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February 24, 2012     Heritage Florida Jewish News
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MIEM HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, FEBRUARY 24, 2012 Different kind ol superhero gets her due in graphic novel Robbts,(i) and IJly RmPMil tian of Phifips (who often goes by Lily Ren) in a number of collections she&apos;d put together about female c0mic book writ- ers and artists, but she was un- aware Phiaipswas aliveuntil one day in 2010, when an email came from Phillips' grand- daughter.e had Googled her grandnmther toleam about her past, andmy narae kpt coming up," Robbim. explains. Soon after, Robbins spoke with Phillips and arranged a visit to NewYorkto hear her life story in person. "And the first thRhought hneeds to be a graphic novel" Her life was like a real-life'Kavalier and Clay'" says the artist, referring to Michael Chaben's Pulitzer g novel, in which two comic book writers fight evil through a series of great escapes against the backdrop of New York City in the 1940s. Born around 1925 in Vi- enna. Lily Rene Wilheim was raised in an upper-middle- class family. As part of her English- language studies, she had a pen pal in England. When the Nazis took power in Austria in 1938, Ren&'s mother appealed to the British girl's family to take in her daughter. When young Lily arrived on a Kindertransport, however, she was put to work ! --.- Slm j. I1 Ja,f.k ms wkly dNmllmm Car6mm 'biaaikmsknoathing er tumalmut akme. As a ldomer m San Fran- cisco's  comics smEintlo,73, .... :'- "- - and " f _- -" ls.ln1972,  immd the antimlo rmlmCmniln 1 mdk dilsm  mupsi f ned In cae em il mm Idace a a male- dmmbs Fmty ]mm br. h,r com- madlakk mmm is as dxong as era; eekilmced by the San IPnmdsco residents latest m,lcdnobcaust sunsmamlcomic boekartist Ri Mathe fmmda noeL "13yo ilmJscapelJCimHo- _ - e- _-_ : " Boek F, mm (9S  rar Umm $J ausWad by am 11mmm and No Oh. kams  sdbied horn her ..mdb chadhood mmn )her Wmdmam- e,t .m o Enghn to h mlden mlh her pamnB ia New Ymk. FlaT mmt on to kecmm amlt lmer a themmicboekindmtryasone dils fret kmale adis 11beekisa gripldng--and afaRal-Fadventm Robbins wnafrPh lip in New Yor 1 been-t hLors f the women ho wrote and drew cremes f a long time no. becau when the guys write their stxn4es of comics they leave out the wnen.- sys matter-d-factly. "And Ou're neCwrcen abeut ya're fog<en.- had included men- as an unpaid servant in the family's home in Leeds. She took on a number of other jobs, including mother's helper, caretaker and candy striper, all the while trying to find work and sponsors in England for her parents. About a year and a half after she left Austria, she received word from her parents that they had made safe passage to the United States, and she began a harrow- ing but successful journey to leave England and join them. As ayoung adult in New York, Phillips foundworkas a pencil- ler, one of the most important positions in the process of illustrating a comic book. She was the only woman at the publisher Fiction House (best known for "Sheena, Queen of the Jungle") and endured almost constant harassment from her co-workers and superiors. Her artistic skills flourished, however, and she went on to become one of the most respected women in the industry, known for her signa- ture "L. Ren6e" in the corners of her pages. Despite the heavier themes in ."Lily Ren&," Robbins says she thinks it's perfect foryoung people, especially girls, who are learning about World War II. "I never have an age range in mind when I'm writing, and I don't believe in writing down for kids," says the author. "A lot of mainstream publishers think you have to dumb things down--which isn't true at all." Furthermore, the book--which contains a German-to-English glossary--has tremendous po- tential in educational settings, says Robbins. "I think it would be nice ifit were used in schools alongside the 'Diary of Anne Frank/ which is also about a teenage girl but is such a tragedy. It woul d be nice if they could read one with a happy ending." Robbins says her book has received nothing but praise-- including, most important, kind words from Lily Ren6e Phillips herself. "It was so important that Lily like it, and I was a bit of a nervouswreckabout it,"admits Robbins. "When it came out, she was visiting her kids in Southern California, and she phoned me to say they liked it so much they had just bought a bunch of copies. I breathed a huge sigh of relief. It was the first time I had ever written a biography of someone who was still alive!" Reactions from readers have been meaningful for the author as well. At book signings with Phillips by her side, "People would come up to Lily afterward and say, 'My mother was a Holocaust survivor' and just start talking," Robbins says. 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