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.”
IF YOU GO
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