Tag Archives: comics

Wonder Woman’s Wintry Foe: The Blue Snowman

WW_BB_Cover (2)-page-001We write a lot about Wonder Woman. We write about her role(s) in nation making and myth making, her background tinged with exceptionalism and her femininity. We write about her big-screen potential, her small-screen potential, and any other mediums she might translate well to. (A serialized podcast, anyone?) What we don’t write about, or at least what we don’t write about often, are her foes—those vanquished, occasionally obliterated super villains who dared to mess with the princess of the Amazon. They are pushed to the periphery, partly hidden behind Diana Prince’s bright sun. Sometimes, however, a villain grinds his/her way back into the orbit, demanding that we take notice. The Blue Snowman is one of those villains.

First appearing in Sensation Comics #59, the Blue Snowman treads a very literal path: he is blue; he is a snowman, albeit one with very bushy eyebrows; and he puffs away at a pipe while plotting mayhem in Fair Weather Valley. A special “blue snow,” a chemical concoction designed to freeze everything and anything, is his weapon of choice. Money is his passion, and blackmail his way of obtaining it. That is, it would be if Wonder Woman hadn’t received a distress call from a friend in Fair Weather Valley, begging for the “marvelous Amazon resistance (4),” Wonder Woman. A swift kick, a lasso of truth whipped into action, and some near misses later, the Blue Snowman is apprehended and all is well.

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A tried and true story, perhaps a throw-away story, except for one small twist that you had to know was coming: the Blue Snowman is not really a snowman at all. Behind the snowman suit of iron is Byrna Brilyant, the daughter of a scientific genius who intended to use his blue snow invention to somehow save humanity. (The mechanics of using a blue snow-like substance for good are left up to the readers’ imaginations. I imagine non-melting ice cream is somehow involved.) This game-changer occurs in the penultimate panel of the comic, and yet, to Wonder Woman and crew, it is not actually a game changer.  Byrna’s story thus ends not with a bang, not even with a whimper, but with the slightest sound of a pin dropping hundreds of miles away.

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Although the reasoning can be guessed, we never learn why Byrna disguises herself as a man; why she chooses to go into crime instead of following in her father’s footsteps; or even why the Blue Snowman’s eyebrows are so bushy. Perhaps we learn her origin story in later comics, but perhaps we don’t. Like so many other super villains (and heroes, for that matter), it seems she can be found mostly in the white gutters between the comic panels. She is liminal, pushing boundaries and existing between boundaries.

She and her brethren don’t have to, though. Within the Edwin and Terry Murray Comic Book Collection, there are over four hundred boxes of comic books and counting. And within those comic books, there are thousands of characters ripe for synthesis, dissemination, and massive extrapolation. So here’s to those characters, those slightly quirky, serviceable villains who seek the limelight but somehow still fall short.

Post Contributed by Liz Adams, Research Services Library Assistant

‘Tis the Season: Gifts to the Rubenstein Library, Day Four

To celebrate the holiday season this week, we’re highlighting a few of the many wonderful books that the Rubenstein Library has received as gifts over the past year.  We are truly grateful for the generosity of our donors.  A hearty “Happy holidays” and thanks and to all of those who have contributed to making 2013 a wonderful year for the Rubenstein Library!

The Münchener Bilderbogen are a famous series of illustrated broadsides produced in Munich for over fifty years, from 1848 into the first decade of the twentieth century.  Important documents in the development of comic strips and cartooning, and quite influential in Europe’s visual culture in the nineteenth century, the Bilderbogen were created by German artists, illustrators, and writers such as Wilhelm Busch, Lothar Meggendorfer, and Adolf Oberlander.

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“Der Stallmeister und sein Pferd” (“The Stableman and His Horse”), Munchener Bilderbogen no. 1014, ca. 1886.

Seventeen bound volumes of the Bilderbogen were donated this year to the Rubenstein Library by Christine L. Shore in honor of her mother Ottilie Tusler Lowenbach.

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“Vom Osterhasen” (“The Easter Bunny”), Munchener Bilderbogen no. 1015, ca. 1886.

This generous gift complements existing Rubenstein Library holdings related to caricature and cartoons, and our comic book collections.  Our thanks to Christine Shore!

A Cartoon Version of John Hope Franklin

We are wrapping up processing on the John Hope Franklin Papers — more on that soon! — but I couldn’t let this project end without sharing a bit of its lighter side. Newspaper drawings and cartoons of Franklin popped up throughout processing, often having been clipped and sent to Franklin by his friends and admirers. Here is a case where we see Franklin’s reaction to one of his cartoons, shared with him by a friend in Raleigh.

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The sketch in question appears to have been published as part of a syndicated comic strip in newspapers around the country.

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Here is Franklin’s response:

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“It is not the best drawing I have seen of myself, but I don’t complain.” Understatement of the year, maybe? Franklin’s friendly good humor is prevalent throughout his papers, which has made them particularly enjoyable to process over the past year. Stay tuned for more information about the conclusion of the Franklin Papers processing project.

Post contributed by Meghan Lyon, Technical Services Archivist.

New Acquisitions: Tarzan, Batman, and Alien Invaders, En Français

CorreaWarWorlds1In June and July we’re celebrating the beginning of a new fiscal year by highlighting new acquisitions from the past year. All of these amazing resources will be available for today’s scholars, and for future generations of researchers in the Rubenstein Library! Today’s post features new items in the Library’s Negley Collection of Utopian Literature and its comic book collections. Check out additional posts in the series here.

One of the most influential books in science fiction history, H. G. Wells’s The War of the Worlds, was an immediate sensation upon its publication in 1898.  Famously adapted for radio, film, and television, the work received perhaps its most beautiful visual interpretation in the limited edition of Henry Davray’s French translation, La Guerre des Mondes, published in Brussels in 1906 with stunning illustrations by Henrique Alvim Corrêa.

The book features 32 plates as well as over 100 illustrations within the text.  Corrêa, a Brazilian painter and illustrator who lived in Belgium for most of his life, captured the intensity, grand scope, and wonder of Wells’s vision of interplanetary invasion in his atmospheric, energetic compositions.

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tarzan1Another new acquisition demonstrates, in a different format, the burgeoning global appeal of genre fiction adapted to visual form in the twentieth century.  A complete run of 293 issues of Tarzan, a comics series published in Paris between 1946 and 1952, features the adventures of Edgar Rice Burroughs’s famous creation in vivid color.

The first 71 issues also feature a French adaptation of the newspaper comic strip featuring Batman, La Chauve-Souris (The Bat), by the famous French science fiction illustrator, René Brantonne.   These American adaptations ran alongside comics adaptations of French classics such as Les Miserables.

The Rubenstein Library now holds the only known copy of this periodical in the United States, which appears to be very rare in institutional holdings even in France.

A French adventure of Batman and Robin. dressed as Louis XIV and Marie Antoinette.
A French adventure of Batman and Robin. dressed as Louis XIV and Marie Antoinette.

 

New Acquisitions: Advertising Aucas

Auca for a Barcelona bookstore, 1937.
Auca for a Barcelona bookstore, 1937.

In June and July we’re celebrating the beginning of a new fiscal year by highlighting new acquisitions from the past year. All of these amazing resources will be available for today’s scholars, and for future generations of researchers in the Rubenstein Library! Today’s post features a new collection in the Library’s Hartman Center for Sales, Advertising, and Marketing History. Check out additional posts in the series here.

Since being banned as a tool for gambling in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, the auca has become one of the cultural touchstones of the Catalonia region of Spain.  Aucas are a kind of comic strip with a standardized format of panels (often 48, or another multiple of four) accompanied by rhyming verse.  The Hartman Center recently acquired a collection of more than fifty of these original broadsides, all produced and distributed for the purposes of advertising products or communicating a service. Aucas were traditionally used for communication of religious, literary, or civic information, but advertisers saw the value in taking the broadside format and using it for commercial purposes.

Auca for an insecticide containing D.D.T., Tarragona, ca. 1960.
Auca for an insecticide containing D.D.T., Tarragona, ca. 1960.

The numerous examples here of aucas published in Barcelona or nearby cities in the Catalan language during the 1940s and 1950s, run counter to the accepted belief that the Franco regime had completely suppressed the Catalan language. As these aucas show, the language still had a public presence (and perhaps the Regime tolerated its use in this particular fashion because the aucas were intended to generate commerce, which Spain desperately needed).

Star Trek Lives Long and Prospers at the Rubenstein

With the opening of Star Trek Into Darkness this week, it seemed like a good time to check out what our collections have on Star Trek.  As it turns out, Star Trek’s long history before becoming a star-powered summer blockbuster is well represented in our collections.

I found a number of Star Trek comic books in the Edwin and Terry Murray Comic Book Collection which are a lot of fun:

Star Trek Comic May 1973
“The Hijacked Planet” Star Trek #18 (May 1973), Gold Key Comics
"All Those Years Ago" Star Trek Annual v. 1 #1 (1985), DC Comics
“All Those Years Ago” Star Trek Annual v. 1 #1 (1985), DC Comics

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

But my favorite piece comes from the Edwin and Terry Murray Fanzine Collection. Fanzines are nonprofessional publications produced by fans of particular pop culture genres or works.  Most of the fanzines in the Murray collection are from comic book fans, but there are some from the genres of science fiction and fantasy, including issue 3 of Spockanalia. Spockanalia was the first fanzine devoted exclusively to Star Trek. The first issue was published in 1967 during the first season of the original television series. Spocknalia 3 was published in 1968 and features essays on Star Trek, fiction, drawings, and even a letter from Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry. Here are some highlights:

 

Cover of Spockanalia 3
Cover of Spockanalia 3, drawn by Allan Asherman

 

Letter from Gene Roddenberry
Letter from Gene Roddenberry

 

Vulcan Graffiti, by Sherna Comerford
Vulcan Graffiti, by Sherna Burley
Enterprise Graffiti, by Sherna Comerford
Enterprise Graffiti, by Sherna Burley

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Young Vulcan's Handbook of Emotional Control
Young Vulcan’s Handbook of Emotional Control, by Deborah Langsam

Post contributed by Kate Collins, Research Services Librarian