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Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Bill Blackbeard

Very sad to hear of the passing of Bill Blackbeard recently. If that name doesn't ring any bells with you, Blackbeard was the archivist and historian who, almost single-handedly, saved the old newspaper comic strips of the early 20th Century from crumbling into dust. The vast majority of strip reprint projects from that era have used papers from Blackbeard's collection.

Among the 200 or so books he was involved with, there were a couple that literally changed my life. One was All in Color For a Dime, the chapter of which on E.C. Segar's Thimble Theatre, written by Blackbeard, turned me into a Segar fanatic at the age of 12 and opened my eyes to the greatness of those early strips. The other one is arguably one of the most influential books on comics of all time - The Smithsonian Collection of Newspaper Comics - which actually allowed me, and a generation, to see these old strips, and read them, and (to those of us who eventually became cartoonists, which seems to be most of us from what I can make out) to learn from them.

Best of all was his name, though - like a Mickey Mouse villain from a Gottfredson adventure continuity. I feel blessed to grow up in a world where the premier comics historian on the first half of the Twentieth Century was called Bill Blackbeard.

2 comments:

  1. As, very sad indeed. I have that smithsonian collection, two in fact because the used bookstore I was raiding had a nicer one than mine for $1. I too became an enormous fan off Segar at age 12. And also very much appreciate that our premier comics historian had a name like a friendly pirate.

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  2. thanks for bringing this fact to my attention, I hadn't heard about it.

    ReplyDelete

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London, United Kingdom
Eisner and Harvey Award-winning cartoonist responsible for The Muppet Show Comic Book, Thor the Mighty Avenger, Snarked! and Fred the Clown. Would like to save the world through comics.