Did you have to wait until I had been living 9 hours away for a year to open a comic book exhibit in the university’s rare books room?
As both a historian and a lover of comics, I find collections like the one just donated to UofL’s archives extremely interesting. Most generally, my feelings about them reflect an internal tension stemming from the way I think about comic books. On the one hand, I respect them as pieces of art and culture, and feel that they deserve reverence and preservation, while on the other, I think that part of what makes them (especially the older ones) so amazing is their ephemerality. Before comics became too big for their britches to call themselves comic books anymore (I’m looking at you, Graphic Novel section in Barnes & Noble), they were the ideal representations of disposable art. To preserve them almost ruins them.
But, of course, everything should be preserved (#hoarderlogic). And I get more than a little bit excited thinking about how a historian might use comics as sources. For the past century or so, comics have been an important part of our popular mythology. You could easily trace the development of race relations, the war on drugs, and even American advertising through their pages. Or, you could just make up a research project and go to the archives and read them all day. Me? I don’t think anyone’s written the definitive treatment of the social construction of Hostage snacks yet.
Hand me that copy of Green Lantern.