Trina Robbins 1938–
American cartoonist and editor.
Robbins's cartoon stories express her positive feelings about the feminist movement. When she has used her work to vent her anger at a male-dominated society, her cartoons have been somewhat violent.
For years Robbins was a creator of strictly underground comics (those that, in her words, cannot get published anywhere else). Robbins's strips are finally appearing in such magazines as Playboy, National Lampoon, and High Times. Her cartoons are now being recognized by many critics as valid statements about today's culture. Robbins believes her work has suffered from the negative reputation of underground comics for violence, sexism, and sexual explicitness. She feels her work is just the opposite: her violence is clean and usually in the form of self-defense, her heroines are beautiful because beauty appeals to her artist's eye, and sex, as she depicts it, is loving and natural.
Some critics feel her cartoons display a negative attitude toward men, but Robbins charges these critics with reading too much into the actions depicted. She asserts that the sense of her work is exactly what she writes and draws, without all of the connotations present in so many underground publications. Robbins once said that she wanted to draw pictures that tell stories, and she has attempted through her comics to tell the story of woman's freedom from male oppression.
[Trina Robbins] has gained a reputation as the foremost female creator of underground comics. She had some success in Gothic Blimp Works with Panthea, a creature half lady and half lion who was transported from Africa with painful results. The somewhat submerged concern for feminist principles which this series suggested was to emerge in 1970, when Trina became the principal contributor to It Ain't Me Babe, the first comic book devoted exclusively to Women's Liberation. The cover, which featured renderings of Sheena, Wonder Woman, and Mary Marvel, suggested how much comic book fantasies have done to provide images suitable to a new view of women and her place in the world. (p. 176)
Les Daniels, "Underground Comics," in his Comix: A History of Comic Books in America (copyright © 1971 by Les Daniels and Mad Peck Studios; reprinted by permission of the publisher, E. P. Dutton, Inc.), Outerbridge & Dienstfrey, 1971, pp. 165-80.∗
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R. Crumb may have fantasies of voyages down sewer pipes and S. Clay Wilson may draw visions of lesbian pirate battles, but neither of them would have ever thought up the legend of Speed Queen. She is a creation of Trina Robbins, an underground comicperson who happens to be female. Like most of the women who draw freaky funnies, she's concerned with the problems of being female—and the result is the hip, 70's an-swer to Wonder Woman—the adventures of an assortment of gutsy, tall and Trina-faced heroines who don't take no shit from any mere male!….
Subject matter in the women's comix ranges from sexuality problems like pregnancy and lesbianism to women trying to educate men in new lifestyles to the speculative fantasies of Trina, whose women (the astronaut Speed Queen, the black hooker Fox, Amazons, feminists and lesbians) are all tall, beautiful, articulate and heroic. They are the much-needed fantasy women who transcend their roles to achieve success.
Lynne Bronstein, "Female Underground Comix," in The L.A. Star, 1972.∗
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I've always enjoyed Trina Robbins' artwork and style. It is a happy medium polished overground art and on the other side of the spectrum, those trashy, poorly-drawn comix I can't stand to look at….
[Scarlett Pilgrim follows] Scarlett, a San Francisco "working girl," and an older, retired hooker named Dollface, who both get involved as pawns in some C.I.A. derring-do in a Middle-East-type foreign country, getting tangled in a political revolution. For entertainment, Scarlett finds herself in the bedsheets of every important governmental or guerrilla leader in the fictional country Bahraq.
The story line is both light-hearted while overdramatic, fastmoving, and poking fun at international politics and the C.I.A. It's a lot of fun reading.
The book climaxes with Scarlett and Dollface double-crossing the C.I.A., and ends with a letter telling Scarlett that her cousin is coming to stay with her for awhile … unfortunately the family doesn't know anything about Scarlett's occupation, a situation setting up the next Scarlett Pilgrim book. I can't wait.
Nick Chinn, "Reviews: 'Scarlett Pilgrim'," in The Heroine's Showcase (© 1978 The Comics Heroine's Fan Club), No. 14, Summer, 1978, p. 33.
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Ronald Levitt Lanyi
Trina Robbins [is] one of the most challenging writers and lyrical draftsmen now active in underground comics…. (p. 737)
Trina's stories often involve strong, independent and very attractive women who are set upon but ultimately victorious over viciously hostile men. In "Speed Queen Among the Freudians," for instance, which appeared in the first issue of Girl Fight, a solitary woman space traveller, upon arriving on Freuda, a planet inhabited solely by white men who worship a giant black phallus, is instantly seized for landing her "phallic craft next to our monument to the Great Maleness" and thrown in a dungeon "for the heresy of penis envy."… At the last moment she breaks free of her captors, grabs a ray gun and shoots it out with them while taking cover behind the giant black phallus. This her adversaries inadvertently shoot down, which causes them to see her through eyes suddenly cleared and cry happily, "Mommy! Mommy!" The story concludes with Speed Queen back in her space craft, leaning back in her seat and dangling the white key to Freuda over her crossed knees, which are covered by exceptionally long black boots. (p. 739)
[Robbins: What] I always wanted to do was draw pictures that told stories, and that's comics. I think of it as the ideal method of communication. More than that, I think of it as what I want to do more than anything else, draw pictures that tell stories. I mean, it's heaven for...
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It took me a couple of years after I first discovered her (San Francisco Comix Book #2, "The Tiger's Revenge") to appreciate Trina Robbins's comix work. For a long time I ignored it. It wasn't the relative crudity of her artwork—at that time a lot of comix artists were crude—but something else: her working with comics material I thought at the time I'd outgrown. Trina's Golden Age tributes, comix consciousness meshed with comics style, seemed alien to me, too simultaneously close to childhood….
There was the matter of her feminism, too. "If you're taking it personally it probably was meant for you," she wrote of her sex satires in Girl Fight #2, and for a time her evocations of Amazons and angry women did make this male comix reader uncomfortable. But while Trina got more sophisticated in her treatment of feminist topics, I got less defensive on more than one front: by '74, when she'd written the above, I was a fan of hers….
[Trina Robbins] was in the underground from its earliest years, a time when women artists were even rarer than they were in the overground, and … has since become one of its best, most consistent artists. (p. 47)
Bill Sherman, "An Interview with Trina Robbins, The First Lady of Underground Comix," in The Comics Journal, No. 53, Winter, 1980.
(The entire section is 219 words.)