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Comic Books as Art and Literature? Believe It.

UWM News Release, Oct. 28, 2002, Issued by: Terry Higgins

Patrons of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Golda Meir Library have access to some of the most highly regarded and influential works ever written.

Thanks to a donation by an avid collector, users of the library's Special Collections also will have access to some of the most popular and innovative "books" written for a mass audience: comic books.

"There's bound to be the question of why comic books in a library," said Max Yela, head of Special Collections. "The answer is that they fit in perfectly with what we do here in documenting the history and use of books and publishing.

"One of the things we're particularly interested in is how the book form is used expressively, the place of the book arts in history and culture. Comic books are a great research tool to study how the art of the book has influenced popular publishing and how comics in turn have influenced the book arts."

Book arts generally includes books or book-like objects which are works of art in themselves. They are usually hand-created by artists.

The collection consists of approximately 5,500 comics dating from the late 1960s. Collected by Gary Pearl of West Bend and donated to the Golda Meir Library in August 2001, they represent a wide range of genres and characters.

The big names, made bigger in recent years by Hollywood's embrace of comic book heroes, are all there: Spider-Man, Batman, Superman, the X-men and more.

Hollywood's interest in these larger-than-life figures is at an all-time high. Big-budget films based on the Hulk and Daredevil, among others, are in production. The sequel to the first X-Men movie is also being filmed. The Spider-man movie, released this summer, broke box office records on its opening weekend.

Also represented are lesser known titles with darker, more mature themes from publishers such as Dark Horse Comics, Image Comics, and DC Comics' Vertigo, Wildstorm, and Cliffhanger imprints.

Yela and the Special Collections staff are currently organizing the collection and preparing it for use by campus and community researchers. Cataloging such a large donation of serials may take a couple of years, but the process should begin later this year, with titles beginning to appear in the library's online PantherCat system as early as the Fall semester.

In the meantime, informal organization of the collection by theme and title is ongoing, with limited access provided in Special Collections before the collection is completely cataloged.

For more information on the collection, please contact Max Yela in Special Collections at (414) 229-4345, or by email at maxyela@uwm.edu. Special Collections, on the fourth floor of the Golda Meir Library, 2311 E. Hartford Ave., is open Monday-Friday, 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.