Catherine Yronwode, often credited cat yronwode (born Catherine Anna Manfredi on May 12, 1947) is an American writer, editor and practitioner of folk magic with an extensive career in the comic book industry. Life and Career
Yronwode was born in San Francisco to "bohemian/academic parents". Her father, Joseph Manfredi, was a Sicilian American abstract artist; her mother, Liselotte Erlanger, was an Ashkenazi Jewish refugee from Germany, a writer, and a cousin of the composer Franz Reizenstein. She grew up in Berkeley and Santa Monica, and traveling abroad. She made window signs for the Cabale Creamery (a folk music coffeehouse in Berkeley) while still in high school. She attended Shimer College in Illinois as an early entrant, but dropped out.
Returning to Berkeley, she sold the Berkeley Barb underground newspaper on the streets and catalogued rare books for her parents' bookstore, then took her leave of urban life. From 1965 through 1980 she lived as a rural back-to-the-land hippie in various places, including Tolstoy Peace Farm, an anarchist commune in Washington, the Equitable Farm commune in Mendocino County, and the Garden of Joy Blues commune in Oregon County, Missouri.
A freelance writer for many years, Yronwode has been published in a number of fields. She began writing while in her teens, contributing to science fiction fanzines. During the 1960s, she was a member of the Bay Area Astrologers Group, co-writing its weekly astrology column for the underground newspaper San Francisco Express Times / Good Times. She produced record reviews on a freelance basis for the nascent Rolling Stone magazine, and short articles on low-tech living for the Whole Earth Catalog and Country Women magazine. With her mother Liselotte Glozer, she co-wrote and hand-lettered the faux-medieval cookbook, My Lady's Closet Opened and The Secret of Baking Revealed by Two Gentlewomen (Glozer's Booksellers, 1969). During the 1990s, she was a staff editor and contributor to Organic Gardening Magazine. The California Gardener's Book of Lists (Taylor, 1998) is one of her books on gardening. Other subjects she has covered for various magazines include collectibles, popular culture, rural acoustic blues music, early rock'n'roll, and sex magick.
She met her former partner, Peter Paskin, in 1967 and they invented their last name "Yronwode", pronounced "Ironwood", in 1969. She prefers her name to be styled in lower case, as "catherine yronwode." While living at Equitable Farm, Peter and Catherine were interviewed at length by Rolling Stone magazine for an article on hippie anarchist communes. The couple had two children: Cicely (who was born in 1970 and died of SIDS the same year) and Althaea, born in 1971. In 1972, the Yronwodes relocated to The Garden of Joy Blues commune in the Missouri Ozarks. In 1976, Catherine and Peter Yronwode broke up.
In 1980, Yronwode worked as an editor for Ken Pierce Publishing, editing and writing introductions to a line of comic strip reprint books, including titles such as Modesty Blaise by Peter O'Donnell and Jim Holdaway, Mike Hammer by Mickey Spillane, and The Phantom by Lee Falk. She also began a long-running column titled "Fit to Print" for the Comics Buyer's Guide. The column was widely read and gave her a gatekeeper role in comics. Beanworld creator Larry Marder credits her positive review therein for the title's success. Similarly, when Dan Brereton received a poor review from Yronwode for an early project, he felt his "promising career in comics was over". The column, and her work with the APA-I comic-book indexing cooperative, led to freelance editing jobs at Kitchen Sink Press, an important early alternative comics imprint. She wrote The Art of Will Eisner in 1981, an overview of the work of seminal cartoonist Will Eisner, and continued to write books for Kitchen Sink for several years.
In 1982 she began a partnership with Dean Mullaney, who with his brother Jan had co-founded Eclipse Enterprises, a comic book and graphic novel publisher, in 1976. With Yronwode as editor-in-chief during a period of expanding attention to the art form, Eclipse published many innovative works and championed creators' rights in a field which at the time barely respected them. During her tenure, Eclipse published super hero titles including Miracleman by Alan Moore and Neil Gaiman, The Rocketeer by Dave Stevens, and Zot! by Scott McCloud. and also brought out graphic novels featuring opera adaptations, such as The Magic Flute by P. Craig Russell and classic children's literature such as The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien . Yronwode won an Inkpot Award in 1983.
In 1985, Eclipse published Women and the Comics, a pioneering book on the history of female comic strip and comic book creators that Yronwode co-wrote with the cartoonist Trina Robbins. As the first book of its kind, Women and the Comics garnered quite a bit of attention from the mainstream press as well as comics fandom.
During the 1980s, Eclipse brought out a new line of non-fiction, non-sports trading cards, edited by Yronwode. Controversial political subjects such as the Iran-Contra scandal, the Savings and Loan crisis, the AIDS epidemic, and the Kennedy Assassination, as well as true crime accounts of serial killers, mass murderers, the mafia, and organized crime were covered in these card sets, and Yronwode was widely interviewed in the media about her role in their creation.
Yronwode was involved in three free expression court cases. In the Michael Correa case that led to the founding of the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, Yronwode was an expert witness for the defense. In 1992, the convicted serial killer Kenneth Bianchi, one-half of the pair known as "The Hillside Strangler", sued Yronwode for 8.5 million dollars for causing an image of his face, which he claimed was his trademark, to be depicted on a trading card. The case was dismissed when the judge opined that if Bianchi had been using his face as a trademark when he was killing women, he would not have tried to hide it from the police; therefore his face was not his trademark. Also in 1992, Eclipse was a plaintiff when Nassau County, New York seized a crime-themed trading card series they had published under a county ordinance prohibiting sales of certain trading cards to minors. The case, in which Yronwode testified and the ACLU provided Eclipse's representation, reached the 2nd Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals, where the ordinance was overturned.
Mullaney and Yronwode were married in 1987 and filed for divorce in 1993, after which point Yronwode no longer worked for the company or owned shares in it; Eclipse ceased publication in 1994 and shortly thereafter filed for bankruptcy.
Since the 1990s, Yronwode has written primarily on magic, sacred architecture and folklore subjects, particularly the worldwide use of charms and talismans and the system of African American folk magic called hoodoo.
Yronwode currently lives on an old farmstead in rural Forestville, California in "tantric partnership" with Tyagi Nagasiva (now Nagasiva Bryan W Yronwode), whom she met in 1998 and married in 2000. Both Yronwodes worked in the production department of Claypool Comics until that company ceased print publication in 2007. Since 1996, Catherine has run the website luckymojo.com, covering magic, occultism, sex magick, and folklore subjects.
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