I have lived in central Ohio my entire life, and it was only just this last weekend that I went to the Billy Ireland Cartoon Museum. If you’re not from Ohio, it’s a museum dedicated to comics and cartoonists. And, for anyone wondering, it’s my new favorite museum. During my trip I got to see the work of some of the masters of comic story telling. I also got to see samples of work from the past (some of which was from the late 1700s!). To see the history was simply astonishing. So, this week for the blog, I’m going to share some of the pictures I took, and talk a little about them.
To start off, here’s something by Billy Ireland himself. I had heard his name through the museum, but I never knew who he was. Billy Ireland was an Ohio native and cartoonist who gained fame through his editorial cartoons. This cartoon was done 1920. When I saw this, it really shocked me. Look at the size of this thing! I guess this must have been the type of paper he always worked with, but my goodness! But it allows for more detail, and look at all of that text. Well, Billy Ireland did it right, because now he has a museum named after him!
Man was I excited to see this! What we have here is an original page from Jeff Smith’s epic sage Bone. If you haven’t read Bone, by the way, you should get on that. What’s really neat about seeing this particular page is that Jeff Smith is from Ohio (he still lives here, too). So it’s really encouraging to see a local comic creator in this museum. It was also interesting because when you see it in person (and a lot of other pages in the museum) you can still see white out, sketch marks, and the lines for hand lettering. It gives you a true sense of the process.
This is a piece done by the legendary Will Eisner. It’s called Army Motors and I’d never seen it before. It was a series of drawings he did in the army with this character, Joe Dope. They think it was made in 1944, and it always amazes me to see how incredibly it has held up through time. I guess when I think of comics and art from the 40s, it mostly feels dated, but that’s why Will Eisner is a true master.
You might not know this, but I’m a huge Scrooge McDuck fan. This particular appearance was part of this big quilt that was hanging on the wall. It was embroidered with a ton of comic characters (many of which I didn’t actually know). But the important thing is that Scrooge McDuck is here. The crazy thing is all of this time and effort was put into the quilt, and the creator is anonymous!
This was a cool one to see. There are several pull out drawers at the museum that have some really cool items for display. So, I pulled one open and saw this, the first issue of American Splendor. Another thing you may or may not know is that I’m a big fan of Harvey Pekar. His comics really changed the scene and made it so auto biographical comics could work (and now I make my own!) Another Ohio local, Harvey Pekar was truly one of the greats.
And guess what else was in that same drawer? The first issue of TMNT from 1984. The original black and white Eastman and Laird adventure. You know, the one where Leonardo told Shredder to commit seppuku (really). This is a nice piece of comic history. I mean, here were two guys who created a concept by creating something ridiculous, printed a couple thousand copies and just hoping to make some money back. And look at the Turtles now. Sometimes the little guys can make it.
This is one I definitely had to put on the blog. This is an original page from an issue of Captain America by the King Jack Kirby (some of you could probably tell by the art alone). Now, I’ve seen lots of Jack Kirby art, but I have never seen an original page of his in person. So many comic creators were influenced by Jack Kirby, and he shaped so much of what we know. This was really an honor to see.
Now, you’ve seen some impressive stuff so far, but I have to tell you that this was probably the thing that I freaked out the most over. Why, though, you ask. Well, it’s because this story (from MAD Magazine) influenced none other than my biggest hero in comics, Alan Moore. I have read several accounts of Alan Moore’s life, and he has mentioned on multiple occasions how this story helped to shape his love for comics. And guess what? You could actually flip through and read this one. So, yeah, I read the same comic that gave a young Alan Moore love for comics. Alan Moore is the biggest reason I started making comics, so believe me, this was a big deal.
I had to add this one simply because of history. Sometimes we think that the issues we face are entirely new to our generation. Well, look at the subject of this cartoon. Looks familiar right, we hear this talk all the time. But guess what? This was from 1881! This editorial cartoon by Frederick Opper is called A Dangerous American Institution. I had to put this one on here because it really made me stop and think about the cyclical nature of history, and how the issues we face today may not be new.
I read about this comic once. It was part of the underground comix movement, and it landed the creators in some hot water. Dan O’Neil, Ted Richards, Gary Hallgreen, and Bobby London made this book which depicts Disney characters doing some not so Disney approved things. Well, Disney found out about this and tried to stop this. It’s actually a very interesting story. They kept making the books, even though Disney sued them, and eventually Disney racked up so many legal fees that they settled. That would never happen today, because Disney has so much money the $2,000,000 in legal fees is pocket change.
These are just a few of the pictures I took, but this post is already pretty long. More can be found on the Facebook page. The trip to the museum was really something else. Seeing all that I did was a very useful experience for an aspiring comics creator. But, no matter what you do, I suggest you check out the museum. There’s something to learn for everyone.