While we’re waiting for today’s strip to drop, I’d like to add my kudos to the many kudos directed at comicbookharriet for taking Batiuk to the woodshed on a daily basis for the last three (!) weeks, and in the process, educating all of us about some real-life women heroes of the comics.
Tag Archives: comic books
As usual, Sunday’s strip wasn’t available for preview. I’m actually hoping we get a comic cover of some kind. Anything to actually showcase the fictional artwork of the fictional woman we’re supposed to be honoring.
I’m going to give Tom Batiuk the benefit of the doubt. I don’t think he intended this arc as some completely hollow awards grab. Epicus said it best in a comment from earlier this week, “I think he does these idiotic stories to give himself something to mention during his annual puff-piece interview in the Canton Daily Bugle’s “Lifestyles” Sunday supplement.”
I would add to this that I think Batiuk sees himself as a man with a platform to bring attention to real life issues, and historical injustices. And while a part of him may be doing this for the ego-stroking self-importance, I want to honestly believe that there is also a part of him that genuinely desires to, in his own tiny way, examine the problems in our world by putting them in his. Those occasional Funky-goes-AA-to-rant-about-global-warming, and Funky-wanders-through-an-abandoned-house-and-ponders-mortality, arcs seem to come from real anxieties about our world, and the nature of his art, his legacy, and being forgotten.
The problem is that Batiuk goes for the easiest answers. The most comfortable soap boxes. And has shown himself unwilling or unable to do the minimum of research required to keep himself from spouting out popular narratives that are unsubstantiated and unverified.
The women I’ve been reading about all week were diverse, their viewpoints were diverse, and their experiences were likewise different. Most importantly, their experiences were complex. They struggled with deadlines, business cycles, and plain old artwork, more than they ever struggled with sexual harassment. Yet Batiuk has given us two weeks of a conversation framed almost entirely around men.
If Ruby Lith was meant to be the avatar for the experiences of these women then, I’m sorry Tom, you have done them a gross disservice. You chose to portray their struggles through a bitter old harpy who would rather talk about the men who done her wrong than her own accomplishments. Tom, these people were artists. They were not cardboard dolls for you to act out your white-knight fantasies with.
Well, that’s it for me for now! Our glorious leader, TF Hackett, will be taking over on Monday. Many, MANY, thanks to him and Epicus for letting me take this blog in a more serious direction for a couple weeks. I promise that zany sarcasm is still definitely on the menu the next time I’m in the driver’s seat, so those of you bored or unimpressed with the Grampa Google assisted history lesson need not worry.
But, thanks so much to everyone who left warm and enthusiastic comments over this arc. It meant so much to me that you all were so supportive in my obsessive nit-picking and interested in learning about the awesome Golden and Silver Age artists Ruby Lith should have been based on.
Until next time!
Stuckfunkian commenter Scott Lovrine guessed last week that Ruby Lith may be based on Ramona Fradon, who worked on Aquaman and Metamorpho. The visual resemblance is very strong both in the past and currently. But from my research Ramona didn’t time in ‘the bullpen.’
I believe that Marie Severin and I were the only women drawing superheroes at the time [50’s]. It’s funny that she was drawing Sub-Mariner while I was drawing Aquaman. People always used to ask me if I knew her, but I didn’t meet her until years later, at a convention. I didn’t work in a bullpen like Marie did so, aside from being uncomfortable with male fantasies and the violent subject matter. I never really experienced what it was like being the only woman working in a man’s world.
Marie, who did work in an office with men, talked more about feeling slightly isolated or left out rather than harassed. The only story I could find her recounting was a male college blowing on the back of her neck.
In that case, comics have always been a rather male dominated field, and you, like Ramona [Fradon] are one of the two reigning queens. How many other women were there at Marvel at the time doing art, and did you ever have any problems with “the Bullpen” or anything like that?
MS: Not really, the guys, they say that women gossip, well networking is male gossip, and they “networked” all the time. But, just like we wouldn’t want a guy when we were sitting around talking about somebody’s shoes, or a certain eyeliner, they weren’t interested in having a woman around, and sure, I’d have lunch with them once in a while, but the conversations were always male; it was just normal. So, you’re sort of out of it. I didn’t have any real problems.
But that brings us to Lily Renee. If Batiuk wants to claim that Ruby Lith is based on any one woman, Lily Renee is the option that closest fits his ‘narrative’. And she also has a physical resemblance.
Lily Renee worked in the 40’s as a penciler and inker for Fiction House. She was Jewish, from Vienna, and had immigrated alone, at the age of 14, first to England then the United States to escape the Nazis. When her parents joined her a couple years later she took up a job in comics to help support her family. The men in the office teased her, tried to teach her dirty words in English, and drew nudes in the margins of the work she was supposed to ink. But she wasn’t the only woman working in the office. There were many women working for Fiction House at the time, and she was on good terms with most of them. She would regularly go out for lunch with Fran Hopper, and at one point, she lived with artist Ruth Atkinson for about a year.
Unlike Batiuk’s fantasy Ruby Lith though, Lily just did it for the money, and after leaving the comics industry in 1949, went to work on other things; illustrating children’s books, writing plays, and working in fashion.
So, big surprise, sometimes it was uncomfortable being a woman in a office predominated by men. Sometimes the women were ‘left out’, sometimes the women were teased. Sometimes it led to much drama that weren’t black-and-white cases of sexual harassment. The inker Violet Barclay, by her own admission, flirted with men in the office leading to acrimonious feelings and love triangles.
Barclay’s complicated relationship with benefactor Mike Sekowsky — who bestowed expensive gifts on her even after his marriage to Joanne Latta — caused friction in the Timely bullpen, which she left in 1949. As she later described the office environment,
“Mike was a very good human being. Everybody at Timely liked Mike. Nobody like me because they thought I was doing a number on him. Which was true. World War II was on and there were no men around, so I just killed time with him. Everybody, Dave Gantz especially, picked up on that. … [Mike] once tried to get me fired over my fling with [Timely artist] George Klein. Mike went to Stan Lee and said, ‘Stan, I want her fired, and if she doesn’t get fired, I’m going to quit’. Well, you couldn’t ever tell Stan Lee what to do. Stan said, ‘Well, Mike, it’s been nice knowing you’.”
Not all sexual harassers got off scott free either. Toni Blum, who worked for Quality Comics in the 40’s, was treated respectfully there except for an incident between two male artists, wherein one punched another in the face. As historian Denis Kitchen wrote, “[George] Tuska, like [Will] Eisner, had a crush on office mate Toni Blum but was too shy to make his move. The actual provocation that inflamed Tuska, Eisner privately said, was [Bob] Powell’s loud assertion that he ‘could f**k [Toni Blum] anytime’ he wanted. After decking Powell, Tuska stood over his prostrate coworker and in a voice Eisner described as Lon Chaney Jr. in Of Mice and Men said, ‘You shouldn’t ought to have said that, Bob.'”