The Pennsylvania Comics Collection
Comic books and graphic novels at the State Library of Pennsylvania
Founded in 2008, and supported mainly by donation, the Pennsylvania Comics Collection is one of the youngest collections at the State Library of Pennsylvania. A primarily research based collection, with a small, representative circulating subset, the collection was founded for the preservation of the contributions of Pennsylvania companies and Pennsylvanian creators. As such, it contains not just completed issues and collections, but production proofs, original artwork and comic book criticism and study.
Found in both Alcove 1 of the Main Library and the Rare Collections Workroom, these materials can be located both by a subject search for "comic books, strips, etc." and by the
PN 67xx call number. While the non-reference materials in the Main Library circulate, those in the Rare Collections Library must be seen by appointment.
Short History of Comic Books in Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania has a long history of involvement with comics - Zane Grey's King of the Royal Mounted, published by David McKay Company in Philadelphia in 1936, is one of the first examples of the genre.
Even earlier, newspaper comic strips, starting with the Yellow Kid in 1895, were found in the Philadelphia papers, migrating out to the rest of the state.
At the same time, Pennsylvania was producing comics writers and artists as well.
Steve Ditko, the artist famous for the creation of Spider-Man and Doctor Strange, and for other collaborations with Stan Lee, was born in Johnstown, PA.
Al Williamson, long a mainstay of New York comic culture, retired to Honesdale, Pa., and produced many of his final works there.
In more modern times, Jimmy Gownley, author and artist of Amelia Rules! is a Harrisburgian, Mark Schultz was born in Philadelphia and raised in Pittsburgh, and many of our local authors are also moving into the field, such as horror author Brian Keene.
These are just a few of Pennsylvania's comic producers.
Due to the state's proximity to New York, many of the major firms retained imprints or shops here, such as Fox Feature Syndicate in Wilkes Barre, Red Circle, also in Wilkes Barre, or Rural Home in Wilkes Barre and Philadelphia. Pennsylvania has also has its homegrown companies as well. The Philadelphia Record printed collections of The Spirit, which ran in its Sunday paper, and the afore-mentioned David McKay Company published comics until the late 1940s.
And the investment and independent publisher boom of the late 1980s and 1990s also found companies starting here, from the mainly reprint company Apple Press in Greencastle to Comico and Cat Wild.
In the last several years, aside from the alternative comics producers in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania has also seen new companies start, such as Sleeping Giant in Philadelphia and Zenoscope, famous for Grimm's Fairy Tales and the Wonderland titles, in Fort Washington.
Galleries Displaying Pennsylvania Comics
Pennsylvania also has several galleries, museums and collections devoted to comics. Among these are the ToonSeum!, located within the Children's Museum of Pittsburgh at 10 Children's Way, the Lock Haven collection, located within a special collection in the Stevenson Library, and the collection at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, which has been much publicized of late. These are in addition to the State Library of Pennsylvania's collection, which, among other items, holds rare artwork and other items produced by Steve Ditko, who was born and raised in Johnstown, Pennsylvania before moving to New York to work for Marvel (and its predecessors) and Charlton Comics, among others.
Links to reference sites and Pennsylvania companies
For comic book creators
For series and issue information
Master List of Known Pennsylvania Comics (Excel)
The State Library is encouraging anyone with interest and knowledge of the history of comics in Pennsylvania to review the List of Known Pennsylvania Comics (Microsoft Excel File) and to contact us if you notice any gaps or missing information. All sections are also currently and constantly in the process of update, such as the subject and title lists.
Donations are welcome, under standard gift policies and conditions. Please contact the Graphical Materials Librarian at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.