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UNT comic book collection highlighted in summer exhibition

UNT comic book collection highlighted in summer exhibition

Denton, Texas UNT’s collection of comic books, graphic novels and illustrations on display in Willis Library during the summer-long “Bam! Pow! Boom! Comics in the Academy” exhibit. The roughly 80 pieces on display are just a tiny portion of the nearly 2,000 comic books, 500 graphic novels in the library’s collection. Photo Credit: David Urbanik

UNT comic book collection highlighted in summer exhibition
July 11
20:17 2017

Willis Library is home to several thousand comic books, graphic novels and other illustrated materials, and this summer the highlights of the collection are on display in the library.

The exhibit, curated and presented as the “Bam! Pow! Boom! Comics in the Academy,” is a collection of sequential art that includes a wide selection of material. The material includes everything from books on popular superheroes, such as Superman and Batman, to illustrated guides produced by government departments, such as a graphic training manual for combat surgeons in the military. Comics containing LGBT characters and others including a variety of racial and religious backgrounds are also predominantly featured.

“The purpose of the exhibit is to highlight the range of materials we have available here in the UNT libraries,” curator and UNT Librarian John Martin said. “We also want to show the diversity in comics, regarding nationality, race, gender, sexuality and the variety of perspectives expressed by comic creators.”

The roughly 80 pieces on display are just a tiny portion of UNT’s collection of nearly 2,000 comic books, 500 graphic novels and hundreds of scholarly articles that study this unique form of literature.

“We’ve got everything from classic and modern superhero comics to literary graphic novels and memoirs to cartoons, manga, anime, and even government comics produced by various agencies that have used them for advertising or public education,” Martin said. “We have a lot of things folks will recognize and a few things that may be new to people.”

According to curator and research associate professor Spencer Keralis, the bulk of the material in UNT’s collection originates from Learning Services Librarian Doug Campbell, who donated nearly 1,600 pieces from his personal collection.

Donations such as Campbell’s spurred the creation of the UNT Comic Studies Conference in 2011, an event that, according to its website, focused “on the interdisciplinary approaches to graphic narrative or sequential arts” and included “panel discussions and roundtable sessions exploring the critical and educational applications of comics or graphic novels.”

“We’ve hosted the Comic Studies Conference in the past, and that had been languishing for a couple of years, so we decided to work with the original organizers to give the conference a new home in the library,” Keralis said. “This exhibit and the events related to it were our efforts to reboot the conference.”

Some of the most unique items in the exhibition include comics drawn for audiences not traditionally seen in the medium.

According to Keralis, books featuring LGBT characters along with characters of different races and religions make up a rapidly expanding segment of the comic book industry. Keralis cites these nontraditional materials as some of his favorites.

“There are a lot of books that come out of diverse communities, including a lot of comics featuring gay and lesbian characters,” Keralis said. “It’s refreshing to see the diversity in comics like these because it is important for young readers from different backgrounds to see themselves in what they read and it’s all driven by the readers. I think we are going to see more books dealing with that type of subject matter emerge in the future.”

Martin said the public reaction to the exhibit has been positive.

“We’ve gotten a lot of enthusiastic responses from visitors, especially from those who study, collect or create comics,” Dr. Martin said. “All the visitors I’ve talked to have been excited to see something like this in an academic library, where they might not have been expecting to find these kinds of materials.”

Students who visit the library on a daily basis such as sophomores John Garrison and Kelsey Johnson said they appreciate the library is taking an interest in alternative forms of literature.

“I walk by the exhibit every day, and I’ve looked at it a few times,” Garrison said. “I think the government comics are the most interesting, I had no idea those types of things existed.”

Johnson said her favorite pieces are the ones written for readers from different backgrounds.

The exhibit’s purpose is to display these works of literature and art, but it is also important for various mediums, besides television and movies, to showcase worldly issues.

“I think it’s cool to see superhero comics are not the only comics out there,” Johnson said. “I love that they’ve decided to show stuff written about women and people of other races and cultures. Those are honestly more interesting to me than Superman.”

UNT English professor and convention panelist Marshall Armintor believes the recent Hollywood trend of putting comic book franchises on the big screen is responsible for the uptick in public interest for the sequential art form.

“The [films based on comics] are popular and have struck interest because it took a long time for them to develop,” Armintor said. “It’s been happening for the past 20 years and what happens [is that] the culture at large will work its way into the academy. They are undeniably a popular form of entertainment and communication.”

The exhibit, which is open until August, is available for viewing 24 hours a day in the Willis Library Forum.

Featured Image: UNT’s collection of comic books, graphic novels and illustrations on display in Willis Library during the summer-long “Bam! Pow! Boom! Comics in the Academy” exhibit. The roughly 80 pieces on display are just a tiny portion of the nearly 2,000 comic books and 500 graphic novels in the library’s collection. David Urbanik

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David Urbanik

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1 Comment

  1. jem
    jem July 14, 08:51

    The exhibit will be up until August 15–please come see it!

    Reply to this comment

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