May 24, 2021 at 11:48 am
There are few things in the world I’m less interested in than Tom Batiuk writing about the plight of women in the comics industry sixty or more years ago.

As a member of our very own “bullpen” here at SoSF, spacemanspiff85 knows not just the pain of reading Funky. Winkerbean. Every. Damn. Day. Periodically, Spiff is called upon to write something interesting about it to share with the rest of us. For two weeks, after which another SoSF guide host/guest author takes over. We limit our authors to two-week stints for the sake of their psychological well-being. Were that not the rule, I’d turn the helm back over to Comic Book Harriet, whose bailiwick these “Women in Comics” arcs have become. SoSF trauma protocol dictates that CBH must rest on the sidelines (while killing it as always in the comments), and it falls to me to get us through this arc.

As a male, I must tread lightly, but here goes: editor “Stogie” Butz’ “pretty good for a girl” remark barely qualifies as a microagression, given the times. Whatever midcentury decade Batiuk’s trying to recreate here (and it could be anywhere from the 1940’s through 60’s), calling a woman “girl” in the workplace wouldn’t be automatically out of line. He’s just busting her…chops, as would any cigar chomping, no-neck cranky boss.



Filed under Son of Stuck Funky

53 responses to “Lith-ography

  1. Batiuk is just hoping someone, anyone, please anyone will award him something. That Pulitzer nomination just fried his brain.

    • Rusty Shackleford

      Well it does appear he is fishing for awards with this crap. He needs a bigger hook and much better bait.

      • Banana Jr. 6000

        He’s still fishing for awards, but he seems to have forgotten what people give awards for. I hope there isn’t too much space on his shelf for Best Portrayal Of Sexism In A 1950s Comic Book Bullpen.

  2. billytheskink

    The “kid’s books”? As opposed to what?

    Who exactly did Ruby think that nearly ever Silver Age comic title was primarily aimed at? Not the largest and wealthiest generation of American children to that point in history, apparently…

    • J.J. O'Malley

      I hate venturing a guess as to Battyuk’s thoughts, but I assume that by “kids’ books” he means humor, funny animal, and perhaps teen comics, not the oh-so-serious and mature-themed superhero comics of the ’50s and ’60s. Oh, yes: how could the work of Carl Barks, Marjorie H. Buell, John Stanley, Walt Kelly, Sheldon Mayer, and Dan DeCarlo possibly compare to Batman donning different colored costumes or Superman’s pal Jimmy Olsen turning into a giant turtle man?

      Also, if Miss American was introduced in the late Golden/early Silver Age of comics, she was already a rip-off of not just Captain America, but also Liberty Belle, Miss America (Quality/DC Comics), Miss America (Timely/Marvel Comics), Miss Liberty, and other patriotic superheroines. And why does she have spaghetti noodle arms in the panel three sketch?

      Lord, this is going to be a long and historically inaccurate week, isn’t it?

      • ComicBookHarriet

        After two weeks of Dinkle ranting about a cat during my last shift, I am still recovering.

        Still I dusted off some of my old Women in Comics Google searches, and today makes no damn sense.

        The list of women who worked on comics in the Golden/Silver age isn’t long, but there isn’t a woman I looked at who was pidgeon-holed into funny animal books. They seemed to work where they were needed, on superheroes, romances, westerns, adventure, and horror.

        If they got pushed into ANYTHING it was to work on books with female heroes, like JJ listed.

        Nina Albright worked on Miss Victory
        Barbara Hall worked on Girl Commandos and Blonde Bomber.
        Tarpe Mills worked on Miss Fury.

        For another thing, the distinction between superhero comic and comedic funny book was not a hard fast line. Golden Age Green Lantern got sidelined by a DOG for pete’s sake.

        For ANOTHER ANOTHER thing, the early 1900’s was known as the Golden Age of Illustration, because literally everything in magazines and advertisements needed to be drawn RATHER than photographed due to printing technology of the day. There was more work illustrating than there were artists, and many early comic artists worked in both fields.

        Freelance illustration was a perfectly acceptable job for women to take on, because it was possible to work from home doing it. Thousands and thousands of women at the turn of the century supplemented their income with art for advertising, fashion, or magazines and books. The phrase, “Pretty good for a girl” is meaningless. It would have been like saying a woman was a pretty good school teacher for a girl, or a pretty good switchboard operator or nurse.

      • Banana Jr. 6000

        “I was given the kids’ books to draw, then the company wanted a superhero book.” No, they were all kids’ books. Those Flash comics from 1979 Tom Batiuk drones on about every Friday are kids’ books.

        As many others have already said, the distinction between “superhero” and “kids’ stuff” didn’t exist until much later. I would argue for 1989, when the unquestionably adult Batman movie was a mainstream success. Batiuk commits a basic error of historical fiction: assuming the past had the same values of the modern day. On top of his usual error of assuming that the entire world shares his personal values.

        • ComicBookHarriet

          The only pre-comics code authority books you could argue weren’t kids books were the horror and true crime stuff. That stuff had an older audience. And women worked on those.

    • erdmann

      Yeah, what does she mean? Funny animals? Comedy titles? From what Ruby says, she clearly doesn’t consider super-hero titles to be “kids’ books,” despite the fact that, a quarter-inch away in reality, people dismissed the entire genre as stupid kids’ stuff for decades. In fact, most comics were considered kids stuff, which is part of the reason so many people in the 1904s and ’50s got their knickers in a twist over the way they depicted sex and violence, Of course, many publishers did target younger readers with disposable dimes, the major exceptions being EC in the early ’50s and Marvel in the ’60s. And even they didn’t aim for readers that much older.
      And what’s wrong with kid books? Walt Kelly and Carl Barks worked on kid books and produced work that remains among the most highly regarded in industry history.
      Also, TB again lets his inner Fredric Wertham run free, ignoring any unfortunate facts that don’t fit his view of a situation. in the ’40s, Patricia Highsmith wrote comic biographies of folks such as Einstein and Sir Isaac Newton, as well as super-hero tales about the Destroyer, the Black Terror and Spy Smasher. In the ’60s, Ramona Fradon drew Aquaman and Metamorpho for DC. Yes, Marie Severin, who got her start working with her brother at EC, drew humor books for Marvel (because she was good at it), but she also drew the Incredible Hulk (and she was good at that, too).
      My apologies to CBH if I’ve stepped on on anything she might want to say with more detail and greater eloquence. TB just got my dander up again.

      • erdmann

        And a thumbs up to J.J. O’Malley for his list of creators, especially Sheldon Mayer, whose Sugar and Spike remain a favorite of mine.

      • ComicBookHarriet


        • billytheskink

          One would think Ruby might have found some professional fulfillment in the sales of the “kid’s” books she drew. Surely they sold well, yes?

          As Mr. Kitty’s Stupid Comics often loves to point out, stupid “kid’s” comics in the Silver Age sold like crazy (being made for a generation of kids that was 10s of millions larger than the ones that both preceded and followed it didn’t hurt). Notably dopey and definitely kid-focused Superman’s Pal Jimmy Olsen, for example, would routinely move 4-5 times as many copies as today’s best-selling titles, sometimes selling over a half million copies (!!!) in the 60s.

        • erdmann

          I’m not sure there are words in English to adequately express just how terrible this is. Does anyone know how to say “it stinks” in the Bandar tongue?

      • William Thompson

        If you add a White Savior character to that mix, you’d have the outline for a crappy, faux-historical movie. Maybe Rubella is about to remember some really cool writer-artist-editor who showed up and forced her employers to treat her with the respect due a woman of her genius. Of course this will be instantly followed by the destruction of Atomik Comix by sinister pod people, but she’ll still sigh and clutch her pearls at the memory of her handsome hero (who looked just like Tom Batiuk, but with Brylcream in his hair.)

        • Rusty Shackleford

          Yeah, surprised we don’t see Les’ dad rushing in to save the day.

        • Banana Jr. 6000

          It’s the “Nice Guy” meme, except that Batiuk plays it 100% unironically and positively. “Women have it so rough and need a Nice Guy to protect them” is a constant theme in Funky Winkerbean. Notice that 1950s Ruby can’t possibly defend herself, find a different workplace, or tell this guy to shove it. No woman in the Funkyverse can ever accomplish anything without benevolent male assistance.

          How many women has Les Moore saved from things they could have easily walked away from? Remember “buy your guy a coffee day”, when Mindy gushed about what a catch Mopey Pete is, and then he turned around and took credit (and payment) for something she helped create?

          These aren’t nice guys, they’re demonstrably selfish pricks. They run around giving women things they didn’t ask for, need, or want, and then act like the world owes them something.

          I’m glad our society has gotten better at identifying this disingenuous behavior, and calling it what it is. Batiuk clearly hasn’t gotten the memo yet. Okay, he hasn’t gotten a lot of memos, but this one is particularly egregious.

  3. Jimmy

    I admittedly check in and out, but wasn’t it established that this woman penned mainstream titles?

  4. Epicus Doomus

    Well said, TFH. The two-week rule is no joke, believe you me. I’ve done a few three week runs, most recently during the late December garbage dump period and by that third Tuesday I am always seriously regretting it. It’s absolutely draining. Bear in mind that back in the olden days TFH hosted for something like a hundred weeks in a row, which is Lou Gehrig or Audie Murphy-like. That’s the comic strip equivalent of climbing Everest barefoot or winning the men’s Olympic decathlon while eating ice cream straight from the container. It’s like Cy Young’s 511 wins, a mark that will not be bested here in the modern era.

    But yeah, woman (or “dames” as they preferred to be called back then) sure had it tough seventy years ago and for the gals in the comic book (sigh) bullpen it was EVEN WORSE! Now if BatYam had any interest at all in writing a real story he could make it clear that as of right now Ruby is using her trove of comic book wisdom and experience to drive Atomik Komix (I will never stop despising having to type those words) to greater and greater heights, which would make for a nice contrast between that and her experiences of yesteryear. But instead she’ll just spin a few more tales of woe, then make some wry wisecrack about how it’s better now and that will be that.

    • Hitorque

      Young Ruby is nowhere near sexy enough to be a “dame”… She’s clearly a dumb broad, a skirt, a bimbo, a Girl Friday, a witch, a little lady, a horse face, a clucking hen, a pair of tits or long legs, a crone, an egg carrier, a battle axe, a confirmed spinster, or a squat pisser…

      And if Mr. Editor Stereotype doesn’t tell her to scramble him up some eggs and toast and slap her in the ass when she turns to walk away I’ll be so very disappointed…

      • Rusty Shackleford

        Yeah you can tell her only real talent is complaining. But they needed someone desperately and it was either her or that Batton Thomas guy.

  5. Gerard Plourde

    These arcs where TomBa gets preachy while displaying his near total lack of knowledge about his subject are particularly wearing. And as Epicus noted above, rather than empower Ruby, he’s following is well-worn path of self-pitying misery. And wasn’t the story of the creation of Wonder Wo – (Oh wait – Miss American) told previously? I seem to remember that Ruby couldn’t use her full name but had to sign as “R. Lith” to conceal her gender.

    • Smirks 'R Us

      “These arcs where TomBa gets preachy while displaying his near total lack of knowledge about his subject”

      Otherwise know as “Tuesday” here in the Funkyverse

    • The Duck of Death

      It’s a tragedy — she must have been the only comics artist who ever signed with the first initial “R.” or used a pseudonym. Never heard of a man doing that, have you? Q.E.D.

  6. Mr. A

    I guess we’re going to get more details about how the cruel, cruel comic editors kicked Ruby off of the book that she created. Because she exists only to be a target of injustice and misogyny. Sigh.

    Question: when you’re pitching a new superhero, don’t you need a writer involved somewhere? Or does that come later?

  7. Charles

    I think these sequences have come in and replaced the whole “I wonder if Batom writers also had their bosses come in and whack them with their dicks, leaving a mushroom cap welt on their foreheads” that Mopey and Dopey would do every so often. I mean, after Chester went and gave these doofuses everything they could possibly want to come make comic books for him, them complaining about their jobs would be excessive.

  8. It has been said often, but it needs to be repeated: nobody thought comic books were “art” until around the late 1970’s. Before that, even the people who wrote and drew them thought they were a disposable product.

    • Rusty Shackleford

      Then came the 90s and cartoonists thought they were Pulitzer worthy by virtue of bringing misery to the comics page.

    • ComicBookHarriet

      YMMV. Some earlier artists did slave over their work and genuinely see it as an artistic endeavor. Marie Severin joked about how obsessive Al Williamson was over his EC comics work in this article.

      • Oh, I’m not saying they didn’t produce great work, or that they didn’t work hard to do so…just that the product was regarded as disposable by most of the consumers. Kids could spend their dime on a comic book or an ice cream cone. Depends on how hot it was that day.

        • ComicBookHarriet

          Agreed, and her getting her granny panties in a twist over wanting to draw superheroes rather than ‘kids’ books’ is ridiculous.

        • Charles

          Keep in mind that as we’re supposed to be offended on Ruby’s behalf that this character was called “pretty good for a girl”, that that character ended up going out of print and the rights to her were purchased by a guy who promptly forgot that he had done so.

  9. Cabbage Jack

    Kids books? You mean like Wayback Wendy?

    Batty is what he claims to loathe.

  10. Sourbelly

    I see Ayers couldn’t be bothered to draw backgrounds today. And Ruby’s silhouette in panel 2 is kind of hellish.

  11. Notice Ruby’s drawing in the last panel. Who would present a concept sketch where the person’s face is obscured? That’s the mark of someone who is not producing professional work.

  12. Perfect Tommy

    On a related note, Crankshaft continues to baffle.

    • Banana Jr. 6000

      Here’s my take on the current Crankshaft arc:

      • Perfect Tommy

        That’s some awesome sauce right there.

      • The baby looks like a plastic doll. Like a ventriloquist’s dummy. Of course, it’s sitting in a whole row of dummies….

      • Hitorque

        Unless you’re planning to get busy with your girlfriend or boyfriend, I can think of very few activities less fun than sitting in a big assed empty movie theater…

        I am sort of disappointed that what’s-his-name didn’t show his parents all the hardened crusty jizz stains he shot all over the seats, walls, balcony, and screen when he was dutifully making their grandson…

        Or maybe when the lights go out he’s planning to pull the old “buy a large popcorn and cut a hole in the bottom so he can put his gizmo in the bucket while his wifey enjoys”….

  13. Gerard Plourde

    Meanwhile, over on the FW Blog, a quote from the intro to Volume 9 of the complete FW seems to spill the beans about the Act 2 storylines. It appears that the Advertising and Public Relations Director at King Features helped to keep him from going too far off track.

    “Down the road he would work with me to help me make each dramatic turn I would take effective and impactful. I think he respected and appreciated where I was trying to take the work, and he sincerely wanted to help me be successful with it.”

  14. newagepalimpsest

    Monday: MEN BE SMOKING
    Friday: They killed my daughter so that they could print KISS #1 in human blood!