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COLUMBUS, Ohio — Amid “flyover country,” as it’s colloquially and insultingly referred to, in an unendingly flat city nicknamed “Cowtown,”The Ohio State University (OSU), a classic college campus, is ablaze with activity. A miscellany or stone and brick structures from different eras are viewed over pedestrian paths that cross green lawns. In one these limestone, academy coded buildings is a museum and a library dedicated to a type of literature long considered to be outside the ivory tower. Comics.
The Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum claims to house the world’s largest collection of cartoon- and comics-related materials, including a range of inked paper, artifacts, newspaper clips, magazines, scrapbooks, and even the drawing board used by Chester Gould, who created the Dick Tracy comic strip (1931—77).
It is a lot more than just an archive. It is a museum, scholarly center, and a venue for events. All of this is surprisingly accessible. I imagine museums as sanctified places that charge exorbitant fees for viewing prestigious pieces with indecipherable wall text. The Billy Ireland offers an alternative model. Attendance is free. The materials and displays can be understood by anyone, whether they are comics fans or not. And, if you — that is, anybody — want to see any of the HoldingsYou can ask to see it in person.
This is due to the fact the comics genre was routinely underrated, despite its enormous impact. It’s one of the only historically disposable art forms — think of those painstakingly conceived, drawn, inked, and colored newspaper funny strips smeared with wet from their hasty relegation to the recycling bin.
Even the origins and history of the museum reflect the historical undervaluation. “The Billy Ireland was founded back in 1977 through a donation from the cartoonist Milton Caniff — who was at one point one of the most successful and influential American cartoonists in American history,”Caitlin McGurk, curator and professor of Comics and Cartoon Art and OSU, explains. Caniff, a “celebrity”Artist (“he would appear on late night TV,”McGurk tells McGurk me) who wrote the widely read Terry and the Pirates (1934–73) and Steve Canyon (1947–88) adventure newspaper strips, was an Ohioan and a 1930 alum of OSU. He wanted to donate all his work as he approached retirement to the library at the university he believed owed him his career.
“The libraries at OSU actually turned it down,”McGurk tell HyperallergicIn an interview “Back then, comics were very much stigmatized as an art form, so there were no institutions really carrying this stuff.”Caniff had produced newspaper comics, so the journalism department decided that they would take his archive. Over the next 10 years, he collaborated with Lucy Caswell the librarian at the journalism department to create a bold concept for a comics library, reading room, event space. Despite a humiliating move to the basement in the following decades, the collection and the capacity grew. With Caniff’s encouragement of his fellow comic creators and Caswell’s outreach, the Billy Ireland would become a top choice for donations.
Bill Watterson is a good example.The most private of all the famousArtist of the beloved Calvin and Hobbes (1985–95), entrusted his entire backlog to the museum — the only collection in the world to hold his archive. The Museum also holds lesser-known treasures such as the editorial cartoonist Billy Ireland whose fame faded after his passing but was revived by the Museum. The permanent exhibition welcomes visitors to the museum and features Watterson, Ireland, and many other artists. A series of drawers containing smaller-sized comics allows visitors to browse through a variety of creators.
The temporary exhibition area, however, is the majority of the museum and hosts a variety of shows. The latest exhibitions, which run through May 5, are Behind the Ink – The Making of Comics and CartoonsThe other current exhibit is, which explores a variety of tools and techniques used by cartoonists throughout the years. The other current exhibition is Gus Arriola: Gordo, a Modernist Mexican PaintingThe book, which details his life and work as a Modernist Mexican-American Cartoonist. Then in May, a bonanza exhibitionSardonic, iconic NancyThe weekend-long festival is accompanied by the rise of the price. NancyOn the 24th and 25th of November, Nancy Scholars, cartoonists, fans, and more will dig deep into their favorite wisecracking character.
The archives are located below the exhibition areas. “Since OSU is part of a land grant institution, our archive is completely open to the public, which is pretty rare,” McGurk explains. Highlights include zines from the 1980s Riot Grrrl Movement, which show the raw emotion of the creators. Also, scrapbooks of cartoon engravings from a wealthy English family of the 1700s depicting events that happened long ago, such as the discovery of a female comet. (It quite rudely depicts the comet flatulating in her face – it’s not hard to parse what that artist felt about women making scientific discoveries…) There’s also a collection of 2.5 million comic strips saved by a single man (Bill Blackbeard). I personally loved the way the colorful mid-century comics were laid out on a page with a frenzied amount of activity, punctuated by photorealistic pictures.
The ability to see the comics in all stages of development — from nascent sketches, to embryonic penciled pages, to White’d Out and inked final pages — is a rare treat because of how such work is typically experienced: in reproduction on a mass scale, in frequent installments. To see an original version of a popular comic that has been read by so many people is like watching the artist in action. “I love getting way up close and seeing where things are erased, where stylistic and storytelling choices were made,”McGurk said.
As a lifelong Archie reader, I was thrilled to see a page from Dan DeCarlo, the series’ definitive artist, imagining him sitting at his desk, the ink from his pen pouring out to form Veronica’s shapely body, the influence of His pin-up days evident).
“We show visitors the archive and people cry — especially if you’re a maker of this form that has been so long disrespected,”McGurk said. “Then you see this place and you’re like, all this is for comics? This is amazing.” I wasn’t crying, yet, but my awe of this paean to comics, rooted in this 154-year-old center of learning, stuck with me for days. I flipped through the next issue at the grocery store. ArchieIn the antiques store, I stopped in front of plastic-encased comics featuring superheroes. This time, I knew exactly where to go to find the original issues.
Original content by hyperallergic.com – “Inside the World’s Largest Comics and Cartoons Collection”
Read the full article here https://hyperallergic.com/871001/inside-billy-ireland-cartoon-library-museum-ohio-state-university/