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Contemplations on a Comic Book Collection

Jan 31, 2004


In preparation for living, I recently sold off most of my material possessions, and begin contemplating a will. Who will receive my fabulous books, including several out-of-print fairy tales and costuming books? To whom will go my silverware and teapot? My engagement ring will be returned to my fiancé. The real kicker, however, is figuring out to whom to leave my beloved comic books. I’m the only one in my family to love the things, and even my boyfriend reads different titles than do I.

Yet, I have found a solution. I shall leave my comic book collection to my alma matter, a prestigious private school in New England, which just happens to admit only women.

I’m not sure that my alma matter will know what to do with my collection. I honestly don’t think that any alum in the history of the school has bequeathed comic books to the college, but I think it’s a good idea. There are so many things they could do with my hobby!

I picture a Woman’s Studies major, fifty years from now, going through my specially archived collection (which will be named in my honor and kept in the Rare Book Room) for work on her honors thesis entitled “Women in Popular Culture in the 20th Century United States.” This unknown heir to my obsession will look at titles like “Superman’s Girlfriend: Lois Lane,” “Supergirl,” “Birds of Prey,” “Spiderwoman,” “Red Sonja,” “Tales of Mystery and Horror,” and “She-Hulk.” She will page through, aghast and fascinated, at the various portrayals of Catwoman, from her first appearance to the present: Cat thief, battered wife, Batman’s love interest, prostitute, and back again to thief. She did it all in spandex, with breasts so large it’s a wonder she could walk, let along roof-crawl in spike-heeled boots. My heir will then write a thesis so scathing, so brilliant, that it will revolutionize the mainstream comic book industry, resulting in titles featuring brilliant women who are interesting, unconventionally beautiful, wear practical shoes, and had origins other than as someone’s wife/daughter/love interest.

Or perhaps a Theatre major will discover The Meg Williams Collection of Twentieth Century Comic Books, and design innovative new costumes for a production of Lysistra. This other crown-princess of my collection will orchestrate a revitalization of Greek comedies, featuring leather, whips, masks, and exaggerated musculature. She will even mange to do so in a way that conveys heroics, not S&M. This future attendee of my alma mater will analyze The MWC of TCCB to discover how evil and good are portrayed, and how to demonstrate those characteristics using body language and stage make-up. (Evil is ugly.) She will give birth to a play parodying comic books, and will win critical acclaim both in the avant garde and mainstream theatre reviews.

I can even see the History department taking an interest at how current events are portrayed. This whole debacle with Iraq, Afghanistan, and the U.S. relations with the world has made its way into current comics. How have views on government changed from “The Blackhawks,” to “Our Army at War,” to the Mutant Registration Act?

I think, however, that the department of English Language & Literature may choose to write that particular paper or best-selling academic book themselves. I envision my department being very protective of their comic book resources, discussing how this merging of text and pictures is the rightful heir to the satire of none less than Alexander Pope. In the basements of the main library, the department of EL & L will read through Nodwick, Knights of the Dinner Table, and PVP.

Yes, after much thought, I do believe that I will leave my comic books to my alma mater. Because, you see, for all of my cynicism regarding portrayals of good, evil, women, men, and politics in that medium, I believe that those very portrayals are valuable in helping us understand each other. What does it say that people continue to collect comic books even given the imperfections? That the first issue of The Incredible Hulk fetches thousands of dollars at shows?

I’ll leave everyone to come to their own conclusions. I’ve already come to mine. Now, I have a will to write and an alumnae association to contact.

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