Abigail Cass assessing comics from our comic book collections. (c) Robin Sampson

During April and May as part of my Library and Information Studies MA at UCL I have been very fortunate to have had the opportunity to complete a two-week work placement at the Stanley Kubrick archive at the London College of Communication.

As a librarian, I have thus far had limited opportunities to gain direct archival experience but I have always wanted to expand my knowledge outside of a library environment, and I jumped at the chance to be based in an archival setting. My placement has been a wonderful opportunity to gain an insight into the innermost workings of a prestigious archive. The Kubrick archive maintains and preserves incredible holdings whilst also offering extensive support to a variety of researchers. I particularly admire the archive’s agenda which is to promote interaction and collaboration with the collections by making material available to support learning and research.

The archive is predominantly recognised for its Kubrick collection, with treasures including props from The Shining (1980) in addition to pre-production and post-production materials for most of Kubrick’s films including: 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) and Barry Lyndon (1975). The archive also holds notes, correspondence and personal papers that provide a unique perspective on Kubrick’s approach to film-making but also act as an aid for researchers by assisting in the teaching and learning of all areas of the film-making process.

Whilst the Kubrick archive is perhaps most iconic, the archive also holds over 30 smaller collections which relate to film production, graphic design, printing history and object-based learning. During my time on the placement -and to the delight of my inner geek- I was assigned a cataloguing project working with material from the Comic Book collection. Comic books are magazines or books containing sequential art, they are termed ‘comic books’ as some of the earliest products consisted simply of collections of comic strips printed in newspapers.

There are two strands to the comic book collection at the Archives and Special Collections Centre, the first is the Les Coleman collection which encompasses an alternative or ‘underground’ selection of comic book titles that are quite provocative and controversial in theme and content. Whilst the other, known as the Nicholas Pollard Collection includes much more recognisable and mainstream titles produced by well-known franchises such as Marvel Comics and DC Comics. Infamous runs include those of Daredevil, Batman and Captain America.

Within this collection titles are predominantly British and American, American comic books in particular have a close association with the superhero tradition of which there are numerous examples. This is the collection that I have had the pleasure of cataloguing – often distracted from my task – due to the perusal of favourites that date back to 1950!

If you are intending to see Avenger’s Infinity War (2018) in the cinema this May, you might be interested to learn that the Archives and Special Collections Centre holds The Avengers comics as far back as the original run in 1973.
Issues held include:

Vol. 1 no. 100 “Whatever Gods There be”

(c) UAL Archives and Special Collections Centre

 

And…
Vol 1, no.s 94-96 of “The Kree/Skrull War”

(c) UAL Archives and Special Collections Centre

 

The collection is so extensive that unfortunately I have not managed to catalogue it in its entirety during the duration of my placement, however, it is great to know that this uncatalogued material is now on its way to becoming searchable and available to researchers through the archive’s online catalogue.

If this has caught your interest, appointments to view the collection can be requested via:
archive-enquiries@arts.ac.uk

Abigail Cass