Before Barbie was Barbie, she was Lilli, a German comic strip sexpot

Originally published at: Before Barbie was Barbie, she was Lilli, a German comic strip sexpot | Boing Boing


Wow. Blatant thievery. Some “American icon”, Mattel.

^^ Comment from the tweet.

Honestly, blatant thievery makes it more American than ever.


Yes, for some reason every article on the anglophone web brings that up although I have yet to see a shred of evidence in the actual comic or a German-language source. Perhaps it is in there somewhere, but it certainly feels like those people are copying from each other.

Btw. the comic is nothing special, but it is nowhere near as bad as “sexy 50s Bild girl” sounds.


Indeed, it was a common genre at the time. America already had Betty Boop in the 1930s and 1940s. I guess this one Lili character was more successful and happened to catch Mattel’s eye, is all. It had a doll with clothing and they saw the potential of that idea.

That’s a weird criticism, honestly. They didn’t “steal” anything. They bought it. They bought the rights to something so they could sell it in a new market. That’s what companies do. I don’t understand internet randos’ obsessions with purity around product branding.

Edit: actually, they maybe did steal it! More details downthread


Melanie? Melanie? Is that you?

The parallels are striking.

Into the Barbieverse.

Yeah, even more American would be to copy something, don’t pay for it, and then some how sue the other company into the ground so they can’t compete. USA! USA!

One other comment, so those comic strips - it reminds me in German class we had copies of Bunte and Stern, which were two pop culture/news magazines in Germany. We had to edit some of them because there would be boobs in pictures. (Honestly, looking back on it, I am surprised this didn’t get the teacher into trouble). Anyway, I remember there still being similar cartoons in them. Not of the character, but of the similar type and similar jokes. This would have been early/mid 90s.


That got the attention of Mattel, which purchased the rights to Lilli, renamed her Barbie, and sold her in America. (Ruben Bolling)


Mattel eventually bought the rights to the Bild-Lilli doll after Barbie was a hit. (Zee-Briskie Point)

Well? Which was it? It can’t have been both.

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Apparently, Ruth Handler’s daughter liked the doll when she saw it in Switzerland, so Ruth and her husband copied it, and "In 1961, Greiner & Hauser, which manufactured Bild Lilli, sued Mattel for infringing on its revolutionary patent for Bild Lilli’s hip joint. Lawyers settled the suit out of court two years later, and in 1964 Mattel bought the copyright and patents for Bild Lilli. Bild Lilli And The Barbie Doll: The Racy Origins Of America's Best Known Doll

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I think it was just that Lilli was depicted as enjoying receiving gifts from her suitors. That doesn’t make her a “call girl”, just a “material girl” as Madonna sang about. Also, in the ruined economy of early post-war Germany, some of those gifts might have been immediately taken to a pawn shop to get cash to pay for things like rent and food.


What’s with websites blocking pinch zooming on mobile? If you’re not going to lightbox your images, at least let me zoom the page… Thankfully, they didn’t disable the long-press context menu so I could open the images in a new tab, but that’s unnecessary effort.

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Ah, the truth is always more interesting. That’s great context. So in fact Mattel did steal it, unlike what I said at the top of the thread. Neat!

It’s also interesting that China is criticized constantly for doing this sort of thing today, when apparently American business was built much the same way.


lady gaga applause GIF

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