Women’s History Month: Trina Robbins by Sydney Heifler

A 2017 Will Eisner Award winner for the reprint collection of The Complete Wimmen’s Comix and a 2013 inductee to the Comic Book Hall of Fame, Trina Robbins shouldn’t need an introduction. She produced the first all-women comic, It Ain’t Me Babe (1970), was the first woman to draw a Wonder Woman comic (1986), and was a founding mother of Wimmin’s Comix (1972-1992). 

It Ain’t Me Babe, First Print Run, 1970 Comic from author’s personal collection

In the 1980s, she rallied against a comic book industry that pretty much ignored women readers. Recognizing that they needed comics that they would enjoy, she created Misty and California Girls in 1985 and 1987, respectively. Since then, she’s written, illustrated, and created many other comics. There is no doubt that she helped shape the trajectory of the medium and is an invaluable part of its history.

A poster advertising Trina’s California Girls from author’s personal collection.

Though many know Trina for these various accomplishments, I discovered her in a different way. When I was an undergrad at the University of California, Davis, I didn’t know much about romance comics, but I had stumbled across some by accident when trying to find something to write about for an honors paper at community college. They reminded me of my grandmothers, and I fell in love with their ridiculous plot lines, so I decided to devote my last year at UC Davis to researching and writing about them. The one problem was that I couldn’t find any academic scholarship on them to cite or build upon. I could only find two resources. One was Michelle Nolan’s Love on the Racks: A History of American Romance Comics (2008) and the other was Trina’s From Girls to Grrlz: A History of Women’s Comics from Teens to Zines (1999).

My worn-out, well-used copy of From Girls to Grrrlz Book from author’s personal collection.

These two resources saved me. Besides providing me with an overview of the history of romance comics, Trina’s book also supplied the landscape of women-centered publications in comics history. I am forever grateful to these two women for providing a stepping stone that shaped the direction that my honors thesis (and current research) would take.

Girls to Grrlz also gave me a clue as to who Trina was to the comics world. Still, it wasn’t until I became more familiar with comics studies and comics in general that I began to understand the extent and impact of her creations. Though I have come to appreciate those contributions  as much as the next comics enthusiast, I still hold a special place in my heart for Trina as a comics scholar. In 2018, my friend Michael Dooley introduced us at an annual breakfast made up of friends who are comics professionals. We talked about a shared love for romance comics and Wonder Woman (a discussion inspired by her amazing Wonder Woman purse). She encouraged me in my scholarly pursuits and has since helped me put together two panels on romance and girls comics. As a herstorian, she has documented the history of women cartoonists and artists and that of women-centered publications that have been forgotten and ignored, beginning with Women and the Comics (1985) co-written with catherine yronwood. She has since written numerous books and worked on several other projects that focus on women artists and cartoonists. Her newest contribution is a book on Gladys Parker, scheduled to come out in August this year.

Over the years, I have frequently found myself turning to her work when in need of a citation or some hard-to-find information. She has always been generous with her time, offering insights to my research on romance comics. In many ways, Trina has helped pave the way for comics scholars like me, providing the backbone for us to pursue comics studies in academia. She started the narrative, which I and others build upon. She has proved that women artists and women’s comics and cartoons are just as important as superhero comics and the celebrated men behind them. 

Trina is integral to comics history, not only as a creator but as someone who has shaped its narrative by ensuring that women are included, respected, and honored. As we close Women’s History Month, I think it is important to acknowledge how she has assured that women’s history is appropriately documented and with love. 

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