Home Entertainment Diane Noomin, the Underground Cartoonist Behind DiDi Glitz, Dies at 75

Diane Noomin, the Underground Cartoonist Behind DiDi Glitz, Dies at 75


Diane Noomin, a feminist cartoonist who challenged the boys’ club of underground comics and created DiDi Glitz, a big-haired, hard-drinking single mom obsessed with interior decorating, died September 1 at her home in Hadlyme, Conn. She was 75.

The cause was uterine cancer, said her husband, cartoonist Bill Griffith, creator of Zippy the pinhead.

In her loud leopard or floral print outfits, fishnet stockings and big blond bubble wig, DiDi tolerated sleazy men, bad hookups and hangovers, but loved gossip and cocktails and lavishly decorated them. The character, who started life with a costume Mrs. Noomin had made for a Halloween party, gave voice to many of Mrs. Noomin’s own annoyances and eccentricities.

“DiDi was a personification of all the housewives she knew growing up in Canarsie (Brooklyn),” said Griffith. “They were the role models she had to follow, even though her parents were left-wing. She was in awe of them, but she was also afraid that she would become one of them. I think she did it as an exorcism from them. She shared an aesthetic with them in a distant, ironic sense. She often said that she kept her DiDi costume in her closet and only took it off on special occasions.”

In an early story, “I Chose Crime” (1974), DiDi is pregnant and decides to rob a bank. She gets away with the heist, takes a cruise to Rio, and has the baby.

“In comics, there’s no great need for continuity, so the next time you see her, I don’t have to explain that she’s not in Rio, not pregnant,” Ms Noomin said in 2003.

In later stories, DiDi goes to a women’s camp for the inorgasmic, becomes a private detective, and marries a gay hypochondriac.

“On the surface, DiDi Glitz’s life is nothing short of fantastic: a high percentage of ‘fascinating devastating love affairs’, ‘exuberant interior designs’ and ‘absolutely gorgeous outfits'”, art historian Nicole Rudick wrote in the Comics Journal in 2012. “But DiDi wouldn’t be half as exciting if all that were for her. Formed in the melting pot of the underground comix and women’s movements, she is equal parts sex, fear, domesticity and rebellion – alternately a showy, drunken mess and a modern, self-affirming woman.

DiDi appeared on stage in “I’d Rather Do Something Else: The DiDi Glitz Story”, a 1981 production by the all-female San Francisco theater group Les Nickelettes.

The previous year, Mrs. Noomin wore the blonde wig and portrayed DiDi in the “Zippy for President” series produced by the San Francisco public radio station KQED. In the episode, Zippy the Pinhead tries to pick her up at a bar while she is being loaded.

Mrs. Noomin, whose background was in sculpture, had no intention of becoming a cartoonist. She came to San Francisco, a major center for underground comics, from New York City in the early 1970s, after the end of her first marriage. (Her pen name was homophonic to her first husband’s surname, Newman.) The new style of comic books, published on a rare basis by small presses and sold in headshops, featured dark satire, drug use, and explicit sex and violence.

“One of the [San Francisco] cartoonists, Jay Kinney, have made a map of all the places we’ve all lived,” Griffith says. “There were 16 of us and we all lived within 10 blocks. In the beginning we were a very close group. There were only two publishers, Last Gasp and Rip Off Press, and when a comic came out, there was a party with a barrel and weed to celebrate the premiere.”

After showing her sketchbook to cartoonist Aline Kominsky, she joined the Wimmen’s Comix collective, a group of like-minded artists struggling in the largely male underground genre.

Ms. Nooman drew her work on white scratchboard, a labor-intensive form of engraving where the artist scratches away ink to reveal a black layer beneath.

Wimmen’s Comix (later Wimmin’s Comix), where DiDi Glitz made an early appearance, published 17 songs from 1972 to 1997 as a counterpoint to the masculine and often sexist culture of underground comics. Contributors have included creators like Kominsky, Trina Robbins, Lee Marrs and Sharon Rundahl. Artists took turns as editors and the books often had a theme: a question of kvetching, a disastrous relationship problem, and even a 3D problem, with the required glasses.

Mrs. Noomin and Kominsky – who would marry cartoonist Robert Crumb, creator of Fritz the Cat and Mr. Natural – were annoyed at the relentless awakening during collective gatherings. After leaving Wimmen’s Comix – Mrs. Noomin would occasionally return to edit in later years – they teamed up to produce the strip “Twisted Sisters” (1976), featuring the alter ego of DiDi Glitz and Kominsky,” the Bunch”.

The back of the book showed a pie chart of DiDi’s priorities in life, broken down into percentages. Love affairs scored 21.7 percent and gorgeous outfits scored 19 percent, while sex scored 1 percent.

Ms. Noomin revived the name for “Twisted Sisters: A Collection of Bad Girl Art” (1991), a paperback anthology of women’s comics featuring work by 15 cartoonists, as well as a four-issue anthology series in 1996.

In later years her work took on a more somber tone. “Baby Talk: A Tale of 4 Miscarriages” (1994), recounts the couple’s painful attempts to conceive. Initially, she drew a stand-in pair for herself and Griffith named Glenda and Jimmy. Acting as Greek chorus and comedic relief, DiDi pulls Ms. Noomin right into the story, saying, “Are you going to make cartoon yuppies cry cartoon tears over your lost babies?”

More recently, she has published “Drawing Power: Women’s Stories of Sexual Violence, Harassment, and Survival” (2019). The book — dedicated to Anita Hill, the attorney who accused future Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas of sexual harassment, and inspired by the #MeToo movement against men who abuse their power through sexual misconduct — featured more than 60 female artists from various ages and ethnicities and sexuality.

Diane Robin Rosenblatt was born in Brooklyn on May 13, 1947. Her father owned a jewelry store in Manhattan’s diamond district and her mother was a civil servant.

“I grew up on Long Island in the 1950s and my parents were communists,” Ms. Noomin told the Library of Congress in 2015. [the anti-communist Sen. Joseph] McCarthy, wouldn’t testify [or] didn’t want to go to jail. My sister and I knew nothing about this. We just went to Republican Party picnics and tried to fit in.”

“My parents didn’t start talking about it until I was in my 40s,” she added. Referring to the man and woman who were executed in 1953 for conspiring to pass atomic bomb secrets to the Soviet Union, she continued: “My dad said what he and my mom did was worse than what the Rosenbergs did. I didn’t ask him what he was doing. I just stood there with my mouth open.”

After graduating from art school in New York City, Mrs. Noomin attended Brooklyn College and Pratt Institute, where she studied sculpture and photography.

Her marriage to Alan Newman ended in divorce. In addition to her 42-year-old husband, from Hadlyme, there is also a sister.

When asked if she saw her work as women’s art, Mrs Noomin replied: ‘No, but I think you’ll get an adjective unless you’re a white Anglo-Saxon man. You become a black artist or an Asian artist or a female artist.”

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