by Mychal R. Ludwig, Head Editor, INALJ New Mexico
Librarians & Libraries in Comic Books
How exactly are those info-professionals portrayed, in both personality and in comportment? Does it depend on the medium, whether in film or novel, or sequential art? Are secondary characters more likely to be shown as negative librarian stereotypes than primary protagonists?
Selecting my current obsession of comic books as a vehicle for exploring this topic, I’ve gone though my own back-issue and trade collection and included an encouragingly diverse set of librarians and other info-workers.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Giles is the librarian/mentor of Buffy the Vampire Slayer in both the television and comic book series. Although portrayed somewhat stereotypically, British and dressed librarian-casual, he is a prime example of “more than meets the eye”, which is a rather positive personality trait in my opinion.
Here in a one-shot issue of Marvel Comics Ms. Marvel, this public librarian, a completely incidental character, is shown in perhaps the most stereotypical, and some would say, negative way possible. Shelving, older, a Caucasian woman, with a tight bun, glasses, and a skirt; if only she told the boys to “shhh” then it’d be complete. I think we’d all agree this is the most enduring image of the librarian, unfortunately or not.
My Little Pony
Here’s a two-for-one that’ll please all Bronies. The archivist of the magical kingdom of Equestria, and Ponyville graduate student and librarian Twilight Sparkle. While initially show in the traditional older-women-with-glasses-and-attitude mode, the archivist ends up changing into a happier, more satisfied pony. Perhaps this is a criticism of the old librarian trope? I’m not sure.
Twilight Sparkle, here showing the still grumbling archivist that she understand how to read a title and shelve a book, represents a youthful, intelligent, loyal, and friendly pony, presenting an incredibly positive perception of a librarian, professional or not (she sort of just inherits a library).
In the quite adult comic Sex Criminals, our main character works at a public library, which is being closed by a city in obvious financial trouble. She takes on a personal mission to buy or obtain as many of the library’s books as possible, storing them in her house in a perhaps misguided attempt to save the library. Here we see here first fall in love with libraries as a young women.
Again in Sex Criminals, our main protagonist meets our other protagonist. I’ve included this because I love hearing people say “liberry” or “libarry”. I’d have to say, this librarian is quite a progressive modern person, not at all the typical old crone that we often see.
In the sci-fi story of Six-Gun Gorilla, our protagonist is a public librarian obsessed with fiction in a world that devours violent reality-TV. While he seems anachronistic and a bit of a traditionalist, he serves as an interesting critique of his societies obsession with realism and the here-and-now. And what’s better than a futuristic librarian fighting with a cowboy gorilla with six-shooters?
The Walking Dead
Ah, The Walking Dead. In both the comic books and in the television show, our survivors inhabit a somewhat abandoned prison. Within it they find the prison library, full of books, magazines, DVDs, and all sorts of things they hadn’t thought or cared about while out fending off walkers. The sudden realization by that they missed enjoying the fiction that the library offered, or by others, the information offered, really leads me to ponder quite often about the role of information, libraries, and librarians in a post-apocalyptic world. I’d read a book or comic book series that revolved around a librarian who provided survivors with vital information.
I’d love to hear everyone else’s opinion about LIS workers as portrayed in comics, or any other medium you might favor. Which characters are you partial to? What stories would you like to read or watch?