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OSU’s New Library Celebrates Comics and Cartoons

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Comic book lovers have a new paradise. It’s not the Bat Cave or Crypton. It’s a new cartoon library and museum, tucked into a nondescript building on the Ohio State University campus. From Ohio public radio station WOSU, Steve Brown reports.

Monday, December 16, 2013 at 9:22 am

Jenny Robb loves comics and cartoons. It’s in her job description.

“They reflect our society, they reflect our culture. It’s a very powerful way to tell a story," Robb says.

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.

“We have shelving for our books and magazines and journals, we have shelving for our larger materials that are in portfolio boxes," Robb says.

Row after row after row full of Japanese comics, political cartoons, and every other possible type of illustration.

While there are similar libraries at a few other colleges, Robb says OSU’s is by far the largest in the world. Visitors here can find the most iconic issues of Superman and Spiderman, and even the more obscure stuff. Billy Mount came here looking for old Batman comics.

“Yeah, the '80s. '80s Batman. Dark. Just before the Frank Miller turn," Mount says.

And he was surprised to hear about the library’s extensive Calvin and Hobbes collection.

“What? I actually named my cat after Hobbes growing up," he says.

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.

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

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.

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

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

“It was packed to the gills," Stang says. "It was incredible and everyone there was really excited. All the hard work that everyone’s put it – it’s really finally starting to pay off. And there was a lot of people coming up (to the store) from there – it’s nice to see people really getting excited about comics again.”

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

“I do think a have a pretty cool job, and we welcome all geeks and dorks (laughs). You know, they’re sort of taking over the world," Robb says. "I mean movies, film, literature…a lot of people are looking to the geeks and the dorks for guidance. So they’re welcome here.”

Admission is free for those geeks and dorks -- and anyone else wanting to celebrate the role of comics and cartoons in American life.

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