Newspaper Strips and Gag Cartoons
In the early 20th century, when the US newspaper comics market was in its infancy, William Randolph Hearst brought the artist Nell Brinkley over from the competing Denver Post, and although not doing comics herself, her romantic and glamorous imagery became an inspiration to a generation of female comics artists.
Another style popular around the time was cute comics with doll-like round-cheeked children. In 1909, Rose O'Neill created The Kewpies, a series continuing for decades and widely used in various marketing purposes.
Another cartoonist, Grace Drayton (also known as Grace Wiederseim and Grace Gebbie), worked in a similar vein and, from the 1910s until the 1930s, created a multitude of series with cherubic children bearing names such as Toodles, Dimples, Dolly Dingle, and Dottie Darling. She was also the creator of the "Campbell kids", which Campbell Soup employed for marketing purposes up until the 1930s.
Edwina Dumm created a long-lasting series in 1918, Cap Stubbs and Tippie, about a boy and a dog, although the frisky dog soon took over the strip as its most popular character. The series ran until the 1960s.
In the 1920s, the USA underwent an economic boom and widespread social change, leading to the appearance of the "flapper", a female subculture receiving a lot of media attention at the time. Flappers enjoyed partying, jazz music and free dating, and defied many of the social norms surrounding women at the time. Several female cartoonists picked up on the flapper stereotype, often working in a stylish art deco style, including Ethel Hays (with her comic strip Marianne and her famous cartoon Flapper Fanny), Virginia Huget (Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, Babs in Society), Gladys Parker (Gay and her Gang) and Marjorie Henderson Buell (Dashing Dot).
Also in the 1920s, there was proliferation of magazines that featured gag cartoons, most notably The New Yorker. From its earliest days, The New Yorker featured women cartoonists such as Barbara Shermund, Mary Petty, and Helen Hokinson.
In the 1930s, the Great Depression had struck the USA, and stories about poor but happy families, and their stoic struggles to make a living, became popular reader fare. Martha Orr created one of the most successful series, Apple Mary, about an old lady selling apples around the neighborhood, in 1932. The accounts on the series' final fate differs. Most sources state that in 1938, she left it to her female assistant Dale Conner, who renamed it Mary Worth, although King Features Syndicate's own account claims that Apple Mary folded and Mary Worth was its replacement. In 1940, a new writer Allen Saunders was brought in, and Conner and Saunders began signing the strip with the joint pseudonym "Dale Allen", which remained after Conner left the series. Mary Worth has proven a successful concept, and is still syndicated around the globe.
In 1935, Marjorie Henderson Buell (signature "Marge") created the comic panel Little Lulu, later spawning a successful comic book series by John Stanley and Irving Tripp. This character inspired the name for the organization Friends of Lulu, an organization promoting reading and authoring of comics to girls and women.
In 1940, veteran artist Dale Messick created the comic strip Brenda Starr, about a glamorous reporter with a soap opera-like love life. After Messick left the series, it was continued solely by other female artists. In 1941, Tarpé Mills created the superheroine strip Miss Fury for the Sunday pages. Striking a chord among the readers, the strip ran until 1951.
Jackie Ormes was the first nationally syndicated female black cartoonist with her series Torchy Brown, created in 1937 as a humoristic adventure strip lasting for three years, and picked up again in 1950 as Torchy Brown's Heartbeats, basically revamped as a black version of Brenda Starr, with the young black eponymous character stumbling onto adventure after adventure, and going from one love interest to another, although the series also took up more serious subjects such as racial bigotry and environmental pollution. The series never became a widespread success, since it was only picked up by black-owned newspapers.
In the 1940s, teen comics became a popular genre. This was a rather down-to-earth genre, mostly comedy-inclined and marketed towards young teenage girls, where young, often gangly, teenagers went through different problems with the opposite sex and dating. Notable artists to mention include Hilda Terry (Teena, 1941), Marty Links (Emmy Lou, 1944) and Linda Walter (Susie Q. Smith, together with her husband Jerry Walter on scripts). These three artists all had earlier works in the fashion field.
Barbara Fiske Calhoun (born Isabelle Daniel Hall; September 9, 1919 – April 28, 2014) was an American cartoonist and painter, one of the few female creators from the Golden Age of Comic Books. She co-founded Quarry Hill Creative Center, one of Vermont's oldest alternative communities, on the Fiske family property, in Rochester, Vermont.
Babs goes to War
During World War II, after showing her portfolio to Harvey Comics in 1941, Babs was hired to draw the comic feature Black Cat. She was one of the few female comic book artists in the United States during the World War II era. Living in the West Village, she met her husband-to-be, writer and playwright Irving Fiske, who suggested that she change her name to "Barbara Hall," which she did. She signed her work "B. Hall" because female cartoonists were not held in high esteem.
Her next strip was Girl Commandos, about an international team of Nazi-fighting women. This feature focused on Pat Parker, war nurse, a "freelance fighter for freedom." While stationed in India, Parker recruits a British nurse, an American radio operator, a Soviet photographer, and a Chinese patriot. Hall continued Girl Commandos until 1943, when it was taken over by Jill Elgin.
Hall also created the Blonde Bomber (aka Honey Blake), a newsreel camerawoman, chemist, and crime-fighter with a sidekick named Jimmy Slapso. The Blonde Bomber was a regular feature of Harvey's Green Hornet comics.
Miss Fury flies with American troops in WWII
Tarpe Mills has forever changed the role of women in comics. Her work includes the comic strips Devil's Dust, The Catman, Daredevil Barry Finn, and Miss Fury. From very humble beginnings, Tarpe Mills' Miss Fury became an iconic image of the superfeminine hero. During World War Two, Miss Fury graced the nose of no less than four B17 and B24 bombers, serving in the European and South Pacific theatres. During World War II, Mills' cat Perri-Purr was introduced in the strip. Perri-Purr became the unofficial mascot for the Allied troops and sailed on the Admiral's Flagship for the Pacific Fleet.
Inspiration for Nose Art