The Center for the Humanities Comics Collection

We’re excited to announce an amazing new addition to the MGHL collections: The Center for the Humanities Comics Collection. A transfer from Washington University’s The Center for the Humanities, the collection contains thousands of comic books, as well as pulp magazines, graphic novels, manga, zines, and reference materials.

While the majority of the collection is superhero titles published by Marvel and DC during the second half of the twentieth century, the collection contains comics published from the 1940’s to the 2000’s by a variety of mainstream and independent publishers. Many genres are represented as well, including war comics, erotic comics, horror comics, adventure comics, romance comics, and alternative and underground comics. The collection contains a particularly strong selection of titles featuring African American protagonists and female superheroes.

To learn more about the Center for the Humanities Comics Collection, take a look at the finding aid.

Check out a few of the first highlights from the collection below.


 Detective Comics, No 292, 1957


Jumbo Comics No 97, 1947

Although Jumbo Comics was anthology, most of the issues during its run from 1938 to 1953 featured Sheena, Queen of the Jungle on the cover (most often wielding a weapon and in the midst of an attack or fight).  In 1937, Sheena — more or less a female version of Tarzan — was the first female character to have her own comic book title.


Black Lightning No 3, 1977

Black Lightning — with the curious backstory of once having been an Olympic athlete and a high school principal — was one of the earliest African American superheroes to appear in DC comics. While the original series only ran from 1977 to 1978, in subsequent years Black Lightning continued to be revived in other DC titles such as Outsiders and Justice League of America.


Catwoman No 18, 1995


Classics Illustrated No 33, 1948

Classics Illustrated, which ran from 1941 to 1971, featured adaptations of literary classics with the intent of introducing “reluctant” young readers to “great literature.” The cover of this Sherlock Holmes issue features references to two of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s most famous works about the detective — A Study in Scarlet and The Hound of the Baskervilles.


 Superman vs. Muhammad Ali, 1978

This one-shot comic was part of the larger trend in the late 1970s of real life stars making “guest appearances” in Superman comics. Intended to be published in 1977 while Muhammad Ali was reigning World Heavyweight Champion, the comic experienced delays that pushed publication to the following year when Ali lost the title. If you look closely, you’ll see that the wrap-around cover by comic book artist Neal Adams features an audience of DC characters and real life celebrities. For a full view and detailed list, check out the Wikipedia entry about the issue.

About the author

Andrea Degener is the Visual Materials Processing Archivist in the department of Special Collections at Washington University Libraries.