The comic strip has been an important part of American culture for well over a century. In the past 75 years, the comics genre has seen many changes in format and style, and today there exists a rich variety of artistic styles. The following selections from the Comic Art Collection held in the Special Collections Division of Ellis Library are but a few of the many important works that either are contemporary to Alley Oopor have been created since Alley Oop was first printed. The Collection contains original art work, well-known comic issues, up-and-coming artists, underground comix, and graphic novels.
Edgar Everett ("Abe") Martin joined the Newspaper Enterprise Association in 1921 as a syndicated cartoonist. His creation Boots and Her Buddies was introduced as a daily comic strip on February 18, 1924 and became popular immediately with NEA subscribers and their readers.
The Sunday comic strip originally was the top strip for the "Our Boarding House" page running from 1926 to 1931. Martin then began a full Sunday page of his own titled Girls. On September 9, 1934, the page became Boots though some newspapers kept the title Girls long after the name change. Popular paper cutouts were first featured on the Sunday pages first under the Girls title and later under Boots. The paper dolls continued until the early 1960s.
During the 1950s the job of providing Boots story lines belonged to University of Missouri student and English instructor Thomas B. Harris. Working many weeks in advance of the preparation of the art work, Harris sent rough story ideas to artist Martin who approved them and sent them to NEA. When NEA approval was received, Harris wrote the daily dialogue for the entire story sequence. Harris married Mary Martin, the daughter of Edgar E. Martin.
Edgar Martin died in August 31, 1960 and the daily strip ceased on October 15, 1960. The Sunday page continued, published unsigned, until June 6, 1965 when the signature of Les Carroll, Harris' former assistant appears on the strip. Carroll issued the strip until October 6, 1968. Thomas Harris died in 1992.
The Edgar E. Martin Collection located in the Special Collections Department of Ellis Library contains information about Edgar E. Martin and his strip Boots and Her Buddies. Included in the collection are original comic strips from 1942-1959, selected clippings of the strip, and articles from the same period. Continuities written by son-in-law Thomas B. Harris are also in the collection.
Mort Walker published his first cartoon at the age of 13 in the Kansas City Journal. After finishing high school and working for Hallmark, he decided to transfer from junior college to the University of Missouri to attend the Journalism School. Walker completed a semester before being drafted into the WWII army. He was bounced back and forth through army training divisions until he finally ended up in Italy as an intelligence officer.
Walker was discharged from the army after four years of service and went back to MU to complete his degree. He graduated from Mizzou in 1948 and moved to New York City to try his luck in cartoons. In 1950, King Features picked up Beetle Bailey. At the time, Beetle was a college student at Rockview University, modeled after Walker's alma mater, Mizzou. After a year of moderate success, Walker admitted Beetle into the army, reflecting the country's involvement in the Korean War, which greatly increased the strip's circulation and popularity.
Walker has worked on several other comics such as Hi & Lois, Sam's Strip, and Boner's Ark, and he continues to produce Beetle Bailey, published in over 1,800 newspapers worldwide.
The Mort Walker Collection in the Special Collections division of Ellis library is focused on Mort Walker's visit to the University of Missouri in 1992 as a Scholar-in-Residence. A highlight of the visit was the unveiling of a bronze statue of Beetle Bailey. Prior to that occasion, Walker had donated original cartoons, animation cels, books, lithographs and posters to the MU Libraries.
The antics and adventures of young Calvin and his stuffed tiger Hobbes were drawn, written, and inked solely by creator Bill Watterson. The world of Calvin and Hobbes was filled with everyday life and imagination, including a 6-year-old boy's play world of dinosaurs, superheroes, and a time machine. The strip ran from November 18, 1985- December 31, 1995 and at its height, was carried in over 2,500 newspapers. The strip received many accolades throughout its run, including several Harvey, Eisner, and Reuben Awards. The strip was so popular that newspapers paid full price for previously run strips during a sabbatical taken by Watterson. Watterson was also able to force newspaper editors to change the way they structured the Sunday comics to accommodate his artistic needs. Although Calvin and Hobbes is one of the best loved comics of all time, Watterson continually rejects licensing and merchandising opportunities to stay true to his characters.
One of the best-selling comic books of all time, The Death of Superman piqued not only the interest of comic fans, but the general public as well. The event made national news and comic book stores were packed with anxious fans trying to get their hands on the historic issue. In this storyline, the "Man of Steel" meets his match in "Doomsday," a genetically engineered monster who was built to survive at all costs. While trying to protect his beloved city of Metropolis, Superman embarks upon an awesome battle with Doomsday, which seemingly ends both of their lives. The Death of Superman was presented as a "Memorial set," which included a black arm band, trading card, Daily Planet obituary, a full color memorial poster, and trading stamps.
The traditional comic book hero is a clear cut champion of "truth, justice and the American way" however, in the mid-1980's a new generation of comic hero was evolving and the line was beginning to blur. Alan Moore and David Gibbons created a new league of superheroes who were not the selfless, ideal heroes fans are accustomed to, but rather, jaded super-humans struggling with their own ideologies and demons. Moore and Gibbons delve into the psychology of the characters, exposing serious flaws and the impact they have on the world they live in, both positive and negative. A movie version of the graphic novel was released in 2009.
The Comics Code was a form of self-censorship developed in 1954 by the comics industry in response to the book Seduction of the Innocent by Dr. Fredric Wertham. The book claimed that comics were responsible for turning children into juvenile delinquents, giving girls the wrong idea about their place in society, and implementing and reinforcing homosexual thoughts. The Comic Industry was in danger of being toppled, so they created the code to self-regulate and produce "family friendly" comics.
Spider-Man first appeared in Amazing Fantasy #15 (1962) and was subsequently presented as The Amazing Spider-Man in 1963 and has been offered as other series such as The Spectacular Spider-Man and Web of Spider-Man. This Marvel hero is one of the best-selling characters of all time and beloved by fans. This issue, #96, is one of three issues (May 1971) that did not carry the Comic Code Authority seal. Stan Lee was asked by the US Department of Health, Education, and Welfare to produce a comic showing the dangers of drug use. Lee agreed and created the comics, which were then turned down by the Comics Code Authority due to the discussion of narcotics. Lee printed the comics anyway, assuming the government would approve showing drug abuse in a negative light. This prompted the CCA's first update in the code, to include allowing comics to show the negative effects of illegal-drug use.
Frank Stack, Professor Emeritus of Art at the University of Missouri, is one of the pioneers of underground comics, as well as an accomplished painter and print maker. Born in Houston, Texas, Stack earned a B.F.A. from the University of Texas and an M.A. from the University of Wyoming. After graduation, he received additional training at the School of Art Institute of Chicago and Academie Grande Chaumiere of Paris. He sites V.T. Hamlin, Gustave Dore, and Roy Crane as some of the strongest influences in his comic writing and drawing.
Frank Stack created his first comic, The Adventures of Jesus, in 1964 and is considered by many to be the first underground comic. The Adventures of Jesus series is a satire, lampooning the religious beliefs of many Americans. To protect himself from retribution, Stack wrote under the pseudonym, "Foolbert Sturgeon" when publishing the Jesus comics. He has also created comics such as Doorman's Doggie, Feel Good Funnies, Amazons and contributed to American Splendor, Snarf, Comics Journal, and Drawn and Quarterly. Stack continues to create works of art and has most recently published The New Adventures of Jesus: the Second Coming.
Frank Stack has donated some of his work to the Special Collections Department of Ellis library. The Frank Stack Collection contains material from Stack's college days and the early underground comic book period up to 1995, with the publication of Our Cancer Year. An extensive collection of letters from Gilbert Shelton, William Helmer, the Rip Off Press and others is included. Continuities by Harvey Pekar for which Stack prepared art work are also in the collection.
Robert Crumb, also known as R. Crumb, published his first issue of Zap in early 1967. Zap is one of the most well-known underground comix, featuring characters such as Mr. Natural and Flaky Foont. Crumb is also noted for his work on Fritz the Cat and Keep on Truckin, an icon of the 1970's. In 1994 Terry Zwigoff produced the film Crumb, a documentary exploring the life of R. Crumb and his family. The film won numerous awards, including the Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival.
Maus is a gut-wrenching two volume graphic novel documenting the experiences of Vladek Spiegelman, a Jewish survivor of the holocaust. The comic was written and drawn by his son, Art Spiegelman, who explores his father's experiences in Nazi Europe and the father-son relationship they maintain. All characters in the story are portrayed as animals, Jewish people are depicted as mice, the Nazis as cats, and other nationalities are depicted by various other animals. Maus is the first graphic novel to win a Pulitzer Prize and has been honored with many other awards including the Harvey and Eisner awards.
P. Craig Russell is a master at creating art that appeals to wider audiences through the use of well-known stories and even opera. Russell has found success not only in interpreting classical work, but also contributing to popular comic series such as Sandman and Elric. He has won numerous Harvey and Eisner Awards, and is heralded by his peers for being one of the first mainstream comic artists to come out as gay.
The first appearance of Miller's noir comic Sin City was in April 1991 for a 5th anniversary anthology by Dark Horse Comics. It was well received and presented in several subsequent issues of Dark Horse Presents and later in its own series. Using a two-tone black-and-white style, Sin City explores the lives of the inhabitants of crime-ridden Basin City.
The series has received several honors including a Harvey award and an Eisner award in 1997, and was made into a motion picture in 2005. In addition to Sin City, Miller has been responsible for such graphic novel successes as 300 and Martha Washington.
Matt Kindt displays a mastery of visual storytelling with his tales of pirates, spies, espionage, and intrigue set in the 1920s-1960s. Kindt, a St. Louisan, has a unique web presence. Some of his work has been serialized online before a print version was made available. He has even formatted some of his work online for Sony PlayStation Personal users. Most recently, he was awarded "Indie Book of the Year" in 2007 by Wizard magazine and a Harvey award in 2008. Kindt was also listed in Booklists' "Top Ten Graphic Novels of 2008."
Ted May has been drawing comics from an early age, and has more recently been a part of the St. Louis comics scene as a published comics artist. May has contributed to various comics anthologies including Kramers Ergot and Non, and has also self-published many works, such as It Lives. May was named "Mini-Comics Artist of the Year 2002" by the Comics Journal. Currently May produces Injury Comics with collaboraters Jason Robards and Jeff Wilson, as well as comic strips appearing in Arthur Magazine, the Riverfront Times, and Vice Magazine. Injury Comics, a series published by Buenaventura Press, was nominated for a "Best Series" Ignatz award in 2008.
Mardou has been making and self-publishing mini comics for 8 years. Born in Manchester, England she now lives in St Louis, Missouri with her cartoonist husband Ted May. She works in collage and watercolors as well as pen and ink. She self-publishes the comic series Manhole, and also contributes to a comic anthology of female cartoonists, Whores of Mensa. Currently, she is working on a graphic novel about growing up in Northern England.
Jeff Zwirek is the Ignatz-nominated artist behind the mini-comics Burning Building Comix, Black Star, and Jack Rabbit. He lives in Chicago with his wife and son. Burning Building has an innovative design, where each of five issues details the goings-on in two stories of an apartment building on fire. When all of the issues are stacked on top of one-another, it completes the tale and forms the entire 10-story building.