June 4, 2018

The Library of Congress gets a little hipper with a massive donation of comics


The extremely valuable Action Comics #1, which marked Superman’s Debut. Note that Superman is lifting a Norman Bel Geddes-designed Chrysler Airflow.

As they say, and have always said: if you love something, give it away … to the Library of Congress.

That is exactly what collector Stephen A. Geppi has done with part of his massive trove of pop culture memorabilia. The 3,000-piece donation, which focuses heavily on comic books and related treasures, marks the largest-ever donation of comic books to the LOC.

As Michael Cavna reports for the Washington Post,

The donation—which the library says it is valuing “in the millions”—was born out of months of conversations between Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden, a champion of giving the public new ways to view the library’s scope, and Geppi, who opened Geppi’s Entertainment Museum in Baltimore in 2006.

“As I have interacted with people in our buildings and at other libraries across the country, I have found that when you tell them we have the world’s largest collection of comic books, they do a double-take, because it makes them think about the Library differently,” Hayden tells The Washington Post’s Comic Riffs. “It makes them realize [that] maybe there is something here for me. It is a way to get people’s attention and pull them in.”

The donation, then, expands the scope of the library that often struggles to communicate an important message: “There’s something here for everybody.”

Moreover, it marks a huge reversal of fortune for the literary art of the comic, which just a few decades ago was seen as a blight on society, and will now join the likes of original Gutenberg Bibles and venerated literary blogs. It will also help get researchers access to materials with which they can begin to fully assess the astronomical (yet somehow overlooked) impact that comic book culture has had on mainstream pop culture.

You can see parts of the generous donation on display at the Library of Congress this summer.





Ryan Harrington is a senior editor at Melville House.