Comic Book Collection Main content
"Sequential art" (the arrangement of pictures or images and words to narrate a story or dramatize an idea ¹) is the oldest form of written story telling; it dates back to prehistoric cave paintings.
Comic strips are a relatively recent incarnation of sequential art. They were a major selling point in newspapers at the beginning of the 20th century. Comic books started as collections of the comic strips, and became popular in the 1930s. Superman is credited with popularizing the now familiar story form of the comic book.
Comic books had their heyday in the aftermath of WWII. Captain Marvel Adventures sold more than 14 million copies in 1944. The genre kept growing. In 1946, 157 comic book titles (series) were published. In 1953, there were 500 titles with 816 million comic books sold. In 1954, there were 650 separate comic book titles published and over one billion issues sold. That was the peak of the comic book industry. The rise of television is generally seen as the main factor in the comic book's fall from popularity. The comic industry's low point came in 1979 when only forty-eight million comic books were sold. The industry has had numerous ups and downs since then. Speculators fueled a large sales increase in the 1980s, driven by reports of huge profits from sales of rare issues of early comics. The market dipped again in the 1990s when most speculators realized that it was not a path to easy riches. Prosperity in the early 2000s caused another upswing, and the recent recession has caused another dip. To follow the swings in the market one can track Diamond Comic Distributors sales (about 80% of the market).
Comic books are studied by researchers in many disciplines. They are of interest as artifacts of popular culture and social history; they are a form of graphic art as well as a form of literature.
Pfau Library's collection began with a donation by a retiring faculty member. Recently a patron who was excited about some of our holdings offered his own collection of (mostly Vietnam related) comics which will be added to the collection this year.
To find out what comic book issues are owned by the Pfau Library please go to Pfau Library OneSearch and search for "special collections comic books" (enter with the quotes).
Will Eisner, Comics and Sequential Art, expanded edition (Tamarac, FL: Poorhouse Press, 1985), p. 5. and printing began collecting citrus labels.