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New Acquisition! Basil Wolverton Collection


Basil Wolverton Collection donated to
The Ohio State University
Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum

Photobooth images of young Basil Wolverton

COLUMBUS – Monte Wolverton has donated a significant collection of his cartoonist father Basil Wolverton’s archives, ephemera, and some original art to the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum.

Basil Wolverton (1909-1978) was best known for his contributions to Mad magazine and Timely Comics (the pre-cursor to Marvel Comics), and his characters Powerhouse Pepper and Spacehawk. Self-described as a “Producer of Preposterous Pictures of Peculiar People who Prowl this Perplexing Planet”, Wolverton’s idiosyncratic and frequently-grotesque style stood out among his peers, and gained him cult following among future generations of cartoonists. In 1946, Wolverton’s work was introduced to a national newspaper reading audience when he won a contest to depict “Lena The Hyena, the World’s Ugliest Woman” for Al Capp’s Li’l Abner comic strip (read more).

Cover of Mad Magazine no. 11 by Basil Wolverton, 1954

This collection, meticulously organized, preserved and donated by his family, contains roughs and page layouts for his comics, fan mail, personal and business correspondence, photographs, juvenilia, ephemera, newspaper articles and other publicity, and high-resolution negatives and copies of various pieces. Of particular note are Wolverton’s personal daily journals from 1923 to 1925 and 1941 to 1974, as well as a notebook containing short stories and sketches he created between ages nine and eleven.

“This collection offers a fascinating window into the comic book business in the 1930s through the early ‘50s,” said his son, Monte Wolverton, “with correspondence from editors (including Stan Lee) who were offering direction and advice. Such specifics may be less documented for other comic artists who were not working remotely as my father was on the West Coast.” Also among the correspondence are “rejection slips from nearly every major magazine in the United States from the 1940s and ‘50s”.

Wolverton’s unique sense of humor, hobbies, and perspective on the world are reflected in the collection. “It’s a rare delight to get this level of insight into the development, daily musings, and professional journey of a cartoonist,” said Caitlin McGurk, Curator of Comics and Cartoon Art, “Wolverton’s work is frequently requested by our patrons and researchers, and we’re so grateful to his family for entrusting us with the preservation of his legacy.”

“I consider the Billy Ireland to be to be the number one institution in the United States for the history of comic artists and cartoonists—designed to be accessible to scholars and researchers” said Monte Wolverton. “I have great confidence in head curator Jenny Robb and the highly professional staff!”

Patrons can access this collection by visiting the Lucy Shelton Caswell Reading Room. Please contact to set up an appointment. To learn more about the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum visit

Click to enlarge images below for a sampling of items from this collection:


Help us save comics! CBS Sunday Morning and the Bill Blackbeard Story

Caitlin McGurk, Curator of Comics and Cartoon Art interviewed by CBS Sunday Morning correspondent Luke Burbank

It’s happening! We are thrilled to share that, barring breaking news, this Sunday, April 30, the acclaimed and long-running staple of weekend television, CBS Sunday Morning, is scheduled to feature the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum! The segment is all about our famous San Francisco Academy of Comic Art Collection amassed by the great Bill Blackbeard – totaling over 2.5 million newspaper comic strip clippings and pages. Tune in at 9am ET to see familiar faces from the Billy Ireland! 

Bill Blackbeard’s story and unparalleled collection is the theme of our current exhibition, MAN SAVES COMCS! Bill Blackbeard’s Treasure of 20th Century Newspapers, curated by Caitlin McGurk and Ann Lennon. It is on display now through May 7, 2023. The exhibit celebrates the 25th anniversary of the arrival of this collection at Ohio State, and the many incredible discoveries that have been made since then. Check out a digital version of the exhibit here.

We need your help! Twenty-five years later, the process of unboxing, sorting, rehousing and cataloging this essential collection is still ongoing, and we are less than halfway through completing this work. Over 2,000 boxes of material from this massive collection remained uncatalogued and undiscoverable. We’ll be wrapping up Phase 1 of this enormous project, thanks to funding from the Hearst Foundation, and we’re now raising funds for Phase 2. We are seeking to raise $125,000 to be able to continue this critical work of rehousing and cataloging the collection. Thanks to an anonymous donor, we have already raised $75,000 and need $50,000 to reach our next goal. Check out our BuckeyeFunder campaign and consider a donation to support the completion of this massive undertaking.


The collection documents more than a century of newspaper comic strips, many of which are the only surviving copies in the world. Creating access to these irreplaceable source materials and artistic commentaries on the social, political, and cultural happenings across time will offer unique insights to researchers while inspiring audiences for generations to come. Every dollar helps our mission to save comics!

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