Werewolf Hunters, Jungle Queens and Space Commandoes: The Lost Worlds of Women Comic Artists

An exhibition on pioneering female comic book artists and how they drew themselves into the histories, politics, and futures from which the real world often excluded them.

Artboard 1

October 20, 2023–January 7, 2024

Art Forum Gallery
3rd Floor

Spanning the 20th century but focusing especially on women artists from the 1940s—a decade during which women had the opportunity to re-make the male-dominated comics industry decimated by World War II drafts—this exhibition explores how women used comics to draw themselves into histories, politics, and futures from which the real world often excluded them.

Comics from the 1940s offer especially stark experiments in overturning gender conventions and creating complex roles for women in the face of monsters both real and imagined: whether fighting off Nazis while men cower in need of rescue, wrestling with the sacrifices of maintaining jungle empires, rescuing people from the monstrous creations of evil scientists, or laughing at “the tap-tap-tap of death at the door” (The Werewolf Hunter #40), the gorgeously rendered women in these comics are, in comics historian Trina Robbins’s words, unusually “active and in control” rather than the hypersexualized victims (or villains) that women often are in in male-inked comics.

By making 1940s comics drawn by artists like Lily Renee, Fran Hopper, Marcia Snyder, and Jill Elgin the centerpieces of the exhibition, we aim to excavate and display the golden age comics prehistory of the more openly feminist and queer comics drawn by women from the 1970s to the 1990s.

The exhibition is a form of active and activist remembering, telling an old story rather than a new one: long before the Underground Womyn Libbers of the 1970s began carving out a new and expansive space in which women comics artists could again begin to flourish, there was an era written out of comics history in which girls rather than boys were the target readership, and artists produced women heroes and antiheroes that were the subjects rather than the objects of comics stories.

This exhibition is presented in partnership with the Center for Monster Studies at UC Santa Cruz, a group of artists and scholars dedicated to the investigation of monsters and how they are defined throughout history and culture.

Header Image: Copy of Margaret Brundage's Weird Tales cover, October 1933.

Gallery

Copy of Nina Albright's Suspense cover, February 1944.

Copy of Margaret Brundage's Weird Tales cover, June 1936.

Copy of Margaret Brundage's Weird Tales cover, October, 1933.

Copy of Lily Renee's Planet Comics cover, November 1945.

Copy of group shot of Golden Age artists.

Presented with support from

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