This post originated in the first iteration of “The Rise of Graphic Archives” First-Year Research Seminar that I taught at NYU Gallatin in Spring 2014.
As I mentioned during the library visit on Monday, the full table of contents for each comic on the Underground and Independent Comics database is not necessarily visible as certain creators opt out of having their materials digitally available or, perhaps, cannot be reached/found to give their consent. To get a sense of what’s missing, check Michigan State University’s index of their comics holdings, which often includes full table of contents: http://comics.lib.msu.edu/rri/index.htm. A secondary crowdsourced database to check is the Grand Comics Database: http://www.comics.org/.
Another thing to remember is that you can find some good secondary sources within the database itself to interpret the primary sources. Two such popular journals are The Comics Journal and Cascade Comix Monthly. You’ll also likely stumble upon this book, Mark James Estren’s A History of Underground Comics (1977). To find more secondary sources, go to advanced search and select “Editorial Commentary” as material type.
Once you’ve also found something you’re interested in looking at in more depth, landing pages for a series or for a creator will often link to a list of secondary materials about that work. In the image, you’ll see two landing pages, one for a series and the other for a creator, both of which show an “installments about” link that will lead to related secondary materials.
Since many of these comics are rare, you will likely not be able to use Wikipedia as a jumping-off point to understanding the context of what you’re looking at. Rather, I’d suggest starting with the Comix Joint website (http://comixjoint.com/underground.html), but engage it as a secondary source worthy of active critique!
In the coming weeks, we’ll be meeting Columbia comics librarian, Karen Green. Check out this short video by a Columbia journalism student about Green’s work: