‘Pretty in Ink’ showcases female cartoonists 

Historical cartoon art created by — and often about — women is in the spotlight at the San Francisco Public Library.

“Pretty in Ink: North American Women Cartoonists 1896-2013,” curated by cartoonist and historian Trina Robbins (who has written a book of the same name), showcases mostly little-known artwork from the 1800s through the present day.

While Dale Messick, creator of “dashing girl reporter” Brenda Starr (a strip that lasted 70 years) is well-known, some of her predecessors are not.

On view through June 2, “Pretty in Ink” features work by Grace Dayton (1877-1936), who drew chubby little kids called “Dolly Dimples” and “Bobby Bounce” and had a strip called “Naughty Toodles.” However, her most famous creations, 1909’s Campbell’s kids, are still known to 21st-century soup eaters.

On a more sophisticated note are showgirls drawn by Nell Brinkley (1886-1944), an artist who worked for Hearst newspapers. Her curly-headed Brinkley girls provided the model for dancers in the “Ziegfeld Follies.”

Ethel Hays (1892-1989) drew chic, liberated flapper girls who graced newspapers, comic books and paper doll books. One fun image in the show is a full page from the San Francisco News picturing a woman opening a large box that has a man inside. The caption reads: “Christmas male.”

Edwina Dumm (1893-1990) created a strip about a fluffy dog named Tippie. Many of her other drawings featured a similar looking canine.

“Pretty in Ink” also includes pictures of the first female action figure, according to Robbins. Miss Fury pre-dated Wonder Woman by about eight months.

The voluptuous heroine, created by Tarpe Mills, was not based on a real person. A newspaper clipping in the show has an interview with the artist, who, when asked about the model for the character, responded, “It’s all done with mirrors.”


Pretty in Ink

Where: Main Library, fourth floor, 200 Larkin St., S.F.

When: Noon to 5 p.m. Sundays, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Mondays and Saturdays, 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesdays-Thursdays, 1 to 6 p.m. Fridays; closes June 2

Admission: Free

Contact: (415) 557-4400, www.sfpl.org

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Leslie Katz

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