MILLIE THE MODELMedium: Comic books
Published by: Marvel Comics
First Appeared: 1945
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By the mid-1940s, the first wave of comic book superheroes were dying like flies and publishers were testing other genres. At the company that would evolve into Marvel Comics, one of the formulas being tried out was a young woman on the job — usually (like their newspaper strip predecessors, Tillie the Toiler and Somebody's Stenog) in a traditionally
female role. Of a field that included Nellie the Nurse, Sherry the Showgirl and Tessie the Typist, the only one to achieve lasting success was Millie the Model.
Millie Collins debuted in her own comic book, rather a bold move for any character at the time, especially a female one (it was only three years since Sheena had become comic books' first female title character). Apparently, the publisher felt a little hesitant about doing it that way — the first issue didn't have a date, but bore a 1945 copyright; and the cover date of the second was October, 1946.
A prominent reference book on American comics lists her creator as Joe Devlin, a former assistant to Rube Goldberg, but this is incorrect — Devlin actually created Molly the Model, who pre-dated Millie, running in the back pages of Quality Comics' Crack Comics, where The Black Condor, The Clock and Captain Triumph were the stars.
It's been suggested that Millie the Model was a direct copy of Bill Woggon's Katy Keene, published by Archie Comics — or is it the other way around? In fact, it's kind of hard to figure out which came first, and for that matter, whether their creators were even aware of each other. Katy's first appearance was in the middle of 1945, as a back-up feature, and it was a couple of years before she was even mentioned on a cover.
In any event, Millie's sweet innocence, combined with the glamor of her occupation, made a hit with readers. Her comic was a steady seller for years, even as The Human Torch and Captain America were fading, at least temporarily, into oblivion. She was cover-featured in Comedy Comics during that title's entire run (1948-50). From the mid-1950s to the mid-'60s, she usually had a companion magazine or two running, with titles like A Date with Millie and Modeling with Millie; and she was featured in an annual during most of the '60s. In the late 1960s and early '70s, Millie's rival, Chili, had a book of her own. Millie's own comic remained in regular publication until 1973, and didn't completely sputter to a stop until '75. By that time, it had outlasted all its contemporaries, to become Marvel's oldest title extant.
In 1985, Millie was revived — in a way. She came back as a matronly ex-model, now running an agency of her own, and she wasn't even the lead character of the series. That position went to her teenage niece, Misty, who starred in a six-issue mini-series that ran under Marvel's Star Comics imprint from December, 1985 to May, 1986. Despite excellent stories and art by Trina Robbins, Misty failed to find an audience, and hasn't been seen since.
And neither has Millie, despite the ease with which her contemporary, Patsy Walker, slipped into the Marvel Universe. Maybe having been shunted up into a relatively normal middle age for the Misty series is actually a blessing. Otherwise, next time we see her, Millie could be the mother of alien twins, confronting her evil extra-dimensional counterpart, or about to begin her new job as Galactus's herald.