Thursday, July 17, 2008

Mort Walker & 'the world's most popular art'

This Wall Street Journal article about Mort Walker and the National Cartoon Museum he founded makes for interesting reading, and there's a nice video slideslow/interview connected to it. It's also the most bizarre piece of reporting I've seen in a long time.

The reporter spends a few moments describing Walker, 84, the creator of Beetle Bailey, who has amassed more than 200,000 pieces of comic strip and comic book art, perhaps the world's largest such collection.
It also has been searching for a home. Worth an estimated $20 million according to the collection's curators, the collection was moved to a storage facility in Stamford, Conn., in 2002. Mr. Walker and his family have looked at dozens of homes for the collection ever since.
The story goes on and on, and waaaaayyy towards the end we discover something that's not hinted at in the headline or anywhere else to this point:
In 2007, Ohio State University Prof. Lucy Caswell, a former member of the cartoon museum's board of directors, began to talk with the Walkers about merging their collection with the university's own cartoon collection. The university promised the art would be available for all to see, and the Walkers finally decided that was the way to go. The art arrived in Ohio last month.
What the — ?!? The headline is "Beetle Bailey's Long March: Classic Cartoons Search for a Home." The subhead is "Strip's Creator, 84, Had Comics Collection Worth $20 million, and No Place to Show It." The only clue that this is an old story is in the tense of the subhead: "Had," not "Has." Talk about burying the lead ... !!!

An extremely bizarre bit of unnecessary misrepresentation. It's almost as if the story was written six months ago and the ending sloppily tagged onto the end — but Walker refers to the Ohio State agreement in the slideshow, so it's presumably a recent interview. Maybe someone at the WSJ decided they'd get more readers if the museum's quest for a home didn't appear to have a happy ending yet.

Weird writing decisions aside, it's still an interesting read. As Walker says in the slideshow, "Everybody in the world reads comics."



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