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Randall Monroe’s xkcd comic has got to be one of my favorite comics on the ‘net. It’s smart, funny, quirky, and best of all, frequently data-driven and scientifically accurate! (I have both the Congress and money posters on my office wall!!)
Check out the latest comic as a good example xkcd: Worst Hurricane. The coolest part about this is that he used data from NOAA’s National Hurricane Center (quibbling but HURDAT database has been retired and replaced with HURDAT2) and from their National Centers for Environmental Prediction (NCEP).
How did I miss this when it was published in late 2011? Government Issue: Comics for the People, 1940s-2000s by Richard Graham looks to be a valuable addition to any library’s collection. Richard Graham is an associate professor and media services librarian at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. He created and curates UNL’s digital collection of government comics.
Since the 1940s, federal and state government agencies have published comics to disseminate public information. Comics legends Will Eisner and Milton Caniff produced comics for the army. Li’l Abner joined the navy. Walt Kelly’s Pogo told parents how much TV their kids should watch, Bert the Turtle showed them how to survive a nuclear attack, and Dennis the Menace took “A Poke at Poison.” Smokey Bear had his own comic, and so did Zippy, the USPS mascot. Dozens of artists and writers, known and unknown, were recruited to create comics about every aspect of American life, from jobs and money to health and safety to sex and drugs. Whether you want the lowdown on psychological warfare or the highlights of working in the sardine industry, the government has a comic for you!
Government Issue reproduces an important selection of these official comics in full-reading format, plus a broad range of excerpts and covers, all organized chronologically in thematic chapters. Earnest, informational, and kitschy, this outstanding collection is the ultimate comics vox populi.
[Editor’s update may 18, 2018: Sprocket Man popped up again yesterday on the Govt Documents Round Table facebook page in a discussion about favorite govt documents. Someone mentioned S-Man and gave a link to a nice writeup about his origins.]
Recently while walking to the shuttle on Stanford campus, I saw a sign with the Superhero Sprocket Man, a much loved government document comic book character (Y 3.C 76/3:2 SP 8/994) — it’s listed on FGI’s Best Titles Ever! page — at a table being jointly run by Stanford Parking and Transportation Safety (P&TS) and the Stanford Medical School out promoting bike safety as they do every friday afternoon.
As a government information librarian at Green library, I was chuffed because Sprocket Man — or so I thought — comes from a 1994 government document published by the US Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). However, the friendly folks at the table told me that Sprocket Man was actually drawn by a Stanford pre-med student named Louis Saekow in 1975 as was reported in the Stanford Report in 2002.
So now I’m wondering how a 1975 comic book copyrighted by Stanford becomes a 1994 government document? Did Mr Saekow give the comic to the CPSC? Did CPSC simply appropriate the comic for their own use without giving Mr Saekow credit? I’m intrigued because I’ve often seen public domain government information repackaged and sold, but this is the first instance I’ve seen of copyrighted content becoming a government document.
Check out both editions of Sprocket Man and see for yourself:
If anyone has further information, please leave a comment. Otherwise, I’m on the case and will report back when I get to the bottom of this mystery!
This week, the American Historical Association highlights the collection and selects some of their favorites:
- Government Comics Collection of UNL, By Elisabeth Grant, AHA Today (March 30, 2010).
The University of Nebraska-Lincoln Library has recently put together a very unique collection of government information. Free and available to all, UNL’s Government Comics Collection is a digital library containing 174 scanned comics books from various government entities. In the government realm, comics books have had a long and rich history as a delivery medium for government information. UNL has managed to successfully amass a pretty impressive collection.
(found via MetaFilter)