Frozen in Time: The Stephen Cooper Comic Book Collection

Comics were a staple of the American newsstand in the middle decades of the twentieth century, where superhero stories mingled alongside other prominent genres of the time: funny animal stories, Westerns, romance, and tales of suspense. The Stephen Neil Cooper Collection offers a one-of-a-kind glimpse into comics history. It contains 202 comic books that were present on American newsstands in April 1956. This unique collection, curated by artist and collector Stephen Cooper and donated to the Cary Graphic Arts Collection, offers a snapshot of the comics industry during a crucial period in the medium’s history. The “Comics Code Authority” had only recently been put into effect by 1956, so comics publishers were learning how to function within a newly-censored industry. And, since the history of popular comic books has largely privileged singular, collectible moments in comics publishing—such as the first appearance of major superhero characters, or the work of a particular artist—it is rare to have a relatively comprehensive view of comics periodicals from a specific moment. The Stephen Cooper Collection presents a snapshot of comics history in one of its major transitional moments.

Along with comics from the Cooper Collection, this exhibit also features work from a spring 2019 project course entitled “Comics in the Archive”, in which students participated in the creation of a digital archive as well as data visualizations and analyses of this unique archive of comic books.

View all covers from the Cooper Collection on RIT's Digital Collections site:


Content curated by Daniel Worden, Associate Professor, School of Individualized Study and Department of English