Cindy Jackson, who oversaw VCU’s Comic Arts Collection, dies at 53 – VCU News

Cindy Jackson, who served for several years as VCU Libraries’ library professional for the comic arts and who performed a pivotal role in elevating Virginia Commonwealth University’s Comedian Arts Selection to nationwide prominence, has died at the age of 53.

Jackson, who acquired an undergraduate diploma in details methods and a master’s degree in English from VCU, began operating in VCU Libraries’ Distinctive Collections and Archives as a student employee in 1996. Hired as a comprehensive-time staff in 2005, Jackson oversaw the Comic Arts Selection, which includes a lot more than 125,000 comic textbooks, as very well as reference titles, journals, graphic novels, fanzines, primary performs of comedian artwork, and the personal papers of notable figures in the comic arts.

Through Jackson’s tenure, the Comic Arts Assortment — which began in the 1970s with the donation of a modest comedian ebook collection and the papers of Richmond newspaper editorial cartoonist, Fred O. Seibel (1886 – 1968) — grew into a single of the largest analysis collections of its type in the place that also serves as a resource of thoughts and inspiration for the resourceful local community.

“She’d always say she experienced every 15-year-aged boy’s dream work,” mentioned her brother Stephen Jackson. “She beloved her career at VCU. She liked doing work with all the professors and her students.”

In a 2011 post in Design and style Weekly about Jackson and the Comedian Arts Collection, she said: “I get accused of owning the world’s coolest job. And I won’t deny it.”

Constructing a ‘deep and abundant study collection’

It was all through Jackson’s time at VCU that the selection was designated as the formal repository for the Will Eisner Comic Business Awards, which are declared each and every 12 months at the San Diego Comedian Convention and are deemed the comics industry’s equal of the Academy Awards.

Jackson’s deep understanding and passion for comics cast associations with comic arts scholars, creators and donors, and aided lead to VCU Libraries’ acquisition of exceptional and noteworthy performs, such as in 2016 a copy of All-Negro Comics No. 1, the initially comic e-book prepared and drawn entirely by African American writers and artists.

“It’s a single of the holy grails of comics,” Jackson explained at the time. “It is so important to the background of comics. I’ve been in this occupation for 20 years and I by no means assumed I’d at any time keep a single of these in my fingers. And now we have a single in the selection for researchers to use.”

Jackson almost solitary-handedly steered the growth of the VCU Libraries Comedian Arts Collection, which is extensively recognized as one particular of the county’s most distinguished archives of comics, comedian arts, and comic scholarship, said John E. Ulmschneider, emeritus dean of libraries and university librarian. “It was her astoundingly deep information of comic arts and comic heritage, and her enthusiasm for functioning with collectors, lovers, artists, and students, that propelled the progress of the Comic Arts Collection,” he claimed.

“Cindy had a singular ability to create deep intellectual and have faith in associations with scholars and collectors all across the state that brought some of the most significant elements of the selection to VCU,” Ulmschneider claimed. “Just one particular case in point: her extensive information of comics and her the way she targeted VCU’s collections (particularly in aid of artists and social historians) so impressed a single collector and supporter that he often asked her to give him a checklist of her ‘top 10 needs’ for the assortment. That collector then utilised his a lot of connections within the earth-broad comics investing network to pursue merchandise on the list, buy them, and then generously donate them to VCU Libraries. All-Negro Comics No. 1 was among a number of uncommon comics that came to VCU Libraries by way of that marriage. Other collectors and students who realized about Cindy (and ultimately almost absolutely everyone associated or intrigued in comics understood of her) introduced lots of precious and unusual performs to VCU Libraries out of their respect for her and the assortment.”

Jackson also created reveals and taught instruction classes relevant to comics. In 2019, for illustration, she gave a lecture to a VCU School of Arts Comics and Graphic Novels study course on the heritage of comics, displaying the college students treasures from the assortment these as a 178-12 months-old copy of “The Adventures of Mr. Obadiah Oldbuck,” which is deemed the to start with comic e book, in that it was the initially to incorporate art and text to kind a sequential narrative.

“It’s a incredibly prosperous and deep investigation assortment,” Jackson advised the students. “[But] you do not have to be carrying out analysis, you never have to be accomplishing a undertaking. If you just want to appear in and read some EC Comics, I can help you out.”

A commitment to generosity and services excellence

Tom De Haven, a retired VCU English professor, writer and comics historian, recalled how Jackson assisted him place jointly comics programs for decades.

“I’d bring my college students to Unique Collections, and she’d do displays about the comics holdings,” he said. “As more and a lot more college classes integrated comics into their syllabi, Cindy was more and extra in demand from customers. But I you should not believe I at any time knew any person who loved her occupation far more. Severely. She was charming and witty and so quite generous to colleagues and school and college students alike.”

Jackson’s existence and operate will have a long-lasting impact on VCU, he reported.

“Primarily due to the fact of Cindy Jackson, the VCU comics assortment is nationally identified as a incredible useful resource for creators, instructors and students,” he claimed.

Students sit at a long table with comics issues on the table. Cindy Jackson is smiling in the foreground at the end of the table.
Cindy Jackson appears to be like on as VCU pupils in a Comics and Graphic Novels class examine out treasures from the Comedian Arts Assortment in 2019. (Picture by Brian McNeill, Company Marketing and advertising and Communications)

Yuki Hibben, senior curator in Unique Collections and Archives and a longtime colleague of Jackson’s, wrote in a November write-up celebrating Jackson’s “many yrs of exemplary company and contributions to VCU Libraries” about how Jackson “graced the [Special Collections and Archives] desk with her heat smile and superior expectations for support excellence.”

“She shared her extensive know-how of the collection with a great number of learners, faculty and other researchers with generosity and kindness,” Hibben wrote. “Her many supporters, which includes her colleagues at VCU Libraries, take into consideration her the Queen of Comics. Cindy beloved her position and this was clear in her perform every single working day.”

Jackson’s outreach perform, Hibben wrote, aided “spread the phrase that VCU Libraries holds a single of the finest study collections of comedian arts in the nation.”

Hibben explained that Jackson’s perform and legacy will carry on via Comedian Arts Selection for years to appear.

Linda Redmond, a VCU alum and VCU Libraries supporter, knew Jackson from the library’s yearly e book sale and from Richmond-area comic conventions. “I uncovered Cindy to be an open-hearted unique who liked comic art and textbooks,” she stated. “At a con, she would engage artists and authors, soaking up new facts and promoting the specific collections. Her information of comics was deep and broad. Cindy joyfully shared her curiosity with many others all around her. So sorry that she is long gone.”

A legitimate enthusiast

Celina Williams, who labored with Jackson for much more than a 10 years, to start with as a VCU university student worker and then as an employee, remained close mates with Jackson and was at her bedside when she died. Williams identified as Jackson a “rare person” who altered her everyday living, inspiring her to go after a master’s degree in library science and inspiring her to tumble in appreciate with comics.

“When we initial begun operating alongside one another, she would give me research. The to start with graphic novel she gave me was ‘Jar of Fools’ by Jason Lutes, and I don’t forget becoming blown absent by it and loving it and acknowledging for the to start with time that tales like that could be told in comedian ebook type. And Cindy was like, ‘Oh, I’m heading to blow your thoughts.’ And then she had me go through ‘Sandman.’”

In their past conversation alongside one another, Williams and Jackson talked about how substantially they’d relished the Netflix adaptation of “Sandman” that came out in 2022.

“We had been each giddy over the actuality that Tom Sturridge was participating in Aspiration since several years in the past, she and I equally had him on our record of actors who could engage in Dream. Cindy received to see the very first season and the bonus episodes. I’m happy she received to see it. She was hunting ahead to seeing period two. I will not know what occurs in the afterlife, but I hope we can nonetheless watch information … because I’d like to imagine of her finding to check out period two on Netflix.”

In that similar dialogue, Jackson instructed Williams that she necessary to test out Amazon’s adaptation of the comic e-book “Paper Girls.” “She was even now giving me tips and research,” she claimed. “She was a fangirl. And she experienced supporters far too. Everyone she achieved was just struck by how she was so lively and silly and imaginative and handy … I’m actually grateful for owning known her.”

Contributions in Jackson’s memory may be designed to VCU Libraries’ Special Collections & Archives Fund