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Monday, November 28, 2022

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The SDSU Library maintains a nationally significant collection of alternative and underground comics, graphic novels and drawn books. The SDSU Library maintains a nationally significant collection of alternative and underground comics, graphic novels and drawn books.

Comic-Con and the SDSU Connection

The San Diego State Library and Information Access is working to preserve Comic-Con's archives.

The future site of San Diego Comic-Con International may be in question, but it’s a good bet that the organization’s archives will be preserved and maintained by the San Diego State Library and Information Access.

The library has been working with alumnus Greg Bear, ’73, and Comic-Con founding committee members Richard Alf, Mike Towry and Barry Alfonso, to make SDSU the repository for annals from what has become a San Diego institution.

A multi-award-winning science fiction and fantasy writer, Bear attended the first Golden State Comic Book Convention in 1970 in the basement of the U.S. Grant Hotel. He was part of the science fiction panel along with Roger Freedman, now a professor of physics at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

Pop culture phenomenon

Bear is back in San Diego this week for Comic-Con 2010, whose organizers are expecting a crowd of nearly 126,000 to attend the event’s four days of films shows, lectures and exhibitions and at the San Diego Convention Center.

We’re laying down a modern mythology.
-- SDSU alumnus Greg Bear

For comic book aficionados, Comic-Con has shaped Southern California pop culture as decisively as surfing and Mexican food, which explains why so many want to keep the convention and its archives in San Diego.

Their resolve dovetails with the SDSU library’s long-term goal of building a nationally significant collection of alternative and underground comics, graphic novels and drawn books.

Preserving at-risk collections

SDSU alumnus Greg Bear
Robert Ray, head of Special Collections and University Archives, said the library is interested in preserving at-risk compilations, including small runs from the independent presses, valued for their illustrative quality.

Among the library’s collection is RAW, a comics anthology featuring Art Spiegelman’s Pulitzer Prize-winning graphic novel “Maus: A Survivor’s Tale,” in which Jews are depicted as mice and Germans as cats; as well as manuscripts of Donna Barr’s “The Desert Peach” and “Stinz,” two of her best known drawn books.

The science fiction component

Complementing the comics anthology is a growing collection of science fiction material that includes first, second and editor’s drafts of Greg Bear’s recently published books.

In the 1970s, Bear was a student of creative writing professor and science fiction author Elizabeth Chater, with whom he developed and taught the first ever science fiction writing class at SDSU.

(Chater later donated her collection of 4,000 audio recordings, manuscript materials, original drawings, posters, figurines and autographed first editions to the library).

“Suddenly fantasy and science fiction had seized Hollywood,” Bear recollected. “We caught the cusp of that excitement in our course.”

Since then, Bear’s prolific output of 30-plus science fiction and fantasy novels has earned him two Hugo and five Nebula awards. Though his books, such as “Quantico” and “Darwin’s Radio,” are grounded in hard science, Bear has a lifelong appreciation for comics and for pop culture in general.

“Anthropological studies have to take account of pop culture,” Bear said during a recent visit to SDSU. “We’re laying down a modern mythology.”


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Covers from RAW, a comics anthology edited by Art Spiegelman, a leading figure in the 1980s alternative comics movement. The issues are preserved in SDSU Special Collections.