The Comic Art Collection is a research collection with a national and international patronage of scholars and publishers. The materials have proved to have incidental value to MSU curricula primarily in undergraduate studies in advertising, communication, animation, art, and English. The collection and its continuance are based on the premise that comics are an important but inadequately researched twentieth-century entertainment and communications medium.
The Comic Art Collection was begun in 1970, by Professor Russel Nye, as part of the collection now called the Russel B. Nye Popular Culture Collection. The comics are currently the largest and fastest-growing special collection at the MSU Libraries. There are currently over 100,000 cataloged items in the collection.
The four main strengths of the collection are: U.S. comic books; European comic books; U.S. newspaper strips; and history and criticism of comics. Less extensive, or sample, collections are also maintained in the following areas: African, Asian and Latin American comics; fotonovelas; animation; cartooning; Big Little Books; comics tie-ins; other works by comic personnel; and newspaper clippings. One publisher archive, the "Eclipse Deadfiles," is maintained.
It is likely that the need for this collection will increase steadily as remote users, who already need the materials, discover that it exists. It is equally likely that local users, both students and faculty, will continue to discover or be shown potential uses for the collection. Publishing of comics and works about comics has accelerated since 1970.
Only the Library of Congress, with a reported 100,000 comic books, has a similar, publicly available collection. In our neighboring states, a major collection at Bowling Green State University numbers about 35,000 comic books, and significant, but much smaller, collections exist at Ohio State University, Indiana University, Kent State University, Northwestern University, University of Chicago, and the State Historical Society of Wisconsin.
Newspaper comics began with the "Yellow Kid" in 1895; comic books began with Famous Funnies no.l in 1934. These are the beginning points of our collection. We do not actively collect a pre-history of comics, and thus we exclude, for examples, early works on caricature, illustration, or woodcut storytelling. The emphasis is on graphic storytelling directly in the newspaper comics or newsstand comic book tradition, excluding even contemporary humorous or editorial cartooning unless done by an artist who also has a career on the comics page.
The four major and nine minor collecting areas are approached at varying intensities.