Comics Herstory: Ruth Roche

68As an author and editor in the 1940s, Ruth Roche was a well-rounded woman. After moving to New York, she started as a writer at the Eisner & Iger Studio and was the business partner of Jerry Iger, a founder of the studio.

Eisner & Iger was a comics packager, meaning that they produced comics for publishers. The studio largely serviced companies entering the newly profitable comics market by creating comics on demand. They also produced their own comic strips. They also ran the Phoenix Features Syndicate. Throughout the Studio’s period of operation, many celebrated creators found a start, including Jack Kirby.

Like many female writers at the time, Roche was rarely credited by name for the books she scripted. However, she is recognized as the writer of Phantom Lady, Senorita Rio, Sheena Queen of the Jungle, Kaanga, Camilla, Ellery Queen, Brenda Starr, Aggie Mack, and Flamingo, a newspaper strip. Like many comics during that time, much of Roche’s writing was violent. She is thought to have scripted a horror comic as part of Haunted Thrills, initially titled “Out of the Grave,” a story that was later edited to conform to the Comics Code and reissued under the title “Fair Exchange” in the late 1950s. Also controversial was Phantom Lady, which featured heroine Sandra Knight running around in what was essentially a swimsuit and is an example of the “good girl art” that was prevalent at the time. Phantom Lady was denounced for its corrupt morals, having featured Knight tied up and in different situations that could be construed in sexual manner.

After Will Eisner left Eisner & Iger, Roche became Iger’s partner. Once a partner, Roche was named executive manager and editor of the company’s books. Roche also edited a variety of romance magazines under different pen names. She also edited Classic Illustrated comics.

Though Roche, like so many others, is largely uncredited for her contributions to comics, she was at the forefront of their presence in American media. Eisner & Iger was one of the first packagers, and it’s no small thing that she wrote, edited, and eventually became the head of the company.