Five Questions with…
Q&A with comic greats regarding Wonder Woman

Trina Robbins

Gail Simone: “Oh, man, where to start.

Another of my heroes here. I hadn’t realized how much many of the great Wonder creators have really influenced me through the years.

Trina is a big part of the reason why women creators even made the effort in an industry that was at best hostile to them and at worst downright dangerous. Like other great trailblazers like Neal Adams, she put her ethics above her own interests. She put the welfare and decent treatment of others above her own career.

I could talk about this tough, smart, talented lady forever. She has some eye-opening things to say, and while she and I might disagree on a few matters, my respect for her is immense.

I first fell in love with Trina’s clean, lovely art from reprints of her black-and-white underground comics. At a time when many artists saw to draw the world in as ugly a manner as possible, Trina produces work that was classic and sleek and stylish, reminiscent of earlier eras of design.

This style made her a perfect match for the Wonder Woman mini-series that she did with Kurt Busiek, which, in my opinion, both evoked and improved on the classic WW Golden Age art in a manner that has never quite been equaled.

She’s been there for female readers her entire career, as well. From creating Vampirella’s outfit, to working on the excellent Barbie comics produced by Marvel, to the Lulu Award-winning GOGIRL with artist Anne TImmons, she has never failed to put her money where her mouth is, and it feels in some ways like the industry had to catch up to her, rather than the other way around.

Finally, I was asked by a prestigious New York publisher to write a book on the history of females in comics, and all I could do was respond, “Why? Trina Robbins already wrote all the good ones.”

Check out her website and bibliography at trinarobbins.com

Let’s go!”

1) Let me get this out of the way–to say you are a hero of mine is WAY understating the case. Every female working in the industry now owes you a debt for the way you fearlessly took on the rotten segments of the industry apple. Just as a general observation, I notice a lot of new female creators who seem blissfully unaware (or deliberately unaware) that there ever WAS a problem with misogyny and sexism in comics. Do you feel that things have improved for female creators, or do you feel that we still have a long way to go?

Thanks for the kind words, Gail. What you say about new female creators is not new; as long as I can remember, in the comics biz that’s been happening. Women start out telling me that they’ve never encountered sexism in comics, and then SOMETHING happens, and they’re going, oh, yeah, sexism. OTOH, the situation HAS improved dramatically since the days when there were one or two women creating comics in a field full of men, who all insisted that girls just didn’t and never had read comics. (Thanks to the popularity of manga, they can’t insist THAT anymore!) There are more women creating comics today than ever before, especially in the indies and self-published and small press area, but even in the mainstream. What does not seem to have improved in the mainstream is the way female characters are drawn. The majority of male cartoonists still seem to be under the impression that with great power comes great breasts and the sudden desire to dress like a slut.

2) You created the first all-female anthology comic. You were one of only a handful of female artists during the birth of the underground era. You wrote many of the best books ever on female creators and characters in comics. AND, I believe you were the first female artist to do a major Wonder Woman mini-series, is that correct? That’s a lot of firsts! Can you tell me how the Wonder Woman mini-series, with Kurt Busiek came about?

I think maybe I WAS the first woman to draw Wonder Woman. As to how it came about, DC had essentially killed off Wonder Woman in the crisis on infinite earths, or whatever that series was called, but they needed to keep her in print while George Perez came up with a new Wonder Woman and new origins, so I think the reasoning went something like, “What the hell, let’s give it to Trina. Even if she screws it up miserably, she only has to do 4 issues and then George can take over.” At the time, I didn’t feel confident enough to write it (Today I would!), so Kurt and I co-plotted it with him doing the scripting. Suzy, the little girl, was his idea, but I got to draw her looking like me as a kid.

3) Well, we’ve discovered through this board that that mini-series was actually hugely influential, so you did something right! Please tell me your opinions on Wonder Woman as a character, and her importance to the comics industry, if you would. What makes Diana last, over the other female heroes created at the same time?

The thing about Diana is that she’s become a feminist icon. Just like the famous Rosie the Riveter icon with her sleeves rolled up, saying “We can do it!” she represents strong and liberated women. This won’t make you feel that great, Gail, but a majority of women who are big Wonder Woman fans actually have not read the comic or at least haven’t read it since they were kids. The Wonder Woman they identify with is an older Wonder Woman, often inspired by the Lynda Carter TV show, rather than the often horrifically big-busted, thong bikini-wearing Diana as she’s so often been drawn in recent years. (The artists who’ve interpreted your Wonder Woman, Gail, have been refreshing exceptions — their Diana is both beautiful and decently dressed, and their renditions of her are never insulting to women)

4) I have had cheesecake artists and I think there is room for them, but that place is not Diana’s monthly book. I’m told you collect Wonder Woman items…when did that start, and do you have a most cherished piece?

How could I NOT collect Wonder Woman items? I have a goodly number of the books, and about 15 action figures, some of which (the sturdier ones) have been commandeered by my 3 year old granddaughter, who has been playing with them since she was 2, and loved Wonder Woman. Of course, she’s never looked at the comic books, which are much too grownup and violent for her. (And unfortunately, that godawful DVD is also too violent for her, not to mention obnoxious lines like Steve Trevor saying “Your daughter has a great rack.” What were they thinking?) So there needs to be a simple and brightly colored children’s book about Diana, for 3 – 5 year old girls. OTOH, here in San Francisco, when you get on a bus and the bus starts, a recording of a woman’s voice comes on telling you to “Please hold on,” and Tabby, my granddaughter, has decided that that’s Wonder Woman speaking.
Finally, that tiara with the blinking red star is the best giveaway DC has ever given away at cons and I have at least 4 of them.

5) I know I’m gushing, here, but I’m a big fan of your non-fiction books on the industry, which are always lavishly illustrated and meticulously researched. Can you tell us what you’re working on now, and would you ever consider coming back to do a Wonder Woman story?

Thanks again, Gail. Wellll…my next book, coming out this autumn, has nothing whatsoever to do with comics. It’s a history of the Golden Age of Chinese nightclubs, mostly in San Francisco’s Chinatown, from 1937 to about 1964. If you’ve even watched a Fred Astaire movie, you’ve probably seen a scene from one of the old nightclubs: glamorous women in evening gowns, men in tuxes, big bands, singers and chorus girls in fishnet tights. The Chinese nightclubs were just as glamorous as that, except all the entertainers were Asian. The book features interviews with retired Asian entertainers, one who was as old as 95 when I interviewed her, and is still with us at 97 — and there are about 200 illustrations, great art deco ads for the nightclubs, menu covers, matchbook covers, photos of gorgeous Asian women wearing their hair in pompadours, with the dark lipstick women wore in those days, and handsome Asian crooners and tapdancers in tuxes. The title is “Forbidden City: the Golden Age of Chinese Nightclubs.”

Comicswise, I’ve just finished scripting a two part Honey West comic, to be published by Moonstone, drawn by Cynthia Martin. Honey West, played by Anne Francis, was TV’s first woman detective; she used karate and dressed in a kind of pre-Emma Peel catsuit consisting of a black turtleneck tucked into well-fitting black slacks, and she was say-cool, and I loved scripting her! I’ve also contributed to a Moonstone prose anthology called “Chicks in Capes,” short stories about superheroines that were invented by the contributors. Mine is my own re-invention of Wonder Woman as I’d like to have seen her, except of course she’s not Wonder Woman, but my own character, named Inanna.
Would I consider coming back to script a Wonder Woman story? In a New York minute!

Thank you again, Trina…we may have to do a sequel sometime because I have a lot of questions from your answers!

Everyone go to trinarobbins.com and in particular, get her books on the history of comics. They are gorgeous reads!

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