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Comic museum draws fans to festival

Barack Obama isn’t the only person with pop culture significance visiting campus this weekend. “The Simpsons” creator Matt Groening will be at the  2010 Festival of Cartoon Art.  

Tucked away beneath the large white grids of the Wexner Center is the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library and Museum. The library and museum is now the most comprehensive collection displaying original and printed comics and cartoon art in the world, according to the museum’s website.

“The cartoon library is one of those gems that is perhaps better known outside Columbus than it is here,” said Jared Gardner, a professor of English and film at Ohio State. “For a long time now, the library has used the festival as a way of bringing together the larger community from the comics world to celebrate their shared passion for this unique form.”

The festival will also include presentations by cartoon and comic creators, including Matt Groening, creator of Emmy Award-winning series “The Simpsons” and the comic “Life in Hell.”

Gardner said limited space for events and exhibitions is one of the bigger problems the library has faced outside of the festival.  

The first day of the festival will consist of panels in which scholars of comics and cartoons discuss different academic approaches to the field.

Gardner has been teaching and researching comics for more than a decade and will give a presentation about the “School of Herriman” and the birth of “Krazy Kat,” which were created by cartoonist George Herriman, in the Ohio Union.

Friday’s festival activities will take place in the Wexner Center and feature presentations by speakers, including Dave Kellett, creator of the daily webcomic “Sheldon,” and Dan Piraro, creator of “Bizarro.”

“For those that love them, comics are one of the few mass media art forms that can present the singular vision of one artist working unfiltered,” Kellett said. “It is not an accident that Hollywood is constantly scouting comics.”

On Saturday, there will be a panel dedicated to late King Features Syndicate editor Jay Kennedy. King Features Syndicate is one of the world’s largest distributors of comics for newspapers.

“I’ll be talking about how Jay Kennedy’s life and career intertwined with mine over the years and about his contribution to the comic world,” said Bill Griffith, creator of “Zippy the Pinhead” in an e-mail. “His huge comic collection is now a part of the OSU Cartoon Research Library.”

There will also be a retrospective on the work of Billy Ireland, a Columbus Dispatch cartoonist from 1898-1935, at William Oxley Thompson Library.

Saturday will conclude with “An Evening with Matt Groening.” The creator of the longest-running American primetime entertainment series, “The Simpsons,” will discuss his career in comics and television with writer Tom Gammill.  

The final day of the festival, Sunday, will include a presentation by Art Spiegelman. He was awarded a Pulitzer Prize in 1992 for “Maus,” a graphic novel depicting the history of with his father and his father’s experiences as a Jew in Nazi Germany.

“We are fortunate in the happy coincidence that Art Spiegelman is an artist-in-residence at the Wexner Center this year and we were able to coordinate his presentation with the festival,” Gardner said. “He helped make comics visible as a serious art form.”

 

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