The Truth About Rejection…Trina Robbins

23 Aug

I can’t think of any other individual who has contributed as much to the comic book art form as award winning artist and historian Trina Robbins. A pioneer of both the Underground Comix and Feminist movements of the 1960’s and 70’s, it was Ms. Robbins who melded these two passions to create the first all-women comic book anthology with the 1970 one-shot It Ain’t Me Babe (at a time predating Gloria Steinem’s Ms.), followed up with the long running Wimmen’s Comix. She is the artist who designed the internationally recognizable visual of Forrest J. Ackerman’s sci-fi icon Vampirella (a look emulated at comic book conventions ever since by numerous young women seeking the empowerment of their favorite hip heroine from Drakulon); and garnered further notoriety with her humor pieces which regularly accompanied the likes of Vaughn Bode and Shary Flenniken in the pages of National Lampoon during its early heyday. With academic works such as Women and the Comics (co-authored with Cat Yronwoode), A Century of Women Cartoonists, and The Great Women Super Heroes, Ms. Robbins continues to rescue the amazing contributions made by early female cartoonists from the obscurity which at one time threatened to overtake the works of past luminaries like Rose O’ Neill, Tarpe Mills, and Nell Brinkley. Trina Robbins has become a luminary as well, encouraging new generations of women cartoonists to celebrate and add to their important heritage in the industry. She is a lasting inspiration to one and all.              

Trina Robbins:

Have I ever had to deal with rejection?  Have I ever had to deal with rejection!!!

Where do I start?  When Jay Lynch rejected my comic back in 1971 because he thought it was all women’s libberish anti-male?  Or the 80s when mainstream publishers rejected my proposals because “This is nice, but it’s aimed at girls, and girls don’t read comics.”

I’ll tell you my Xena story.  It was 1998, at the San Diego comic con.  I passed the Topps table and saw — Xena comic books!  I was an enormous Xena fan, I loved Xena, but I had not known there were Xena comics.  I approached the guy standing behind the table and told him, “Hi, my name is Trina Robbins, I’ve already written some Wonder Woman comics and would kill to write Xena.”  He shrugged me off with a bored, “We have our own writers.”  Ooooh kay… I walked on, and came to a woman standing behind the table.  Figuring the worst that could happen was another rejection, I approached her and repeated my spiel.  To my delight, she was entirely open and said, “sure, contact me after the con, we could use a two part Gabrielle story.” Long story made short: she turned out to be Renee Witterstaetter, she liked and accepted my Gabrielle two parter, it was published with a very good artist, and then Renee left Topps.

A new editor took over, I submitted ideas to him, and although they were accepted by the TV people (all submissions had to be accepted by the TV people), they were never published, and then Topps dropped Xena, and the comic was taken over by Dark Horse, which didn’t want to hear anything from me.

Renee and I are still friends, and I like to tell this story to my classes as an example of trying again after being rejected.



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