Tom Inge – Obituaries, Tributes, and a Cartoon

A number of memorials to the memory of Tom Inge have appeared. A few of them have listed May 15th as the date of Tom’s death so, though we haven’t seen the family obituary, we have added that date to our own obituary

From the Popular Culture Association (you may have to scroll down to find it):

Pioneering popular-culture scholar Milton Thomas Inge died May 15, 2021, in Richmond, Virginia, after suffering a fall at home. He was born March 18, 1936, in Newport News, Virginia. He received his B.A. in English and Spanish from Randolph-Macon College, in Ashland, Virginia, in 1959. He received M.A. and Ph.D. degrees from Vanderbilt University in 1960 and 1964.

Most of their obituary is a listing of Tom voluminous contributions to research.

Tom’s many books include Donald Davidson: An Essay and a Bibliography (coauthor Thomas Daniel Young, Vanderbilt University Press, 1965); George Washington Harris’s High Times and Hard Times: Sketches and Tales (edited, Vanderbilt University Press, 1967); Agrarianism in American Literature (edited, Odyssey Press, 1969); Donald Davidson (coauthor Thomas Daniel Young, Twayne Publishers, 1971); the landmark three-volume Handbook of American Popular Culture (edited, Greenwood Press, 1978-1981; 2nd ed., 1989); Concise Histories of American Popular Culture (edited, Greenwood Press, 1982); Handbook of American Popular Literature (edited, Greenwood Press, 1988); Comics as Culture (University Press of Mississippi, 1990); Faulkner, Sut, and Other Southerners: Essays in Literary History (Locust Hill Press, 1992); Perspectives on American Culture: Essays on Humor, Literature, and the Popular Arts (Locust Hill Press, 1994); Anything Can Happen in a Comic Strip (Ohio State University Libraries, University Press of Mississippi, and Randolph-Macon College, 1995); Charles M. Schulz: Conversations (edited, University Press of Mississippi, 2000); The Humor of the Old South (coedited with Edward J. Piacentino, University Press of Kentucky, 2001); The Greenwood Guide to American Popular Culture (coedited with Dennis Hall, Greenwood Press, 2002); William Faulkner (Overlook Duckworth, 2006); Literature (editor, University of North Carolina Press, 2008, volume 9 in The New Encyclopedia of Southern Culture); Charles M. Schulz’s My Life with Charlie Brown (edited, University Press of Mississippi, 2010); and Will Eisner: Conversations (edited, University Press of Mississippi, 2011).

Tom published dozens of scholarly articles and book chapters.  Among the journals in which he published are American Literature, American Studies International, the International Journal of Comic Art, the Journal of American Culture, the Journal of Ethnic Studies, the Journal of Popular Culture, the Journal of Popular Film and Television, the Journal of the Fantastic in the Arts, PMLA, the South Atlantic Review, Studies in American Culture, and Studies in Popular Culture.  In addition, Tom published articles in Studies in American Humor and edited that journal for four years.  He founded the journal Resources for American Literary Study in 1971 and the book series “Studies in Popular Culture,” “Great Comic Artists,” and “Conversations with Comic Artists” for the University Press of Mississippi.  He edited the book series “American Critical Archives” for Cambridge University Press.  He was a founder of the American Humor Studies Association and the Southern Studies Forum of the European Association for American Studies.



On the sad news of Tom’s passing The International Journal of Comic Art called for memories and tributes. Colleagues and friends responded.

Excerpts from Part one:

In working on so many books together, Tom graciously made me feel like I was benefiting him. When of course, it was actually the other way around.
This gift was one of his several qualities.
Vijay Shah

He helped us understand how the work we dreamed of doing might fit into the critical conversation as well as the economy of academic publishers. He never once urged us to read his own work to try to build our arguments: he was delighted to see the new directions of the field, even when they were not the directions he himself wanted to take.
To me, he was a model mentor and set a standard I will always be pursuing.
Joe Sutliff Sanders

Tom was one of the best and most productive members of the first group of academics to study comics. He was an immense help to my second career, and to many others, and the field is much richer for his time spent cultivating it. He’ll be missed by many.
Mike Rhode


Part Two by Joseph Witek (excerpt):

I soon met Tom in person at a meeting of the American Studies Association in 1990, and his genial figure, always impeccably dressed and coiffed, was a fixture at comics conferences and popular culture professional meetings all over North America. For decades previously Tom had carried the flag of academic comics studies nearly alone, and he welcomed newcomers to comics studies with open arms; his delight at watching the growth of the field over the decades was palpable.

Part Three by José Alaniz (excerpt):

Though I would describe our relationship as mostly collegial, Tom Inge never failed to greet me with a warm smile and handshake at the various conferences where we crossed paths. Everything people are saying about him in their various tributes – his tireless devotion to the fields he helped inaugurate, his unflagging support of younger scholars – holds 100% true for my own interactions with him.. 

Of the various objects in my shambles of a campus office, the one I’m most proud of is a plaque that says I won the 2005 Inge Award for Comics Scholarship, given annually to a paper presented in the Comic Art and Comics Area of the Popular Culture Association.

Part Four by Marc Singer (excerpt):

It’s rare that a single scholar can be said to shape an entire field, but I can think of no other way to describe the profound impact that Tom Inge had on comics studies. Indeed, “impact” seems grossly inadequate to describe the scope of his contributions, in that it implies there was a field to be impacted before he came along.

Part Five by Charles Hatfield (excerpt):

Tom Inge: a tireless scholar, a happy, productive, infinitely generous man, a true gentleman. Where would I, we, have been without him? There are debts we can never repay.


Charles Hatfield wrote a fuller appreciation and biography for The Comics Journal.

Early on, Inge (born in Newport News, Virginia, on March 18, 1936) nursed dreams of becoming a cartoonist. He loved comics as a child and credited them with teaching him how to read. In 1947, at age 11, he encountered Coulton Waugh’s book The Comics, which he recalled as ushering him into the comics world (he would supervise a reissue of Waugh’s book in 1991). As a teen, he became an EC Fan-Addict and contributed to Bhob Stewart’s EC Fan Bulletin; as “Tommy Inge,” he had a letter published in EC’s Shock SuspenStories in 1954. This foreshadowed his later work in fanzines and prozines: The Menomonee Falls Gazette, Comics Buyer’s Guide, and many others. Inge was always in touch with the world of comics collectors; starting in 1975, he contributed an annually updated “Chronology” to The Overstreet Comic Book Price Guide. However, at Randolph-Macon College in Ashland, Virginia, in the mid-1950s, he chose to study English and Spanish. He would sometimes refer to himself, years later, as a “failed” cartoonist. After earning his bachelor’s in 1959, he went on to Vanderbilt University (where another pioneering comics scholar, Don Ault, would one day teach) and earned his master’s in 1960, then his Ph.D. in 1964.


Also at The Comics Journal is R. C. Harvey’s obituary.

Inge, who was the Robert Emory Blackwell Professor of English and the Humanities at Randolph-Macon College, was among the first academics to teach about comics and was one of the earliest scholars to write about comic strips, graphic novels and comic books.

He was the author of more than 50 books, including the three-volume Handbook of American Popular Culture — cited by the American Library Association as an outstanding reference work in 1979 — and Comics as Culture, a groundbreaking 1990 exploration of the history and development of American comic art.

He maintained a steady influence on the field by serving as general editor of the Great Comic Artists and Conversations with Comic Artists series published by the University Press of Mississippi.


Teresa Burritt writes to say that Tom did get to be a cartoonist.

Some years ago Tom was part of a group of about a dozen cartoonists that included Charles Barsotti, Glenn McCoy, Hilary Price, and other pros that contributed to Teresa’s and David Stanford’s Shoecabbage.

Teresa adds,
“Tom was hesitant at first, because he felt he was stepping outside of his comfort zone, but after he did it, he said the experience was amazing. He enjoyed being a ‘cartoonist’– if only for a day.”