Paper Dolls from the Comics

Paper Dolls from the Comics

Compiled and written by Trina Robbins (Eclipse Books)
ISBN: 0-913035-20-3

The newspaper comic strip was a powerful and ubiquitous tool used to raise circulation and promote customer loyalty in the first half of the twentieth century, and as well as laughs, thrills and escapism creators often added games, cut-out collectibles and paper toys to their output in their efforts to succeed. The common belief was that young children and girls loved this kind of “dress-up” play, but I suspect many young men also joined in the fun.

One of the most popular and effective – even to this day (and don’t take my word for it, crank up that search engine and see for yourself), was the addition of favourite characters in their underwear, with fashions you could dress them in – and even design your own outfits for.

This practise graduated from the strips to comic books, and every title from Sugar and Spike to Millie the Model had their own paper-doll pages. Even my quite smart and utterly sensible wife is not immune to the seditious allure of these things.

Feminist cartoonist and comic historian Trina Robbins produced this slim and entertaining book to commemorate the subject (and we’re well overdue for a bigger, longer, updated edition) reproducing some of America’s greatest strip characters by some of the industry’s top creators.

So grab those scissors – don’t run! – and revel in the modes and fashions of Alley Oop, Winnie Winkle, Dixie Dugan, Brenda Star, Dick Tracy, Flyin’ Jenny, Torchy Brown, Mopsy, Boots, Smilin’ Jack, Jane Arden, both Terry and the Dragon Lady from Terry and the Pirates, Miss Fury, The Gumps and Katy Keene. It’s so oddly seductive… yet strangely satisfying…

Text © 1987 Trina Robbins. All Images © 1987, 2007 their respective holders.