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Lesser Known Works By Well Known Authors in the Villanova Digital Library

The Villanova Digital Library provides access to numerous serialized and standalone short stories through its Dime Novels And Popular Literature collection. Most authors whose works appear in these publications are now considered obscure, while many of them remain unidentified. However, the digitized collections also include stories by nineteenth- and twentieth-century writers whose works are still widely read today. Here are some lesser known stories by well-known authors that are preserved in the Villanova Digital Library:

 

“What It Cost” by Louisa May Alcott

Louisa May Alcott (1832-1888) is primarily remembered as a novelist. Her most widely read novel, Little Women (1868-1869), was adapted into an award-winning film as recently as 2019. A lesser known work by Alcott is “What It Cost,” which appeared as a cover story in the sixth issue of the children’s periodical, The Young Crusader. Like many stories published in The Young Crusader, “What It Cost” promotes the anti-alcohol stance of the temperance movement.

The young crusader, v. I, no. 6, February 11, 1887, p. 21.

The young crusader, v. I, no. 6, February 11, 1887, p. 21.

 

“Heart” by James Fenimore Cooper

Like Alcott, James Fenimore Cooper (1789-1851) is mainly remembered for his novels, in particular The Last of the Mohicans (1826). His story, “Heart,” appears as a cover story in two segments in the March 13 and March 20, 1841, issues of The Boston Notion. A full transcript of the story is also available through Project Gutenberg.

Boston notion, v. II, no. 24, Saturday morning, March 13, 1841, p. [1].

Boston notion, v. II, no. 24, Saturday morning, March 13, 1841, p. [1].

“The Jolly Roger” and other stories by Robert W. Chambers

Robert W. Chamber (1965-1895) wrote the short-story collection The King in Yellow (1895), which is one of the most influential works in the history of weird fiction. The first four stories in the collection directly impacted the “Cthulhu mythos,” a literary universe shared by H. P. Lovecraft (1890-1937) (whose astronomical journal is housed at Falvey Library) and other writers of the early twentieth century. The King in Yellow continues to excite the popular imagination, having been the basis for much of the acclaimed first season of the television series True Detective. However, most of Chambers’ writing was not in the horror genre. The Villanova Digital Library offers access to parts of three stories by Chambers: “One in a Million,” “The Shining Band,” and “The Jolly Roger” (the last of which is available, in its entirety, as digitized microfilm through the Internet Archive).

 

 

“Houdini, the Enigma” and other stories by Arthur Conan Doyle

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (1859-1870) is the creator of the fictional detective Sherlock Holmes, who appears in several stories, starting with “A Study in Scarlett” (1887). The Villanova Digital Library offers access to three works by Doyle that do not feature his famous detective: “Houdini, the Enigma,” which focuses on Harry Houdini (1874-1926), a famous magician and friend of Doyle’s; “An Alpine Pass on Ski”; and “De Profundis.”

Bonus: The Digital Library also includes one story, “The Affair of the Glenranald Bank,” by Doyle’s brother-in-law, E. W. Hornung (1866-1921). Hornung was influenced by Doyle’s work on Sherlock Holmes and created the character A. J. Raffles, a gentleman thief who is, in essence, the reverse Sherlock Holmes. The character first appeared in the short story “The Ides of March” in 1898 and the first collection of A. J. Raffles stories was subsequently published in 1899.

 

“Hunter Quatermain’s Story” and other stories by H. Rider Haggard

H. Rider Haggard (1856-1925) was a writer of adventure fiction, mainly remembered for creating the character Allan Quatermain. The most widely known tale featuring the character is the novel King Solomon’s Mines (1885), a reprint of which is available in the Villanova Digital Library. However, the site also includes other stories by Haggard (some of which feature Allan Quatermain), such as “Hunter Quatermain’s Story.” Allan Quatermain has continued to appear in literature since Haggard’s death, having played a central role in the comic-book series The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (1999-2019) by Alan Moore (b. 1953) and Kevin O’Neill (1953-2022).

 

“The Blockhouse Mystery” and other stories by Upton Sinclair

Upton Sinclair (1878-1968) was a writer, political activist, and winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. He wrote The Jungle (1906), a novel about working conditions in the meat industry, which raised awareness of unsanitary practices and influenced the passing of the Federal Meat Inspection Act. The Villanova Digital Library preserves four stories written by Sinclair under the pseudonym Douglas Wells for The Starry Flag: “The Blockhouse Mystery, or, Hal Maynard’s Cuban Romance”; “Hal on the Outpost, or, With the Army Above Doomed Santiago”; “The Hero of Manila; or, Hal Maynard Under a New Commander”; “Hal Maynard at West Point, or, The New Member of the Seven Devils”.

 

All the abovementioned stories are available in the Villanova Digital Library’s Dime Novels And Popular Literature collection, while more are being added on a regular basis. The digitization project not only preserves the works of obscure writers, but also brings to light the lesser known works of well-known writers.

 

Note: The stories by Doyle, Haggard, and Sinclair were identified by Director of Library Technology Demian Katz.


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Recently digitized materials shed light on lost silent film

Tod Browning‘s (1880-1962) 1927 silent horror film London After Midnight has been considered lost to history since 1965, when a fire at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer’s Vault 7 destroyed the final known copy of the movie, along with numerous other titles stored on highly flammable nitrate film reels. London After Midnight starred Leonidas Frank “Lon” Chaney (1883-1930) as Edward C. Burke, a Scotland Yard inspector who is eventually revealed to be the villainous Man in the Beaver Hat. While various stills and ephemera survive, London After Midnight remains the most sought-after lost film of the silent era. The film’s lost status has not detracted from its significant cultural impact, as is evinced in films like The Babadook (2014), whose eponymous monster is based on the villain in Browning’s film.

Poster for "London after Midnight"

Poster for “London after Midnight”. Via Wikimedia Commons. Image in the Public Domain.

Materials recently added to the Villanova Digital Library offer insight into the presentation and reception of this film in our area. A review was published on Tuesday, February 7, 1928, in the Public Ledger, Philadelphia’s premier daily newspaper in the early twentieth century. The newspaper issue, along with other titles published in 1928, entered the public domain at the beginning of 2024. A microfilm copy has been preserved on the Villanova Digital Library. The article reads thus:

 

STANLEY—The realm of the unnatural, with its objects unreal—spooks, ghosts, goblins, bats and vampires—rules supreme here in dusty, cobwebbed domains and eerie, mysterious moonlight. Everything is spooky, witches are around every corner, from the comedy in which the dusky Farina battles with the departed spirits to the murder mystery of the main feature.

Those old reliables, Lon Chaney and Tod Browning, the director, are at it again with one of their spookiest and spine-twitching melodramas, “London After Midnight.” It shows the solution of a murder, with Lon Chaney in the part of Burke, a Scotland Yard detective. But it is no ordinary solution, for few of the material forces are called in to solve the clews. Instead, there is the moon-eyed man, an old, tottering reminder of Phantom of the Opera, gruesome and weird, with a chattering smile upon its distorted features—and yes, it may be Lon Chaney, that black bat there in the corner with the luminous eyes—but we’re not telling. Chaney taps a new character as a detective, with very little make-up—but a perfect portrayal. So excellent, is his work, that one almost regrets that he was not cast in a strongly molded, logical detective yarn of the caliber of the famous Sherlock Holmes. In the supporting cast are Conrad Nagel, Marceline Day and Henry B. Walthall to add surprise.

An offering which will doubtless draw many theatre fans is presented by Donal [sic] Brian, a famous musical comedy star in his first appearance in a picture theatre. His ingratiating personality, and smooth, easy manner register nicely in the all-too-brief period assigned to him and he leaves some twinkling tunes, culled in most part from former successes, and just a few stories. Mention should be made of the dance offering done in splendid spook style to introduce the picture. It is “Dance Macabre,” by Saint-Saens.

It seems that London After Midnight played during the week of February 6, 1928, at Philadelphia’s Stanley Theatre. This theater, which existed from 1921 to 1970 on 1902-10 Market Street, showed silent films accompanied by a 55-piece orchestra. It was a popular venue that attracted celebrities of the day, such as Frank Sinatra and Abbott & Costello. (Al Capone was even arrested there the year after the premiere of London After Midnight.) It was one of two major venues in Philadelphia to show horror films, including Browning’s most famous work: Dracula (1931) starring Bela Lugosi (1882-1956), which is available in DVD format at Falvey Library. According to the 1928 Public Ledger article, as well as this article published on the same day in The Philadelphia Inquirer, the screening of London After Midnight at the Stanley Theatre was introduced by Broadway star Donald Brian (1877-1948), who performed excerpts from his previous roles.

The following month, the film would be shown at another local theater. An advertisement in The Suburban and Wayne Times, published on March 23, 1928, informs us that London After Midnight played at Bryn Mawr’s Seville Theatre from March 26 to March 28. Decades later, the Seville Theatre would become the Bryn Mawr Film Institute, which still operates in the same historic building that has stood since 1926. As numerous advertisements in The Suburban and Wayne Times attest, the Seville Theatre regularly showed films starring Lon Chaney during the 1920s, including The Phantom of the Opera (1925), which is compared to London After Midnight in the aforementioned Public Ledger article.

Browning eventually remade London After Midnight as a “talkie” starring Lugosi, titled Mark of the Vampire (1935). In 2003, Turner Classic Movies released a reconstruction of the 1927 film using extant stills as part of the Lon Chaney Collection, available through inter-library loan. Nonetheless, decades after the MGM Vault 7 fire, Browning’s original film remains lost. It was screened in at least two theaters in our area, and one of these showings included a live performance by a major Broadway star of the day. London After Midnight was commercially successful and remains culturally significant, but that did not stop it from disappearing. The afterlife of this film demonstrates how easily cultural production can become lost to history. It speaks to a larger need for preservation, especially preservation of media whose storage and access are dependent on ever-evolving technologies like film.


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Poetic License: Weird and Fantastical Poetry

My case in the exhibit, “Poetic License: Seven Curators’ Poetry Selections from Distinctive Collections,” showcases examples of weird and fantastical poetry from Falvey Library’s holdings. Here, the term “weird” is used not colloquially, but rather in reference to the genre of weird fiction, which emerged in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Owing much to Gothic horror, weird fiction reinvented the creatures and themes of Gothic horror and other forms of speculative fiction, as portrayed by writers such as Edgar Allan Poe. In fact, H. P. Lovecraft, the most widely known practitioner of weird fiction, considered Poe’s writings the origin of the genre. While writers like Lovecraft are now remembered largely for their contributions to prose, my exhibit case highlights their lesser known, but equally interesting, poetic works. Examples are drawn from Weird Tales, arguably the most popular periodical to ever publish weird fiction and poetry. These poems explore themes that are central to the genre, including the supernatural, the passage of time, and the futility of human pursuits in an indifferent cosmos. Formally, the poems tend to implement consistent rhyme and meter, which amplify the haunting quality of these works.

Case on Weird and Fantastical Poetry from Spring 2023 Falvey Library Exhibit

Case on “Weird and Fantastical Poetry” from “Poetic License” exhibit, on the first floor of Falvey Library

Some poems in the case are quite literally fantastical, like Lovecraft’s “Night Gaunts,” which describes the dreadful flying creatures that first appeared in the author’s posthumously published novella, The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kaddath (1943). Other poems adopt a more grounded approach, such as Sudie Stuart Hager’s “Inheritance,” which examines how folklore can pass fantastical notions from one generation to the next. Meanwhile, Leah Bodine Drake’s “The Steps in the Field” uses fantastical motifs to develop a resonant metaphor about the afterlife, but also emphasizes the idea that some knowledge is dangerous and best left undiscovered—a popular theme in weird fiction and poetry. Together, these and other poems in the case paint a vivid picture of weird and fantastical poetry, its primary thematic concerns, and its formal techniques in the first half of the twentieth century.

Sudie Stuart Hager, 1895-1982. “Inheritance” in Weird Tales, v. 35, no. 4, p. 111. New York: Weird Tales, July 1940.

First stanza of: Sudie Stuart Hager, 1895-1982. “Inheritance” in Weird Tales, v. 35, no. 4, p. 111. New York: Weird Tales, July 1940.

The case also displays four covers of Weird Tales issues, illustrated by Margeret Brundage, Matt Fox, and Virgil Finlay. These expressive, colorful images, which depict eerie and otherworldly scenes, nicely complement the similarly evocative poetic works that accompany them.

Lastly, the case includes two works by authors who influenced the poetry in Weird Tales. First and foremost, Poe’s 1845 narrative poem “The Raven,” with its exploration of a depressed man’s desperate attempt to derive meaning from a bird’s repetitive sounds, lays the groundwork for numerous character arcs in weird fiction and poetry. The edition of this poem that is displayed in my case has been digitized and made available on the Villanova Digital Library, and may be read in full here. Furthermore, the case includes the Anglo-Irish author Lord Dunsany’s “A Walk in the Wastes of Time,” a metaphorical poem about communal memory, which was published in The Smart Set in 1917. This title has also been digitized and is available here. (A couple of years after this poem’s publication, Lovecraft would attend a talk by Dunsany in Boston; Dunsany’s influence on Lovecraft’s writings during this period is evident in many of Lovecraft’s works. Comic-book writer Alan Moore portrays the Boston talk in his Lovecraftian series Providence, which serves as both sequel and prequel to Moore’s Neonomicon.)

For more content related to weird fiction and poetry, read our digitized copy of Lovecraft’s personal journal of astronomical observations from 1909 to 1915, as well as this blog article that explains the significance of this rare manuscript. The Digital Library also includes other nineteenth- and twentieth-century texts that explore the occult, including several issues of The Paragon Monthly, a handbook on spiritualism, and other examples.

Cover for "Finding a Fortune, or, The Mystery of the Old Bell Tower / by a Self-Made Man," 1921. Click on image for full text.

Cover for “Finding a Fortune, or, The Mystery of the Old Bell Tower / by a Self-Made Man,” 1921. Click on image for full text.

Cover for "The Paragon monthly", October 1907. Click on image for full text.

Cover for “The Paragon Monthly”, October 1907. Click on image for full text.

Cover for "Saved by a Phantom," [1800s]. Click on image for full text.

Cover for “Saved by a Phantom,” [1800s]. Click on image for full text.

Please join us on Thursday, April 20, from 4 to 5:30 p.m. in Speakers’ Corner, Falvey Library, for the official launch and introduction of “Poetic License: Seven Curators’ Poetry Selections from Distinctive Collections,” followed by an open-mic poetry reading. This ACS-approved event is free and open to the public. In the meantime, make sure to view the full exhibit on the first floor of Falvey, and check the library’s blog for additional articles on individual curators’ cases!


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Greek Independence Day: A Selection from the Villanova Digital Library

March 25 is Greek Independence Day. The holiday commemorates the start of the Greek War of Independence in 1821, which concluded a nearly 400-year period of Ottoman rule in Greece. The anniversary is commemorated with parades in both Greece and the diaspora. The Philadelphia parade, which is set for Sunday, April 2 this year, takes place along Benjamin Franklin Parkway and 22nd Street. The celebration includes Greek folk dance troupes, educational and religious organizations, government representatives, and members of the Evzones, or Greek Presidential Guard, who guard the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Athens, Greece.

Vryzakis, Theodoros (1819-1878). "The Bishop of Old Patras Germanos Blesses the Flag of Revolution." 1865. Oil on canvas, 164 x 126 cm. National Gallery, Alexandros Soutsos Museum, Athens, Greece. Image in the Public Domain.

Vryzakis, Theodoros (1814/1819-1878). “The Bishop of Old Patras Germanos Blesses the Flag of Revolution.” 1865. Oil on canvas, 164 x 126 cm. National Gallery, Alexandros Soutsos Museum, Athens, Greece. Image in the Public Domain.

While Greece’s conflicts with the Ottoman Empire are more widely known, the British Empire also exercised colonial rule over parts of Greece in the nineteenth century, specifically in the Ionian islands to the west of the mainland. This region had been under Venetian control from the fourteenth to the late seventeenth centuries, before it was conquered by the French during the French Revolution and again during the Napoleonic Wars. However, in the Congress of Vienna of 1814-1815, the British Empire acquired the Ionian Islands as a protectorate, named the United States of the Ionian Islands, with the island of Corfu (or Kerkyra) as its capital. The protectorate existed until 1864, when Great Britain ceded the Ionian islands to Greece upon the enthronement of the Greek King George I. Sakis Gekas’ Xenocracy: State, Class, and Colonialism in the Ionian Islands, 1815-1864 (2017) explores this period in detail; Falvey offers digital access to the Gekas’ book. The legacy of the Protectorate period is still felt in several landmarks across the Ionian islands, especially in Corfu. For instance, the Old Fortress of Corfu includes the Church of St. George, an Anglican church built for British soldiers in 1840.

Church of St. George, Old Fortress, Corfu, Greece. Photograph by Christoforos Sassaris.

Church of St. George, Old Fortress, Corfu, Greece. Photograph by Christoforos Sassaris.

A rare pamphlet that was recently added to the Villanova Digital Library as part of the Joseph McGarrity Collection sheds further light on this part of modern Greek history. Titled A refutation of the assertions of Sir Howard Douglas, in his despatch of the 10th April, 1840, concerning the faction which he imagined to exist in the Ionian Islands, the pamphlet was written by Greek historian Giovanni Petrizzopulo and published by Morton’s English and Foreign Printing Office in 1840. The pamphlet’s author describes it as a “remonstrance against one of the outrages of despotic power in the Ionian Islands.” Petrizzopulo’s criticism is directed at Sir Howard Douglas (1776-1861), who served as Lord High Commissioner of the Ionian Islands at the time. Douglas was responsible for an official search of Petrizzopulo’s house in Corfu under suspicion of rebellious activity.

Title page. Petrizzopoulo, Giovanni. A refutation of the assertions of Sir Howard Douglas... 1840. London : Morton's English and Foreign Printing Office.

Title page. Petrizzopulo, Giovanni. A refutation of the assertions of Sir Howard Douglas… 1840. London: Morton’s English and Foreign Printing Office.

Even though Petrizzopulo appeals to British authority (his pamphlet is addressed to Lord John Russell (1792-1878), Secretary for the Colonies), and attempts to defend himself from accusations of treason, his writing nonetheless adopts a critical tone toward British policy. In a book chapter titled “The Philorthodox Conspiracy in the British-Ruled Ionian Islands,” Lucien J. Frary draws on passages from Petrizzopulo’s pamphlet and argues that “Petrizzopulo was disgusted with the British government and accused it of exercising despotic power.” Moreover, Frary frames the incident at Petrizzopulo’s home as a part of a larger British attempt to suppress revolt in the Ionian Sea, writing that “Any suspicion of communicating with Greece served as a pretext for the government to carry out a search.” Falvey offers digital access to Frary’s full book.

Petrizzopulo’s pamphlet joins several other items on the Villanova Digital Library that are relevant to modern Greek history, such as an early-twentieth-century French souvenir photo album, which is discussed in a Falvey blog article, as well as Divry’s vest-pocket English-Greek and Greek-English dictionary (1914), which is likewise highlighted on our blog. Petrizzopulo’s pamphlet can be accessed digitally on the Digital Library. Alternatively, it can be consulted in-person in Falvey’s Rare Book Room during walk-in hours (Wednesdays 9:30-11:30 AM and Thursdays 2-4 PM) or by appointment.


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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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'Caturday: The 'Cat and Commodore Barry

In May 2009, Villanova University partnered with the Independence Seaport Museum to digitize the Barry-Hayes Papers. These historic documents relate to Commodore John Barry, an American Revolutionary War hero and “father of the United States navy.” Our most eminent Wildcat, Villanova University President the Rev. Peter M. Donohue, OSA, PhD, ’75 CLAS, Lori Dillard Rech, then president of the Independence Seaport Museum and Niall Burgess, then Consul General of Ireland, were among the dignitaries (pictured left to right) present at the official signing of the partnership agreement.

barry event 2009

 

Flash forward to 6 years later as Father Donohue is awarded the 2015 Barry Award. The award recognizes an American who, “by his or her character and contributions to the Church and community, and by professional accomplishments, has distinguished him/herself.” As noted in the official press release, Father Donohue is “being honored for his dedication to academic excellence and his commitment to seeing Villanova University’s Augustinian ideals put into action on campus and beyond.”

The digitization of the Barry-Hayes Papers is a perfect example of how Father Donohue has impacted the campus and the wider scholarly community.

Read more about the digitization partnership in the Fall 2009 News From Falvey newsletter.

Read the full story of the prestigious Barry award on the Villanova University Media Room website.


Photograph by John Welsh.

‘Caturday post by Luisa Cywinski, writer on the Communication & Service Promotion team and team leader of Access Services.


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'Caturday: Thankful 'Cats

The ‘Cats who worked on The Villanovan newspaper filled the November 1916 issue primarily with their Thanksgiving-themed original stories and poetry, including the hymn below by Gerard F. Hart, class of 1919. Their works were especially poignant as one of the worst moments of World War I, the Battle of the Somme, took place that year.

May all Villanovans enjoy Thanksgiving with their family and friends. Amen.

Villanovan Nov 1916 Villanovan 1916 Nov poem

Images from the Villanova University Digital Library.

‘Caturday post by Luisa Cywinski, writer for the Communication and Service Promotion team and team leader of Access Services.


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'Caturday: Take Comfort

cat waiting

Thanksgiving hasn’t changed much in the last hundred years. As shown on the cover of Comfort magazine, a journal “devoted to art, literature, science and the home circle,” the turkey takes center stage as families gather together. (‘Cats have to wait for scraps.) Go a little further in and you’ll find recipes on page 5 that will have your mouth watering, especially the cinnamon rolls. Thinking of raising turkeys? Check out the fact-filled article, Poultry Farming for Women (p. 14). In the mood to make Christmas gifts? Go directly to page 40! This journal isn’t just tips and tricks, there are stories too. Find out the truth of the Van Alvords’ Thanksgiving!

This issue is just packed with old-timey holiday goodness! Read it today and you’ll be ready for Thanksgiving and beyond!

Comfort Thanksgiving 1913

 

Images of Comfort magazine and Cat and Mouse from the Villanova University Digital Library.

‘Caturday post by Luisa Cywinski, writer for Communication & Service Promotion team and team leader of Access Services.


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The 8:30 | Things to Know Before You Go (11/9)

EIGHT-THIRTY-GRAPHIC2

Here’s your daily dose of library-oriented speed-reads to start your day!

SAVE THE DATE…

Reception for James & Kathryn Murphy. Thursday, November 12 at 4:30 p.m. in Speakers’ Corner. Please join us as we celebrate James and Kathryn Murphy’s planned donation of 300 signed, first-edition Irish poetry books to the Library.

The event marks the unique contributions the Murphys have made to Irish studies and also Villanova’s long standing connection with leading Irish writers, such as Seamus Heaney, Derek Mahon, Paul Muldoon and Ciaran Carson. Award-winning poet and former Heimbold Chair, Moya Cannon, will present readings.


Did you know—

All University publications, both print and online, adhere to AP style. To be consistent with University publications, Falvey’s online and print publications also adhere to AP style (see FML Style Guidelines).

AP Style evolved so as to fit the maximum amount of words in a space. That goal is the reason for the following:

Ellipses—“In general, treat an ellipsis as a three-letter word, con- structed with three periods and two spaces, as shown here” ( … ).


 

how to be detectiveNEW MEDIA NEWS

Looking for a job that doesn’t pay, but that rewards you in other ways? Consider proofreading this vintage book as part of the Distributed Proofreaders project.  You could learn How to Be a Detective while you’re on the job! Find out more on the Blue Electrode blog today!

 

 

 

 


PHILADELPHIA: WORLD HERITAGE CITY

Did you hear the news before the weekend? Philadelphia has been designated a “World Heritage City,” the first in the United States, and will now be a city categorized with the likes of Paris, Jerusalem, and Prague. What an honor! As reported on Philly.com, the title is more than just a gold star, as it offers the potential of increased reputation and tourism.

 


QUOTE OF THE DAY

Today in 1934, astronomer Carl Sagan was born. Last month we ran a quote celebrating Neil deGrasse Tyson’s birthday (October 5) and mentioned his praised airtime as the host of Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey. But did you know Carl Sagan was his predecessor as host of Cosmos: A Personal Voyage – a majorly influential piece of scientific documentary? Both deGrasse Tyson and Sagan share similar vocations as science popularizers and while Sagan has since passed, his contributions toward bringing space to the public eye live on.

“For small creatures such as we the vastness is bearable only through love.” – Carl Sagan


HAVE A GREAT DAY!

If you have ideas for inclusion in The 8:30 or to Library News in general, you’re invited to send them to joanne.quinn@villanova.edu.


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Last Modified: November 9, 2015

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