CORRECTION: The PSU collection is NOT, as the headline for this post originally claimed, “The Country’s First University Comic Book Archive,” but one of many great academic comic book libraries, as PSU Librarian Helen Spalding explained in our interview with her. In a rush out of the office, The Beat’s humble intern neglected to change the headline, which has resulted in many varieties of confusion. Apologies all around.
In an partnership formally unveiled last week, Dark Horse Comics‘ entire catalogue is now being shelved at Portland State University. Available for check-out from the PSU library’s general circulating collection will be one copy of everything Dark Horse has ever published: comic book, graphic novel, manga, hardcover and foreign edition, you name it. A second copy of each will be stored in the library’s special collection.
While it’s become increasingly common for libraries to stock graphic novels, the PSU arrangement goes far beyond that in a number of ways. They’re not just shelving books with a spine, but also the floppy “pamphlet” comic books, which have long been archived only in fans’ long-boxes and retailers’ back issue bins. At Portland State, each issue will be given an acid-proof cover and a call number, as well as an extensive catalog listing that will include credits for everyone involved, including letterer and colorist.
The library’s Dark Horse collection will include everything they’ve produced, from books in 24 different languages to Aliens stickers and Hellboy lunch-boxes. The Beat spoke with Portland State University Librarian Helen Spalding, who explained that even a Buffy marquee statue can be useful to academics. “The key rings, action figures, mugs and tee-shirts are all rich research material for examining marketing, gender roles, and many other topics,” she said.
The idea for the collection was sparked a few years back when Spalding saw DHC Publisher and PSU alumnus Mike Richardson speak at a university luncheon. “They’re an important Portland institution, and the University is really engaged with the community and the alumni,” Spalding said, “so it just made a lot of sense that we work together on this important collection to our mutual benefit.
“It’s so important to Mike Richardson that people get to read this stuff just like any other literature that we’re allowed to check out, so he’s provided a copy for us to check out, which is great.”
The library has already shelved 3,000 of an expected 6,000 volumes in their Dark Horse collection, which will continue to grow as the publisher releases new material. This positions PSU as a leading academic archive of comics in North America, and Spalding hopes it will attract other collections as well. Although they likely won’t be seeking the complete corpus of any other publisher, she said that the confluence of independent publishers in Portland make them a good place to start.
Posted by Aaron Humphrey