Update on "From Panels to Frames: Comic Art in Museums"

Around Thanksgiving 2018, I resubmitted a new draft of my upcoming book for University Press of Mississippi about the history, controversies, and trends in exhibits of comic art in art museums and university galleries between 1930 to the present. Over the summer, I got very positive peer reviews that also pointed out some gaps, and the Press decided to change the book’s format from a black & white reader to a full color art book. Because of this, I added some new essays, sourced lots of exhibition photos, and rewrote all of my section intros. Whew…

I am so grateful to the many helpful and enthusiastic contributors to this book. Definitely a labor of love! The text is about 50/50 new/totally revised or old/reprinted material. Here’s the current table of contents:

Foreword: Dr. Tom Inge

Foundations: Comic Art in Museums

Comic Art in Museums: An Overview: Denis Kitchen

Substance and Shadow: the Art of the Cartoon: Brian Walker

Permanent Ink: Comic Book and Comic-Strip Art as Aesthetic Object & Afterthoughts on Permanent Ink: Andrei Molotiu

Pioneers: Comic Art Exhibitions 1930 - 1967

The Evolution of Comic Art Exhibitions 1934-1951: Kim Munson

Narrative Illustration: the Story of the Comics: M. C. Gaines

The First International: ‘L Exposicao Internacional de Historias em Quadrinhos’: Alvaro de Moya

‘Bande dessinee et figuration narrative’: la contribution de Pierre Couperie: Antoine Sausverd (translated by Dr. Ann Miller)

The Renewed Focus on Comics as Art After 1970

The Comic Stripped and Ash Canned: a Review Essay: Albert Boime

Exhibitions at the Museum of Cartoon Art: A Personal Recollection & List of Exhibitions at the Museum of Cartoon Art: Brian Walker

Mort Walker, Historian: Cullen Murphy

Review/Art: Cartoon Masters - Cartoonists Finally Get Some Respect: Kenneth Baker

Comics, Community, and the Toonseum: an Interview with Joe Wos: Kim Munson

Expanding Views of Comic Art: Topics and Display

Northern Ink: Misfit Lit in Minneapolis: Diana Green

Our Heroes: African-American Artists and Images in the American Comic Book: Dwayne McDuffie

Deviating from ‘Art’: Japanese Manga Exhibitions 1990-2015: Jaqueline Berndt

The Glimmering Glow of Comic Art Amidst the Blinding Glitter of the United Arab Emirates: John A. Lent

Hypercomics: The Shape of Comics to Come: Paul Gravett

Sequential Titillation: Comics Stripped at the Museum of Sex, New York: Craig Yoe

Masters of High and Low: Exhibitions in Dialogue

Comic Connoisseurs: David Deicher

Comics as Art Criticism: The Cartoons of Jonah Kinigstein: Karen Green & Kim Munson

High Way Robbery & My Way Along the Highway: Michael Dooley

High Art Lowdown: This Review is Not Sponsored by AT&T: Art Spiegelman

How Low Can You Go?: John Carlin

Cracking the Comics Canon: Leslie Jones

An uneasy accord: L.A. museums open their walls to comics as true works of art. Is it long overdue, still an odd mix, or simply inviting cartoonists to a party they may not want to attend: Scott Timberg

Here are the Great Women Comic Artists of the United States: Trina Robbins

Remasters of American Comics: Sequential art as new media in the transformative museum context: Damian Duffy

Personal Statements: Exhibitions about Individual Artists

After ‘Masters’: Interview with Gary Panter: Kim Munson

Splashing Ink on Museum Walls: How Comic Art is Conquering Galleries, Museums, and Public Spaces: Rob Salkowitz

In Our Own Image, After Our Likeness: Charles Hatfield

Showing Pages and Progress: Interview with Carol Tyler: Kim Munson

Curating Comics Canons: Daniel Clowes and Art Spiegelman’s Private Museums: Benoit Crucifix

‘Co-Mix’ and Exhibitions: Interview with Art Spiegelman: Kim Munson

Introduction to ‘Comic Book Apocalypse: The Art of Jack Kirby’: Charles Hatfield

Jack Kirby at Cal State Northridge: Doug Harvey

Genius in a Box: Alexi Worth

These essays will be accompanied by over 75 images. Book expected in 2020.

Dwayne McDuffie on Black Panther, 1992

Prior to working on my current book project, From Panels to Frames: Comic Art in Museums, I wrote an essay about the founding of the Cartoon Art Museum in San Francisco by Malcolm Whyte. The essay also covered the first 10 years or so of the museum's exhibition history while Whyte was still directly involved with the museum and its choice of exhibits. In 1992, they did 3 fascinating and well-received exhibits back to back: Broad Humor: Art of Women Cartoonists, Black Ink: African-American Cartoonist Showcase (toured), and Visions of the Floating World (manga & anime). 

After seeing the excellent Marvel film Black Panther this weekend, I was reminded of this essay Dwayne McDuffie (1962-2011) wrote for the Black Ink catalog about how much Black Panther meant to him. Here is the text of his essay:

“Our Heroes: African-American Artists and Images in the American Comic Book” by Dwayne McDuffie, originally published in the exhibition catalog Black Ink: African American Cartoonists Showcase, Cartoon Art Museum San Francisco, February 5 – May 16, 1992

Alan Thompkins interrupted my one-on-none backyard basketball game with some important news. “The Hulk is gonna fight Thor. It’s supposed to be out already.”

If Alan said so, it must be true. He knew more about comic books than anybody in the whole neighborhood. Even though my interest in the subject was a good less fanatical than Alan’s, this was definitely worth checking out. Much of our rapidly-dwindling summer vacation had been spent in heated arguments over who would emerge victorious from such a contest. I was quite certain the Incredible Hulk would have no problem waxing a little guy who wore a cape and feathers in his hat. Alan, however, favored Thor, citing the Asgardian’s mighty hammer and mystical control over the weather as decisive factors. Maybe so, but then, Alan also preferred Joe Frazier to Muhammad Ali.

In any case, the solution to our debate was suddenly at hand. Only one obstacle remained in our way. Lindsay Drugs, the “good comic store,” was over three miles from my house and I was expressly forbidden from going there. I concocted a clever story to cover my illicit tracks, “I’m going over to Alan’s, okay?”

Mom went for it.

Alan and I hopped on our bikes and made the long ride. It was 1973. We were both eleven years old.

We ran into the drug store and scanned the comic racks. The Hulk vs. Thor comic was nowhere to be found. We were greatly disappointed. Alan consoled himself with a bag of “Gold Rush” bubble gum. I had twenty cents burning a hole in my pocket and was determined to buy a comic book. I’m very glad I did.

The comic book was Jungle Action #7, featuring a superhero I’d never heard of called The Black Panther, but then, I’d never heard of the Black Panther political party either. And the irony of a black character being the lead in a book called Jungle Action escaped me completely. What didn’t escape me was the powerful sense of dignity that the characters in this book possessed. I was instantly and hopelessly hooked.

It wasn’t that The Black Panther was the first black character I’d seen in comics. Blacks had occasionally appeared in crowd scenes and as supporting characters long before (the Panther himself first appeared as a supporting character in The Fantastic Four). One black character even had his own book. Marvel’s Luke Cage, Hero for Hire had been running for over a year when I first discovered the Panther. But I never connected with Cage, a super-strong “angry black man” who wore chains around his waist, didn’t seem particularly bright, and spoke in a bizarre version of “street slang” that didn’t even remotely resemble the speech of any black people I knew. Spider-Man made sense to me. Cage? I just couldn’t relate.

In those days, when black people weren’t busy being angry, they appeared either as faithful sidekicks, or worse, helpless victims who begged the white superheroes to rescue them. The Black Panther was nobody’s sidekick and if there was any rescuing to do, he’d take care of it himself, thank you. Moreover, the Black Panther was king of a mythical African country where black people were visible in every position in society, soldier, doctor, philosopher, street sweeper, ambassador – suddenly everything was possible. In the space of 15 pages, black people moved from invisible to inevitable.

In 1972, there were very few black people involved in the creation of the black images that occasionally graced the pages of comic books. In those days we were dependant on white creators to represent us. As noted about, some of them did remarkably well. Most did not.

Today, the responsibility for African-American images lies with us. If there’s any rescuing to do, we’ll take care of it ourselves, thank you. As African-American artists enter the industry in ever-increasing numbers, our dependence on whites for how we are depicted diminishes accordingly. The relatively new phenomenon of creator-owned and self-published comics further consolidates our control over how we will be portrayed. Nor is our output limited merely to African-American images. We’ve demonstrated our ability to communicate artistically concerning the whole of human experience.

When I talk about “Our Heroes,” I don’t mean The Black Panther, Brotherman, and Deathlok. Our Heroes are the growing numbers of African-American comic book creators who, each in their own way, open our eyes to the multiplicity of the African-American experience.

Our Heroes appearing in the Black Ink exhibit include: [inset images: Gil Ashby (The Laziest Secretary in the World, Hellraiser); Reggie Byers (Robotech, Shuriken, Jam Quacky); Denys Cowan (Deathlok, Punisher: War Zone, Batman, The Question, Prince, The Spook); Michael Davis-Lawerence (ETC, The Freedom Project, Shado); Matt Baker (Hooks Devlin); Grass Green (The Devil You Say); Shepherd Hendrix (Mile Up, Swamp Thing); Seitu Hayden (Tales from the Heart, the Marion Berry Game); Roland Laird (MC Squared); Milton Knight (Slug ‘n Ginger, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles);  Turtel Onli (NOG, Future Funk); David, Guy, and Jason Sims (Brotherman); Dwayne Turner (Black Panther).]

The Black Ink exhibit barely skims the surface of the deep pool of African-American talent in the comic industry today. The artists who are included represent merely a small sampling of the staggering breadth and ability of African-American contributors to the form.

~ Dwayne McDuffie writes the adventures of the African-American superheroes Deathlok and Captain Marvel, as well as Double Dragon, Back to the Future, Damage Control, The Demon, and Ultra Man. In the fall of 1973, he and Alan finally got their hands on a copy of the Hulk vs. Thor comic book. It was a tie. ~

Black Ink also toured to the San Francisco International Airport (93), and to the International Museum of Cartoon Art in Florida (94). In the catalog, the title is Black Ink: Black Cartoonist Showcase, for the Florida show this was changed to Black Ink: African-American Cartoonist Showcase. I do not know which title SFO used. This catalog had no formal checklist. Artists included are: Ollie Harrington; Chester Commodore;  Leslie Rodgers; Fred B. Watson; Bobby Thomas; E. Simms Campbell; Tom Feelings; Morrie Turner; Brumsic Brandon Jr.;  Seitu Hayden; Yaounde Olu; Ray Billingsley; Steven Bentley; Robb Armstrong; Barbara Brandon; Hazel Henigan; Greg Harris; Darnell Towns; Rick Rogers; Jonathan Smith; Walt Carr; Len Bethel; Al Dree; Ron “Stozo” Edwards; Prof. I.B. Gitten’ Downe; Edwina Owens; Pedro Bell; Overton Lloyd; Cortez McCoy; Gil Ashby;  Reggie Byers; Denys Cowan; Michael Davis-Lawrence; Matt Baker; Grass Green; Shepherd Hendrix; Roland Laird; Elihu Bey; Milton Knight; Turtel Onli; David & Jason Sims; Dwayne Turner; Craig Rex Perry; Leo Sullivan; Louis Scarborough Jr.; Byron Vaughns; Leonard Robinson; Jackie Ormes (who had a special spotlight section).

New Article on Malcolm Whyte and the founding of the Cartoon Art Museum

Catalog cover  Zap to Zippy  1990

Catalog cover Zap to Zippy 1990

"A Collaborative Journey: Malcolm Whyte, Troubador Press, and the Cartoon Art Museum, San Francisco" will be published in the Fall issue of the International Journal of Comic Art, and is currently available on Academia.edu.

The longest running independent museum of comic art, the Cartoon Art Museum in San Francisco, was forced out of its space in September 2015, and is still looking for a home. This is the story of the museum's founder, the author and publisher Malcolm Whyte. His amazing career began in the Navy when he and a partner started Troubador Press, which began with greeting cards and grew to high quality coloring books illustrated by Greg Irons, Larry Todd, and Edward Gorey, In the mid-80's he founded the Cartoon Art Museum, and was the director from the opening in 1988 through 1992. Key exhibitions and catalogs are discussed. Following this he moved back into publishing with the Cottage Classics books. These were illustrated by artists like S. Clay Wilson, Maxon Crumb and Spain Rodriquez. Often these publications were coordinated with exhibitions.