Famed cartoonist, feminist, and “herstorian” Trina Robbins has a life as colorful as anything she’s put on paper, and her new prose memoir Last Girl Standing is a lively look at her adventures. From her time as an integral figure in the arts scenes of both New York and LA in the 1960s (including an affair with Jim Morrison) to her key role in editing Wimmen’s Comix, the pioneering female-focused underground comic, to her unstinting efforts on behalf of women cartoonists, Robbins’s down-to-earth viewpoint puts a memorable life into perspective. Her bibliography is full of comics and books on the history of pop culture (she’s profiled seminal cartoonists Lily Renee and Nell Brinkley, among others), but writing a memoir was something she always wanted to do. “I finally decided now was the time, so I stopped everything else and wrote it,” she says.
Comics have a mistaken reputation as a boys’ medium, and Robbins doesn’t avoid recounting the conflicts that came up in advocating for a broader role for women in comics. “I needed to write about the bad times, especially since so much of it had feminist meanings. When I was younger and desperate for work, editors would tell me women don’t read comics. I swallowed and took it because I still hoped I might get some work. Nowadays, I would just say, ‘That’s absolute bull!’”
Robert Sikoryak has made a career out of drawing in other people’s styles, and two of his current books take full advantage of that skill. Terms and Conditions takes Apple’s iTunes contract and illustrates it in every possible style of comics, with a Steve Jobs avatar guiding readers through endless legalese. “I’d gotten a few anti-Apple remarks from when I was serializing the book online,” he says. “Some people thought it would somehow expose all the allegedly nefarious secrets buried in the text (I still haven’t found those secrets, myself). But most everyone instantly gets the humor of illustrating such an infamously long and unread document.”
The Unquotable Trump finds the 45th president’s most outrageous statements transformed into comics covers from Marvel, Little Lulu, EC Comics, and more. Sikoryak had previously created two superhero-esque presidential parodies: Bill Clinton as the Superdelegate for Mad, and George Bush as the Decider for the Daily Show. “What I tried to do differently than those was to use only the actual spoken words of Trump. Since all my work plays with style and text appropriation, I wanted to be very faithful to my sources, no matter what I thought of them.” Times such as these are fertile for humor, he says, but “when the stakes are higher, it can make the jokes funnier.”
Nate Powell is best known for his work illustrating the National Book Award–winning March trilogy, the memoir of civil rights icon Rep. John Lewis, as written by Lewis and Andrew Aydin. But his new Omnibox collecting three of his pre-March works—the graphic novels Swallow Me Whole and Any Empire and the short story collection You Don’t Say—gives a wider view of his talent.
Swallow Me Whole came out in 2008 and won that year’s Eisner award for Best Graphic Novel, putting Powell on the cartooning map. Though the story, about two stepsiblings struggling with mental illness, parallels some of his decade-long experience working for folks with disabilities and various disorders, Powell says, “I tried to avoid my professional experiences directly influencing the book itself.”
Looking back on his earlier works in the wake of March, he’s proud of them. “The intuitive personal-reckoning narratives in Any Empire and Swallow Me Whole are my home planet. My forthcoming graphic novel, Come Again (due in 2018), was actually started before March. It benefited greatly simmering on the back burner for years. It’s going to be something really special and weird, both a return to form and a huge leap forward thanks to the discipline and experience gained through March.”