history. Most comics historians believe the first strip to ever use the word “cartoon” showed up in the July 15, 1843, issue of the British satirical periodical Punch as the caption for a John Leech drawing. The museum possesses both original art and rare printed materials. Take, for example, a piece by Windsor McCay called A Tale of the Jungle Imps. Published on June 28, 1903, comics historians believed no printed versions existed until 2006 when someone donated materials to museum that included five copies.
One will also find on display a print of the Sunday, March 27, 1932, strip of Elzie Segar’s Thimble Theater. Although at this point it starred Popeye the Sailor, that character didn’t appeared until 1929, ten years after it began. Most visitors will probably know Popeye better from the cartoons in which he appeared rather than Thimble Theater, and those interested in animation will want to take time to look at a cell from a Bugs Bunny cartoon (circa 1953).
The museum has a vast array of comic book art as well. Among these treasures one will find items from Marvel and DC Comics. Being a Marvel man myself, I immediately gravitated towards those from that publisher. To my delight, I found on display original art from two of my favorite Marvel titles, The Incredible Hulk and The Savage Sword of Conan the Barbarian, the latter long ago cancelled, although Dark Horse continues to publish a variation of it. Marie Severin drew the page from The Incredible Hulk and John Buscema the one from The Savage Sword of Conan. I felt a chill of joy when I saw the latter because I own a printed copy and knew it on sight. I always admired Buscema’s work (although he doesn’t qualify as one of my favorite comic artists) and found viewing the original quite interesting. In it you can see whiteout and ink blemishes that just didn’t show up in the printed version, as well as some handwritten notes in the margins.
The museum displays some of the most important and influential comic strips to every appear in newspapers—including Peanuts, Garfield, B.C., Calvin and Hobbes, and Beatle Bailey—yet neither I nor my traveling companions saw a single print or original piece from Gary Larson’s now defunct newspaper strip The Far Side on display. Surely of all the newspaper strips that have run within the last thirty years, this has proved one of the most influential, an obvious observation considering the many (inferior) knock-offs still being published. And so I implore the museum curators to remedy this miscarriage of cartooning justice!