Nell Brinkley: A Proper Tribute to the Queen of Comics

Posted by Michael Pinto on Apr 15, 2009 in Comic Books |

The minute I viewed the above video preview of the Frantagraphics book The Brinkley Girls I knew I wanted a copy! For those who don’t know her Nell Brinkley (1886-1944) was an illustrator and comic artist whose work adorned the pages of many newspapers in the early 20th Century:

Nell Brinkley: American weekly cover from 1918

Manga fans should take note of Nell because in many ways she was what you’d call a shōjo manga artist at heart — she dropped out of high school to become an illustrator. Her work was picked up by local newspapers and then came to the attention of newspaper mogul William Randolph Hearst. Her work was closer to a political cartoon rather than a comic strip as it would feature a large illustrations with a series caption:

Nell Brinkley: Cover for the American Weekly

And while her work wasn’t structured as a traditional comic, her loving attention to detail even reminds me of the actual look of shōjo (on the left is a Nell Brinkley illustration from 1916 and on the right is the cover of the manga magazine Shōjo Comic from 1975):

On the left is a Nell Brinkley illustration and on the right is the cover of the manga magazine Shōjo Comic from 1975.

Sadly before she died photography started to take over newspapers, and shortly after her death Nell Brinkley fell into a bit of obscurity — so it’s my hope that a new generation rediscovers her wonderful legacy in the 21st Century…

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