Critical Comics

A Critical Approach to Digitizing
Early 20th-Century Comics at MSU

This site is an online collection of comics from the expansive comic book collection housed at Michigan State University Library’s Special Collections. The Michigan State University Comic Art Collection. The Michigan State University Comic Art Collection is the largest in North America, with over 250,000 different comics. The project, designed and implemented by students in AL/DH 340 Digital Humanities Seminars was created to showcase and make accessible 15 of the thousands of comics within the Comic Art Collection. Our approach throughout this project has been digital as well as critical, investigating not only the comics, but also the digital technologies used to digitize and analyze them. It is our hope that this site will become widely available to those who wish to study and learn from our fifteen digitized and analyzed comics and gain further knowledge about the collection at Michigan State as a whole.

On this site, readers can explore 15 comics - each selected, digitized, and analyzed by students in the Digital Humanities. These works come from the earlier years of comic books. They were all published before the watershed introduction of Superman in 1938, which led to the creation of the modern comic book: colorful, thin, cheap, and full of action. The comics in our collection, however, are not always thin or excessively colored. They come in many shapes and sizes, and cover topics that relate to domestic life from that period. They are products of and windows into the society and culture of that time. On this site, you will find each comic displayed with information about the text and the digitization process (e.g. digitizer, file size, etc.) as well as analyses of the Comic Art Collection metadata and reflections on the process of digitization and digital analyses. The goal of this site is to provide a critical look into the world of early comic books and the technologies that we used to digitize a small portion of it.