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Early Comics: Resources in Special Collections: Home


Special Collections has many good examples of pre-20th century and early 20th century comics and cartoons. Most are from Europe, the UK, and the United States. One notable exception is O Tico Tico, a Brazilian children's magazine, for which we have nearly all of the first 325 issues (1905-1911).

Resource Guide Editor

Ruth Ann Jones

Instruction/Outreach Librarian

Stephen O. Murray and Keelung Hong Special Collections

Michigan State University Libraries


Find Comic Books by Date

Go to the Library Catalog Advanced Search (#1 in image)

  • Enter the phrase "comic books" in first search box (#2)
  • In the drop-down menu at right, change AND to AND NOT (#3)
  • Enter the acronym PCVF in the second search box (#4)
  • Limit your search results to Special Collections (#5)
  • Limit to your desired dates (#6) - in this example, results are limited to before 1900

What do all these details mean?

  • #2 - The phrase "comic books" is part of the subject heading "Comic books, strips, etc." You can look for this phrase in a keyword search as well as in a subject search.
  • #3 - The operator AND NOT will exclude records containing the term in the second search box.
  • #4 - Excluding the acronym PCVF from your search will filter out materials in the Popular Culture Vertical File which generally have the date "1900-?"
  • #6 - When searching by date you may use a starting date by itself, an ending date by itself, or both.

Notable artists and series

The search links given here will include reprints. To see the earliest editions in our collection, sort your results by date.

Bécassine (French; published continuously 1905-1939 with later revivals) - The most important early female protagonist in French comics. Several authors and artists have been involved during Bécassine's publication history. Find in Special Collections.

Clare A. Briggs (American, 1875-1930) - Known for his Ain't It a Grand and Glorious Feeling?, Mr. and Mrs., and others. Find in Special Collections.

Wilhelm Busch (German, 1832-1908) - Creator of Max and Moritz, inspiration for The Katzenjammer Kids. Find in Special Collections.

Grace G. Drayton (American, 1878-1936) - One of the earliest female comic artists, creator of Dolly Dingle and the Campbell Soup Kids, among other charaters. Find in Special Collections.

Imagerie d'Épinal, also known as Imagerie Pellerin - French publishing house, established 1796, which originated the practice of printing cartoons on a single, large sheet of newsprint. This style is now called an "épinal". Find in Special Collections.

George McManus (American, 1884-1954) - Creator of the long-running comic strip Bringing Up Father. Find in Special Collections.

R.F. (Richard Felton) Outcault (American, 1863-1928) - Creator of The Yellow Kid and Buster Brown. Find in Special Collections.

Emmanuel Poiré, pseudonym "Caran d'Ache" (French, 1858-1909) - Political cartoonist whose pseudonym was adopted by a Swiss manufacturer of art supplies. Find in Special Collections.

Carl E. Schultze, pseudonym "Bunny" (1866-1939, American) - Creator of Foxy Grandpa. Find in Special Collections.

E.C. (Elzie Crisler) Segar (American, 1894-1938) - Creator of Popeye and several volumes of Charlie Chaplin comics. Find in Special Collections.

Rodolphe Töpffer (Swiss, 1799-1845) - Considered by many scholars to be the first comic artist. Find in Special Collections.

Mary Tourtel (British, 1874-1948) - Creator of the comic strip Rupert Bear. Find in Special Collections.

Early Comics

A boy stands on a doorstep, looking frightened, as a man points toward the street. Caption: Little Joseph, having become an orphan, was chased from his paternal home by unmerciful creditors."Drawing of a barmaid filling a glass of beer with a beleaguered expression, while a man smoking a cigar leers at her. Caption:"Any time of the day: The Young Man of enlightening conversation."Drawing of two men in top hats, carrying truncheons. Caption: "Two special constables."Drawing of a man on a throne, with legs outstretched in surprise, and a crown being jammed onto his head. Caption: "Coronation of Ethelred the Unready."A dark-skinned man in a turban, blue jacket, and red sirwal (baggy trousers, a garment worn in some Mediterranean and North African cultures) is shown running. Caption: "The Algerians follow the Doctor."Cover of "The Yellow Kid in McFadden's Flats," showing the Kid wearing a yellow dunce cap and his usual oversized yellow nightshirt. On the front of the nightshirt is the caption "Dis book is de story of me sweet young life."The cover of "Becassine Mobilisee" shows Becassine working as a fare-taker on a Paris streetcar.