Comic books are everywhere: adapted for the movies, discussed in literature classes, stowed in closets and attics worldwide. They have even found a place in academic research, college courses, and the collections of university libraries.
Comics (and their slightly more refined brethren, graphic novels) tell fascinating stories—and not just in words and pictures. Changes in paper quality and production methods chart the progress of the comic-book industry and the development of the audience for the genre. The evolution of page layouts, drawing and coloring styles, and lettering reveals much about storytelling and narrative; a study of comic-book design and creation offers insights into a uniquely collaborative and frequently corporate activity. Looking at the uses of comics for marketing and advertising, especially advertising to children, is also instructive.
Comics can be studied as serialized literature, ideological tools, and reflections of their eras' anxieties and obsessions. The superhero mythologies that have so dominated popular filmmaking recently can, of course, be followed down their labyrinthine paths, from a hero's "secret origin" to his or her death and, frequently, rebirth. But there are many more varieties: war, romance, science-fiction, horror, and humor comics have all had their day, and the underground comics of R. Crumb and other artists created and nurtured a comics counterculture that continues today. The proliferation of small and independent publishers beginning in the 1980s has continued this trend and led to the broadening of comics' subject matter and experimentation with the art form.
The comic-book collection of Edwin Murray '72 and Terry Murray, preserved in the Rare Book, Manuscript, and Special Collections Library, fills Duke's need for primary resources documenting the most influential new print media of the twentieth century. The collection includes more than 55,000 comics from the 1930s to the present, from a wide range of publishers.