Wednesday, August 4, 2010

The E. Nelson Bridwell Collection

E. Nelson Bridwell was a national treasure who was and is unknown to most of the nation. He was the author of many of my favorite comics when I was a kid, including the Super Friends title that was miles ahead of anything you'd ever see on TV. Heck, the man created the character who evolved into the popular Justice Leaguer Fire just as one of dozens of new characters he introduced in that book.

Bridwell was also a continuity geek that influenced my thinking through his text features and scripting. But he was never heavy-handed about it. He could masterfully integrate his references into the mix without batting an eye. Witness, for example, the early issue of Super Friends that namechecks Zatanna, one of the members of the Secret Six, the alter ego of the Harvey Comics heroine Black Cat, and Siegel and Shuster's largely forgotten hero Funnyman. Or how about the time when the villain Kingslayer petulantly asked in another SF tale about the whereabouts of the "Latverian" monarch? E.N.B. knew when to let that stuff go in service to the story though, and it's a lesson I sort of wish I had picked up better in those more innocent times.

In addition to being a writer and historian, E. Nelson Bridwell was a collector and fan. The University of Tulsa is the current home of the E. Nelson Bridwell collection. I have to tell you, when I look over that list, all I can think is that it is probably only the tip of the iceberg. I bet the man had an even more extensive collection than that when he left us in 1987. At least that stuff has found a good home where it can be appreciated.

You can read more about Mr. Bridwell at this link. It seems he was inducted into the Oklahoma Cartoonists Hall of Fame. That's a fitting tribute to his work and legacy, even though I can't recall seeing a single published piece of artwork from him. His writing, his knowledge, and his imagination more than made up for it.

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