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Tuesday, June 21, 2011


I'd like to begin with an adaptation of a section from Mishle (Proverbs) : 

"Proverbs 31: 10-30" (1998), Proverbs and Parables, p. 31-32. Adapted & Illustrated by Kathleen Webb. © New Creation Publications

The cartoonist Kathleen Webb told me in an e-mail that she wanted to represent women from all over the world. My own interpretation is that the adaptation shows Jewish women from all over the world.
My personal comix collection is not comprehensive & I've tried to select examples which are the best looking & most interesting. Most of the examples will be from American comic books published in the last 40 years and I've excluded Israeli characters, as I covered that in my last presentation.
Since I'm a librarian, not a historian, I don't feel qualified to distinguish between cause, effect, and coincidence. Nonetheless, I think it's important to note 7 historical trends which took place between 1940 and the present. Comic strip syndication has survived throughout the decades, while the comic book industry rose, fell, then rose again. While the huge comic companies have dominated, alternative & independent comic companies have expanded the marketplace, while book publishers have provided competition with their own graphic novels and webcomics have blossomed on the Internet. Second wave feminism brought about changes in the workplace. Specifically, women advanced to higher positions. For example, Ellen Frankel became editor-in-chief & CEO of the Jewish Publication Society, while Karen Berger became Senior VP / Executive Editor of the Vertigo line of DC Comics and Jenette Kahn became Publisher then President / Editor-in-Chief of DC Comics. Women also assumed greater leadership roles & participated more actively in synagogue life. Sally Preisand became the first American female rabbi. The "Jewish mother" stereotype came into being, popularized by works such as Philip Roth's Portnoy's Complaint. The "Jewish American Princess" stereotype was also circulated with the help of books like Herman Wouk's Marjorie Morningstar. Women's publishers such as Feminist Press in the US and Second Story Press in Canada provided an outlet for books about women & books discussing feminist issues. Comics such as It Ain't Me Babe and Wimmen's Comix gave voice to female cartoonists

It Ain't Me Babe, 1970. Cover 
illustrated by Trina Robbins

Wimmen's Comix #1 [Nov.] 1972
Cover illustrated by Patricia Moodian
© Last Gasp
Ms. Magazine, Hadassah, & Lilith were founded in the 1970s & continue to be published. Academics & writers in different disciplines researched the content of comic books & strips. Generally speaking, studies have found that overall, women characters in comics are victimized, brutalized, and sexualized to a greater degree and with greater frequency than male characters. Given that generalization, it might seem surprising that the oldest continuously-published female comic book character - Wonder Woman - graced the cover of the premiere issue of Ms. Magazine and then reappeared on the cover 35 years later. 

Ms. Magazine #1 Juy 1972. Cover illustrated by Murphy Anderson. 
© Ms.Foundation.
Or that the cover story of the 2nd issue of Lilith was a 2-page history of the Triangle Fire in comix format.

Cover of Lilith Magazine #2 (1980). Illustrated by Trina Robbins. © Lilith Magazine

Or that the cover of an issue of Hadassah showed a modestly-attired superhero named Shabbos Queen.

© & ™2011 Alan Oirich

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