Ask A Cartoonist: International Women’s Day!

By Tea Fougner

Saturday is International Women’s Day, an important day to celebrate the accomplishments of women everywhere.

 As a woman who works in comics, female cartoonists and characters have always been an inspiration to me. As a little girl, I played with paper dolls drawn by Grace Drayton (pictured, left, of the Campbell’s Soup Kids fame), and when I got a little older, I remember being mystified by the very “grown up” plots of Brenda Starr and Apartment 3-G…and then moved on to trying to sneak peeks at cartoonists like Lynda Barry, whose work was even more “grown up.”

So, naturally, I thought it would be great to ask our cartoonists to talk about their favorite ladies in comics and comic inspirations. Here are their responses:

There are so many women cartoonists I like that it’s hard to pin it down. Of course, all the “Six Chix”, and then Sandra Bell-Lundy, Terri Libeson, Alex Hallat, Hilary Price, etc. etc!
–Isabella Bannerman, Six Chix

I always read Brenda Starr by Dale Messick (pictured, right) as a kid growing up in Levittown, Long Island. She got to travel everywhere—except Cleveland.
–Bill Griffith, Zippy the Pinhead

One of my favorite woman artists is Disney designer Mary Blair (pictured, left). Her paintings and layout drawings were INCREDIBLE!
–Ron Ferdinand, Dennis the Menace


I’ve been very lucky to have been able to meet all (or almost all) the syndicated women comic strip creators who are working today and they’re all a talented, funny and warm group of women. I could never choose a favourite between them. Outside of comic strippers, I’d have to say two of my favourites are Kim Warp and Marjane Satrapi (pictured, right). Kim does gag cartoons for a range of publications including the New Yorker. Her sense of humour always cracks me up…in fact, even her artwork cracks me up! Marjane Satrapi created the graphic novel Persepolis about her life in Iran during and after the Islamic Revolution. It’s a fascinating read. But…I think my favourite graphic work by Satrapi is Embroideries. It’s about a group of Iranian women of all different ages who get together one afternoon for tea. The conversation between them examines their different lives. It’s a very interesting book because of the intimate female perspective within the Iranian culture. I’ve kept that book in its protective plastic sleeve because I don’t want it ruined.
–Sandra Bell-Lundy, Between Friends

My inspiration in the real world of cartoonists would always be Sandra Bell Lundy. Sandra seems to overflow with ideas and good deeds. She is a kind and funny friend, and this is Sandra’s 20th anniversary!! Hooray for her and all the women who make us better and make us smile.

In the cartoon world I am lucky to have the three interesting women in Apt. 3-G.I admire them all for different reasons.

Margo has spunk and she takes no guff from anyone. I am envious of this attitude but sadly it will never be mine. Margo is always fearless, sometimes tactless, and often the most interesting person in the room.

Lu Ann is a gentle person with hopes and aspirations. Her unfortunate choices with men haven’t stopped her from falling in love. But Lu Ann is not just a romantic; she has a strong work ethic and cares about making the world a better place. [Sigh…If only she could make the men in her life better men.]

And finally there’s Tommie, heralded as “the funny one” in 3-G. Right now her heart is broken but, never fear, Tommie will rise again. And as always
she will bring her own style of optimism and a love of hard work. And when the chips are down you can count on Tommie’s kindness, good sense and just enough quirkyness to make her our favorite girl next door.
–Margaret Shulock, Apartment 3-G and Six Chix

The real-life woman that inspired my female comic character: Marilyn Monroe was the iconic sex symbol of my time whp inspired my creation of Miss Buxley. It worked and my readers have fallen in love with Bux.
–Mort Walker, Beetle Bailey

Lynda Barry is high above the altar in my hierarchy of mentors and inspirations. Her work is so intimate, vulnerable, raw and emotionally powerful that it makes conventional formulaic cartoons pale. Lynda’s thoughts on writing help jar me out of my ruts. And for my money, her self-revelatory storytelling rivals Catcher in the Rye.
–Jim Borgman, Zits

I admire Hilda Terry. Besides loving her Teena art, she also broke barriers like being the first woman to join the NCS opening the door for women cartoonists like the “Six Chix”!
–Stephanie Piro, Six Chix

I am inspired by practically every female cartoonist working today — especially comic strip artists, because I can practically count them all on one hand. It’s hard enough to get syndicated; I think it’s even harder for cartoonists whose work has a “feminine” slant.

In college, the cartoonist that inspired me the most (male or female) was Lynda Barry. I think I subconsciously chose to do my strip in diary format because of her.
–Terri Libenson, The Pajama Diaries

The female cartoonists who are inspiring me right now are the next generation of cartoonists coming out of the Comic Arts program at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design. The head of the department is Professor Barb Schulz.

When I went to the Joe Kubert School of Cartoon and Graphic Art back in the 1980s the industry was for the most part white and male, and the student body reflected that. Go into a Comic Art class at MCAD today and you’re starting to see the woman outnumber the men, and with this a sea change. In the 1960s you had the underground movement of artists like Robert Crumb and Gilbert Shelton giving the medium a welcome shot in the arm. In the 1980s it was the graphic novel’s of Art Spiegelman and Alan Moore. The next breath of fresh air I see is the influx of more and more female cartoonists building on the work done by the greats like Dale Messick, Ramona Fradon, Marie Severin, Jill Thompson, Colleen Doran (etcetera all).

The Comics Journal just did a piece on the Minneapolis Comic scene spotlighting some of these MCAD students. I invite you to check it out. –Jim Keefe, Sally Forth and Flash Gordon