The History of Comics, including Women, continues with the Era of Intention part 3. In part 2 we discovered the pulp heroes that would influence Superheroes of the Depression. But before talking about tough times, let’s explore the pursuit of flappiness. During the 1920s, we could find Flapper girls. Flappers were an entire generation of young and liberated Western women who wore short skirts, bobbed hair and listened to jazz. They drank a lot, partied a lot, and had casual sex as well. The Roaring Twenties gave girls some freedom to explore themselves just as men did.
During this period we find Art-Nouveau style Flapper strips and Art-Decó style Flapper strips. Some Flapper strip artists got so famous as to dictate fashion with their comic strips! One of them was Nell Brinkley (1886-1944), a comic strip artist we saw in the previous post. She had set the style for almost all the women cartoonists during the 1920s. Her Flapper girls were elegant and had incredible hair styles. But, these ladies also created tons of controversy and fan mail!
Brinkley fans were happy at the time: they could choose between Nell Brinkley Hair waivers or the New Nell Brinkley Bob Curler, at 10 cents per card! Brinkley girls were a hit, and their creatrix was getting lots of money and fame.
Brinkley was a feminist. And so, she would hide or squeeze messages within her art for the female suffrage and women in sports. (Because yes, there was this misconception that if women did some sports, they would die or suffer horribly).
Some of her famous strips were: The Fortunes of Flossie, Romances of Gloriette, and The Adventures of Prudence Prim. Despite the fame, she retired her syndicated strip in 1937 at 51 years old, but she kept on creating illustrations for books and magazines.
You must think that most artists were men at the time. Most newspapers had at least one strip, and most of artists were men. However, by the 1920s and 1930s, many female cartoonists saw their comics printed. They featured Flapper girls. Most of the strips consisted of a one-panel cartoon.
One of the leading Art-Decó style strips was Ethel Hays (1892-1989) who created single-panel cartoons, paper dolls, books for children, and of course, comics. She taught art to physically challenged soldiers from WWI at hospitals in Washington. However, it wasn’t until the director of her school where she studied art showed her work to the editor of Cleveland Press, that she started her path in comics. By 1928 she was drawing Vic and Ethel.
Her first syndicated strip was Ethel, Flapper Fanny. It was a single-panel cartoon. She kept on drawing it till she had her second child, and the strip was too much work for her. At that moment, she gave the strip to Gladys Parker.
Gladys Parker (1910-1966) drew Flapper girls. One of her strips was Gay and Her Gang. Later on, she got Flapper Fanny. She drew it very much like herself. She was also a very stylish designer. In fact, she opened her designer shop in New York at 14 years old! But soon, she had her own line of clothing.
By 1930s she would syndicate her strip Mopsy. Later on, she would give Flapper Fanny to Sylvia Sneidman, who would continue it till 1940.
There were many other Flapper girls cartoonists, like Virginia Huget. In 1926 she drew her first strip: Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. In 1927 she produced Babs in Society, Flora’s Fling, Miss Aladdin, Molly the Manicure Girl, etc. She also drew Lux-soap comic ads.
However, it would be Marjorie Henderson (1904-1993) a talented female cartoonist who would give us Little Lulu in 1934. She became famous with Little Lulu, but her character would play a prominent role in the history of Comics helping female creators and readers go back into the medium many years later.
And then came the Great Depression, and with it, the need of being less flamboyant, flappy and frivolous. There was a great need to be saved, and so, we would see the birth of Superheroes!
Next: the Depression brings Superheroes. Say hello to Superman! We enter into the Era of Proliferation of Comics!
What we’ve learned so far:
- The History of Comics, Including Women. The Era of Invention (part 1)
- The History of Comics, Including Women. The Era of Invention (part 2)
Want to read more about this? Try:
- The Power of Comics : History, Form and Culture
- Pretty in Ink : American Women Cartoonists 1896-2013
- Dreamers of a New Day : Women Who Invented the Twentieth Century
[These are affiliate links. I only recommend things that I love.]