Writing my way thru The Complete Wimmen’s Comix vol. 1: “It Ain’t Me Babe”
There’s a woman no one can totally remember on that infamous parting shot photo on the last page of “It Ain’t Me Babe,” the underground comic born of the 1970s San Francisco comix movement without women that nevertheless conceived Wimmen’s Comix. Biggest smile of them all, squinting at the camera, her hand held up as if she’s shaking a finger at us readers or casting a spell, she seems somehow less serious than Hurricane Nancy or Trina Robbins. In her introduction to The Complete Wimmen’s Comix, recently collected and bound in nice, big, coffee-table sized folios from Fantagraphics, Robbins remembers her thus: “The art [for title story “Breaking Out”] was done by Carole, last name lost because we dumped our ‘slave names’ and used only our first names.”
I guess I’ve got anonymous girls on the brain this week (and always, if I’m being honest) because I plowed through Go Ask Alice over the weekend for my candidacy exams and found myself telling a very boring party story about how the anonymous diarist of that shock and awe tale of drugs, satanism, and being a teenage girl was actually Mormon missionary and PhD-faker Beatrice Sparks. Both released in 1971, I found a strange kinship forming between the not-so-anonymous author of Go Ask Alice and the girl the wimmen forgot, despite the fact that from her pen and ink Betty, Veronica, Petunia Pig, Witch Hazel, Supergirl and others socked the patriarchy a good one in the “It Ain’t Me Babe” title track “Breaking Out.” And what better way to begin blogging my way through The Complete Wimmen’s Comix for you, readers who’ve stuck it out despite my infrequent posting, than to think out loud about second wave feminism, dumping your last name, and the price of anonymity?
From the mouths of babes in San Francisco living rooms, “It Ain’t Me Babe” is the first comic collected in The Complete Wimmen’s Comix and covers everything from fine-lined revenge fantasies (“OMA”) to classic underground LSD-trip strips like “Vegetables Arise!” and two of Robbins’s lush, big breasted fantasy goddesses in “Lavender” and “I Remember Telluria.” It’s “Telluria” that packs the most punch: our heroine, Carol, finds herself caught up in a raging matriarchy before awakening on the lab slab to discover she’s just traveled through time at the hands of Doctor Fell. “I belong to two worlds and yet neither, for I reject this time of steel death and violence,” she says, once she’s back in her crummy apartment. And in our final panel, Carol’s figure literally fades into two worlds: “My blood remembers…Remembers Telluria…”
But back to Carole with an “e.” Unlike our time traveling, past yearnin’, present day rejectin’ Carol of Robbins’s vision, Carole gave us a past, present, and future that Wimmens Comix could believe in as the publication gestated in the bad trips and bad vibes of the 70s underground comix scene with centerfold “Breaking Out” (not really a centerfold, forgive me all you nerds of the cloth [bound book]). Carole has no identifiable style or line, but is able to mimic perfectly the bubblegum forms of Betty and Veronica, vibrant superbodies of Supergirl and Superman, and a host of other female comics icons from comics heydays past. The thesis panel of “Breaking Out” is, of course, one depicting all those ex-golden girls of the strip hanging out in someone’s living room voicing their complaints about the patriarchy and stirring the second waves’ witches brew into a froth.
And it’s these panels of community building side by side in the living rooms of sisters that resonates eerily with Robbins’ introduction, which also depicts such gatherings of the “real” Wimmen in photographic and anecdotal evidence. But, again, we find girls obscured by a hand, effaced by the dropping their “slave names,” forgotten by their sisters despite the fact that they all sat side by side. Maybe I’m getting too Harvey Pekar and the phone book identity crisis here, but, who are these girls? Why can’t their sisters remember and recover their names? What’s in a name? In a world of vociferous feminists, literal icons like the Petunia Pigs and Veronicas of “Breaking Out,” where my shy girls at? The ones that time forgot?
Anyways y’all. I have to get back to diligently typing up candidacy exam notes so I’ll leave you to your own reflections. But I urge you, dear readers, to not forget the Anonymous Girls in your own lives. Remember…Remember Carole with an “e”. xoxo Rachel