IN MY OPINION: Irish Comics & Archiving By Guest Writer Jason Browne [IMO:JB]
Irish Comics and Archiving
Looking back over the last year or two as the selection of Irish titles grows in our little corner of the world market I am gladdened and slightly worried about the future and the past of the Irish comic book scene. Will the historians of the future have access to the works of today? While that might sound like a self-aggrandizing statement it’s intended to be. Check out some of these great Irish titles and tell me are they easy to find? Church of Hell by Berserker Comics or Mbleh! by Bob Byrne? While we have a fantastic font of digital knowledge compiled by Paddy Brown and his collaborators at http://irishcomics.wikia.com how many of the persons mentioned are just a footnote whose work has being lost through time? Now how many of the people writing today’s work will have disappeared in the near future only to appear if a person gets lucky at a comic mart or in a long box at a comic book shop?
At this moment in time only books that have an ISBN number are required to donate to the Library of Congress repositories in Ireland and Britain. The Irish repositories being the National Library of Ireland, Trinity College Dublin, UCC, UCD, NUI Galway, NUI Maynooth, University of Limerick, Dublin City University, the British Library, Cambridge University Library, the National Library of Scotland, the National Library of Wales and the Bodlean Library (Oxford, England). In case you’re wondering the ISBN is the barcode number you see on the back of every book that gets printed and the Library of Congress is the database for every book that gets printed in the English language in the entire world. That means when you donate your barcoded book (which you are legally required to do the Republic of Ireland under the Copyright and Related Rights Act) these copies will go to those libraries where they will be kept for the rest of time and your name will be added to the list of known writers in the world on the LoC database (http://catalog.loc.gov/). I for one will find it a kick to see my name there when the database gets up-dated later this year, as will my collaborators Kearney, Stephen, 1982- and Browne, Billy, 1987- from our book ‘The Man with No Libido’ (the reason why they have they years after them is that there not the first Billy Browne or Stephen Kearney in the database). Also if you’re wondering why Ireland has so many LoC repositories and in different countries please ask the IRA who was good enough to burn down the last one during the Irish War of Independence meaning the Irish people lost thousands of priceless valuable documents, something the Irish government swore would never happen again.
As for comic books and archiving the Library of Congress actually has a good record. In fact the biggest collection of Comic books in the entire world is in the hands of the Library of Congress in the U.S. so it is not like comic books being archived is a new thing for them. Unfortunately the repositories in Ireland have being incredibly slow to recognize the historical importance or historical potential if you will of Irish made comic books and comic books with Irish Creators. The only comics by Garth Ennis who is arguably the premier Irish comic book writer at the moment kept by the National Library of Ireland are the Preacher books. None of Ennis’s other works have being kept by the Irish state which is quite shameful. As a person who has worked at the National Library of Ireland before and is a librarian by trade I can tell you that it isn’t snobbery that stops them from buying Irish comic books more like genuine ignorance that there is Irish comics or who in the comic book industry is Irish.
When I previously worked at the National Library of Ireland and brought this to their attention the lack of comic books by Irish creators in their repository I found out to my dismay that the budget for the National Library is so low at the moment that they have over 3,000 titles they were unable to buy last year that were deemed of importance to Irish Heritage going forward. And while I may disagree that they really don’t need that 65th copy of James Joyce’s Dubliners even if it is in Bulgarian that is still quite a shortfall for a National Library in Western Europe. (At some stage when the economy picks up we will have to organize an open letter to the LoC repositories in Ireland informing them of their lack of diligence when it comes to Irish comics and give them a list of titles that should be purchased on behalf of the Irish state but that’s for the future). At this moment in time these repositories are relying on donations. When I informed them of their lack of Irish comic books and asked could I donate some it was gratefully accepted and I was able to add the following titles to the National Library’s repository.
Finn and Fish 1 by Leeann Hamilton
Spell Maffia by John Lee and Denise O’Moore
Last Bus: volume 1 by Patrick Lynch
Weekend lost and other comics by Ken Mahon
If only I was a waterproof watch by John Currivan and David Mooney.
So if you want future generations a hundred years from now to see what the Irish comic book scene was like at the start of the 21st century donate your work today. If your work doesn’t have a ISBN you are not under any requirement to donate to all or any of them but it would be nice if you donated to at least one of them with the National Library of Ireland being the best as it is the primary resource for historians and researchers in this country. All you have to do is post it to the following address:
The National Library of Ireland,
The National Library will accept anything of Irish interest. That means a comic set in Ireland or a work by an Irish creator, just mention that in the covering letter you send with it. If you’re worried about your work being rejected don’t be; one of the first books I catalogued there was a French pornography comic about a horny little female leprechaun who got out of her troubles by performing some type of sex act on her captors! Together we can hopefully build up a collection that will make our future descendants proud of us.