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Let’s Talk Comics: On Exhibit!

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Comics are now on exhibit in the Graphic Arts Galleries in the Thomas Jefferson Building here at the Library of Congress! From the original copyright deposit drawing of the Yellow Kid to web comics, the exhibit highlights 120 years of comic art from the Library of Congress’ collections.

Richard Felton Outcault (1863–1928). Copyright deposit for “The Yellow Dugan Kid,” September 7, 1896. Graphite, watercolor, and India ink drawing. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (001.00.00)

Often considered the first successful comic strip, Richard F. Outcault’s Yellow Kid ushered in a new era for comic art in the United States. Newspapers, where many comics originally appeared and continue to be published today, proved to be a perfect vehicle for reading stories that touched everyone, from children to adults, from the working class to the wealthy. Dick Tracy, Archie, Snoopy, and many others have entertained us for decades in the newspapers, as well as permeating popular culture in books, films, television, and marketing to make them as familiar to us today as they were nearly 100 years ago.

Chester Gould (1900–1985). Dick Tracy. “That’s my story, gentlemen. . . ,” February 10, 1935. Unknown newspaper. Stephen A. Geppi Collection, Serial and Government Publications Division, Library of Congress (009.00.00) Used by Permission. © 2019 Tribune Content Agency, Llc.
Charles M. (Monroe) Schulz (1922–2000). Peanuts. “Yahoo!!” October 19, 1952. India ink with scraping out over graphite underdrawing. Gift/purchase, 2001. Art Wood Collection of Caricature and Cartoon, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (010.00.00) © Peanuts Worldwide LLC

Co-curated by me (!), Georgia Higley, Sara Duke, and Martha Kennedy, along with exhibit director Betsy Nahum-Miller, the exhibit explores the visual and narrative storytelling of comics through original drawings, printed pages, and even digital files, highlighting the diversity of media and subjects employed by artists over time.

Randall Munroe. XKCD. “Message in a Bottle,” archived May 6, 2016
Small Press Expo Comic and Comic Art Web Archive and Webcomics Web Archive, Library of Congress

Some comic strips featured in the exhibit, such as Little Nemo in Slumberland, have long ceased publishing, though they continue to inspire and connect with people. Other items highlight the work of contemporary cartoonists, such as Marguerite Dabaie, whose reflections on identity and expression will continue to engage us for years to come.

Winsor McKay (1869–1934). Little Nemo in Slumberland. “Hey, What’s Goin’ On Here?” November 22, 1908. India ink over pencil and blue pencil, with opaque white. Gift and bequest from Erwin and Caroline Swann, 1974. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (003.00.00)
Marguerite Dabaie (b. 1981). “Maybe I should thank Dad because I don’t know if my rebellious side would be as strong without him,” 2010. Ink and graphite. Published in The Hookah Girl and Other True Stories, volume 2, 2010. Gift of the artist, 2016. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (031.00.00) © Marguerite Dabaie, used with permission.

Even if you aren’t able to visit the Library to see “Comic Art: 120 Years of Panels and Pages” in person, you can still see many of the items online – discover superheroes, Sunday strips, and more!

Brumsic Brandon, Jr. (1927–2014). Luther. “And he started non-violent demonstrations!” June 12, 1969. Porous point pen and tonal film overlay over pencil. Gift, Brumsic Brandon, Jr., 1995. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (016.00.00) © Brumsic Brandon, Jr. Art Trust, used with permission.
Wonder Woman, no. 8. New York: Wonder Woman Publication Co., Spring 1944. Serial and Government Publications Division, Library of Congress (034.00.00) © DC Comics, used with permission.





  1. What an incredible exhibit that must be. It makes me inspired, anew, to go back to the basics. People like to use the word “simple” when addressing those days. These cartoons, to me, are examples of a time that can’t be forgotten. Their situations and concerns may have been different than ours, today, but they certainly weren’t “simple”. Oddly, the situations and humor are timeless in these classic examples. I’ll be really disappointed if I miss this one!

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