Nicky Wheeler-Nicholson is a "herstorian" of comic books thanks to her grandfather, Major Malcom Wheeler-Nicholson. Although she got involved in the comic industry thanks to her family connections, she has stayed thanks to her friendship with Trina Robbins, a fellow "herstorian" and graphic artist. Their panel, Generations of Women in Comics, at San Diego Comic-Con brought back a lot of memories for some and gave a brief history lesson to others, displaying several comic book heroines thought forgotten to the ages.
Sandra and the Secret Service is an older comic featuring one of the first female protagonists in comic book history. Drawn by Walter Brigham, he also worked on the early 1930s Superman comics. Female reporters were seen as groundbreaking characters at the time, but began to die out once men started coming back from WWII and were upset that women had "moved in" to take over their jobs. Some of these job openings were in the comics industry, and opened the door for women in that field.
Wonder Woman made her first appearance in 1942 with Sensation Comics. Robbins drew Wonder Woman in 1985 as part of a four part mini series, and was one of the first women to draw the fearless Amazonian.
During the panel, Robbins urged everyone who can to vote her good friend and fellow comic artist, Lily Renee, into the Eisner Comic Book Hall of Fame. Renee was separated from her family during WWII, escaping her war-torn country on a kinder transport. She was later reunited with her family in America after working as a nurse and artist for a few years. Now at the age of 96, she is one of the oldest and well-known female comic artists.
Girl Commandos, drawn by Barbara Hall and Jill Elgin, was one of the early comics drawn during WWII. Their heroines fought Nazis and the Axis Powers. The Blonde Bomber was another resourceful female fighter drawn by these women, and embodied the strength women found during wartime. Since most of the men were drafted and women filled their jobs, women found a power within themselves that never really died down after their husbands, sons, and fathers returned from war.
Robbins recalled how in the mid 1970s, she was not accepted in the comics industry. But instead of being defeated by the male-dominated field, she started making her own comics.
Unfortunately, these are just a few examples of how women have shaped the comic industry. The market was saved by women and their unique heroic characters during the war and has made a comeback in recent decades. While we still have a way to go before the female artist stigma is abolished, we're heading in the right direction. History is already being made with more marginalized characters being put in the printed spotlight, paving the way for more groundbreaking characters.
Don't give up! Your work matters! It can be easy to get swept up in the drama and the mayhem of the current media, but it's important for us to stay strong. Your voice is important.