couple. I felt lucky beyond words. Diane moved into an apartment a few blocks from my place so we shuttled back and forth, with Diane eventually moving in with me on Fair Oaks Street (with cartoonist Willy Murphy as a roommate)."
Noomin and Griffith married in 1980 and later moved their home to Connecticut in 1998.
"We lived together for seven years," Griffith recalled. "One day Diane asked me if we should get married and make things legal. I didn't need much convincing, so I quickly agreed. She'd been unhappily married once before and had no desire for a big event, to my relief. So in November of 1980, we 'eloped' to Las Vegas and tied the knot at City Hall there. The elderly gent who performed the ceremony told us 'I've married 'em from 6 to 96!' As our plane took off from Las Vegas, we looked out the airplane window and saw the MGM Grand casino in flames."
It was during her early days in San Francisco that Noomin also met future collaborator Aline Kominsky (later Kominsky-Crumb, following her marriage to cartoonist Robert Crumb in 1978).
"When I went out to San Francisco in 1972, I carried a little black notebook, where I wrote a lot of poems and made doodles and drawings," she told Rudick. "So I was heading to cartooning without realizing it. I showed it to Aline at a party and she said, 'We're starting Wimmen's Comix. You should come down.' The first issue of Wimmen's Comix was being finalized, so I wasn't in the first issue—I was in the second issue—but I was in on it from the beginning, and it was very exciting. Suddenly I realized the whole world was material. I could do comics about anything!"
In 1976, Noomin and Kominsky decided—for various reasons—to break from the Wimmen's Comix group and start their own title, Twisted Sisters.
"Aline and I found ourselves on one side of a power play and we decided, 'Well, fuck you, we'll do our own comic,'" she told the University of Florida audience. "Basically, we felt that our type of humor was self-deprecating and ironic and that what they were pushing for in the name of feminism and political correctness was a sort of self-aggrandizing and idealistic view of women as a super-race. We preferred to have our flaws and show them."
Noomin's work appeared in all seven issues of Arcade: The Comics Revue, which was edited by Griffith and Art Spiegelman and was published by Print Mint in 1975 through 1976. In 1978—in part as a response to Arcade's tendency to only run shorter pieces by her, Kominsky and other women artists—Noomin edited her own anthology at Print Mint, Lemme Outa Here!, which featured mostly autobiographical work about growing up in suburbia by many of the best known UG cartoonists of the time.
"By editing at that point, it just meant you got a publisher to agree to do the comic, and then you go and ask the people that you want to be in it, and then you tell them how many pages to do," she told the University of Florida audience. "This comic [Lemme Outa Here!] did have a theme of growing up in suburbia, growing up in America, and wanting to escape that. The cover is by Michael McMillan, and some of the other artists in there are: Aline Kominsky, Mary K. Brown, Kim Deitch, Bill Griffith, Justin Green, myself, and Robert Crumb. In a way, this was my answer to Arcade because I started to feel more like I knew what I was doing, and I didn’t want to be in the half-page or the one-page category anymore. So for this comic book, Aline and I had the long stories and the guys had the shorter ones."
Noomin's strip in Lemme Outa Here! was called "I'd Rather Be Doing Something Else". In 1980, Noomin collaborated with the San Francisco women's theater group Les Nickelettes to stage a musical adaptation called I'd Rather Be Doing Something Else - The DiDi Glitz Story. The production featured Noomin's costumes and scenery, and its sets were created by several underground comics artists.
"They came to me and said, 'We like the comics; we'd like to base a play on them,'" she told the University of Florida audience. "And I said, 'Fine, but I have to be totally involved in it,' as a control-freak cartoonist. So it was an interesting lesson in trying to write a play communally based on my stuff, and it was actually amazingly exhilarating to see the character come to life and be in a full-fledged musical comedy with backdrops that I designed. And I roped in all my cartoonist friends to help paint. Bill [Griffith] helped paint, and Kim [Deitch], Sally Cruikshank (who did [the short film] Quasi at the Quackadero) and Spain [Rodriguez] and Paul Mavrides did a velvet painting to hang in DiDi's living room. It was DiDi's giant [Margaret Keane] eyes, and I still have it hanging in my studio."
At the time of her death, Noomin had been working on a book about her parents and their secret involvement with the Communist Party of the United States of America, a mystery that she did not fully understand until adulthood. An initial look at that period ran as the strip "I Was a Red Diaper Baby", which appeared in the Winter 2003 Comics Journal Special Edition.
"My experience on Long Island was unusual for suburbia because my parents were communists," she told Rudick in 2012. "They moved to Long Island to go undercover, although they didn’t change their names, so I can’t figure that one out. They moved to an integrated neighborhood—what they and the Communist Party thought was an integrated neighborhood in Hempstead but actually was a neighborhood experiencing white flight.... I got a clue when the FBI started questioning our neighbors in Canarsie, but we didn't talk about it until I was in my thirties. I did know during the Vietnam War, when I went to march on the Pentagon, that my mother was in Women Strike for Peace. So I knew they were left wing and liberal, and I was proud of them, but the commie stuff was all secret.... I found this out after my mother and father had died, and I interviewed my mom's friend. She said that my parents could never have afforded their house in Long Island, even with the G.I. Bill, and that the Communist Party helped pay for it, or bought it, and, in essence, that my parents were laundering money for the Party."
Griffith told TCJ that Noomin had done extensive research on "her parents' involvement with the Communist Party over the years and how they kept that fact secret from Diane and her sister but, sadly, Diane hadn't put much of the story on paper at the time she died. It would have been a powerful book."
In recent years Noomin and Griffith both taught at the School of Visual Arts (SVA) in Manhattan.
"We both taught [at SVA] at the same time, from noon to three on Tuesdays, so we took the train into New York together every week," Griffith said. "My class was (and still is) called 'Storytelling'." Diane's was "Personal Comics."
In addition to Griffith, Noomin is survived by her sister, Veronica Smith, and nieces, Willow Wonder and Ginger Smith. A memorial service at SVA is currently in planning.
* * *
In the space below are some thoughts and memories about Diane Noomin's life by some of her friends, colleagues, admirers and loved ones:
On a purely personal level, I'm devastated by the loss of someone so alive, so funny, so complicated, so important to me, so beautiful. I can't really say much about that now, it's too raw. I can barely accept that she's gone.
But I can talk about what it's been like to live with Diane for 49 years as fellow cartoonists.
When your spouse is doing the same kind of work that you do, there's a lot of cross-pollenization going on, as well as criticism and appreciation. I'd occasionally give Diane a critique of her comics, always trying to be diplomatic, and she'd do the same for me. Over the years, we learned how to do this without being too painful. No one really wants anything but love from an audience. But neither of us acted as just a cheerleader for each other's comics. We'd find a way to point out a problem while still appreciating the effort.
Diane wasn't just my wife, my soul mate and my best friend, she was, in effect, my "editor". Every week, for many years, after I finished a batch of Zippy strips, I would come up from the studio to show them to her. She was, for the most part, my "audience". Her reaction was the first reaction I would get. She almost never had any criticism of my Zippy strips, other than to point out typos or a misaligned balloon tail, she just enjoyed reading them.
If she laughed, I was in cartoonist heaven.
But all that changed when I started work on my first graphic novel, Invisible Ink, in 2014. In a nutshell, what Diane did for me when I showed work in progress on that book, was to act as an editor. It always went like this:
I would hand her four or five "finished" pages. She'd quietly read them, then look up—I hoped she'd just tell me that they were perfect, of course, but—she would almost always point out a flaw. Either there was a continuity problem or dialogue that needed a rewrite or, worst of all, I'd failed to get at a character's emotional core. Their motivation. Their backstory.
"You need to express more feeling here," she'd tell me. "If a story is just a telling of facts, how would we relate to the character personally, or care about them? Go back and put more feeling into it," she'd say. My initial response was to disagree, to defend myself, to argue. It might take a few minutes or it might a take a few days, but in the end, every single time, I knew she was right and I'd make the necessary changes, always for the better. This was also true for both my graphic bio of Schlitzie the Pinhead, Nobody's Fool, and my soon-to-be-released graphic bio of Ernie Bushmiller, Three Rocks. It's equally true for my next work-in-progress, Photographic Memory, the story of my great-grandfather, pioneer photographer Wiliam Henry Jackson.
Without Diane's intuitive understanding of what I needed to change, to make better, none of those books would show my best effort. I hope I've internalized her enough after all this time so I can see my new work in the years ahead through her perceptive eyes and "put more feeling into it!"
(cartoonist, co-editor of Twisted Sisters Comics)
Diane was a beloved friend and partner on some of our best and most daring art projects… Like Twisted Sisters… We met at a party… our destinies were meant to connect in this lifetime…
My heart is aching!!!
Between her comics and Diane's work as an editor, she holds a very significant place in the history and development of underground comics. She was a true pioneer.
I remember her entry into the scene. It was like this really nice, fresh air that was coming through. She was very beautiful and had just come in and was just about getting ready to think, "maybe I'm an underground comics artist." She was already in touch with Michele Brand and Aline and that encouraged her to enter into this subculture.
One of her qualities, in general, was she was just clearly very, very intelligent. As you can see from the text of her comics, she had a really good sense of humor. Part of being intelligent, perhaps. Certainly it was her way of being intelligent.
Diane Noomin's work was sui generis; candor and pathos were always delivered on a dim sum cart piled high with puns, linguistic acrobatics, and bawdy humor. Her stories were seamless. Borrowing words from her character DiDi Glitz, Diane created an "enchantingly provocative, sublimely captivating, and lusciously radiant" world with a dizzying display of intricate, clashing patterns and eccentric players. Her comic True Glitz [Rip Off Press, 1990] was a masterpiece of the underground era, and DiDi Glitz ran the show.
Diane was a champion of women and kept her eyes on the prize; as an editor of the Twisted Sisters anthologies and with her Drawing Power anthology, she brought attention not only to issues that concerned women, but also to fantastic work that had been disregarded largely because the artists who created it were female.
I've known Diane for more than four decades. She was one of the wisest, kindest, funniest, most emotionally intelligent people I've ever known. She could sense bullshit through a brick wall and she took none of it. She was frank and honest and didn't hesitate to tell you the truth as she saw it. She loved to laugh and she loved her family. Her husband Bill was her best friend. Their relationship was symbiotic, personally and creatively - they had the type of partnership most people can only dream of.
Diane was a great friend, through tempest and fair weather. Her work (and her work ethic) inspired me, and her encouragement gave me the guts to write my own books.
Diane and I both played Animal Crossing™, a game where you live on an island which you are able to landscape to your liking. You can customize cute characters, design their homes, and upload a version of your island to a "dream", accessible to anyone who wants to see it. Missing Diane, I entered her virtual dream of "Glitzville" the other day. Her character "Dizne" walked up and announced, "I'm fabulous. So are you." Dizne, DiDi, and Dodo all lived in homes with impeccable interior design. Divinely attractive. Charmingly sophisticated. Brilliantly lovely. Just like Diane.
It was harder for women to be underground cartoonists in the early '70s. They were late to the game for the most part, and the guys had a big head start on them. It took new artists a while to build a rep and open comic book pages were highly competitive.
Diane Noomin didn't start until 1973 when she published her first story in Wimmen's Comix #2. In time, her popular and unusual character DiDi Glitz gave Noomin name recognition and added a new subculture to the already diverse underground comix realm… suburban chutzpah with stripes and polka dots, and bubble hairdos, and flashy discotheques, and high-stemmed cocktails galore. It was a brave new world for me.
The Fabulous World of DiDi Glitz did portray fragile underpinnings along with the glitz and that's where Noomin conveyed her real observations of society… undeserved cruelty, sibling rivalries, self-esteem, predatory males, mother-daughter issues… the parties and dancing were just for fun. What’s life if not a party!
I met her through the comics scene when I moved to San Francisco in the early '80s. She was the genius behind the awesomely smart-assed, independent yet cheesy DiDi Glitz. DiDi reminded me of girls my older sister's age who back in the '50s and '60s were considered 'bad' and labeled as 'wild'. I loved DiDi. I loved her world, the way she looked, and I loved the sound of her. And then, when I got to meet Diane in person, it felt like instantly I had gained another sister. She had a way of making those around her feel welcome and at ease. Diane was very kind to me. Close friends with Aline Crumb, those two encouraged me to write and draw comics stories. That's how I got started.
Noomin. I'd never seen a name spelled like that. Two letter 'o's roundish, like her exquisitely tinted glasses. Alluring. I read somewhere later that she'd modified the spelling of her old married name, which I thought was a smart writer's move that matched her mad drawing skills. She was a maestro with ink, developing a scratchboard technique that really made her stories sizzle.
Diane had a powerful presence. I was in awe of her. She was bold. She was steady, not floundering or hesitant, as is true of an anchor. That quality plus her generosity guaranteed success for her many projects, including the anthologies she edited. I was fortunate to be included in those, starting with Twisted Sisters. The anthologies opened up possibilities for many artists and writers, bringing new energy to the medium.
I loved this woman. Our lives, however, took us to different towns and as it goes, times of togetherness became harder to come by. But when we did occasionally meet up, it was as if no time passed. It just made me long to see her again soon.
I remember going over to her and Bill's SF house. It was always tidy. They had the best cool stuff. She had lots of poodle figurines. And the copper-bottomed cookware hanging in the kitchen was so shiny! Great snacks, too. Always a fun and fulfilling time. Being there, being in touch - always an uplift. As it generally goes after a visit with a sister.
Thanks everso honey.
I met Diane Noomin during her promotional tour for Drawing Power, the book she created in response to the revelations regarding #MeToo.
As I was one of the contributors, I shared the stage with Diane at a local bookstore. Diane really made the event about us, the contributors, instead of making it about herself. She was an articulate and generous speaker. She was gracious in the extreme. No question was too small or commonplace. I remember that after the event a member of the audience approached her and asked her to essentially repeat her answer to one of the questions and she did so with so much kindness and humor that they were both smiling and nodding at the close of the event.
Diane was a great story-teller. I had the honor of showing her around the Art Institute of Chicago for a few minutes and we grabbed a sandwich there afterwards. She had me laughing at least half a dozen times during the meal we shared in the museum's courtyard restaurant.
Since meeting her I've reread her book few times and I am continually re-impressed with what a really exceptional artist and what a smart and profoundly funny person she was. She did something in her story-telling that was exquisite and unique.
(publisher via Fantagraphics)
Contrary to its reputation as a hotbed of sexism and misogyny, the underground comix wave included more women cartoonists than any other movement, period, or era up to that time in the history of cartooning, and Diane Noomin was among them beginning with her contribution to Wimmen's Comix in 1973. Co-editor of the pioneering Twisted Sisters collections of women cartoonists and the creator of the parodic character DiDi Glitz, Diane was a satirist who was both biting and playful. It was a pleasure to work with her on her 2012 comics collection Glitz-2-Go ("Dedicated to Bill Griffith, for everything"). Personally, she was a warm and funny and understated raconteur who did not suffer fools gladly. My heart goes out to Bill Griffith, her lifelong companion (widower), and comrade in artistic arms.
(publisher via Last Gasp)
Diane was a genius at story layout. Her stories and collaborations with Aline Kominsky-Crumb examine the collective soul of family, friendship, emotional growth and the depths of human zaniness. When I heard of her passing many images flooded my mind. Giving her a ride home from a Wimmin's Comix meeting, she asked me about Bill Griffith - she was very interested in him. Images of her and Bill taking care of Bill's niece. The wall of 4x6 cards they laid out for scenes of a Zippy the Pinhead movie, cast meetings with Les Nickelettes, a women's comedy and theater troupe that staged a DiDi Glitz performance. Her enjoyment of going to Calistoga with Bill, Robert, Aline making the trip like east coasters, so happy. She was a great person. You can read her works in Wimmen's Comix, Twisted Sisters, Weirdo, and thankfully we have those. I am fortunate to have other memories also.
(cartoonist, colleague at the School of Visual Arts)
Diana Noomin was a great editor, cartoonist and trailblazer for autobiographical cartoonists everywhere. Reading Twisted Sisters when I was first starting to make comics made me feel like I might have a place in the world of comics. I remember someone asking her on a panel what happens if you make a comic about your kid that they don't like... and I think she said, "they can write their own book about you." I asked her how she wrote about hard things, and she said that it is just painful sometimes. I loved how candid she was. I showed Drawing Power to the survivors of domestic violence that I work with, and seeing such candid work about sexual violence helped them tell stories of their own.
At SVA, students were always talking about her class. She taught auto-bio cartooning, which is not an easy task. She created a space where students felt like they could tell personal stories, but she could also edit them, and help them to be better storytellers. This is a rare gift.
(publisher via Kitchen Sink)
I did not know Diane Noomin well, but shortly after I moved Kitchen Sink Press east in the mid-1990s I was pleased to work with her on the Twisted Sisters anthologies and the subsequent book, sub-titled "A Collection of Bad Girl Art." She was a very conscientious and demanding editor on that project, and seemed to get the most out of her contributors and her publisher. I always thought she should have produced more DiDi Glitz stories, having her character continue to age and change with the times, or to do more overtly autobiographical stories.
I did not know Diane personally, but Twisted Sisters... man. I can still remember where I was standing in Tower Records on Lower Queen Anne in Seattle, Washington, when I first looked through the 1991 collection. It was a watershed moment for me. She was a brilliant editor, and I know many other cartoonists had similar experiences, looking at Twisted Sisters and thinking, "Wow, maybe I can be a part of this."
(colleague and former Cartooning Coordinator at the School of Visual Arts
Diane was amazing as was her work. Beyond Twisted Sisters and more, DiDi Glitz was, and is (still pertinent!) a hoot - genius Comix and a dynamic and great strong female protagonist like her creator…. I was proud to help bring her on board, along with Bill Griffith, and that she was part of SVA's historic program. She was a super smart, talented and kind, generous teacher, and a pioneer feminist comics creator, Comics Herstorian, and living legend for the many young women who are leading the current independent comics revolution(s). Now at the University of Southern California, I still teach her work (also Wimmen's Comix and the Twisted Sisters anthologies) and they still inspire future generations of creators today.
Twisted Sisters changed my life and made me a cartoonist. This past summer, I had the honor of teaching the Graphic Novel major in the Rhode Island School of Design's pre-college summer program, and I brought in both volumes to show my students. Reading them completely changed one particular student's work, galvanizing them into creating much deeper, more powerful, more political, and visually innovative work. I'm sorry I never got the chance to tell Diane that, and to show her this student's work. My generation of cartoonists learned at the feet of Diane and the artists she championed. The generation coming up now are the beneficiaries of her work and passion, too. I didn't know Diane well at all - I met her briefly when I was a baby cartoonist, at Phoebe Gloeckner's garden party, where I was a little too starstruck to tell her how much her work meant to me, and we corresponded briefly a few years ago. She was always so kind, curious, and supportive. This is a bitter loss.
(editor, Abrams ComicArts)
I met Diane while I was working with her husband Bill Griffith on his graphic novel Nobody's Fool for Abrams ComicArts. As that book was wrapping up in 2018, Diane approached me with a proposal for an anthology in which female comics creators would share their personal experiences about sexual violence and harassment through new and original comics. This was a natural fit for our ComicArts list, but as a male, I knew I wasn’t the best editor for a book like this. So I reached out to two of my colleagues, Ashley Albert and Maya Bradford, both of whom I knew could do a better job than I could helping Diane achieve her vision.
Drawing Power: Women's Stories of Sexual Violence, Harassment, and Survival (which was initially called Graphic Voices), came out in Fall 2019. The New York Times called it a "landmark collection," and Alison Bechdel praised it by saying it added "a striking visual dimension to the #MeToo movement.... By bearing witness quite literally to a wide range of traumatic incidents, the cartoonists in this book change not just the way we understand sexual assault, but the way we see it."
I loved spending time with Diane over the past five or so years. We both shared a Brooklyn Jewish sensibility and upbringing, and we also shared a love of comics and of her husband Bill. Hanging with the two of them was a rare treat. On the one hand they were these giant literary figures I grew up reading. And yet, they were colleagues who were open to input and to collaborating on these projects that were coming together at a later time in their career. It was—and is—my honor to play a role in helping them.
I also have great respect for Diane because she had to create her own path. She was the embodiment of the William Blake quote, "I must create my own system or else be enslaved by another man's." One has to respect her for that, and I remain in awe of her talent, and grateful for all she did in comics for the past 50 years to ensure other voices were seen and heard in this medium. That is an amazing legacy, and one worthy of honoring.
(cartoonist, writer, editor, curator)
I owe much to Diane Noomin. As a ground-breaking, multi-award-winning comics artist and an accomplished editor, she has inspired me hugely. Amongst all her remarkable triumphs, the one that has most impacted me has always been how she transformed the tears of life into truly exceptional comics art.
I first encountered Diane's work through her 12-page comic "Baby Talk: A Tale of 3 (4) Miscarriages" [from Twisted Sisters #4] (1994), the tragic-comic, glorious, and lightly gory centerpiece of "Graphic Details: Confessional Comics by Jewish Women" (2010-2016), an exhibition I co-curated with Michael Kaminer. In this work of brilliance and profound emotional narrative, Noomin describes her four miscarriages and inability to have children, and her struggle to unwrap these painful experiences and place them on the page. Can anyone forget the incredible moment that Noomin the artist is tugged onto the page by her creation and alter ego, the glamour puss DiDi Glitz? What genius there is in this birthing/miscarriage scene - when the artist herself, unwillingly, arrives at the exact moment her stand-in fictional character, Glenda, dreams she loses her child. Art grows in this place of vast, lifeless devastation, where cartoon tears intermingle with the real tears of a cartoonist. DiDi Glitz asks: "Are you gonna let cartoon yuppies cry cartoon tears over your dead babies?" Years later, in an email interview, Diane herself admitted: "I made a timeline of my miscarriages over the years and used it as a springboard for the narrative - there were times when I had tears streaming down my face while drawing or writing the story" (2011).
Part of "Baby Talk"'s immense power is how it addresses such a silenced, yet frequently experienced occurrence. As a curator of "Graphic Details", it was "Baby Talk" that I always chose as an introduction to the exhibition with each new audience of the show. I will never forget the day when I presented "Baby Talk" to a group of docents, mostly new to comics, often skeptical of their value, at Yeshiva University Museum, New York, in 2011. Noomin's comic was a game-changer for these people. It gave them permission to speak about the infertility and losses in their lives. Some cried as they read the framed pages, while others came to me afterwards and said they had never talked about their miscarriages, and those of their partners, in public before. All were incredulous that comics could move them in this way.
Diane's comics gave me so much as an artist. During the "Graphic Details" tour, I was honored to invite Diane, alongside Miriam Katin, Ariel Schrag, and Ilana Zeffren, to speak at the conference on the exhibition at JW3, the Jewish Community Centre for London, in 2014. Noomin also spoke at my alma mater, the Slade School of Art. It was at the Slade, 10 years earlier, during my BA (Hons), that I had unknowingly begun my own comics journey, drawing myself and my family, recording difficult stories in a vacuum, isolated from anyone doing anything similar. It was a profound moment for me, to return to college and stand there next to Diane, whose work had made me feel that I had a place in the world and that I could really belong in a community of artists.
As a feminist, Diane showed me how to make what you need to happen in the world, to edit and publish what should already exist but doesn't. Having read and written about her earlier edited collections, where she showcased and celebrated women's comics art, including Twisted Sisters Comics (1976), Twisted Sisters: A Collection of Bad Girl Art (1991), and Twisted Sisters 2: Drawing the Line (1995), I was thrilled to contribute to Drawing Power: Women's Stories of Sexual Violence, Harassment, and Survival (2019). This Eisner Award-winning collection of over 60 women's stories was a magnificent response to the global #MeToo movement. Again, Diane had addressed another common, but rarely discussed, experience in women's lives, this time as an editor, applying her consummate sensitivity and professionalism. I sent Diane three pages about my own sexual assault in Israel, but I worried that my way of drawing didn't fit the collection, so I then sent her an email offering to withdraw my pages if she didn't think they were suitable. Diane wrote back promptly, with kind words reassuring me that my work had a place in her book. I was very grateful, because maybe I was not so worried about the artwork itself, as much as concerned about telling my story in public. I had kept what happened to me hidden, filled with my shame, for years. Perhaps only in this context, with Diane as editor, could I ever have drawn my ordeal on the page.
In all the years as an artist and editor that I have known Diane's work, I have barely given a lecture about comics that doesn't include her. I introduce her and her pages to my students at the Royal Drawing School and when I lecture at universities and galleries around the world. It's an honor to bring her work to new audiences, to share her exceptional legacy.
In truth, it's the least I can do, after all that she, and her work, has done for me.