One of the pleasures of being here is looking through these books for the first time. I actually do this about 20 times a day. My favorite thing right now is this “Forgotten Sunday Comics” collection. It’s on good paper. The originals would be falling apart and this new book came in roughly a year ago.
All this stuff is before World War I. This is the beginning of comics when comics were just starting to feel their bones. As far as we know, comics had just started in the 1890s, but that is still disputed.
What we do know is that newspapers were using them as part of a circulation war. You’d have this beautiful color section and the newspaper would sell millions if they had the coolest comics. These comics were king. You don’t see this much anymore with an artist able to work with this big of a page.
Lyonel Feininger was a German artist featured in here who was lured over here for the good pay in the circulation wars. It was him and a half dozen German artists that came here for this.
He was following another person featured here, Windsor McCay, who did “Little Nemo.” He was actually from Marshall and was one of the first big name Sunday comic artists. He was also one of the first animators and went by the pen name Silas.
It’s amazing to think they hadn’t even fully managed to integrate photography into newspapers yet when they did these. A lot of stories were illustrated by artists.
I still have to do a few more things with this one and see what this guy’s plan was and why he chose these ones before I archive it.
It just makes me think the world of comics is so big. I’m amazed they found so much more that I haven’t seen before. We have the largest collection of comics in the world so I see a lot of comics.
I’m starting to think that the amount of literature in comics form in this country might be as much as a third of all American literature.
The thing is libraries never collected these. They were unrespected. They weren’t even in libraries until the last 30 years.
This is something big we missed. We can’t even get close to getting all of them even if we did dedicate this whole building to comics, which I think we should.
There are a lot of private collectors who were much more crazy about them than the professors and librarians who thought they were junk. These were enjoyable and certainly things people cared about from the day they were printed.
(This interview was edited and condensed by Dennis Burck. If you have a recommendation for “Favorite Things,” please email firstname.lastname@example.org.)