Building an Archive of American Comic Book Readership – talk in Berlin


John A. Walsh, Associate Professor of Information Science, has been invited to present a talk on September 20, 2014 at Literaturwerkstatt Berlin. His lecture is a part of an international workshop: Empirical Approaches to Comics.

Below is an abstract of Dr. Walsh’s lecture:

FOOM, Fan Mail, and Fast Selling American Seeds: Building an Archive of American Comic Book Readership

Comic book fandom has been an influential force in the development of the comic book form and the comic book industry. Many comic book creators made their first appearance in comics as the authors of fan letters or contributors to fanzines. Especially in the case of mainstream comics (e.g., Marvel, DC, and earlier publishers such as EC and Fawcett), comic book readers and fans have engaged with comic book publishers and creators through fan clubs, fan mail columns, fanzines, and contests.

In my workshop presentation I will discuss plans to build an archive of materials related to comic book readership and fandom. The planned archive will include full-text primary source materials, such as searchable full-text fan mail, as well as data sets, such as normalized data on the writers of fan letters: comic book title, issue, date, full name of letter writer, city, state, country, and in many cases street addresses and postal codes. With such data sets we may, for instance, create interactive maps and timelines of fan correspondence, identify prolific letter writers, and generate network visualizations connecting comic book titles, creators, and fans. Lists of fan club members, contest participants, and testimonials in advertisements are additional sources of information about comic book readers and readership that could be incorporated into the archive. The discussion will be illustrated with sample data and digitized content.

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