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Comics at NYPL: A Research Guide

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This week the New York Comic Con is in town! From October 13 through 16, the New York Comic Con will be held in the Javits Center in Midtown Manhattan. This annual convention is dedicated to comics, graphic novels, anime, manga, toys, video games, movies, and television!

At NYPL, we also celebrate comics and comic books. From the first issue of Captain America to Archie Comics, NYPL collects comics for leisure reading and for research. We also offer programs on anime shows and workshops on how to draw manga. Comics and comic books are one of the most pervasive and influential media forms of 20th-century popular culture. A survey of current scholarly indexes demonstrates that researchers in the fields of history, sociology, and literature are discovering that studying comic books provides unique and valuable insights on 20th-century culture.

Unfortunately, as with other genres of popular literature, such as science fiction, comic books were often considered unworthy of addition to research library collections. The original NYPL Research Libraries policy was to collect representative samples of comic books and microfilm them. Emphasis was not placed on keeping original material.

This blog post will explore how to research and find historical comics at NYPL. Start by using the Library's online Catalog. Under keyword you can type any of the following: Comic Books, Comic Strips, Graphic Novels, Caricature and Cartoons, Manga, Anime, etc., or if you know exactly what you are looking for, change keyword to title and then type the name of the comic.

The Catalog will generate a list of comics. You can also narrow your search results on the left hand side by Availability, Format, Audience, or Acquired Time. For researching the history of comics, change the Availability to "Stephen A. Schwarzman Building."

We also recommend using the "classic catalog" to refine your search. Under the classic catalog, change the keyword to subject and type "Comic books, strips, etc. -- Periodicals" — the results will bring Marvel, D.C., and other classic comics. For Japanese manga, under subject search, type "Graphic novels -- Japan." You can also type "Graphic novels -- (country of your interest)." Most historical comics are available as microfiche, which can be requested in Room 100, the Microform Reading Room in the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building, while others can be borrowed in the neighborhood libraries. You can also view comic strips from historical newspapers in the Microform Reading Room. Be sure to also consult with the Dorot Jewish Division for Jewish graphic novels and comics.

For books and guides, check out Randall Scott's Comic Books And Strips: An Information Sourcebook, Comics Librarianship: A Handbook, and Ernst Gerber's The Photo Journal Guide To Comic Books (you can also search under the subject headings).

For periodicals, Comics JournalReader's Guide to Periodical Literature (search under "Comics"), and Idea (in Japanese) will provide articles about comic books.

For e-resources, the National Newspapers, Humanities International Complete, Academic Search Premier, and Library Literature online databases will also provide articles about comic books.

The Green LanternThe Green Lantern

Selected Internet Sites Covering Historical Comics:

Classics Central — a web guide to Classics-illustrated comics.

Comic Arts Collection — a website of the Special Collections and Archives of the James Branch Cabell Library.

Comic Book Legal Defense Fund — a "non-profit organization dedicated to the preservation of First Amendment rights for members of the comics community."

Comic Books: Internet Resources — from SUNY Buffalo, an extensive directory of resources arranged by category.

Comics Journal — "The Comics Journal is a magazine that covers the comics medium from an arts-first perspective. We are owned and operated by Fantagraphics Books, a leading publisher of alternative comic books."

Comics Research Bibliography — more than 10,000 entries related to comic books, comic strips, animation, caricature, cartoons, bandes dessinées, and other topics.

Lambiek Comiclopedia — this site features "an illustrated compendium of over 4,000 international comic artists with biographies and artwork examples."

Moore Collection: Underground Comix — a database featuring bibliograpic records of over 1,000 "underground" comic books.

Museum of Comics and Cartoon Art — "The purpose of the Museum of Comic and Cartoon Art is the collection, preservation, study, education, and display of comic and cartoon art. Every genre of the art is represented: animation, anime, cartoons, comic books, comic strips, gag cartoons, humorous illustration, illustration, political illustration, editorial cartoons, caricature, graphic novels, sports cartoons, and computer-generated art."

Shôchan no bôken = Adventures of Shôchan., Digital ID 1401385, New York Public LibraryShôchan no bôken = Adventures of Shôchan. (1923)

If you still have difficulty finding comics, feel free to send us a question or make an appointment with a librarian.

More NYPL blog posts on Comics >>

More on NYPL programs >>

More on NYPL's online databases >>

The Library's budget for buying materials — books, DVDs, CDs — has been reduced by 26 percent. That's why the longtime NYPL supporters John Wiley & Sons, Inc. has generously agreed to match every dollar you give to the 2011 Friends Book Fund Campaign.

Your gift today will enable us to purchase up to 5,000 books (including comics and manga) for our shelves. Donate today and see your gift doubled!

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Ohhh Archie comics taught me

Ohhh Archie comics taught me so much about life and love...taught me to find a 'Betty' and not a 'Veronica'...thanks Archie This blog post needs more word bubbles :)

Very useful. Thank you.

Very useful. Thank you.

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