The truth about comics

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Doc Lehman wrote to share a gallery of photos from the 1930’s and 1940’s of people reading comics and newsstands. You should go check out all of them, but several are quite interesting — to us anyway!

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Given the era indicated by the clothing in these photos, it’s quite unlikely that they are some kind of propaganda created by feminist fangirls to prove that girls once read comics. In fact, as we all know from contemporary research back in the 405 and 50s, back then, comics were read equally by boys and girls. There was no gender segregation for the medium.

Tom Brevoort has his own trip in the wayback machine with this house ad from the Marvel/Timely comics of 1947 (click for larger version.)

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As this ad reveals, Marvel had three lines of comics — the superheroes, the funnies, and what looks to be the girls line — Tessie the Typist — with Gay Willie Joker coming up in the rear. (They were actually three different titles.) Two things strike us looking at that image. #1, given Marvel/Atlas/Timely’s publishing line, and Stan Lee’s age, it’s easy to see why the early Marvel female characters had such wimpy powers. #2, with the passing of time, Marvel Golden Age characters would come to mean only the superhero characters. (Given how vivid and unique they were, it is not that hard to see why.)

The why and the how of it all — how a little girl enjoying the funnies became increasingly unlikely and then impossible according to even smart people — has been oft discussed and debated. Thankfully, the girl nerd is now back in force and updated for a grim and gritty world.

Comments

  1. Gay Willie Joker coming up in the rear.

    I see what you did there.

  2. Not sure the 40s and 50s prove anything about 60s Marvel heroines. Timely didn’t have a huge number, but the ones they had were tuff cookies (Miss America, Silver Scorpion). Sixties Marvel heroines just *might* be wimpy ’cause an old-world duffer name o’Wertham wrote a little book that had a lot of problems with comic-book violence– one item being that strong women encouraged little girls to turn lesbian (or something like that).

  3. Jonathan says:

    Back to the poll from earlier….I want more Millie the Model coverage. Yeah, I know not much is going on with her mag these days, but I want the mystery solved as to who the inspiration for Millie was!

    — Jonathan

    P.S. Mark Evanier ignored my email on the question, so help me Obi-Wan Heidi, you’re my only hope.

  4. Torsten Adair says:

    Marvel’s female line lasted until the mid-1960s, and Millie lasted until the early 70s (as an Archie clone). Some of those characters are now part of the Marvel Universe (Patsy Walker).

    And the ability to turn men’s heads and make them act stupid is a pretty cool superpower.

    Wow… why doesn’t Marvel spin off a “Mary Jane” title, working for Millie’s modellng agency?

  5. I think your last paragraph contains a clue there; back when girls reading comics was a normal thing, being a comic reader didn’t necessarily make one a nerd.

  6. Gay Willie Joker = Skrull.

  7. Barry Buchanan says:

    I’m not gonna plant a flag or anything, but isn’t that 2nd picture down Jack Kirby and Roz reading to some kids? It sure looks like the two of them.

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