Category Archives: Women in Comics

The Two Glorious Years of Ah! Nana by Trina Robbins

Some time in 1976 I received a phone call from a Frenchman in the comics industry, who lived in New York and was somehow connected to various comics venues.[1] He told me that a new magazine was being published in France, featuring women cartoonists, and that he could get me into the publication by acting as my agent and taking a percentage of my pay. That was fine with me, until shortly after that I received a letter from Jean Pierre Dionet, inviting me to contribute to the magazine, which I now learned was to be called Ah! Nana, a pun on the word for pineapple and French slang for girl. Needless to say, I never had to pay the French guy a thing, and it was pretty sleazy of him to even try to make money off me.

From the first issue, I was thrilled to be one of a handful of American women [2] included along with a galaxy of brilliant European women cartoonists. My God, I was being published in France! I had really arrived!

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Ah! Nana: The Forgotten French Feminist Comics Magazine by Catriona MacLeod

The process of female integration into French-language comic strip (or bande dessinée) creation in the twentieth century was slow, with women linked to this domain much more likely to inhabit the role of illustrator for children’s books. In the late 1970s, however, as Claire Bretécher and Annie Goetzinger made their mark as pioneering but exceptional female creators in the Francophone medium, a new publication appeared with the potential to expedite the slow inclusion of women artists into the bande dessinée by providing an unprecedented vehicle both for semi-established and previously unpublished female creators to present their work. The journal Ah! Nana did not fulfil this potential, however, and after falling foul of strict censorship laws and the restrictive economic sanctions that accompanied them, folded after only nine issues.

Ah! Nana was certainly short-lived, producing its first issue in October 1976 and its last in September 1978, however, as the only journal in French history created entirely by women featuring regular bandes dessinées – although male artists were occasionally invited to contribute – it constitutes an innovative experiment in the development of the adult Francophone BD. In spite of this, it has, like so many other female-led artistic endeavours, been largely ignored in chronologies and encyclopaedias of the Francophone medium. Patrick Gaumer’s 2004 Larousse de la BD does not mention it at all, whilst the 2003 BD Guide devotes one short paragraph of its 1525 pages to the journal, simply noting its creation by women, the name of its editor Janique Dionnet [1], and the fact that it was eventually censored.

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Women in Comics by Sarah Lightman

Women in Comics I and II have been unique events inspiring, informative and celebratory. We are committed to honouring women’s contribution to comics, and hosting women comics creators from the UK and abroad – both those who have been pioneers in the field and those currently forging new directions in the medium today.

In 2009 Women in Comics I was held at The New Hall Art Collection, Murray Edwards College, University of Cambridge. We welcomed from Belgium, author of Faire Semblant C’est Mentir, Dominique Goblet, and also Melinda Gebbie, artist of Lost Girls, who noted of the day: “I never knew Cambridge could be so much fun!”

In 2010 Women in Comics II was hosted as part of Comics Forum, in Leeds Art Gallery. We heard from Suzy Varty who edited the first all-women comic in the UK in 1972, and we borrowed the front page of her publication “Heroine” for our programme’s cover image. We also hosted Maureen Burdock from Santa Fe, New Mexico, whose comics “The F-Word Project” have social consciousness as their message and take superheroines into a whole new dimension. Penneviender (The Penfriends), a Danish feminist separatist comic book art group showed us what women comic artists are producing both individually and collaboratively in Denmark. We also had an exciting array of comics scholars including Professor Teal Triggs, author of Fanzines, and Dr Mel Gibson, National Teaching Fellow and a great supporter of Women in Comics conferences.

Women in Comics III will take place at the University of Glasgow in Autumn 2012. We look forward to seeing you there!

Sarah Lightman (Chair),

Catriona MacLeod, Rikke Platz-Cortsen Nicola Streeten, Hattie Kennedy and Emily Rabone (Committee)


Comics Forum 2010 Papers: Hanging out with Halo Jones by Maggie Gray

I’m delighted to announce that Maggie Gray has been in touch to provide a digital copy of her paper ‘Hanging out with Halo Jones – the first feminist comics heroine?’, which was delivered at Women in Comics II as part of Comics Forum 2010. You can download the paper in PDF format from the ‘Papers & Notes’ section of the Comics Forum 2010 Archive here.

Many thanks to Maggie for her generous contribution!

If you were a speaker at Comics Forum 2010 or Possibilities and Perspectives in 2009, and you have a paper or notes you would be willing to share, please get in touch at and let us know.




Hello and welcome to the Comics Forum blog. This is the best place to keep up to date with all the latest news and information about Comics Forum, the academic side of Leeds’ sequential art festival, Thought Bubble.

Comics Forum was established in 2009 as ‘Possibilities and Perspectives: A Conference on Comics’, which ran at the Alea Casino in parallel with the Thought Bubble convention on the 21st of November. Last year’s event took place at Leeds Art Gallery and ran from the 18th to the 19th of November. It comprised two conferences: ‘Women in Comics II’ and ‘Theory and Practice: A Conference on Comics’. 2011’s Comics Forum is scheduled for the 16th to the 18th of November and will pull together ‘Sculpture and Comic Art’, ‘Graphic Medicine’ and ‘Materiality and Virtuality: A Conference on Comics’. The call for papers is out today and is available here.

The aim of Comics Forum is to encourage productive dialogues between scholars, creators and professionals working on comics. We have a broad and inclusive approach, and try to showcase as many different speakers and ideas as possible in the time available. The intellectual level is high and the event can be challenging at times, but we think it’s important to push for the type of rigorous, well-researched material that comics deserve.

This site has been established in that spirit. In addition to releasing information about Comics Forum, we’ll be using it to provide an archive of material relating to previous years’ events, and to present articles from a wide range of guest writers. We’ll also be hosting ongoing columns. Kirstie Gregory from the Henry Moore Institute will write on Sculpture and Comic Art, while Ian Williams, Columba Quigley and M K Czerviec (Comic Nurse) will discuss Graphic Medicine. The intentions here are: a) to give an idea of the numerous voices speaking on comics in different styles, from different angles and with different interests, b) to get people rethinking their readings of the medium and challenging themselves to consider alternative viewpoints, and c) to stimulate debate and discussion on a wide range of topics relating to comics, both on the blog itself and at the events.

I very much hope you’ll enjoy the site and take the time to read the articles and commentaries provided by our writers, who are among the top thinkers on the medium of comics. If you have any questions, suggestions, comments, complaints or compliments don’t hesitate to get in touch by email at or in the comments sections on each of the blog posts. You can keep updated with the site by email by clicking the subscription link on the right hand side of the page, or by RSS by clicking the orange icon at the top right.

Best wishes to all our readers.

Ian Hague, Director of Comics Forum

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