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Trina Robbins, Creator and Historian of Comic Books, Dies at 84

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After one year at Queens College, she moved to Los Angeles, where she posed nude for pinup magazines in the erroneous belief that doing so would lead to a movie career. In 1962, she married Paul Jay Robbins, a magazine editor; they divorced in 1966. During that time, she “locked herself in a room with an electric sewing machine,” she was quoted as saying in “Dirty Pictures,” Brian Doherty’s 2022 book about underground comics; she was soon making dresses, which she sold at craft and Renaissance fairs.

Ms. Robbins befriended the rock bands the Byrds and the Doors, and moved between the coasts. In New York City, she opened a clothing boutique on East Fourth Street called Broccoli, a name inspired by a claim she had made, while stoned, that she could communicate with vegetables.

When she read the alternative newspaper The East Village Other, she was captivated by its surreal comic strips and realized that the doodles she had been making could be comics too. As a lark, she illustrated, in Aubrey Beardsley style, a one-panel cartoon about a teenage hippie named Suzi Slumgoddess and slipped it under the door of the paper’s office. To her surprise, it was printed, launching her career as an underground cartoonist.

Ms. Robbins became a regular contributor to The Other, making comic strips that doubled as advertisements for Broccoli. She often rendered her characters like the paper dolls that had captivated her when she was a child, and her strips mined the contrast between that innocent style and taboo-breaking subject matter. When The Other published a comics tabloid called Gothic Blimp Works in 1969, she contributed a strip about having sex with a lion.

Her comics about sex were often playful — the two-page strip “One Man’s Fantasy,” for example, was about a man captured by a group of attractive women who force him to make a tuna fish sandwich. But she found that many male cartoonists were threatened by any hint of feminism.

And Ms. Robbins was repulsed by the dark material in Robert Crumb’s comics and the way the underground scene followed his lead. “Rape and humiliation — and later, torturing and murdering women — didn’t seem funny to me,” she wrote in her memoir. “The guys told me I had no sense of humor.”

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