“Lovers of print are simply confusing the plate for the food.”
― Douglas Adams
By Lam Thuy Vo
For decades, “X-Men” author Chris Claremont kept handwritten notes about characters such as Wolverine and Magneto in dozens of boxes in the closet and basement of his Brooklyn apartment – as well as his mother-in-law’s house.
Perhaps not many outside of the comics fanboy community would consider this ephemera worthy of preservation, since even Mr. Claremont’s wife wanted to “get the crap out of the house,” he said. But Columbia University’s libraries deemed the journals, fan mail and correspondence important enough to be part of its archives.
Mr. Claremont’s 2011 donation is a game-changing addition to the university’s collection of graphic novels and related materials, which grew out of a pet project of librarian Karen Green.
“I think that our buying of comics and science fiction shows that we understand the value of things we used to see as perishable or less scholarly,” said Ms Green. It’s “not something we went after systematically before.” But now they are, she added.
The “X-Men” collection represents a core “around which we hope to build a collection of rich, comic-related material,” said Erik Wakin, Curator of Manuscripts at Columbia University during a symposium in March.
Graphic novels and the comic form — or what Ms. Green called “marginalized literature” — have crept into the mainstream in the form of television shows, young adult novels and Hollywood blockbusters. Preserving their history and documenting their rise from fringe to pop culture shows a further elevation of comic books as an art form.