The History of Comics, Including Women. The Era of Invention (part 3)

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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.

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Clara Bow Brewster, Flapper girl.

During this period we find Art-Nouveau style Flapper strips and Art-Decรณ 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!

Florenz Ziegfeld (1867-1932), a Broadway empresario, featured in his Follies many Brinkley Girls, one of whom was a future silent movie star: Mae Murray!

1922 Mae Murray in Broadway Rose
1922 Mae Murray in Broadway Rose

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.

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Flapper Fanny Says, Etherl Hays

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-Decรณ 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.

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Gladys Parker, 1934

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.

In fact, Huget was capable of mimmicking any other style, so she also substituted other artists, like Percy Crosby (Skippy, 1937) or Don Flowers (Oh, Diana, 1944; using the nick of Virginia Clark).

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.

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Little Lulu by Marjorie Henderson (Marge)

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:

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About pepi

A Geek Girl interested in Geek Anthropology, comic books, books, Superheroes and discovering all about pop culture.

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  • Danielle Knapp

    As always, so interesting to learn this stuff <3

  • Mariah Kaercher

    Wow that’s awesome. Glad to see women were representing their art in comic strips.

    • Yay ๐Ÿ™‚ There are some cool ladies in the medium ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Kay

    So cool!! I know very little about the history of comics so I am so loving this series still. I love the flapper and art-deco era and it’s so awesome that there were comics strips by women in that style back then. Excellent!

    • Yay! I’m glad that you love the series! ๐Ÿ™‚ To tell you the truth, some of the ladies are hard to find online ๐Ÿ˜ฎ I’m trying to find another book about female comic book artists from that time, and it seems it’s out of print! O.o [And, I want to read it xDDDD]