GSLIS Associate Professor Carol Tilley was already a comics heroine for discovering that Wertham fudged his research, but now she’s joined with her fellow scholars, GSLIS’s Kathryn La Barre and John Walsh, associate professor of information and library science in the School of Informatics and Computing at Indiana University Bloomington
to assemble a digital archives of comics readership.
In this pilot project, Tilley, La Barre, and Walsh will build a digital archive of materials related to comic book readership and fandom, focusing initially on materials collected from Marvel Comics publications from 1961-1973. The archive will include content and data gathered from fan mail, fan club publications and membership rolls, contests sponsored by publishers and fan clubs, fanzines, and programs and attendee records from comic book conventions and similar events.
CoBRA will allow scholars to visualize and analyze networks of related comic creators, readers, titles, and publishers as well as study demographics of comic book readership. The detailed digital information will also allow deeper analyses of the works of individual writers, artists, and creators.
“Comic book readership is perhaps the most under-studied element in comics studies. Company records were never well maintained or widely accessible, but readers often wrote letters to their favorite publications, entered contests, or otherwise engaged with comic books,” said Tilley.
This should be an amazing resource for comics studies; we all have notions about who read comics when, but it is an area where little credible research has been done. While not all the materials will be publicly available at first, eventually the creators hope to make this a project where other scholars can upload their own research.
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.