Underground and Independent Comics, Comix, and Graphic Novels is the first ever scholarly, primary-source database focused on adult comic books and graphic novels. Here are the works of artists both celebrated and overlooked, alongside interviews, criticism, and journal articles that document the continual growth and evolution of this artform.
The Fan Free Funnies were an illustrative example of the growing influence of "underground comix" on young comic artists in the early 1970s. Underground comix first appeared on the United States' West Coast in the mid to late 1960s and were small press or self-published works whose themes were tied closely with the counterculture concerns and ideology of the time. Beginning in the 1970s, a number of Fan District residents and VCU fine arts students began creating comic art inspired by the popular underground comix scene. In the spring of 1973, VCU's student newspaper The Commonwealth Times took advantage of this phenomenon and produced three issues of an all-comics black-and-white tabloid called Fan Free Funnies.
American comic books got their start in the early 1900s reprinting popular newspaper strips and were sold at newsstands. The books of reprinted strips varied in shapes, sizes and quality with most being printed on pulp paper with a cardboard cover. The Newlyweds and Their Baby (1907), published by New York World, is an example of an early hardcover comic book with heavy glossy paper and color printing. The library’s copy, held at James Branch Cabell Library Special Collections and Archives, is inscribed by McManus with a sketch of baby Snookums.
Will Eisner was already famous for his work on The Spirit when he was drafted for duty during World War II. While in the service, Eisner put his artistic talents to work in army publications, creating a character named Joe Dope. After the war, the army wanted to design a publication dedicated to preventive maintenance that soldiers would actually want to read, and turned to Eisner's young company, American Visuals Corporation. Eisner was the artistic director for PS Magazine from its inception in 1951 through 1972.
The Sykes Editorial Cartoon Collection consists of 297 original editorial cartoons, four unfinished sketches, a U.S. War Bond poster, and a U.S. Victory poster by Sykes. The cartoons appeared in the Evening Public Ledger (Philadelphia) and illustrate the events of the late 1930s and early 1940s with a focus on American reaction to the aggressions of the Axis powers before the U.S. entry into World War II. Other topics represented include: John L. Lewis and coal miners, Philadelphia and Pennsylvania politics, the Turner-Kilroy Bill, and baseball.