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Saturday, April 22, 2017

Reggie Francia interviews Trina Robbins at Silicon Valley Comic Con 2017

If you only had 10 minutes to chat in-person with Trina Robbins, what would you talk about? You could easily spend hours chatting about her experiences working in the underground comix movement, her active role in promoting female creativity in the comic book medium and any anecdotes she had about some of the famous musicians she's met. Not only is she a sweet person, but she's also incredibly well-spoken and engaging to converse with. Thankfully, DC in the 80s correspondent Reggie Francia got to meet Ms Robbins at the 2017 Silicon Valley Comic Con and has the chance to ask her about her thoughts on Wonder Woman (this a DC comics blog, after all).    


Reggie: First up: your first published work (that we know of) was for Yellow Dog Comix...

Trina: That's right. That was in the late 60s -- 1968 or 1969.

Yellow Dog #11/12


Reggie: That was pretty much as underground/indie as you could get...

Trina: Absolutely undergound.

Reggie: Shortly thereafter it was the It Ain't Me, Babe comix one-shot in 1970.

Trina: That was the VERY FIRST all-women comic book, and I produced that.

Reggie: From then on, you had a pretty steady career working in underground comix and voicing your opinion on women (and feminism) in comic books. You had some work published in 1981's Eclipse Magazine.

Trina: I did in the 80s. And here -- [hands Reggie a book, the book is Sax Rohmer's Dope] -- this is a series that I serialized for Eclipse in the 80s that is now being collected into graphic novel form and will come out in 2017 this year.

excerpt from Eclipse Magazine #5 (1982) - illustrated by Trina Robbins

Sax Rohmer was a very beloved pulp writer in the early 20th century -- this story is from 1919 -- and he's probably best known as the creator of Fu Manchu.

Reggie: You even co-authored the Women and the Comics book with Catherine Yronwode [pronounced 'Ironwood'] in 1985.

Trina: That was the VERY FIRST history of women cartoonists that we did together. I've done many MANY since.

Reggie: So, now that we summed up your background, what were the circumstances that led you to work at DC comics in 1986?

Trina: The four-part The Legend of Wonder Woman series that I drew in 1986? They were between comics, as it were. I mean, they had just killed her off in their Crisis On Infinite Earths and George Perez was working on reconstructing her, but they had this four month period with NOTHING. So I always felt that they just had this meeting and were like "what should we do?" and somebody said "what the hell! why don't we just give it to Trina -- we all know she loves Wonder Woman. Even if she screws it up, it's just four issues and then George Perez will come in." So I think THAT'S what happened.

Issues #1 and #4 of The Legend of Wonder Woman mini-series - cover art by Trina Robbins


Reggie: Wonder Woman was put on a temporary hiatus for at least a year between the end of Wonder Woman v1 #329 (1986) and Wonder Woman v2 #1 (1987). How was fandom feeling about Wonder Woman at the time? In your opinion... was she in need of a MAJOR OVERHAUL?

Trina: I think she has OFTEN been in need of a major overhaul. I adore Wonder Woman, obviously -- I'm sure you know that -- but the trouble is that she IS a comic book character and she's owned by DC and they don't have any SET rules. So, whoever takes her over can just do whatever they want with her. Sometimes it's wonderful and sometimes it's terrible.

Reggie: I agree.

Trina: The artists are always guys who can't keep their hands off her costume -- they always want to redesign her costume. There was this one outfit that looked like it was from a 1980s punk nightclub or something. Terrible outfits. Right now I love what she's wearing.

Wonder Woman #98 (1995) - "80s punk nightclub" costume - art by Mike Deodato, Jr.

Reggie: How about the Diana Prince white outfit?

Trina: Ugh! Ugh! That was in the late 60s, and that was based on Emma Peel's catsuit from the Avengers TV show. It was terrible.

Wonder Woman v1 #189 (1970) - Diana Prince "white outfit" - art by Mike Sekowsky


Reggie: You are credited as being the FIRST woman to illustrate a Wonder Woman comic in 1986's The Legend of Wonder Woman mini-series. (A woman illustrating a Wonder Woman series makes perfect logical sense, truthfully.) I'm understanding that the mini-series was a 'send-off' to the character -- this was both yours and Kurt Busiek's 'good-bye' to the character?

Trina: Busiek wrote it and we co-plotted it. At the time, I didn't feel secure enough to write it myself. If this were to happen again today, I would totally write it myself.

Reggie: I scanned carefully for any easter eggs you may have included in your art, but I couldn't find any... side-stepping the obvious that Suzie is meant to represent a 7 year-old you -- care to indulge us if we missed anything?

The Legend of Wonder Woman #1 (1986) - Wonder Woman meets Suzie. Illustrated by Trina Robbins

Trina: Susie was indeed me. I even have a photo of me at home with my braids looking just like her.

Reggie: 1989's Wonder Woman Annual #2 had a predominantly female staff of writers, pencillers, inkers, colorists and letterers. You even wrote yourself into your contribution of that Annual.

Trina: Oh yeah! The was a Wonder Woman special -- 'all-women'!

Reggie: Do we have you to thank for that?

Trina: No. It was DC or maybe George Perez  who thought it would be a good idea.

Wonder Woman Annual #2 (1989) - Diana meets Trina - illustrated by Ramona Fradon

Reggie: In your opinion, as per Wonder Woman's publication history, what was done RIGHT about the character and what was done WRONG? I realize you're a longtime fan, so I'd like to hear this.

Trina: You mean, in all 75 years that there was Wonder Woman?

Okay, well I think the original Wonder Woman was PERFECT. As far as I'm concerned, that's the TRUE Wonder Woman.

I think they really went wrong in 1968 when they took away her powers and put her into the Emma Peel jumpsuit. And she opened a boutique! I mean, what kind of Wonder Woman opens a boutique?

Wonder Woman #181 (1969) - Diana's boutique - pencilled by Mike Sekowsky, inked by Dick Giordano 


I think, more recently, oh my god -- I've forgotten his name -- I've mercifully forgotten his name. He brought in all those Greek Gods... he brought in a character called The First Born. Wonder Woman was just, like, kinda following along and was kinda observing, and it was all about these OTHER characters and not her. It was terrible. He then invented this horrible thing about her father being Zeus and she's NOT made out of clay. This is a guy who knows nothing about mythology, the great heroes --- I mean Adam [of Adam & Eve] for God sakes -- and lots of other mythic heroes are created out of clay -- and she IS a mythic hero. In fact, tomorrow there's going to be a panel on super-heroines and I'm going to be on it JUST to talk about Wonder Woman.

Reggie: In 2005 there was a story in which Wonder Woman broke Maxwell Lord's neck. I thought that was really out of character.

Trina: That WAS totally out of character. Wonder Woman doesn't kill. She's no Batman. She reasons, she has compassion, and she uses her lasso. She doesn't kill.

Reggie: A little off-topic, but you actually have a co-creation credit on Warren Publishing's Vampirella (1969). I found that out just a few weeks ago by accident.

Trina: That's an exaggeration -- all I did was design her costume. People think I created her and I'm always correcting them because I do not like to take credit for something I didn't do. I never drew Vampirella.



Reggie: So you knew Jim Morrison of The Doors, Cass Elliot (aka Mama Cass) of The Mamas and The Papas, and Joni Mitchell even referenced you in a song? Which other famous musicians were you friends with?

Trina: I have my memoirs coming out from Fantagraphics coming out this September 2017. We'll leave it at that. ;)

Reggie: Will do. Thank you for chatting with us, Ms Robbins.


-Reggie

Reggie Francia got hooked on comics back in the '80s because his parents thought it would help with his reading skills. It did help with his reading skills, but it also turned him into a comic book junkie. Being an E.R. nurse, medical devices in comics drawn incorrectly still irks him.



Joanna Molloy from The Fresh Toast also interviewed interviewed Trina Robbins about her work as the first female artist on Wonder Woman and her comic book roots. Great read! Check it here.


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