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It’s always a treat to discover an artist, particularly a pioneering female artist in a role that was unique when she started. A talented artist and art director Atkinson was a busy lady during her prime and contributed to the success of many comics with her creations.
Ruth Atkinson and a.k.a. R. Atkinson (June 2, 1918 – June 1, 1997) was an American cartoonist and pioneering female comic book artist who helped create the long-running Marvel Comics characters Millie the Model and Patsy Walker.
Born in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, Ruth Atkinson as an infant moved with her family to upstate New York.
One of the first female artists in American comic books, she entered the field doing work for the publisher Fiction House beginning either 1942 or 1943, and either on staff or, as noted by the Connecticut Historical Society, through the Iger Studio, a comic-book “packager” that produced comics for publishers on an outsource basis. Fellow female artists Fran Hopper, Lily Renée, and Marcia Snyder also worked for Iger, where one of the business partners was a woman, Ruth Roche. Atkinson’s first confirmed, signed work is the single-page “Wing Tips” featurette in Wings Comics #42 (Feb. 1944).
Atkinson continued to pencil and ink that airplane-profile featurette, as well such Fiction House features as “Clipper Kirk” and “Suicide Smith” in Wings Comics, “Tabu” in Jungle Comics, and “Sea Devil” in Rangers Comics. At some point, she became the Fiction House art director, but left the position to freelance after finding that the managerial position left little time for her art.
She went on to launch the feature “Patsy Walker“, for Marvel Comics predecessor Timely Comics in Miss America #2 (Nov. 1944). She would draw that humor/romance feature for two years, as well draw the premiere issue of the long-running series Millie the Model. Some sources credit her with creating both characters, while others list them as co-creations with writer and Timely editor-in-chief Stan Lee.
Atkinson later drew true-life adventures for Eastern Color Comics‘ Heroic Comics, as well for some of the first romance comics comics, including Lev Gleason Publications‘ Boy Meets Girl, through the early 1950s. Ruth Atkinson was one of the many female comic artists who worked for publisher Fiction House. Atkinson penciled and inked such features as ‘Clipper Kirk’, ‘Skull Squad’, ‘Suicide Smith’ and the single-page, airplane feature ‘Wing Tips’ in Wings Comics, ‘Tabu’ in Jungle Comics, and ‘Sea Devil’ in Rangers Comics. She became the company’s art director, a job which she quit because it did not leave her time to draw. Atkinson later drew for some of the first romance comics, including Lev Gleason Publications’ Boy Meets Girl and Lover’s Lane, through the early 1950s. She left the comics field to get married and have children.
Atkinson retired from comics sometime after her marriage. She was living in Pacifica, California, at the time of her death from cancer.
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