Mary Wings (born April 14, 1949, in Chicago, Illinois as Mary Geller) is an active American cartoonist, writer, and artist. She is known for highlighting lesbian themes in her work. In 1973, she made history by releasing Come Out Comix, the first lesbian comic book. She is also known for her series of detective novels featuring lesbian heroine Emma Victor. Divine Victim, Wings' only Gothic novel, won the Lambda Literary Award for Lesbian Mystery in 1994.
Wings, an open lesbian, lives in San Francisco.
Early life and education
Wings was raised in the Baháʼí Faith in Chicago. She attended Shimer College, a Great Books college then located in the town of Mount Carroll, Illinois. Later, she studied ceramics at Museum Art College in Portland, Oregon. She also studied theater set design at San Francisco State University.
Mary Wings is a pioneer in the two literary fields she contributed to—lesbian comics and lesbian mystery novels. Her work is driven generally by the desire to discuss underrepresented topics that are relevant to her personal life. Initially, she did not intend to publish any of her work.
Wings was not originally a cartoonist or part of the 1970s underground comix movement when she created her first comic book, Come Out Comix. This comic book was created in response to Trina Robbins' comic in Wimmen's Comix #1, "Sandy Comes Out" — the first comic about lesbians. Wings was angered by "Sandy Comes Out," believing that the complex process of coming out was misrepresented by Robbins, a straight woman. She wrote Come Out Comix in seven days. Wings self-published Come Out Comix, printing copies in the basement of a karate studio. The plot of this comic book focuses on the character Maggi, who is coming to terms with her lesbian identity and finding a lover in the process. Come Out Comix is influenced by the author's own experience of coming out. Wings is also attributed with creating the first homosexual non-erotic comic book because comic books pre-dating Wings often fetishized any homosexual themes.
Wings later published two other comic books, Dyke Shorts and Are Your Highs Getting You Down?. The latter, Are Your Highs Getting You Down, was funded by a California Arts Council grant in 1979, tackled the growing issue of drug addiction and abuse. She also contributed to Howard Cruse's publication, Gay Comix. She wrote comic strips for issue numbers one and two.
Her comics became very popular in the lesbian community. Rather than simply including lesbian characters in her comics, she addressed themes specific to the community such as coming out, artificial insemination, discovering your parents' homosexuality, and writing lesbians into history. Because of her open addressing of homosexuality, her comic books were controversial. Notably, a shipment of her books were seized at the border of Canada due to the content.
Although Wings started her career in comics, she later longed to create more complex plot lines, leading her to pursue fiction through novels rather than comics.
Lesbian detective fiction first appeared in 1984 in response to the decline of the coming out story and the assertion of lesbian identity as separate from feminist theory. Wings was one of the originators of lesbian detective fiction, publishing her first mystery novel, She Came Too Late, in England in 1986 and the United States in 1988. She Came Too Late was a success and gave Wings notoriety as the book appeared for seven weeks on the London City Limits Bestseller List and won Best Novel of the Year in the 1986 Reader's Poll. She later wrote four other mysteries starring the same lesbian detective, Emma Victor.
For the first time in over 30 years, Wings is working on a new comics project entitled Old. She is creating this comic in response to the lack of content appealing to people her age. She also hopes to fight stigmas related to ageism. Her comic may include paper doll cut-outs reminiscent of early comics for women.
Her mother passed away when Wings was in her mid-twenties after unexpectedly being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.
Around this time, Wings published Come Out Comix and her sexuality was made known to the public. Due to the Briggs Initiative, Wings feared that her open lesbianism would bar her from ever becoming a teacher in California, a childhood dream of hers.
Wings also played the banjo in a band called Robin, Woody and Wings with Robin Flower and Woody Simmons. After her mother's death, Wings moved with her band to San Francisco. She later left the band.
In 1987, Wings returned to San Francisco after the publication of her first novel. Upon her return, she became once again active with gay and lesbian causes, participating in the San Francisco Gay and Lesbian History Project and the Frameline Film Festival.
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Other comics contributions
- "A Visit From Mom" published in Gay Comix #1: Lesbians and Gay Men Put It On Paper! (1980)
- "Child Labor" published in Gay Comix #2: One Step Ahead of the Homophobes! (1981)
Divine Victim (1993) - Lambda Literary Award for Lesbian Mystery winner
Emma Victor series
- She Came Too Late (1986)
- She Came in a Flash (1988)
- She Came by the Book (1995)
- She Came to the Castro (1997)
- She Came in Drag (1999)
- "Kill the Man for Me" published in A Women's Eye fiction collection (1992)
- "Mars Bar" published in Out/Look magazine
- Lewin, Ellen (1993). "Mary Geller (1949– )". In Pollack, Sandra; Knight, Denise D. (eds.). Contemporary Lesbian Writers of the United States: A Bio-Bibliographical Critical Sourcebook. Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press. pp. 572–577. ISBN 0313282153.
- Adrian Room (2010). Dictionary of Pseudonyms. p. 512. ISBN 9780786457632.
- Shimer College. "Great Books curriculum". Archived from the original on 2013-01-17. Retrieved 2012-09-22.
- Robbins, Trina (1999). From Girls to Grrrlz: A History of Female Comics from Teens to Zines. Chronicle Books. pp. 91–92. ISBN 0811821994.
- Frank, Priscilla (2018-06-19). "Mary Wings Just Wanted An Orgasm When She Created The First Lesbian Comic Book". Huffington Post. Retrieved 2018-11-07.
- Meire, Samantha (2015-05-07). "Queers & Comics: Pioneers of Queer Women's Comics". Youtube (Conference Presentation). Archived from the original on 2021-12-12.
- Georges, Nicole (2017-04-21). "Episode #63-Roberta Gregory, Mary Wings, & MORE! Queers & Comics 2017!!". Sagittarian Matters (Podcast).
- Wilson, Anna (1996). "Death and the Mainstream: Lesbian Detective Fiction and the Killing of the Coming-Out Story". Feminist Studies. 22 (2): 251–258. doi:10.2307/3178413. JSTOR 3178413.
- Hall, Justin (2012). No Straight Lines: Four Decades of Queer Comics. Seattle: Fantagraphics Books, Inc. ISBN 978-1-60699-506-8.
- Wings, Mary (1973). Come Out Comix.
- "Are Your Highs Getting You Down? 2nd Printing at Comixjoint.com". comixjoint.com. Retrieved 2018-11-08.
- "Gay Comix #1". www.comics.org. Retrieved 2018-11-07.
- "Gay Comix #2". www.comics.org. Retrieved 2018-11-07.
- "Dyke Shorts sample page 1 at Comixjoint.com". comixjoint.com. Retrieved 2018-11-23.
- "Dyke Shorts sample page 2 at Comixjoint.com". comixjoint.com. Retrieved 2018-11-23.
- "6th Annual Lambda Literary Awards". Lambda Literary. 1994-07-14. Retrieved 2018-11-23.
- "Fiction Book Review: Divine Victim by Mary Wings". PublishersWeekly.com. Retrieved 2018-11-23.
- Machado, Amanda (2014-12-16). "The Plight of Being a Gay Teacher". The Atlantic. Retrieved 2018-11-08.
- Hall, Lynda (2000), Lesbian Self-Writing: The Embodiment of Experience, Haworth Press, p. 159, ISBN 1-56023-143-2
- "Dyke Shorts at Comixjoint.com". comixjoint.com. Retrieved 2018-11-27.
- "GarboForever - A Woman of Affairs: Greta Garbo's Lesbian Past". www.garboforever.com. Retrieved 2018-11-23.