Teens get a look at rare comics


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Whether you’re a fan of Superman or Archie, DC or Marvel, the University of Iowa’s collection of rare comics has a story for you.

Teenagers at the Iowa City Public Library, 123 S. Linn St., got a look at the university’s extensive collection of rare and old comics Tuesday afternoon.

Comic books from DC and Marvel, including Superman, Batman and Robin, Captain America, and even Archie filled the table, and the teens got to take a closer look at these iconic stories.

Brian Visser, a co-organizer of the event and the Public Library’s teen services librarian, said he hopes the presentation sparks an appreciation for historic books.

“It’s cool to see important documents,” he said. “When you’re a teen, you might not necessarily be interested in the traditional idea of an important document, but an old comic book might be cool.”

Teens got a chance to flip through some of the comics and view the classic strips inside. The rarer comics were enclosed in a plastic sleeve to protect them from damage.

The books lay on book pillows to keep the spine intact, and figurines were enclosed in their original packaging. All these precautions are taken to ensure the quality of the memorabilia is kept in top condition, said Special Collections specialist librarian Margaret Gamm.

City High sophomore Martaz Pryor said he is not typically a reader but thinks the ideas of seeing old comics was a unique activity.

“I thought it was something to do at the library,” he said. “I don’t like reading. I read comics, but that’s all I read.”

Co-organizer of the event Ella Von Holtum said historians and librarians have preserved pop-culture items such as comic books in a way not seen before.

“Comic books are kind of low culture,” she said. “But they have beautiful art and really interesting stories being told with innovative modes of storytelling, so the preservation of that is something people are thinking more about.”

While comic books are a fun, lighthearted source of entertainment, they began at a time when many Americans faced economic hardship.

According to Comic Book Century: The History of American Comic Books, by Stephen Krensky, American comic books started in the 1930s to give poverty-stricken Americans stories to forget their struggles.

Gamm said the main objective of the event is to let kids enjoy time with the Special Collections material.

The event, Von Holtum said, gives teens a chance to look at just a selection of the vast collection the library has.

“It’s a wide variety, and there’s more than we could ever show in one sitting in Special Collections,” she said.

Kelly Grogg, an Olson graduate research assistant at the UI Libraries, said she hopes the viewing lets other kids in the area know the comics are there for them to look at.

“My main goal whenever we do classes like this is to let them know what we have and let them know these resources are available to them, any time they want to come in and take a look at them,” she said. “Just look at some comics and see there’s such a large history behind them and this kind of thing.”

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