Initial Impressions

Link to today’s strip

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.

16 Comments

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16 responses to “Initial Impressions

  1. billytheskink

    “R. Lith” is what someone with a lisp might call Robert Wuhl’s insufferable turn-of-the-century HBO sitcom.

    I have nothing else to offer on this strip.

  2. Epicus Doomus

    “Was that you?”…well, that would be a HELL of a coincidence if it wasn’t now, Mindy, wouldn’t it?

  3. The Nelson Puppet

    Glad to see John Lennon is really alive, but man, he let himself go…

  4. The Nelson Puppet

    Batiuk is in a good mood on his blog…”IT’S BOOK SIGNING SEASON!”

  5. Paul Jones

    And yet again, Batiuk ignores a whole big swath of comics history because it isn’t what he thinks of as being comics: ROMANCE COMICS. There used to be stacks and stacks of that sort of thing but all he cares about is how Flash is going to use Ridiculous Speed to foil Captain Boomerang.

  6. Gerard Plourde

    This has to be a record for retcons. On Sunday Mindy says “I’ve been a fan of your work in those old books for a really long time.” In today’s strip she’s says “In a lot of my dad’s old comic books there was an artist who signed the work R. Lith…was that you?”

    So which is it?

    • Banana Jr. 6000

      A woman’s name is death on a comic book. So let’s have rwo weeks of comi strips about it.

    • Epicus Doomus

      “I used to read a satirical comic strip whose name escapes me right now, but it was signed “Batiuk”. Was that you?”. I’m going to use this line if and when I get to meet him at one of his signings.

  7. Charles

    Also “R. Lith” isn’t a pseudonym, you idiot. It’s just abbreviating your actual given name in order to disguise the fact that it’s a woman’s name. It’d be a pseudonym if they tried to claim you were named “Robert”.

    I swear Batiuk uses less care in writing his strips than we all do writing our comments here.

    • Epicus Doomus

      And Mindy is wearing a shirt with Ruby’s main character on it. The levels of “huh?” here boggle the mind.

  8. Ray

    In a break from my standard bent of making a comment charged with sexual innuendo…I first discovered this phenomenon in reading my Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew series.
    There was in fact no “Franklin W. Dixon” or “Carolyn Keene” but rather a bullpen of authors working for the Stratemeyer Syndicate, and some women wrote under the Franklin pseudonym and men under the Carolyn one.

  9. Double Sided Scooby Snack

    “… there was an artist who signed the work R. Lith… Was that you?”

    “No, it was ROBERTO Lith! What, are you DENSE?? You
    know my name, you know I’m a komix artist. How many people are named ‘Lith???’ Let alone with first initial R! Was that me? You’re an idiot. I’m outta here. Um, you’ve got the check, right?”

    “We still gonna fuck in your barrel?”

    “Of course.”

  10. “Last time I was nominated, it was when I documented a woman’s suffering. So I’m going to do that again, but this time I’m putting in comic books! Good thing I still have all that space on my awards shelf!”

  11. bayoustu

    From BatBoy’s blog: “Saturday in a comics shop… it doesn’t get much better than that.” Oh, I’m not so sure about that, Tom! I can think of 20 or 30 things right off the top of my head; and that’s just in the “Hazardous Chemical Spill” category alone.

    • Double Sided Scooby Snack

      Vasectomy with a rusty butter knife and no anesthesia would be considerably better.

  12. Rusty Shackleford

    Great job on the commentary Harriet! You are providing a much needed fact checking.

    Of course we all know Batty is just chasing awards and recognition and so research to him means wetting his finger, holding it up to see what sticks, and then talking to his KSU echo chamber friends.

    Anymore the strip is just a vehicle for him to indulge whatever dumb idea pops up in his head.