Obit of the Day: The Man Who Saved the Comics
Bill Blackbeard was obssessed with comic strips, especially those drawn between 1890 and 1920, including Mutt & Jeff, Gasoline Alley, and Little Nemo in Slumberland, above. As libraries began to eliminate the bound copies of newspapers, as they transferred the material to microfilm, Blackbeard collected their “trash.” By the time he finished he had amassed a collection of over 2.5 million strips (some cut out of bound copies to the exclusion of other historically interesting sections of newspaper), most importantly, the color Sunday strips which were coverted to black & white on microfilm.
Blackbeard donated his collection in 1997 to the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum at The Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio. The collection was so vast that it took six tractor trailers to move it.
Living as a recluse, Mr. Blackbeard’s (that is his real name, btw) death wasn’t confirmed until a check of Soial Security records by the New York Times.
(Image courtesy of The Art of Michael J. Malzone, but the strip was created by Winsor McCay and “Nemo” debuted in 1905.)