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I, as a white, gay, privileged guy feel rather embarrassed about posting this a tribute to a genuinely remarkable lady of colour, who set her own standards and made her own rules, who went through things I can't even imagine, and handled them with more élan than I could ever hope to.

As such there are discussions of race and usage of outdated terms involving race below the cut, just thought that was worth a mention from the outset.



Born in 1911, Jackie Ormes rose to prominence with the publishing, in 1937 of "Torchy Brown in Dixie to Harlem" a humour strip about a young black woman, a teenager from Mississippi, making her way as a singer at the Cotton Club. It lasted a year. But there was always an edge to them, in the first strip, as Torchy sets off for New York, she see's on the train, large signs pointing towards the section for whites and the section for coloureds. She pretends she can't read very well and boards the white carriage.

carriage

She is eventually sent back to the coloureds carriage, but even trying such a thing was a very risqué thing to show at the time.

It only ran until 1938, but was quite a achievement; Torchy bucked the trend by being as far from the usual vision of a black woman as portrayed in the media by that point, she was not an overweight, matronly servant, she was not a servant at all, and she always dressed in the manner of a stylish young lady (I use the word stylish a lot in this post, but I think you can see why)

Ms Ormes then moved to Chicago, where she published columns and cartoons in the prominent local black paper, The Chicago Defender.

In 1945, also in The Chigaco Defender, she introduced "Patty Jo 'n' Ginger", a series of one-panel comics featuring, unusually, two sisters; one older and always stylish (who never spoke) and her more politically aware kid sister, as seen here, who was usually making some precociously trenchant point.



Ouch!

It's worth noting that in addition to these, Mrs Ormes was an enthusiastic doll collector and in 1947 she designed the first "proper" black doll for children, rather than the usual stereotype depiction, based on Patty Jo. In Mrs Ormes own words at the time; "No more Sambo's, just KIDS!"

She also frequently made paper doll sheets for her characters, but always made sure that the outfits were modern and fashionable, and why not?

Torchy Togs

Torchy Togs 2

In 1950 she reinvented the Torchy character for a new series, Torchy in "Heartbeats" for a full colour strip. I get this next bit direct from www.jackieormes.com;

Recovering from a broken heart after relinquishing her boyfriend to his first love, music, Torchy hops a tramp freighter for a job on a Brazilian plantation. In this strip, she is met at the boat and conducted to the plantation by Manu, the sinister minion of LeGran, a cruel overseer who will make Torchy his prey. Just in time, she flees into the snake-infested jungle with another of Le Gran’s captives, her newfound love, high-minded Dr. Paul Hammond. Torchy and Paul escape and make their way back to America where they battle racism and environmental pollution in a little town called "Southville."


And as before, Ormes made sure that Torchy looked STUNNING...

bathing 1952

I'm no expert on such things, but even I find that sexy as hell! And in a teasing fashion rather than tacky or tasteless.





And that last panel came 9 years before Dr King's speech.

Jackie Ormes retired from cartooning in 1956, but was still active as an artist on murals and portraits. The first black female cartoonist in the USA (and possibly further afield) passed away in 1989, and I can't being to do her true justice here, but having found out about her by accident, I felt this was something that scans_daily HAD to feature, or hang our heads in shame, I know I plan to seek out more of her work if I can.

Oh, and thanks to [personal profile] droolfangrrl for mentioning it, you may also like to check out http://theormessociety.com/, which is dedicated to supporting black female comic creators and promoting the inclusion of black women in the comics industry as creators, characters, and consumers.
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