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Peek at the Week: September 25

QUOTE OF THE WEEK

In The Lord of the Rings, J. R. R. Tolkien wrote, “Deeds will not be less valiant because they are unpraised.”

Seeing people be appreciative for the nice things you do is undeniably nice. It boosts our confidence and makes us feel happy that we made someone else happy. But a good deed is a good deed with or without praise.

So, even if it’s just a small, simple action that makes someone smile, do a good deed this week. The smallest act of kindness might make someone’s day.


THIS WEEK AT FALVEY

Monday, September 25

Mindfulness Monday | 1-1:30 p.m. | Devon Room, Connelly Center | Virtual Option | ACS-Approved | Free & Open to Villanova Students, Faculty, & Staff

The Learners’ Studio/Center for Speaking and Presentation | 4-9 p.m. | Room 301 | Free

Wonders and Realities–Three Irish Poets on Sustainability | 5-6:30 p.m. | Speakers’ Corner | ACS-Approved | Free & Open to the Public

Tuesday, September 26

The Learners’ Studio/Center for Speaking and Presentation | 4-9 p.m. | Room 301 | Free

Scholarship@Villanova Event Featuring Olukunle P. Owolabi, PhD | 5-6:30 p.m. | Speakers’ Corner | Livestream Available Here | ACS-Approved | Free & Open to the Public | Light Refreshments Served

Wednesday, September 27

Fall 2023 Falvey Forum Workshop: Introduction to Zotero Citation Software | 12-1 p.m. | Virtual | ACS-Approved | Free & Open to the Public | Register Here

The Learners’ Studio/Center for Speaking and Presentation | 4-9 p.m. | Room 301 | Free

Mastering the Art and Business of Webcomics with Professional Cartoonist Brad Guigar | 6-7 p.m. | Speakers’ Corner | Free & Open to the Public | Light Refreshments Served

Thursday, September 28

The Learners’ Studio/Center for Speaking and Presentation | 4-9 p.m. | Room 301 | Free

Sunday, October 1

The Learners’ Studio/Center for Speaking and Presentation | 4-9 p.m. | Room 301 | Free


HOLIDAYS THIS WEEK

Today, Sept. 25 is National Comic Book Day. If you’re into comics, today is the day to dust off your favorite edition and enjoy it. If you want to learn about the comics in our Distinctive Collections, check out Christoforos Sassaris’ blog posts on our collection of Marvel Comics and “Classics Illustrated” Comics. Love all things comic book-related? Come by our “Mastering the Art and Business of Webcomics with Professional Cartoonist Brad Guigar” event this Wednesday to spend some time with a professional cartoonist among like-minded peers.

Want to add some joy to someone’s week? You have countless opportunities. If words of affirmation are your love language, Tuesday, Sept. 26, is Love Note Day. Whether its your romantic partner, a close friend, or a beloved family member, write a little love note to show your love and appreciation.

If acts of service are more your speed, Thursday, Sept. 28, is National Good Neighbor Day. It might seem insignificant, but sometimes being a good neighbor, whether its to your roommates, your fellow Villanovans, or any community you’re a part of, the simple things count. So, take this as a sign to wash any dishes you left in the sink, offer a helping hand to someone who needs it, and generally live by our Caritas and Unitas mission.

If you need a therapeutic activity to take a break from studying (and your kitchen is big enough), you can celebrate National Homemade Cookies Day this Sunday, Oct. 1. Bonus points if you share some with a friend.


Annie Stockmal is a second-year graduate student in the Communication Department and Graduate Assistant in Falvey Library.


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Master the Art and Business of Web Comics with Professional Cartoonist Brad Guigar

Event poster for Brad Guigar's talk.


Attention all graphic novel and comic book fans! You are cordially invited to join us for our inaugural event celebrating comics, graphic novels, and sequential art on Wednesday, Sept. 27, from 6-7 p.m. at Villanova University’s Falvey Library. The event will feature professional cartoonist Brad Guigar and will be held in Speakers’ Corner on the Library’s first floor.

In 2000, webcomics grew out of dissatisfaction with gatekeepers (publishers and syndicates) and led to a new generation of creator-entrepreneurs who taught themselves about art AND business — and are currently finding a financially stable career in a climate in which “published” artists are struggling. What used to be known as “vanity press” is now offering a superior outcome for many creative professionals. Furthermore, it opened the door for marginalized voices that had previously been ignored by corporate gatekeepers.

Brad Guigar is considered by many to be an independent comics pioneer, having published his daily comic strips and other comics on the Web for over 20 years. His most well-known comic, “Evil Inc.,” is about supervillains who realized that most of their evil schemes could be enacted legally if they formed a corporation.

He has published over two dozen collections of his comics, and he is the author of three books on the subject of cartooning. The Everything Cartooning Book is an all-ages cartooning tutorial. Both How To Make Webcomics and The Webcomics Handbook break down the business of self-publishing comics using social media and crowdfunding strategies.

Guigar has been nominated for the Eisner Award in comics, as well as the ’Ringo Award and the NCS Silver Rueben. He co-hosts a weekly podcast, ComicLab, which has been described as “Car Talk for cartoons,” which will be entering its seventh year in January. He lives in Philadelphia with his wife and two sons.

This event, co-sponsored by Falvey Library, the Idea Lab, Department of English, Creative Writing Program, Department of Communication, and the Writing Center, is free and open to all! Light refreshments will be served. Join us!


 


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“Classics Illustrated” Comics in Distinctive Collections

Last week, I posted an article on this blog in which I discussed the value of collecting comic books in special collections, while drawing on examples from Marvel Comics in Falvey Library’s holdings. This week, I have another comic-book collection to highlight: Falvey’s holdings in Classics Illustrated. This series, which was published by three separate publishers (Elliot Publishing Co., Gilberton Company, and Frawley Corporation) from 1941 to 1969, adapted literary classics to the comic-book medium. It has significant research value not only in comics studies, but also in adaptation studies, a field that is becoming increasingly central in the arts and humanities. With the tagline “Featuring stories by the world’s greatest authors,” the series sheds light on mid-twentieth-century cultural conceptions of texts that have traditionally been viewed as particularly significant in the United States and elsewhere, as well as how these texts were transmitted to new audiences.

The Tragedy of Macbeth and Paratext

These comics include not only abridged adaptations of their source material, but also paratextual material that assists readers to understand and appreciate the stories. For example, the adaptation of William Shakespeare’s Tragedy of Macbeth includes numerous explanatory footnotes, which make the early modern language of the text more accessible to twentieth-century readers.

Detail from Classics Illustrated, no. 128, Macbeth.

Detail from Classics Illustrated, no. 128, Macbeth.

Detail from Classics Illustrated, no. 128, Macbeth.

Detail from Classics Illustrated, no. 128, Macbeth.

Detail from Classics Illustrated, no. 128, Macbeth.

Detail from Classics Illustrated, no. 128, Macbeth.

Additional segments at the ends of issues often provide biographical and historical context for the preceding narrative, typically in the form of a text box. The following two examples, drawn from the Macbeth issue of Classics Illustrated, explain Shakespeare’s life and the relation between the play and King James I of England (you may click on all images in this blog article to enlarge them).

Other times, this type of supplementary content at the end of an issue takes the form of a comic book, like the following panels on British history, which are again drawn from the final pages in the Macbeth issue.

Detail from Classics Illustrated, no. 128, Macbeth.

Detail from Classics Illustrated, no. 128, Macbeth.

Another paratextual aspect worth noting is the banner that appears across the bottom of the final page in each adapted story, which urges readers to track down a copy of the original text in a school or public library. This inclusion demonstrates the comics’ goal of developing an appreciation of literature in younger readers. On the one hand, this is beneficial in that it encourages engagement with libraries and promotes further reading. On the other hand, it is potentially problematic in its suggestion that comics are valuable only if they serve as a stepping stone to a more highly respected (and supposedly more advanced) medium or mode of reading, namely prose and verse.

Detail from Classics Illustrated, no. 128, Macbeth.

Detail from Classics Illustrated, no. 128, Macbeth.

While seeking to cultivate a love of reading, Classics Illustrated promoted bibliophilia, especially as the notion relates to the material aspect of books. The following advertisement demonstrates this attitude, as it aims to sell a “handsome, durable, permanent” binder for storing Classics Illustrated issues, which is “made to last a lifetime of handling.” (However, the primary aim of any advertisement is, of course, to sell a product or service.)

Advertisement on back cover of Classics Illustrated, no. 64, Treasure Island.

Advertisement on back cover of Classics Illustrated, no. 64, Treasure Island.

The Murders in the Rue Morgue

Getting back to the adapted narratives themselves, it is important to note that Classics Illustrated sometimes altered or added to the source material. An illustrative case-in-point is the adaptation of Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Murders in the Rue Morgue,” which is collected alongside two other adaptations in issue #21 of Classics Illustrated. “The Murders in the Rue Morgue,” published in 1841 in Graham’s Magazine, is widely considered the first modern detective story. It is a predecessor to popular detective fiction like Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes series, as well as numerous dime novels and story papers available on the Villanova Digital Library, most notably Mystery Magazine (1917-1927). Poe’s full short story is available on Falvey’s website. A facsimile edition of the manuscript can also be consulted in-person at the library.

Famously, this short story ends (spoilers!) with the reveal that a runaway orangutan had committed the eponymous murders. In Poe’s story, the orangutan’s fate remains ambiguous. However, the comic book adds an extra page at the end of the story, where detective C. Auguste Dupin and his associate (the unnamed narrator of Poe’s story, who is named “Poe” in the comic-book adaptation) track down and fight the animal, which was changed to an ape for the comic book. These changes and additions to the source material may have happened for a variety of reasons. In this case, perhaps the creators wanted the story to fit more neatly into the conventions of the adventure comic-book genre, hence the action-packed ending. Alternatively, they may have felt uncomfortable depicting an ambiguous ending, where a dangerous animal is still on the loose, especially if their target audience was mainly composed of children. (I have no explanation, however, for why the animal was changed from an orangutan to an ape.)

Detail from Classics Illustrated, no. 21, 3 Famous Mysteries.

Detail from Classics Illustrated, no. 21, 3 Famous Mysteries.

Robin Hood

Besides detectives like Dupin and Holmes, another famous character portrayed in Classics Illustrated is Robin Hood. Two early issues of Classics Illustrated in Falvey’s collection feature the character. Robin Hood has had a long history of popular culture portrayals (having even become a fox in a Disney animated film), and comics are no exception. In addition to Classic Illustrated issues, the English folk hero also appears in Martin Powell and Stan Timmons’ Robin Hood, published by Eternity Comics in 1989. The series’ first issue, which was recently donated to Falvey, sports a cover illustration by painter N. C. Wyeth. (More information about the original painting is provided in the Brandywine River Museum of Art’s N. C. Wyeth Catalogue Raisonné.) Other popular culture materials at Falvey’s Distinctive Collections that depict Robin Hood’s adventures include dime novels like the Aldine Robin Hood Library and The Story of Robin Hood (1889), both of which are available to read on the Villanova Digital Library.

All the comics shown in this article, and several more issues of Classics Illustrated and other titles, are available to see in Falvey’s Rare Book Room during walk-in hours (Wednesdays 9:30-11:30 AM and Thursdays 2-4 PM) or by appointment. Make sure to check the library’s blog for more articles on our growing collections of comic books, dime novels, and other popular literature.


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Marvel Comics in Distinctive Collections

Falvey Library’s Distinctive Collections and Digital Engagement (DCDE) department recently received a generous donation of dime novels and other popular culture materials, including comic books drawn from the collections of John Randolph “Randy” Cox. Randy was a highly regarded scholar and collector, with expertise in numerous areas of pulp literature, including Nick Carter and Sherlock Holmes. He was also an early supporter of the Edward T. LeBlanc Dime Novel Bibliography project, a comprehensive online database of dime novels, story papers, reprint libraries, and related materials hosted by Falvey Library. Among the titles recently donated from Randy’s collections are several comic books published by Marvel Comics in the 1960s and 1970s. These materials demonstrate the value of collecting original copies of comic books in special collections.

Some Brief History

Under the banners of Timely Comics and Atlas Comics, Marvel Comics published stories in various genres from the 1930s to the 1950s, a period known as a Golden Age of comic books. It was during this period that a handful of now-classic characters, such as Captain America and Namor the Sub-Mariner, were introduced to readers. However, it was not until the Silver Age of the 1960s and 1970s that Marvel would become synonymous with the superhero genre. This was largely owing to the humanizing of superheroes: While characters published by DC Comics (Marvel’s main competition, then and now) like Superman and Wonder Woman were akin to gods, Marvel characters experienced more grounded, personal problems alongside their grandiose, world-saving pursuits. For example, Spider-Man struggled to make rent and stressed about his coursework. Some of the creators responsible for ushering in this era of storytelling (most of whom created the Captain America comics pictured above) were Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko, Sal Buscema, Don Heck, Jim Steranko, Gene Colan, John Romita Sr., Art Simek, Sam Rosen, and Stan Lee.

Detail from Captain America Vol 1 #106, October 1986.

Detail from Captain America Vol 1 #106, October 1968. Art by Jack Kirby.

Creators such as these often worked in highly specialized roles, which were necessitated by the fast-paced nature of the comics industry, as well as the complexity of developing graphic storytelling. American comics typically involve a writer who develops the plot; a penciller who designs the panel layouts and draws the initial sketches; an inker who finalizes the penciller’s work by tracing it in black ink; a colorist who adds color to each page; a letterer who inserts speech bubbles and designs fonts and logos; and an editor who oversees and double-checks the whole process. There can be much variation to this process, but it has remained relatively consistent throughout the decades, even while several steps are now accomplished digitally in most cases. What made Marvel’s procedures unique during the Silver Age, however, was the emergence of the “Marvel method” of creating comic books, in which the penciller arguably played a more central role than the writer in developing narratives. Following the Marvel method, a writer would come up with rough outlines for a story, without providing detailed dialogue or many details about where individual scenes were set. This would allow the penciller to make major decisions regarding setting, pace, and other aspects of the story, making the penciller’s role similar to that of a film director. The writer would then write the narration and dialogue around the penciller’s drawings. Most comics creators have not been using the Marvel method since the turn of the century. Nonetheless, there are still some who prefer it, such as popular penciller Greg Capullo, who, though he works at DC Comics and Image Comics, began his career at Marvel in the late 1980s.

 

Relevance to Special Collections

Partly due to the success of superhero film franchises like the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), comic-book superheroes have seen a resurgence in popular culture during the past decade. Stories that have now become a mainstay in the popular imagination, like the MCU’s Infinity Saga, can be traced back to comics published in the late twentieth century. For example, “the tesseract,” a cosmic weapon/energy source used by the villain Red Skull in the film Captain America: The First Avenger (2011), and later by Loki in The Avengers (2012), makes an early appearance in an issue held by Falvey’s Distinctive Collections, under the name of “the cosmic cube”:

This newfound popularity of Marvel characters has meant that older comics, such as the ones in Falvey’s Distinctive Collections, are easy to find and rarely out of print. Even when they are out of print, there is always the option of accessing a digital copy. However, most recent editions of twentieth-century comics display several differences from the original copies. These differences demonstrate the value of collecting original copies of these comics in heritage institutions.

 

When large companies like Marvel reprint their earlier titles, they usually recolor the drawings. The above images show the differences between several panels in the copies of Captain America Vol 1 #110 and Conan the Barbarian Vol 1 #1 held at Falvey and their modern reprints (you may click on all images in this article to enlarge them). While some may argue that the modern edition is superior due to its cleaner lines and brighter colors, it does not teach us much about comic-book authorship or readership in the Silver Age. From an artistic point of view, it could be argued that the relatively muted colors and imprecise inks of the original printing are better suited to the art style. Moreover, the signature “dots,” which marked the cheap mechanical printing processes of the time, lend a realistic texture to many parts of the page. On the contrary, the flat recoloring makes figures and environments stand out in a way that was not originally intended. Artists and editors designed these comics with specific printing technologies in mind. If a researcher is to study these titles, they will get a clearer understanding of the comics in their moment of creation if they examine original copies.

Another aspect that is omitted when older comics are reprinted (except in facsimile editions of key issues) is the section of letters, or “fan mail,” at the end of each issue. These sections, which still exist though not as frequently as they used to, often have pun-based titles and publish selected letters from readers, as well as responses from Marvel’s editorial staff. They shed light on the reactions and attitudes of these comics’ first readers. One notable characteristic is that Marvel did not seem to shy away from publishing fan letters that were critical of the company or the topics explored in superhero comics. For instance, the following fan letter, published in Captain America Vol 1 #126 (the plot of which addresses issues of racial inequality), is actively resistant to the types of nationalistic attitudes that a character like Captain American might risk inadvertently endorsing:

Fan letter from Captain America Vol 1 #126, June 1970

Fan letter from Captain America Vol 1 #126, June 1970

A similarly valuable paratextual segment in Marvel comics of this era is “Stan’s Soapbox,” where writer and editor Stan Lee would discuss a wide variety of topics in his characteristically jovial style. (Lee, whom many will recognize as an elderly man who made brief appearances in most Marvel films until his passing in 2018, was as much a showman as a comics creator–so much so, in fact, that when artist Jack Kirby left Marvel Comics, he created a satiric parody of Lee for DC Comics called Funky Flashman.) The following two entries of “Stan’s Soapbox,” published in consecutive issues of Captain America, show the editorial staff’s active engagement with readers’ opinions:

Some entries in “Stan’s Soapbox” would also offer glimpses into the process of creating comics, including the Marvel method. Other entries announced events that would become key moments in comics history, such as Jack Kirby leaving Marvel.

"Stan's Soapbox" entry in Captain America Vol 1 #127, July 1970

“Stan’s Soapbox” entry in Captain America Vol 1 #127, July 1970

"Stan's Soapbox" entry in Captain America Vol 1 #129, September 1970

“Stan’s Soapbox” entry in Captain America Vol 1 #129, September 1970

Another element that almost never makes its way into modern reprints is the impressive and sometimes bizarre variety of advertisements that accompanied these superhero stories. Some addressed (or, unfortunately, sometimes took advantage of) the anxieties and insecurities of readers, such as the advertisement below about reading proficiency. Others promoted interesting and strange products, such as a book that teaches readers to throw their voices like a ventriloquist.

Advertisement in Captain America Vol 1 #107, November 1968

Advertisement in Captain America Vol 1 #107, November 1968

Advertisements in Captain America Vol 1 #107, November 1968

Advertisements in Captain America Vol 1 #107, November 1968

Advertisement in Captain America Vol 1 #107, November 1968

Advertisement in Captain America Vol 1 #107, November 1968

And, of course, some advertisements would announce the publication of new Marvel series, such as the 1970 series featuring Robert E. Howard’s Conan the Barbarian, the first comic book  published in the United States to feature this famous character.

Advertisement in Captain America Vol 1 #129, September 1970

Advertisement in Captain America Vol 1 #129, September 1970

Advertisement in Ka-Zar the Savage Vol 1 #20, November 1982

Advertisement in Ka-Zar the Savage Vol 1 #20, November 1982

Collectively, these advertisements and other paratextual segments mentioned above help us understand the interests, attitudes, and even spending habits of readers during the late twentieth century. (For similar information on early-twentieth century consumers, see a 1916 store catalog recently made available on the Villanova Digital Library.) They can serve as invaluable resources for research; and, this research can only reach its full potential if researchers have access to original copies of these comic books, rather than being limited to modern reprints.

However, the world of comic-book collecting can be difficult to navigate for those not already familiar with it. Moreover, key issues (i.e., issues that include the first appearance of a major character or a particularly famous moment in a widely beloved story) can be too expensive for most individuals to afford. In an especially extreme case, a copy of Action Comics #1–the first appearance of superman and the birth of the superhero genre as we know it today–sold for $3.18 million last year. However, this case is not reflective of the prices of most older comic books, which are indeed affordable for many heritage institutions. By collecting original copies of comic books, heritage institutions can make these texts accessible to researchers and fans alike. Furthermore, these comics are recent enough to have copyright restrictions, which is why they have not been digitized for the Villanova Digital Library. In most cases, only modern reprints have been made available digitally by Marvel and other major companies. This is yet another reason for heritage institutions to collect physical copies.

The series referenced in this article are part of the growing number of comic books in Falvey’s Distinctive Collections. Be on the lookout for additional blog articles that highlight these comics, their value of research, and their connections to other historical materials at Falvey and beyond. In the meantime, if you are interested in a primer on how to study and appreciate comic books, then make sure to check out Falvey’s copy of Scott McCloud’s Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art (1993).


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New Exhibit on the Korean War Now in Vasey Hall

A new exhibit, Korean War: American Forces in Korea, is now available to view in the Prince Family Veterans Resource Center on the ground floor of Vasey Hall. The exhibit focuses on the Korean War, which was fought in 1950-1953 between North Korea, supported by China and the Soviet Union, and South Korea, supported by the United States. Following three years of conflict, the two sides agreed to an Armistice, resulting in a Demilitarized Zone along the 38th parallel north, which divides the Korean peninsula to this day. Korean War: American Forces in Korea was curated by Director of Distinctive Collections and Digital Engagement Michael Foight and Distinctive Collections Coordinator Christoforos Sassaris. It includes a range of materials covering the war, from 1950s comic books to a letter signed by President Harry S. Truman.

Korean War exhibit case

Korean War exhibit case 1

The first case, pictured above, includes two US military publications that shed light on the experiences of US troops stationed in Korea. The Hour Glass was a newspaper that chronicled the activities of the 7th Infantry Division; it provided US troops with information about Korean history, culture, and language. The Stethoscope served as a newsletter for the 7th Division’s 7th Medical Battalion; it includes illustrations drawn by members of the Battalion.

Plaque commemorating Villanova veteran Lt. Robert T. Munday outside John Barry Hall

Plaque commemorating Villanova veteran Lt. Robert T. Munday outside John Barry Hall

The exhibit also commemorates Villanova alumnus Lt. Robert Munday, who was killed in action while serving as an officer in the United States Marine Corps during the Korean War. In the first exhibit case, you may view a letter of condolence following Munday’s death signed by President Harry S. Truman, as well as an article on Munday published in a 1951 issue of the Lynx, a literary magazine published by Villanova College from 1948 to 1983. A plaque dedicated to the memory of Munday is found outside of John Barry Hall on the Villanova campus. Moreover, an entry on Munday is found on Honoring the Fallen: An Interactive Memorial Map, a Geographic Information System (GIS) map showing the locations where numerous Villanova veterans died in service. Another Villanova alumnus who died in Korea while serving in the Marine Corps is William Gaul, who is likewise commemorated with an entry on the GIS mapping project. A similar resource is the oral history project The Voices of Villanova’s Veterans, which includes interviews with numerous Villanovans who served in the armed forces.

Korean War exhibit case on popular culture

Korean War exhibit case 2

The second exhibit case, pictured above, includes representations of the Korean War in the popular culture of the 1950s, including an issue of Collier’s magazine and four comic books depicting fictional scenes from the war. The page of Collier’s displayed in the exhibit showcases illustrations of US troops in Korea by artist Howard Brodie (1915-2010), who had previously become known for his sketches of World War II combat. These drawings demonstrate the heavy toll that continuous fighting took on US troops. The comics not only seek to engender sympathy toward troops, but also reflect several widespread attitudes, including McCarthyism, that would persist after the Armistice of 1953. These comics were all published shortly before the creation of the Comics Code Authority, which censored comics for decades, so Korean War-era comics were free to draw on the conventions of horror and similar genres in their depiction of wartime suffering.

Cover for Joe Yank, no. 10. New York: Standard Comics, February 1953.

Cover for Joe Yank, no. 10. New York: Standard Comics, February 1953.

Interestingly, one of the comic-book stories on display (“That’s What I Call Shooting,” found in Soldier Comics no. 11) emphasizes the importance of mapping technologies in war. For more information on this subject, read this article on Art of War: Illustrated and Military Maps of the Twentieth Century, an exhibit that was viewable in both Falvey Library and the Prince Family Veterans Resource Center during fall 2022.

You can see the full Korean War: American Forces in Korea exhibit during the spring 2023 semester at the Prince Family Veterans Resource Center in Vasey Hall!


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Last Modified: February 24, 2023

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