What do you do when one of your favorite places moves into a brand new home? You bring the family!
As I wrote about four years ago, this facility originated back in the mid-1970s, when Milton Caniff donated his art and papers to his alma mater, the Ohio State University. Under the guidance and vision, the collection grew beyond Caniff to other cartoonists, evolving into the Cartoon Research Library. In recent years, with the acquisition of the collections of historian Bill Blackbeard and the International Museum of Cartoon Art, the library added "and Museum" to its name. It also has been named in honor of Billy Ireland, legendary artist of the Columbus Dispatch, who was also a mentor of Caniff. I say all that to say that now it is in the newly renovated Sullivant Hall at OSU, boasting 40,000 square feet. Quite an evolution from its beginnings in two classrooms in the Journalism building.
The new museum boasts large gallery spaces. The main exhibit is Substance and Shadow: The Art of the Cartoon. This exhibit features a Who's Who of cartoonists and comic book artists, including Noel Sickles, Joe Kubert, Will Eisner and Jack Kirby. I had a surreal moment looking at a political cartoon by Zits cartoonist Jim Borgman. I looked up and there was Jim Borgman himself. Nice seeing you again, Jim!
The other exhibit is Treasures, featuring not only artwork but memorabilia, such as a mint condition Steve Canyon lunchbox. This reporter can only assume they also have the thermos. Speaking of treasures, I had a brief chat with Jean Schulz. Mrs. Schulz, widow of Charles, wasn't just there to check out the Peanuts cartoons on the wall (of which there are several). Her donation of $6 million is part of what made the new museum possible. Pretty nice, considering she has her own museum to look after.
My son Noah looking at the all-Caniff display case. This case included a painted Caniff self-portrait, one strip apiece of "Terry and the Pirates," "Male Call" and "Steve Canyon," and 'Aesop Up to Date,' the cartoon that secured him a job at the Columbus Dispatch. Dispatch editor Billy Ireland had asked Caniff for a cartoon that would make him "jump out of his chair."
final panel of 'Aesop Up to Date'
The 'Substance and Shadow' exhibit had Caniff as well, reprinting the climax of the infamous Raven Sherman sequence.
Many of the works of other artists were from Caniff's own collection. Here is the humbling inscription on a "Prince Valiant" strip from Caniff's peer, Hal Foster.
My pal Ted Haycraft pays homage of his own, bowing to a two-page spread by Neal Adams from the classic "Green Lantern/Green Arrow" series.
All-in-all, an amazing new beginning for the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library and Museum. I can't wait to go back!