The UIMA School Programs Comics and Graphic Novels Collection features original works of art created by contemporary comic book artists and graphic novelists. During the Golden Age of Comics (1920−1950), authors and artists depicted a range of themes, from iconic superheroes battling the forces of evil to satire of American life. Newspaper comics from this era cast superheroes such as Marvel Comics’ The Avengers and Captain America as exemplary archetypical characters and the ideal models of virtue and justice, while V.T. Hamlin’s Alley Oop portrays prehistoric man in roles suited to twentieth-century century daily living.   

The 1970s, known as the Bronze Age of Comics, introduced a new narrative form: the graphic novel. Although the term was derided by many artists and authors, what started off as long form, novel-like stories illustrated with drawings became increasingly prevalent while being viewed skeptically by the literati. A huge collector’s market opened up in the 1980s with golden and silver age comics commanding seemingly exorbitant prices. The work of skilled comic book artists became collectable and their talent was seen with new regard in established art circles. Comics were no longer considered disposable children’s entertainment, but an art form that fused language and graphic arts. Graphic novelists were recognized as legitimate authors, producing stories that broke long-held comic conventions while finding acceptance in the mainstream print media.

The basic definition of a graphic novel is that it is a series of comics in a book length form. A graphic novel can contain a single narrative (linear or nonlinear) or comprise multiple vignettes. The artwork in the UIMA School Programs Collections show a wide range of subjects from short- and long-form stories, superheroes, and historical figures.