Treasures of Comic Art – CBS Sunday Morning on the Bill Blackbeard Collection

Curator Caitlin McGurk and correspondent Luke Burbank observe the exhibit “Man Saves Comics!” at the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum in Columbus, Ohio. CBS News

One person’s trash is another person’s treasure. And for the late Bill Blackbeard, the treasure that he’d stored from floor to ceiling in his San Francisco home was maybe the largest, most comprehensive private collection of American newspaper comics ever assembled.

“He was single-minded,” said Caitlin McGurk, curator of comics and cartoon art at the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum at Ohio State University. “He felt a calling to preserve this type of material that no one else really cared about. I mean, comic art is kind of an underdog of the art world.”

The library is currently displaying just a sample of the trove of cartoons (some 2.5 million pieces in all, dating as far back to 1893) that Blackbeard amassed over 30 years of collecting. The exhibit is called “Man Saves Comics.” 

If you missed the CBS Sunday Morning segment on Bill Blackbeard collection and the efforts to preserve it at The Billy Ireland CBS has the video and an illustrated transcript posted now. With a special appearance by Jenny Robb!

Hugo Hercules” (1902), written and drawn by Wilhelm Heinrich Detlev Körner, is considered the comics’ first superhero, predating Superman by more than three decades. San Francisco Academy of Comic Art

There were, of course, libraries that were converting their collections of old newspapers onto microfilm, but microfilm is black-and-white, and that meant the rich colors of the Sunday comics would be lost to history.

And microfilm was fragile: “It gets covered in scratches, and just after a few uses by patrons can be rendered unusable,” said McGurk.

Which is where Blackbeard stepped in…

Bill Blackbeard – San Francisco Academy of Comic Art

2 thoughts on “Treasures of Comic Art – CBS Sunday Morning on the Bill Blackbeard Collection

  1. My jaw dropped when I saw this and told my wife next time we go to Cleveland to the RARHOF, we are going to make a pilgrimage to the museum. I warned her I’ll be there for the whole day, there’s too much to see; and that’s a good thing.

  2. The Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum is on the Ohio State University campus in Columbus, Ohio (right off of High Street, a short walk from the Student Union parking garage). I thought the CBS Sunday Morning piece was great. But I don’t think they mentioned how much original art is on display (and in the archives) at the Billy Ireland. If you’re a fan of Calvin & Hobbes, they’ve got just about every strip Bill Watterson ever drew! Lots of Walt Kelly, Hal Foster & other delights, too! Definitely worth a visit.

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