At Special Collections, we believe a part of our job to be informing patrons on subject matters they may be unfamiliar with. Whether those subjects are found in books from the Middle Ages, newspapers dating back to the American Revolution, or underground comics, we’re always here to give you the scoop on things you didn’t know you didn’t know. But chances are an upcoming summer blockbuster might have you wondering, “Who are the Guardians of the Galaxy and why should I see the movie?” Special Collections is here for you, dear reader!
Opening in theaters this weekend is Marvel’s newest superhero flick, “Guardians of the Galaxy.” Staring Chris Pratt of “Parks and Recreation” fame, along with a handful of other well-known actors (Glenn Close, John C. Reilly and Bradley Cooper, just to name a few), “Guardians” promises to be a comic book movie unlike any we’ve seen before. And just like any good superhero movie, it never hurts to have a little backstory. Though Special Collections doesn’t have any stand-alone Guardians comics, we do have several Marvel Comics encyclopedias and compendiums, along with several issues of “Avengers” comics (like the ones you see in this post), which take place in the same universe as the Guardians. If you want the full, detailed history of the Guardians of the Galaxy, stop on by and request a book. If you just want the Cliffs Notes version, read on!
The original incarnation of the space-travelling team debuted in January, 1969. This group of Guardians never found much of a fan following, and the team was relegated to appearing alongside other heroes, like Thor and the Fantastic Four. This team shouldn’t factor in all that much with the “Guardians” film.
However, in 2008, an entirely new team of Guardians was introduced. Made up of a human named Peter Quill, two aliens – Drax and Gamora – and two personified creatures – Rocket, a talking raccoon and Groot, a living tree – these Guardians found instant commercial success. A feature film set within Marvel’s Cinematic Universe was fast-tracked into production.
This weekend, that movie is released. It will tie in with events that happened in “The Avengers”, and set up future events for “The Avengers: Age of Ultron”, Avengers 3 and beyond. Either before or after you check out the movie, stop on by and see us too!
This week's post is by Shelby Wolfe, a Special Collections undergraduate assistant.
While Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson might not be the first person who comes to mind when pondering the classical humanities, his portrayal of Hercules in the most recent film version about the mythological demi-god might spark your desire to delve far back into classical mythology. If so, check out these Hercules-related materials at Special Collections.
Hercules has entertained generations of adventure-loving readers and listeners for centuries. From pottery and poetry to compendium and comic book, illustrated depictions of the mythological hero are typically easy to identify – a large, muscular man often wielding a bulky club and donning a characteristic lionskin.
This plate in Andrew Tooke’s 1806 edition of The Pantheon details the hero’s attributes. Covered in a lionskin, the main image features Hercules resting his club on the ground. Two roundels above provide a closer inspection of the club and lionskin.
Likewise, this illustration from Tooke’s 1844 Pantheon shows Hercules outfitted with his attributes. In addition, two roundel inserts depict Hercules in the midst of his Twelve Labors – slaying the Nemean Lion (the source of his lionskin attire) on the far left and his battle with the Lernaean Hydra on the far right.
For a more modern depiction of the famed hero, take a closer look at this comic book from 1984. Hercules: Prince of Power features a monstrously muscular title character intent on saving the Marvel universe from rebel military forces in the year 2385.
Whether it’s the 8th century BCE or 2385 CE, Hercules is sure to be flexing his muscles somewhere.
Released today is the eighth film in the Planet of the Apes franchise, “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes.” Set ten years after its predecessor “Rise of the Planet of the Apes,” this film promises a darker, more engaging science-fiction world than any other Apes film before it. In honor of the new movie, Special Collections is proud to bring you “Books of the Planet of the Apes”! If you’ve got a monkey on your back, swing in to Special Collections and check out some of our simian stuff!
This is a scan from one of the opening pages of “Paul Du Chaillu: Gorilla Hunter,” the noted French-American explorer and zoologist. Du Chaillu is credited with confirming the existence of gorillas, and worked extensively with indigenous Pygmy tribes in Africa. His exciting life of adventure and discovery is chronicled in “Gorilla Hunter,” and while some today might find the subject matter offensive, Du Chaillu’s legacy in ape history is unquestionable.
Up next we have a graphic novel adaptation of one of the most famous apperances of apes in popular culture, Tarzan the Ape Man. Tarzan was created by Edgar Rice Burroughs and introduced in the 1912 short story, “Tarzan of the Apes.” In Burroughs’ origin story, a family is marooned on the African coast and only their young son survives. He’s adopted by a tribe of apes and raised as their own. Burroughs continued to publish stories about Tarzan until his death in 1950. Since then, Tarzan has been adopted once again, this time into popular culture. Over 200 movies have been released that feature the Ape Man.
Rudyard Kipling’s “The Jungle Book” introduced the character of Mowgli, an inspiration for Burrough’s Tarzan. It also inspired this graphic novel by Harvey Kurtzman, also called “The Jungle Book.” Kurtzman’s work is a social commentary on the nature of man in society, and how quickly humanity can descend back into its more primitive forms. Kurtzman satirically dedicates his novel to a half-man, half-ape creature.
Lastly, and perhaps slightly less aesthetically pleasing, is a chart from former University of Missouri professor James Gavan’s “A Classification of the Order Primates,” which details the line of descent of different species of apes. It’s interesting to note which species Gavan cites as being nearest to man – according to his work, gorillas, orangutans and chimpanzees are just one evolutionary step away from us. Published in 1975, more than a century after Charles Darwin pioneered his Theory of Evolution, Gavan’s work still caused controversies. He participated in a creationism/evolution debate in October, 1975, against a famous creation scientist called Duane Gish, author of several anti-evolution books, including 1972’s “Evidence Against Evolution” and 1986’s “Evolution: The Fossils Say No!” According to audience reaction, Gish outperformed Gavan in the debate. A “rematch” was scheduled, but never occurred. Professor Gavan passed away in 1994, and Gish in 2013.
That’s just a small sample of our simian stockpile. Don’t wait for the apes to take over – take a look at these (and other great monkey materials) today!
Marvel Comics' winning streak continued in 1963 when they debuted the X-Men, a group of teenage superheroes who received their powers through mutation. Originally going to be called the “Merry Mutants,” creators Stan Lee and Jack Kirby settled on the title “X-Men” since their characters had “EX-tra power.”
However, this group of mutants isn’t the only one to ever call themselves X-Men. As we’ve seen in “X-Men: Days of Future Past,” sometimes completely different generations of mutants must band together under the same moniker. To start of our Special Collections at the Movies blog series, we’ll highlight several different incarnations of those Merry Mutants that we have in our collection.
This is a reprint of the first X-Men issue, published in September, 1963. It introduces the original five-man team – Angel, Beast, Cyclops, Iceman and Marvel Girl – and the X-Men’s most hated archenemy, Magneto. We can see the team meeting Jean Grey, their newest member, and her amazing power of telekinesis. Hardcore comic fans might notice something strange about this image – Cyclops’ name is Slim Summers, but we know him better as Scott Summers. It wasn’t until the third issue of X-Men that Cyclops points out that Slim is just a nickname.
Next we have an updated version of the same group of mutants, called the First Class. We can see by the illustration on the cover that the lineup hasn’t changed, but the stories and events have been redesigned for modern readers. It was this comic book line that was partially adapted into 2011’s “X-Men: First Class.”
Our third incarnation is also an origin story. A young Scott Summers is shown receiving his ruby visor, which holds in his optic blasts. This series is meant to tie in with the animated TV show “X-Men: Evolution,” which focused on the very early years of the team.
Finally, we have a collection of issues from the Generation X storyline. Generation X ran from 1994 through 2001, and focused on an entirely different group of mutants. This group, made of up primarily of Jubilee, Chamber, Husk, Gaia and Synch, often found itself in a moral grey area, often fighting for and against the X-Men.
These four titles are just a sampling of the various X-Men series we have in Special Collections. If “Days of Future Past” got you itching for more than the run-of-the-mill mutants, stop on by and check us out!
It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s Superman’s 75th birthday! On June 30, 1938, Superman debuted in Action Comics #1, marking the unofficial birth of superheroes in comic books. Through decades of films, TV shows and comics, the Last Son of Krypton has permeated our culture and become as American as baseball and apple pie.
The creation and history of Superman is as fascinating and heartbreaking as Kal-El’s own fictional backstory. In 1932, a young Jerry Siegel’s father died of a heart attack brought on by the robbery of the family’s small clothing store. Within a few years, he and his artistically-minded friend Joe Shuster created Superman – an orphan who is virtually invincible, and who fights tirelessly to rid Metropolis of evildoers. Siegel and Shuster are eventually commissioned to tell the character’s story in Action Comics. They agree to sell the rights of Superman for $130.
Superman radio serials, television shows and motion pictures soon followed. While the radio was Superman’s preferred medium in the 40’s, come 1951, Iowa-born actor George Reeves donned the red and blue suit to portray the first live-action Man of Steel in the TV series, “The Adventures of Superman.” Reeves stood for Truth, Justice and the American Way for the better part of a decade until he was killed in 1959 by a single gunshot wound to the head. The circumstances surrounding his death are still a mystery.
After a twenty year absence, the Man of Tomorrow returned, this time played by Christopher Reeve in Richard Donner’s classic 1978 film, “Superman.” Not only was the film a commercial and critical success, it holds a significant historical importance – “Superman” was the first major superhero movie ever released, paving the way for future blockbusters like “Batman”, “Spider-Man”, “Iron Man”, and “The Avengers.” Reeve held the role for three more films, consistently surrounded by an all-star cast including Marlon Brando, Gene Hackman, Terence Stamp and Richard Pryor. Tragically, the Man of Steel proved to be all too human off screen, as a horseback riding accident in 1995 left Reeve paralyzed and confined to a wheelchair until his death in 2004.
The 1990’s and 2000’s were a transitional period for Superman. He appeared in two very successful television series, first in “Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman”, starring Dean Cain as Clark Kent, and then in “Smallville”, with Tom Welling taking the reins. Both series took root in the hearts and minds of a new generation of Americans, and once again, Superman was soaring. In 2006, Brandon Routh took the lead in Bryan Singer’s “Superman Returns.” Cast partly for his likeness to the late Christopher Reeve, Routh’s Superman faced off against his arch nemesis Lex Luthor, portrayed by Academy Award-winner Kevin Spacey. While the film was critically successful, it didn’t resonate well enough with audiences’ wallets to warrant a sequel. For the last seven years, Americans haven’t seen much of Smallville’s favorite son. Even the most recent actors to portray him – Dean Cain, Tom Welling and Brandon Routh – have all but faded from memory, as they struggled to find quality roles in Hollywood.
But that all changed last week with the record-breaking release of Zack Snyder’s “Man of Steel”, starring Henry Cavill as Superman and Michael Shannon as the villainous General Zod. The blockbuster proved that Americans’ fascination with Superman is only growing. That love for the character will only continue to grow in the next few years, as star Cavill and director Snyder have both signed on for a sequel. Additionally, Superman is slated to appear in the upcoming “Justice League” film, surrounded by fellow superheroes Batman, Green Lantern, the Flash and Wonder Woman.
If your own interest in the character was piqued by the movie, feel free to fly in to Special Collections and check out our awesome assortment of Superman comics, graphic novels and books. Everything you see here, and so much more, is available to you. And unless you have X-Ray vision, you’ll need to get here faster than a speeding bullet and take a look yourself!
The Great Gatsby is seen by critics and the general public as F. Scott Fitzgerald’s quintessential novel, and is the novel he is most famous for. It tells the story of a rich man named Jay Gatsby and his quest to regain a past love. As its most recent movie adaptation is currently playing in theaters, Special Collections invites you to take a look back on the novel and the man that created it.
Francis Scott Key Fitzgerald was born on September 24, 1896 in St. Paul, Minnesota and named after his second cousin three times removed, the Francis Scott Key of national anthem fame. While on academic probation at Princeton, Fitzgerald enlisted in the army in 1917. In June 1918, he was assigned to a camp near Montgomery, Alabama, where he met and fell in love with Zelda Sayre. In late 1919, after being discharged from the army and quitting his job in advertising, Fitzgerald began his career of writing short stories for magazines and other publications, with The Saturday Evening Post becoming his best story market. He published his first novel, This Side of Paradise, in March 1920 and married Zelda Sayre soon after. His success and the extravagant lifestyle of the young couple soon earned him a reputation as a bit of a playboy. He also became known as a heavy drinker, though he always wrote sober. After the publication of his second novel, The Beautiful and Damned, and the birth of his child, Frances Scott (Scottie) Fitzgerald, in 1921, the Fitzgeralds moved to Long Island where F. Scott wrote short stories to cover the family's debt after his play, The Vegetable, failed to make it into production. The family moved to France in the spring of 1924 so that F. Scott would be able to focus on his newest project, the novel that would become The Great Gatsby.
Before it became The Great Gatsby, Fitzgerald’s novel went through many revisions and forms. Special Collections has in its possession a facsimile of one such early edition, entitled Trimalchio. This is an allusion to a Roman novel, The Satyricon by Petronius. In this novel, Trimalchio is a freedman who has amassed power and wealth and shows this off by hosting exceedingly lavish dinner parties for his numerous guests. This copy includes correspondence between Fitzgerald and a man by the name of Perkins, Fitzgerald’s friend and an employee of his publishers, in which Perkins makes suggestions for revision and suggests using a different title (pictured below right).
Shortly after this, Fitzgerald rewrote several aspects of his novel and reordered key scenes, such as the one where Gatsby’s past is illuminated.
The Gatsby we know today comes in many different forms and editions. One of the more unique Gatsbys at Special Collections comes in the form of a fantastical graphic novel adaptation by Nicki Greenberg, in which Jay Gatsby is portrayed as a seahorse
and the others as any number of creatures.
There are also a number of more conventionally illustrated editions of The Great Gatsby in existence, such as the 1980 Limited Editions Club which is illustrated by artist Fred Meyer, whose recognizable style brings the Jazz Age to life on the page.
Most people are familiar with The Great Gatsby after having spent some time studying it at either a high school or college level. From Professor Lago’s collection, we have her copy of The Great Gatsby, which has been heavily annotated for use as a teaching tool. Her extensive notes comment on such key themes as morality and hope. On the page shown here, she notes the importance of color symbolism, among other things.
In the years after The Great Gatsby was published, Fitzgerald began work on his fourth novel, Tender is the Night. Work on this novel was put on hold throughout the years due to Zelda Fitzgerald’s declining mental and physical health. During her stay in a clinic in Switzerland, F. Scott returned to writing short stories for income. He completed Tender is the Night in 1934, though it was ultimately a commercial failure.
In the summer of 1937, Fitzgerald went to Hollywood to work as a screenwriter. It was there that he began an affair with columnist Sheilah Graham. After MGM Studios dropped his contract at the end of 1938, he worked as a freelance script writer and continued writing short sories. He began work on his last novel, The Love of the Last Tycoon, in 1939 and had more than half of it written when he died of a heart attack on December 21, 1940.
Though Fitzgerald was not much of a commercial success during his lifetime, he is now considered to be the author of one of the “great American novels” and is esteemed for his accurate portrayals of the Jazz Age. Many of his works, including collections of his short stories, are available for use by patrons in the Reading Room of Special Collections.
Bruccoli, Matthew J. "A Brief Life of Fitzgerald." Biography of F. Scott Fitzgerald. The F. Scott Fitzgerald Society, n.d. Web. 21 May 2013. http://www.fscottfitzgeraldsociety.org/biography/index.html.
"Trimalchio." Trimalchio. N.p., n.d. Web. 23 May 2013.