Annual Report of the GSC President

Each year, the board of the Comics Studies Society releases an annual report. You can read the full report over on the Comics Studies Society website, here. Below is the report from the current President of the Graduate Student Caucus, Adrienne Resha.

A year ago, I was most concerned with studying for my comprehensive exams and heading back into a new, but not all that different, semester. Now, it’s hard to say what tomorrow will look like, let alone the end of summer. For the last two years, the annual conference has marked, for me, the end of an academic year: I finished my first year in Urbana-Champaign and my second in Toronto. I was, like many of you, looking forward to Arkadelphia. Now, I’m looking forward to a time when it’s safe to see each other in person again. Between now and then, and in my third year on the Graduate Student Caucus Board, there’s still a lot I want to get done, and I am privileged to be working alongside members of the GSC in doing so.

Before I welcome the new Executive, I want to thank the 2019-2020 GSC Board. Biz Nijdam, Hanah Stiverson, Alex Lampp Berglund, and Safiyya Hosein: on behalf of the graduate student membership of CSS, thank you for your service.

I am very proud to welcome Vice President Evan Ash, Members-at-Large Sydney Heifler and Joshua Roeder, and Secretary-Treasurer Zachary Rondinelli to the 2020-2021 GSC Executive Board. I am also proud to continue to work with Web Editor Jeremy Carnes. This Board has met several times this summer and is already hard at work.

In the next few months, Josh and I will be reworking the Hillary Chute Award. In a good year, attendance at conferences is a marker of privilege, much less one in which many conferences — in, around, and outside of comics studies — have been cancelled. The Chute Award will, as it has this year, continue to recognize excellence in graduate student research and writing. It will just look a little different going forward.

Over the next twelve months, Evan will be representing the Caucus on the CSS Conference Organizing Committee. As Josh and I form the GSC’s Award Committee, Evan is joined by Zach on the GSC’s Conference Committee. Having previously served on the Conference Organizing Committee, I know just how much work goes into planning a conference, and I am absolutely sure that Evan and Zach are up to doing their part for it. They will be supported in doing so by the rest of the GSC Board.

You can learn more about the new officers of that Board here on our website, where we’ve been running “Meet the Board” posts. Our website and social media accounts (Facebook and Twitter) fall under the purview of our Website Committee, Jeremy and Sydney. Of everything we’ve talked about at our first few meetings, I am most excited by the ideas that these two have put forward. Speaking on behalf of the entire Board: we’re going to do some good work this year.

And speaking for myself: I am privileged to be in my third year of service on the GSC Board. I have served after or alongside many graduate students and early career scholars who I am lucky to count not just as colleagues but also as friends, and some of them graduated this spring under less than ideal circumstances. My sincerest congratulations go out to them and especially to our own Dr. Jeremy Carnes. Just as much as I am looking forward to being able to see each other in person again, I am looking forward to celebrating this cohort of scholars. Until then, know that I’m rooting for all of you.

To those of you who are dissertating now, like me, I want you to know that you’re not alone. To those of you studying now for your comprehensive exams, I wish you the best of luck. And to those of you just beginning your graduate programs, I want you to know that you have a place here, in this community, whether or not you ever run for a spot on the Board or get to present at the annual conference.

And to those of you who have graduated, whether this spring or long before, I want to remind you that you were once a student and that you likely would not be where you are today without the support of more senior scholars. Soon enough, the GSC will be launching a Mentorship Program, and I ask that you offer your time and experience when called on to do so.

Finally, from the GSC Constitution, which I helped rewrite with Joshua Kopin and Bryan Bove during my first year on the Board, “The purpose of the Graduate Student Caucus is to assess the needs and represent the interests of graduate students and early career scholars within the Comics Studies Society and to provide fellowship, support, and advocacy for such individuals as they pursue their work in comics studies.” Further, “The GSC strives to be an inclusive organization and to build solidarity among all graduate students. It will actively seek out to promote the participation and engagement of marginalized groups and underrepresented persons.” For this term, as President, I am committed to our purpose and especially, as a woman of color, to advocacy for other graduate students of color and marginalized genders, both in my service on the GSC Board and on the CSS Executive Board.

Adrienne Resha
GSC President

Meet the Board: Sydney Heifler (Member-at-Large)

We’ve heard from half of the new Executive Committee for the Grad Student Caucus. We continue today with our new Member-at-Large, Sydney Heifler!

How long have you been involved with CSS? What brought you to CSS?

This year is my first year being involved in CSS. I originally became interested in CSS when I heard about the excellent research being presented at the CSS annual conferences. I was thrilled to be accepted to this year’s conference, but that was understandably canceled. When I saw the opportunity to become more involved in the community as a graduate student, I jumped on it.

What was the first comic that you remember reading, or the first that really had an impact on you as a reader?

When I was about five, I became pretty obsessed with the various Archie Digest comics you could get at the grocery store. My older sister used to get them and let me read them when she finished them. My mom put an end to that when I started comparing my twin sister and myself to Betty and Veronica (I told her I was the better twin because I was nice like Betty and my twin was mean like Veronica). I hope that I have developed into a more self-aware consumer…

What are you reading now that you think others should look into?

I think everyone should read romance comics. These comics were extremely popular when they were published, and many influential comics artists and creators worked on them. They also have a significant influence on popular culture today—the style of romance comics is everywhere! In short, they are important cultural and historical artifacts that are often overlooked or underexplored.

Young Romance Comics (1947-63) Vol. 11 comic books

What comics scholar has most impacted your current research, and why?

I would say that Michael Goodrum’s work has greatly influenced mine. He’s been very helpful since meeting him while I was studying for my master’s at Oxford. I really appreciate his historical approach to comics research, and he has given me some great mentorship in that area. I highly recommend his article “‘Superman Believes that a Wife’s Place is in the Home’: Superman’s Girl Friend, Lois Lane and the Representation of Women” to anyone interested in how to apply historical analysis to comics.

Is there any recent shift in the field of comics studies that you are particularly excited about?

This question is hard to answer because there are so many good things emerging, like the focus on graphic medicine. I would say, as it relates to my research, I love recent studies on the effect of fandom and memory on the development of comics scholarship. I also hope that research on fashion in comics continues to grow. I was recently introduced to this area of research by Monica Geraffo for our chapter on Janet Van Dyne (written for Jamie Brassett and Richard Reynolds’s Superheroes and Excess). It is a gratifying line of research!

Who is the comics writer/artist/scholar that has most influenced the way you think about the field?

Honestly, I do not have one person who has influenced me “the most.” At every conference I attend, I make a point of going to at least one panel that is entirely outside my area of expertise or immediate interest. I end up being influenced in ways unexpected. That is how I found Neil Cohn. He presented some of his research at the 2019 Comics Arts Conference at San Diego Comic-Con International. I would never have thought visual linguistics applied to my research on romance comics, but it does!

If you could choose one comic writer or artist to meet who would it be and why?

I would love to meet Lily Renée! Not only did she do beautiful work for Fiction House as well as some of my favorite romance work for St. John, but her personal story is also incredible. Those interested should read Trina Robbins’s Lily Renée, Escape Artist: From Holocaust Survivor to Comic Book Pioneer (2011) or watch Lily (2019). The judges put her on this year’s Eisner Hall of Fame ballot. I hope she gets voted in; she just celebrated her 99th birthday for goodness sake!

Lily Renée, Escape Artist: From Holocaust Survivor to Comic Book ...

What are you currently working on and do you have plans for future projects?

I’m finishing up my and Monica Geraffo’s chapter on Janet Van Dyne and several romance comics publications. I’ll be starting a book proposal on romance comics soon. In the Fall, I am beginning my Ph.D. in History at the Ohio State University, which I’m sure will keep me busy!

How can folks get in contact with you to talk more about comics or your research?

I am easily contacted through email ( sydneyheifler [@] gmail.com ) or twitter (@romancecomicbks).

Meet The Board: Joshua Roeder (Member-at-Large)

We continue along this week introducing our new Executive Board members! This week the focus is on our new member-at-large Joshua Roeder, a Ph.D. student at Drew University.

How long have you been involved with CSS? What brought you to CSS?

I remember in 2017 my advisor telling me about an upcoming new journal named Inks
and a new scholars society. I was lucky enough to jump on board to become a Comics
Studies Society Founding Member back then and I’ve been following its development
since then.

What was the first comic that you remember reading, or the first that really had an
impact on you as a reader?

Hellboy by Mike Mignola. Hands down my favorite character and Mignola’s artistry is too
beautiful for us mere mortals. After watching Ron Perlman portray Hellboy on the big
screen back in 2004, I had to get my hands on more material which lead me to comic
books.

What are you reading now that you think others should look into?

The Immortal Hulk (2018 – Present). Al Ewing’s writing makes this superhero into a real
monster horror series. The imagery and panels Joe Bennett, Paul Mounts, Belardino
Brabo, Cam Smith, and Ruy Jose create are just as amazing. It really shakes up the
typical superhero formula. I also just started using the Shonen Jump’s smart phone app
to keep up on Eiichiro Oda’s One Piece series.

What comics scholar has most impacted your current research, and why?

Jean-Paul Gabilliet and his work Of Comics and Men: A Cultural History of American
Comic Books
, which is a true interdisciplinary study that covers the rise of the American
comic-book industry in the 1930s to present day. I love this multifaceted approach. At
the end of his work, Gabilliet acknowledges the lack of analysis on audience history
through letter columns. This has helped in validating my current research.

Is there any recent shift in the field of comics studies that you are particularly
excited about?

I’m super excited about the recent connectedness of all us comic scholars since the first
CSS conference! For a long while, being an American historian and comics scholar felt
like being on a small, isolated island. Now, not only have different perspectives become
accessible, but making important connections has been amazingly easier now.

Who is the comics writer/artist/scholar that has most influenced the way you
think about the field?

Scot McCloud and Understanding Comics was the first piece of comic book scholarship
that opened up the field of study to me. While more nuanced works have come out
since then, his was the one that opened up the theoretical possibilities.

If you could choose one comic writer or artist to meet who would it be and why?

Mike Mignola. Again, I love his art style so much and the character writing for Hellboy is
superb. I would like to personally thank him for getting me hooked into reading comic
books.

What are you currently working on and do you have plans for future projects?

I’m about to be working on my prospectus and then move on to my dissertation phase.
I’m hoping to work on audience reception history of mainstream comic books. With that
in mind, I’ll hopefully have more presentations and articles to give and publish!

How can folks get in contact with you to talk more about comics or your
research?

I can be found on Twitter @joro_89, Facebook, or email at jroeder@drew.edu.

Meet the Board: Evan Ash (Vice President)

The recent elections for the Executive Board both in CSS and in the Grad Caucus has brought new scholars into leadership roles. We want to continue highlighting the new board members as they step into these roles. This week, we focus on the new Vice President of the Graduate Student Caucus, Evan Ash, who is a Ph.D. student in History at the University of Maryland.

How long have you been involved with CSS? What brought you to CSS?

I have been involved with CSS since shortly before its 2019 conference. Like many important things in my life, I can’t remember exactly what brought me to CSS. Probably a lucky Google.

What was the first comic that you remember reading, or the first that really had an impact on you as a reader?

I started to get more interested in comics after seeing The Dark Knight Rises in 2012. I think Watchmen was the first comic that I can recall reading, but Preacher was probably the first series I read all the way though in the summer of 2014.

What are you reading now that you think others should look into?

I’ve been reading some older Justice Society comics, and wrapped up America vs. The Justice Society. I’ve also been reading Ben Katchor’s Cheap Novelties: The Pleasures of Urban Decay. Those comic strips are rich for analysis in many ways.

What comics scholar has most impacted your current research, and why?

Amy Kiste Nyberg wrote the book (Seal of Approval: The History of the Comics Code) that pointed me to the eventual topic of my MA thesis. She was influential in the personal development of that project as well, serving as a reader and meeting with me out in New Jersey.

Is there any recent shift in the field of comics studies that you are particularly excited about?

I’m eager to keep broadening the historical dimensions of comics studies. There have been a few books recently (for example, by Lara Saguisag and Qiana Whitted) that have interested me, but that I just haven’t had the time to get through them yet.

Who is the comics writer/artist/scholar that has most influenced the way you think about the field?

Carol Tilley, without a doubt. Her observations about youth, power, and censorship have been integral in my thinking, writing, and research. I’m very lucky to be able to count Carol as a treasured mentor.

If you could choose one comic writer or artist to meet who would it be and why?

I would love to meet Leah Williams. She’s probably the current writer that I’ve read the most, and I really enjoy her social media presence.

What are you currently working on and do you have plans for future projects?

I’m very busy finishing up Ph.D. coursework, but I’m writing a dissertation prospectus that focuses on American anti-comics criticism, moral politics, and their impact on children set within midcentury America.

I have a paper that I’m hoping to whittle down into an article on the partnership that National Comics (now DC) had with the National Social Welfare Assembly to produce public service comics. I also have an entry in the forthcoming Encyclopedia of the American Left on left-wing graphic novels since 2000 and an article on a decent literature group in my hometown of Green Bay, WI coming out Fall 2020/Winter 2021. As long as it is still happening, I will be presenting at ICAF@SPX on my National-NSWA project.

As far as future desires are concerned, I’m plotting a web article on portrayals of the 1950s in modern comics, and far down the road, I would love to start an edited collection that expands historical thinking about the American anti-comics movement beyond Fredric Wertham and the senate hearings that transpired.

How can folks get in contact with you to talk more about comics or your research?

For serious questions and conversations, my email inbox (erash@umd.edu) is always open, and I’m eager to build working relationships.

If you just want to see what’s up, follow me on Twitter @evanthevoice.

Stay tuned for more Meet the Board interviews in the coming weeks!

GSC Executive Committee Nominations–EXTENDED DEADLINE

The Graduate Student Caucus (GSC) of the Comics Studies Society (CSS) is extending the deadline for nominations and self-nominations for TWO positions  on its Executive Board. The CSS GSC represents the interests of graduate students and recent grads (within three years of receiving a degree), contingent faculty, and postdocs in the larger CSS, with the GSC President sitting on the CSS Executive Board. 

The GSC welcomes nominations and self-nominations from GSC members from any stage in their academic career (off or before the tenure-track) for the positions of Secretary-Treasurer and Members-At-Large.

Secretary-Treasurer: The secretary-treasurer assumes the responsibility of managing the society’s finances, keeping minutes from all meetings, and keeping a membership list. The secretary—treasurer serves a one-year term.

Members-At-Large: Two members at large provide advice and aid to the officers of the Caucus. Early career scholars holding contingent positions such as postdoctoral fellowships are encouraged to apply for these positions. The Members-at-Large serve one-year terms.
Details about the responsibilities of each position are outlined in the GSC Bylaws, available here. Information for joining the Society is at CSS website. We encourage nominations and self-nominations from comics scholars working in diverse locations and on all aspects of comics studies.

Please submit your nomination and self-nominations to Biz Nijdam (elizabeth.nijdam@gmail.com). Nominees should include a short biography (100-200 words) no later thanMarch 30, 2020. If a nominee is not currently a CSS member, one must join the society by then.

Results of the election will be announced in May 2020.   

CSS GSC Call for Nominations

CSS GSC Executive Board Nominations Now Open

The Graduate Student Caucus (GSC) of the Comics Studies Society (CSS) calls for nominations and self-nominations for officers on its Executive Board. The CSS GSC represents the interests of graduate students and recent grads (within three years of receiving a degree), contingent faculty, and postdocs in the larger CSS, with the GSC President sitting on the CSS Executive Board. The GSC welcomes nominations and self-nominations from GSC members from any stage in their academic career (off or before the tenure-track) for the positions of Vice-President, Secretary-Treasurer, and two Members-At-Large.

Vice President: The vice president shall work with and assist the president in various duties, acting as a stand-in if necessary. They shall manage internal committee affairs, such as overseeing and delegating various tasks to committee members working cooperatively on rendering the GSC functions operational (building online presence, delivering news, organizing workshops/events, etc.). Additionally, the vice-president is in charge of recruitment of new grad student members. The vice president serves a one-year term. Upon completion of the term, the vice president will assume the functions of the president for one year.

Secretary-Treasurer: The secretary-treasurer assumes the responsibility of managing the society’s finances, keeping minutes from all meetings, and keeping a membership list. The secretary-treasurer serves a one-year term.

Members-At-Large: Two members at large provide advice and aid to the officers of the Caucus. Early career scholars holding contingent positions such as postdoctoral fellowships are encouraged to apply for these positions. The Members-at-Large serve one-year terms.

Details about the responsibilities of each position are outlined in the GSC Bylaws, available here. Information for joining the Society is at CSS website. We encourage nominations and self-nominations from comics scholars working in diverse locations and on all aspects of comics studies.

Please submit your nomination and self-nominations to Biz Nijdam (elizabeth.nijdam@gmail.com). Nominees should include a short biography (100-200 words) no later than March 15, 2020. If a nominee is not currently a CSS member, one must join the society by then.

Results of the election will be announced in May 2020.

Comics Studies Society Prizes 2020

The Comics Studies Society (CSS) recognizes outstanding contributions to the study of comic art with five annual prizes: the CSS Article Prize, the Hillary Chute Award for Best Graduate Student Conference Presentation, the Gilbert Seldes Prize for Public Scholarship, the Charles Hatfield Book Prize, and the new CSS Prize for Edited Book Collections.

The CSS defines comic art liberally to include all forms of cartooning, sequential art, and graphic narrative: comic strips, comic books, papers, and magazines; albums, graphic novels, and other graphic books; webcomics andS other electronic formats; single-panel cartoons, including editorial and gag cartoons; caricature; animation; and other related forms and traditions.

The CSS is currently soliciting nominations for all five prizes, which will be awarded at the 3rd Annual Conference of the Comics Studies Society at Henderson State University in Arkadelphia, Arkansas (August 5-8, 2020). Winners will receive a $300 cash award and a plaque. Please see http://comicssociety.org/conference/ for conference details.

  • Nominations for the CSS prizes may be historical, biographical, critical, analytical, pedagogical, and/or bibliographical in focus.
  • Nominations should draw on original research, acknowledge and advance existing scholarship where relevant, and include appropriate documentation.
  • Reprints of or excerpts from previously published works are not eligible for prizes.

Frequency and time period: Prizes are awarded by the CSS at its annual conference for first-time publications (not reprints or revised editions) or original presentations bearing a copyright date for the previous calendar year. For example, the 2020 prizes will cover publications and presentations © 2019.
 
Nomination process: Peer nominations and self-nominations are welcomed. Nomination letters are due March 15, 2020. The letter of nomination should do the following:

  • Identify the work’s complete title, author(s) name(s), publisher, and original copyright date.
  • Include means of access to a complete digital copy of the work that members of the CSS Prize Committee can access as needed (alternately, for works native to print and best viewed in print, nomination requires three complete physical copies of the published book or article to be sent via mail).

Nominations and inquiries should be sent by email to the CSS Awards Coordinator, Biz Nijdam, at awards@comicssociety.org. Instructions on mailing physical copies will be provided in reply.

Judging and awarding process: Nominees for each prize will be reviewed by a committee of not less than three members of the Comics Studies Society, as chosen by the CSS Executive Board, including the Awards Coordinator or their designee. Prize winners will be notified by June 15th, and announcements will be published on the CSS website and in Inks: The Journal of the Comics Studies Society.

Collection Spotlight: Washington State University

Continuing our ongoing series highlighting collection of comics and comics-related materials in libraries across the U.S. we turn today to the collection in the Manuscripts, Archives, and Special Collections (MASC) at Washington State University.

How large is the comics collection at WSU?

Approximately 8300 comic books, 2200 mini comics, and 390 comics. In addition, the underground comix collections also contain several hundred trade publications, catalogs, ‘zines, books, and realia.

When did WSU begin collecting comics? How did it happen?

MASC’s Underground Comics collection originated in the mid-80s, when comics artist and editor Steve Willis worked at WSU Libraries as a cataloger. Willis donated his collection of comics to the Libraries and cataloged them. These cataloged titles make up the first Underground Comics collection, SC 3.1. Willis left WSU in the late 80s, but continues to donate underground comix and related materials to MASC.  These ongoing donations are part of the Comics Art and Culture Collection, SC 3.8, which uniquely includes a wide variety of comics-related materials, with particular emphasis on the Pacific Northwest.

Is there specific categories of comics and graphic novels that this collection specializes in? Can you talk about one or two noteworthy parts of the collection or archival materials?

The majority of our holdings are underground comix, including rare issues of Zap and Weird Comics, as well as a substantial collection of works by women who – though, still often infrequently credited and cited – were responding to and helping to pioneer the underground scene, including titles like Twisted Sisters, Wimmins Comix, Wet Satin, and Tits and Clits. We’re also unique in that we have a large collection of mini comics, which feature less often in archival collections, as well as a wide array of nuclear comics from the mid-20th c.  The latter are interesting because the messaging about nuclear weapons and nuclear war is positive, at times even utopic, a tone that would shift dramatically after the dropping of the atom bombs.  

We are also in the early stages of processing the manuscript collection of the Real Comet Press – a Seattle-based publishing house founded by arts activist, Cathy Hillenbrand.  The Press began as the Comet Tavern and is credited with publishing many of Linda Barry’s earliest works after it made the transition to a publishing house.  Our collection features early art and book mockups of Barry’s as well as correspondence and print drafts from several area writers and photographers.

How does the library typically acquire its comics?

All of MASC’s underground comics content has been donated. MASC does not have a formal underground comics acquisition plan in place at this time.

What are some of the projects scholars have conducted using the collection as a resource? What are some of the courses that have been taught using the collection as a resource?

Nicholas Sammond, a professor at UToronto’s Cinema Studies Institute, has conducted in-depth research on several titles in the Brians collection, especially the underground newspaper The East Village Other.  And Dr. Margaret Galvan, a professor of visual rhetoric at the University of Florida, also conducted research on our underground comix holdings as part of her dissertation work.

Adam Whittier, a student at WSU’s Tri-Cities campus, curated an exhibit on the Steve Willis collections, met Steve Willis, and drew a graphic novel, Born Under a Dark Star: The Lynn Hansen Story, about Willis’s friendship with the late comics collector and reviewer Lynn Hansen, whose underground comics collection MASC also holds.

Several instructors affiliated with WSU’s Digital Technology & Culture program use the Underground Comics collections in their courses every year. These courses cover diverse topics, from font design to metafiction. Faculty from WSU’s English and History departments have also utilized special content from the collections, especially Brians’s nuclear war comics.

How have students at WSU benefited from the collection?

The most common way that students at WSU benefit from the collection is through library instruction. Students enrolled in courses ranging from introductory classes to senior capstones, along with local high school students, have been introduced to these materials, both on their own and as part of a larger context of library and archival collecting.  And some come back to look at materials on their own, or even use the materials for larger projects.

Through these instructional experiences utilizing our comics collection, we’ve had the pleasure of talking with students about topics like: the nature and practice of curation, educomics tackling poverty and the AIDS crisis in the 1980’s, the misogyny and violence of many underground comix and about women’s resistances to it, how different “popular” formats often respond to and are influenced by each other, about social norms and how we determine what is “appropriate”, and many other engaging conversations.  We hope that these interactions with our comics materials make libraries and archives more accessible and interesting sites of research for students from many backgrounds and disciplines and that students feel empowered to push the parameters of what constitutes “academic” research.

What are the available options for accessing the collection? Are there any efforts being made to digitize the collection?

Currently, online finding aids are the primary means of access to MASC’s Underground Comics collections. MASC is not planning to digitize any of these collections in the near future. However, Elizabeth Biggs, a senior at WSU Pullman, is working on a project to spotlight and digitize a selection of underground works by women creators.

Are there any current or upcoming events that you’d like to advertise?

Upcoming events aren’t yet finalized, but we’re exploring the possibility of hosting a speaker series and exhibition utilizing our underground comix collections.  We’re also interested in an exhibition that would showcase the many press-focused collections in our holdings, including the Real Comet Press Manuscript Collection.  Both of these would take place in the 2020/2021 academic year.

Washington State University Libraries
Manuscripts, Archives, and Special Collections (MASC)
Kathryn Manis & Greg Matthews
Address: MASC, P.O. Box 5610, Pullman, WA  99164-5610
Email: mascref@wsu.edu

Collection Spotlight: University of Michigan

Continuing our series on library collections in comics, today we focus on the University of Michigan. We were recently able to speak to the Video Game Archivist and Reference Librarian David Carter.

How large is the comic collection at UM?

Hard to say—somewhere around 20,000 catalog entries (which includes secondary sources as well). Each entry will be for one or more volumes.

When did UM begin collecting comics? How did it happen?

There have always been comics in the library’s collection, but the creation of a distinct, purposeful comics collection began in late 2004, at the urging of the Dean of the Art School on the occasion of the hiring of Phoebe Gloeckner onto their faculty.

Are there specific categories of comics and graphic novels that this collection specializes in? Can you talk about one or two noteworthy parts of the collection or archival materials?

I will call your attention to our collection statement for comics & graphic novels at https://www.lib.umich.edu/mlibrary-collections/collection-area-comics-graphic-novels

“While the comics collection at the U-M Library will strive to be representative of all facets of comics and graphic narratives, it will focus special attention to the following areas:

  • Works that are primarily the product of an individual creator
  • Works that are by, for, and/or about populations that are historically underrepresented in the comics art form (e.g., women, LGBTQ populations, ethnic and religious minorities)
  • Works that are highly regarded in the field (e.g., highly reviewed, winners of major industry awards, etc.)
  • Works of historical significance
  • Works by local/Michigan creators
  • Mini-comics
  • Secondary materials, such as academic studies, reference works, serial publications, historical works, and biographies of cartoonists

The above list should not be taken to be exhaustive, nor is it intended to preclude the acquisition of additional works beyond those enumerated.”

In particular, we have a sizable collection of minicomics (over 1400 items), as well as a robust and growing collection of non-English language comics.

How does the library typically acquire its comics?

Most new comics are purchased from a local comics store (shout out to the great folks at Vault of Midnight!) We also purchase from overseas vendors, online stores, and at comics festivals. Donations also play a significant role, particularly in acquiring older material.

What are some of the projects scholars have conducted using the collection as a resource? What are some of the courses that have been taught using the collection as a resource?

Here are a couple of recent examples of curricular support:

Students in “History 195: The Writing of History—Gender and Nationalism” read classic Captain America stories to learn how masculinity and nationalism were portrayed to young readers during World War 2.

Students in “American Culture 311: American Culture and the Humanities—Heroes and Superheroes in U.S. Popular Culture” read comics featuring super-heroes from classics like Superman to modern heroes like Ms. Marvel.

How have students at UM benefited from the collection?

Most students are amazed to learn that the U-M Library has such an extensive comics collection (as well as a librarian charged with supporting that collection). We are able to not only support classes that use comics, but also individual research papers and projects; e.g. last year I assisted a student who wanted to write a paper about the use of Captain America as a national symbol pre- and post-9/11. 

What are the available options for accessing the collection? Are there any efforts being made to digitize the collection?

Most of the comics collection is part of the library’s circulating collection, on the shelves for users to browse and check out. Some items (e.g. the minicomics collection) are in local storage and available to view on request.

The research guide at http://guides.lib.umich.edu/comics is a good place to start exploring the collection.

(It is not part of any current digitization effort.)

Are there any upcoming events that you’d like to advertise?

Every June we work with the Ann Arbor District Library to put on A2 Inkubate, the pre-conference (for librarians, cartoonists, and educators) to the Ann Arbor Comic Arts Festival: https://a2caf.com/inkubate.

University of Michigan Libraries Information:
Address and Contact Info: 913 S. University Ave; Ann Arbor, MI 48109
Email: superman@umich.edu

Collection Spotlight: Michigan State University Libraries

Today we are continuing our spotlight on collections of comics in University libraries that are commonly used for research in comics studies. This time we are focusing on the collections at Michigan State University with the Head of Special Collections, Leslie Van Veen McRoberts.

How large is the comic collection at MSU?

350,000 volumes | 300,000 American works, 50,000 international works.

Additionally, the collection features over 1,000 books of collected newspaper comic strips, and several thousand books and periodicals about comics.

When did MSU begin collecting comics? How did it happen?

The collection at Michigan State began with English professor Russel B. Nye, who in the mid-1960s pioneered Popular Culture Theory. Nye was one of the founders of the Popular Culture Association, which blurred traditional ways of thinking, providing value to mass media such as comic books, television, and music.

Nye’s original donation to the MSU Libraries Special Collections of approximately 8,000 comics in 1969 began what is now the most comprehensive collection of comic books in the world.

Is there specific categories of comics and graphic novels that this collection specializes in?

Our collection is vast in content and context, but our growth is centered around North American produced comics; however, recently we have branched outward to international comics. Specifically, we acquire bound or hand-produced first-run comics, but that is not to say we would not acquire multiple editions of a specific comic. The small idiosyncratic parts of each book make them unique. Our collection is comprehensive, and tells the story of comics and comic art, from Archie and Jug Head to Batman and beyond.

Can you talk about one or two noteworthy parts of the collection or archival materials?

Honestly, it is hard to select one or two pieces, traditionally I lean to the original Randolph Töpffer comics from the 1840s, but what I think are some of the most unique items in our collection are the student contributions. MSU Associate Professor, Ryan Claydor, teaches Comic Art Studio courses which provides students with an avenue to not only fulfill their own creative forces but provides guidance on how to navigate the publishing world; the course is a mix of art and literature. Because of these students, we now have unique hand colored, hand silkscreened, embossed one of a kind comic art items that have become the cornerstone of future comic authors and artists.

How does the library typically acquire its comics?

The MSU Libraries Special Collections Comic Art collection is acquired through a variety of means. Each year we purchase several comics for our collection, but we also have long-standing relationships with publishers and book dealers who are keenly aware as to what and why we collect. Comics are also acquired through the generosity of donors and estate gifts from patrons who have known and loved our collection so much so that they want to add their own books to the shelves as a part of their legacy.

What are some of the projects scholars have conducted using the collection as a resource?

Annually, we see a variety of scholars who seek many different types of comics; one scholar that comes to mind is a Ph. D candidate who has a specific research focus on the production of comic books, their collective history, and how long-term comic books have developed and transformed over the course of the 20th century.

What are some of the courses that have been taught using the collection as a resource?

Courses at MSU vary between semester; currently, we have an English professor who is utilizing a vast scope of black comics as a research component of his English 342 course, Studies in Popular Literature. Students in this course have utilized a selection of comics to write a research paper on their choice of topic/character around the scope of Black Comics and Afrofuturism. Some of the titles and their creators utilized by this course include Ajala: a series of adventures by Robert Garrett and N. Steven Harris, Matty’s Rocket by Tim Fielder, and Jaycen Wise by Uraeus. In addition to a research paper, students created a zine around a specific character with a comparison to four other characters to explore theme, character and setting in comics. Students had the opportunity to share their zines with the public at a November showcase held at the MSU Museum.

How have students at MSU benefited from the collection?

All students and scholars benefit from this collection because of its comprehensive holdings. Students not only use the collection for class but may request and come to our reading room to read and enjoy the latest comic that they otherwise may not have access to. Students are welcome to request comics to be purchased for additions to our collection and we do acquire what they suggest. Everyone who is curious about comics benefits from the comic art collection.

What are the available options for accessing the collection? Are there any efforts being made to digitize the collection?

Currently the collection may be accessed through the MSU Libraries public access catalog. Each of the individual comics are cataloged by item, this includes any additional copies of the comic. Along with the catalog, our bibliographer has created an additional index of all the comics housed in MSU Special Collections, that page can be accessed using this link” http://comics.lib.msu.edu/index.htm.

Currently, there are no plans to digitize the collection. Unfortunately, copyright limitations do not allow us to digitize the collection, or portions thereof. Should scholars find themselves needing portions of comics, they are able to request scans of original comics through inter library loan.

Are there any upcoming events that you’d like to advertise?

Since 2008, the MSU Libraries has hosted the MSU Comics Forum, a two-day event that discusses everything comics. Free and open to the public, the Forum features panel sessions of artists and authors as well as tours of the MSU Comics collection. The upcoming event will be held on February 21 and 22, 2020, and will feature graphic novelist Emil Ferris, as well as comics author and San Francisco State University professor, Nico Sousanis. For more information, visit: http://www.comicsforum.msu.edu/about/

[You can also read the GSC’s interview with MSU Comics Forum co-organizer Zack Kruse here!]

For the Summer of 2020, MSU Libraries Special Collections is offering travel research grants, which of course includes scholars of comics. All are welcome to apply. Applications are due January 30, 2020. For more information, visit: https://lib.msu.edu/spc/research/travel-grants/

MSU Special Collections Information:
Address: 366 West Circle Drive, East Lansing, Michigan 48824 USA
Email: SPC@msu.edu