Dick Tracy


Perkins library has an exhibit of comic books on display in their under-construction lobby. I went over to see it on Friday. It was cool. I’m a geek.

Actually this was a great exhibit of early comics, there were some really classic issues represented. The first ever Superman issue (sadly, not represented online), some astoundingly jingoistic WWII issues, an early Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers, an issue that was debated in the 1954 hearings of the Senate Subcommittee to Investigate Juvenile Delinquency. And Watchmen, for my money the first and still one of the few graphic novels worthy of the name. They did a very nice job of showing comic books as holding a mirror up to the society of the day.

Because I just can’t resist turning this into a teachable moment, let me slip into professor mode for a moment: here we have the unusual situation where you can actually see both the physical originals and the digital representations. (Simultaneously even, were you so inclined.) This really highlights the issues involved in digital representations of print materials and of museum exhibits.

BTW, the text online is the text of the captions in the exhibit. And the comics are from both Duke’s and UNC’s collections.

There’s also an exhibit of early comic strips from 1898-1916 on display in Perkins. I’ve always thought early political cartoons are cool because they’re so text-heavy. But this exhibit was of popular, not political cartoons, and they were mostly more graphics- than text-heavy. Actually many of these strips were surprisingly modern-looking: this one in particular reminded me of Frank Miller’s Dark Knight work Stray Toasters by Bill Sienkiewicz.

On the text-heavy side, this comic strip had an interesting feature, which you totally can’t see in the digital version: the weightlifter guy in the upper right, the caption under him says “By Pommerhans,” which is a spelling I’d never seen before.