-written by Elizabeth “Liz” Tolleson
-edited by Daijha J. Copeland
After graduation I plan to seek a career creating comics based upon historical people and events. I felt that in order to do comics about history, I needed to know about my female predecessors and the history of comics. To that end, I chose a research topic that paralleled with my career path. My topic focused on 19th and 20thcentury American female cartoonists and their contribution to the field of comics. I began my research sitting in front of the computer and searching databases, then I soon realized that I needed to be more active in my approach. While visiting a friend in Chicago, I decided to visit the world renowned University of Chicago’s Joseph Regenstein Library where I did some preliminary research on their databases. This visit confirmed my suspicions that I would have to do a lot of digging to obtain the information on female cartoonists that I was looking for. I trudged along and then visited the Art Institute of Chicago’s library to use their database. I was able to read a catalogue from a 1989 art show on cartoons and a thesis done by a student at the Art Institute in 2000. Slowly but surely I was finding the pieces to the puzzles that aimed to create.
Along with diving into the unknown of archival research, I also stepped out of my comfort zone and reached out to THE woman in the realm of female cartoonists, Trina Robbins. Robbins founded the underground comic Wimmen’s Comix in
the 1970s and continues to write and publish comics and graphic novels today. She has also spent the last few decades researching, writing and publishing histories of women cartoonists in the 19th and 20th centuries, and has done much to preserve the history of many women cartoonists who would have been otherwise forgotten, especially the first woman cartoonist, Rose O’Neill. Robbins has inspired and encouraged other women, like myself, to continue researching, writing about and publishing information on women cartoonists.
During my meeting with Robbins, she encouraged me to attend the annual Copper Con convention in Mesa, Arizona. CopperCon is a convention hosted by The Central Arizona Speculative Fiction Society where fans of science-fiction and fantasy come together to listen to and meet authors, check out shows, and purchase collectable items. When I got to CopperCon I connected with Robbins who introduced me to Liz Safian-Berube. Safain-Berube was the only female illustrator employed by DC Comics during what is known as the Silver Age of comics (1950’s-1970’s). Safain-Berube shared her perspective on the significance of women cartoonists working during the 20th century. Being able to meet Robbins and Safain-Berube along with my database searches in libraries and museums has provided me with a well-rounded view of 19th and 20th century female cartoonists and deepened my understanding of my research topic.