Trina Robbins returns to San Francisco's Cartoon Art Museum this week to discuss another comic book heroine -- not a fictional character, mind you, but a woman who was crucial in comics in the early 20th century. Robbins' previous book is on Tarpé Mills and her comic Miss Fury. Her new volume is a graphic novel about Lily Renée.
Born to a wealthy Jewish family in Vienna, Renée had her first work displayed in a gallery at age 6. Following up on this success, her mother submitted a photograph by the gifted child to a contest where the first prize was a showbiz contract, which her father forbade her from accepting. In 1938, at age 13, Renée's life took a dramatic turn: Austria was annexed by Germany, and her family sent her to England to live with a pen pal to escape the persecution.
It wasn't long before London came under siege, too, and Lily found herself in New York, attempting to make a living while furthering her art -- which had taken the form of comics and illustration. It's fitting, then, that her amazing story is the subject of the new graphic novel from Trina Robbins, Anne Timmons, and Mo Oh, Lily Renée, Escape Artist: From Holocaust Survivor to Comic Book Pioneer. Whether she's fleeing the Nazis, attempting to fit in with English culture, or fending off chauvinistic advances in low-paying positions in America, Lily Renée has embodied "escape" as well as "artist" throughout her life.
Trina Robbins discusses Lily Renée, Escape Artist at 7 p.m. Thursday (Jan. 26) at the Cartoon Art Museum, 655 Mission (at New Montgomery), S.F. Admission is free.