From the Heroic to the Depraved: Mainstream and Underground Comic Books at Northwestern University Library
September 28, 2010 – April 15, 2011
Comic books are not just for kids anymore. Actually, they never rea
lly were just for kids. The telling of stories through the combination of drawings and written words has a long and illustrious history of reaching, entertaining, and influencing audiences of all ages. Comic books were one of the most effective and popular mass mediums of the 20th century.
In this exhibit, Manuscript Librarians Benn Joseph and Jason Nargis present an overview of the history and scope of the comic book archive in the Charles Deering McCormick Library of Special Collections. The library holds extensive runs of titles mostly from the "Silver Age" (approximately 1950-1970) of mainstream comics as well as the so-called "Underground Comix" of the late 1960s and early 1970s. The 'c' in comics was replaced by an 'x' to differentiate these works from mainstream titles, and also to possibly hint at the 'x-rated' nature of their content.
ollection has a unique status at the McCormick Library as being the only archive initiated by a donation from an undergraduate. When religion major Juan Cole offered his 1100 comic books to curator Russell Maylone in 1972, he could not have known what snowball effect his gift would have. Within a year four other donors had come forward, and superstar comics artist, author, and publisher Stan Lee was speaking at the dedication ceremony. While many students would browse the collection on Saturday mornings as a break from their studies, the library saw the comics as a legitimate research source.
The exhibit features comics from the Pre-Golden, Golden, Silver, Bronze, and Modern eras, as well as the Underground. Also featured are a selection of Big Little Books, dime novels, woodcuts, and engravings that chronicle the beginning of comic books as they are known today.
The exhibit is open to the public Monday - Friday 8:30am - 5:00pm and Saturday from 8:30am - Noon.
Images above are covers from The Amazing Spider-Man #1 (1963) and Mr. Natural #1 (1970).