This is going to be an exhausting week of fact checking. But I’m under some kind of sick compulsion to turn into Batiuk’s own personal Snopes. Every single statement turns into an hours long internet deep dive. Because, despite my name, I don’t have some kind of massive encyclopedic knowledge of all this feminist comic book history. Prior to this week all I really knew was Phantom Lady, Gail Simone and Women in Refrigerators, and I knew Metamorpho had been made by a woman. So I’d like to start the week off by thanking Batiuk for sending me on a Google/Wiki Safari that taught me more about awesome ladies like Violet Barclay, Ramona Fradon, Tarpe Mills, and Toni Blum.
So today, we’re talking about pseudonyms, and women using initials to hide their gender. This is, of course, still something done today. Authors like JK Rowling, NK Jemisen, EL James, and KA Applegate used their initials to hide from young men that they were girly women who would invariably fill their stories with relationship drama and angry and aloof woobies. Others like A.C. Crispin and C.L Moore used their initials so rabid nerd fanboys would accept their entries into Star Wars, Star Trek, and Weird Tales.
Of the early female comics writers and artists, I can confirm that many went for at least part of the careers by initials or pseudonyms, such as June (Tarpe) Mills, Lily (L.) Renee, Ruth Ann (R.A) Roche, Isabelle (B.) Hall, and Margaret (M.) Brundage, whose artwork on the covers of Weird Tales in the 30’s were so salacious they actually outed her as female to calm some of the controversy. But women also went by their full names, even very early on. Lily Renee was working under her own name in the 40’s, Ramona Fradon worked under her own name as well as initials in the 50’s, and I couldn’t see that Marie Severin also working in the 50’s ever obscured her first name.
So I’m going to give today’s strip’s claims a 50/50 on accuracy. Many female comics creators did and do obscure their gender with initials, but a woman’s name on a comic wasn’t unheard of in the early days either.
Of course there is a flipside to this coin, of men who adopted female or neutral pen names to write ‘girly’ things like romance novels, or just to be ambiguous.
I found a great quote by male author Sean Thomas in this article.
As I was going to write from a female perspective, I didn’t want to put off any readers who might presume that a male writer could not carry a female voice. So I shifted sex. I became a gender neutral author.