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Arts & Culture

Get a glimpse inside our cartoon museum

The Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum holds the world’s largest collection of cartoons, graphic novels and comic book-related materials. For example…

In a detail from a comic book cover: A hand-drawn Captain America, wearing a red, white and blue suit that covers the top half of his face to hide his identity, holds up his shield to block an attack that makes short rays blast in all directions.

“Captain America” by Jack Kirby, 1941

Regarded by many as the greatest superhero artist of all time, Kirby co-created classics such as Captain America, Thor, Iron Man, The Fantastic Four, X-Men and more.

In a simple inked sketch with no colors added yet, a boy going downhill on his sled turns back to speak with his passenger, a striped tiger twice his size who is wearing a winter scarf. A few trees are nearer to the edges of the frame and a speech bubble shows the boy saying: If you ask me, Hobbes, the whole notion of “instant gratification” is a myth!

“Calvin & Hobbes” by Bill Watterson, 1992

Watterson chose the Billy Ireland museum to house more than 3,000 of the original drawings for his beloved comic strip about a 6-year-old and his imagination-powered stuffed tiger.

In its home in Sullivant Hall, the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum offers not just cool things to see, but the rare opportunity to touch and hold its 3 million items, including the original art, inside its reading room.

That includes rare Disney art and comic books, original artwork from Charles Schulz’s “Peanuts,” newspaper comic strips that are the only known copies in existence, as well as…

To view the next examples, scroll sideways.

A black and white drawing shows a young girl wearing sunglasses, a beret, a flower shirt and shorts. She has a slight smile and is standing on her toes, slightly leaning forward, with his hands clasped behind his back.
In a line drawing with some colors, a line of three white men, the third of whom has his elbow linked with a woman, gets shoes shined by three Japanese men who appear significantly smaller. In the background are a plane and what is likely a military base. The three men are probably troops. The main character, Atom Boy, is the closest of the shoe shiners, and he seems to be working hard.
A small white creature, with a big nose, no hair, two arms and two legs, and tall solid ovals for eyes, cups its hands alongside its mouth as it yells. It’s waring a backpack.

“Wee Pals” by Morrie Turner, 1974 (left)

Turner was the first Black comic strip artist whose work was syndicated in big newspapers, and “Wee Pals” was the first syndicated multi-ethnic cartoon, too.

“Atom Boy” by Osamu Tezuka, 1945 (center)

This unfinished drawing by a manga master — think the Japanese version of Stan Lee — is one of 20,000-plus materials in the collection of Japanese comics.

“Bone” by Jeff Smith, circa 2005 (right)

Smith kicked off this classic series of originally self-published comic books in 1991, after he spent his college years drawing a comic called “Thorn” for The Lantern.

To view the next examples, keep scrolling down until “American Splendor” moves, then scroll sideways.

In part of a comic book cover, three men sit on the stoop of a store. A sign says, “Eat Tommy’s vegetarian foods.” A bearded man says, “An’ then this Serbian Nationalist, Gevrilo Princip… Say, am I boring you guys?” A man with black hair and a frown-shaped mustache seems to look at the viewer, and the third man, wearing an undershirt that shows his hairy arms and chest, says, “No, Sid, yer fascinating us.”

“American Splendor” no. 1, by Harvey Pekar, 1976

The Cleveland native wrote a well-known independent comic book series, drawn by a variety of artists, including Gary Dumm and Greg Budgett.

Part of a newspaper page shows a child, a bald man in a jester outfit, a lady wearing a ball gown and a giant man in another jester-like outfit. The adults are bowing. The regular-sized man says, “Queen Crystalette, this is Little Nemo who wants to go to Slumberland.” The giant man says, “Do not bend too far, My Queen, or you will break. Be careful. Let us now be on our way.”
A blond man and black-haired woman embrace as they kiss. The colors are bold and the blacks are very black in this drawing, though both people wear white. The wrinkles and folds of their clothing are detailed.
A woman wearing a wide brimmed hat, roses in her hair and a low-cut Spanish-flavored dress smiles at the viewer as if flirting. Her hat says Carmen Ohio. She holds a large fan and wears a golden necklace with 8 dangling footballs. Text next to her says: She would look well in a new championship necklace. Each game a pearl — each pearl a prayer.

“Little Nemo in Slumberland” by Winsor McCay, 1905 (left)

This early 20th century series, which ran as a full newspaper page once per week, often is regarded as one of the most beautiful ever created.

“Terry and the Pirates” by Milton Caniff ’30, ’74 HON, 1946 (center)

A renowned cartoonist and newspaper strip creator, Caniff donated a big collection of his work that led to the Billy Ireland museum’s founding in 1977.

“The Passing Show” by Billy Ireland, 1923 (right)

This lifelong Columbus Dispatch cartoonist and Caniff’s mentor, whom the museum is named for, drew a full-color, full-page Sunday series rich with Ohio State references.

A detail from a black and white comic book cover shows Wonder Woman — who has curled hair, tiara, skimpy outfit and full makeup — in handcuffs saying: Oh grow up…both of you!

“The Legend of Wonder Woman” no. 4, by Trina Robbins, 1986

Robbins, an early icon in underground comics and the first woman to draw Wonder Woman, illustrated this four-issue special series.

See the collection

Visit The Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum website to learn how to drop in — the museum is free and open to the public Tuesday through Sunday — or search the online archive.

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