Paper Dolls from the California Girls

By Trina Robbins (Eclipse Books)
ISBN: 0-913035-57-2

I haven’t looked at anything for the sheer fun of it for awhile so here’s a delightful peculiarity from the 1980s: an example of an old hobby that’s just crying out to become the next big fad. As a follow-up to her wacky, wise and wonderful Paper Dolls from the Comics (ISBN: 0-913035-20-3) cartoonist Trina Robbins turned her designing eye on her own strip: California Girls.

One of the last serious attempts at creating a fun comicbook for young girls, the series featured the everyday lives of Maxine and Maureen Muldoon, twins who attend Hollyhock High School with their gal-pals. While not to every fan’s taste the strip consisted of fashion, comedy and everyday adventure, carried out with Robbins’ slick wit and accessible style.

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 frequently added games, cut-out collectible premiums and paper toys to their output in their efforts to win and keep an audience that consisted of the entire family, not just adolescent males of all ages.

One of the most popular and effective – even to this day (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 additional clothes you could “dress” them in. You could even design your own outfits for them. 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.

This practise migrated to comicbooks, and every youngster and girl friendly title from Sugar and Spike to Millie the Model had their own paper-doll pages. As I’ve mentioned elsewhere, even my exceptionally smart and utterly sensible wife is not immune to the seditious allure of these things.

So grab your crayons to decorate the monochrome pages (there’s a glorious full-colour centre section too), snag some scissors – don’t run! – and revel in the modes and fashions of the 1980s West Coast. And remember if you do come across a copy of this joyous little gem, with today’s scanning and reprographic advances you can easily duplicate all the pages and go mad without destroying this fun and funky little package…
© 1988 Trina Robbins. All Rights Reserved.