Like Dale Messick, whose creation Brenda Starr, Reporter ran from 1940 to January of this year, June Tarpé Mills understood that having an identifiably feminine name would work against her in the world of adventure comics. So she dropped June, became Tarpé Mills, and drew. Her heroine Miss Fury may not have been the first female superhero in print (the rather obscure Woman in Red and totally bizarre Red Tornado are more likely to claim that honor) but she was the first conceived and drawn by a woman – and it showed. By day, Miss Fury was known as gorgeous socialite Marla Drake. A former fashion illustrator, Mills brought painstaking attention to Drake’s clothes and coif -- including copious lingerie. During World War II, GIs painted the heroine on the nosecones of their aircraft, and Perri-Purr (Drake’s comic cat, which was based on Mills’own feline) became the unofficial mascot for allied troops. While occasionally damned by Catholic crusaders for skimpy attire (it must be said, Miss Fury’s skintight panther suit was demure compared with the garb of new arrivals such as Wonder Woman and Phantom Lady) it did nothing to slow down her torrid adventures. Trina Robbins has gathered the best of this work into a beautiful tome called Tarpe Mills and Miss Fury. Robbins, a female comic creator, expert, and champion, also introduces us to Baroness Erica Von Kampf, a blonde bombshell with a swastika branded on her forehead, and Whiffy, a cross-dressing gangster with a zealous penchant for perfume.
Thu., Nov. 17, 7 p.m., 2011