Welcome to the ToonSeum

The ToonSeum, Pittsburgh Museum of Cartoon Art, is one of only three museums in the United State dedicated exclusively to the cartoon arts.

The ToonSeum features exhibitions or original comic and cartoon art, with new exhibits every two months.

Our giftshop carries unique comics and books related to the cartoon arts.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Woman For President! Special Presentation with Dr. Ann Ruben

"How Margaret from Dennis the Menace Enriched My Life" Presentation with Dr. Ann Ruben

Pittsburgh, April 9th, 2014- In conjunction with the ToonSeum’s Wonder Women exhibit the ToonSeum is bringing you a special event “How Margaret from Dennis the Menace Cartoons Enriched My Life” with Ann Ruben on Saturday, April 19th at 2 p.m.

Reuben a long standing advocate for women’s equality has been standing alongside the strong willed red-head’s belief that women can be anything they want, which Margaret declared in the 1993 Sunday comic. 

The iconic phrase became Reuben’s motto and through the permission of Hank Ketcham Enterprises she began producing a shirt with the “Someday a Woman Will Be President “ slogan, eventually adding the words “Someday is Now” on the reverse. In addition Hank Ketcham Enterprises will be generously donating the original copy of the Dennis the Menace cartoon to the Toonseum. It first appeared in 1993.

On April 19th, discover how the words of one freckle faced heroine changed Ruben’s life forever and the journey toward empowering women which began with one powerful comic strip.

About the Presenter:
Dr. Ann Moliver Ruben was born in Pittsburgh in 1925.  She was married to Gershon Ruben, her high school sweetheart and had three sons and six grandchildren.
Ruben received her B.S., M. Ed and Ph.D. in Higher Education at the University of Pittsburgh and taught for the Pittsburgh Public School System as well as was a mental health consultant at Western Psychiatric Institute while on a Maurice Falk Medical Fellowship. Eventually Ruben took a teaching position at the Graduate School of Barry University in Miami Shores, Florida. 

Wonder Women: On Page and Off Exhibit:
Comics provide yet another example of the roller coaster of gender constructs that hindered women. Since the turn of the 20th century, women have inched their way into the industry despite the many hurdles placed in front of them. Early female comic characters often appeared in minor, supportive roles, however, today there are many comic heroines as main characters.

The exhibition is curated by Kathleen Adam of The Women’s Museum of California with further assistance from “herstorian” Trina Robbins and the ToonSeum staff.

Over 50 pieces of original art, representing a “her-storical” timeline of women artists will be shown, one of the largest such exhibition of women in comics ever presented. Runs through March 31st. 

The event takes place on April 19th at 2pm. 
https://toonseum.wufoo.com/forms/book-release-the-dumbest-idea-ever/Regular Admission Prices will be charged at the Door. 

Friday, March 28, 2014

Trina Robbins at the ToonSeum

Trina Robbins (photo courtesy of Justin Brown)

On March 20, Trina Robbins stopped by the ToonSeum to provide us with a marvelous presentation on women in the comic industry, in spite of an annual post-bronchitis cough.

With some hot tea and a few cough drops, Trina gave her presentation with plenty of spirit. Starting with the very first comic ever on record and ending with women in comics today, Trina goes through the timeline of different female cartoonists: Rose O'Neill, Kate Carew, Marjorie Organ Henri, Fay King, Sylvia Sneidman, Gladys Parker, Virginia Huget, Dale Messick, Jill Elgin, Marcia Snyder, Eva Mirabal, and Ruth Atkinson.

She explored female illustrators in history. During the 1920s, Flapper Fanny made an appearance as a single-panel cartoon series. Originally drawn by Ethel Hays, a cartoonist and children's book illustrator, Flapper Fanny was turned to Gladys Parker, then later Sylvia Sneidman. Trina stated that  they all pointed out that the comics of that time period objectified women.

Paper doll: Flapper Fanny's Fall Wardrobe, illustrated by Gladys Parker

When World War II began, women began taking over jobs as factory workers, truck drivers, and cartoonists. It was the first time that female illustrators drew comics with action heroines, such as was portrayed in  Jill Elgin's "Girl Commandos" and Marcia Snyder's "Camilla", according to Trina.

Girl Commandos, illustrated by Jill Elgin
Camilla, illustrated by Marcia Snyder
Post war, when men got their jobs back, many women "went back into the kitchen," however, according to Trina, some women remained in comics, though many fewer and the scope was more geared toward the feminine perspective, such as romance and teen life, than action heroines.

Patsy Walker, illustrated by Al Jafee 
In the 1970s, Trina was a part of Wimmen's Comix, a collective of underground comics written by all women. The series often addressed feminist issues, homosexuality, sex and politics. The first ever comic strip featuring an "out" lesbian appeared in Trina Robbin's "Sandy Comes Out" in 1973.  In 2012, they celebrated the 40th anniversary of Wimmen's Comix.

It Ain't Me Babe (1970)
First comic made entirely by women
 Trina ended the presentation stating,"There are more women in the comic industry now more than ever," leaving the audience with an encouraging outlook on the rise of the female artist. 

Following her presentation, Trina insisted on talking a little bit about the comics in the exhibit hall, providing some insider explanation for our attendees. Shortly afterwards, Trina signed and sold some books for herself. One of the patrons even presented their own publication to Trina as a gift. Many female guests who were artists (including myself, an intern) left the event feeling inspired and motivated. Being able to learn about and surround myself with artistic women who shared similar aspirations helped me feel like a part of a something that is growing and will continue to grow.

Trina Robbins and Guest (photo courtesy of Justin Brown)
About Trina:

Trina Robbins has been writing books, comics, and graphic novels for over forty years. Her 2009 book, The Brinkley Girls: the Best of Nell Brinkley’s Cartoons from 1913-1940 (Fantagraphics), and her 2011 book, "Tarpe Mills and Miss Fury," were nominated for Eisner awards and Harvey awards. Her all-ages graphic novel, "Chicagoland Detective Agency: The Drained Brains Caper", first in a 6-book series, was a Junior Library Guild Selection. Her graphic novel, "Lily Renee: Escape Artist", was awarded a gold medal from Moonbeam Chidren’s Books and a silver medal from Sydney Taylor Jewish Library Awards. Trina’s most recent book is "Pretty in Ink", her final and definitive history of women cartoonists. In 2013, Trina Robbins was voted into the Will Eisner Comic Book Hall of Fame.

Wonder Woman, illustrated by Trina Robbins

Written by- Jessica Carter, ToonSeum intern

Thursday, March 20, 2014

We Asked Kids: Who is your Wonder Woman?

We Asked Kids: Who is your Wonder Woman?

Video Produced and Edited by Mandi Bridgeman

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

A video farewell from our intern Ellen

Our intern Ellen bids us a fond farewell with this adorable video.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Wonder Women, Behind The Exhibit: Artists Discuss Gender Issues

From 1970 through the 1990s Trina Robbins was sending out comic proposals to Marvel and DC, and time-and-time again they would get rejected by editors who questioned how well they would sell with male audiences.

“The proposals would always get rejected by editors who said ‘this is very nice, but it’s for girls and boys won’t read it and girls don’t read comics,’” she said. “But of course, I knew that was nonsense.”

The generalization that women and girls aren’t interested in cartoon art struck a chord with Robbins, a comic artist, writer and historian from San Francisco. She knew women must be making them as well as reading them, so she started researching female comic artists.

Following three decades, this research yielded several books that log the history of women who work in the industry and the largest collection of original, twentieth-century original comic art by women.

Robbin’s collection of art is currently on display at the Pittsburgh Toonseum as a part of the cartoon museum’s Wonder Women exhibit. The installation is open until March 31 and is located in the StarKist Hall of Legends main gallery at the museum along the 900 block of Liberty Avenue.

Wonder Women chronicles the history of female comic artists, from early 1900s cartoonist Ethel Hayes’ Flapper Franny (a bob-haired woman dawning the fashion of the day and drawn with crisp, black ink) to the psychedelic, more surreal underground comics associated with second-wave feminism in the 1970s.

There is also production art from a Wonder Woman comic by Ramona Frandon from 1989. The art shows the super-powered Amazon princess, who  praises Robbins (a character in the book) for how she depicted her in normal clothing, as opposed to a lack of clothing or tight spandex, while still capturing her strength and personality.

“It would be grossly naive and presumptuous to think that a comic book can change the world’s thinking, but it doesn’t hurt to try,” said Robbin’s character in one of the frames.

Wonder Woman comic by Ramona Frandon featuring Robbins.

This has been her credo working as a historian and comic artist over the years faced with depictions of women in comics “falling out of tiny, little, tight outfits...fighting crime in high heels.”

Her definitive book titled “Pretty In Ink” is an amalgamation of her seminal works that documented the histories of female cartoonists from as early as 1896 up to today. The book is both a documentation of such an overlooked history of female artists, as well as a harbinger of the prevalence of women working within the comic and cartoon industries.  

Robbins has written other histories of women as well, including a biographical graphic novel titled “Lily Renee, Escape Artist” about a jewish teenager in Nazi-occupied Vienna fleeing to England through the Kindertransport rescue mission.

Her success has been through graphic novels, as she has faced difficulties launching comics within the big publishers, such as Marvel and DC. Back in the 1980s, she drew a six-issue miniseries titled “Meet Misty” about a teenager trying to win a talent contest. The series was cancelled after six issues because it only sold 20,000 copies.

“They used to sell in the millions,” she said. “They are not at all selling the way they used to. If a comic by the big two sells 20,000, that’s considered good”

While she believes there are disparities within the big-two publishers regarding comics geared toward women, Robbins said things have gotten much better in the twenty-first century with the advent of graphic novels.

““Women are interested in the industry, and they are excited about comic book and cartoon art, she said. “That is why all those graphic novels are selling. They just are not buying superhero books. ”

Diana Zourelias, a Pittsburgh-based freelance artist and illustrator, has a piece in the exhibit depicting prominent First Ladies of the White House in a foot race. She agrees with the sentiment that there aren’t enough women creating big comic titles. 

Artwork by Diana Zourelias on display at the Toonseum.

“Men, guys read comics, guys draw comics,” said Zourelias. “I don’t think most women run out and buy the next Spider Man comic book. I think there is all sorts of disparity, as far as, even on the funny pages, there are very few women.”

As a former cartooning, anatomy and illustration teacher at Oakbridge Academy of Arts, Lower Burrell, Zourelias has seen how adept young women are at drawing figures and said it is unfortunate that aren’t breaking into the cartooning and comic scene more often.

She speculates that this is because the industry is still male dominated, as she has seen throughout her own career. In her early career during the 1970s, Zourelias worked as a studio artist at American Greetings, two weeks after cartoonist Robert Crumb (best known for his Zap Comix) had left the card company.

“If they were handing out the assignment, they would never hand me any of the edgy ones,” she said about her experience working with all men at American Greetings.  

“And actually, I was hired there because I had draw a storyboard with a bald princess that got hair stolen away by a bald eagle, and they had children and she became an eagle. And this is why they hired me, because they thought I was ridiculous, but they would never give me the cards that showed that ridiculous side.”

Even when she left American Greetings and became an art director at Rustcraft Cards in Boston, Zourelias was surrounded by men. While she said the cartoon and comic illustration scene is a boys club, she speculated that the market is wide open and that if more young women jump in to it things will change.

Young women are entering the comic and cartoon illustration scene in Pittsburgh. Jessica Heberle is another local artist who contributed a piece to the exhibit; a water-color, ink and pencil portrait of a young woman.

A portrait by Jessica Heberle featured at the Toonseum.
She said the work’s themes involve a transition through formative emotions and memories and the psychological aspects of moving past self-imposed limitations and comfort zones. This idea of moving beyond uncomfortable situations has parallels her experiences with comic culture.

“It was super uncomfortable going to comic book stores because I found that, at least, some of them were pretty misogynistic,” said Heberle “Like, there was one I went in to and basically there were like “oh, are you here to get something for your boyfriend?”

But this didn’t stop her from pursuing her work as a freelance illustrator working out her home in Wilkinsburg. Much like the themes in her work of working past unpleasant experiences, Heberle has actually found solace in the comic scene with the help and inspiration by local artists and events.

While attending a lecture by Trina Robbins, Heberle asked her a question about female artists and was told to look up graphic novels. That is how she discovered comic art and one of her favorite artists, Phoebe Gloeckner, an acclaimed indie artist who won an Inkpot award in 2000 for outstanding achievement in the comic arts.

Heberle is currently working on a mixed media series titled “The River Beneath the River,” a project she intends to culminate into a show and an art book that will include the portrait at the Toonseum.  

She said this venture in to illustration would never have developed if it wasn’t for the support and feedback from people like Robbins, Bill Boichel of Copacetic Comics, Ed Piskor who created the “Hip Hop Family Tree” comics and local artist Jim Rugg, best known for his Eisner nominated “Aphrodisiac” graphic novel.

“I definitely think I wouldn’t have gotten in to it had I not had someone like Bill or like Ed show me the work of Phoebe Gloeckner and been like ‘look at this,’” said Heberle.

“So I think just having people who are in the scene, and be more open minded. And they are here, there are so many amazing people here in Pittsburgh.”

While Heberle has found a supportive base for her work in Pittsburgh, she still experiences marginalization throughout the comic illustration scene at large. One of her biggest issues is being pegged as a “female-comic-artist.”

“I just posted something that Hope Larson, she does comics as well, and she posted this on her twitter: ‘People talk about my gender as a selling point for my work, but we wouldn’t need to if my work wasn’t devalued by my gender.’”

Lizzee Solomon is a friend of Heberle and comic artist who also contributed a piece to Wonder Women that depicts a group of prom-goers that is reminiscent of the underground comics of the 1970s and 1980s. She agrees that the female-artist label might be used to diminish their work.

Artwork by Lizzee Solomon featured at the Toonseum

“It kind of just automatically lumps her in with something that’s sexualized, or talks about sexual norms or performativity of gender norms, even if it has nothing to do with that,” said Solomon.

“And, men that are doing comics don’t get lumped in to male-comic-artists as a category, that category doesn’t exist.”

Despite the differences of how men and women are received within the industry at large, Solomon, who lives in Bloomfield works as an education coordinator at Tech. Shop Pittsburgh, has also found a great deal of support by local artists.

Her work has been well received by locals, even when the subject matter is contentious. Creating comics is a therapeutic practice for Solomon, and one comic about a breakup with another local comic artist turned out to be admired.

“I put this comic out there in one of my zines and I heard that he actually liked it,” she said,  “and that he shared it with his friends and most of them are men in the comics world as well.”

“So, I thought that was kind of cool. I kinda got a bit of a jab in there, but it was also in good fun.”

Solomon praised Toonseum Executive Director, Joe Wos, for dedicating an entire exhibit to women artists. She also found comfort in being involved with Wonder Women, as she was able to express herself freely through her work.

“I’m really happy I was able to be a part of the show,” said Solomon. “With this particular show, Joe didn’t express any restrictions to my work. So, I basically submitted a drawing to the show that does not have much to do with gender roles.”

Solomon has produced comic strips as well as a graphic novel titled “No Estoy Aqui” about her experience in Valencia Spain.

Robbins said the graphic novel genre is where most women creators and prosocial depictions of women and girls are found.

“That is why everything has gotten so much better for women in the twentieth century,” said Robbins, “because there are graphic novels now.”

“Graphic novels are real stories in comic form and drawn by many people who are not superhero artists, and many of those people are women. That’s where women are doing comics, for graphic novels.”

And while Solomon, Heberle, Robbins and Zourelias have seen the sexualization, objectification and marginalization of female characters and creators in mainstream comics, they all seem to have found some refuge in the independent comic and cartoon art scene.

The Wonder Women exhibit also serves as a beacon of hope for women and girls who are comic artists or enthusiasts.

Linda Rabb of Pittsburgh celebrated her birthday at the exhibit with her daughter Alex, a freelance radio broadcaster in State College. Alex said that her mother, a long-time fan of Wonder Woman, introduced her to comics when she was young.

Alex found the exhibition to be a refreshing exemplification of the works and characterization of women. She lauded the installation, much like Wonder Woman praising Robbin’s portrayal of the comic hero as a strong female lead.

“This gives a different perspective of what a woman can be,” said Alex. “I like seeing women kick butt, especially when they are on equal footing along side the boys.”

Monday, February 24, 2014

Give back to the Arts Community by attending our Cause-Play Party!

It's a Cause-Play Party! 

Calling all superhero, cosplayer, anime characters, stormtroopers, ghostbusters, furries and more! The ToonSeum is presenting it’s first ever Cause-Play Party event and we want you to be there!

The event takes place on March 1st, 2014 at 8:30pm at Tilden Lounge located at 941 Liberty Avenue, just two doors down from the ToonSeum.

All guests are encouraged to show up as their favorite character. It’s not just a costume party, it’s a cosplay party! All characters are welcome from superheroes to furries, whether you are a geek, Otaku, or just look good in your favorite lycra spandex onsie. If you love cosplay this is your party!

Prizes and trophies will be awarded in a variety of costume categories. This special fundraiser for ToonSeum will also feature a silent auction with a variety of items including character costumes, original art, and unique experiences.

In addition, light hors d'oeuvres and specially crafted Super Shots will be served throughout the night. A cash bar will be available as well.

Are you a real superfan? Then attend our Superfan VIP Pre-Party at the ToonSeum from 7:30-8:30. More info TBA

All attendees must be 21 or older. ID will be checked at the door and mask will need to be removed at the checkpoint.


Friday, February 14, 2014

Top 10 Most Bizarre Couples in Cartoons

Ahh.. L'amour. 

10. Finn and Flame Princess

"Even if we like each other, we're going to hurt each other."
Super cute while it lasted (before Finn went and messed it up!). This couple was between a human and a fire elemental (youch...). Their decision to defy nature and offbeat circumstances put them on the list. 

9. Arnold and Helga

Pretty much on the list because:

8. Pepe and Penelope Pussycat

"Ze arms of Pepe are upon you!" Remember when you were little and you thought oh, Pepe is so romantic, meanwhile you grow up you realize he is a complete psycho stalker. He should have known that there was no way that a cat would be attracted to his skunky scent. I mean come on, a cat can't even handle the smell of cinnamon.

7. Popeye and Olive Oyl

This couple is considered odd because of Olive Oyl's tendency to just "flip" from one guy to another, and yet these two still seem happy together. Olive is often flirting with and even favoring Bluto while in a relationship with Popeye in most of the cartoons. "Oh dear!"

6. Shaggy and Scooby, and Crystal and Amber

These four started off cute, until you find out Crystal and Amber are aliens in disguise. Even then, it's still a little bit cute, but a long distance relationship just couldn't be an option. 

Not to mention they were a little weird looking.

5. Joker and Harley Quinn

This adorable blonde clown and her "Mr. J" are very popular with audiences, and even considered by many to be the best villainous couple in cartoon history. Psychotic by nature, these two are definitely bizarre. 

4. Kenai and Nita

Now we start to get into what I really consider strange in cartoon couples: Interspecies. Kenai and Nita were both humans who turn into bears by the end of Brother Bear 2. They now live their love life as bears with the mind of humans? In real life this would be considered too weird!

3. Melman and Gloria

Interspecies comes back here with Melman and Gloria from Madagascar. Although strange at face value, the couple isn't any less cute when thinking from a children's movie perspective. Especially since Melman almost sacrificed himself to a volcano for Gloria. Ahh.. Love. 

2. Goofy and Clarabelle

This was the only couple that stood out to me as a child as "strange," mainly because I found it to be a bit random. You don't see Clarabelle too often (compared with Minnie and Daisy), which probably amplifies its "bizarre-ness."

1. Donkey and Dragon

The mother of all interspecies couples. This reaches number one because people wondered: