Saturday, March 19, 2011

Girls Read Comics

In THE GREAT COMIC BOOK HEROES (1965), Jules Feiffer wrote: "Well, I can't comment on the image girls had of Wonder Woman.  I never knew they read her -- or any comic book.  That girls had a preference for my brand of literature would have been more of a frightening image to me than any number of men being beaten up by Wonder Woman."

Perhaps Feiffer, who was 15 years old in 1944, was too infatuated with the budding curves of the opposite sex to notice what they were reading; or maybe he hadn't noticed them at all, because he "stayed in the house all day and drew pictures."

A 1944 report by the Market Research Company of America showed that 95% of boys and 91% of girls aged 6-11 read comics; 87% of boys and 81% of girls aged 12-17; 41% of males and 28% of females aged 18-30; and 16% of males and 12% of females over the age of thirty.  The younger girls and boys were reading a dozen comics a month on average.  These statistics don't include the daily newspaper strips or Sunday funnies.

Girls might not have been as interested as the boys were in superdummies punching each other in the face, but there were alternatives available in abundance: Archie and other teen humour comics; funny animal comics; romance comics; and career girls, like Millie the Model, Tessie the Typist and Katy Keene.

Below is some photographic evidence that girls read comics.  A few of the photos are contrived, others taken surreptitiously.  I was able to date a number of the photos by identifying some of the comics.

Girl reading the comics section, 1903.  No Little Nemo, yet, but by this time there were countless other strips available, including Rudolph Dirks' Katzenjammer Kids, Outcault's Buster Brown, Jimmy Swinnerton's Little Tigers, Frederick Burr Opper's Happy Hooligan, and Bunny Schultze's Foxy Grandpa.

Circa 1910.


Reading the Boston Sunday Post funnies.  The lady in the window above is either curious about this photo, or she has superhuman eyesight and is reading over the girl's shoulder.

Siblings reading Sunday funnies, 1924.  Note the fashionable headband.

In this 1932 photo, a little girl is reading a truly obscure comic strip, The Clownies, by Hal Cochran and Joe King.  The strip below is almost certainly Animal Cracks by Joe King.  The Clownies ran from about 1931 to 1933 in what seems to be only a handful of newspapers, mostly in the American midwest.

Kids sitting on the newsstand.  The girl is reading Girls' Romances #13 (March 1952); the boy is reading the first issue of  Tom Corbett, Space Cadet (technically, Four Color #378, February 1952).  Presumably, the boy with the cowboy hat is reading a western title.

Girls sitting on store floor.  One is reading Ha Ha Comics #85 (Sept. 1952); behind them can be seen Tarzan's Jungle Annual #1 (Aug. 1952; Dell Giant), and on the racks Thrilling Romances #21 (month unknown, 1952), Kathy #12 (month unknown, 1952; Standard), Bobby Benson's B-Bar-B Riders #15 (July 1952), Felix the Cat #32 (June 1952), and Walt Disney's Mickey Mouse (actually Four Color #411, August/September 1952).











The lady is holding a pile of comics, including Fox's Western Outlaws (#18, November 1948).  The girl is reading some kind of "funnies".

Comics for sale, half price.  Good to have them at twice the price when you're out in the middle of nowhere.  The ones I can make out are Mutt and Jeff #18 (Summer 1945); Captain Marvel, Jr. #31 (July 1945); New Funnies #101 (July 1945); Gene Autry (actually Four Color #75, month unknown, 1945); Blue Bolt Vol. 6 #2 (August 1945); and Wilbur #5 (Summer 1945).  Obscured by the girl's legs is an issue of A-1, starring Kerry Drake (1944), which contained no number or date, but it might be #2 in the A-1 series (numbering starts with the third issue).  A-1 featured a different title for each of its 139 issues.  There are also some Big Little Books on top (Bugs Bunny, Donald Duck and Aircraft Carriers).  The tough-looking proprietor is grimacing, as if he's about to say to the small boy "This ain't a library, kid!"

Walt Disney's Comics and Stories #27 (December 1942)

A bunch of brats at a newsstand, 1952.  The boy on the right -- well, the less said, the better.  The blonde girl beside him is reading Donald Duck (actually Dell's Four Color #408, July/August 1952); the brunette is reading something or other; the boy beside her is reading Marge's Little Lulu #48 (June 1952).  In the lower stand behind them can be seen copies of Rex Allen #5 (June 1952); Lassie #8 (July 1952); Archie #57 (July 1952); Popeye #21 (July 1952); Tom and Jerry #96 (July 1952); Jungle Comics #150 (June 1952); Woody Woodpecker (actually Four Color #405, June/July 1952); Mickey Mouse (actually Four Color #401, June/July 1952); Sparkle #23 (July 1952); and Tip Topper (possibly #17, July 1952).  In the upper stand can be seen Howdy Doody #17 (July/August 1952); Gene Autry #64 (June 1952); Red Ryder #107 (June 1952); Felix the Cat #31 (May 1952); Tarzan #33 (June 1952); Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies #128 (June 1952); New Funnies #185 (July 1952); and Tim Holt (possibly #29, May 1952).

Boston, 1950.  The girl at the left is holding Buster Bunny #4 (1950; no month given)

At a London newsstand, 1935.

This girl doesn't care to have storybooks read to her.  Instead, she's immersed in an unknown comic book.  There's a copy of Dell's Tarzan #83 (August 1956) beside her.

Newburgh, New York, late 1930s.  A few piles of comics and lots of Big Little Books.  A mini convention.  The girl at the right is reading Tip Top Comics #12 (April 1937).

Reading Walt Disney's Comics and Stories #83 (August 1947).

Not one of these fine gentlemen is giving up his seat for a lady.  You can blame comic books for their bad manners.  The boy directly above the girl is reading Marvel Mystery Comics #70 (March 1946).  The boy leaning against the dresser is reading an issue of Four Favorites, published from 1941-1947.  On the floor is Science Comics #1 (March 1951), a Canadian one-shot that had at least two different covers.

1955

1955.  It's impossible to say which comic strip has this young lady's attention, but she's probably not too keen on Mary Worth and Judge Parker, soap operas both, and still running.  The lesser-known Judge Parker debuted November 24, 1952.

This store can't seem to afford lights.  Visible are Giggle Comics #72 (July/August 1950); The Texan #9 (August 1950); Roy Rogers #31 (July 1950); Western Comics #16 (August/September 1950); and New Funnies, probably #161 (July 1950).

Waiting for the parade to start, Minnesota, 1946.  These young ladies have decidedly diverse tastes.  The girl at right is reading the very violent Crime Does Not Pay #44 (March 1946); her friend is reading Walt Disney's Comics and Stories #70 (though the cover says Vol.6 No.10; July 1946); the next one is reading Future World #1 (Summer 1946), a comic destined to last only two issues; the rest are reading celebrity gossip rags.

Who needs the tintinnabulation of rock and roll when you can read Tintin instead?  (1959)

Dell Giant Comics had a convoluted numbering system, so let's just say this bright-eyed cutie is reading Tom and Jerry Summer Fun #1 (July 1954), and leave it at that.  In any case, a comic is an oasis in this dull office.  The lost little girl, waiting in a police station, seems unfazed by her predicament.

1958

The Haves and the Have Nots.  The girl grinning at left is holding Walt Disney's Comics and Stories #11 (August 1941); the boy has Batman #6 (August/September 1941); the girl beside him has Famous Funnies #63 (October 1939).  It's hard to say what comic the girl at right is holding: the top half of the cover is torn off, so the newsdealer probably got five cents for it and the comic company got zero.  The title page seems to say "Samson".  Fox published Samson during 1940 and 1941, but he also appeared in Big-3 at the same time; then again, it could be a Biblical comic.

Three enthusiastic comic book readers, 1950s.

This little gal looks happy, possibly because she's got a copy of Spitfire Comics, either #1 (August 1941) or #2 (October 1941).  Harvey published only two issues of this 100-page digest-sized comic, featuring superhero and adventure stories.

Comics in bed.  The boy is reading Felix the Cat #4 (August/September 1948); no old comics for her: Thoroughly Modern Millie is reading Leading Comics #41 (February/March 1950), originally a superhero title, but with #15 (Summer 1945) the contents changed to "funny animals".

By the expression on her face you'd think she was reading a horror comic -- or, at least, a horrible comic.  1950s.

1956 comics galore for these two young ladies, identified as Lee and Jane, thrown onto the "parent-teacher approved" rack.   Visible are Popeye #37 (July-September); Lassie #30 (September/October); Mickey Mouse #49 (August); Blondie #93 (August); Nancy and Sluggo #134 (July); Real Screen Comics #101 (August), featuring the Fox and the Hound, present since the first issue; Bugs Bunny #50 (August/September); Dick Tracy #102 (August); Walt Disney's Comics and Stories #191 (August); and Jughead Annual #4.  The rack farther back has another pile of Bugs Bunny #50, with Detective Comics #234 (August) below it, and a Sad Sack comic, amongst others.

1950s.  A few hours earlier this soggy, mangled comic was in mint condition.

Newsstand in Corpus Christi, Texas, 1949.  The boy is reading Fawcett's Funny Animals #62 (Spring 1949).  The gleeful-looking girl hasn't decided yet what she's going to read for free in the store, but there's a lot to choose from: Smash Comics #83 (June 1949); Modern Comics #86 (June 1949); Police Comics #91 (June 1949); Wanted Comics #20 (May 1949); Babe Ruth Sports Comics #2 (June 1949); Superboy #2 (May/June 1949); Amazing Mysteries #33 (July 1949); Boy Comics #46 (June 1949); Black Cat Western #17 (May 1949); Georgie Comics #23 (July 1949); and an unidentified Whiz comic.

Girl reading a western comic, 1951

Picnic with a comic book, Oregon, 1941.

Reading the Sunday Funnies.  The Dickie Dare strip is signed "Odin", who was actually a woman, Mabel Burwick.  Mabel drew the strip from late May of 1944 to early March of 1948.  She was the assistant of Coulton Waugh, from whom she took over the strip; they married January of 1945.

1952 classroom.  A civil defense comic ain't as exciting as a Mary Marvel comic, but any port in the storm will do.

A girl and her dog making themselves at home at a well-managed newsstand with lots of titles, arranged in alphabetical order.  On the stand can be seen copies of (in alphabetical order) Patches #7 (April 1947); Patsy Walker #10 (April 1947); Picture Stories From American History #3 (Spring 1947); Police Comics #65 (April 1947); Raggedy Ann and Andy #10 (March 1947), Real Life Comics #38 (date unknown); Rusty #12 (April 1947); Sensation #64 (April 1947); The Shadow #12 (March 1947); Smitty #138 (actually Four Color; 1947; no month given); Sparky Watts #5 (1947; this title didn't give dates); Star-Spangled Comics #67 (April 1947); Super Magician Vol. 5, #8 (February/March 1947); Superman #45 (March/April 1947); Terry and the Pirates #3 (April 1947); Terry Toons, almost certainly #54 (March 1947); Thrilling Comics #59 (April 1947); True Comics #58 (March 1947); True Sport Picture Stories Vol. 3, #12 (March/April 1947); Whiz #84 (April 1947); Wonder Comics #11 (April 1947); Wonder Woman #22 (March/April 1947); and Zoot #6 (March/April 1947).

Curled up on the couch, 1950

Kids reading the Sunday funnies: front and back, Joe Palooka and Nancy.

Parisian comic book market, 1949.  This girl is obviously a comic book junkie.  (Photo by Walt Girdner)

Even ghost girls from Florida read comics -- but only Dell approved comics.  Visible are Dell's Comic Album #3 (September/November 1958), featuring Donald Duck; Porky Pig #60 (September 1958); Tarzan #108 (October 1958); and Tweety and Sylvester #22 (September 1958).

Melbourne, Australia 1950s.  The boy in the middle is reading Sergeant Pat of the Radio-Patrol, a long-running black and white title from Atlas Publications.  The comic collected adventures from the American strip, Radio Patrol (1933-1950).  Judging by the verbiage above the title and the World Famous Comic Annual #4 (possibly November 1952) ad on the back cover, the comic he's holding probably dates to 1952 or 1953.

New York City tenement, 1943.  The boy 3rd from left is reading an oldie goldie, Zip Comics, probably #7 (August 1940), with cover damage along spine and under the "Z".  The boy next to him is reading Action Comics #62 (July 1943).

1938.  The girl on the left is reading Detective Comics #18 (August 1938); the girl on the right is reading The Cocomalt Big Book of Comics (1938; a one-shot premium).

1957.  The Coral Gables Woman's Club organised a group called the Decent Literature Council, which kept horror comics off the newsstands.  These siblings, Maureen and Lorraine, could only glom onto "decent" comics, like Turok, Son of Stone #5 (September 1956), Dennis the Menace #18 (September 1956), Casper, the Friendly Ghost #49 (October 1956), Rin Tin Tin #12 (March/April 1956), Bugs Bunny #45 (October/November 1955) and #50 (August/September 1956), The Little People (actually Four Color #692, March 1956), and an unidentified title, for their dubious entertainment.  Why do grown ups always have to spoil a kid's fun?

1946.  I have it on good authority that 10-year-old Suzy especially enjoyed following the adventures and antics found in the strips Little Orphan Annie, Blondie, Tarzan, Mandrake the Magician, and Bringing Up Father.  In fact, here she is rereading the funny pages in the evening, even though she gets up bright and early every morning to beat her brother to the paper.

What ever they're reading must be pretty drab

The latest craze -- 3D comics!  Three Dimension Comics (September 1953), starring Mighty Mouse, was the first of its kind.

Don't know what the girl is reading, but you can see by the tear at the bottom corner the boy lost the battle for this particular page -- and the little #@$%@&* still won't leave her alone!

That one kid is reading Ace Comics #90 (September, 1944) in this July 1946 photo by John DeBiase.

The girl on the left is reading Comics on Parade #87 (January 1953), featuring Nancy and Sluggo.  The girl on the right is immersed in some newspaper funnies.

Mississippi, 1920s.  I have it on good authority they used to fight over the comics section.

This Pennsylvania drugstore seems to carry only the Dell line of comics, but these two girls are spellbound just the same.  On the rack can be seen Tarzan #105 (June 1958); Chip 'N' Dale #14 (June 1958); Donald Duck #60 (July 1958); Uncle Scrooge #22 (June 1958); Will-Yum! (actually Four Color #902, month unknown, 1958); and Beetle Bailey #15 (June/July 1958).  There's something on the rack called Billy and his Steam Roller, but it's actually a Wonder book, not a comic.

Girls reading the funnies while waiting for a train in Scotland.  (1935)

School children waiting for polio shots, 1954.  Hopefully, none of them are reading Jack Cole's infamous "Murder, Morphine and Me" from True Crime Comics #2 (May 1947), in which a woman is about to be stabbed in the eye with a hypodermic needle.


This darling little girl can't read quite yet, but she enjoys looking at all the colourful drawings.

Sunshine and fresh morning air.  Who cares about lettermen and malt shops?  This teenage girl is engrossed in Daredevil #44 (September 1947)

A dog, a doll, and a comic book -- this gal has it all!  She's reading Zane Grey's New Riders of the Purple Sage (actually, Dell Four Color #372, February 1952).

Life is good for this toddler, reading comic books outside on a sunny day in August 1955.  On the step beside her is Walt Disney's Mickey Mouse (actually Four Color #427, October/November 1952).

Is that pretty smile for this Robinson Crusoe adaptation?  Originally released as Classic Comics #10 (April 1943), with a 10-cent cover price, this edition of  Classics Illustrated #10, one of many reprints,  dates to July 1952 (HRN 97), if the ad on the back is any indication.  The price went up to 15 cents.

Actresses in a school play waiting for their cue -- or maybe even ignoring their cue!  One is reading Felix the Cat #41 (May 1953), another is reading Little Eva #9 (no month, 1953).

A girl named Holly reading the Sunday funnies, 1942.

Getting loads of enjoyment from the Sunday funnies, with the brutally violent Dick Tracy on the first page, and the increasingly far-fetched adventures of Little Orphan Annie at the back.  These comics were published November 22, 1942.

"Comics is good learnin'," insists this progressive school teacher.  Window row: girl reading Funny Films #12 (August 1951), boy reading New Funnies #170 (April 1951), girl reading New Funnies #168 (February 1951).  Next row: the boy's comic is obscured, the girl is reading Walt Disney's Donald Duck (actually Four Color #300, November 1950), the boys are reading New Funnies #169 (March 1951) and, in his first comic book appearance, Francis the Talking Mule (actually Four Color #335, June 1951), and the girl is reading Marge's Little Lulu #32 (February 1951).

"Kathy", with a leg-brace, reading Superman #72 (September/October 1951), from "The Birthday Letter", a 1952 episode of the Superman TV show.

Reading Bringing Up Father, early 1950s

Sharing the Comics section, 1954.

Girl reading an issue of Crime and Justice -- and looking quite thrilled, I must say -- one of many "how to" manuals, according to Dr. Frederick Wertham in his article, "What Parents Don't Know About Comic Books", published in the November 1953 issue of The Ladies Home Journal.  That brand-new copy of The Haunt of Fear (#19, November 1953) contains the notorious story, "Foul Play", in which a baseball game is played using body parts.

Girl reading what might be Marge's Little Lulu.

Reading comics at the salon must have been some crazy fad!

"This is way better than Twitter," opine these three gorgeous supergirls.  And they'd be right.  The lass at left is reading Wonder Woman #98 (May 1958), and the maiden in the middle is reading Superboy #66 (July 1958).  There's a comic in less-than-mint condition in front of them.


Business is booming.  The girl on the left is reading Rusty Riley (actually Four Color #418, August 1952), and leaning on her feet is Goofy #46 (month unknown, 1951); the girl on the right is reading Tip Topper #16 (May 1952); leaning against the wonderfully-painted stand is the back cover of a comic advertising Suzie (an Archie publication), and Little Beaver #3 (October-December 1951; technically it's an issue of Four Color, but I don't know which number); the girl at the top left is holding Krazy Kat #3 (November 1952).

The girl at left is reading Peanuts (actually Four Color #1015, August-October 1959)

9-year-old Bugs Bunny fan, Karen, is the winner of the preteen division of the National Newspaper Comics Contest, winter 1959.  Contestants had to submit an 8" x 10" drawing of their favourite cartoon character, along with a short essay (100 words or less) on "Why I Like Newspaper Comics".  Regionally, her prize was $25; as national champ, she won a "wrist watch, twin speaker portable transistor radio, electric game, chromatic xylophone and an original drawing by her favorite cartoonist."  Not a bad take.

Leaving on a London train, 1939.  The girl on the left is reading Mickey Mouse Weekly (Vol. 4, #153, January 7, 1939).

Judging by the dates, this little Dell-inquent posed for this picture late in 1957.  Amongst this mess of Dell comics are Smokey Stover (actually Four Color #827, August 1957); Henry #53 (January-March 1958); The Lone Ranger #115 (January 1958), Jungle Jim #15 (January-March 1958); Mars and Beyond (Four Color #866, December 1957); Lassie #38 (January 1958); Tarzan #100 (January 1958); Little Iodine #39 (January-March 1958); Christmas in Disneyland #1 (Dell Giant, December 1957); Curly Kayoe Comics (Four Color #871, January 1958); The Story of Mankind (Four Color #851, January 1958); Bugs Bunny's Christmas Funnies #8 (Dell Giant, December 1957); Porky Pig #56 (January 1958); Marge's Tubby #26 (January 1958); Tom and Jerry #162 (January 1958); Walt Disney's Comics and Stories #208 (January 1958); I Love Lucy #18 (January 1958).  (Whew!)

Curled up in a chair and reading Whiz Comics #92 (December 1947).

New York, 1947 (photo by Ruth Orkin).  The girl in the foreground is reading a Hedy Devine comic.

Proudly displaying her latest literary acquisition, Tip Top #68 (December 1941)

Life couldn't be better: an ice cream float and a comic book at the soda shop.  It's hard to make out what this happy little girl is reading, but it sure looks like that jawless freak, Henry, in the bottom panel.

Boris and friend perusing a Harvey Comics rack loaded with competitors.  Visible are Let's Take a Trip (Spring 1958, the only issue); Steve Donovan, Western Marshall (actually Four Color #880, February 1958), a TV comic, of which a mere three issues were published from 1956-1958, this issue being the last; and The Lone Ranger #116 (February 1958; Dell).  There's also a copy of Children's Playmate, but that long-running magazine isn't a comic book.

Kids reading comics outside a drug store, Lebanon, Kansas, circa 1952.  The girl in the middle is wearing a Joe Palooka shirt.

Try to keep those comics in good shape, kids -- next week you can set up your own little sidewalk stand and resell them for 5 cents each.  All from 1948: Giggle Comics #54 (June); Calling All Kids #19 (June); Ace Comics #135 (June); Frisky Fables #3 (June); All Star Comics #41 (June/July); Joe Palooka #21 (June); Jumbo Comics (June); Feature Comics #123 (June); behind the head of the boy on the left is Captain Marvel #86 (July); Popeye #2 (May-July); Patsy Walker #17 (July); Li'l Abner #64 (June); Daredevil #49 (July); behind the girl is Tip Top Comics #143 (June); Winnie Winkle #2 (June-August); Smitty #2 (May-July); Walt Disney's Comics and Stories #91 (Vol.8, No.7; April); Red Ryder #58 (May); Action Comics #120 (May); Prize Comics Western #69 (May/June; formerly Prize Comics until #68); Jingle Jangle Comics (June).  The boy on the left is reading Super Duck, probably #20 (June).