June Tarpé Mills

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Tarpé Mills
BornJune Tarpé Mills
25 February 1918
Died1988
NationalityAmerican
Area(s)artist, writer
Pseudonym(s)Tarpé, Edgar Allen Jr., Nella
Notable works
Miss Fury
Awards2018 Eisner Hall of Fame Nominee

Tarpé Mills (25 February 1918–1988) was the pseudonym of comic book creator June Mills, one of the first major female comics artists. She is best known for her action comic strip, Miss Fury, featuring the first female action hero created by a woman.[1][2]

Biography[edit]

Born June Tarpé Mills on 25 February 1918 in Brooklyn, New York, she signed her work by her middle name "Tarpé" to conceal her sex. She also used the pseudonyms "Edgar Allen, Jr." and "Nella."[3]

Mills worked as a model while helping to support her deceased sister's children and her widowed mother along with her academic studies.[4] She attended Erasmus Hall High School in Brooklyn, New York, and she received her higher education at the Pratt Institute in New York.[1]

Mills' professional career began as a fashion illustrator.[5] She created several action comics characters ("Devil's Dust", "The Cat Man", "The Purple Zombie" and "Daredevil Barry Finn") before creating her most remembered character, "Miss Fury," in 1941.[6] Mills also wrote original scripts, penciled, and inked stories for these comic book series prior to Miss Fury: Funny Pages, Star Comics, Amazing Mystery Funnies, Amazing Man Comics, Masked Marvel, Prize Comics, Target Comics, and Reg'lar Fellers Heroic Comics.[7]

Miss Fury ran until 1952, when Tarpé Mills mostly retired from the comics industry.[2] She briefly returned in 1971 with Our Love Story for Marvel Comics and in 1979 began work on a Miss Fury graphic novel which would remain unfinished.[8]

She died on 12 December 1988 in Brooklyn, New York, and is buried in Forest Green Park Cemetery in Morganville, New Jersey.[1]

Miss Fury[edit]

The Bell Syndicate first published the Miss Fury comic strip (then titled The Black Fury) on April 6, 1941, predating the first appearance of Wonder Woman by six months.[9] The strip "ran in full color in the Sunday comics pages for 351 consecutive weeks from 1942 through 1949, and was also collected in comic book form by Timely Comics."[10] Circulation included over 100 newspapers at its most popular stage.[11] As the Miss Fury strip became more popular, it eventually became public knowledge its creator was a woman.[12]

Miss Fury, the alter ego of socialite Marla Drake, was a character based loosely on Mills' own appearance.[12]

During World War II, "Miss Fury" was painted on the nose of three American warplanes in Europe and the South Pacific. Two of the recurring villains were the Nazi agents Erica Von Kampf and General Bruno. Mills' own white Persian cat Perri-Purr was introduced in the strip, and during World War II Perri-Purr became an unofficial mascot of the American troops.[6][13]

Fashion[edit]

The artwork was created in a glamorous style with considerable attention placed on the heroine's outfits.[1][14] These outfits varied from lacy evening gowns and lingerie to bathing suits and athletic costumes.[15] Mills' attention to fashion in Miss Fury was mirrored in the work of her contemporary Dalia Messick's "Brenda Starr," and in this sense the women were ahead of their male counterparts who typically "dressed [their] heroines in plain red dresses."[16]

Cut-out paper fashion dolls were included for the first time in the comic-book reprints of Miss Fury, leading Trina Robbins to guess that these books were intended for a female audience.[15] Mills sent paper dolls to young women who had written fan mail requesting art.[9]

Censorship[edit]

Miss Fury was notoriously full of "kinkiness," including “whips, spike heels, female-on-female violence, and lingerie scenes.”[2] One character's costume in a 1947 publication "was so daring that 37 newspapers cancelled the strip” that day.[15] A bathing scene from the tenth Miss Fury Sunday page on June 8, 1941 ran in newspapers at the time but was later excluded from the 1942 Timely Comics reprint.[17]

Trina Robbins said on Miss Fury:

“The only outrage I have seen were those newspapers that censored Mills’s strip in which she dressed her nightclub entertainer character, Era, in an outfit that would not bother us in the least today. But it obviously shocked the pants – yes, verbal joke intended – off some people."[9]

Style[edit]

Mills' art in Miss Fury was modeled on the work of Milton Caniff.[18] Her portrayal of action across multiple panels, as well as the natural poses and facial expressions of her characters, has been described as "cinematic,"[19] echoing the film-noire style.[18][20] Mills' characters also possessed a "pinup quality."[19]

Dean Mullaney, editor and publisher behind Eclipse Enterprises, wrote that “[Mills’] art is drawn very traditionally—no surprises, no ah-ha moments.”[21]

Evie Nagy for The Los Angeles Review of Books remarked that “the flow of Mills’s sequential art feels completely organic."[19]

Legacy[edit]

June Mills' legacy as the first woman to create a female action hero in comics was contextualized by Victoria Ingalls for the American Psychological Association. Out of a list of hundreds of female “superheroes” surveyed in her abstract, Ingalls identified only eleven as being created by a woman not working in a team with a male writer. Mills' Marla Drake is the chronological first of these eleven heroes.

According to Mike Madrid in his book The Supergirls, Marla Drake belongs to the “Debutante” caste of early comics female heroines, who include Sandra Knight (Phantom Lady), Dianne Grayton(Spider Widow), Diana Adams (Miss Masque), and Brenda Banks (Lady Luck). These characters form a ‘sorority’ of heiresses and socialites who had been forced into lives of propriety, submission, and “tedious leisure.” “Putting on a cape and mask liberated these women” to embrace their own identities, fight crime, and trade their “entitled boredom” for thrills.[22]

Madrid wrote, “Mills’ approach to a secret identity seemed more realistic, injected with a feminine practicality.”[22]

Awards and honors[edit]

Miss Fury: Sensational Sundays 1941-1944 was a 2012 Eisner award nominee.[23]

Mills was named one of 16 nominees to be inducted to the 2018 Eisner Hall of Fame (alongside Jackie Ormes, Charles Addams, Karen Berger, Dave Gibbons, and Rumiko Takahashi).[24]

Bibliography[edit]

  • Funny Pages (1936)
    • "Diana Deane in "White Goddess"" vol. 3, #8[25]
    • "The Third Episode of Diana Deane in "White Goddess"" vol. 3, #9[26]
    • "White Goddess [conclusion]" vol. 4, #1[27]
  • Star Comics (1939)
    • "Diana Deane in Hollywood" vol. 2, #5 and #7[28]
    • Phantom Rider #18[29]
    • It takes heavy artillery to win a water pistol fight! #23[30]
  • Amazing Mystery Funnies (1939)[31]
    • Daredevil Barry Finn vol. 2, #4-5, #9, #11-12, and vol. 3 #1
  • Amazing Man Comics (1939)
    • "The Coming of Cat-Man" #5[32]
    • "The Ivy Menace" #6[33]
    • "The Return of the Cat Man" #8[34]
  • Masked Marvel (1940)
    • "The Vampire" #2[35]
  • Prize Comics (1940)
    • "Birth of a Barnstormer" vol. 1, #1[36]
    • "The Rescue of Lt. Andre" vol. 1, #1[36]
    • "The Diamond Smuggler" vol. 1, #2
    • "The Lost City of Tsol" vol. 1, #2
    • "Murder of a Mail Pilot" vol. 1, #3[37]
    • "Marco Hawk's Big Score" vol. 1, #3[37]
    • "Mamba Island" vol. 1, #4[38]
    • "The Witch Doctor's Waterloo" vol. 1, #5[39]
    • "The Search For Kalobi" vol. 1, #6[40]
  • Target Comics (1940)
    • "The Maskless Axeman" vol. 1, #1[41]
    • "Ninety Seconds For No. 91" vol. 1, #2[42]
    • "Devil's Dust" vol. 1, #2[42]
    • "Dance of Death" vol. 1, #3[43]
    • "The Music Monster" vol. 1, #4[44]
    • "Ezekiel's Ark" vol. 1, #5[45]
    • "The Blue Zombie" vol. 1, #6[46]
    • "Boomerang" vol. 1, #9 and #11[47][48]
    • "Sword of Destiny" vol. 1, #10[49]
    • "Satan's Colors" vol. 1, #12[50]
    • "The Three Mutineers" vol. 2 #1[51]
  • Reg'lar Fellers Heroic Comics (1940-1942)[52]
    • Issues 1-4 and 7-12
  • Miss Fury (1941-1952)
  • Our Love Story (1969)
    • "Model With a Broken Heart" #14[53]
  • Unpublished and unfinished Miss Fury graphic novel (1979)[8]

Posthumous[edit]

  • Miss Fury: Sensational Sundays 1941-1944 (2013)[8]
  • CBLDF Presents: She Changed Comics (2016)[54]
  • Men of Mystery Comics #104 (2017)[55]
  • Prize Comics (2017)[56]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d Trina Robbins, A Century of Women Cartoonists, Northampton, Mass. : Kitchen Sink Press, 1993. ISBN 0878162062 (pp. 62, 67-71, 83)
  2. ^ a b c Markstein, Don. "Miss Fury". Toonopedia. Archived from the original on 9 April 2012.
  3. ^ Booker, M. Keith (2014). Comics through Time: A History of Icons, Idols, and Ideas. Greenwood. ISBN 978-0313397509.
  4. ^ "June Mills". www.tarpemills.com. Retrieved 11 March 2017.
  5. ^ "June Mills". www.tarpemills.com. Retrieved 1 March 2017.
  6. ^ a b Lambiek. "Tarpe Mills". Comiclopedia.
  7. ^ "Tarpe Mills Comics - Comic Vine". Comic Vine. Retrieved 2018-12-03.
  8. ^ a b c "Miss Fury: Sensational Sundays 1941-1944 (Volume) - Comic Vine". Comic Vine. Retrieved 2018-12-03.
  9. ^ a b c "Trina Robbins on Comics Heroines, Feminism, and Lacy Underthings - Print Magazine". Print Magazine. 2011-07-20. Retrieved 2018-12-03.
  10. ^ IDW Publishing (2012). Miss Fury by Trina Robbins, Tarpe Mills. The Copacetic Comics Company, copaceticcomics.com/comics/miss-fury--2.
  11. ^ "June Mills". www.tarpemills.com. Retrieved 11 March 2017.
  12. ^ a b Tarpe Mills. Miss Fury. Edited by Trina Robbins. San Diego: IDW, 2011.
  13. ^ "Miss Fury & WWII". www.tarpemills.com. Retrieved 11 March 2017.
  14. ^ Goulart, Ron (1 January 1975). The Adventurous decade. New Rochelle, NY: Arlington House. pp. 180–181. ISBN 087000252X. OCLC 463530524.
  15. ^ a b c Frankel, Valerie Estelle, and Trina Robbins. Superheroines and the Epic Journey Mythic Themes in Comics, Film and Television. McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers, 2017.
  16. ^ Robbins, Trina (2001). The Great Women Cartoonists. New York: Watson-Guptill Publications. p. 62. ISBN 0-8230-2170-X.
  17. ^ Mullaney, Dean. “The Water’s Hot. Come On In!” The Library of American Comics, 2 Aug. 2013, loac.idwpublishing.com/the-waters-hot-come-on-in/.
  18. ^ a b "Perhaps because it was the only one of many then-popular Caniff-inspired strips starring a woman, or perhaps because Mills was such a good storyteller in the film noir style, she received a lot of publicity. Miss Fury decorated the nosecone of at least one bomber..." Trina Robbins, "Tarpé Mills’ Miss Fury". The Comics Journal No. 288, February 2008, (p.110).
  19. ^ a b c Nagy, Evie. “Heroine Chic: Tarpé Mills' ‘Miss Fury.’” Los Angeles Review of Books, 12 Jan. 2012, lareviewofbooks.org/article/heroine-chic-tarpe-mills-miss-fury/#!
  20. ^ Robbins, Trina. “WOMEN IN COMICS: An Introductory Guide.” National Association of Comics Art Educators, www.cartoonstudies.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/women.pdf.
  21. ^ Mullaney, Dean. “Gutsy Broads, Unite.” The Library of American Comics, 24 Jan. 2011, loac.idwpublishing.com/gutsy-broads-unite/.
  22. ^ a b Madrid, Mike. The Supergirls: Fashion, Feminism, Fantasy, and the History of Comic Book Heroines. Exterminating Angel Press, 2016.
  23. ^ "2012 Eisner nominations are out, topped by Daredevil". The Beat. 2012-04-04. Retrieved 2018-12-03.
  24. ^ "Kalish and Ormes inducted to Eisner Hall of Fame; six more women nominated". The Beat. 2018-01-15. Retrieved 2018-12-03.
  25. ^ "Funny Pages v3 #8 (Centaur Publishing) - Comic Book Plus". Comic Book Plus. Retrieved 2018-12-03.
  26. ^ "Funny Pages v3 #10 (Centaur Publishing) - Comic Book Plus". Comic Book Plus. Retrieved 2018-12-03.
  27. ^ "Funny Pages v4 #1 (Centaur Publishing) - Comic Book Plus". Comic Book Plus. Retrieved 2018-12-03.
  28. ^ "Centaur Publishing - Comic Book Plus". Comic Book Plus. Retrieved 2018-12-03.
  29. ^ "Star Comics #18 - Phantom Rider (Issue)". Comic Vine. Retrieved 2018-12-03.
  30. ^ "Star Comics #23 - It takes heavy artillery to win a water pistol fight! (Issue)". Comic Vine. Retrieved 2018-12-03.
  31. ^ "Amazing Mystery Funnies (Volume) - Comic Vine". Comic Vine. Retrieved 2018-12-03.
  32. ^ "Amazing Man Comics #5 (Centaur Publishing)". Comic Book Plus. Retrieved 2018-12-03.
  33. ^ "Amazing Man Comics #6 (Centaur Publishing)". Comic Book Plus. Retrieved 2018-12-03.
  34. ^ "Amazing Man Comics #8 (Centaur Publishing)". Comic Book Plus. Retrieved 2018-12-03.
  35. ^ "Masked Marvel #2 (Centaur Publishing) - Comic Book Plus". Comic Book Plus. Retrieved 2018-12-03.
  36. ^ a b "Prize Comics v1 1 (1) (Prize) - Comic Book Plus". Comic Book Plus. Retrieved 2018-12-03.
  37. ^ a b "Prize Comics v1 3 (3) (Prize) - Comic Book Plus". Comic Book Plus. Retrieved 2018-12-03.
  38. ^ "Prize Comics v1 4 (4) (Prize) - Comic Book Plus". Comic Book Plus. Retrieved 2018-12-03.
  39. ^ "Prize Comics v1 5 (5) (Prize) - Comic Book Plus". Comic Book Plus. Retrieved 2018-12-03.
  40. ^ "Prize Comics v1 6 (6) (Prize) - Comic Book Plus". Comic Book Plus. Retrieved 2018-12-03.
  41. ^ "Target Comics v1 1 [1] (Novelty Press) - Comic Book Plus". Comic Book Plus. Retrieved 2018-12-03.
  42. ^ a b "Target Comics v1 2 [2] (Novelty Press) - Comic Book Plus". Comic Book Plus. Retrieved 2018-12-03.
  43. ^ "Target Comics v1 3 [3] (Novelty Press) - Comic Book Plus". Comic Book Plus. Retrieved 2018-12-03.
  44. ^ "Target Comics v1 4 [4] (Novelty Press) - Comic Book Plus". Comic Book Plus. Retrieved 2018-12-03.
  45. ^ "Target Comics v1 5 [5] (Novelty Press) - Comic Book Plus". Comic Book Plus. Retrieved 2018-12-03.
  46. ^ "Target Comics v1 6 [6] (Novelty Press) - Comic Book Plus". Comic Book Plus. Retrieved 2018-12-03.
  47. ^ "Target Comics v1 9 [9] (Novelty Press) - Comic Book Plus". Comic Book Plus. Retrieved 2018-12-03.
  48. ^ "Target Comics v1 11 [11] (Novelty Press) - Comic Book Plus". Comic Book Plus. Retrieved 2018-12-03.
  49. ^ "Target Comics v1 10 [10] (Novelty Press) - Comic Book Plus". Comic Book Plus. Retrieved 2018-12-03.
  50. ^ "Target Comics v1 12 [12] (Novelty Press) - Comic Book Plus". Comic Book Plus. Retrieved 2018-12-03.
  51. ^ "Target Comics v2 1 [13] (Novelty Press) - Comic Book Plus". Comic Book Plus. Retrieved 2018-12-03.
  52. ^ "Reg'lar Fellers Heroic Comics (Volume) - Comic Vine". Comic Vine. Retrieved 2018-12-03.
  53. ^ "Our Love Story (Volume) - Comic Vine". Comic Vine. Retrieved 2018-12-03.
  54. ^ "CBLDF Presents: She Changed Comics (Volume) - Comic Vine". Comic Vine. Retrieved 2018-12-03.
  55. ^ "Men of Mystery Comics #104 (Issue)". Comic Vine. Retrieved 2018-12-03.
  56. ^ "Prize Comics #1 (Issue)". Comic Vine. Retrieved 2018-12-03.