Comics: A selection from the Fine Arts Library

Comics were once considered culturally inferior; libraries refused to collect them, fearing they would distract patrons from “good quality” literature. There was also a fear that comics could influence the youth with their graphic depictions of sex and violence. Frederic Wertham’s Seduction of the Innocent (1954) condemned comics as corruptive, and the Comics Code Authority, which set official guidelines that required comics to abide by inoffensive and socially normative conventions, was established the same year by the Comics Magazine Association of America. Today, comics are celebrated as literature worthy of academic study. Interest in comics is rising in fields such as history, sociology, political science, and English, among others. The fact that comics intersect so many genres and subjects have helped justify its place in academia. Libraries now account for tens of millions of dollars worth of comic purchases annually.

Their presence in art libraries is especially significant. Art historians and studio artists are recognizing the value in studying comics, for both their literary and visual content. Comics continue to intersect the “fine arts,” blurring the traditional hierarchies of high and low art. Moreover, comic aesthetics have appeared beyond books, manifesting in film, painting, sculpture, textiles, ceramics, and more. The Fine Arts Library is currently exhibiting “Comics at the Fine Arts Library,” organized by the Society of Art Librarianship Students, to showcase the range of material available to the community. Stop by the display cases outside to take a peek at a sampling of our holdings – there are even more in our stacks and special collections!

-Andrew Wang

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