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Vintage letters to the editor show girls always loved comics

Letters from young fans of comic star fashion model-cum-amateur sleuth Toni Gayle from the 1940s are both endearing and fascinating.

Ruth Orkin, 1947

The world of comics is seen as a very male-oriented one, with a lot of marketing and creating targeting an intended male audience -- with girls seen as Jilly-come-latelies looking to mess it all up with their cooties. It wasn't always that way, though: comics have an early history of being for everyone, and girls have always been all-aboard the funnybooks train.

This is beautifully illustrated by a series of letters to comics publisher The Premium Group of Comics, dug up by women in comics blog Superdames. They're written in praise of a character named Toni Gayle, star of her own section in the true crime Guns Against Gangsters comic from 1948-1949. Not only that, but they express a firm desire to see more girls in comics having great adventures, kicking butt and taking names.

Toni Gayle had it all: good looks (she worked as a fashion model), daring, marksmanship, and smarts -- but her police detective father didn't want her entering the seedy undeworld of crime. After he became injured, though, it was all in for Toni, who started an exciting side career solving crimes and busting baddies.

Guns Against Gangsters didn't last very long, but Toni Gayle's popularity with the female audience saw her survive a little longer; she appeared in Young King Cole, 4 Most, School Day Romances and Popular Teen-Agers, the latter two of which saw her -- alas -- giving up her crime-fighting ways.

Here's another fun fact about Toni Gayle: in her early crime-fighting days, she was drawn by the magnificent Janice Valleau Winkleman, one of the very first female comics artists, who worked from the 1930s through to 1955.