10 Museums Devoted to Comics and Cartoons

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Visiting a museum dedicated to comics and cartoons can be a rewarding experience for serious collectors of comics as well as children. “Yellow Kid” and “Down Hogan's Alley” were among the first comic strips in the United States created by Richard Felton Outcault in the nineteenth century although the actual art of comics can be traced back to as early as the Roman Empire when Trajan's Column was decorated with illustrations telling a story through the use of panels. Comics appear in practically every format: as strips in newspapers, books with superheroes as the main characters, advertising, television cartoons, movies, and animated computer graphics. Here are ten museums worth visiting for their collections of comics and cartoons:

10. Belgian Centre of Comic Strip Art, Brussels, Belgium

One of the coolest things about the Belgian Centre of Comic Strip Art is that its interior is designed in the Art Nouveau style. This museum is dedicated to French and Belgian comic strips, an art form that remains relatively new in Belgium. Some of the more popular Belgian and French comic strips are showcased at the museum, including “Tintin”, created by Hergé back in 1929. Tintin was so popular worldwide that it was translated into over 70 languages. “Willy and Wanda” was another popular comic strip, created by Willy Vandersteen in 1945 that is also included in the museum's collection. Comic strip albums as well as lifelike comic strip characters are on display through the museum. The Belgian Centre of Comic Strip Art also has a gift store where comic books – or albums, as they are called in Belgium – are sold.

9. Barker Character, Comic and Cartoon Museum, Cheshire, Connecticut

Best known for its extensive collection of Popeye, Disney, Betty Boop, The Simpsons, and Warner Brothers Looney Tunes characters, the Barker Character, Comic and Cartoon Museum was the vision of Gloria and Herbert Barker which opened in 1997. This museum also has collections of items dedicated to The Beatles, Howdy Doody, Three Stooges, Star Wars, California Raisins, and Edgar Bergen's ventriloquist dummy, Charlie McCarthy. The oldest object in the collection dates back to 1873. The museum boasts 80,000 antique toys and collectibles pertaining to comic and cartoon characters. Barker Character, Comic and Cartoon Museum is the perfect place to learn about comic and cartoon figures of the past as well as toy trends.

8. Museum of Comic and Cartoon Art, New York City, New York

Located in New York City, the Museum of Comic and Cartoon Art is home to the Society of Illustrators which began in 1901 with prominent American illustrators such as N. C. Wyeth, Charles Dana Gibson and James Montgomery Flagg as members. Exhibits are rotated on a monthly basis which includes collections such as “Little Nemo”, alternative comics, children's book illustrations, the comic book work of Dick Dillin, and many others. Comics from publications such as The New Yorker are also included at the Museum of Comic and Cartoon Art. The Society also hosts many special events from comic book artist visits to membership lunches.

7. Toonseum, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Established in 2007, Toonseum was originally located at the Children's Museum of Pittsburgh before it moved into its own 1,000 square foot storefront space in downtown Pittsburgh. Major superhero comics as well as newspaper comics are included in its collections. Toonseum hosts temporary monthly exhibits in addition to its permanent exhibits. Original sketches of Spongebob Squarepants, Powerpuff Girls have been exhbited, along with Disney, Peanuts, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and Scooby Doo cartoon art. The museum also has its own NEMO award which is granted annually to individuals who produce and crontribute to the “excellence in cartoon arts.” Toonseum also hosts workshops in cartoon art and educational programs.

6. Museum of Comics, Angoulême, France

One unique feature of the Museum of Comics in Angoulême is its complete collection of French and American comics. The mere layout of the museum is impressive itself, with its scenography display cases 1300 square meters long. Exhibits are rotated four times a year, showcasing a selection from the museum's 8,000 original works of comic art. The Museum of Comics is home to an extensive comics library containing comic books in French and English as well as a comics bookshop and cafe. Comics artists often appear at the bookstore to talk about sign copies of their work for guests. The Museum of Comics website is in both French and English.

5. Cartoon Art Museum, San Francisco, California

The Cartoon Art Museum is home to 6,000 pieces of comic art, not just comic strips from newspapers and comic book superheros, but also political cartoons, manga, anime, and animation cells. Some of the biggest names in comics have been on exhibit at this museum, which include: M. K. Brown, Charles Schultz, Trina Robbins, and Chuck Jones. Popular comic book figures in the exhibits include: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, The Sandman, Superman, Captain Marvel, and Batman. Cartooning classes are held for adults and children, along with other cartoon-oriented workshops.

4. The Cartoon Museum, London, England

Located in London, The Cartoon Museum first opened in 2006 by a society of cartoon artists and supporters celebrating the history of British cartoons. Conveniently located near the British Museum, The Cartoon Museum contains three main galleries which house exhibits such as: Lewis Carroll's Alice, drawn by John Tenniel; Heckling Hitler, a common target of humor during England's involvement in World War 2; and James Gillray, an 18th century political cartoonist. Other topics of interest which have been on display include the works of popular newspaper cartoonist Mark Boxer, and H. M. Bateman. The museum actively seeks acquisitions to add to its collection, some of which wanted items are: Marvelman, Dennis the Menace and V for Vendetta. Cartoon-oriented events and workshops are held for both children and adults throughout the year.

3. The Cartoon Museum, Basel, Switzerland

The Cartoon Museum in Basel is primarily dedicated to satirical cartoons but also houses other comics in its numerous collections. The museum contains 4000 original works of cartoon art, hosting exhibits dedicated to Peter Gut (Swiss), Hans-Georg Barber (German), Joe Sacco (Malta), and Joost Swarte (Dutch). Hergé's world-famous “Tintin” is also part of the collections, along with many other famous European cartoon characters. The museum periodically celebrates American comics and its influence on Europe, especially westerns. Think the “wild west” here in all its rugged, unexplored terrain in cartoon form. The Cartoon Museum hosts workshops as well as guided tours throughout the year.

2. International Museum of Cartoon Art, Columbus, Ohio

The International Museum of Cartoon Art was founded by Mort Walker, the popular newspaper comic strip artist known for “Beetle Bailey” and “Hi and Lois”, back in 1973. Located in the Ohio State University Cartoon Research Library, this museum is home to 200,000 pieces of comic art including strips, comic books, political cartoons, advertising comics and many other varieties of the art form. Its location seems appropriate enough a home for the museum, creating one of the largest collections of cartoon/comic art in the world. Galleries host collections of comics, with one of the galleries named in honor of Mort Walker.

1. Geppi's Entertainment Museum, Baltimore, Maryland

Geppi's Entertainment Museum in Baltimore not only has a large collection of comics and entertainment memorabilia of 6000 pieces documenting 250 years, its layout of galleries in individual rooms bearing unique titles like “A Story in Four Colors” and “When Heroes Unite” make this the museum a tourist destination for comic book collectors. Every superhero such as Superman, Wonder Woman, Captain Marvel, Batman, in addition to other comic book characters makes up the numerous collections of this fun museum. Special exhibits and educational programs are hosted annually by Geppi's Entertainment Museum.



Illustrated History of Comic Strip Art

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