I was greatly dismayed to hear earlier this week that Bill Blackbeard passed away recently. If you like old comics, well, you owe Mr. Blackbeard your gratitude. Without him, the history of comics would be immeasurably diminished.
When virtually the entire culture (including libraries!) saw newspaper comics as disposable, Blackbeard recognized their value and preserved them. Without this preservation, it is likely that most of the books reprinting early comics coming out today would be terribly incomplete… or, more likely, not exist at all.
He personally edited many of the greatest books reprinting comics, including the monumental Smithsonian Guide to Newspaper Comics… I am one of the many cartoonists whose lives were changed by that amazing book… that magic window into a seemingly lost past.
Much of that past IS lost… but it is truly remarkable the immense amount Blackbeard and his few fellow travelers were able to save. The Sundays of the greatest comic strip of all time (the greatest work of art of all time, in my view), Krazy Kat, has now been entirely reprinted in books! That NONE of Herriman’s Sunday Kat strips ended up in the dustbin seems incredible. Blackbeard not only collected the strips, but he edited the books. I doubt there are any many reprint books of pre-1940 comics that have not benefited directly from Blackbeard’s collection (now housed at Ohio State University).
Thank you so much, Mr. Blackbeard, for saving the history of my favorite art form.