08/11/2017

Sally here with Jenny Zervakis and Jackie Ormes, plus other comics and news from the wide world of #VisibleWomen!

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Strange Growths #14 by Jenny Zervakis

 

This comic turned up in the latest box we received at Copacetic Comics from Spit and a Half Distro and I couldn’t have been happier. I loved the Strange Growths collection that John Porcellino put out for Jenny Zervakis earlier this year, which covered the comics she made from 1991 to 1997 (issues 1-13 – get a copy of the book HERE!)

Strange Growths #14 (1998) carries on with 7 short stories and a lengthy letter from the brother who showed up in more than a few of her earlier comics. The collection showcases the poetic way that Jenny captures the weirdness of life, with overheard conversations, dream sequences, housing woes and tragic animal deaths, and the shortness and sweetness of it all.

I particularly enjoyed the story Like a Butterfly With One Wing. Simple drawings, no text, and the mysteries of nature and humans.

Get a copy of Strange Growths #14 from Spit and a Half, and pick up issues #15 and #16 as well.

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I read Nancy Goldstein’s biography of Jackie Ormes a few years ago (Jackie Ormes: The First African American Woman Cartoonist), and ever since then I’ve been meaning to visit the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh to take a look at Jackie’s comics in The Pittsburgh Courier. I finally made it last week, and was thrilled to discover the debut of her very first published strip – Torchy Brown in “Dixie to Harlem” – in the May 1st, 1937 copy of the paper. Jackie had been a proofreader and reporter for the Courier right out of high school, but with the debut of her comic strip she became the first Black woman to become a professional newspaper cartoonist.

The Courier ran Torchy Brown for a year. It’s the story of an adventurous girl from Mississippi who decides to venture north with the aim of becoming a star at the Cotton Club. Here is the first month’s worth of strips:

I’m blown away by how good Jackie was at cartooning right off the bat. She’s a terrific artist, great at characterizations, and the strip is quite funny. Action and adventure, physical humor, glamour – it’s all there in the first 5 strips.

Jackie moved with her husband to Chicago shortly afterward, and published a few shorter running strips in The Chicago Defender (most notably Candy, about a wise-cracking domestic worker, which ran for 4 months). By September 1945 she was back in the Courier however, with Patty-Jo ‘n’ Ginger, which ran for 11 years and featured the snappy political commentary of little sister Patty-Jo, and the silent foil of gorgeous big sister Ginger. I’ll be heading back to the library to catch up with those ladies! Torchy Brown made a second appearance later in Jackie’s career, in Torchy in Heartbeats (1950 – ran for 4 years).

I highly recommend Nancy Goldstein’s bio if you’re at all curious about Jackie Ormes – it’s thorough, and full of pictures.

For further reading at the moment, check out this article from the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library and Museum on Jackie.

No matter the strip, Ormes was presenting African American women in a way that no other cartoonist in the papers had done previously. Her characters were demure and dynamic, involved in and commenting on current events, sporting the latest fashions. They were upper class women.” – Caitlin McGurk

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In Other Words

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Suzy and Cecil – 8-11-2017 – by Sally Ingraham

 

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Sally Ingraham

Sally Ingraham

Sally is a cartoonist, educator, and journalist based in Pittsburgh, PA. She makes comics about Pittsburgh and bird watching, and co-writes the "Suzy and Cecil" daily strip (with Gabriella Tito). She facilitates the Comics Workbook Rowhouse Residency, is a managing editor of the CW Daily News, and runs the CW Roller Derby "of the mind" League. She is focused on documenting the current and historic place of women in the comics industry, is working to build the Women's Comics Library, and is developing a comics curriculum by and for girls.
Sally Ingraham

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