DEKALB – Inside Northern Illinois University's Founders Memorial Library, the Rare Books and Special Collections area features at least 3,000 classic comic books, including a series that has been making nationwide headlines: Black Panther.
The special section in the library at 217 Normal Road, DeKalb, is open to the public from 8 a.m. to noon and 1 to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. Anyone interested in delving into some rare works can visit libguides.niu.edu/rarebooks to see what Interim Curator Sarah Cain and her colleagues have to offer.
Cain said the extensive comic book collection is particularly strong in the Bronze and Modern ages, meaning it contains comics dating from 1970 to the modern day. It does include some Silver and Golden Age comics, as well. Those were written between 1938 and 1970.
“Black Panther started to appear in the Fantastic Four in July 1966, but he was not a star character until 'Jungle Action,' which I believe was 1973 through November 1976," Cain said. “I thought it’d be a great feature in line with the 'Black Panther' movie, and this is a collection that we’re very proud of here."
Dozens of comic books with Black Panther on the covers or inside as a supporting character lay across a table in the library, while Cain spoke of the university's collection.
The Marvel box office hit has grossed millions since its mid-February release. The fact that Black Panther's character was the first from Africa to have his own comic has made him stand out, Cain said, as does his altruism.
Cain thinks the connection between the film and its origin could help NIU students and other young people become interested in the comic books their fathers or grandfathers used to read.
"I mean, comic books go back and it’s been a treasure here. American comics – they [have] a very strong cult following,” Cain said.
Rare Books and Special Collections continues to receive comic book donations on a regular basis, but it could always use more.
"We would happily take a collection in and give it a home here at NIU,” Cain said.