June Tarpe Mills
June Tarpe Mills was born February 25, 1918, in Brooklyn, New York. The home was run by her widowed mother, and filled with June’s sister’s orphaned children. June worked as a model to support her family, and to help pay her way into the Pratt Institute, Brooklyn’s prestigious art school. She would work as a fashion illustrator before turning her hand in 1938 to the burgeoning world of comic books, with work on such titles as Daredevil Barry Finn, Catman, and The Purple Zombie. She created these works under the sexually-ambiguous nom de plume Tarpe Mills as, “It would have been a major let-down to the kids if they found out that the author of such virile and awesome characters was a gal.” This anonymity would cease with the April 6, 1941, debut of The Black Fury, as the strip was initially known. Utilizing an art style that was equal parts high fashion and high adventure, Ms. Mills would introduce readers to socialite Marla Drake, who upon discovering that she’d be wearing the same outfit as a rival to a masquerade, instead donned an African witch doctor’s ceremonial panther skin catsuit quipping, “At least no one else will be wearing the same thing!” En route, she encounters two seeming ne’er-do-wells whom she subdues with a stylish combinations of punches, kicks, and the whip-like tail of her costume.
During this time, Miss Fury’s writer/artist Tarpe Mills would become as well-known as her creation, with newspaper and magazine articles highlighting the beautiful Ms. Mills as the model for her own four-color avatar (not to mention the inclusion in the strip of her own cat, Perri-Purr, and his often vital role in sniffing out trouble!). Polls taken at the time showed newspaper readers across the gender lines were fans of the exploits of Miss Fury, and at the strip’s height, it was published in more than 100 newspapers, and the Timely Comics reprints of them sold well over a million copies an issue!
Quickly adopting the name “Miss Fury” (with the strip soon following), Marla Drake would come into contact with criminals, spies and terrorists, Nazis, and her main antagonist, the Countess Erica Von Kampf, who would turn up like a bad penny again and again over the strip’s 10-year run. Marla would also have romantic interests in the forms of on-again/off-again fiance Gary Hale and Detective Dan Carey, and as a single woman would even adopt a toddler whom she rescued from the clutches of an evil scientist and his nefarious experiments!
Eventually, serious health problems would overtake Ms. Mills, which would force her contributions to be lessened with the work augmented by substitute writers and artists. The diminished quality would lead to Miss Fury’s cancellation in December of 1951. Tarpe Mills would be out of the limelight, working in commercial art for the rest of her professional life, resurfacing only briefly in 1971 with a short tale for Marvel’s Our Love Story, and some new paintings of Miss Fury for some mid-70s reprints of the old strips. Near the end of her life, Ms. Mills began work on a graphic novel featuring one of Miss Fury’s supporting cast entitled “Albino Jo, the Man With the Tigre Eyes”. It was unfinished at the time of Ms. Mills’ death.
Tarpe Mills suffered from Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, and was homebound and oxygen dependent, but continued to chain smoke. She died on December 12, 1988, in Bedford Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, and is buried at Forest Green Park Cemetery in Morganville, New Jersey. Tarpe Mills never married, and never had children. She was feisty and independent throughout her life, and had but a few close relationships.
FRIENDS OF June Tarpe Mills
Elizabeth Dunn was the sister
of Tarpe's mother, Margaret. Margaret's daughter, Helen Barry, and June Mills shared a childhood and an adulthood of gossiping, smoking, and drinking. Helen Barry married the New York press photographer Bill "Red" Finn, who became June's protector, financial support and confidant over the years.
Trina Robbins is an American cartoonist. She was an early and influential participant in the underground comix movement, and one of the first few female artists in that movement. Both as a cartoonist and historian, Robbins has long been involved in creating outlets for and promoting female comics artists.
Chelsea Stone is a screenwriter and director living in Los Angeles, CA. Chelsea created and directed a soon-to-be released documentary on Tarpé Mills.
Billy Tucci is an award-winning cartoonist best known for his modern-day samurai fable, “Shi”. Through Billy’s Crusade Fine Arts, the multi-Eisner Award-nominated Shi has been printed in five languages and sold more than three million comic books. Billy has also worked on a litany of projects for DC Comics including “Sgt. Rock”, “Harley Quinn”, “Flash Vs. Superman,” and “Batman.”
His earnest retelling of the Christmas story, “A Child Is Born” has quietly turned into an international blockbuster after winning the Christian Small Publisher Book of the Year Award.
2020 celebrates Billy’s 26th anniversary in comics with the release of “Shi: Return of the Warrior”, “Shi: Hotaru” and “Shi/Cyblade: Conquest of Independents”. He also illustrated “Wonder Woman” for DC Comics and is writing for the comic return of June Tarpé Mills’ golden age icon, Miss Fury, for Dynamite Entertainment.
Maria Laura Sanapo
Maria Laura Sanapo is an Italian comic artist. After receiving a degree in foreign languages, she decided to become a comic artist taking lessons from Marco Santucci and attending two of three years at the International School of Comics in Florence. Her work includes Valiant (Faith), Dynamite (Red Sonja, Swords of Sorrow, Warlord of Mars and Vampirella meet Betty). She has served as cover artist for Zenescope (Grimm Fairy Tales, Deathforce, Grimm Tales of Terror) and interior artist for the DC Comics series “Bombshells”. She has also worked for Dynamite as both cover and interior artist for the series “Grimm” and “Charmed” (from the omonymous TV shows) “Sheena, Queen of the Jungle” and as cover artist for Titan comics for the “Assassin’s Creed” series.
At the moment, she's working for Dynamite on the series “Miss Fury: Joy Division” written by Billy Tucci, and teaching at the Joe Kubert School.
Learn more about Maria at www.mlsanapoart.com