'DiDi Glitz in: Mix & Match' (After/Shock: Bulletins from Ground Zero, 1981).

The American underground cartoonist Diane Noomin was an important pioneer in the history of alternative comics written and drawn by female artists. Noomin was an early contributor to Wimmen's Comix and, along with Aline Kominsky, co-founder of the all-female underground book Twisted Sisters. Her best known feature was 'DiDi Glitz' (1974-2019), about the shallow existence of a flamboyant woman in a suburban neighborhood. Noomin's comics offer witty and self-deprecating satire about women, but also address serious and controversial issues like sexual harassment, masturbation, marital troubles, miscarriage and abortion. In the final years of her life, Diane Noomin was a prolific editor of compilation comic books. 'Lemme Outta Here!' (1978) collects slice-of-life stories, while her anthologies 'Twisted Sisters: A Collection of Bad Girl Art' (1991), 'Twisted Sisters: Drawing the Line' (1995) and 'Drawing Power: Women's Stories of Sexual Violence, Harassment, and Survival' (2019), have brought more attention to female comic artists. Her husband was comic artist Bill Griffith, with whom she sometimes made crossover stories.

Early life and career
Diane Noomin was born in 1947 as Diane Robin Rosenblatt in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Canarsie. In 1952, her family moved to Hempstead, Long Island. Much of her family background and personal life has been chronicled by Diane Noomin in her autobiographical comics. Her father ran his own business, and her mother worked during the war at the Sperry Gyroscope electronics company, and later with the Social Security Administration. Unbeknownst to Noomin until she was well over 30, her parents were both members of the U.S. Communist Party. Her father served as sergeant in the U.S. Army during World War II. Her mother and a friend joined the Young Communists as high school students. The late 1940s and early 1950s were arguably the worst time to be a Communist in the USA. Senator Joseph McCarthy led many investigations and interrogations, searching for supposed Communist infiltration in U.S. society. His actions led to several people being blacklisted and subjected to witch hunts. There was a strong paranoid atmosphere against anyone with left-leaning opinions. As a result, Noomin's parents kept their political leanings a secret. They often helped fellow Communists who were on the run for the law. At one point, her father was also bodyguard for the famous African-American baritone singer and actor Paul Robeson. Robeson had made himself very unpopular in his home country by performing in the Soviet Union. Noomin's father was there to protect the singer during a concert in Peekskill, New York, which had to be canceled halfway through when the crowd tried to boo the artist off stage.

'I Was A Red Diaper Baby' (2003).

While growing up, Diane Noomin got only little hints regarding her parents' double lives, but was otherwise completely ignorant about it. She recalled that they had a book about Julius and Ethel Rosenberg on their shelf. The Rosenbergs had been accused of handing atomic secrets to the KGB and were in 1953 executed for high treason. Noomin's father told her that he and her mother "had done things that were worse than the Rosenbergs", but he never clarified what exactly. Even as a child, she knew it was better to keep her mouth shut, especially about the shady people who often came to their doorstep. She recalled that one time the FBI came to question her neighbors. But in general, she blocked out much of her memories regarding her parents' suspicious behavior. Later in life, Noomin consulted the archives of the U.S. Library of Congress to find out more about her late parents mysterious past. Many documents were apparently "lost in a fire", which she found hard to believe. She did find some records about her mother, but only things from the 1960s and later. As a result, many clarifications about their political activities remained a lifelong mystery to the cartoonist. For instance, Noomin never found out why, on her first birthday, her mother had to be in Washington D.C., instead of attending the celebration at home. Noomin did discover that her parents laundered money for the Communist Party. Noomin expressed her views and recollections about her childhood in the comics 'Coming of Age in Canarsie' (1989) and 'I Was A Red Diaper Baby' (2003).

Although her parents were of Jewish descent, they were atheists. However, they kept up appearances by going to the synagogue and celebrating Jewish holidays. As a teenager, Noomin went through a rebellious phase. She became a shoplifter, a subject she explored in her comic 'From Jaw Breakers to Lawbreaker' (1997). When her friend was caught and sent to juvenile hall, Noomin reconsidered her lifestyle. Luckily she had a gift for drawing, which was recognized and encouraged by her teachers at JFK Junior High. She studied art at the High School of Music & Art in Harlem - majoring in sculpture and graphic art - and then took a similar course at Brooklyn College. Diane Noomin additionally studied sculpture and photography at the Pratt Institute. Among her graphic influences were Basil Wolverton, Carl Barks, John Stanley, Robert Crumb, Justin Green and Aline Kominsky.

Unhappy in her first marriage, Noomin started to have an extramarital affair. At age 22, she found out she was pregnant. Since she didn't know who the real father was, she saw no happy future for herself and her child, and had an abortion. She later reflected on this difficult decision in her comic 'The C Word' (1990). After divorcing her first husband, whose last name was "Nommin", she kept this last name but changed it to "Noomin", which had a more "cartoony sound" to it. In the early 1970s, Diane Noomin moved from New York City to relatives in San Francisco, California. She spent six months at their place, before finding a home of her own.

'The C-Word' ('Choices: A Pro-Choice Benefit Comic Anthology for the National Organization for Women', 1990).

Aline Kominsky team-up
In 1972, while living in San Francisco, Diane Noomin got involved in the blossoming underground comix scene. At a party, she met fellow comic artist Aline Kominsky, with whom she became lifelong friends. The two women bonded over a shared Jewish family background and wild years as young adults. Both had to deal with an unwanted pregnancy, though in Kominsky's case she didn't undergo an abortion but gave her child up for adoption. Both women also married and divorced Jewish men and most of all, they were both amateur cartoonists. At the time, Diane Noomin carried a little notebook around in which she wrote poems and made sketches. By sheer coincidence, Noomin's roommate happened to be Kathy Goodell, who was at the time the girlfriend of underground comix artist Robert Crumb. Shortly afterwards, Aline Kominsky got involved with Crumb, and the two got married in 1978.

Marriage to Bill Griffith
In 1972, Noomin met comic artist Bill Griffith, at Art Spiegelman's apartment in Abbey Street, San Francisco. Griffith was already a well-known cartoonist because of his absurd gag comic 'Zippy the Pinhead'. The actual click between Noomin and Griffith happened a few months later, at a New Year's Eve Party. They became a couple and married in November 1980. Noomin deliberately wanted to avoid being accused of tagging along on her husband's fame and success. She kept her own last name, and continued to publish her work as Diane Noomin. Since they kept their relationship low profile, general audiences were mostly unaware that Noomin and Griffith were partners, even though Noomin did appear in all issues of Arcade (1975-1976), an underground magazine co-founded by Griffith and Art Spiegelman, and despite the fact that 'Zippy the Pinhead' and Noomin's character DiDi Glitz sometimes appeared in crossover comics. Noomin also played DiDi in the TV segments 'Zippy's Stories', broadcast on a San Francisco TV channel KQED TV. In sharp contrast, Aline Kominsky, who married underground cartoonist  Robert Crumb, took the name "Kominsky-Crumb" and poked fun at herself "leeching off Crumb's fame" before anybody else could. Noomin always had admiration for her friend's audacity in this field, but saw no need to do this herself. In 1998, the couple moved to Connecticut.

Although Griffith and Noomin had a happy marriage, they were unable to have children. Noomin had several miscarriages and was eventually determined to be infertile. Since she had an abortion in the past, this news hit her particularly hard. Noomin reflected on her miscarriages in 'Baby Talk: A Tale of ¾ Miscarriages' (1993). In interviews, she recalled it was one of the most difficult stories she ever made.

'Baby Talk: A Tale of ¾ Miscarriages' (Twisted Sisters #4, July 1994).

Wimmen's Comix
In the early 1970s, the underground comix scene was dominated by male cartoonists. Only a few women were active in the field, for instance Nancy Kalish-Burton, Willy (Barbara) Mendes and Trina Robbins. As a result, most underground comix depicted female characters from a male perspective, typically cast as passive lust objects or victims of degrading violence. To counter this situation, Trina Robbins assembled a group of women cartoonists to launch an all-female underground comic: Wimmen's Comix (November 1972). Women with no prior cartooning experience were also accepted in its pages. Through her friend Aline Kominsky, Diane Noomin was also brought on board. Although she was too late to be featured in the first issue, her comic strip debut 'Home Agin' did end up in the second issue of Wimmen's Comix (1973). In her own opinion, Noomin only found her form with the satirical story 'The Agony and the Ecstasy of a Shayna Madel', published in Wimmen's Comix issue #3 (October 1973). The fourth issue of Wimmen's Comix (1974) contained a story with Diane Noomin's trademark character, DiDi Glitz.

However, Noomin and Kominsky didn't feel at ease in Wimmen's Comix. Since Robert Crumb was Kominsky's partner, she was somewhat suspicious in the eyes of Robbins and other contributors. After all, Crumb's women-unfriendly comics were filled with images and attitudes that Wimmen's Comix reacted against. Kominsky and Noomin also had creative and ideological differences with the rest of the team. Contrary to their colleagues, they didn't take the feminist ideals all that seriously. Instead of glorifying women and making stories about female empowerment and criticizing male chauvinism, they wanted to create plain funny stories that also satirized their gender. It wasn't that they didn't consider gender issues important, but their main problem was that Wimmen's Comix didn't allow anything else in its pages. So, after four issues, Kominsky and Noomin left Wimmen's Comix and created their own comic magazine, Twisted Sisters.

Twisted Sisters - original issue
The stand-alone original issue of Diane Noomin and Aline Kominsky's Twisted Sisters was published in June 1976 by Last Gasp, the same imprint that also released Wimmen's Comix. Twisted Sisters was literally a two-women project: Noomin and Kominsky were the only contributors. All comics were solo stories, except for 'Hot Air', which they wrote and drew together. Compared with Wimmen's Comix, the magazine had a less militant tone, with a strong emphasis on self-deprecating comedy. The cover set the tone: it featured Kominsky on the toilet, stressing about whether people still find her attractive. The drawing was apparently so controversial that they couldn't find a printer willing to print the issue. Eventually the job got done in Mexico, "where they just didn't care," as Kominsky recalled. Apparently, the cover also repulsed many potential readers, and the sales remained low. Interviewed by Sarah Lightman for Closure (15 April 2016), Kominsky expressed her amazement that a woman sitting on a toilet was considered far more problematic than the horribly cruel sex and violence in the rest of Twisted Sisters's pages.

Despite the low sales of the Twisted Sisters anthology by the time of its release, several female cartoonists have credited it as an inspiration, including Julie Doucet, Ellen Forney and Phoebe Gloeckner. In interviews, Aline Kominsky has mentioned that there was a band that named itself after the 1976 comic book, but in fact the hardrock band Twisted Sister had been performing under that name since 1973.

'DiDi has an Orgasm' (Weirdo #17, 1986).

DiDi Glitz
Diane Noomin's signature character DiDi Glitz made her debut in a self-published 8-page DIY comic book called 'Canarsie Creeps' (1973). The character remained a mainstay in Noomin's cartooning output, appearing throughout the 1970s and 1980s in Anne Beatts and Deanne Stillman's anthology 'Titters: The First Collection of Humor by Women', and in issues of Short Order Comix, Wimmen's Comix, Young Lust, Arcade the Comics Revue, Twisted Sisters, Lemme Outa Here, After/Shock and Weirdo. DiDi is a middle class single mother living on Long Island who - as her last name implies - has a glitzy lifestyle. Even though she wears fancy outfits, enjoys luxury and uses lavish interior design to keep up appearances, her existence is shallow and unsatisfying. The boisterous, flamboyant woman indulges in overeating, drinking martinis and pursuing the right partner. She worries about her aging skin, hair and weight. DiDi's best friend is the bespectacled Loretta, of whose good looks and satisfying sex life she is deeply jealous. DiDi craves to move to one of the "better neighborhoods'', where she believes she shall be much richer and happier. Her superficial and self-centered life overshadows the needs of her daughter Crystal. Whenever her child wants something, DiDi considers her annoying and needlessly seeking attention, even if Crystal merely reminds her that she forgot to pack her lunch.

DiDi Glitz was "born" in 1973 during a Halloween party at Gilbert Shelton's house. For DiDi's looks, Diane Noomin took inspiration from the outfit she wore to the party, a blonde wig and fishnet tights. As a visual reference for DiDi's bad taste, Noomin kept a collection of Home and Garden magazines from the 1940s and 1950s. She was also influenced by a Bill Owens photograph of what she described as "complete desolation in suburbia". Another inspiration was a friend who also worked in decorating, wore similar kitschy outfits and lived in a suburban Long Island neighborhood. The feature mostly gave Noomin the opportunity to tell autobiographical stories without directly referring to herself. Many events in 'DiDi Glitz' are based on real-life anecdotes or thoughts, with some creative additions. The character's name was actually Diane's own nickname, given to her by her roommate and fellow cartoonist Willy Murphy. The comic is a satire on life in U.S. suburbs from the viewpoint of women. DiDi worries about trivial matters, like her looks and social status, while overlooking the real issues of her life.

'I Married A Hypochondriac' (Wimmen's Comix #17, 1992).

In some stories, Noomin pokes fun at DiDi's sex life. In 'DiDi Has An Orgasm' (Weirdo, 1986), DiDi is sexually frustrated and joins an organization to help her out. But the group is basically a cult where the members engage in meaningless "sex exercises". Other stories, like 'I Married a Hypochondriac' (Wimmen's Comix #17, 1991), are parodies of typical romance comics, but with ironic plot twists. Sometimes DiDi finds herself in wacky adventure tales, like 'She Chose Crime' (Wimmen's Comix issue #4, 1974), in which she gets pregnant from a butcher who doesn't want to help her, since he is already married. As a result, she decides to get the necessary income by robbing a bank. The DiDi Glitz comics have been collected in 'True Glitz' (Rip Off Press, 1990) and 'Glitz-2-Go' (Fantagraphics, 2012).

In 1980, 'DiDi Glitz' was adapted into a theatrical musical, 'I'd Rather Be Doing Something Else - The DiDI Glitz Story'. The production was staged by Les Nickelettes, a women's theater company based in San Francisco. Noomin designed the clothing, while Bill Griffith, Kim Deitch and Paul Mavrides created sets. The story was also adapted into a cabaret show, 'Anarchy in High Heels', and was performed in New York City.

Comic anthology editor
Besides creating her own comics, Noomin has been the editor of several important comic anthologies, collecting stories and artwork by many important alternative comic creators. The earliest book she edited was 'Lemme Outa Here! Growing Up Inside the American Dream' (The Print Mint, October 1978), which featured comics by Robert Armstrong, Mark Beyer, M.K. Brown, Robert Crumb, Kim Deitch, Justin Green, Bill Griffith and Aline Kominsky. With its central theme of life in the suburbs and all the frustrations that go along with it, the book gave several underground artists a chance to draw a bittersweet reflection on their childhood or a slice-of-life view of adult domestic life. Noomin herself contributed an exclusive 'DiDi Glitz' story for this book, titled 'I'd Rather Be Doing Something Else'.

Two decades after the original 1976 issue, Twisted Sisters returned as an anthology title, this time edited solely by Noomin. 'Twisted Sisters: A Collection of Bad Girl Art' (Penguin, 1991) reprinted earlier stories from other underground publications by Diane Noomin, Aline Kominsky and several additional female cartoonists, including Joyce Brabner, M.K. Brown, Julie Doucet, Mary Fleener, Phoebe Gloeckner, Liza Kitchell, Krystine Kryttre, Carol Lay, Caryn Leschen, Carel Moiseiwitch, Dori Seda, Leslie Sternbergh, Carol Tyler and Penny Van Horn. Contrary to the original 'Twisted Sisters', this new edition reached a larger audience. To promote the book, Noomin sent two copies of the 'Twisted Sisters' book to respectively comedian Sandra Bernhard and pop singer Madonna. While Bernhard declined to write a comment, Madonna gave them a wonderful quote: "Finally a book that makes me look wholesome", a line Noomin used on the back cover.

Between April and July 1994, Kitchen Sink Press released a Noomin-edited 'Twisted Sisters' comic book series with new stories by many of the contributors to the previous anthology, with additional input from Dame Darcy, Fiona Smyth and Carol Swain. The material from these comic books was later collected in another anthology, 'Twisted Sisters, Volume 2: Drawing the Line' (Kitchen Sink Press, 1995).

'Grab' em by the pussy!', Diane Noomin's own contribution to her 'Drawing Power' anthology (2019).

Drawing Power
Diane Noomin ended her career on a high note. In 2016, the U.S. Presidential elections took place. The candidate for the Republican Party, Donald Trump, was caught on camera bragging about "grabbing women by the pussy" whenever he felt like it. Like many people, Noomin was appalled by Trump's behavior, especially when he was elected President afterwards. It motivated her to compile a collective comic book in which cartoonists told about their personal encounters with sexual harassment and rape. In the following years this subject became even more topical, particularly in light of the #MeToo Movement. On 17 September 2019, her book 'Drawing Power: Women's Stories of Sexual Violence, Harassment, and Survival' (Harry N. Abrams, 2019) was released. Apart from herself, it featured contributions by 64 comic artists: Rachel Ang, Zoe Belsinger, Jennifer Camper, Caitlin Cass, Tyler Cohen, Marguerite Dabaie, Soumya Dhulekar, Wallis Eates, Trinidad Escobar, Kat Fajardo, Joyce Farmer, Emil Ferris, Liana Finck, Sarah Firth, Mary Fleener, Ebony Flowers, Claire Folkman, Noel Franklin, Katie Fricas, Siobhán Gallagher, Joamette Gil, J. Gonzalez-Blitz, Georgiana Goodwin, Roberta Gregory, Marian Henley, Soizick Jaffre, Avy Jetter, Sabba Khan, Kendra Josie Kirkpatrick, Aline Kominsky, Nina Laden, Miss Lasko-Gross, Carol Lay, Miriam Libicki, Sarah Lightman, LubaDalu, Ajuan Mance, MariNaomi, Lee Marrs, Liz Mayorga, Lena Merhej, Bridget Meyne, Carta Monir, Hila Noam, Breena Nuñez, Meg O'Shea, Corinne Pearlman, Cathrin Peterslund, Minnie Phan, Kelly Phillips, Powerpaola, Sarah Allen Reed, Kaylee Rowena, Ariel Schrag, M. Louise Stanley, Maria Stoian, Nicola Streeten, Marcela Trujillo, Carol Tyler, Una, Lenora Yerkes and Ilana Zeffren.

The book features a disturbing amount of uncomfortable real-life situations during which the artists were subjected to lewd remarks, intimidation, groping, kissing or rape. In fact, only one of the female artists contacted by Noomin declined participation for the simple but fortunate reason that she never had such an experience. While the anthology was prepared for the presses, one female contributor was raped and another one left the project because the man she accused of rape sued her for millions. 'Drawing Power' not only reflects on sexual harassment itself, but also the equally painful aftermath. Survivors of attacks are often not believed or shamed into believing that they "brought it on themselves". The book also addresses the difficulty of being able to identify and prove sexual violence. All experiences are different and not all mechanisms to overcome the trauma will work for everyone. Some stories in the book not only document cases of male aggression, but also from women. In her foreword, Noomin stresses that sexual predators aren't just men in high-power positions, but also everyday people who prey on "easy" victims. In the same way, sexual violence happens not only to women, but also children and men. Part of the book's profits were donated to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN).

Cover drawings for Wimmen's Comix #11 (1987) and True Glitz (1990).

Graphic contributions
Diane Noomin was one of many artists to make a contribution to Aline Kominsky's 'El Perfecto' (Print Mint, 1973), a comic book intended to raise funds for the trial of Timothy Leary, the famous drug guru who was facing 25 years in prison. In 1988, Noomin contributed the story 'For Joah Lowe & the X-Man' for Trina Robbins' 'Strip AIDS U.S.A.' (Last Gasp, 1988), a collective comic book to support the AIDS education organization Shanti Project. Noomin also provided the fore- and afterword to 'Mind Riot: Coming of Age in Comix' (Simon & Schuster, 1997). Her 1990 comic 'The C Word', about her experience with abortion, was made for 'Choices: A Pro-Choice Benefit Comic Anthology for the National Organization for Women' (Angry Isis Press, 1990).

In 1992, Noomin won an Inkpot Award for her entire career. Her compilation book, 'Drawing Power: Women's Stories of Sexual Violence, Harassment and Survival (2019) won the Susan Koppelman Award (2020) and an Eisner Award (2020) for "Best Comic Book Anthology". In 1994, Noomin's art was the subject of a solo exhibition at Little Frankenstein Gallery in San Francisco. Her work has been donated to the Print & Photographs Collection of the U.S. Library of Congress.

Final years and death
Early in her career, Diane Noomin's comics were featured in several prominent alternative magazines, among them Arcade, Mind Riot, The Nation, Wimmen's Comix, Weirdo and Young Lust. In the final decades of her life, Noomin was less active as a comic artist and more as an editor of anthology comic books. On 25 September 2015, she became a teacher at the School of Visual Arts in New York City. She died in September 2022 from uterine cancer, at the age of 75. She was survived by her husband Bill Griffith. Among the many cartoonists who commemorated her after her death on Twitter were Emil Ferris, Jeet Heer and Carol Tyler. Art Spiegelman also paid his respects on his official Facebook page. In a special edition of the comic news magazine The Comics Journal, homages to Noomin were written by Griffith, Tyler and Spiegelman, as well as Leela Corman, Aline Kominsky, Phoebe Gloeckner, Ben Katchor, Megan Kelso, Sarah Lightman, Maria Naomi, Lauren Weinstein, comic historian Patrick Rosenkrantz, publishers Gary Groth, Denis Kitchen, Keith Mayerson, Ron Turner and editor Charles Kochman.

'How I Spent My Xmas Holiday', starring DiDi Glitz, Diane Noomin and Aline Kominsky (1991).


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