If Karen Green wasn’t a rock star comics librarian before last night’s opening gala, she is now!
So: the gist:
A few years ago, 2005 to be exact, the Ancient & Medieval History and Religion Librarian at Columbia University noticed a need for graphic novels to support the faculty and curriculum of the University. She began to systematically meet the needs of her patrons, while also selecting texts for the general collection. (She says the collection started with 3 volumes.)
Then, in 2011, Chris Claremont donated his archives to the University.
This was followed by gifts from:
But… Columbia has been in existence since 1754. What else might exist buried deep in the archives? In the rare books collection? Elsewhere in the University?
Well, quite a bit!
This exhibit collects an amazing assortment of items… Lots of original art, rare books, correspondence… and ephemera as well. (Yes, you not only see Wendy Pini’s Red Sonja costume, but her meticulous sketches and planning!)
- correspondence from Stan Lee to Denis Kitchen
- a comics script from Jerry Robinson
- original editorial cartoons from the Pulitzer Prize committee
- the sketches and final art from the Al Jaffee fold-in Batman variant
- the original art from Wendy Pini’s appearance in Elfquest (wow… the screens!)
- Chris Claremont’s notebooks
- The first page of the script to “Days of Future Past” (which includes some backstory I never considered before…)
- an entire display of “proto comics”, including Ward, Töpffer, and Busch
- William Moulton Marston’s contract for when he was a professor at Columbia
- comics produced by recent students and alumni (WOW)
The highlight for me? An “underground” comic (featured on the exhibition poster) from 1766, libeling a Kings College professor. The plot? He gets a female student drunk on spruce beer (yes, pine tree beer!), gets her pregnant, then pays for her abortion! The comic was confiscated, and used as evidence in the college’s disciplinary action against the students! You can read the sordid tale here. (SFW)
The exhibition opened Monday, with a reception last night. Here are some photos taken from the cheap seats, with a bit of commentary:
Chris Claremont, Karen Green, and Sean Quimby chat before festivities begin. Mr. Quimby, is “fresh off the bus” from Syracuse University, having just been appointed Director of the Rare Book & Manuscript Library. He gave his bona fides as a long-time comics fan, holding up a much-loved copy of the X-Men graphic album “God Loves, Man Kills”. (Syracuse itself has a decent archive of comics artists!)
Alexander Rothman, creator of poetry comics
Forsyth Harmon. This is a boxed set of comics titled “Broken Up”, produced while she was a student at the Leroy Nieman Center for Print Studies at Columbia. As at other art schools, comics storytelling is cross-pollinating with art techniques at Columbia to produce new and interesting work!
Paul Levitz. The Jimmy Olsen of comics professionals!
The event was recorded, and should be available online soon!
I’ve been writing for The Beat since July of 2010.
I’ve been reading comics since 1974, collecting since 1984, and spreading the graphic novel gospel since 1994.
I’m a bookseller, a librarian, an amateur scholar, a cool uncle, and a comics evangelist.
Ask me anything!