Jackie Ormes

Last updated
Jackie Ormes
Ormes3-1-.gif
Jackie Ormes holding a Patty-Jo doll.
BornZelda Mavin Jackson
August 1, 1911
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
DiedDecember 26, 1985(1985-12-26) (aged 74)
Chicago, Illinois
NationalityAmerican
Area(s)Cartoonist
Notable works
Torchy Brown in Dixie to Harlem
Candy
Patty Jo 'n' Ginger
Torchy in Heartbeats (originally titled Torchy Brown Heartbeats) and accompanying Torchy Togs (paper doll cutouts).
Awards National Association of Black Journalists Hall of Fame Will Eisner Comic Industry Hall of Fame

Jackie Ormes (August 1, 1911 December 26, 1985) is known as the first African-American woman cartoonist and creator of the Torchy Brown comic strip and the Patty-Jo 'n' Ginger panel.

Contents

Biography

Early life and career

Jackie Ormes was born Zelda Mavin Jackson [1] [2] on August 1, 1911, [3] in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, to parents William Winfield Jackson and Mary Brown Jackson. [4] Her father William, the owner of a printing company and movie theater proprietor, was killed in an automobile accident in 1917. [4] This resulted in the then six-year old Jackie and her older sister Dolores in the care of their aunt and uncle for a brief period of time. [4] Eventually, Jackie's mother remarried and the family relocated to the nearby suburb of Monongahela. Ormes described the suburb in a 1985 interview for the Chicago Reader as "spread out and simple. Nothing momentous ever happens here". She graduated from high school in Monongahela in 1930. [4] [5]

Ormes drew and wrote throughout high school. She was arts editor for the 1929-1930 Monongahela High School Yearbook where her earliest efforts as a cartoonist can be seen in the lively caricatures of her school's students and teachers. [6] It was during this period that she wrote a letter to the editor of the Pittsburgh Courier , [7] a weekly African-American newspaper that was published on Saturdays. The then-editor, Robert Vann, wrote back. This correspondence led to her first writing assignment- covering a boxing match. Her coverage of future matches led her becoming an avid fan of the sport. [5]

Ormes started in journalism as a proofreader for the Pittsburgh Courier [5] . She also worked as an editor and as a freelance writer, writing on police beats, court cases and human interests topics. [4] While she enjoyed "a great career running around town, looking into everything the law would allow, and writing about it", what she really wanted to do was draw. [5]

Cartooning

Ormes's first comic strip, Torchy Brown in Dixie to Harlem, first appeared in the Pittsburgh Courier on May 1, 1937. [8] Her work was not syndicated in the usual sense, but since the Courier had fourteen city editions, she was indeed read from coast to coast. [9] The strip, starring Torchy Brown, [10] was a humorous depiction of a Mississippi teen who found fame and fortune singing and dancing in the Cotton Club. Torchy's journey from Mississippi to New York City mirrored the journey of many African-Americans who ventured northward during the Great Migration. [11] It was through Torchy Brown that Ormes became the first African-American woman to produce a nationally appearing comic strip. [12] The strip would run until April 30, 1938. [8] The reason for the strip's abrupt end is uncertain, but it is presumed to be due to an end in her contract. [4]

Ormes moved to Chicago in 1942, and soon began writing occasional articles and, briefly, a social column for The Chicago Defender , one of the nation's leading black newspapers, a weekly at that time. For a few months at the end of the war, her single panel cartoon, Candy, about an attractive and wisecracking housemaid, appeared in the Defender; the panel ran from March 24 to July 21, 1945. [8]

By August 1945, Ormes's work was back in the Courier, with the advent of Patty-Jo 'n' Ginger, a single-panel cartoon which ran for 11 years. [13] It featured a big sister-little sister set-up, with the precocious, insightful and socially/politically-aware child as the only speaker and the beautiful adult woman as a sometime pin-up figure and fashion mannequin. [14] The strip ran from September 1, 1945 to September 22, 1956. [8]

Starting August 19, 1950, the Courier began an eight-page color comics insert, where Ormes re-invented her Torchy character in a new comic strip, Torchy in Heartbeats. [15] This Torchy was a beautiful, independent woman who finds adventure while seeking true love. [16] Ormes expressed her talent for fashion design as well as her vision of a beautiful black female body in the accompanying paper doll topper, Torchy Togs. [17] The strip is probably best known for its last installment on September 18, 1954, when Torchy and her doctor boyfriend confront racism and environmental pollution. Ormes used Torchy in Heartbeats as a sounding board for several big issues of the time. In a 1985 interview for Chicago Reader she claimed she was "anti-war-I was anti-everything-that's-smelly". Torchy presented an image of a black woman who, in contrast to the contemporary stereotypical media portrayals, was confident, intelligent, and brave. [5]

Patty-Jo dolls

Ormes contracted with the Terri Lee doll company in 1947 to produce a play doll based on her little girl cartoon character. [18] The Patty-Jo doll was on the shelves in time for Christmas and was the first American black doll to have an extensive upscale wardrobe. As in the cartoon, the doll represented a real child, in contrast to the majority of dolls that were mammy and Topsy-type dolls. The dolls were popular with both black and white children. [5] In December 1949, Ormes's contract with the Terri Lee company was not renewed, and production ended. Patty-Jo dolls are now highly sought collectors' items.

Content and influence

What makes Ormes so extraordinary is that not only did she break past the expected roles as a woman and as an African American in the 20th century, but she did so with the rich content of her work. Her heroines, like the iconic Torchy Brown, Candy, and Patty-Jo 'n' Ginger, all ignored the heinous, albeit expected, stereotypical look and actions of a black woman in media (fat, slow, dumb, ungraceful etc). Ormes's characters are strong and independent women who are socially and politically aware, who strive for their goals against all odds, defy social norms, and pick themselves up by the bootstraps and move on to the next adventure, instead of languishing in their downfalls. In an interview towards the end of her life Ormes said, "I have never liked dreamy little women who can't hold their own." [19] Ormes's creations not only defied expectations for black women, but gave her readership strong models for what the next powerful generation of young black women could become. [20]

Jackie Orme’s heroines faced challenges that did not face dragons or evil stepmothers, but instead faced relatable and contemporary issues; smothering aunts and the dangers of being taken advantage of in an unfamiliar environment, to name a few. While this artist generated a fanciful career path for Torchy Brown, the young performer’s tale is woven with seeds of reality. Torchy faced deception, unsympathetic peers, racism, danger, and heartbreak- but no matter the odds she came through. Ormes created women that her readership could believe in, root for, and aspire to be. [21]

Ormes tackled social and political issues everywhere from race to sex to environmental pollution. In each aspect of her life the cartoonist was involved in humanitarian causes, and her passion in very left-wing ideologies post-World War II even led to an investigation by the FBI.

Retirement

Jackie Ormes married accountant Earl Ormes in 1931. [22] The couple initially moved to Salem, Ohio so Earl could be close to his family. But Ormes was not happy there, and they eventually moved to Chicago. The pair had one child, Jaqueline, who died of a brain tumor at the age of three. Ormes would remain married to Earl until his death in 1976. [23]

She retired from cartooning in 1956, although she continued to create art, including murals, still lifes and portraits until rheumatoid arthritis made this impossible. [5] She contributed to her South Side Chicago community by volunteering to produce fundraiser fashion shows and entertainments. She was also on the founding board of directors for the DuSable Museum of African American History. Ormes was a passionate doll collector, with 150 antique and modern dolls in her collection, and she was active in Guys and Gals Funtastique Doll Club, a United Federation of Doll Clubs chapter in Chicago. She died of a cerebral hemorrhage in Chicago on December 26, 1985. [3] [23] [24] Ormes was posthumously inducted into the National Association of Black Journalists Hall of Fame in 2014, [25] and was inducted into the Will Eisner Comic Industry Eisner Award Hall of Fame as a Judges' Choice in 2018. [26]

Influence in the present

Writer/producer Susan Reib has strived for more than 20 years to bring Jackie Ormes's historic contributions to the development of American comics and the role of female African Americans in them back to the attention of the public. Jackie Ormes created a character that could step into a world that was forbidden to her. [27]

See also

Further reading

Related Research Articles

<i>Peanuts</i> Comic strip by Charles M. Schulz

Peanuts is a syndicated daily and Sunday American comic strip written and illustrated by Charles M. Schulz that ran from October 2, 1950, to February 13, 2000, continuing in reruns afterward. Peanuts is among the most popular and influential in the history of comic strips, with 17,897 strips published in all, making it "arguably the longest story ever told by one human being". By the time of Schulz's death in 2000, Peanuts ran in over 2,600 newspapers, with a readership of around 355 million in 75 countries, and was translated into 21 languages. It helped to cement the four-panel gag strip as the standard in the United States, and together with its merchandise earned Schulz more than $1 billion.

<i>Brenda Starr, Reporter</i> comedy-drama-romance comic strip published 1940-2011

Brenda Starr, Reporter is a comic strip about a glamorous, adventurous reporter. It was created in 1940 by Dale Messick for the Chicago Tribune Syndicate.

<i>The Gumps</i> 1917-1959 American comic strip

The Gumps is a comic strip about a middle-class family. It was created by Sidney Smith in 1917, launching a 42-year run in newspapers from February 12, 1917, until October 17, 1959.

Marge (cartoonist) American cartoonist

Marjorie Henderson Buell was an American cartoonist who worked under the pen name Marge. She was best known as the creator of Little Lulu.

<i>Nancy</i> (comic strip) American comic strip launched in 1938

Nancy is an American comic strip, originally written and drawn by Ernie Bushmiller and distributed by United Feature Syndicate. The strip was originally called Fritzi Ritz, but over several years, the focus changed from ditzy Fritzi to her niece Nancy, who got her own Sunday topper strip starting October 3, 1938.

Chester Commodore was an African-American cartoonist who made political cartoons and comic strips.

Trina Robbins American comic artist

Trina Robbins is an American cartoonist. She was an early and influential participant in the underground comix movement, and one of the first few female artists in that movement. Both as a cartoonist and historian, Robbins has long been involved in creating outlets for and promoting female comics artists. In the 1980s, Robbins became the first woman to draw Wonder Woman comics. She is a member of the Will Eisner Hall of Fame.

Torchy can refer to:

Nicole Hollander is an American cartoonist and writer. Her daily comic strip Sylvia was syndicated to newspapers nationally by Tribune Media Services.

Black doll toy doll representing a black person

A black doll is a doll of a black person. Representations, both stereotypical and realistic, fashioned into playthings, date back centuries. More accurate, mass-produced depictions are manufactured today as toys and adult collectibles.

Bill Ward (cartoonist) American art director

William Hess Ward, was an American cartoonist notable as a good girl artist and creator of the risqué comics character Torchy.

<i>Torchy</i> (comics)

Torchy is a comic strip and, primarily, a series of comic books featuring the ingenue Torchy Todd, created by the American "good girl art" cartoonist Bill Ward during 1944. The character was ranked 97th of the 2011 Comics Buyer's Guide's "100 Sexiest Women in Comics" list.

Cliff Sterrett American cartoonist

Clifford Sterrett was an American cartoonist best known as the creator of the comic strip Polly and Her Pals.

The Pittsburgh Courier was an African-American weekly newspaper published in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, from 1907 until October 22, 1966. By the 1930s, the Courier was one of the leading black newspapers in the United States.

<i>Friday Foster</i>

Friday Foster is an American newspaper comic strip, created and written by Jim Lawrence and later continued by Jorge Longarón. It ran from January 18, 1970 to February 17, 1974 and was notable for featuring one of the first African-American women as the title character in a comic strip. Jackie Ormes's Torchy predated it.

Although traditionally female comics artists have long been a minority in the industry, they have made notable impact since its very beginning, and more and more female artists gain recognition, along with the maturing of the medium.

Barbara Brandon-Croft is an American cartoonist, best known for creating the comic strip, Where I'm Coming From, and for being the first nationally syndicated African-American female cartoonist.

Rupert Kinnard

Rupert Kinnard also credited as Prof. I.B. Gittendowne, is an openly gay African-American cartoonist, who created the first ongoing gay/lesbian-identified African-American comic-strip characters: the Brown Bomber and Diva Touché Flambé.

The Ormes Society is an online group that promotes black women who work in the comic book industry. The organization is named after the first African-American comic artist, Jackie Ormes.

Mildred Burleigh was a professional artist and a cartoonist for the Chicago Tribune during the 1920s. She studied drawing at Michigan Normal College and worked as a drawing instructor in Oregon during the 1910s before beginning her career.

References

  1. Goldstein, Nancy. Jackie Ormes: The First African American Woman Cartoonist, University of Michigan Press, 2008, pp. 7, 183.
  2. Wolk, Douglas (March 30, 2008). "Origin Story". The New York Times . Archived from the original on May 18, 2014.
  3. 1 2 "Zelda Ormes". United States Social Security Death Index. Retrieved March 19, 2013.
  4. 1 2 3 4 5 6 "Ormes, Zelda "Jackie" (1911-1985) | The Black Past: Remembered and Reclaimed". BlackPast.org. Archived from the original on March 25, 2017. Retrieved December 4, 2016.
  5. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Smith, Jessie Carney (2003). Notable Black American Women Vol. III. Detroit: Gale. pp. 455–456. ISBN   0-7876-6494-4.
  6. Howard, Sheena C. Encyclopedia of black comics. ISBN   9781682751015. OCLC   992166823.
  7. "Jackie Ormes". Lambiek Comiclopedia. September 5, 2008. Archived from the original on August 15, 2012.
  8. 1 2 3 4 Holtz, Allan (2012). American Newspaper Comics: An Encyclopedic Reference Guide. Ann Arbor: The University of Michigan Press. ISBN   9780472117567.
  9. Goldstein, Nancy. Ibid. p. 39
  10. Markstein, Don (2010). "Torchy Brown". Don Markstein's Toonopedia. Archived from the original on May 18, 2014.
  11. Brunner, Edward (2007). "'Shuh! Ain't Nothin' To It': The Dynamics of Success in Jackie Ormes's 'Torchy Brown'". MELUS . 32: 23. JSTOR   30029790.
  12. Cavna, Michael (January 31, 2014). "RIP, Morrie Turner: Cartoonists say farewell to a friend, a hero, a Wee Pals pioneer". The Washington Post . Archived from the original on May 18, 2014.
  13. Onion, Rebecca (August 13, 2013). "Fifty Years Before Boondocks There Was Patty-Jo 'n' Ginger". Slate . Archived from the original on October 16, 2013.
  14. Norris, Kyle (July 29, 2008). "Comics Crusader: Remembering Jackie Ormes". NPR. Archived from the original on October 6, 2013.
  15. Green, Karen (August 1, 2008). "Black and White and Color". Comixology.com. Archived from the original on December 10, 2008.
  16. Goldstein, Nancy. "The Trouble With Romance in Jackie Ormes's Comics", Black Comics: Politics of Race and Representation, Sheena Howard and Ronald L. Jackson II, eds., Bloomsbury, 2013, pp. 2–21.
  17. Goldstein,Nancy. "Fashion in the Funny Papers: Cartoonist Jackie Ormes's American Look", The Blacker the Ink: Constructions of Black Identity in Comics and Sequential Art, Frances Gateward and John Jennings, eds., Rutgers University Press, 2015, pp. 95–116.
  18. Cronin, Brian (May 9, 2014). "Comic Book Legends Revealed #470". Comic Book Resources. Archived from the original on May 13, 2014.
  19. Williams, Jasmin K. "Meet Jackie Ormes and Torchy Brown". New York Amsterdam News: 19.July 2012. ProQuest. Web. October 30, 2017.
  20. Irwin, Demetria. "The Fashion, Politics and Drawings of a Black History Treasure". New York Amsterdam News: 23 April 2008. ProQuest. Web. October 30, 2017.
  21. Calloway, Earl. "First Black Woman Cartoonist Created Characters that Fascinated Her Readers". Chicago Defender: 31 April 2008. ProQuest. Web. October 30, 2017.
  22. Goldstein, Nancy. Jackie Ormes: The First African American Woman Cartoonist, University of Michigan Press, 2008, p. 15.
  23. 1 2 Pitts, Vanessa (n.d.). "Ormes, Zelda "Jackie" (1911–1985)". Blackpast.org. Archived from the original on October 23, 2013.
  24. Heise, Kenan (January 3, 1986), "Jackie Ormes, 68, drew comic strip 'Torchy'", Chicago Tribune , retrieved August 27, 2016, She died Thursday in Michael Reese Medical Center.
  25. Boyd, Herb (January 23, 2014). "Cartoonist Zelda Ormes inducted into NABJ Hall of Fame". New York Amsterdam News . Archived from the original on March 26, 2014.
  26. "Hall of Fame 2018 Nominees". Comic-Con International. Archived from the original on June 24, 2018. Retrieved April 28, 2018.
  27. "Jackie Ormes: First African-American Woman Syndicated Cartoonist". Black History Heroes. November 2014. Archived from the original on February 1, 2018.

Further reading