Trina Robbins Interview!
A lot of things come to mind when we think of Trina Robbins: Incomparable. Badass. Wonder Woman. Sassy. Outspoken. Feminist. Legend. Type of woman we want to be when we grow up. (Shhhh…we’re still growing up! There is still time!)
We were first exposed to the power that is Trina Robbins at Denver Comic Con 2015, when we saw her on a panel about the Golden Age of Comics. She was outspoken and inspiring and really the best part of that panel, so naturally we were thrilled when she returned to Denver Comic Con in 2016. As a speaker at a main event panel kicking off the 2016 show, Trina assured us that, having not been invited, she was about to crash a panel later that morning featuring creators of Wonder Woman comics. She made good on that promise, and for many of us, that Wonder Woman panel was one of the highlights of the weekend.
Trina has worked as both an illustrator and writer in comics. She was the first woman to draw Wonder Woman in Wonder Woman’s title comic. She’s also a herstorian, highlighting women contributions to comics, her most recent being Pretty in Ink. Trina’s history book Women at War is available for free at her website.
Many of us have felt slightly queasy at some of what happens in comics, and Trina has been there to make guidelines. Posing and clothing matter in art! Major female characters should have a bible as to how they are drawn. When they don’t that opens the door for artists to exaggerate the character’s appearance to be highly sexual. Trina’s matter-of-fact stance that women should be depicted as humans, in how they are drawn and in how they are written, is inspiring.
Now, we get a chance to help Trina Robbins! Trina has a Kickstarter to collect and print her comic series Dope, that we talk about more below! It goes through 8/19/2016!
SiG: How long have you been going to cons?
Trina Robbins: Wow. My first con was Phil Seuling’s second NY Comic Con, in 1969. I was on an underground cartoonist’s panel, and I remember wandering around the floor and over hearing 2 teenage boys talking and one of them said, “I hear Trina’s coming.” And I thought omigod, somebody knows who I am!
SiG: What is your favorite Wonder Woman arc you worked on?
Trina Robbins: I have loved the last 3 that I wrote, but I guess I’d have to say my 30 page Sensation comic. I’ve always liked the Cheetah and thought that she had possibilities going beyond being just another villain, so it was satisfying to write a story in which she and Wonder Woman work together. Not to mention I was happy to be able to squeeze in stuff about vivisection and destroying our rain forests without (I hope) getting too preachy.
SiG: We’ve always been a bit confused about how Wonder Woman grows up in an all female society, but often has been given male love interests, and doesn’t seek out a lot of female friends or companions when she leaves that society. Do you have an opinion on that transition for her away from the amazons?
Trina Robbins: I loved the Holliday girls! But the guys who in the past wrote Wonder Woman, I think gave her all those male love interests so nobody would think she was a Lesbian. If I could write an extended story arc, I would give her back a version of the Holliday girls.
SiG: Have you seen the new Wonder Woman movie trailer? What did you think?
Trina Robbins: I love it, but it’s so dark! Isn’t it ever daytime with full sun on Paradise Island?
SiG: For anyone just starting to read/see your work what should they start with?
Trina Robbins: My early stuff makes me cringe, but around the 80s I think I hit my stride. You probably know that there’s a Kickstarter to reprint my adaptation of Sax Rohmer’s novel, Dope, and I think that really holds up as some of my best work. Or maybe they should read my last and final history of women cartoonists, Pretty in Ink, or one of my non-comics books that I really like, such as Tender Murderers, my book about women who kill.
SiG: Yes, the Kickstarter to collect and print your Dope comic into a graphic novel! It looks amazing. (I can’t believe I didn’t ask about it first. We are a little Wonder Woman obsessed lately.) A female becoming ensnared in London’s drug culture seems like a very dark topic for comics in the 80s. What was that like creating it?
Trina Robbins: Haha! I too am obsessed by Wonder Woman! I can’t believe that she’s finally done right: story, art, and all! We need no further proof that we women are winning the comics world.
About Dope: Ooh, I wouldn’t call it dark so much as pulpy. Sax Rohmer was a master pulp writer, and this story is absolute blood and thunder, opium dens and all. The characters are so colorful, they just asked to be interpreted in comic form, but this is in no way grim’n’gritty, like those awful comics of the 90s. Of course I drew it, so we don’t have “bad girl” characters with brokeback poses, and I carefully researched the clothing, using old magazines from the period, unlike so many male cartoonists of that time, who thought if you just made the dresses long, it looked old. I am a stickler for research, in case you didn’t know. Dope was one story that I thoroughly enjoyed adapting!
SiG: You came into an industry where women characters were lacking, what do you feel like you brought to your women characters?
Trina Robbins: In those early days, when the industry was hyper male-dominated, my characters were fantasy reflections of me. Just like Tarpe Mills’ character looked like her and ever had her cat, enabling Tarpe to have adventures on paper, while the flesh and blood Tarpe sat at her drawing table, I could have adventures and be different kinds of women just by drawing them.
SiG: What was the most fun character to work on?
Trina Robbins: GoGirl!, done by Anne Timmons and me. I loved creating that character, my take on the superhero, and Anne and I made a great team — she is a pleasure to work with, and she’s such a good artist! Too bad the book was before its time, back in the days when the comic shops were all guy stuff so we got lousy distribution.
SiG: In your career, what did you get away with that you were surprised you got away with?
Trina Robbins: When I wrote “Wonder Woman, the now and Future story,” beautifully drawn by Colleen Doran, I was able to list domestic violence hotlines and shelters here and in the UK on the inside back cover. People have told me, “How good it was that DC included that list!” And I respond, “DC didn’t include it, *I* included it!” Still, they let me, and that was good.
SiG: What is your favorite story about your time in the industry to tell (and please tell it!)
Trina Robbins: Well, okay, it should probably be a positive one, huh? Here’s one I tell when people ask me for advice: It was at a San Diego Comic Con, around 1998, and I walk by the Topps table and see that they’re publishing Xena comics, and my heart skips a beat because I am such a Xena fan. So I go over to the guy standing behind the table and I say, “Hi, my name is Trina Robbins and I’ve written Wonder Woman and I would kill to write Xena.” And he’s all snooty and nose in the air and says, “We already have our writers.” So I could have been Hemingway, but he doesn’t care. So I walk a little further down the table and there’s a woman. So I go up to her and repeat my spiel and she says, “Sure, email me,” and hands me her card. It’s Renee Witterstaeter, and we have since become friends and I love her! Long story short, I emailed her when I got home and she wound up accepting my 2 part Gabrielle story. Not as good an ending: Renee left Topps shortly after that, my next editor was a guy, and even though the TV people okayed my next Xena story and I wrote the whole thing, he never used it. But the moral is, if one editor doesn’t like your proposal, try another editor.
SiG: We try our best to promote women doing great work, and support any artists creating fully realized female characters. Is there anything else we can be doing to encourage stories with great female characters?
Trina Robbins: I think you’re doing it — you, and all the groups like you. There has never been a better time for women in comics!