Born August 17, 1938, in Brooklyn, NY; daughter of Max Bear (a tailor and writer) and Elizabeth (a teacher; maiden name, Rosenman) Perlson; married Paul Jay Robbins, August, 1960 (marriage ended, 1966); children: Casey. Education: Attended Cooper Union. Politics: "Radical left, feminist." Religion: "Pagan."
Comic-book artist, writer, and editor, beginning 1966. Clothing designer in Los Angeles, CA, early 1960s. Co-founder of "Wimmen's Comix" series. Lecturer. Top-Drawer Rubber Stamp Company, stamp designer. Exhibitions: Work exhibited at San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and Museum of Cartoon Art.
Women's Cartoonist Collective.
Inkpot Award, San Diego Comics Convention, 1977; Parents Choice Award, 1994, for A Century of Women Cartoonists; Lulu Award, Friends of Lulu, 1997, for The Great Women Superheroes; named to Women Cartoonists Hall of Fame, 2001.
(Editor) It Ain't Me Babe (comics by women), Last Gasp (San Francisco, CA), 1970.
Flashback Fashion Paper Dolls, Price, Stern, Sloan (New York, NY), 1983.
Betty Boop Paperdolls, Betty's Store, 1984.
The Silver Metal Lover (novel), Crown (New York, NY), 1985.
(With Cat Yronwode) Women and the Comics, Eclipse, 1986.
Paperdolls from the Comics, Eclipse, 1987.
(With others) Strip AIDS U.S.A.: A Collection of Cartoon Art to Benefit People with AIDS, Last Gasp (San Francisco, CA), 1988.
Catswalk: The Growing of Girl, Celestial Arts (Berkeley, CA), 1990.
California Girls Paper Dolls, Eclipse, 1990.
A Century of Women Cartoonists, Kitchen Sink Press (Northampton, MA), 1993, revised edition published as The Great Women Cartoonists, Watson-Guptill Publications (New York, NY), 2001.
Hollywood High: The Secret of the Tiki (CD-ROM), 1993.
(Editor) Travel and Vacation Advertising Cuts from the Twenties and Thirties, Dover Publications (Mineola, NY), 1994.
The Little Mermaid, Marvel Enterprises (New York, NY), 1995.
A Rose for Barbie, Fun Works (Burbank, CA), 1996.
The Great Women Superheroes, Kitchen Sink Press (Northampton, MA), 1996.
(Editor) Nine Hundred-Thirty Matchbook Advertising Cuts of the Twenties and Thirties, Dover Publications (Mineola, NY), 1997.
Tomorrow's Heirlooms: Fashions of the '60s and '70s, Schiffer (Atglen, PA), 1997.
(With others) Best of Barbie, Marvel Entertainment (New York, NY), 1997.
(With Colleen Doran and Jackson Guice) Wonder Woman: The Once and Future Story, DC Comics (New York, NY), 1998.
From Girls to Grrlz: A History of Women's Comics from Teens to Zines, Chronicle Books (San Francisco, CA), 1999.
Eternally Bad: Goddesses with Attitude, Conari Press (Berkeley, CA), 2001.
Nell Brinkley and the New Woman in the Early Twentieth Century, McFarland (Jefferson, NC), 2001.
(With Rachel Pollack) Eternally Bad: Goddesses with Attitude, 2002.
Emma: A Graphic Classic, Based on the Novel by Jane Austen, Scholastic (New York, NY), 2002.
(With Anne Timmons) Go Girl! (contains Go Girl! issues 1-5), Dark Horse (Milwaukie, OR), 2002.
Tender Murderers: Women Who Kill, Conari Press (Berkeley, CA), 2003.
(With Anne Timmons) Go Girl!, Volume 1: The Time Team, Dark Horse (Milwaukie, OR), 2004.
Wild Irish Roses: Tales of Brigits, Kathleens, and Warrior Queens, Conari Press (Berkeley, CA), 2004.
Also author of Califia: Queen of California. Author of more than sixty comic books, including the "Go Girl!," "Scarlett Pilgrim," and "Barbie" series. Cartoonist for East Village Other, Gothic Blimp Works, and Yellow Dog. Contributor to magazines, including Playboy, National Lampoon, High Times, and Heavy Metal.
Trina Robbins is "one of the pioneers of the underground comix movement," according to J. Stephen Bolhafner in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Robbins published her first comic strip in the underground newspaper East Village Other in 1966. She then moved to writing and drawing underground comic books, called "comix" to distinguish them from mainstream comic books. Julie Adamo stated in Curve that "Robbins, who has been on the front lines of the underground comics movement since its inception, published It Ain't Me, Babe, the first all-women's comic book, in 1970 and shortly thereafter helped found the Wimmen's Comix Collective." Praised more recently for her "Go Girl!" comic-book series, created in collaboration with Anne Timmons, Robbins has also published histories of women artists in the comics medium, such as Women and the Comics and From Girls to Grrlz: A History of Women's Comics from Teens to Zines.
"My becoming a cartoonist was the culmination of a childhood spent reading comics and drawing and writing," Robbins once explained. "What else could I have become? I used to say as a child that when I grew up I wanted to write stories and illustrate them: this is what comics are." Robbins was encouraged to pursue her artistic side by her mother. "My mom was a school teacher," Robbins told Vic St. Blaise in an interview for Hook Online. "When I was four she taught me to read and I became an omnivorous reader: cereal boxes, placards on the New York subways, comics, everything. She didn't think reading comics would keep me from reading other stuff because I read everything. She taught me to write at age five, and I was already drawing. It was already accepted that I'd rather be an artist, art was never a 'bad thing for girls vs. good thing for boys.'" Speaking to Bob Levin of Comics Journal about her childhood, Robbins explained: "We were very pro-civil rights and anti-segregation. One of my early memories—not that early—I was 12. My best friend moved to Camp Lejeune. Her father was a Marine Corps sergeant in Korea, and I spent a summer with her and her mother in South Carolina when it was still segregated. And—whew!—the shock—the shock that there were places that people could not go and the obvious unfairness."
Becoming a Cartoonist
After marrying in 1960, Robbins became a clothing designer in Los Angeles. Among her clients were such rock stars of the time as Jim Morrison, Donovan, David Crosby, and Mama Cass. By 1966 she
decided to go back to her first love: comics. "Trina in 1966," wrote Ronald Levitt Lanyi in the Journal of Popular Culture, "gave up six years of marriage and Los Angeles to return to New York to do an underground strip for The East Village Other. This work was followed by strips for the comics tabloids Gothic Blimp Works (New York) and Yellow Dog (San Francisco)." In the late 1960 and early 1970s she established herself as the preeminent woman cartoonist of the underground scene.
Though she had trouble gaining acceptance from male underground cartoonists, Robbins did find a growing number of outlets for her artwork. In the next few years her drawings appeared in some sixty publications. In 1970 she edited It Ain't Me, Babe, published by Last Gasp of San Francisco and notable as the first collection of underground comix to be drawn entirely by women. She also established the long-running "Wimmen's Comix" series with Lee Marrs and Aline Kominsky.
In these and other comic-book series, as well as in her stories for magazines, Robbins has often presented strong but sensitive women locked in combat with a cruel man-focused world. In the comic-book series "Scarlett Pilgrim," for example, she tells the life story of prostitute activist Margo St. James. More recently, Robbins has been one of three writers handling the popular "Barbie" comic book series, a character seemingly far removed from Robbins' feminist concerns. Speaking about the "Barbie" books to Bolhafner, Robbins explained: "I'm happy to be working on something that is nonviolent, that gives a positive image, that can actually say something."
Introducing Go Girl!
More typical of Robbins is the "Go Girl!" series, which features teenager Lindsay Goldman, whose mother, Janet Goldman, was the 1970s super-hero known as Go-Go Girl but long ago hung up her super-hero costume. However, when Janet's daughter discovers that she, too, can fly, a new superhero, Go Girl, is born. In contrast to other comic-book characters, Go Girl does not rebel against her parents or resent her super powers. She simply tries to do good for others. Ray Tate, in a review posted at the Silver Bullet Comic Books Web site, found that "there is something undeniably feminine about Go Girl that ascends the fact that the main characters happen to be female. Perhaps, it's the desire and means through which the cast cooperates rather than competes." Speaking of the Go Girl! paperback collection, Steve Raiteri in Library Journal found in the series "a charming innocence, simplicity, and good humor, and Robbins engages in some mild spoofing of the superhero genre as well."
In contrast with the models of strength to be found in her comic books, Robbins is also fascinated by paper dolls. "I've always been into paper dolls," she told Bill Sherman in the Comics Journal. "I used to make my own when I was a kid. They don't do it any more, but if you look at a lot of old comics where the protagonist is a woman you'll see very very often they have paper dolls. And I think it's really a delightful tradition." Robbins has published three collections of paper dolls.
As a woman cartoonist, Robbins has a natural interest in the work of those who came before her. In several books, she has presented the story of earlier cartooning women. Women and the Comics, done in collaboration with Cat Yronwode, documents in text and illustrations the lives and careers of almost three hundred women comic-book and comic-strip artists and writers. In From Girls to Grrlz: A History of Women's Comics from Teens to Zines she tells the history of women's comics from the early twentieth century through the underground comix scene later in the century. Focusing on those comic-book titles created with female readers in mind, the history traces the changing readership of the comics medium. In the 1940s, most comic books were read by women; the most popular series were "Archie" and "Little Lulu." By the 1960s, however, the most popular series focused on male super-heroes and the comics readership was mostly male. Gordon Flagg admitted in Booklist that "Robbins' knowledge of comics history is formidable" and praised From Girls to Grrlz for its "amusing, informative text." "This book is a real find for fanatics and collectors and a perfect light read to boot," according to Noreen Stevens in Herizons, the critic adding that "Robbins is a smooth writer."
Speaking of her career as a cartoonist, Robbins has commented: "I realize that to many people, comics are supposed to be funny, but to me, comics are the ultimate form of storytelling. I consider myself a storyteller, not a humorist. My comics certainly still reflect the fact that I am a woman having a hard
time getting acceptance in a man's field, although my earlier works were more obvious about it. In my early comics I was reacting against unfairness with obvious anger and hostility. That's all out of my system now."
"For me, comics are the ideal form of communication," Robbins also noted. "They provide a perfect balance of writing and illustration. My interests include anything connected with women, ancient cultures and religions, and especially the goddesses.
"I'm very happy to have male readers and fans, but the audience I specifically want to reach is female. I want to communicate with and entertain my female audience. I want them to know that in a field consisting mainly of overly muscular boys drawn and written by boys and for boys, there is someone who knows that they (girls) are there and that someone cares."
If you enjoy the works of Trina Robbins
If you enjoy the works of Trina Robbins, you may also want to check out the following graphic novels:
Kyle Baker, Why I Hate Saturn, 1998.
Julie Doucet, My New York Diary, 1999.
Bryan Lee O'Malley, Lost at Sea, 2003.
Biographical and Critical Sources
Buhle, Paul, From the Lower East Side to Hollywood: Jews in American Popular Culture, Verso (New York, NY), 2004.
Contemporary Literary Criticism, Volume 21, Gale (Detroit, MI), 1981.
Rosenkranz, Patrick, Rebel Visions: The Underground Comix Revolution, 1963-1975, Fantagraphics Books (Seattle, WA), 2003.
Booklist, January 1, 1997, Gordon Flagg, review of The Great Women Super Heroes, p. 804; June 1, 1999, Gordon Flagg, review of From Girls to Grrlz: A History of Women's Comics from Teens to Zines,
Comics Journal, winter, 1980, Bill Sherman, "An Interview with Trina Robbins, the First Lady of Underground Comix."
Curve, April, 2002, Julie Adamo, interview with Robbins, p. 41.
Entertainment Weekly, July 23, 1999, Margot Mifflin, review of From Girls to Grrlz, p. 62.
Herizons, winter, 2002, Noreen Stevens, review of From Girls to Grrlz, p. 34.
Journal of Popular Culture, spring, 1979, Ronald Levitt Lanyi, "Trina, Queen of the Underground Cartoonists" (interview).
Library Journal, March 15, 1997, Erin Cassin, review of The Great Women Super Heroes, p. 62; March 1, 2003, Steve Raiteri, review of Go Girl!, p. 76.
Metro (Silicon Valley, CA), September 2-8, 1999, Richard von Busack, "What Keeps Comic Books Alive Today?"
NWSA Journal, fall, 2003, Catherine A. Warren, review of Nell Brinkley and the New Woman in the Early Twentieth Century, p. 219.
Publishers Weekly, June 21, 1999, review of From Girls to Grrlz, p. 48; January 20, 2003, review of Tender Murderers: Women Who Kill, p. 73.
St. Louis Post-Dispatch (St. Louis, MO), June 26, 1994, J. Stephen Bolhafnerp, "No Kidding: Women Gypped in Comics," p. C4.
San Francisco Chronicle, April 24, 1997, Laura Evenson, "The Woman behind Wonder Woman," p. E1.
Times (London, England), June 26, 1999, Amber Cowan, review of From Girls to Grrlz, p. 22.
Village Voice, January 3, 2001, Carol Cooper, "Going for the Girl Market."
Whole Earth, spring, 2002, review of From Girls to Grrlz, p. 86.
Women in Action, August, 2003, review of From Girls to Grrlz, p. 58.
Comics Journal Online,http://www.tcj.com/ (October 1, 2004), Bob Levin, "Trimmings: Trina Robbins."
Friends of Lulu,http://www.friends-lulu.org/ (October 1, 2004), "Women Cartoonists Hall of Fame Nominees."
Hook Online,http://www.hookonline.org/ (October 1, 2004), Vic St. Blaise, interview with Robbins.
ICv2.com,http://www.icv2.com/ (December 5, 2002), "Trina Robbins on Comics for Girls."
Image and Narrative Online, http://www.imageand narrative.be/ (September, 2002), Trina Robbins, "Gender Differences in Comics."
New York City Comic Book Museum Web site,http://www.nyccomicbookmuseum.org/ (October 1, 2004), Darren Metzger, "Women in Comics: Trina Robbins, from Hippy to Historian."
Silver Bullet Comic Books,http://www.silverbulletcomicbooks.com/ (October 1, 2004), Park Cooper, "Talking with Trina Robbins," and Ray Tate, review of Go Girl!, issues 1-5.
Time Online,http://www.time.com/ (December 11, 2001), Andrew D. Arnold, review of The Great Women Cartoonists.
Trina Robbins Home Page,http://220.127.116.11/temp/trinarob/ (October 1, 2004).
Underground Online,http://www.ugo.com/ (October 1, 2004), Daniel Robert Epstein, interview with Robbins.
YBFree.com,http://www.ybfree.com/ (October 1, 2004), Cosmic Nerd Girl, review of Go Girl!*