Tag: Will Eisner (page 1 of 5)

2020 Lucy Shelton Caswell Research Award Winner: Kevin Cooley

Will Eisner and Lucy Shelton Caswell

The Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum (BICLM) is pleased to announce the winner of the annual Lucy Shelton Caswell Research Award.  The award of up to $2500, named for the founding curator of the BICLM, Professor Emerita Lucy Shelton Caswell, supports researchers who need to travel to Columbus, Ohio to use the collections materials of the BICLM on site.

We were delighted to receive a robust and diverse range of proposals from both national and international scholars and artists. A panel of reviewers from a variety of disciplines at Ohio State was appointed to assess the proposals.

The recipient for 2020 is Kevin Cooley. Cooley holds a Master of Arts in English Literature from St. Bonaventure University, and is currently completing his Doctorate in English Literature from University of Florida. Cooley will utilize the research award in support of two related projects. First, in support of his dissertation and monograph Queer Beyond Here: Animated Sex and How To Get Used To It, which Cooley states “chronicles the development of queer animation from the earliest moving image devices to contemporary cartoons like Steven Universe.” In order to do justice to this lineage, Cooley “found it crucial to investigate the queer energies (and sometimes characters) of the formative comic strips that inspired early animation.” During a research visit to The Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum in the summer of 2019, Cooley found that George O. Frink’s strips Circus SollySlim Jim and the Force and The Picture Show revealed “obvious influences on the chase scenes of Warner Bros. animation (impossible physics, drag performances, and all).” This has led him on an exhaustive pursuit of Frink, including a visit to the Elgin Mental Health Hospital, the contemporary site of the asylum in which Frink was institutionalized and where he died. As a result, the second project that the award will support will be an article and monograph about Frink’s life, tentatively titled Acrobats, Asylums, and Would-Be Animators: The Surprisingly Queer Stories of George O. Frink, the Forgotten Cartoonist. Cooley will utilize the San Francisco Academy of Comic Art Collection to conduct close readings of Frink’s strips The Awful Bore, The Goat Family, Mister Mainbrake, Mrs. Clubberly Clubber, Tommy Town, and Ratty and Algy, as well as those of his contemporaries at the Chicago Daily News.

Congratulations Kevin Cooley!

The application process for the 2021 award will take place in Fall 2020.

Ongoing support of this award was made possible by a generous gift from the Will and Ann Eisner Family Foundation, which was matched by many additional donors to create an endowment.  The endowment will provide funding for one award to be given each year. Past awardees include Dr. Susan Kirtley, Dr. Daniel Worden, Xavier Dapena, and Frank Santoro.

Researcher Spotlight: Susan Kirtley

Susan Kirtley is a Professor of English, the Director of Rhetoric and Composition, and the Director of Comics Studies at Portland State University, and recipient of our 2019 Lucy Shelton Caswell Award.  Her research interests include visual rhetoric and graphic narratives, and she has published pieces on comics for the popular press and academic journals.  Her book, Lynda Barry: Girlhood through the Looking Glass, was the 2013 Eisner winner for Best Educational/Academic work.  She served as a judge for the 2015 Eisner Awards and is currently the Secretary for the Comics Studies Society and a member of the Executive Group on Graphic Narratives for the Modern Language Association.

Below, Dr. Kirtley reflects on her time spent researching at BICLM earlier this year:

Dr. Susan Kirtley in the Lucy Shelton Caswell Reading Room

If I could, I would live in the Billy Ireland. No, really. During my research trip this summer I fantasized about bringing my puffy red sleeping bag to the museum and camping out in Snoopy’s doghouse, conveniently located in the Reading Room. For a comics researcher or fan, the Ireland is a treasure trove, a place of magic and wonder, and frankly, I never wanted to leave.

I was honored to receive the Lucy Shelton Caswell Research Award to visit the Ireland and conduct research over the summer, and every day I spent there was a gift. Before I arrived I corresponded with the library staff, who were extremely knowledgeable and helpful. They asked great questions about my project and seemed genuinely excited about my research, a study of newspaper comic strips created by women during the time of the Women’s Liberation Movement. I’m fascinated by this particularly turbulent time in American history, and I believe that comic strips help illuminate this tumultuous period as women were negotiating numerous competing demands and belief systems. The strips of the time both reflected cultural narratives and helped shaped them.

When I finally reached Columbus I was giddy with anticipation, and upon entering the Ireland I was struck by the grandeur of the space, and this is no accident. Everything about the facility is designed to celebrate the rich history, tradition, and craft of comics and cartoons. Upon arrival I was greeted warmly and given instructions on how to care for the materials I was to review. I received my white cotton gloves for the handling of fragile materials (which made my hands look a bit like Mickey Mouse’s—a delightful bonus!), and the staff had set aside cart after cart full of boxes brimming with materials relevant to my research. It was heavenly.

Each box contained new treasures. I was able to study materials I could never have seen anywhere else, and the boxes revealed to me not just the products I was studying, but the process behind them. As I dug through the boxes I was able to page through Nicole Hollander’s art journals from school (she’d received a C), as well as her notes, sketches, original art, published pieces, and correspondence. Thus I was able to witness her entire process from idea to publication. Furthermore, Hollander’s papers revealed a hidden history through her archived correspondence and legal documents. These letters uncovered the rich community Hollander developed with other cartoonists, particularly female cartoonists. In one letter Jan Eliot encouraged Nicole to pursue self-syndication. In another letter Lynda Barry discussed Hollander’s problems with rights and permissions, an issue that became even clearer when I located the actual contracts. Hollander also exchanged epistles with Alison Bechdel, commenting on syndication and success. I never would have learned about this rich but concealed past without the treasures contained within the Ireland.

And, of course, there is the art itself. I reverently studied original artwork from Lynn Johnston, marveling at her precision and technique, with every dot and line carefully and confidently placed. I felt honored to hold the original art depicting Farley the dog’s heroic passing in my hands before flipping through letter after emotional letter from fans who were touched and angered by his death.

While I sat in the corner of the Reading Room, hour after hour, thrilled with each new box that the kind and patient staff brought out, I witnessed a family gathered to see original work from Bill Watterson. The staff had brought several samples for the mother, father, and young son to examine, and as the three huddled around the original art, pointing and exclaiming at each small detail I couldn’t help but smile. This family was celebrating comics, together. Instead of playing video games or watching YouTube, this small family unit was exclaiming over the genius of Calvin and Hobbes. I suppose that’s just the magic of the Ireland. I was sad when it was time for my visit to come to an end, and I couldn’t help but stare longingly at Snoopy’s doghouse one last time. There is so much more to see and I can’t wait to return. But next time I’m bringing my sleeping bag.

-Susan Kirtley

Snoopy’s doghouse in the Lucy Shelton Caswell Reading Room

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