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University Advancement

Contact: Carmen Ramos Chandler
(818) 677-2130
News Release Archives

Public Relations and Strategic Communications


Cal State Northridge’s Oviatt Library Newest Exhibition
Celebrates an American Tradition—Comic Books

(NORTHRIDGE, Calif., Feb. 13, 2007) — In the early 1950s, Congress called a series of high-profile hearings and solicited testimony from community leaders in an effort to expose what they saw as the instigator of a rise in juvenile delinquency. The culprit? That American icon—the comic book.

A new exhibition, beginning Monday, Feb. 26, in the C.K. and Teresa Tseng Gallery at Cal State Northridge’s Oviatt Library, will explore the evolution of the comic book—from 1930s comic strips to the 1950s Congressional hearings and self-censorship of the 1960s to the growing popularity of graphic novels at the end of the 20th century.

"We have a lot of superheroes from the DC Comics, early comics from the Sunday funny pages and even some of the Disney comics," said the show’s curator, Tony Gardner, a university archivist.

The show draws on materials from the library’s collections of illustrator Chase Craig, collector David S. Somerville and the personal correspondence of illustrator Carl Barks. On display will be early comic strips, as well as comic books from Eastern Color Printing Co., Dell Comics, Gold Key Comics, Marvel Comics Group and DC Comics.

Gardner said one of the more interesting phases in the evolution of the comic book is the period of self-censorship following the 1950s Congressional hearings.

The publisher of EC Comics, known for horror and crime comics, was called to testify. "The negative publicity surrounding the hearings pretty much led to the end of EC Comics, which couldn’t meet the standards of the 1954 Comics Code Authority."

Hoping to avoid further government intrusion, he said, the comic book industry set up its own code for self-censorship. "If you look at a comic book issued after 1954, you will see a little white label, the insignia of the Comics Code Authority," he said. "The code received revisions in 1971 and 1989, loosening up some restrictions on comic book publishers."

The exhibition also explores the differences between comic books and graphic novels.

"A graphic novel tells more complex stories, psychologically deeper stories with more details than a regular comic book," he said. "Regular comic books usually had four eight-page stories. It wasn’t until the 1970s and Stan Lee and some of the Marvel comics that comic book stories started to have more pages, more complex stories and themes."

The exhibition is available for public viewing during library hours: Monday through Thursday, from 7:45 a.m. to 11 p.m.; Friday, from 7:45 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Saturday, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.

California State University, Northridge at 18111 Nordhoff Street, Northridge, CA 91330 / Phone: 818-677-1200 / © 2006 CSU Northridge