In an era when more and more collection of personal comics papers are being given to scholarly institutions (Columbia’s Karen Green and OSU’s Jenny Robb being among the leaders of this particular movement) it came as a bit of a surprise to be reminded where Stan Lee’s papers are housed: Laramie, WY. Sequential Tart’s Katie Frank made the arduous journey to the archive at the University of Wyoming, braving raging rivers, scaling giant redwoods and sustained on morning dew from maple leaves, but she made it.
I’m fortunate in that comics are a part of both my hobbies and my day job — in my real life, I’m a PhD candidate specializing in media industries. Part of my dissertation revolves around the comic book industry, a topic that takes me to many fascinating places. One such place I visited recently was the University of Wyoming’s American Heritage Center in Laramie, WY. The AHC houses the Stan Lee Papers collection, donated by Stan the Man himself for preservation and research; currently, the collection is comprised of 91 archive boxes that have been sorted and labeled for use, with a number of boxes that are still being processed. These 91 boxes contain material dating from the late 1960s through the early 2000s, covering a the majority of Marvel Comics’ existence as well as some of Lee’s other projects.
The staff also recommended restaurants and things to see in Laramie, and were just generally a pleasure to interact with. The building also houses the University of Wyoming’s art museum, which was a nice space to take a break during long research days. While food and drink are not allowed in the archive, there is a strip mall not far from the building that has a number of food options. There wasn’t much to see on campus during the summer, and downtown Laramie was a bit of a trek and also quite small, but if you’re a more outdoorsy type than I there’s a lot of nature activities nearby.
Although I kid about traveling to Wyoming, and wish the fine citizens of that state all the tourist dollars that Stan Lee might bring, how did this seminal collection end up in such an off the beaten path spot? I don’t know the real story, but I can only guess that they asked Back in the Day and Stan, just being glad that SOME educational institution showed an interest in his work. So lucky, University of Wyoming! Update: I am told that the UoW has a very extensive archive of pop culture/entertainment archives, including everyone from animator Michael Maltese to comedian Phyllis Diller, so Stan is in very good company. And now you have another reason to go to Wyoming besides experiencing the timeless, majestic beauty of Yellowstone National Park and Grand Teton National Park.
Heidi MacDonald is the founder and editor in chief of The Beat. In the past, she worked for Disney, DC Comics, Fox and Publishers Weekly. She can be heard regularly on the More To Come Podcast. She likes coffee, cats and noble struggle.