The Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum celebrates 40 years with new exhibit

In celebration of its 40th anniversary, Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum curators Jenny Robb and Caitlin McGurk created “Tales from the Vault: 40 Years/40 Stories.” The exhibit explores 40 unique stories from the history of comics and cartooning; the artists and writers who created them; the people who collected them; and their impact on the audience that read them. Here are five highlights:

Superduperman, Mad no. 4, 1953 (original art)

This beloved satirical story by Harvey Kurtzman and Wally Wood lampooned popular superhero characters like DC's Superman and Fawcett Comics' Captain Marvel. It was the first Mad parody of its kind, and the story had a significant positive impact on the magazine's sales in its infancy. “Superduperman” set the standard of humor for which Mad became known.

“We Have Met the Enemy and He Is Us,” Walt Kelly's “Pogo,” April 22, 1971 (original art)

Walt Kelly's funny animal comic strip “Pogo” provided a surprising but effective setting for his incisive political satire. Kelly coined the phrase “We Have Met the Enemy and He Is Us” (a play on a quote from Commander Oliver Perry) for an anti-pollution Earth Day poster in 1970 and used it again in his comic strip on Earth Day 1971. The saying caught the collective imagination of the public and is still used today.

The First African-American Comic Book, All-Negro Comics, June 1947

Former journalist Orrin Cromwell Evans founded All-Negro Comics, Inc. and published the first known comic book featuring all African-American artists and writers. This 48-page issue features a variety of stories and characters, including Ace Harlem, a dashing, heroic police detective who fights for justice in his city. On the title page, Evans published a note to readers that read, in part, “Every brush stroke and pen line in the drawings on these pages are by Negro artists. … This publication is another milestone in the splendid history of Negro journalism.”

Handmade Heroes Captain America cosplay costume, circa 1940s

Larry Ivie was a comics historian, writer, artist and collector extraordinaire. In his youth, Ivie designed and sewed superhero costumes which are some of the earliest examples of cosplay. Among his many talents, Ivie was also an amateur filmmaker. He and his friends recreated popular comic book stories in costumes like the Captain America one on display and recorded them on 8mm films, which are also held in The Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum collection.

“Goldie: A Neurotic Woman” (original art)

Aline Kominsky-Crumb is the mother of women's autobiographical comics. Kominsky-Crumb's earliest comics focus on Goldie, a caricatured version of the artist that exaggerated every aspect of a post-pubescent, self-conscious and over-sexed young woman. Kominsky-Crumb's first story, “Goldie: A Neurotic Woman,” appeared in 1972 in the premier issue of Wimmen's Comix, the first series to be entirely produced by women. Kominsky-Crumb also contributed to Arcade, Weirdo, and other early counterculture comics of the time, and she went on to collaborate with her husband Robert Crumb on a series titled Dirty Laundry. Her work was groundbreaking and opened the gates for women to be gritty, sexual, crude and downright disgusting, at times, but above all: honest, brave and real.