Let’s Talk Comics: On Exhibit!

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.




Let’s Talk Comics: Librarians

Dr. Barbara Gordon, Librarian? Yep that’s right – not only was Batgirl a crime-fighter alongside Batman and Robin but she also had a PhD in Library Science and ran the Gotham City Public Library. A recent visit from some fellow librarians in Washington DC for the American Library Association (ALA) annual conference gave me a […]

The Joy of Reading Comics

With one of the biggest comic book collections in the world, we take our role of preserving comics seriously. Many scholars have come to study our collections to learn more about art and popular culture. But we also know that comic books are seriously fun to read! Which is why we’re now trying to make […]

Let’s Talk Comics: Teams & Team-Ups

Ahh the superhero team – where would comics be without them? No Avengers, no Birds of Prey, no Watchmen, no Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (my favorite)! From the beginning superheroes, anti-heroes, and villains have joined forces to create some epic comic stories. And you can come and read them here at the Library of Congress […]

Let’s Talk Comics: Superheroines

Whether you call them superheroines, female superheroes, or just superheroes, there are many female characters in comics whose powers, reputation, actions, and history make them more than ordinary. While Wonder Woman might be known best, a number of other superheroines made their first appearance in comics early on in the 1940s. Fantomah (February 1940), Lady […]

Let’s Talk Comics: Romance

It’s February, Valentine’s Day is around the corner, and love is in the air! Typically you might not think of “romance” and “comics” together – but in the 1940s and 1950s as superhero popularity waned, romance reigned. And it was all started by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby in Young Romance no. 1 (Sept-Oct. 1947). […]

Native American and Indigenous News and Comics

The Cherokee Nation became the first Native American tribe with a tribal newspaper, the Cherokee Phoenix. The Serial & Government Publications Division holds a number of original issues of the Cherokee Phoenix, first published on February 21, 1828. The newspaper was printed “partly with English, and partly with Cherokee print; and all matter which is common […]