Despite less-than-positive responses from their male peers, the female cartoonists forged on, joining forces in the Wimmen’s Comix Collective, something between a support group and a girls-only creative club. By 1972, it’d become a full-blown, all-women comic book by the same name.
The publication’s mission rang loud and very clear in a statement included in its second issue. Wimmen’s Comix would offer female cartoonists “a foothold in the industry based on their talents of mind, hand and eye, rather than the more traditionally requested parts of their anatomy.” To boot, it would also “provide good comic entertainment for all.”
Indeed, the issues that followed, and the comics embedded in them, were exceedingly funny. “It became a forum to talk about women’s issues, women’s lives,” Robbins remembers. “Abortion, female pleasure. These were topics that we wanted to talk about— topics that no guy would have touched with a 10-foot pole.”
, for instance, cartoonist
(who later married Crumb) unspools her autobiography across brutally honest, mordantly funny strips. In “Goldie Gets By,” feeling lonely and horny, Kominsky’s protagonist Goldie decides to go back to see her past lover: “I’ll go visit my ex…he’s usually hot for some nookie from me. It’s sick, but what the hell!”
When she sees him, however, she remembers why she left. “You were pure and thin when you lived with me!” the husband exclaims. “Sure I was real thin, you Nazi asshole,” Goldie retorts. “I was eating speed and washing the floor four times a day.”
Other comics explored teenage abortion, coming out as a lesbian, and sexual harassment in the office. Lee Marrs’s All in a Day’s Work, penned in 1972, still feels especially relevant in our current #MeToo moment of reckoning. Across just a single page, the protagonist dodges an obstacle course of entitled, oversexed, grabby bosses who sing a chorus of “Now, don’t be coy” in her ear.
From 1972 until 1992, the collective produced 17 issues of Wimmen’s Comix.
During its run, women cartoonists from around the country submitted work and were able to see it published, often for the first time. It was both a network and a launchpad for female comic artists. It also paved the way for a comics and graphic novel industry that increasingly let women join in—and tell their own stories about their own lives. Of course, they do still face instances of deeply ingrained sexism. In 2016, the Angoulême comics festival in France (the Oscars of the cartoon world) nominated zero women
to its lifetime achievement award shortlist. In a sign of moderate progress, a number of male nominees pulled out in protest—and Angoulême added several women to the list.
Robbins acknowledges there’s still a long road ahead—but also that they’ve made significant headway since the ’70s. “All I wanted when I was doing comics was for people to know that there were so many women drawing comics—and that there could be more,” Robbins remembers, estimating that women artists now make up around half the market. “I never dreamed it would get this good.”