The Underground Heritage of Women's Voices in Comics

This past weekend at the main branch of the San Francisco Public Library was the opening of a retrospective in honor of the 40th Anniversary of Wimmen's Comix, the groundbreaking underground comix anthology series that ran (sporadically) from 1972 to 1992.  Many of the contributing cartoonists were in attendance:

(Left to right: Lee Binswanger, Nancy Husari, Caryn Louise Leschen, Sharon Rudahl, Trina Robbins, Terre Richards, Ron Turner, Rebecka Wright, Lee Mars, Rebecca Wilson; Photo by Paul Mavrides)

That photo reminds me of this picture from 1975:

(Left to right: Standing: Rebecca Wilson, Trina Robbins, Shelby Sampson, Ron Turner (publisher), Barb Brown, Dot Bucher. Sitting: Melinda Gebbie, Lee Marrs.)

Remember, these women broke ground in bringing women’s voices to comics.  Before 1970, the closest comics got to presenting women’s life experiences was the few—and uncredited—women writers of romance comics. Even the counterculture underground scene was unwelcoming to women cartoonists and their points of view at the time.  As Shary Flenniken once said

“Women would submit things to the underground publishers and they’d be rejected because men were grossed out by what women had to say.”

Without Wimmen’s Comix, there would likely be no Fun Home. And given Wimmen’s Comix’s impact in France (inspiring the short-lived magazine Ah! Nana from the publishers of Heavy Metal), probably no Persepolis or Aya either.

Looking at both of these pictures reminds me why I’ve dedicated two years of my life to this blog and the Women in Comics Wiki and spent more money than I’d like to think about collecting Wimmen’s Comix issues and other all-women comics publications (even in languages I don’t speak!)  We as women have a heritage in this medium, and we owe it to these “Godmothers of Awesome,” as Leschen styled this picture on her Facebook page, to remember them and honor their contributions to comics.

Welcome to the clubhouse, girls.  It’s been well broken in for you by these funny, smart, and talented women.