A Real-Life Comic-Book Superhero

Lily Renée Phillips’s first job in comics was erasing the errors made by the male illustrators who sat around her. It was 1943 in the cramped, smoky offices of Fiction House—the epicenter of comics publishing at the height of the golden age of comics—and Phillips was one of two women on staff and a handful working in the business who filled desks emptied by the war. The illustrators around her drew in graphite, then inked them over. It was her job to erase too-thick arms, stray bullets—and the lewd notes they wrote her in the margins. She hated it so much, she often cried herself to sleep. “I never wanted to come back,” she says. “At the same time I wanted to do good work; I wanted very much to succeed for my own sake.”