Emma C. McKean (December 16, 1907 - March 7, 1992) also credited as Ema Keen, was a cartoonist and illustrator. As a contributor to New Comics #1, she was the first woman to contribute original comics material to a comic book.
Life & Career
McKean was born in Taunton, Massachusetts to David and Emma (Anderson) McKean. Her mother was from Sweden, while records of her father's origins conflict; he was either English or Swedish. She was one of five children. Sometime after her youngest sister Sarah's birth in about 1914 and before 1920, the family moved from Massachusetts to Brooklyn, New York.
As of the 1930 US Census, she was still in school, likely a trade school, because the 1940 Census indicates that her highest grade completed was the fourth year of high school. In 1931, her sister Sarah died at the age of 17.
In 1935, New Comics #1 was published by DC Comics's forerunner National Allied Newspaper Syndicate; it was the first comic book to contain original comics material instead of newspaper strip reprints. As "Ema Keen", McKean contributed the one-page "Sister and Brother" feature, as well as an activity page. While the issue also contained text pieces by Connie Naar and Josephine Craig, McKean was the only woman to contribute comics material. She subsequently contributed an activity page to New Comics #2 and a feature called "Sara Lou Sunshine" to New Comics #3 and 4, also making her the first known woman to create a recurring comic book character. She also worked on Dell Publications' Looney Tunes licensed comics in the early 1940s. Also in the 1940s, she illustrated a number of children's books.
She appears to have never married and likely lived with her parents until their deaths in 1960
- New Comics #1, 3-4
- Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies Comics (1941) #4, 10, 12, 14-16, 20-25
- Animal Comics (1942) #7
- Social Security Death Record
- Bails Who's Who - "Keen, Ema"
- Massachusetts Births record, Family Search. Accessed 11 Dec 2017.
- 1910 US Census record, Family Search. Accessed 11 Dec 2017.
- 1920 US Census record, Family Search. Accessed 11 Dec 2017.
- 1930 US Census record, Family Search. Accessed 11 Dec 2017.
- 1940 US Census record, Family Search. Accessed 11 Dec 2017.
- "Sarah McKean", New York City Municipal Deaths record, Family Search. Accessed 11 Dec 2017.
- "New Comics #v1#1", Grand Comics Database. Accessed 11 Dec 2017.
- "Emma M. McKean", New York Death Index record, Family Search. Accessed 11 Dec 2017.
View Emma C. McKean's memorial at Find-A-Grave.
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