Bill Blackbeard: Righteous Comics Collector

Last night, Sammy and I went to this lecture at Goucher College about Bill Blackbeard, a guy who for most of his life hoarded and acquired over 75 tons newspaper clippings, tearsheets, and comic sections that would have otherwise wound up in dumps with the transferring of libraries' newspaper archives to microfilm. With his collection, he founded the San Francisco Academy of Comic Art, which now resides in the Ohio State University Cartoon Research Library. His collection has contributed to countless comics anthologies (many of which he's edited), most notably the Smithsonian Collection of Newspaper Comics, which I own and love. Maybe the most angry I've been in a long while was when a certain friend of mine spilled red wine on it and all over our coffee table. Luckily, it and somehow everything else on the table came out unscathed.

It's talks like this one and others like it happening all over the country, showing an increase in interest in the scholarship of comics, that's really exciting to me. Even just here in Balitmore, right now there is a series of discussions on Jewish graphic novels offered in conjunction with my school and the local public library. Some chick in my Science class had to read some DC graphic novel for one of her Lit classes (I am sadly remiss in not catching what it was, though). The University of Florida offers some courses in comic studies through both their Undergraduate and Graduate English programs. What I unfortunately cannot seem to find, though, is any sort of academic path in which to study comics historically as an art form, rather than as a form of literature or a product of popular culture. There are certainly writings aimed in this fashion, Scott McCloud for one, of course, so some people are definitely heading in the right direction. Even with David's post earlier today, comparing Jason Shawn Alexander's art with Turner's romantic seascapes, we can see that there is legitimate scholarship in studying the form and content of comic art.

All I'm saying is, somebody better get wise and offer a graduate program in comic history before 2010 or I'm making this shit happen.


Anonymous said...

the center for cartoon studies in vermont is focused on creating comics more than studying them, but they do have one or two courses on comics history in their program. i think one of them is called history of the drawn story and is taught by steve bissette. it's a really cool school.

brandon said...

Fred White, Lit prof at Goucher has used at least two "graphic novels" in his class.

In his "Epic Literature: From Beowulf-Don Juan" he ended the class with 'Jimmy Corrigan'

and in his 'Academic Writing 102' (a class mainly used to support and get kids' writing up to speed and therefore, the theme can be anything, when I took it, the theme was 'Film Noir', it might be Coen Bros movies now?) he at one point taught 'Y The Last Man'.

Karen Peltier said...

anon- yeah, thats what im saying. drawing comics, like other art forms, can and is essentially taught as this craft, as in, you can try hard enough and learn things to eventually make your work better. taking a few courses on the history of your discipline will probably give you a broader view of what it is youre doing and thus improve your work, but it is not worth it to acknowledge it as something people could devote their whole careers to studying and unlocking?
not that im shitting on there being schools for comics creation and not study, because that shit rules too, its just not what i need.