Hours of the exhibit and the Reading Room are 9 AM to 5 PM, Monday through Friday, and 10 AM to 2 PM on Saturdays.
Is there a way to "exhibit" a collection of 16,000 unique items? We are not a museum or a gallery. Our exhibit space is limited to eleven small showcases in a small room with restricted open hours. Clearly, exhibitions are not our usual business, and in fact as a Research Library it's not even our place to suggest which of our holdings may be of interest to a given visitor. Our "business" in Special Collections is to have every one of those 16,000 items comprehensively listed and equally available at a minute's notice. Our catalog is our public face, and on this occasion we celebrate its new European Comics aspect, the first American library catalog to "exhibit" the full breadth of these important national literatures.
The online public access catalog of the Michigan State University Libraries is available through your usual university network connections (if you have them) or directly on the worldwide web. In addition, we have begun an index website for more in-depth analysis of our Comic Art Collection, and an images website to show some of our older items.
Rodolphe Töpffer (1799-1846) was a Swiss artist and storyteller whom Art Spiegelman has called the "patron saint" of comics. The Library owns seven early printings of Töpffer's picture-stories, of which six were probably printed during the artist's lifetime. In the showcase is our copy of Töpffer's Les Amours de Mr. Vieux Bois (published in Geneva in 1839).
Wilhelm Busch of Germany (1832-1908) is with Töpffer the other principal name in Nineteenth-Century European picture stories, according to Pierre Couperie, et al. While Töpffer's legacy is seen in the French comics tradition, it was in explicit imitation of Busch's "Max und Moritz" that the ground-breaking American strip "Katzenjammer Kids" began. In the showcase is a Busch page (Nr. 286) from the Münchener Bilderbogen, and our copy of Busch's Max and Maurice : a juvenile history in seven tricks (Boston : Little, 1899).
French picture-story artist Emmanuel Poiré (1859-1909) signed his work "Caran d'Ache." His work, like that of Töpffer and Busch, approaches what we think of as comics. In the showcase is an opening of his Pages d'Histoire, published in Paris at the Librairie du Figaro, probably in 1904.
All of the items in this showcase have been scanned for viewing on our images website.
Please consult our index website for lists of the Library's holdings by and about:
The comics as organized by nationality in our collection are often of multiple origins, and almost every combination of nationalities can be found. In our listings, an item is called "Spanish," for example, if it appears, or originally appeared, as directed to a Spanish readership.
In this showcase we have arranged one comic book from each of the European countries or European language groups represented in our collection. Visitors in the Reading Room may complete a request slip and begin reading comics. Viewers on the web are encouraged to browse our European Comics index website for lists of the Library's comics holdings arranged by European nationality.
In this showcase is a sampling of Astérix and Tintin, and including some of the related books they have prompted. Also there are some Schtroumpfs. Brochures in French and Flemish for the Centre Belge de la Bande Dessinée are on display. The Center ("The Belgian Center for the Comic Strip") is a library and museum of comics that occupies a beautiful building in Brussels.
Visitors on the web may see the lists of our holdings of these three series by following these links to our index website:
Another important western series is "Lucky Luke," by Belgian artist Maurice de Bévère, whose drawing is signed "Morris." Most of the series is written by René Goscinny, also the original writer of the Astérix team. Lucky Luke is a gentle parody of westerns (the hero is so fast that he can out-draw his own shadow).
Examples of the long-running Italian series "Tex," begun by Giovanni Luigi Bonelli and artist Aurelio Galleppini, and a German western comic titled Karl May after the prolific German adventure writer, are shown here along with albums of Lucky Luke and Blueberry. The Karl May western comic is translated to German from Spanish.
Selections to visit in the index website:
The Library also owns parts of some impressive reprint projects, presenting American newspaper adventure story comics to Italian readers. "Terry and the Pirates," and "Tim Tyler's Luck" ("Cino e Franco") are shown. The revival of interest in comics throughout Europe in the 1970s might be credited to these Italian reprints.
England has a long tradition of comic art, and historian Denis Gifford shows many examples from early British magazines in his book Victorian Comics. A memorable British invasion of American comics, one of several, came in the 1970s in the form of Judge Dredd in the magazine 2000 AD. Judge Dredd inhabits a negatively-envisioned future that contrasts with the positive outlook of another famous British science fiction strip, "Dan Dare." Dan Dare is from the weekly Eagle, which began in 1950. In the showcase are examples of each magazine, with book collections and Spanish editions of each strip.
In this showcase are Secret Agent X9, James Bond 007 and The Phantom, plus a selection of Tarzan comics from the jungles of Scandinavia, with the Icelandic version open for reading.
Also shown are sheets of two strips in French, which were found in Canadian newspapers in 1969 and 1970. The first, "Pilote Tempête," is signed "Sprenger." This is a translation of the Dutch strip, "Piloot Storm," by Henk Sprenger. One strip for which we have not found information is "Les Soeurs Galurin," signed by Bernard Jeanson. Visitors either on the internet or in the reading room are invited to help clear up this mystery.
Abundant examples of European reprinting of North American comics have been shown in other showcases. In this case are scholarly works about American comics, written by European scholars. We look forward to a future when we can show the converse, a case of works about European comics, written by American scholars. To that eventuality, this exhibit and this collection are dedicated.
Beaty, Bart. "L'Autoroute du Soleil: European Manga" p. 22-27 in The Comics Journal, no. 197 (July 1997) (Call no.: PN6700.C62no.197)
Couperie, Pierre, et al. A History of the Comic Strip. New York : Crown Publishers, 1968. 256 p. (Call no.: NC1355.B28513)
Gifford, Denis. Stap Me! The British Newspaper Strip. Tring : Shire Publications, 1971. 96 p. (Call no.: PN6735.G5S75 1971)
Gifford, Denis. Victorian Comics. London : Allen & Unwin, 1976. 144 p. (Call no.: PN6736.G53)
Kunzle, David. The History of the Comic Strip, v. 2: The Nineteenth Century. Berkeley : University of California Press, 1990. 391 p. (Call no.: PN6710 f.K85 v.2)
Lent, John. Comic Art of Europe : an international, comprehensive bibliography. Westport, Conn. : Greenwood Press, 1994. 663 p. (Call no.: Z5956.C3L46 1994)
Madsen, Frank, et al. Danish Comics Today. København : Dankse Tegneserieskabare, 1997. 170 p. (Call no.: PN6790.D3D3 1997)
Spiegelman, Art. "Commix: An Idiosyncratic Historical and Aesthetic Overview" in Print, v. 42, no. 6, Nov./Dec. 1988, pp. 61-73, 95-196. (Call no.: PN6710.P7 1988)
Webster, Richard M. European Newspaper Comic Strips : a survey of 79 strips collected from various European papers dated August 16 to September 10, 1968. Collection assembled March 1998. 44 leaves. (Call no.: folio PN6720.E8 1998)
Link to: Michigan State University
Link to: Special Collections Division
Link to: Comic Art Collection Home Page
The European Comics Collection Introductory Exhibit. Web Version
Last updated: September 8, 2008