Tuesday, Apr 26th, 2011
Bill Blackbeard—our friend and mentor
When I created the Library of American Comics in 2007, our first release carried the following heartfelt words:
Dedicated to Bill Blackbeard,
who almost singlehandedly rescued
the American newspaper comic
strip from oblivion
Bill Blackbeard, who died recently at age 84, did all that and mentored at least two generations of comics historians and archivists. It's safe to say that without him, today's readers would not be able to enjoy the complete Terry and the Pirates, Krazy Kat, Flash Gordon, Bringing Up Father, and dozens upon dozens of other series that make today the Golden Age of Comic Strip Reprints.
We owe it all to Bill.
photo by R.C. Harvey
Bill's and Martin Sheridan's Smithsonian Book of Newspaper Comics and Bill's line of Hyperion strip reprints introduced many of us to the classics for the first time. I met him 25 years ago when he gave me my start in reprinting newspaper strips, first with Jiggs is Back by George McManus, and then beginning the complete Krazy & Ignatz. Spending hours upon hours with Bill over the years was better than 100 years of "media studies" at any university. He just about knew it all, and what he didn't know was located somewhere on the over-burdened shelves at his house, which doubled as The San Francisco Academy of Comic Art.
He was a gentle friend and a generous mentor. And while we'll all miss him, he lives on in each and every one of us who knew him, and in the books you read that we produce.
posted by Dean Mullaney