Posts Tagged ‘Dorothy Woolfolk’

Joye Murchison Kelly and Dorothy Roubicek Woolfolk to be Honoured with Bill Finger Award

June 14, 2018

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This is very, very cool. Two of the most important women in the early history of Wonder Woman are going to receive the Bill Finger Award at San Diego Comic-Con this summer. Joye Murchison Kelly was a ghost writer for William Moulton Marston in the early 1940s, while Dorothy Roubicek Woolfolk was an assistant editor on the original Wonder Woman comics and later returned to DC for a fascinating run editing Superman’s Girl Friend Lois Lane. Heidi MacDonald has a full report at The Beat, and you can read more on the official Comic-Con page.

The Bill Finger Awards honour comic book creators who have not received proper credit for their work and contributions to the industry. Bill Finger was famously screwed over by Bob Kane and DC. He did most of the work creating Batman, but Kane took all the credit. The awards were created by Finger’s friend Jerry Robinson in 2005, and 28 creators have won it since. Kelly and Woolfolk are the first women to do so.

I’ve written about both of these women in my books Wonder Woman Unbound and Investigating Lois Lane, and I’m absolutely delighted that they’re sharing this award. Both women are compelling and important figures in the history of the genre, and their work has been overlooked for decades.

In Kelly’s case, it’s because she was never credited. Marston hired her as a writing assistant in 1944, and she was soon writing full issues by herself as Marston’s health began to fail. Everything was still credited to “Charles Moulton,” Marston’s penname, in the comics, and Kelly’s contributions were long forgotten until DC’s Wonder Woman Archives line gave her due credit many decades later.

Kelly wrote several classic Wonder Woman stories featuring some of her most well known villains, including Dr. Psycho, the Cheetah, Dr. Poison, and more. She also continued Marston’s themes of female strength and power extremely faithfully, including Marston’s preoccupation with bondage imagery (it was a metaphor, but it had its limits). Perhaps most notably, Kelly coined Wonder Woman’s famous catchphrase “Suffering Sappho!” It had ancient Greek roots, of course, but was also a subtle nod to what the Amazons were actually getting up to on Paradise Island.

Woolfolk was an assistant editor on Kelly’s comics back when she was just Dorothy Roubicek. She worked for All-American publisher Max Gaines and was the first female editor at DC Comics, making sure that all the books came out on time. And when critics objected to Marston’s bondage fixation, Woolfolk was tasked with coming up with ways to tone things down. Marston didn’t listen to any of them, but it speaks to Gaines’ high opinion of her that she was his go-to gal on matters concerning his bestselling comic.

(Some sources suggest that Woolfolk wrote a few early Wonder Woman stories, but that doesn’t seem to be the case. She’s not credited as a writer in any of the Archives collections, which are painstakingly thorough).

Woolfolk worked for other publishers for a while, then married writer Bill Woolfolk and took a break from publishing when she had her kids. She returned to DC in the early 1970s as a full editor and revitalized the publisher’s romance line with fresh, relevant stories. Because of her success there, she was given control over Superman’s Girl Friend Lois Lane, and she brought the same modern, feminist sensibility to everyone’s favourite reporter. In her first issue, Lois dumped Superman and quit her job at the Daily Planet because she was sick of men telling her what to do. This feminist revolution was short-lived, though. The men in DC’s offices didn’t take kindly to having a woman around, and Woolfolk was unceremoniously ousted a few months later. You can read more about that in an excerpt from Investigating Lois Lane over at The Atlantic.

Both women are absolutely fascinating figures in comic book history, and this award is very much deserved. Kelly is 90 years old now, and will be in San Diego to accept the award. Woolfolk passed away in 2000, but her daughter will be there to accept the award on her behalf. This recognition is long overdue, but I’m so happy it’s here. Wonder Woman wouldn’t be the same without Kelly or Woolfolk, and I hope the award encourages fans and comic book historians alike to dig into their great work.

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Read an Excerpt From Investigating Lois Lane at The Atlantic!

March 14, 2016

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In what is one of the very coolest and sort of unbelievable moments of my career thus far, The Atlantic has run an excerpt of Investigating Lois Lane.  I’m honoured to be on the site, and I’m so glad that everyone can get a nice peek inside the book and see what it’s like.  I mean, you can’t beat a free sample!

They picked one of my favourite parts of the book, the section that focuses on Lois Lane’s brief feminist revolution in Superman’s Girl Friend Lois Lane in the early 1970s under editor Dorothy Woolfolk.  I won’t spoil it for you because you can go ahead and read it, but Lois gets into women’s lib and makes some big life changes that, while short lived, were huge and fascinating.

It’s a great era for Lois, and was also a fun opportunity for me to write about one of my favourite people in the history of comics, Dorothy Woolfolk.  As Dorothy Roubicek, before she was married, she was an assistant editor on Wonder Woman in the 1940s, and then returned to DC a few decades later to revolutionize their romance line with pro-women’s lib themes before taking on Superman’s Girl Friend Lois Lane.  Woolfolk is a fantastic and criminally underappreciated part of comic book history, and I’m always glad to shine a spotlight on her any time I can.

The excerpt is from Chapter 5 of the book, which in its full form also includes a look at Lois’ earlier, super problematic attempts to become more relevant and engage in issues surrounding race.  The portion that’s excerpted at The Atlantic is also a bit longer in the book; they trimmed it slightly for length, so there are some more cool little bits in Investigating Lois Lane.

Anyway, huge thanks to The Atlantic for running the excerpt!  You can go check it out now, and then pick up the book if you like what you see.

Wonder Woman Unbound Preview #11: A Bungled Return To Her Roots

March 24, 2014

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Every Monday until Wonder Woman Unbound: The Curious History of the World’s Most Famous Heroine comes out this April, we’re taking a look at a comic panel that captures a key moment in Wonder Woman’s history and highlights an important point from each chapter.

In the last two weeks, we’ve looked at Wonder Woman’s bizarre mod era.  These changes didn’t go over very well with many women involved in the burgeoning women’s liberation movement who grew up reading Wonder Woman, especially Gloria Steinem and her cohorts at Ms. magazine.  When DC announced that Wonder Woman would return to her Amazon roots, Steinem and her friends were quite enthusiastic.  They put Wonder Woman on the first cover of Ms., and released a book that collected several of Wonder Woman’s Golden Age stories.  One of things they were most excited about was that Wonder Woman would be helmed by a female editor, Dorothy Woolfolk.

However, by the time Wonder Woman came back there was a change of plans.  Robert Kanigher, chronicler of Wonder Woman’s Silver Age adventures, was back on the title, and Dorothy Woolfolk was gone.  Here, in our penultimate preview panel, is how Kanigher addressed Woolfolk’s departure on the first page of Wonder Woman #204 in January 1973:

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Kanigher managed to insult both Ms. and Woolfolk, murdering the editor of a woman’s magazine whose name was a thinly veiled analogue for Woolfolk.  One would hope that this was a bad joke rather than a vindictive jab, but we don’t know Kanigher’s intentions.  Regardless, it was surely a disappointed for the feminists who were excited about Wonder Woman’s return.  She had her powers and costume back, but the book lacked any modern relevance; in fact, Kanigher rehashed several of his own Silver Age stories before he left the book.  The next arc of the series involved Wonder Woman having to prove (to a majority male team) that she was worthy to rejoin the Justice League.  It was hardly an auspicious return to the uniform.

To read more, you’ll have to wait until Wonder Woman Unbound comes out just over a week from now!  Be sure to come back next Monday, when we’ll talk about Wonder Woman in the Modern Age, and also check out the final installment of my Wonder Woman interview series this Wednesday; we’ll be talking with Colleen Coover and Kate Leth!

Wonder Unbound Unbound is available for pre-order now, online or at your local comic shop.

My Guest Post At DC Women Kicking Ass: The Brief Feminist Revolution of Superman’s Girl Friend Lois Lane

October 5, 2012

I was lucky enough to get to do a guest post on DC Women Kicking Ass this week while Sue is out of town.  I wrote about Superman’s Girl Friend Lois Lane, and Lois’ very short feminist revolution in 1972.  Lois Lane is one of my favourite characters, SGFLL is one of my favourite series, Dorothy Woolfolk is one of my favourite old school creators, and DCWKA is one of my favourite sites, so this piece was super fun to write all around.

My post is called “The Brief Feminist Revolution of Superman’s Girl Friend Lois Lane”, and it’s all about how Lois broke up with Superman, quit the Daily Planet to become a freelance journalist, and moved in with three other feminist women.  It was a really good, and very timely, arc, motivated by Dorothy Woolfolk, the series’ new editor and a staunch women’s libber.

Of course, this is comics, so Woolfolk lasted all of seven issues, the series was cancelled soon after, and during the feminist run DC ran a column decrying women’s lib.  You can’t have any kind of sustained feminist voice in comics… that would just be insane.

So head on over to DC Women Kicking Ass and check it out!!


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