mattfractionblog

thighhighs:

You’ve probably never heard of Jackie Ormes and that’s a goddamn tragedy. But it’s not surprising—there is no “Jackie Ormes Omnibus” available on Amazon.com, no “Collected Patty-Jo ‘n’ Ginger,” no “Essential Torchy Brown.” She won no awards, can be found in no hall of fame, and is usually treated as “an interesting find” by comic historians. She’s become a curio, a funny little facet of history, undiscovered, even, by today’s wave of geek-oriented feminism.

Jackie Ormes was the first African-American woman cartoonist. Yeah. That’s who we’re ignoring. Her work for the Pittsburgh Courier and the Chicago Defender—both incredibly influential African-American newspapers—was utterly groundbreaking and remains unique, even in the context of modern comics. Her first work, Torchy Brown in Dixie to Harlem, featured the adventures of the titular Torchy, a stylish, intelligent young African-American woman who (feigning illiteracy) boards a whites-only train car to New York City and changes her life. Torchy’s story is a great, irreverent window into the migration of Southern-born African-Americans to the North, a movement that defined 20th-century America—but it is also the story of a girl on her own, living her own life and making her own choices. Torchy was an incredible aspirational figure, the likes of which barley exists in modern comics: an independent, optimistic, fashionable and adventurous black woman. Ormes would later revive Torchy’s story in Torchy in Heartbeats, a strip that introduced international adventure into the heroine’s life. In Heartbeats, Torchy traveled to South America, dated idealistic doctors, battled environmental exploitation and confronted racism at every turn. She was, frankly, awesome

And then there was Patty-Jo ‘n’ Ginger, her most successful and longest-running work. Patty-Jo ‘n’ Ginger was a single panel gag strip, like Family Circus—an illustration with a caption beneath it. Ginger was a beautiful, stylish young woman always accompanied by her little sister Patty-Jo, a clear-eyed, sardonic kid who spent most strips calling out the bullshit they endured on a daily basis as black women. Ormes’ talents shine through especially well in these little stories: her canny wit, the absolutely gorgeous clothes she drew her women in (seen also in her Torchy Togs paper dolls) and her skillful, succinct way of imparting to the reader just how goddamn stupid our society can be about gender and race. Patty-Jo is never shamed or taken down a peg for being an intelligent, outspoken little girl—in fact, she was made into a highly popular doll that wasn’t an obnoxious Topsy-style stereotype. She preceded Daria, Emily the Strange, Lian Harper, all those wry little girls we celebrate today—and yet, I see her on no t-shirts, can find her in no libraries. Patty-Jo is celebrated only in doll-collecting circles at this point, as the cute little symbol of a bygone age.

At Jackie Ormes’ height as a cartoonist, her work reached one million people per week. In the 1940s and 1950s, she reached one million people per week. She didn’t just surpass barriers—she leapt merrily over them. She introduced the general populace to a voice that had always existed, but was seldom heard—a voice that is still smothered today. She created African-American women who unapologetically enjoyed glamour, who pioneered their own futures, who refused to keep silent about the walls they found themselves scraping against every day. I haven’t even covered the half of it: Ormes was also an avid doll collector, served on the founding board of directors of the DuSable Museum of African-American history, and was targeted by the McCarthy-led witchhunts of the 1950s. Remember Jackie Ormes. Celebrate Jackie Ormes. Visit The Ormes Society and support the essential work they do. Keep her memory alive so that we may enjoy a million more Torchys and Patty-Jos in our comics—instead of the paltry handful we are offered today.

(First in a series on women in the comics industry.)

  1. siriouspsymon reblogged this from thisisntmyrealhair
  2. thisisntmyrealhair reblogged this from imperoyalblue
  3. thisislostinlace reblogged this from acceber74
  4. imperoyalblue reblogged this from actionhankbeard
  5. littlelifeforms reblogged this from emmaappleart
  6. chostett reblogged this from calliopeoracle
  7. chanelbedslippers reblogged this from brooketheoctopus
  8. brooketheoctopus reblogged this from prynnette
  9. ancestralvoidness reblogged this from nasciff
  10. eewik reblogged this from calliopeoracle
  11. calliopeoracle reblogged this from ashbet
  12. canaryindustry reblogged this from healthierstudentlife
  13. healthierstudentlife reblogged this from healthystudentlife
  14. oniyuri reblogged this from ashbet
  15. samhainnight reblogged this from ashbet
  16. ashbet reblogged this from carlaspeedmcneil
  17. comixlush reblogged this from prynnette
  18. coolerthancats reblogged this from homogeneous-alice
  19. luvnmuzik215 reblogged this from herbalerotica
  20. jet-lafayette reblogged this from commonwealthofpennsylvania
  21. cattomboy reblogged this from commonwealthofpennsylvania
  22. commonwealthofpennsylvania reblogged this from kosmonaunt
  23. dracadancer reblogged this from kosmonaunt
  24. kosmonaunt reblogged this from gryff-girl
  25. josiecarioca reblogged this from gryff-girl
  26. gryff-girl reblogged this from alphabonesoup
  27. suchaphcknlady reblogged this from lanikafiasco
  28. lanikafiasco reblogged this from thefefefiles
  29. cherishthelies reblogged this from albinwonderland