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Trina Robbins and Wonder Woman

Background on the history of Wonder Woman, Vampirella, Trina Robbins and Ramona Fradon

With the numerous obits on the passing of Robbins, a lot of the news stories are claiming Robbins as the first female to draw Wonder Woman, but that's not correct:

Trina Robbins, Legendary Cartoonist and Wonder Woman Artist, Passes Away at 85Comicbook – The following paragraph is full of errors besides poor word usage (is AI responsible?):

In addition to her unground work, Robbins designed the original costume for Warren Publishing's heroine Vampirella, and was the first-ever woman artist to draw DC's Wonder Woman. Robbins illustrated the character on the 1986 four-issue miniseries The Legend of Wonder Woman, and wrote the 1998 one-shot Wonder Woman: The Once and Future Story. She even cameoed in 1989's Wonder Woman Annual #2. She also created the Millie the Model spinoff Misty for Marvel's Star Comics."

"Unground" should obviously be "underground" and a combination of Jim Warren, Trina Robbins and Frank Frazetta designed the Vampirella suit. According to Empire of Monsters, the book about Warren Publishing. Jim Warren had a specific design for Vampi's hair style, and Frazetta drew up the original outfit, but Warren didn't care for it, and he told Trina Robbins what he wanted and she sketched up her version of that and then they communicated that over the phone to Frazetta. He then drew the first published depiction of the new character for Creepy #29, 1969.

In later storytelling about Vampirella's outfit, Warren gave the credit to Frazetta, though it sounds more likely that it was really Warren and Trina Robbins who designed the famous costume. Trina Robbins' version of the story entails her working out Warren's ideas and getting Frank, over the phone, to understand it. The story is recounted at Muddycolors online:

I was sitting in Warren’s office," remembered cartoonist Trina Robbins, “where he was talking to me about the fact that my artwork was nowhere good enough to appear in his magazines, which was very true. Frazetta called to discuss a sketch of Vampirella that he’d sent to Jim. Warren said it wasn’t right. Frank had drawn her wearing, more of less, a basic bikini, but Jim had something else in mind. It became clear that Frank wasn’t getting the idea as Jim tried to describe it, so Jim turned to me and described the costume, the way the top was open in front and attached to a collar, the boots and so on. I drew it as he was talking.‘That’s it!’ he said, pointing at my sketch. ‘Now describe it exactly to Frank,’ he said and handed me the phone.” On that day before fax machines (much less email), Trina went back-and-forth with Frank over the phone carefully describing the sketch that had gotten Warren excited (which she recreated several decades later as shown here). "Frazetta’s original cover art of Vampirella looked a lot like my idea," Robbins has said, "but her costume shrunk. Over the years her costume has gotten skimpier and skimpier—now it doesn’t bear any resemblance to what I designed." Despite her help, she never received any other work from Warren; in return for her costume design, Trina was given a "lifetime subscription" to Vampirella in lieu of money.

Concerning the claim that "the first ever woman to draw Wonder Woman" was Trina Robbins, I asked ChatGPT the question of what woman drew Wonder Woman first, and it initially said (incorrectly): "Trina Robbins was one of the first female artists to draw Wonder Woman, contributing to the character's stories in the 1980s." So then I said:

Comic Book Brain: The female artist Ramona Fradon drew Wonder Woman in DC Comics' Super Friends #3* in 1977, doesn't that make her earlier than Trina Robbins?

ChatGPT: You're correct, my apologies for the oversight. Ramona Fradon indeed drew Wonder Woman in DC Comics' "Super Friends #3" in 1977. This does make her earlier than Trina Robbins in terms of drawing Wonder Woman. Ramona Fradon is a highly respected comic book artist known for her work on various DC Comics titles, including her contributions to the Wonder Woman character. Thank you for pointing out the error!

*Fradon also drew Wonder Woman for the 17 page story Freedom Fighters #4, Sept-Oct 1976. Reference: comics.org


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Original Page April 4, 2023