We are excited to introduce the Sullivan Graphic Novel Collection at the John T. Richardson Library. You might be wondering if this is the same graphic novel collection that you see already on the first floor of the library? The Sullivan Graphic Novel Collection was made possible by the generous donation of one of the DePaul University Librarians, Wendall Sullivan. Wendall Sullivan is our Digital Initiatives Librarian, and one of his main responsibilities is managing DePaul’s Institutional Repository. This collection was gathered during a time span of over 30 years and covers all genres of the graphic novel universe, including some exceedingly rare titles that will be housed in our Special Collections and Archives. This donation will diversify and double the size of the existing graphic novel collection. Browse the Sullivan Graphic Novel Collection online or on the first floor of the John T. Richardson Library.
Many of these newly acquired titles will be the only copy available in I-Share (a consortium of Illinois libraries that practice reciprocal borrowing among its members). The scope of this collection runs from the late 1980s to 2015. The collection includes many titles from independent publishers including works from European and Canadian comic book writers and titles from BIPOC (Black Indigenous People of Color) comic writers. When the Sullivan Graphic Novel Collection is completely processed, this collection will add over 900 titles to our existing graphic novels collection. But the most important part of this gift is really the scope of his collection. It ventures well outside the popular conception of the superhero story. In America, it is a popular misconception that comics are for children. This common belief was a result of harsh social criticisms in the 1950s that nearly destroyed the comic book industry and gave rise to the superhero genre.
The variety of stories and art styles in the collection will help support our students in The Art School, the School of Design, and the School of Cinematic Arts. The collection will also supply a leisure reading option for students who need a break from academic studies. I sat down with Wendall Sullivan to ask him a few questions about the collection that you may also be pondering.
Why do you like graphic novels and comics?
“I used to read them all the time when I was a kid and then I didn’t look at them again until I was in library school. At that point, library school was just so much work … and I wanted to read stuff for pleasure. At the same time, I was telling a friend of mine about it and saying, if it’s not happy, I don’t want to see it. And so first, he introduced me to The Tick. I was like yeah is this gonna work? And it did, because it’s just a fun, stupid superhero parody… Then he was like, well, maybe if you’re okay with like one-shot stuff, maybe like some of this Neil Gaiman’s Sandman stuff.
When I first got back to Chicago, I started up with it again and I wasn’t really as heavily into the superhero stuff. I was trying to do some DC stuff, little bits and pieces of Marvel stuff, if I could get stuff that was not super deep into continuity. … like The Runaways from Marvel, which for the most part was like its own thing off by itself. I don’t like having that sort of thing where you have to read like 97 different titles to read this one storyline all the way through.”
What would you tell people that might be interested in reading comics and graphic novels and not sure where to start? What advice would you give them?
Figure out what sorts of stuff you’d like to read generally, like mysteries… There are mystery type comics out there if you like that. Just figure out what types of things you like. Check with someone like Chicago Comics or Graham Crackers or one of the other comic stores around the city and say you know, hey, I might be interested in getting into comics. This is the type of stuff I like to read. What do you recommend?
A few last words from Wendall
If you know someone who’s having issues with reading and you know the types of stuff they’re interested in, you can find the comics that cover that area. It might help them because there’s a lot of research out there that shows a combination of words and pictures makes it easier to comprehend what the words say. And so that’s a good use for comic books as well.
Wendall stopped collecting physical comics in 2015 and continues to read digital comics. His collection includes mostly trade paperbacks, which are commonly used to collect and reprint a series of comic books or a graphic novel into a single bound volume. The collection includes a small number of single issues. Most of the titles are one shots or “standalones,” a type of comic book that tells a self-contained story in a single issue, rather than being part of an ongoing series. For more information on comics and graphic novels, check out our Comics and Graphic Novel Research Guide.
Selected titles from the Sullivan Graphic Novel Collection by genre:
Adventure: Blackjack : blood & honor : the graphic novel by Alex Simmons (BIPOC author)
Anthologies: Side B : the music lover’s comic anthology (BIPOC author, Queer author)
Fantasy: The sisters’ luck by Shari Chankhamma (BIPOC author)
Mystery: Emiko Superstar by Mariko Tamaki (BIPOC author, Queer author)
Non-Fiction: Sentences : the life of M.F. Grimm by Carey Percy (BIPOC author, Disabled author)
Slice of Life: Days like this by J. Torres (BIPOC author)
Superhero: Sidekicks: The transfer student by J. Torres and Takeshi Miyazawa (BIPOC author)
Vampires: Vassalord by Nanae Kurono (BIPOC author)
Science fiction: Second Wave by Michael Alan Nelson