A Closer Look at Comics

Ernie Bushmiller (U.S.A., 1905-1982). Nancy, 1941. Pen and Ink. Gift of Cherie and Ron Petersen, 1998.317. Nancy © Guy and Brad Gilchrist. Reprinted by Permission of Universal Uclick for UFS. All rights reserved

It’s a surprise! OK, it’s not the exhibit—Comics in America at the Cantor Arts Center—that’s so unexpected. It’s all the ingredients within each panel of a comic strip that provide for sneaky wonderment.

“There’s more than meets the eyes,” says co-curator Kate Mendillo, who found a new appreciation for everything from the lighter and darker shading by the artists to the amount of emotion a panel could convey. “The strips are artistically complex and often beautiful.”

The exhibit, which runs through January, was put together by Mendillo and Scott Bukatman, a professor of film and media studies in the department of art and art history. About 20 examples of original art are highlighted by popular 20th-century strips, including selections from Archie, Terry and the Pirates, Nancy and Doonesbury. The display also stretches back to 19th-century satirical prints. 

Part of the effect, notes Mendillo, is the “glimpse of everyday life” that radiates from both individual strips and their collective impact. “It’s a small trove of really terrific stuff.”