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Fighting the Nazis With Barbara Hall's War Nurse and Girl Commandos

Earlier in 1942, Joe Simon and Jack Kirby had introduced the Boy Commandos, who became a big hit for National Comics (now DC Comics). Back then, everyone took ideas from each other, so it is likely that the success of that feature led to Pat Parker forming a group of GIRL Commandos in Speed Comics #23, in a story drawn by Barbara Hall, but it could have just been a coincidence.

The team was a multi-national team of female heroes...

Hall drew the next issue, as well, with her name actually appearing in the strip ("B. Hall" instead of "Barbara Hall" because of the anti-female stigma of the time)...

Here's the thing, though. This was 1942. Almost every comic book about the war was SUPER-racist towards the Japanese. So I'm going to skip showing you the rest of this super-racist comic book story. Later in life, Barbara Fiske Calhoun greatly regretted how racist these comic books were. Another female artist, Jill Elgin, took over the feature from Hall, but I don't know precisely when. I know at least by Speed Comics #29, it was Elgin on the feature. The featured image for this piece is from Speed Comics #25, which might be by Elgin, for all I know.

Hall also introduced, Honey Blake, the Blonde Bomber, in Green Hornet Comics #7...

Hall then began dating playwright Irving Fiske in 1943. Fiske told her she should stop wasting her artistic talent on comic books, so she became an oil painter.

They married in 1946 and established Quarry Hill Creative Center in Rochester, Vermont, a so-titled "hippie commune" that still exists to this day. Comic book legend art spiegelman spent a lot of time up there and even dated the Fiskes' daughter, Isabella Fiske (now a writer who is typically credited as either Isbabella F. McFarlin or LadyBelle Fiske), for a time.

The Fiskes eventually divorced and Barbara married Donald Calhoun, a Quaker (she became a Quaker, as well). As her daughter has noted, it was an interesting transition from her war comic youth to her pacifist later years.

Barbara Fiske Calhoun passed away in 2014 at the age of 94.

Okay, that's it for the first installment! Feel free to suggest other female comic creators from the Golden Age (and before) that you'd like to see me spotlight!

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