Lily Renee, pioneering designer of the Golden Age, has died

Lily Renée, a comics pioneer who was one of the first female comics artists in the Golden Age, an achievement that went unnoticed until she reveled in her newfound fame in her 80s and 90s, died at the age of 101.

Renée, née Lily Renée Willheim, grew up in a wealthy family in Vienna, Austria in the 1930s. However, as her family was Jewish, they became targets when Nazi Germany annexed Austria in March 1938 As a teenager, she was part of the Kindertransport, a widely organized effort to transport more than 10,000 Jewish children from Europe to the UK before the start of World War II. She did odd jobs in England until her parents could emigrate to the United States. She joined them there around 1939.

Once the United States entered the war in 1941, it caused a problem for the burgeoning comic book industry. There was a huge demand for comic book content during WWII, but a number of artists (like Jack Kirby, Will Eisner and Bob Kane) were being written, so the comic companies had needed new artists and became willing to hire women. artists. Renée reminded Trina Robbins of what her life was like just before she got into comics: “At that time, I was painting Tyrolean designs on wooden boxes, then I got a job on the 46th floor of Rockefeller Center. at the Reiss advertising agency. They paid me 50 cents an hour to draw catalogs for Woolworth’s. And so I was making a little bit of money too and going to night school, and then I think Did I tell you my mom saw an ad in the paper for comic book artists? I went to [the comic-book publisher] Fiction House and I were hired on probation, and they kept me. And then after a year and a half, I was doing covers and I got a big Christmas bonus…”


As noted, Fiction House had already begun hiring other female artists, such as Fran Hooper and Nina Albright, but Renée (who used her first and middle names as her professional name, signing her work “L.Renée”, presumably to hide the fact that she was a woman) quickly became a star at Fiction House. Her first regular feature was working on the Jane Martin feature, About a Woman Pilot. Her biggest character was Señorita Rio, created by Nick Cardy. Check out her great cover work on Señorita Rio’s feature film in fight comics

Renée also drew science fiction stories for Fiction House in the 1940s…


Renée continued to work for Fiction House after the war ended, but in 1948 she and her then-husband, fellow artist Eric Peters (also a refugee from Vienna), moved to St. John Publications, where she drew humor and romance. comics…

She then married Randolph Phillips, a financial consultant heavily involved with the American Civil Liberties Union. She quit working in comics, making children’s books, and writing plays over the years, as she also raised two children with Phillips.

Like many Golden Age artists, Renée was mostly unknown until her granddaughter contacted the great comics historian, Trina Robbins, in 2006 to let her know that her granddaughter mother was Renee and, to Robbins’ amazement (and delight), she was still alive and would love to talk about her comic book career. Robbins interviewed Renee for The comic book newspaper in 2006 and 2007 Renée visited Comic-Con International in San Diego for the first time and was inducted into the Hall of Fame.


Renee’s children announced their mother’s passing via Robbins’ Facebook page.

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