When most people think of underground and alternative comics, Robert Crumb’s Zap Comix or Art Spiegelman’s and Bill Griffith’s Raw may come to mind. But San Francisco was home to more than a few alternative cartoonists, and when women such as Trina Robbins found out what a boy’s club the underground scene seemed to be, they took matters into their own hands and published a collectively edited women-only comic book.
“It Ain’t Me, Babe” was published in 1970 and was the the first ever comic book composed entirely of women, and while it remained a single comic and not a series, it was the impetus to start the series Wimmen’s Comix, which debuted in 1972, and would continue until 1992.
The comic was run as a collective, or as Terry Richards, one of the founders, says more precisely, “We decided that we would produce an on-going title of comics by women and that we would function as a collective, a term used rather loosely in those days to mean there would be no leader or editor, but instead a rotating editorship, with everyone contributing their energy to the paperwork and general supportiveness of the group.”
The content of Wimmen’s Comix dealt with feminist issues such as sexism and abortion, and when Roberta Gregory came aboard, lesbianism. But as Lee Marrs (creator of Pudge, Girl Blimp) said “We would try for artistic quality, story coherence, although so many of us were beginners. There was to be no feminist line, no theme restrictions. The deal was for everyone to do what turned them on or pissed them off. We wanted to show women as they really are.”
In addition to Robbins and Marrs, contributors included Trina Robbins, Michelle Brand, Lora Fountain, Aline Kominsky, Diane Noomin, Lee Marrs, Pat Moodian, Sharon Rudahl (author of the 2007 Graphic Biography of Emma Goldman), Karen Marie Haskell, Shelby Sampson, and Janet Wolfe Stanley. Later contributors included Melinda Gebbie, Penny Van Horn, Carol Tyler, Chris Powers, Carol Lay, Mary Fleener, M. K. Brown, Dot Bucher, Lee Binswanger Dori Seda, Terry Boyce, Kathryn LeMieux, Caryn Leschen, and Phoebe Gloeckner.
Although the comic ran for twenty years, only seventeen issues were produced in that time period (browse covers here!). However, the advent of all-women published comics inspired publications to come. Dyke Shorts, Tits & Clits (started by Joyce Farmer and Lyn Chevli), and Twisted Sisters all emerged. You could find the same network of women comic artists contributing to several of the series too!
From Girls to Grrlz: A History of Women’s Comics by Trina Robbins
Twisted Sisters: A Collection of Bad Girl Art edited by Diane Noomin (there are two volumes, it’s published by Penguin)
…and of course any of the comics you can get your hands on!