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  • Writer's pictureTom Tennant

March 6th: Trina Robbins

Trina Robbins, a trailblazing artist, writer, and advocate for female artists and creators, has left an indelible mark on the industry. Her contributions to the world of comics span decades, from the Silver Age of comics through to today. 

Born Trina Perlson on August 17, 1938, in Brooklyn, N.Y., Robbins’ developed a passion for reading, storytelling, and comics that her mother, an educator, actively nurtured. In those early years, Robbins would search through spinner racks for comics featuring female protagonists, later drawing her own for science fiction fanzines, including Hugo-nominated Habakkuk.

She moved from New York to Los Angeles, met and married Paul Robbins, a magazine publisher, and started designing and selling clothes to many of L.A.’s burgeoning rock stars, including Joni Mitchell. Mitchell’s song Ladies of the Canyon features a character named Trina, a reference to Robbins.

“Trina wears her wampum beads, She fills her drawing book with line, Sewing lace on widows’ weeds, And filigree on leaf and vine”  - Joni Mitchell, “Ladies of the Canyon”

Robbins moved back to New York in the the late ‘60s and opened Broccoli, a clothing boutique, frequented by luminaries like Mama Cass and David Crosby. Artwork for the boutique’s ads, which ran in The East Village Other, an alternative paper, were comics-inspired pieces hand-drawn by Robbins. 

Empowering Women in Wimmin's Comix

Robbins carried that sensibility with her when she was first published in Gothic Blimp Works, part of the underground comix counterculture movement of the late ‘60s and early ‘70s. Her abstract comics attracted a growing fan base, and Robbins soon found herself returning to the West Coast. 

After reading Judy Gumbo Albert’s article

Why the Women are Revolting, Robbins was, according to a Vulture article, “transformed from an effervescent hippie into an ardent second-wave feminist.” 

Before the year was out, Robbins co-produced the groundbreaking, all-female-creators It Ain’t Me, Babe Comix, with Barbara “Willy” Mendes. It was a 36-page one-shot comic that featured, on its cover, Olive Oyl, Little Lulu, Wonder Woman, Sheena, Queen of the Jungle, Mary Marvel, and Elsie the Cow marching under the “Women’s Liberation” banner.

That would lead directly to Wimmin’s Comix, founded in 1972 by 10 women cartoonists. The comic became one of the most significant, and longest-running all-female comics anthology series. Over its two decades, Wimmin’s Comix introduced scores of talented cartoonists, including Carol Tyler, Mary Fleener, Dori Seda, Phoebe Gloeckner, Roberta Gregory, Melinda Gebbie, and many others. 

Her groundbreaking work in comics and community advocacy earned her a spot in the Will Eisner Hall of Fame, and Robbins continues to influence the industry by elevating women’s voices and female creators across the globe.

Further reading:

Last Girl Standing by Trina Robbins

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