Month: April 2012 (page 1 of 5)

Happy Birthday, Bill Blackbeard! (April 28, 1926 – March 10, 2011)

Here at the Cartoon Library, Bill Blackbeard is a regular household name. We hope the same goes for all of you readers, as the Man Who Saved Comics deserves much remembrance and praise.

Portrait of Bill Blackbeard, ink and gouache original by Alfredo Alcala. San Francisco Academy of Comic Art Collection, The Ohio State University Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum

This Saturday, April 28th would be Bill’s 86th birthday. In 1998, Bill Blackbeard’s life’s work–The San Francisco Academy of Comic Art collection–arrived at The Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum in six semi-trucks, filled to the brim with 2.5 million newsprint clippings of comic strips, entire Sunday comics sections, and tearsheets. This collection had resided with Bill Blackbeard and his wife in their home in California since the 1960s.

The late Bill Blackbeard, among the SFACA collection in its California home. Photo taken by R.C. Harvey. From the San Francisco Academy of Comic Art collection, The Ohio State University Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum

Having collected the bundles of discarded daily newspapers at the end of the week from neighbors houses as a child, Bill’s enthusiasm and fixation on the newsprint comics form grew exponentially throughout the rest of his life. In the 1960’s, libraries across the country began to convert their large bound volumes of newspapers to microfilm in order to conserve shelf space. Once the papers were converted, these hundreds upon thousands of volumes were then discarded or transferred elsewhere. When Bill Blackbeard found out this was happening, he and his wife Barbara and some volunteering friends rescued these volumes of newspapers from around the country – specifically for the comics sections. Because of certain policies in place about the transference of library materials to an individual collector- in one week’s time Bill established himself as a nonprofit organization, The San Francisco Academy of Comic Art. Overnight, Bill and Barbara’s home became the Academy, and one of the most important establishments in comics history of all time.

SFACA collection while it was housed in California. Photo by R.C. Harvey. From the San Francisco Academy of Comic Art collection, The Ohio State University Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum

Declared as being open for visitors and researchers at “all hours of every day” (because Bill lived there), the SFACA collection made possible an endless amount of comics scholarship, reprint books, and inspiration for cartoonists and fans alike. Bill, with help of volunteers, spent his days, years, and entire life clipping these strips and organizing them chronologically under each title.

The SFACA collection continues to have an incalculable impact at its permanent home here at the Cartoon Library- where it is easily our most highly-used collection.

Further Information:

To find out much-much more about Bill Blackbeard’s legacy and the collection’s arrival at the Cartoon Library, follow this link to the OSU Knowdledge Bank for an exhaustive article by our head curator Jenny Robb entitled Bill Blackbeard: The Collector Who Rescued the Comics.

To see many more fantastic pictures of Bill Blackbeard and his collection, you can visit our “We Love Bill Blackbeard Album” by liking the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum on Facebook.

To browse the San Francisco Academy of Comic Art finding aid, visit this link. Due to the size of the SFACA collection, it is constantly under processing so this is in no way a complete representation. We are very proud to have about 40% of the collection processed at this time (remember, it contains  millions of items!)

Happy Birthday, Bill Blackbeard!

Portrait of Bill Blackbeard, original in ink and gouache, by Alfredo Alcala. San Francisco Academy of Comic Art Collection, The Ohio State University Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum

-Caitlin McGurk


Event Reminder: Matt Madden’s Oulipo Talk and Workshop!

Starting on May 8th and continuing through the weekend, we’ll be celebrating the French literary movement of Oulipo, the practice of making art under creative constraints! The blog updates for that week will feature some amazing work from our collection that exemplifies the unique ways that the principles of Oulipo can be applied to creating comics (Oubapo). But most importantly, the week will culminate in two Oulipo events with Matt Madden cosponsored by the Wexner Center! Be sure not to miss the lecture and unique hands-on workshop, taught by one of the most forward-thinking cartoonists and comics educators out there.

On Friday, May 11th at 4:30pm in the Wexner Center Film and Video Theater: Cartoonist Matt Madden, creator of 99 Ways to Tell a Story: Exercises in Style, talks about his work and how the arbitrary constraints of Oulipo have produced great art in all kinds of media. Do you think you could make a comic where each panel would only show an extreme close-up of a hand? Or where each panel zooms in closer to a single object? A comic that you can read in more than one direction? Many great works of art begin from willfully perverse constraints or rules such as these. Drawing not just from comics but from literature, film, and music—both popular and experimental—Madden describes the lineage of creativity first identified by Oulipo, a French literary group whose name translates loosely to “workshop for potential literature.” More information here. This event was made possible in collaboration with the Wexner Center for the Arts. Free to the public.

On Saturday, May 12th from 1pm-4pm at the Wexner Center: Matt Madden leads a workshop that utilizes the principles of Oulipo, creating cartoons under artistic constraints.  No prior experience is necessary, and materials will be provided. $15 / $12 students and Wexner members. More information here. Advance registration is required and space is limited; call 614-292-6493 for more info.

See you there!

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