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4:17 pm
Mon December 9, 2013

Supersized Cartoon Library Welcomes 'All Geeks And Dorks'

Originally published on Tue December 10, 2013 9:45 am

Comic book lovers have a new paradise. It's not the Batcave or the Fortress of Solitude; it's a new cartoon library and museum, tucked into a nondescript building on the Ohio State University campus.

Jenny Robb loves comics and cartoons; it's in her job description. She's the curator of the new Billy Ireland Cartoon Library and Museum, named after the famed Columbus Dispatch cartoonist. With millions of pages of material in this free collection, Robb is in charge of geek heaven.

"I do think I have a pretty cool job, and we welcome all geeks and dorks," she says, laughing. "They're sort of taking over the world. I mean the movies, film, literature. ... A lot of people are looking to the geeks and the dorks for guidance. So they're welcome here."

The library has row after row of Japanimation, political cartoons and every other possible type of illustration.

Comics and cartoons "reflect our society; they reflect our culture," Robb says. "It's a very powerful way to tell a story."

Although a few other colleges have similar libraries, Robb says this one is by far the largest. Visitors can find the most iconic issues of Superman and Spider-Man comics, and even the more obscure books.

Billy Mount came looking for Batman comics from the 1980s, before the iconic Frank Miller stories, and he was surprised to hear about the library's extensive Calvin and Hobbes collection.

"I actually named my cat after Hobbes growing up. That's awesome," Mount says.

The library also represents an emerging branch of academia. Christina Meyer, a researcher from Germany, traveled to study original copies of The Yellow Kid, a popular 19th century comic strip.

"I had already black-and-white copies from microfilm, but now I could actually finally see them in color, which is so great and amazing and overwhelming," Meyer says.

The archives also house thousands of original sketches by Jim Borgman, the Pulitzer Prize-winning editorial cartoonist who later started the comic strip Zits. He attended the museum's grand opening last month.

"It just kind of brought tears to my eyes to think of what that would have meant to me as a young person beginning to sense a passion for expressing myself this way, to be standing in the middle of these great artists," Borgman says.

The library has also been a hit in the local comics scene. Jeff Stang, who manages the Laughing Ogre comic book store a few miles away, was also at the library's grand opening and says it's been the talk among customers.

"It was packed to the gills. It was incredible, and everyone there was just really excited," Stang says. "All the hard work that everyone's put in — it's really finally starting to pay off. And then there's a lot of people coming up [to the store] from there. ... It's nice to see people really getting excited about comics again."

Copyright 2013 WOSU Public Media. To see more, visit http://wosu.org.

Transcript

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Audie Cornish.

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

And I'm Melissa Block.

Comic book lovers have a new paradise. It's not the Batcave or Krypton. It's a new cartoon library and museum tucked into a nondescript building on the campus of Ohio State University. From member station WOSU, Steve Brown reports.

STEVE BROWN, BYLINE: Jenny Robb loves comics and cartoons. She really loves them.

JENNY ROBB: They reflect our society. They reflect our culture. It's a very powerful way to tell a story.

BROWN: Robb is the curator at the new Billy Ireland Cartoon Library and Museum, named after the famed Columbus Dispatch cartoonist. It houses millions of pages of material.

ROBB: We have shelving for our books and magazines and journals. We have shelving for our larger materials that are in portfolio boxes. We have special shelving for our...

BROWN: Row after row after row full of Japanimation, political cartoons, and every other possible type of illustration. While there are similar libraries at a few other colleges, Robb says this one is by far the largest. Visitors here can find the most iconic issues of Superman and Spider-Man, and even the more obscure stuff. Billy Mount came here looking for old Batman comics.

BILLY MOUNT: Yeah, the '80s, '80s Batman. Dark, just before the Frank Miller turn.

BROWN: And he was surprised to hear about the library's extensive "Calvin and Hobbes" collection.

MOUNT: What? I actually named my cat after Hobbes, growing up.

BROWN: You named your cat Hobbes?

MOUNT: Yeah.

BROWN: The library is a comic lover's dream, but it also represents an emerging branch of academia. Christina Meyer is a researcher from Germany who came here to study original copies of "The Yellow Kid," a popular 19th century comic strip.

CHRISTINA MEYER: I had already black and white copies from microfilm, but now I could actually finally see them in color, which is so great and amazing and overwhelming.

BROWN: Also in the archives are thousands of original sketches by Jim Borgman, the Pulitzer Prize-winning editorial cartoonist who later started the comic strip "Zits." He attended the museum's grand opening last month.

JIM BORGMAN: And it just kind of brought tears to my eyes to think of what that would have meant to me as a young person beginning to sense a passion for expressing myself this way, to be standing in the middle of these great artists.

(SOUNDBITE OF CASH REGISTER)

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: All right. Total comes to 16.04.

BROWN: The library has also been a hit in the local comic scene. Jeff Stang manages the Laughing Ogre comic book store a few miles away. He was also at the library's grand opening and says it's been the talk among customers.

JEFF STANG: It was - I mean, it was packed. It was packed to the gills. It was incredible. And everyone there was just really excited. Like, all the hard work that everyone's put in, it's really finally starting to pay off. And then there was a lot of people coming up from there - like, you know, I mean, it's nice to see people really getting excited about comics again.

BROWN: Back at the library and museum, curator Jenny Robb is optimistic that people will stay excited about comics and cartoons.

ROBB: I do think I have a pretty cool job, and we welcome all geeks and dorks.

(LAUGHTER)

ROBB: You know, they're sort of taking over the world. I mean, the movies, film, literature, a lot of people are looking to the geeks and the dorks for guidance. So they're welcome here.

BROWN: Admission is free, and the library is open to anyone who wants to celebrate the role comics and cartoons play in American life. For NPR News, I'm Steve Brown in Columbus. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.