Ever since I picked up my first copy, comic books have always given me a sense of joy and entertainment whenever I read them. No matter the age or time period this seemed to be the case for a lot of people. However not everyone felt this same sentiment as at one time many library and information professionals felt they were nothing more that disposable entertainment and a waste of time. I think a lot of this negative feedback reflected the time that comics were brought up in and how professionals had a higher standard for written material. “About Face: Comic Books in Library Literature” by Allen Ellis and Doug Highsmith does a perfect job in exploring this concept going through the relationship between comic books and library over the years.
I appreciated how a quick overview of the general history of comics from the 30s to the 90s was discussed before talking about the history between comics and libraries proper. It helps to provide some historical insight which benefits the reader so they know going in what to expect when different decades are brought up. The actual analysis was based on the Library Literature publication to see how comics were referenced by decade. I find it amazing how publications from the Library Literature in the beginning featured more negative than positive articles but then those roles reversed as time went one. This also applied to the number of articles published where there was a lot at the beginning then dwindling down as time went on.
It makes sense how in the 1940s comics were not looked upon fondly as people, mainly educators and librarians, saw them as nonsense. They exhausted every argument that could come up with about why comics were bad for the youth. The most perplexing ones were the comments made about the physical aspects of a comic from the kind of paper to the size of the text. Valid criticisms can made about almost any comic but then there’s nitpicking like this.
While there were still criticisms of the medium in the 1950s, it was not as important perhaps because there were a lot more concerns to worry about like the advent of television and McCarthyism. It seemed to me that by the 60s and 70s, comics were becoming more accepted by library professionals because of how it can stimulate reading. This carried on into the 80s where even school libraries were more open to comics. However critics were there to push against this idea as they thought that while new ideas should be considered, they should not always be accepted. I feel like their minds were changed once new developments in comics at this time took place like shifting demographics and the presence of graphic novels. Then by the 1990s, comics experienced high popularity by librarian professionals, quite different from how it was in the 40s.
Personally I do not believe that comics were a threat in any decade by any means. I think librarian professionals should take better care in reading material like this and find value in what it can teach readers that other books cannot before writing it off as unnecessary.
Ellis, A., & Highsmith, D. (2000). About Face: Comic Books in Library Literature. Serials Review, 26(2), 21-43. doi:10.1080/00987913.2000.10764580