Month: May 2012 (page 1 of 5)

Teaching in the Cartoon Library: Comics and American Culture

On April 26th, the Cartoon Library had the pleasure of hosting Ben Owen’s English 367.01: Language, Identity and Culture in the U.S. Experience, a second-year composition class that Owen structured around the study of comics. Throughout the course, students look at a wide variety of comics (from Shaun Tan’s The Arrival to selected pieces from the What Things Do website) to learn how to think and write about the medium analytically, as well as gaining an understanding of visual rhetoric.

The specific assignment that brought Ben Owen’s class into the Cartoon Library was on comics and social diversity in the United States- using the comics medium to understand the pluralistic nature of race, gender, class, ethnicity and religion, and how their own attitudes are shaped by these aspects of American society. To do so, students were instructed to use our multiple Cartoon Library search tools to find cartoon and comics work related to a topic that interests them within the American experience, with a chance to study them in person. They then had to do a 5-minute presentation in pecha kucha style to make a compelling argument about why their topic is important and how it can be understood through comics.

The results were fascinating, and students presented on everything from medicine to religion, World War II, Hurricane Katrina, and more. Curator Jenny Robb and I were lucky enough to be able to view some of the final presentations on May 24th, pictures of which can be seen below:

One student presented on Religion and Comics, opening his presentation with the religious themes in Jack Kirby's Captain America, and Siegel and Shuster's Superman

Student Nelson Ballard gave a 5 minute history of his life, and his experiences throughout America that led him to study medicine at OSU. Supported by the illustrations of Charles Bragg.

An excellent closing slide from a student presentation on Comics and World War II

We love having classes of any discipline visit the Cartoon Library, both from OSU and beyond! Professors, if you’re interested in doing a session with us, please contact with your schedule and subject matter.

Found in the Collection: Alex Toth (1928-2006)

In memoriam of the anniversary of Alex Toth’s death (this past Sunday, May 27th), we have dug up a few of his works from the late 60s-early 70s. A page from issue number 12 of the DC Comics series “The Witching Hour”, and a page from one of the many romance comics he illustrated (penciled, in the case of our sample), “Young Romance”.

But first, a powerfully simplistic self-portrait that Toth did for collector Mark J. Cohen, whose collection resides here at the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum and contains over 370 cartoonist self portraits. A number of these pieces were displayed in our 2011 exhibit, Gallery Of Rogues: Cartoonist Self-Caricatures.

Original Alex Toth self-caricature. From the Mark J. Cohen and Rose Marie McDaniel Collection, The Ohio State University Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum

Widely considered to be one of the greatest cartoonists of our time, and a protege of Milton Caniff (our founding donor!), Toth is revered not for the creation of any particular character or brilliant strip, but for his absolute command of the comics art-form at large.

Below, an original page from DC Comics’ 1969 The Witching Hour, which quite perfectly displays Toth’s supreme understanding of design and the layout of a page.

Original Alex Toth page from "The Witching Hour #12". From the International Museum of Cartoon Art Collection, The Ohio State University Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum (click to enlarge)

Known best for his work on Zorro comics and animation work for Hanna-Barbera Productions (including the design of Space Ghost), Toth was an influence on many and a placater to few. He was strong willed and outspoken about disliking much in the field; from gratuitous violence in comics to the abstract and experimental.

To quote his autobiography in Kitchen Sink Press’ 1995 book Alex Toth: “I detest stupidity, ignorance, and arrogant disregard for craft in a “professional,” and I’ve made enemies of such people through the last thirty-three years! Much to my own disadvantage, I might add! But I am what I am, and it’s the only way I know to live a life, in as honest a manner as is possible! Play it, and say it, straight!”

Original art from "Young Romance #163", pencilled by Alex Toth and inked by Dick Giordano. From International Museum of Cartoon Art Collection, The Ohio State University Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum. (click to enlarge)

In May of 2006, Toth passed away at his drawing table at age 77, in his home in Burbank, CA.

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