For comics lovers young and old, Ohio State mu­seum will be a draw

The Washington Times Daily - - Television - BY MITCH STACY

COLUM­BUS, OHIO | There is a place where Snoopy frol­ics care­free with the scan­dalous Yel­low Kid, where Pogo the pos­sum phi­los­o­phizes along­side Calvin and Hobbes. It’s a place where Bee­tle Bai­ley loafs with Garfield the cat, while Krazy Kat takes an­other brick to the nog­gin, and brood­ing heroes bat­tle dark forces on the pages of fat graphic nov­els.

That doesn’t even be­gin to de­scribe ev­ery­thing that’s go­ing on be­hind the walls of the new Billy Ire­land Car­toon Li­brary and Mu­seum on the Ohio State Univer­sity cam­pus, open­ing to the pub­lic Satur­day.

“This is the stuff that makes me drool,” says Jim Borgman, the Pulitzer Prize-win­ning editorial car­toon­ist who now draws the “Zits” news­pa­per comic strip. “I en­joy art of all kinds, but it’s as if car­toons were seg­re­gated for many years and not al­lowed into such hal­lowed halls. And this is kind of a mo­ment of set­ting things right, I think, giv­ing car­toon­ing its due when it has been in the wings all these years.”

Jeremy, the kid from “Zits”? He’s in there, too, since Mr. Borgman, a Cincin­nati na­tive, do­nated most of his art and pa­pers to the mu­seum.

The whole thing started with Mil­ton Can­iff, the in­flu­en­tial comic artist whose beloved “Terry and the Pi­rates” and “Steve Canyon” ad­ven­ture strips

lived in the na­tion’s funny pa­pers for a half-cen­tury.

Can­iff grad­u­ated from Ohio State and loved the place so much that he wanted his orig­i­nal art and other pa­pers to be kept here for­ever. He handed it all over to the univer­sity in 1977. Along with li­brary cu­ra­tor Lucy Shel­ton, he then be­gan urg­ing his car­toon­ist friends to do the same. Two class­rooms in the jour­nal­ism build­ing soon be­gan to fill with the new comics ar­chive.

“Prior to that, most uni­ver­si­ties ig­nored that type of pop­u­lar cul­ture,” says cur­rent cu­ra­tor Jenny Robb, not­ing that for many years orig­i­nal comic strips were just thrown out with the trash and an­i­ma­tion cel­lu­loid sheets — known as “cels” — were rou­tinely wiped clean and reused.

Today, the mu­seum col­lec­tion in­cludes more than 300,000 orig­i­nal strips from ev­ery­body who’s any­body in the news­pa­per comics world, plus 45,000 books, 29,000 comic books and 2,400 boxes of man­u­script ma­te­rial, fan mail and other per­sonal pa­pers from artists. The univer­sity says it’s the largest col­lec­tion of car­toon art and ar­ti­facts in the world.

The mu­seum has orig­i­nals from ev­ery­one from Richard Out­cault — whose “Yel­low Kid” in a 19th cen­tury comic strip spawned the term “yel­low jour­nal­ism” — to Charles Schulz (“Peanuts”), clas­sic “Pogo” story lines from Walt Kelly, Garry Trudeau’s “Doonesbury,” Ch­ester Gould’s “Dick Tracy,” early “Blondie” strips from Chic Young and the en­tire col­lec­tion of Jeff Smith, an Ohio State grad­u­ate who cre­ated the hugely pop­u­lar “Bone” se­ries of comic books.

It all has been moved to a new 30,000-square-foot home in a high-pro­file cor­ri­dor of the sprawl­ing Colum­bus cam­pus, into a space re­named for Ire­land, the for­mer editorial car­toon­ist for The Colum­bus Dis­patch who was one of the pi­o­neers of the art form. His fam­ily do­nated a big chunk of money for the project.

The new place has also got what’s been miss­ing at the mu­seum’s two pre­vi­ous cam­pus lo­ca­tions: a large gallery space for per­ma­nent and ro­tat­ing ex­hi­bi­tions of comics and car­toon art that will fi­nally give it the air of a proper mu­seum.

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Jeremy Stone frames a Billy Ire­land comic strip from Dec. 11, 1921, called “The Pass» ing Show” for dis­play at the Billy Ire­land Car­toon Li­brary & Mu­seum at Ohio State.

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