The news that Bill Blackbeard passed away on March 10th led to an outpouring of accolades and remembrances on several comic sites, some from those who knew him. I didn't know Blackbeard. To me, he was a legendary figure, his name appearing as author, editor or contributor to almost anything I read involving reprinted comic strips. Like his pirate namesake, Blackbeard transformed from a man into a mythical figure. Indeed, his contribution to comics reflects a supernatural dedication.
I had written my own pithy backstory of Blackbeard, but this uncredited writer did it so well I thought I'd run it instead1 -
Here was a man whose obsession for collecting provided a great boon for the rest of us. Researchers and publishers plumbed this most complete collection of comic strips. Strips that would be lost or forgotten, or mere footnotes, are known or collected because of Blackbeard. Yes, to some it may seem strange, that he had comics piled from floor to ceiling, in almost every room of his home, so that the world would remember Krazy Kat and his ilk. His contribution to the preservation of the comics medium is unmatched. Dean Mullaney is editor of the Library of American Comics, the premiere publisher of comic strip reprints. He put it the most succinctly on his heartfelt blog entry - "We owe it all to Bill."
For anyone interested in the life and work of Bill Blackbeard, I recommend this article by Jenny Robb, curator of the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library and Museum (click on the .pdf file).
Meanwhile, here's what Blackbeard wrote of our favorite subject, Milton Caniff2 -
1 Caniff, Milton, 'Steve Canyon Meets Happy Easter', 1977, Comic Art Publishing Co., Concord, CA, p.3
Top Photo - Blackbeard at his home, undated/San Francisco Academy of Comic Art Collection/Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum