Tuesday, April 26, 2011


Bill Blackbeard RIP

Bill Blackbeard has passed away at age 84. He died on March 10. This man was almost single-handedly responsible for reviving interest in the history of newspaper comic strips in the 1970s. His books were among the first I ever saw, and I suspect that's true for many of us who picked up the comic strip gene. His love of the material shone like a beacon to guide a whole new generation of fans.

I never met Bill in person, and our occasional correspondences was usually argumentative, though always civil and respectful. I rarely contacted him except to question something he'd said. I can now only regret that I never took the time to write him the gushing fan letter that he deserved. Always too embroiled in trying to get to the bottom of some fine point of comic history, we debated, we argued, we compared notes, but I never did a great job of expressing my deep appreciation for his lynchpin role in researching, archiving, and popularizing this art form that has become a big part of my life.

Goodbye, Bill, and thank you for so ably sharing with us your passion. I can only hope that you got some satisfaction that a new generation of researchers and archivers like myself have tried to take on the mantle and continue the work that you pioneered.

For a much more artfully worded and informative tribute to Blackbeard, please click over to R.C. Harvey's essay at Comics Journal (from whence I stole the image).

I was saddened to hear of Bill's passing as well. I had such great admiration for his knowledge of comic strips and pulp literature, and had the great privilige of visiting his San Francisco Academy of Comic Arts in the 1980s. It was the most amazing amalgamation of old bound volumes of newspapers I have ever seen! The collection was in every room of the old house, so big I got lost in the stacks and I had to holler to Bill for help! What a shame he didn't live to publish his history of the comic strip. He sold me photocopies of L'il Abner, Old Doc Yak, Felix the Cat and several others. His willingness to share his collection set him apart from all other comic archivists. He set an example for all of us "strippers", be generous, both with our time and our collections.
From Mark Kausler
He will be sorely, sorely missed. I have a lot of his boks and articles and learned alot as a young man about a wonderful subject which I loved, for which there wassn't much info. Blackbeard helped fill a void.
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