Next up in the 2017 PopCult Gift Guide is the second book we’re recommending today by Trina Robbins, this time it’s her autobiography, Last Girl Standing. It’s a fast-paced trip through a life well-lived, told at a breakneck pace. I’ve been a fan of Robbins’ work for more than forty years, but I had no idea how wild of a life adventure she’d lived. This is the perfect gift for anyone who enjoys a great biography, and it’s also a great gift to encourage the budding feminist cartoonist on your holiday shopping list.
Robbins tells of her upbringing as a poor Jewish girl during World War II, and her association with early science fiction fandom, before she fell into the world of Hippies, Comix and Rock and Roll. Famous and notable people come and go through her story at a rapid pace. I can’t recall reading another biography that mentions Harlan Ellison, C.C. Beck, Jim Morrison, Bob Dylan, Robert Crumb, Alan Ginsberg and other semi-mythical beasts in the context of real people in the subject’s life.
Robbins is a pioneering underground cartoonist and feminist, who also ran a fashion boutique and mingled with rock stars. Her book tells what it was like surviving in a counter culture that was still steeped in misogyny and backwards ideas. While many of the masters of the underground scene were all in favor of expanding their minds and exploring new worlds, apparently treating women like equals was not high on their list of things to try. This book rips away the veil of romanticism that colors some of the history of the underground comix. Some of the greats of the scene were also drug-addled schlubs who lived in squalor and wouldn’t pitch in around the house. Robbins does not mince words pointing this out.
Last Girl Standing is heavily illustrated with photos, drawings and entire comic strips. I’m going to go to the publisher’s blurb for further info on this great book:
Born on the cusp of WWII in 1938, at a time when other little girls dreamed of being nurses and secretaries, Trina Robbins’s ambition was to be a bohemian; and indeed she did. She chronicles a life of sex, drugs, rock ’n’ roll — and comics — in Last Girl Standing.
Robbins describes her upbringing in Queens, New York, reading comics through her childhood in the 1940s; visiting the EC offices and becoming part of SF fandom (dating Harlan Ellison at age 16); and posing nude for men’s magazines in the 1950s; living in the Village, over her own boutique where she made clothes for and interacted with rock royalty like David Crosby, Donovan, Cass Elliot; her close relationship with Paul Williams; entering the orbit of underground cartoonists like Art Spiegelman, R. Crumb, Vaughn Bodé, and Bill Griffith, when she started contributing comics to The East Village Other; and, in the ’70s, moving to San Francisco, contending with the phallocentric underground scene, marrying Kim Deitch, co-founding Wimmen’s Comix, and being invited into Felch Comics (she declined); her work for the National Lampoon, Marvel Comics, and Eclipse in the 1980s; and her crisis as a cartoonist and transformation into an historian and lecturer in the ’90s and 2000s.
From science fiction to the Sunset Strip, from New York’s underground newspapers to San Francisco’s underground comix: Trina Robbins broke the rules and broke the law. From dressing Mama Cass to being pelted with jelly babies as she helped photograph the Rolling Stones’s first US tour, from drunken New York nights spent with Jim Morrison to producing the very first all-woman comic book, this former Lady of the Canyon takes no prisoners in this heavily illustrated memoir.
Robbins is 79 years old now, a cancer survivor and is still hard at work as a comics historian, preserving the legacy of women in comics and cartooning. Last Girl Standing is an amazing chronicle of an exceptional life and is a real eye-opener. Whomever winds up with this book as a gift will have a hard time putting it down. You can order it from any bookseller using the ISBN number, or get it directly from the publisher.