John A. Walsh

The Comic Book Readership Archive (CoBRA)

Date: October 30, 2015

Time: 12:30pm – 1:30pm

Room: Wells Library, Room 030


The Comic Book Readership Archive project, or CoBRA, is building a digital archive—of primary source material and related data sets—to document American comic book readership and fandom. CoBRA will include content from such sources as: fan mail, fan club publications, contests, fanzines, and programs and attendee records from comic book conventions and similar events. Comics scholarship is an established area of academic research; however, previous studies have not fully considered the vast documentary record of comic book readership that will be compiled and analyzed in the CoBRA project. In Of Comics and Men: A Cultural History of American Comic Books (2010), Jean-Paul Gabilliet writes: “fan mail constitutes a largely unexplored source of information about the reception of characters, stories and creators.” CoBRA will address this gap in comics scholarship by providing access to a large and growing archive for the study of comic book readership, including fan mail. The presentation will provide a detailed overview of the project, report on work to date, and discuss future plans for CoBRA.


John Walsh is an Associate Professor of Information Science at IU. He combines concerns and strategies from information science, documentation, and literary studies to investigate interesting and complex documents at the micro and macro levels. He is interested in the ontology and defining features of documents, and the ways in which different genres and types of documents manifest those features. He builds and uses digital models and a variety of digital and computational tools and strategies in his investigations. In recent years, some of the documents he has examined closely include: the the works of Victorian poet Algernon Charles Swinburne; the alchemical writings of Isaac Newton; Petrarch’s Rerum vulgarium fragmenta (Rvf); the Christian Bible and Christian iconography; and comic books and graphic novels.