Lily Renee Philips was a Jewish, Vienna-born, Holocaust survivor who fled Austria after the 1938 Nazi annexation of Austria. She escaped to England on a Kindertransport and reunited with her parents in New York in 1940.

There she took her artistic talents to the comic book publisher Fiction House Comics.. Taken on, her first assignments were menial but she worked her way up and was given the strip Jane Martin, a brave wartime nurse to draw. Her breakthrough came when she took on the character of Señorita Rio, a secret agent for the Allied forces. Rio was created by Nick Cardy but Renee  contributed to the storyline and to the character of the Senorita, shaped her look as a fierce athletic brunette who fought  Fascists and their allies in Latin America.Renee later said of this Nazi bashing spy “I could live out a fantasy, if only on paper. It was a form of revenge.”

Lily Renee Philips signed as L. Renee and was widely assumed to be a man. Not surprising considering both how rare at that time women were in the comic industry and just how sexy she made her heroines. Most notable for me is her original and creative layouts and panel use that in some cases bring to mind Will Eisner. Though it appears Renee did not regard drawing comics as real art and left in the 50’s it seems to me that we may have missed something.

Renee worked in comics till 1949, published by Fiction House Comics, Harvey Comics, I.W Publications, Marvel Comics and St. John Publishing. She then did writing courses with Philip Roth, wrote plays and  created children’s books.

Comic historian Trina Robbins rediscovered her in 2005 and turned Renee’s life into a graphic novel. Renee has been invited to speak at Comic Con panels, received belated awards and has been the subject of  a short documentary,

All comic images by Lily Phillips

All copyrights acknowledged

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