Monday, April 25, 2011

Bill Blackbeard!

I was sorry to read that the great, pioneering - and visionary, I would say! - comic strip archivist and expert Bill Blackbeard passed away. Here is an excerpt from his obituary in THE COMICS REPORTER: "In 1977, with Martin Williams, Blackbeard co-authored The Smithsonian Collection Of Newspaper Comics. In doing so, Blackbeard changed the direction of comics and the direction of many lives of those that choose to read them. It is one of the ten most influential and important publications in comics history." I'll say! That book (along with Reader's Digest's STRANGE STORIES, AMAZING FACTS, of course) was one of the most formative of my young (at the time) life. Throw in the mid-70s LP box set THE SMITHSONIAN COLLECTION OF CLASSIC JAZZ (my first encounter with jazz - a sweeping experience "selected and annotated by" the VERY SAME Martin Williams [it must be, right?], who wrote a big, amazing booklet of educational liner notes) and you have the portrait of a young nerd, now an old nerd. Thanks for everything, Martin Williams and Bill Blackbeard! (Pictured, a panel (found at COMICS REPORTER) from Crockett Johnson's BARNABY AND MR. O'MALLEY, one of the many great pieces of American art I first learned about from Mr. Blackbeard's collection.) Now I need to look up Martin Williams, who it turns out is responsible for 2/3 of my personality.