A collection of 11,000 comic books and albums was purchased in 1995 from Horst Schröder of Stockholm, Sweden. With this addition the Michigan State University Libraries have established the most nearly comprehensive collection of European comics in any Western Hemisphere library. What was once a sideline, a few samples kept for comparison with the 80,000 U.S. comic books, has become a research collection in its own right.
The European collection was originally assembled by Dr. Schröder, who is a publisher and student of the medium, to support his work in translating and presenting the world comics scene to Swedish readers. Schröder was particularly careful to make the collection scholar-oriented, and is delighted that a university library is ending up with his comics. Included in his shipment is everything that is usually considered serious in European comics from 1970 to 1990, with retrospective volumes that cover earlier artists and writers.
The new collection shows the development and continuity as well as the enormous variety of European comics. Notable to American eyes is the high-quality glossy paper typical of the European comic albums, and especially the standard hardcover format. It takes a bit longer to notice that, in all of the 11,000 volumes, there are almost no superheroes. In Europe, superheroes are not considered very interesting, and comics tend to be done in the genres that interest the public in other media: mysteries, science fiction, thrillers, erotic stories and historical romances. European comics for children do include funny animals, especially Disney's licensed characters, and reprints of American superheroes. Except for a good representation of the German and Italian Disney comic books, however, the new collection does not focus on children's comics.
Cataloging of the collection required three years of original work, since much of the material is unique to American libraries. The bulk of the collection has been added to the online catalog as of the beginning of 1998, and indexing is in progress. An exhibit in the Reading Room, shown mid-February to mid-May 1998, celebrated the completion of the cataloging. The notes from that exhibit are still available here:
The Latino comic art collection primarily consists of comic books, graphic novels, and fotonovelas created in published in Mexico, Brazil, and Argentina, as well as Colombia, Chile, Cuba, Panama, Paraguay and Uruguay. There are currently about 50 feet of shelving holding over 300 titles. Many of these books were published in the last fifteen years, but some originated in the early 1950's as translations from U.S. action/adventure and superhero comics. The majority, however, are native titles. The largest groups represented are (1) fotonovelas, (2) Mexican comics, (3) Brazilian comics, and (4) Argentine comics.
Fotonovelas (literally, photo stories) are an immensely popular genre in Latin America. They are a series of photographs that tell a story with the dialogue printed in bubble captions similar to comics. They are almost always adult romance stories. There are 25 titles currently represented in the collection.
The Mexican comics section is the largest group in the Latin American comic art collection. There is a sizable selection of Los Supermachos and Los Agachados by Mexican political satirist Rius. There is also a large collection of La Familia Burrón by Gabriel Vargas, and Aventuras de Capulina. There are many adult romance comics, as well as children's humor, action/adventure, and superhero comics.
Most of the Brazilian comics in the collection are children's humor series. A large number of these are translated Disney titles and other U.S. comics, such as Superman, Casper the Friendly Ghost, Richie Rich, and The Flintstones. Several other titles are based on popular local TV personalities, such as XuXa.
The Argentine section is primarily comprised of graphic novels. The artwork is stylized compared to the other sections and the subject matter is mostly adult. There is also Mafalda, a humorous political comic strip created by Quino.
Michigan State University Libraries
International Comics Collection