The following is a guest post by Sara W. Duke, Curator of Popular and Applied Graphic Arts, Prints and Photographs Division.
Popeye, Superman, Wonder Woman, Black Panther – some cartoon characters have become both instantly and internationally recognizable, but they didn’t get their start on television or in the movies, but rather on the pages of newspapers and comic books. The Graphic Arts Gallery, located on the ground floor of the Library of Congress Jefferson Building, just behind the Library’s gift shop offers cartoon fans of all ages an opportunity to explore these literary beginnings. The Gallery reopened this month after nearly 18 months of closure with some treasures from the Stephen A. Geppi Collection, Geppi Gems.
Stephen A. Geppi opened the Geppi Entertainment Museum in Baltimore, Maryland, in 2006, with the intent of showing how artistic creations from the pages of newspaper comic strips and comic books permeated popular culture. Over time, he expanded his collecting interests to reflect such comic book themes as superheroes, westerns, science fiction, horror, sports, music and entertainment. When the Geppi Entertainment Museum closed its doors in 2018, Mr. Geppi generously donated a large portion of its contents to the Library of Congress, with a desire that thousands of people share his excitement for comic books.
Mickey Mouse and the Disney pantheon differ from the rest of Mr. Geppi’s interests because they started as animated characters and crossed over into newspaper comic strips and comic books. Walt Disney understood the importance of licensing. Surrounding this map of the United States, produced in collaboration with the Standard Oil Company of California, is a set of images clipped from issues of Travel Tykes Weekly, showing Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck engaging in activities as they race across the continent to the 1939 Golden Gate International Exposition in California.
Larger-than-life heroes have been a staple in American literature, but superheroes launched the comic book industry. Stephen Geppi found his passion for comics in Batman. As an adult, he brought his passion to collecting, and when he started selling his duplicates, Geppi discovered he could support his family with his hobby. Warner Bros. Studio Store released this 3-D shadowbox recreation of 1942 cover art by Fred Ray and Jerry Robinson in 2000, perhaps as a tie-in to its direct-to-video animated movie Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker.
Geppi Gems is on view in the Graphic Arts Gallery through March 2022. A second rotation, with a completely different selection, is intended for the Spring of 2022.
- View the accompanying online exhibition for Geppi Gems.
- Visit the Library of Congress’ Graphic Arts Galleries in the Jefferson Building to view the exhibition in person [view Jefferson Building ground floor map]. As 2021 pandemic conditions are in flux, please read Know Before You Go before visiting the Library of Congress.
- On September 23, 2021, at 3 pm EDT Sara W. Duke and Megan Halsband from the Serial and Government Publications Division present “With Great Responsibility: The Spider-Man Origin Story in Art and Comic Books,” as part of the National Book Festival (view event information). This live presentation will premiere online with captioning as part of the National Book Festival and will be available for viewing afterwards in the Library’s Event Videos collection.
- View a previous Graphic Art Gallery exhibition, Comic Art: 120 Years of Panels and Pages.
- Explore comic book illustrations in the Prints & Photographs Online Catalog.
- Research the Steven A. Geppi and other comic art collections in person in the Prints & Photographs Division, which is open by appointment only, inquire through Ask a Librarian.