Comics Herstory: Violet Barclay
Violet Barclay was yet another pioneer in the early days of comic books. She was another of the few female artists during the Golden Age of comics, and created art for many comics during the 1940s. She attended school for art, and became a staff inker for Timely Comics, Marvel’s predecessor, in 1942.
Barclay worked for Timely Comics until 1949, when she left because of tensions with other staff members. Mike Sekowsky, who had discovered Barclay, also became her benefactor despite being married. (Side note: She is one of two women I have found who was supported by a benefactor in comics, the other being Dorothy Woolfolk, DC’s first female editor.) Barclay and Sekowsky maintained a friendship, but others on the staff thought they were involved romantically, causing friction.
It is a testament to the less-than-fair treatment that women received during this time that Barclay left Timely because of Sekowsky’s advances. Additionally, it is difficult to recreate a bibliography of her work during the 1940s, because she was rarely credited for her inks. However, according to The Who’s Who of American Comics 1928-1999 credits her with working on several animal funnies and teen humor books, including Super Rabbit, Jeanie, Nellie the Nurse, and Ziggy Pig and Super Seal.
After leaving Timely, Barclay freelanced, mostly drawing rather than inking. Her clients throughout the 1950s included D.S. Publishing, Standard, DC Comics, American Comics Group, Ace Periodicals, and St. John Publications. Most of the comics she worked on during this time were romance comics.
Barclay’s career in comics ended in the 1950s, when an economic recession reduced the amount of work available in the field. She continued to study art well after she left the field, eventually finding more work in fashion illustration. Barclay retired in the 2000s, when digital art was on the rise. She died in 2010.
Violet Barclay’s career was groundbreaking by its very nature, as there were so few women working in comics at the time. It is also indicative of a prejudice that has been in comics since the industry’s inception. Her treatment as a woman in an office job was period-typical, but not acceptable even if it was all too common. Barclay was a talented artist and will hopefully be remembered as such, despite the way she was treated by her peers.