RIP, Trina Robbins (1938-2024)

The Way We Wore

by Gage Skidmore

According to my diary, I met Trina Robbins, Steve Leialoha, and Scott Shaw! at the San Digo Comic Con on August 6, 1987. I didn’t write anything about the encounter except that it was “nice.”

But maybe I was a bit starstruck because I had enjoyed her work for so long, going back to Wimmen’s Comix from Last Gasp in the mid-1970s.

She also produced a four-page story called The Way We Wore for Gates of Eden, published by FantaCo in 1982 . In a previous life, she was a clothing designer.

While she did work for Marvel and DC, notably Wonder Woman, she was better known for working with “independent” publishers. Her body of work is vast.   

But it’s not just the breadth of her work. As Mark Evanier wrote: “Beautiful…talented…important…I don’t know which quality of Trina I should start with. I’ll start with important. Trina Robbins was one of those cartoonists who did things that mattered. No one did more to elevate the awareness of and the opportunities for females in the realm of cartooning and comic art. And along the way she did not neglect the males; did not neglect anyone or anything worthy of attention.”

As the Forbes article noted: “Her unapologetically feminist take on politics and pop culture stood out among peers like Robert Crumb and S. Clay Wilson, and the experience left her a lifelong critic of the ‘boys club’ misogyny she perceived in such work.”

Documenting women

A 2018 piece in Vulture called her “the Controversial Feminist Who Revolutionized Comic Books.”

She and Cat Yronwode created the legendary 1985 tome Women And The Comics, the “first attempt to document the careers of the hundreds of women who have created and worked in the field of comic strips, comic books and cartooning. The Women whose work is showcased in this book have been long overlooked or ignored by most other histories of comics.”

From the New York Times: “She also wrote more than a dozen prose books, including Pretty in Ink: North American Women Cartoonists 1896-2013 (2013) and Flapper Queens: Women Cartoonists of the Jazz Age (2020). ‘Trina didn’t just support women,’ Shary Flenniken, who created the ‘Trots and Bonnie’ strip for National Lampoon, said in an interview, ‘she unearthed the history of all these women cartoonists who had never been talked about.'”

The most recent comics-related item I purchased was the crowdfunded Won’t Back Down. “Comics legend Trina Robbins is fighting the rogue Supreme Court with over 30 storytellers from all around the world to publish a pro-choice anthology. Proceeds will be donated to Planned Parenthood.”

I read a lot of the many comments about Trina on Facebook. Many shared the sentiment, “I thought she’d be here forever.


Among the most interesting was from Wendy Pini, co-creator of the comic book Elfquest. “Were Trina and I friends? That’s hard to say. Not once in all the years we knew each other did we really understand each other. We didn’t ‘get’ or even really like each others’ artwork and writing. We didn’t inspire each other…. I was not her kind of feminist or activist, not a ‘joiner’ in most of the causes she cherished. Our life experiences and world views were, for the most part, very different.


“That said, when it came to today’s politics and speaking out on LGBTQ+ rights, Trina and I were very much on the same page. Her activism thrilled me and I sent applause when I could. She would pop up in my political FB posts from time to time – I was always delighted to have her chime in. Her voice carried weight. With her vast energy and drive, she was willing to get down in the trenches and get up close and personal with pro-woman movers and shakers… Trina could do that. She was a mover and shaker herself and an inspiration to many.


“I’m so glad Trina knew that I thought she was adorable. I honestly have no idea what she thought of me… Though we weren’t close, I loved her and I loved running into her, through the years, at San Diego Cons. She represented something powerful: a pioneer and a survivor. Outspoken, controversial, at times even rude… I loved her for all of that. She was funny. Just knowing she was keeping on keeping on was a kind of comfort, something to count on.”


Condolences to Trina’s longtime partner Steve Leialoha and their family. 

April rambling: Silent Scream

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Daniel Van Riper’s Albany Weblog: They Want To Fill In The Ravine In Lincoln Park

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Congress, Not Amazon, Messed Up the Post Office

the beautiful human gumbo


Steven Bochco, RIP; a retrospective – I loved many of these shows

Remembering Winnie Mandela

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Lin-Manuel Miranda and Oprah’s Full Chat from SUPER SOUL SUNDAY

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Mark Waid tells a new Captain America story with original artwork from Jack Kirby!

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After 40 years, Wendy and Richard Pini finish ‘Elfquest,’ the ‘first American manga,’ and go on fanquest

SNL: Black Jeopardy with Chadwick Boseman

Seth Meyers’ great “desk story”

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vlogbrothers: On Punctuality (John) v. How to Stop Being Late Forever (Hank)

Now I Know: How Overdue Parking Tickets Took Over an Innocent Person’s Life and The Therapeutic Value of a Not-Quite-Flying Pig and The Race to Determine the Fastest Man Alive and Why You Can’t Steal First Base and Why You Shouldn’t Eat Those “Do Not Eat” Packets and The Elevator Light That’s a Total Gas

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Catch Me If You Can -John Williams score

She’s A Rockin’ Machine – Archie and the Bunkers

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Oriental Rhapsody – Alexander Glazunov

Stephen Hawking Picks the Music (and One Novel) He’d Spend Eternity With: Stream the Playlist Online

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Can’t Take My Eyes Off You – Sonny Vande Putte

Never tell someone they can’t sing – it is brutal, damaging and untrue

June Rambling: Hal Holbrook; Marimba Queens

I see signs that say ClOSED, and it makes me a little bonkers.

pinned on Pinterest by Roger Green (not me)
pinned on Pinterest by Roger Green (not me)

My denomination, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A) voted for marriage equality at its General Assembly this month. “Ministers will be allowed to marry same-sex couples in states where it is legal.”

On the other hand, Freedom and Faith Coalition’s Road to Majority conference had an Obama figurine in the urinal.

CBS News Sunday Morning did a piece, Born this way: Stories of young transgender children. The ever-interesting Dustbury on Gender Confirmation Surgery.

Writer Jay Lake worked closely with Lynne Thomas, an Illinois-based librarian… to ensure that all his blog posts and essays would be saved for posterity. “Though this is a relatively uncomplicated task for his blog content, which he unambiguously owned, it gets problematic when you wade into the legal rights of preserving your social media presence. ‘You can’t just download Facebook content into an archive.’”

A cartoon from 2008, and still apt: A Concise History Of Black-White Relations In The United States.

Mark Evanier on O.J. Simpson trial nostalgia.

Evanier saw Hal Holbrook as Mark Twain. I remember watching the Holbrook special on CBS in 1967. Hadn’t seen it since, but it had a profound effect on me in terms of the wonders of storytelling. Also made me a big Hal Holbrook fan; I watched the Senator segment of The Bold Ones a few years later, which lasted one season, but won five Emmys.

Evanier introduces Julie Newmar to Wendy Pini. The former was one of the portrayers of Batman’s Catwoman; the latter, the artist who draws Elfquest, and who used to show up at FantaCo in Albany frequently.

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Eye Macs.

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The Seven Lady Godivas: Dr. Seuss’s Little-Known “Adult” Book of Nudes.

Jaquandor: please add this to my pet peeve list: the use of I as a lower case L. I see signs that say ClOSED, and it makes me a little bonkers.

Pantheon Songs on the importance of Blind Willie Johnson.

Jim Keays passed away. “He was the lead singer of The Masters Apprentices, one of the seminal Australian psychedelic rock and pop bands of the 1970s.” Eclectic stuff.

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Watch the bass player. Reg Kehoe and his Marimba Queens (ca. early 1940s). “This film seems to be a mirror image of how things are supposed to be. This is because original Soundie films were printed backward so that they could appear correct when played in the Panoram machine (an early film jukebox).” Someone flipped the tape, and it’s supposed to look like this. It’s also at 7:50 here, which has nicer resolution.

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Maya Angelou reading her poem Phenomenal Women. And a graphic representation. Plus, Melissa Harris-Perry shares her exclusive interview with Dr. Angelou.

The Racialicious Tony Awards recap. The In Memorium segment, not in the show, only on YouTube(!)

A Tom Waits/Cookie Monster mashup.

A World Cup-themed Mickey Mouse short.

FROZEN support group. NSFW.

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Jaquandor thanked me for pointing him to a couple articles. One was about Calvin and Hobbes creator Bill Watterson returning to the comics pages in the Stephan Pastis’ Pearls before Swine strip.

Interesting that Julio cites me for providing a graphic about technology ethics when I clearly noted the source, but I appreciated the shoutout.

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HOME angler Roger Green reeled in top prize in the Trowbridge Seniors match at Farleigh Wood on Tuesday with 29 lb 12 oz of carp and skimmers.

The Tom Skulan FantaCon interview, part 2

Raoul’s death devastated me. I felt as if the guts had been torn out of FantaCo and I wanted to go away


FantaCon, once an Albany tradition for fans of the comic book, fantasy, and in its later incarnations, horror films, is returning after a brief, two-decade hiatus. FantaCon 2013, operated by its original creator, Tom Skulan, will be held Saturday, September 14, and Sunday, September 15 at the Marriott Hotel on Wolf Road in Albany. Ticket for the related Three Nights of Horror at the Palace Theatre on September 11-13 in Albany, will be available from the Palace Theatre box office, starting on February 13.

FantaCo, the store/mail-order company Tom started, operated from 1978 through 1998 at 21 Central Avenue, Albany, NY. I worked there from May 1980 to November 1988, worked at the first five FantaCons, and attended the sixth.
Even before I started working at FantaCo, I bought from FantaCo this single by the Spastic Phono Band, a parody of some Beatles and Paul McCartney songs. The store carried some Japanese EPs of the Beatles. How important to you were The Beatles specifically, and music generally?

The Beatles were and are very important to me because they represent a group of individuals who against ALL odds did exactly what they set out to do. That’s a powerful example to learn from.
Musically they are sublime. My Beatles CDs are the CDs I play the least because I just enjoy them so much I never want the magic to wear away. The Beatles (White Album) is my all-time favorite. Not only because it has so many songs but because there is a slightly ominous tone to the whole thing. And yes- I love Revolution #9 too. I always look forward to dissecting all the sounds.

Early on, the store also sold some records of some local bands such as Blotto. How much did you follow the local music scene?

When I lived above FantaCo I went to JB Scott’s on a regular basis and saw all the local bands opening for the national acts. It was a fun time “living downtown”. I followed most of them at the time.

The 1980 FantaCon was the one with the Berni Wrightson artwork on the cover. It was labeled FantaCon 2, to avoid the confusion of the previous event. What are your memories of that show?

I recall that we were MUCH more prepared to put on a show! That show was substantially larger than our first event and it was crazy busy. I fell asleep in my car on Sunday night after the show was over.

How did it come to pass that the Pinis always showed up for store signings of every Elfquest issue?

Wendy and Richard were very good friends to me and did me a really big favor once so I thought the least I could do was to promote each new issue of theirs and thrown them a little party. It became a regular thing for many years.
They and I still have good memories of those events.

There was a comic book FantaCo published in 1981 called Alien Encounters, which was packaged by a guy named Larry Shell. How did this come about?

Steve Bissette. Either Steve told Larry to send me the completely print-ready book OR Steve brought it to me. I can’t remember which but the book was completely ready to print so we did it. It did quite well. [Steve confirms that he sent Larry to Tom & FantaCo.]

The first move into the horror market was the publication of the book Splatter Movies in 1981. How did that come about, and how did FantaCo come to trademark the title?

We had been successfully advertising in Fangoria Magazine and I wanted to have a product to sell that no one else had. John had the idea for a book on the history of gory movies so we just went from there.
The whole trademark thing came about because everyone starting using the term!! SO we trademarked the title of the book in order to recoup a little money from its usage.

Eventually, Splatter Movies was a real money maker, but initially, it was a real drain on the FantaCo coffers. Would you explain that?

The damn silver print on the cover and that single spot of blood!! That’s what ate up all our money! While to those looking at the book now it may seem plain jane- at the time doing a silver print underlay with a single drop of red cost a fortune. The print costs on the book were much higher than anticipated due to that cover. We eventually made a handsome profit but it was quite scary when the book was delivered and the bill arrived.

The FantaCon in 1981 was disappointing in terms of attendance. Do you think it had to do with the Simon & Garfunkel concert in Central Park that same weekend?

Assuredly that was a large portion of the problem. The other element was that our 1981 show was a virtual replay of our 1980 show. Same guests. Berni even did the cover again. So we were to blame as well.

Why was there no FantaCon in 1982?

After the dismal attendance for 1981, I lost interest in it for 1982. Just that simple.

Video Screams came out in 1982, a guide to horror video. Was it just ahead of its time, or had FantaCo not yet established its horror bona fides in the marketplace?

It was wicked ahead of its time!! Such a book just 5-6 years later would have blown off the shelves. In retrospect I don’t know why I thought a book about videos would be successful at a time when most people did not have any!

It seemed that you were a bit burned out for a few months in 1982. What was going on with you?

I had some medical issues I was trying to deal with.

One aspect of the store I remember is that you always had us rearranging the store. Where did you pick up that trick?

I got that from years of working at retail stores. I started doing it for a chain that required it but later at other stores, I did it to make the time go by. It also boosted sales which boosted my paycheck!!

Gates of Eden and Deja Vu were among the best items FantaCo did in the comics realm, yet they were commercially unsuccessful. Why do you think that was?

Simply put, the pricing. I remember to this day the nasty letter I receive from Bud Plant demanding to know who the hell I thought I was charging $3.50 for a comic book!! Gates and Deja were EXCEEDINGLY expensive books in terms of the art. We were paying more per page than any other comic company. So we had to have high cover prices to make up for it. That hurt us in the market place.

FantaCo did some Chronicles of Marvel properties – the X-Men, Fantastic Four, Daredevil, Avengers and Spider-Man. These were among the most successful items the company did in the early 1980s. What was the philosophy that garnered name artists such as John Byrne, Frank Miller, George Perez and Dave Cockrum to provide covers for the series?

Same response as above- our page rates. We paid our Chronicles cover artist more than Marvel did. That’s how we got such spectacular work for those issues.

What do you recall about the counterfeit Cerebus issues we purchased?

I recall that Sparkle City contacted us about those. Now I had done business with Sparkle City since well before FantaCo so I took notice a little more than I should have. They arrived and the ink on the covers was still sticky!!! lol
We bought 50 of them,right? And immediately found out they were fakes. I have a personal suspicion of who did what with those… [Here’s my recollection; we bought 54, according to notes I had written at the time.]

The 1983 FantaCon had some characters, notably James Doohan [Scotty from the original Star Trek]. Any stories you want to share?

Hmmmmm… I remember that incident well. Don’t want to upset the fans…

Was Herschell Gordon Lewis [the subject of a 1983 FantaCo book about his “exploitation” films] the total antithesis of what you expected?

I totally expected a laid-back, very casual filmmaker and instead was presented with a suit and tie advertising executive!! I mean I went out with him after the show and he was fun, but yes – he could not have been more polar opposite than I expected!

After Mitch left and Raoul died in 1983, how were you feeling about FantaCo?

Raoul’s death devastated me. I felt as if the guts had been torn out of FantaCo and I wanted to go away. I did have a nervous breakdown which lasted about 45 days and months to fully recover from. [FantaCon 2013 is dedicated, in part, to Raoul’s memory.]

What were you trying to say with the comic book Sold Out? [Artist John Hebert wrote about it at length HERE.]

The story was interned to be a cautionary tale about just how overheated the B&W market had become. And at the same time the two issues themselves were part of the story. Some people got it, some didn’t. John did a great job on the art.

You did several publication deals with existing products – Midnight Marquee, Demonique for two. How did those special issues come about?

Those deals were based completely on my desire to give back. I read Gary Svehla’s Gore Creatures (later renamed Midnight Marquee) as a kid and I really liked what Demonique Magazine was trying to do.
I thought it would be nice to step in and boost their circulations and well as have the chance to work with them.

What’s a Chas Balun story you’d like to share? [This obit from Fangoria is fairly descriptive of the Balun/FantaCo connection; the store/mail order used to carry his Connoisseur’s Guide to the Contemporary Horror Film. FantaCon 2013 is dedicated, in part to Chas’ memory.]

Chas was a MOUNTAIN of a man!!! And often he and I would go to Hollywood looking for old record and movie stills. Now Hollywood is not what people think it is. Those who have been there know exactly what I am saying.
Well, once we were walking back to the car without various treasures and this junkie came up to me demanding some money (no one EVER came up to Chas). Chas spun the guy around and proceeded to “chest bump” him in the forehead! I don’t know if this will make sense in print but what Chas was doing was bumping the guy’s forehead with his chest, forcing him to walk backward. He did this down the entire block until the junkie tripped on the curb and fell down and ran away in abject terror. Good old Chas!

Thanks, Tom for your time!

Pictures, top to bottom, all taken by Roger Green
Monster, 1989 FantaCon
Richard and Wendy Pini, 1989 FantaCon; attended frequent FantaCo signings for their Elfquest comic book
John Hebert, 1989 FantaCon; artist for FantaCo publication Sold Out!
the late Chas Balun, 1989 FantaCon; contributor to several FantaCo publications

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