"Holy primary source materials, Batman! It's a comic book collection!"
Exhibit has been extended through April 15, 2011.
If crackerjack Daily Planet reporter Lois Lane was assigned to cover the new comic book exhibit at Northwestern University Library, what little thought-bubbles would pop up on the page, above her raven tresses? Would discovering the existence of the cat-suited, whip-toting Miss Fury make her realize that even in the 1940s, she could have been out fighting crime herself instead of swooning around after Superman? Would she be dismayed to find that her favorite he-man didn't just combat evil-doers, but also other good-guy superheroes like Captain Marvel who threatened his popularity? (Accused of infringing Superman's copyright, Captain Marvel was temporarily elbowed out of the superhero business by a lawsuit in 1953, and has never really recovered.) Would she be tickled that after decades of being endlessly caricatured, kidnapped, and rescued, women finally seized control of the comic book as a means of promoting Women's Liberation in late 1960s Berkeley?
From the Heroic to the Depraved: Mainstream and Underground Comic Books at Northwestern University Library highlights one of the Library's most eclectic and contemporary special collections: an archive containing more than 25,000 comic books. It includes lots of characters Lois Lane would probably recognize, such as Batman, Spiderman, Superman (whom she would recognize, though not, of course, as Clark Kent—a secret NOT IN ANY WAY REVEALED by this exhibit), and probably, from her more mature years, Archie and Veronica. But it also shows how the literary-graphic tradition that spawned her is both more ancient and more avant-garde than she might expect, beginning with the word-and-picture combination genres of hieroglyphics and illuminated manuscripts and stretching across the centuries to the politically and sexually subversive publications of the late twentieth-century underground "Comix" movement.
Exhibit co-curators Benn Joseph and Jason Nargis, who will give a talk about the exhibit and the collection at the Evanston Public Library on October 14 at 7 p.m. note that unlike the collections typically in private hands, the Library's has always been envisioned and maintained as a research collection—notable for its incredible depth and scope rather than for particular issues kept in pristine condition. "It's meant to be used," Nargis says. "There's an incredible amount of historical material here about race relations, gender relations, the military, views of communism—all kinds of things that could interest a scholar of pop culture."
Established by then-Northwestern undergraduate Juan Cole, who gave his personal collection of 1,100 comic books to the McCormick Library of Special Collections in 1973, the collection was dedicated in a ceremony on campus by artist, author, and publisher Stan Lee, the co-creator of Spiderman, the Hulk, the X-Men, and many other characters.
The exhibit runs now through April 15 on the third floor of Deering Library, with access through the Main Library entrance at 1970 Campus Drive. It's open to the public during the Library's regular public hours: Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturday 8:30 a.m. to noon. Check the Library's website for occasional special closings. This exhibit contains some sexually explicit language and graphics and is not intended for children. Parental discretion strongly advised.
For more information call 847-491-7641.