Editor’s Dispatch: King Features Women Talk Comics

By Tea Fougner

We talk a lot about the cartoonists that make up King Features here, but we don’t often peek behind the scenes– we have a great team responsible for making the comics happen– so this week, for International Women’s Day, I thought it would be fun to talk to the ladies of King Features Syndicate about their favorite comics and cartoonists. A bunch of our staff members chimed in with their favorites, past and current.

“Growing up in the 80’s, I would eagerly wait for my father to arrive home from work with a copy of The New York Daily News. I would run off with it to read the comics section. One of my favorite comics was “Brenda Starr,” (pictured left) which was about a glamorous redheaded journalist who traveled to exotic locales around the world. As far as I was concerned, she had it all : beauty, brains and Basil St. John! Basil wore an eye patch and was an enigmatic, international man of mystery. I loved Brenda and Basil together, but their love story was complicated … to say the least!” –Rose

“I always thought Lynn Johnston (pictured right) captured the dynamics of family life so well in For Better or For Worse, from the small moments of tenderness to the intrusion of harsh reality when Farley died.

Olive Oyl (pictured left) is one of the greatest comic characters, especially in the 30s strips, where she was a fully realized woman, unafraid of expressing herself.” –Cathy

“BRENDA STARR was one of my childhood heroines – she’s smart, intrepid, ambitious, pretty and ALWAYS gets the story! Brenda never felt the need to apologize for being driven to succeed, even in the ‘60s, well before the 2nd wave of feminism!” –Angela

 “My favorite female comic character is Betty Boop (pictured right) by far hands down. Betty made her debut in 1930, an era where women had limited rights and sexual equality to men. She broke through and paved the way for women’s sexuality and rights to expression. She is an iconic figure, not only in the US, but worldwide. Betty Boop is a figure that woman at that time (and still is) could look to and be motivated to release their inner sensuality. Betty Boop has grown tremendously throughout the years. She now empowers every strength and characteristic that every woman can relate to. Betty Boop, by far, will go down in history for inspiring and giving women a platform to express themselves sensually, or whichever way they prefer to. On that note, we can’t forget to mention that Betty Boop is a character that men are drawn to, as well!

She empowers every characteristic of a woman. Every woman can relate to at least one of Betty’s personas, and I think it is safe to say that most men are drawn to every Betty Boop persona (what isn’t there to love?)

Go Betty!!!” –Katherine

“My favorite female comic strip character was Brenda Starr, so much intrigue, her boyfriend would send her black orchids always with a note. She was liked by everyone she came in contact with. Beautiful, and a hard-working reporter.” –Fran

 “My favorite cartoonist is Kate Beaton (pictured left). Not only are her comics consistently hilarious, but her grasp on history usually has me learning a thing or two from her strips. Humor and knowledge! Not to mention her art style is amazing.” –Sabrina

 “My very favorite is Hilary Price and Rhymes with Orange (pictured right). I think she captures perfectly, the everyday nuances and annoyances that everyone faces. She draws what we are thinking in those moments. I appreciate too, how she can create a comic that is attuned to a cat or dog habit, (since I have both). I think she must observe carefully all of the things the rest of us pass by in everyday life and try to forget. She reminds us, but with humor.

I remember as a little girl one of my favorite cartoon characters was Brenda Starr. I think it was still drawn by Dale Messick in the 60’s. I was always fascinated with female reporters back then and I was also interested in how the characters were drawn. An expression could be totally changed with an added line or wrinkle or frown. Your perception of the character was based on how their faces were cast as much as on their language. I know I read the Funny pages every Sunday but that is one of the few I remember, even though there were 4 pages worth!” –Carin

Mary Worth  (pictured right) is an iconic woman who can’t be easily categorized. Is she traditional? Is she modern? She’s a little bit of both. She’s traditional in her moral core, and in her almost Pollyanna instinct to help others. She’s modern in her love of solo adventures, and creation of an independent life. Through the years she’s come across as an elderly advisor of an informal sort. She offers a sympathetic ear, wise counsel, a shoulder to cry on.

Mary sees a problem and acts on it. She sees a need, and suggests a solution to fill it. Mary represents a traditional woman living a non-traditional life in our modern world. She cares and her actions inspire, and because of that she’s a timeless, important female comic strip character for the ages.” –Karen

“Here at King Features, it’s so great to have such a strong line-up of women cartoonists: I love the work that the Six Chix, Hillary Price, Alex Hallatt, Sandra Bell-Lundy and more do in each of their strips everyday. Female characters that I love to follow are Tina from Tina’s Groove and Jill from Pajama Diaries. Happy International Women’s Day!” — Molly

 For me, personally, I just plain adore Little Iodine— hey, she’s my icon for a reason. I love the fact that she’s not in any way idealized– and that she paved the way for many other mischief-making kids. I was also a big fan of Apartment 3-G when I was growing up– the girls always seemed so grown-up and fashionable to me! As an adult, I just love Bunny Hoest’s cynical, dry humor on The Lockhorns. I’ve loved learning about Jackie Ormes (pictured left) , the first professional African-American woman cartoonist, whose comics were funny and sophisticated. I could also go on and on about all the female webcartoonists out there, doing amazing work– one of my current favorites is Noelle Stevenson’s “Nimona.”

Enjoy Women’s History Month, and take the opportunity to check out some great lady cartoonists– if you have any you’d like to recommend, please feel free to include them in the comments.