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Carina's Comics Corner: A Brief History of Wimmen's Comix

March is Women’s History Month and the perfect time to celebrate the impact of women in comic-based spaces. Rather than giving reviews right out the gate of powerhouse feminist comics, I think it’s worth it to talk about the humble origins of these female-centered comic spaces. Enter Wimmen’s Comix, the underground comics anthology that spanned two decades and paved the way for women in the field.

It’s important to acknowledge the catalyst for the movement, though. In 1970, Trina Robbins and Barbara Mendes published It Ain’t Me, Babe with Last Gasp, a counterculture publisher based in San Francisco. Both deeply ingrained in the subversive underground comix movement, Robbins and Mendes put together what is considered the first comic book to be produced by only women. The one-shot proudly emblazoned the words “Women’s Liberation” on its cover with some well-known women and girls from popular comics. Rob Turner of Last Gasp offered to purchase the rights of It Ain’t Me, Babe, and two years after its rousing success, the Wimmen’s Comix collective was born. 

The first volume of Wimmen’s Comix was published in 1972 by Last Gasp, but had later runs with Renegade Press (1987-1988) and Rip Off Press (1989-1992). The collective started small, but over the course of its twenty year run, Wimmen’s Comix highlighted work from forty different comic artists. The content was not necessarily marketed as political, but due to its focus on feminist themes like sexuality, discrimination, and the plights of womanhood, the anthology quickly turned into a powerhouse of female empowerment in the boys’ club of underground comix. The segments featured markedly different styles, some stories autobiographical and some fictional, all worth giving voice to in a subsection of comics that devalued women at the time. 

After a few issues of Wimmen’s Comics were published, two of the collective’s artists spawned their own women’s anthology. Aline Komisky and Diane Noomin brought forth Twisted Sisters to life, first in 1976 with Last Gasp and then as a limited series in 1994 from Kitchen Sink Press.  A 1992 compendium, Twisted Sisters: A Collection of Bad Girl Art, received an Eisner nomination, which helped to put the anthology back on the map for the revival. Considered the first breakaway project from Wimmen’s Comix, Twisted Sisters was more political and self-deprecating than its predecessor, leaning into subversive territory. It’s worth it to note that Kominsky was married to Robert Crumb of Zap Comix and Fritz the Cat fame until her death in 2022, so that collaborative influence of the raunchy and humorous delineated Twisted Sisters from its parent collective.

In the same vein as Wimmen’s Comix came the aptly named Tits & Clits Comix. While not a spin-off of the prior, it debuted in 1972 from Nanny Goat Productions and finished its run in 1987, its last four volumes published with Last Gasp. Some of Wimmen’s Comics elites also contributed to Tits & Clits, which was far more centered around sex, misogyny, and reproductive rights. Founded by Joyce Farmer and Lyn Chevli, the anthology was under frequent scrutiny, and was even subject to a pornography investigation in 1973. 

Wimmen’s Comix came to its untimely end in 1992, with a shifted title for issue seventeen: Wimmin’s Comix, changed in order to decentralize men. Due to political disagreements and financial issues among the team, the collective dissolved and primarily exists in archives. Have no fear, though! This doesn’t mean that material is inaccessible. In fact, many have been rereleased and remastered for contemporary audiences. Without Wimmen’s Comix, the modern comics universe would look very different for non-men in the comics world and those publishing in underground markets. Read on below for a short bibliography of titles from some of the OG Wimmen’s Comix collective!

Looking for reviews on upcoming releases? Maybe commentary on a specific title? Just want to find something new to read? Stay tuned for biweekly themed posts, standalone reviews of new titles before they’re published, and more! 

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