Holy collection, Batman!

Alumnus donates 202 comic books to Cary Collection

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A. Sue Weisler

The RIT Cary Graphic Arts Collection will be hosting an exhibition of The Stephen Neil Cooper Comic Book Collection this spring. The collection of comic books that were on newsstands in April 1956 is valued at more than $20,000.

Comics may be a childhood staple, but they also became a “cosmic-sized vision” for one avid hobbyist.

Stephen Cooper ’66 (illustration photography) just couldn’t pass up a personal challenge: to amass a synchronized collection to include all 202 comic books that were on candy store racks and newsstands in April 1956.

The RIT alumnus recently donated The Stephen Neil Cooper Comic Book Collection to the RIT Cary Graphic Arts Collection. The value of the series is conservatively estimated at $20,000.

“I became a comic book collector because of a boyhood memory of a science-fiction story that inflamed my imagination—about a colossal guy who kept getting so stretched out that planets could pass through him,” explains Cooper. “The story was called ‘Search for a Lost World’ and originally was published in Strange Adventures #67, April 1956.”

Cooper, owner of Sybille Gallery, a creative framing store in New York City, says he kept his alma mater in mind during the 10-year span it took to complete the synchronized collection.

“Knowing the comics of April 1956 will be preserved intact—under archival conditions for the students to study into the next century—is my reward,” he says.

David Pankow, curator of the Cary Graphic Arts Collection, anticipates that the collection will become an important resource for many programs, including illustration, book design and film and animation.

“The comic books in the Cooper Collection are in as-published condition and for that reason make a breathtaking impression on everyone who sees them,” Pankow says.

The Cary Collection was originally established at RIT in 1969 as a small library based on Melbert B. Cary Jr.’s personal collection of books on printing history and the graphic arts. The present-day collection includes some 40,000 volumes as well as manuscript material and historic printing artifacts.