As you know we have a series going on about her excellent book she created. We are shining a light on some of the great ones we have seen upon reading it. In light of that, Hope Nicholson was so generous to give us an interview about her book.
1. Where did the idea come about for a Superwomen book? How did you come up with the idea of what you wanted the book to be?
I wanted to write a history book on comics, and I presented a few ideas to Quirk books who had previously shown interest in working with me.
We guided the concept together until it is what it is now! It definitely was a collaborative effort, they wanted a feminist comics book, and I wanted a history of comics book, and we managed to make it both!
2. What impact has this book had on the community of readers, comic book lovers, and feminine heroines worldwide?
I’m not sure of any impact it’s had specifically, though the reviews have shown that many fans are delighted at finding out about new characters they’ve never heard of! That really was one of my goals, of presenting a history book in a new way, and also, maybe in a way to make fun of history books.
If any character can be part of history, why do we choose certain ones and not others? Who gets chosen and why? What is representative? So giving Wonder Woman and Superbitch equal presence in the book was something fun to do and a bit of a dig at other history books.
3. Did a lot of research go into creating this book? Or did you know some of it beforehand?
The project was definitely guided at the start by my overall knowledge of comics history, and feminist comic history in particular by the books I’ve read over the years by Trina Robbins.
That gave it a rough template, I knew I wanted to talk about the comics code authority, underground comics, and webcomics in particular, but there were giant holes in my knowledge of areas outside of that.
I also didn’t want just to copy a lot of other history books, so I did the most legwork I could see myself, regarding data collection and analysis. That way I know at least if I made a mistake in research, it was my mistake, not someone else’s I was copying!
This research included looking at data to determine what genres of comics came to prominence and faded over time. It also involved which characters were popular in each decade, and which publishers rose and fell as well.
I read a lot of back-matter, in order to get a feel of what comics were like in each decade. Such as reading a lot of letter pages and advertisements. If I could go back, I would have also made sure to read much more fanzines as well. Although, I read a few to get an idea of what the environment was like for readers then.
4. Follow up question to the previous one: did you learn something new while researching these superwomen?
A lot of what I learned was new! Two of my favorite discoveries was Helen Meyers, the president of Dell Comics. Helen testified at the juvenile delinquency hearings about comics and basically just blew everyone away with cutting through the bull.
She stated that her comics sold tens of times what the horror comics did. She also stated that the impact horror comics had was really quite small compared to the overall comic industry. The overall comic industry at the time was kid friendly and focused. But who remembers that? Still, a lot of people to this day believe that horror comics were vastly more popular and influential than they actually were.
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That’s the problem with histories! Another discovery I had was researching the artist Marcia Snyder. Marcia, a lesbian artist known for her ‘good girl’ pinup style comic heroines like Camilla, Queen of the Jungle. She had a great output of talent and is very likely the first ‘out’ woman in comics. However, very very little is known about her. I didn’t get much more information, unfortunately, outside of a few mentions of her by older artists, who confirm that she didn’t hide her sexuality and was a great inker.
I also was fascinated by the era of 1930s pulp comics. They were very very salacious, but still fun to read. The most unusual find was a rule list given out to artists (possibly in jest) by the publishers. It stated that no man or woman in the comics would be allowed to be fully naked, except for female corpses.
5. What is something readers don’t know about Hope Nicholson?
Aside from focusing on comics, my other passions are collecting vintage clothes, which seems to be appropriate for a historian!