March 1st, 2017

Ask A Cartoonist: Women Who Inspire

by Tea

Happy Women’s History Month, all!

Women have been an important part of cartooning since the early days of the comics pages brought us cartoonists like Rose O’Neill and Grace Drayton. Today, the contributions of women in comics are undeniable: our very own Terri Libenson, of The Pajama Diaries, won the Silver Reuben for Best Comic Strip last year, Hilary Price of Rhymes With Orange won the 2014 award for Best Comic Panel, and Isabella Bannerman of Six Chix won for best strip of 2013.

In celebration of women all over the world, I asked our cartoonists to talk about women who’ve influenced and inspired their own work in comics– whether they are other cartoonists, comic characters, historical figures, or women in their personal lives.

Bill Hobrook, Kevin & Kell, On the Fastrack, and Safe Havens:

In Fastrack, when tech geeks Chelonia and Bud Spore were about to become parents they hired Ada Counter as their midwife. Ada was inspired by Ada Lovelace, an important figure in the early development of programming.


Jim Keefe, Sally Forth and Flash Gordon:

Excerpt from the website: “Marie Severin was born into a family of artists. She colored the horror, science fiction, and war comics of the legendary EC line, and spent thirty years working for Marvel Comics, doing everything from production and coloring to penciling, inking, and art direction, with work on characters including the Incredible Hulk, Sub-Mariner, Doctor Strange, and Kull the Conqueror.


She is renowned for her sense of humor, reflected in the comic book Not Brand Echh, as well as the numerous caricatures she has produced over the years, earning her the nickname “Mirthful Marie” from Stan Lee.
“The First Lady of Comics.”

To find out more I recommend “Marie Severin: The Mirthful Mistress of Comics

Bill Griffith, Zippy the Pinhead:

Growing up absurd in Levittown, Long Island in the 1950s, I received lots of positive reinforcement from my writer mother (and none from my Army Sergeant Dad, alas).

So, once again, thank you, Mom, for all the support—and, yes, she really had a Zippy tattoo on her left shoulder. (She died in 1998) This page is from my graphic memoir about her, “Invisible Ink” (Zippy tattoo at bottom right)


Jeff Parker, Dustin:

During my time as an editorial cartoonist I was inspired by and have the pleasure to be friends with some amazing women cartoonists: the “den mother” of editorial cartoonists, the late Etta Hulme (Ft. Worth Star-Telegram); first woman Pulitzer Prize winner for editorial cartooning, Signe Wilkinson (Philadelphia Inquirer); and the brilliant and also Pulitzer winner Ann Telnaes (Washington Post) to name just a few.

In 2012, while I was still drawing for FLORIDA TODAY, I was asked to help with an exhibition at Florida’s Historic Capitol Museum featuring the cartoons of trailblazing — and sadly, little known — woman editorial cartoonist Anne Mergen who drew for the old Miami Daily News from 1933 to 1956.

During her 23 year career she was the only woman editorial cartoonist in the U.S.

While many of Ms. Mergen’s cartoons covered the Great Depression, World War II, and the Cold War, her cartoons commenting on Florida’s political, environmental, and social landscape had the greatest impact.

Most notably, Ms. Mergen played a role in helping the Miami Daily News win a Pulitzer Prize for its campaign to expose Miami’s notoriously corrupt “termite administration.” Through as series of articles, opinion columns, and hundreds of Mergen cartoons, the Daily News’ pit bull coverage eventually forced three of the shadiest city commissioners out of office.

And it’s important to note, she drew these cartoons that brought down local governments, at night in a little corner of her home, all while keeping a household together and raising two children. The story goes that her husband would deliver her cartoons to Ms. Mergen’s editors each morning on his way to work. She died in 1994.

Many of her original cartoons are now housed and preserved at The Library of Congress, The Billy Ireland Cartoon Library and Museum at Ohio State, and the Historical Museum of South Florida. A gallery of some of The Billy’s Mergen collection can be viewed here.


Anne Mergen drawing at her home in Miami, FL
(photo courtesy of Florida Historic Capitol Museum)


“Came The Dawn, Peace Over Europe, V-E Day” Anne Mergen, 1945
(photo courtesy of Florida Historic Capitol Museum)

Terri Libenson, The Pajama Diaries:

There are so many women who have influenced me, it’s hard to know where to begin. First and foremost, my mom always encouraged me in my artistic endeavors. She’s a talented painter, and always had a love of anything cultural. My two daughters are creative as well, and motivate me with their imagination, humor, and drive.

The female cartoonist who influenced me the most was Lynda Barry. I worshipped her in college and still believe she was the (subconscious) reason I decided to approach my strip in a narrative fashion. I also love Roz Chast, Claire Bretecher, and all my female cartooning contemporaries. King Features especially has a pool of amazing female talent and my taste runs the gamut, so it’s hard to pick a favorite these days.

Ron Ferdinand, Dennis the Menace:

I think someday Dennis will realize that, just like Gina and Mrs. Wilson, Margaret has been in his corner all along.


Alex Hallatt, Arctic Circle:

My Arctic Circle strip is dominated by male characters and I don’t tend to write about a lot of women’s issues. But I admire those who do, especially in situations where equality is being threatened. Australian cartoonist, Judy Horacek is one of the best in the business at lancing the boil of sexism.

One of my favourite Horacek cartoons
Her blog post on Feminism cartoons







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