Finding Feminist Comics Histories in Grassroots Periodicals

Sunday, January 6, 2019: 11:20 AM
Water Tower Parlor (Palmer House Hilton)
Margaret Galvan, University of Florida
The focus in comics studies on work produced within alternative and mainstream comics industries erases other important histories. One history that we lose is women's engagement with the form to visually theorize feminism, as published not only in the recognized venues but also in other spaces like zines and grassroots periodicals. Because feminist comics have always been out of sync with mainstream accounts of feminism, this history traced through comics suggests a different trajectory of feminist theory. In recent scholarship recuperating women's comics from the 1970s-80s, I have emphasized how these works anticipated third-wave tenets like sex positivity and intersectionality. Due to this dissonance, series like Wimmen's Comix encountered difficulties getting distributed and advertised by feminist ventures.

For this presentation, I contend with comics paradoxically further forgotten in our narratives of feminist pasts by examining comics produced inside feminist periodicals. Informed by archival research in grassroots material culture collections, I demonstrate how analyzing comics in these conditions connects us to social movement histories. Working in these sort of archives rather than in collections of comics allows us to glimpse new comics, new artists, new networks, new histories. We can not only revise histories of feminism through these forms, but also rewrite histories of women in comics. Looking to the current moment, how might these works inform contemporary feminist comics being produced in the digital era as print periodicals—like the RESIST! comic distributed in connection with the Women's March?