CBLDF Interviews Karen Green: Protecting Your Legacy

Interim Director Jeff Trexler recently sat down for an interview with Karen Green, the Curator for Comics and Cartoons at Columbia University. The interview was recorded for presentation at the Comic-Con: Special Edition panel Protecting Your Legacy: Wills, Gifts, and the Creative Afterlife.

We are pleased to present the interview in its entirety for the first time! Below you’ll find the video interview plus transcript for this insightful and informative conversation with one of the icons protecting the legacy of comics today. You’ll learn about comics in higher education, starting a collection, ensuring access, managing your donations, and what object was lurking in the letters of Denis Kitchen!

Interview conducted November 21, 2021 by Jeff Trexler.

Jeff Trexler: Oh, wow! Karen, it is so amazing to see you.

Karen Green: It’s so lovely to see your face, Jeff, your smiling face. It’s almost like Saturday morning breakfast at San Diego.

JT: Oh, I miss those. Would you believe I just did a class with Michael Dooley the other night?

KG: I saw that actually, yeah. I think, oh, no. I saw something else he did, a judge’s event, an event with Jim Thompson.

JT: It was scheduled the same time as, well an hour into, my regular class that I teach on ethics but what I did was, I was there for the first hour, and he wanted to talk about how many of the Eisner books have been targeted for censorship.

KG: How many Eisner books, how many national book award books, how many books by Guggenheim fellowship winners, how many books . . . I mean it’s really kind of staggering. You know, there’s the list, the 850-title list that they generated in Texas, and there’s been a lot of discussion of that on library forums and on the library think tank Facebook page. And many librarians have pointed out that in their systems, the challenger must provide proof that they have read the book, and they must list the passages by page number that they find objectionable, and apparently, that stymies a lot of challenges. That kills them in their infancy.

I feel incredibly privileged and protected to work in an academic library where I don’t face these sorts of challenges. But I think public libraries need to get their policies in line in order and address this head-on. Don’t sit back and take it because the hysteria that’s building is alarming. As I mentioned to you earlier, there’s an event page on Facebook for a book burning in Fredericksburg, Virginia. And it’s not just a book-burning it’s a book-burning of library books. They’re asking people to check out the library books that they find objectionable and then come and burn them. It’s like, “It’s all right, we’ll pay for them at the end of the year; this isn’t theft. We’ve checked them out, and we’re going to pay for them as a missing book, and then we’re going to burn them.” Book-burning never ends well. It’s never a step in a positive journey. It’s extremely disturbing to see book burnings being revived, what 70 years, after the last round of comic book burnings. I don’t know where we’re going, but it’s no place good.

JT: Are you getting a lot of reports? Right now, we’ve been responding to a lot of reports behind the scenes. We’re preparing some things publicly; we’ve been part of some public letters, but there’s more coming down the pike. One of the things that’s been very disturbing to me is that we’re getting reports of librarians being reported to the police for arrest and prosecution for child pornography, distributing material that’s obscene as to children, which is illegal and is still in a number of states.

KG: Sure, as they should be.

JT: Have you heard of that?

KG: I haven’t, I confess. But that event page, the Fredericksburg, Virginia book-burning page lists library directors, school board administrators as people to target, theoretically just with letters, but we live in a world where it’s unlikely that that’s where we’ll end, with letters.

JT: I know that there have been people who’ve been arrested for their archival collections of material that is, shall we say, somewhat outré like arrested or investigated. So, like people who collect old photographic pornography and that sort of thing. I know there’s been several celebrities investigated for that sort of thing, and we’re hearing a lot of complaints about underground cartoonists who are now considered to have gone across. Would you have any concern for archival collections in that regard that certain older material could be considered obscene by certain folks? Do you think that there could be a target on that?

 KG: You know, the presence of harmful materials in our collections is something that’s been on our minds here at Columbia. We have collections that have racist imagery, we have collections that have misogynistic imagery, we have collections that have anti-Semitic imagery. We are an academic research institution, so our assumption is that people are coming to consult these things for research that is going to put it into historical context. But we have begun drafting language to put on our finding aids and especially to put on digital exhibitions that might have included these images in the past—taking down the images, replacing it with language saying this image contained material that could be considered harmful. You can still see this if you come in person. We’re not removing the materials from our collections because they are evidence of something that happened. If you wipe out all the racism, if you wipe out all the misogyny, if you wipe out all the anti-Semitism, then you can’t say that it used to be there. This is evidence of something, and in an academic setting, we hope that it will be put into historical context, that it will be analyzed, that it will be discussed, as it should be, and condemned, as it should be.

JT: That’s really interesting. I’m a lawyer, and we have our own set of standards for legal citation and that sort of thing. One of the things that just came out this past week, or very recently, I’ve just read about it this week was that we have a Bluebook for legal citations, and it’s now required for legal citation that if a party to a lawsuit or a conviction was a slave, that needs to be noted in the citation. Are there standards for librarians in terms of saying this sort of material needs to be labeled in this particular way? Is this something that you’re doing cutting edge with your work, or is it common?

KG:  I don’t think that we’re cutting edge about it. I think that Columbia is part of a larger movement towards recognizing a problematic past. Columbia has had a two-year program looking at the history of slavery and Columbia in Columbia’s history. A lot of the founding fathers were Columbia attendees or graduates, John Jay, Alexander Hamilton they may or may not have been involved in stuff that seemed appropriate to its time but is now horrifying.

JT: Right, right.

KG: It’s our job to recognize the stuff, to contextualize this stuff, but not to hide it, not to sweep it under the rug. There’s a great piece on Turner Classic Movies, a little like filler, that they have about African Americans and blackface in the history of film. It’s a beautiful little video, and at one point, they talk about showing Gone with the Wind. Right from the get-go, from the opening text crawl, it’s clear that this movie is looking at the Antebellum South of slavery as a romantic, beautiful bygone era that’s now gone with the wind. But, if you stop showing Gone with the Wind, then in addition to suppressing that very unpleasant stuff, you’re also suppressing Hattie McDaniel’s Oscar-winning performance, the first African American actor to win an Academy Award, so you’re suppressing that history as well. It’s complicated. Things are intertwined in extremely complex ways, and the way is not clear to disentangle those things and suppress the bad stuff, and put forward the good stuff. There’s no easy way. I think there’s a lot of discussions in online forums and in consortial forums. I know that we’re talking to others in the Ivies. I know that we’re looking at the current library literature to see how people are dealing with this. I think it’s becoming increasingly widespread. We’re definitely not on the cutting edge of this. I’d love to say that we were, but we’re not. This is an issue that is increasingly important because collections, especially collections as old as ours, you know Columbia was founded in 1754 . . .

JT: Wow!

KG: . . . collections as old as ours are filled with things that are horrifying and that reflect a horrifying history of the institution, so it’s our job to address that.

JF: It’s an important thing that you’re doing because I know that it must be incredibly difficult. Another thing that intrigues me about your work is that it is a repository for comics creators who want their work to live in the future. They don’t want their work to be lost. They might be concerned about how they’re seen in the future. How do you interact with creators who want you, so you have stuff going back to the hundreds of years I don’t know maybe even thousands of years, I’m sure you have an amazing . . .

KG: We have a cuneiform tablet that has Pythagorean triples a thousand years before Pythagoras.

JT: Incredible! Oh, now I want to see that so badly. Now, this is the problem by the way in reading your Facebook feed. Every day, I want to quit what I’m doing and go to the library and see another thing that you’ve posted. There are creators, there are books that you found whether it’s a scrapbook that somebody’s done with their own annotations which is to me . . .

KG: That scrapbook is amazing.

JT: I want to see this, I want to read this. It’s so incredible it reminds me of Howard Finster or something like that in book form.

KG: Totally, Henry Darger.

JT: It’s amazing work. There are so many people who want their work preserved; they wanted access to the future. So, if somebody wants Columbia to have their work what do they do? Do you go out looking for people, how does this process work in terms of acquiring the work and preserving the work of cartoonists?

KG: I definitely go out looking, and I also have people coming to me. When that connection has been made, whoever initiates it, it’s my job to go out and look at the material and get a sense of the three big factors; the scope, what’s in the collection; the size, how many linear feet it’s going to take up in our in our shelves; and the condition, does it have mold, does it have silverfish eggs, does it have things that are going to be problematic to introduce into our holdings? Then if everything’s jake, and if it’s a very large collection, I write up a proposal, I present it to my fellow curators, we discuss it, I work with our head of archives processing and our head of conservation to make sure that we know how to house it. For that scrapbook, which is a foot and a half high and 36 pounds, you know that is going to require a special box that is big enough for it, and that also will support it from below so that we don’t lift up the box and the scrapbook falls out the bottom. I had to raise money to make that possible because it’s not in our standard budget. But once all systems are go, then we send guidelines on how to pack, we ask for a box list, and we arrange for the material to come here. If there’s a good box list, then we put that into the archives management software that we use. If somebody contacts us and says, “I want to see such and such,” we can say, “Well, it’s in this box.”

So, for example, our head of archives processing and I spent a couple of days last week re-boxing Charlie Kochman’s editorial archive. He sent it in these massive trans file boxes. He was moving offices; he had like 10 minutes to get this done, so we threw it into these massive trans file boxes, which we discouraged, and there was no inventory. So, I worked with our head of archives processing, we re-boxed it into banker boxes, we kept a running inventory as we went along so now if somebody says, “I want to see all the materials relevant to the Jules Feiffer book because I understand that there are annotations that Jules himself made on the proofs.” We can say, “Well those are in boxes, you know, 3, 7, 22,” and we can pull those boxes. Eventually, this will all be sent to a processing archivist who will organize it more intelligently and create a finding aid that people can consult and then choose boxes that they want to see after they’ve created an online research account and then come here, and we pull the boxes, and they can go through. It’s our job essentially to organize, preserve, and make accessible these materials. That’s our mission for the purposes of research, teaching, and learning.

JT: So, making it accessible. The definition of accessibility has changed so many times over the years. Do you make things available to people over the web, or do they have to go to you, to New York? Do you have a contract with people so that the rights are allocated in terms of what can be done with the work?

KG: So generally, the creator retains the rights. We are not trying to be in the copyright permissions business. We give them the form that they can use to contact the copyright holder if they’re going to use it for reprint. Before the pandemic, you pretty much had to come here. Once we reopened, which was in September 2020, we reopened only for Columbia affiliates. Nobody outside Columbia was allowed in. In fact, we only allowed people from outside Columbia in at the beginning of this month. That’s how recent that is.

So we started doing video consultations. First, we changed our policy on scanning. We would scan up to 250 pages for free for a researcher, and then we would do video consultations, so somebody says, “I need to see all the correspondence of these four cartoonists in the Kitchen Sink Press correspondence archive.” And so, we had a set up with a laptop and an iPad like, suspended horizontally on a frame, and we would zoom in from both of the devices, and I would talk to the person on the laptop, and then they could see. I would put a document underneath the iPad, and they could take a screenshot, or they could say, “Yes, I’d like a scan of that,” and then we would follow up. I spent nine hours with one person, six hours with another person over a series of days just trying to make sure that they had [access]. Because we had people who had book contracts that were due during the pandemic that had just been knocked into a cocked hat. They’d been extended, but they hadn’t been extended far enough for them to be able to wait until we were going to be open for non-Columbia people because we didn’t know until about a month before that happened when that was going to be. I think that that is something that we’re going to retain. I enjoyed doing the video consultations. It was great both to connect with the researcher and see what they’re looking at and also to familiarize myself more with my collections. I don’t necessarily go through every box when they arrive, although that’s changing, it was great. I discovered all sorts of cool things including . . . this is my favorite thing that I found. This is a packet of Pop Rocks from 1970-something. It is solid. It is fused into one solid mass, it was in a letter that Shary Flenniken sent to Dennis Kitchen. Cherry Pop Rocks. I believe there was a significance to that if I can say that in this session about challenges.

JT: (laughing) We don’t censor.

KG: So that was removed because it’s not good to have foodstuffs, even in packages, sealed packages, in the collection. So I scanned it, and I made a note on the printed-out scan. I made a note, This was removed on whatever, whatever day because of this reason, and it’s just been sitting on my desk because I can’t bear to throw it out.

JT: It’s history

KG: It is. I grew up with Pop Rocks, yeah.

JT: Yep, I grew up in fear of them because of all the rumors about Jerry Mathers.

KG: Yeah, yeah, don’t drink them with soda.

JT: But you mentioned, there was something that came to mind when you were talking about people reading them and how personal this is. You mentioned a letter to Dennis Kitchen, and this is a very personal thing. Clearly, people are sending you material before they pass away. I mean, they’re doing this in their lifetime, they’re donating things to you. Is it possible to put on some kind of restriction to keep certain things from being in the public? How does that work?

KG: Absolutely, absolutely. We do that with hundreds of collections sometimes it’s because there are sensitive case files if it’s something medical or psychological, social work. We have a lot of social work and human rights archives, and so there’s sometimes sensitive material in there. When the archivist goes through and does the processing there is . . . Well first, you discuss with the donor, How do you want to handle this? and they’ll say, You know that should be restricted for 10 years, 20 years, 50 years and then we put a large piece of red paper in that folder that sticks out above the top to the tab level and on it, it says, This material is restricted until… and then we write in whatever year. And if somebody comes to the reading room and asks for one of those boxes, the reading room manager opens every box before handing it to a researcher for a multitude of reasons. It might be to see if there’s fragile material in there, it might be to see if there’s something in there that needs to be on a book cradle, but it’s also to see if there’s restricted material and if there is, we take those folders out and we put them in a special box behind the desk and then when the person returns, we put them back in. I was working in the reading room last week when somebody asked for a box, and I opened it, and I saw that there were at least a dozen folders with these red sheets of paper in it and I looked, but they were like, This material is restricted until 2011. Okay, so we’re good now, so I took those out and handed the box to the person with a clear conscience. Because it’s not like we’re going through every single box over and over to see when these things expire. This is part of the responsibility of the reading room manager.

JT: Are there any creators who put restrictions on who can access their work? Like, I will only let somebody use this if they do a book where they acknowledge that I co-created this character, or something like that? Or do you have limits on what you allow people to do?

KG: No, that would be unreasonable. That would be considered an unreasonable request. When we do a deed of gift, there’s standard language. If the donor wants language such as that, it literally has to go to the university council for a while, and there’s no way the university council would approve that. You can only use my material if you say that I created Batman? Sorry, no. But for example, we have Howard Cruz’s papers, and Howard asked for restrictions on some of the correspondence that he got from people after Gay Comix came out because in many of those letters, people revealed their sexual orientation, but perhaps, had not come out to families, had not come out to friends, and not come out publicly, and Howard didn’t want to be the one to out them. So that is restricted for another 10 or 20 years, I think. I can’t remember exactly what we put on it so that by the time that’s visible probably everybody in that file is gone.

JT: Got it, understood, wow, so if you were going to talk to somebody, I think in our audience we’ll have fans, we’ll have creators, publishers. If you were going to give somebody advice on how to protect what they want. I mean can creators, can fans give you their collections?

KG: Oh yeah, they can. I mean, it depends on what it is. We have, for example, two very large and several much smaller collections of fanzines. Bill Shelley bequeathed his fanzine collection to us along with all of his research materials, and John Fantucchio’s widow donated his fanzine collection to us. That was of interest because I’m fascinated with the history of fandom, and I think there hasn’t been much research on it. There hasn’t been much scholarship on it. Bill Shelley has written most of what there is to be written about fandom himself right, so that’s of interest. If you’ve got an amazing original art collection and would like to donate it and get a big honking tax deduction, then, yes, please feel free. But if you have your personal comic book collection of the comics that you loved in the 1990s and now you don’t have room for it, you want to know if I want it? No, I don’t. I don’t, A, because we’re not collecting, for the most part, single-issue comics and B, because that’s not, let’s say, the most historically interesting time period for comics and C, because most of that stuff is available in reprint

JT: But it says collectible right on the foil cover!

KG: It does, doesn’t it, yeah. I’ve learned some things the hard way. I was doing an exhibition in 2014 about the comics collection in Columbia, and I wanted to include Daredevil 168 where Elektra is introduced. She’s a student at Columbia, and Frank Miller has two panels, one that has our administration building in it and one that has this fabulous statue of a river god in it that we have on one of our lawns. I wanted to indicate these representations of Columbia in popular culture and in comics. So, I went on eBay searching for that issue number, and I did not know at the time, and I’m admitting this in a public forum to my shame, I didn’t know what CGC was. So, I bought a CGC copy, and it arrived in this freaking plastic coffin, and I’m like, How do I get it . . .? I thought it was a jewel case like this is just how they ship it. How the hell do I get it out of this thing! And that’s when I learned about collectors and grading and investment, and I thought, well, this is of no use to me, so I cracked it open and got my comic book out of there and used it in my exhibition to my delight. I’m not sure I remember what prompted that story. What did prompt that story? 

JT: It was a great story, so it’s probably better than any question that I was going to ask or follow up on. I’m going to sort of go out a little bit and just a bit more personal; what drew you to this? Was this something that libraries were always doing? Are there a lot of libraries that are interested in this material now? Years ago, when I was a graduate student and people were donating comics to a library, it was almost seen as a novelty. I loved comic books, and people would say, Oh, did you hear they got those books? And it was seen as sort of funny ha-ha. And now, what’s the attitude in the academic library world to the comics?

KG: So the first part of your question is how was I drawn to it, and the second part is how is everybody else dealing with it? I started out not thinking that I would even have the ability to create archival collections. I just wanted to be able to have a graphic novel collection in our circulating stacks, and I proposed that in 2005 and I was approved. It was a side hustle for me. I was a librarian for ancient and medieval history because medieval history is my scholarly background, and it grew, and it grew, and it grew, and it, you know my profile, grew. I was writing a column for comiXology. I was an Eisner judge. All this stuff happened, so I became better known.

I was by no means the first person to start a collection like that. Our collection is by no means as large as many others. The real kind of godfather of comics in academia is Randall Scott, who is in special collections at Michigan State who started his collection, which had the goal of having one of everything in print. He started that collection in 1970. Then, of course, Ohio State, Lucy Caswell comes along in 1977, and right away, that’s an archival collection. She got Milton Caniff’s archives and that formed the basis of what is now the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum. Virginia Commonwealth has a huge collection, both mass market and archival. University of Wyoming’s American Heritage Center is collecting comics editors. That’s where Stan Lee and Mort Weisinger’s papers are for example. Library of Congress, I mean not academia but a research collection. They’ve got possibly the largest comic book collection in the country and an extraordinary comic art collection. So Columbia is very late to this game, but I’m aggressive. I’ve been trying to make up for lost time, so I think we’re now recognized as something respectable.

Just to go back to what I said, it started as a circulating collection of graphic novels. My profile raised; I started that collection in 2005, and in 2010 was approached by Chris Claremont’s wife, Beth, saying Chris wants to donate his papers to an academic library, is Columbia interested? I could not answer that question. I did not have the right to answer that question. I didn’t have the position to answer that question. So I went to the director of rare books and said, What do you think? And he said, Sure, who else can you get? So I was kind of a curator without a portfolio for a while. I acquired Wendy and Richard Pini’s papers, I acquired Al Jaffee’s papers, I acquired the Kitchen Sink Press records, and then a new director came in, hugely comics friendly, and in a big library-wide reorganization, I was moved into rare books as the first curator for comics and cartoons. And a year after that, ancient and medieval history was finally taken away from me and given to somebody else, so I’m just comics, circulating comics, and special collections comics.

JT: I have to say, your work in this is incredible. 40 years ago, I just couldn’t have imagined that it would become this impressive and what you’re doing is so incredibly important for preserving our culture, both the culture of comics and the culture of this country, the world culture, generally in terms of communication.

KG: Absolutely.

JT: It is truly epic. One of the most important things I’m seeing in libraries. I think if I had seen this more when I was much younger when people were trying to get me to be a librarian, and I think I would have probably taken that path. If I had somebody like you to see. 

KG: I did not know it was going to go in this direction, believe me, when I became a librarian, I just figured I would have this little job as the ancient and medieval history librarian dealing with graduate students and faculty until I died and I don’t know, I like comics. I grew up with comics, and it’s extremely exciting to be part of this world. The comics world has been very welcoming and very friendly.

JT: You’ve done a lot. You’ve done a lot to communicate to people in the comics world that what they do matters.

KG: I’m glad to hear that.

JT: I know, and it’s incredibly important. It’s something where the importance is only going to grow. You’ve been incredibly generous with your time; I’m going to ask you just two quick questions. One, if somebody else wanted to do what you did, what advice would you have for them? The second question, do you have any parting advice to creators, fans, retailers, anybody who wants to preserve their legacy? What’s the most important thing that you would recommend for them to do?

KG: Okay, first, advice to people who want to follow in my footsteps, well first, you need to be in an academic setting, and if they’re not, if it’s not a setting that already has a comics collection, a graphic novels collection, a comics archive, get in there anyway you can and then start testing the waters. I had no idea that I was going to be approved. I came up with three arguments for starting the graphic novels collection. The first was that this was an art form that was getting growing critical and academic acceptance, and I was able to show reviews in the New York Times in the New York Review of Books. I was able to show dissertations from top-tier universities. I was able to show articles in peer-reviewed journals all that had to do with comics and not just Maus, comics across the board. It’s very easy to make the argument for Maus the others have been a little bit more challenging, so that was the first argument.

The second argument was that Columbia had a film school and a film studies program, and the connection even in 2005 between film and comics was already quite strong. And the third was a little bit more site-specific. Basically, I said, Columbia’s full title is not Columbia University, Columbia’s full name is Columbia University in the City of New York. That’s what’s on my business cards. That’s what’s on the stationery. Columbia University in the City of New York. We are a New York institution. In America, comics were born in New York City. Comics for decades were a New York institution, and it seemed to me since no one in New York was creating a systematic collection of this art form that who better than the university in the city of New York. You need to think, how are you going to pitch it? the most important thing is to figure out not just what you want but how what you want is good for your institution. I was able to go out and find faculty support, wrote letters. I’ve long wanted to teach a course on blank but I couldn’t because we don’t have such and such. Librarianship is a wonderfully plastic profession. You can come in as one thing and form yourself into something else. My model was a colleague of mine who had been hired as the assistant undergraduate librarian but had a huge interest in film and basically built a massive film collection and is now the librarian for film and media studies, and she has liaison to the film school, and the film studies program. I’m like yeah, I can do what she did, so you know if you’re doing the job you were hired for well and you’ve earned the respect of your colleagues, then if you suggest that you’d like to do something a little different or add something onto your plate it’s very likely that they’ll say yes. So that’s my main advice for anybody who wants to do this kind of thing, test the waters in your institution and see what you can do.

As for advice for people with potential collections, I was on a panel at San Diego a few years ago it was Maggie Thompson’s spotlight panel, and she decided to turn her spotlight off herself and on to collecting. She had somebody from a museum, somebody from an auction house, and somebody, me, from a research library, and we all kind of made our case, and my point was that you give your stuff to a museum only ten percent of the average museum’s collection is on display at any given time and the rest is generally inaccessible. You’re not allowed to page things from the stuff that’s hidden away in storage. An auction house is going to disperse your collection, and you’re not going to retain that sense of a collection. One piece is going to go here, and other pieces are going to go there, and something that you may have spent your life building is going to be atomized. But research institution, anyone who has a research need can come in and make an appointment. You don’t have to be an academic, you don’t have to be a Columbia, you come in, and you can create a research account, and you can page anything in our collections, and we are eager to take collections whole and be able to preserve this entire legacy. Unfortunately, thanks to Richard Nixon, if you are the creator of the work in that collection, you do not get to take a tax deduction on anything more than the materials used in creating it, so basically, in Nixon’s America, your art is worth nothing more than the paper it was created on, which is such a horrifying, horrifying thing that should have been changed a long time ago.

JT: Yeah.

KG: But if you’re a collector, it’s not your creation, you can get an appraisal, or you can look things up on auction sites, gallery sites, and you can create a substantiated price, substantiated value, and submit that to the IRS and get a big honking tax deduction.

JT: And that’s a wonderful thing!

KG: That is a wonderful thing, yes. We have some remarkable stuff from Jerry Robinson’s estate that has been given to us by his son Jens and his wife Janice, just stunning things. We didn’t get Jerry’s entire collection, that would be crazy, but we’ve gotten things like a notebook page from when he was at Columbia in which he doodled the heads of Dick Grayson and Bruce Wayne because he’d already started drawing. And most recently, we got these two huge pieces of illustration board on which Bob Kane had asked Jerry essentially to audition to be the main artist for Batman, and he asked him to imitate several well-known newspaper cartoonists. So, he drew Maggie and Jiggs, and he drew Nancy and Sluggo, and he drew Barney Google and Snuffy Smith, and he drew Flash Gordon. He drew all these people. He even imitated their signatures, and, in the corner, he drew Batman, and this was his audition in 1939 to be the main artist. Well, we have that now. I mean that’s priceless; it’s freaking priceless. We have scripts that Jerry used to work on, to work from for his art. One of them written by Bill Finger, and the year that we got that that was actually some of the first stuff that we got from Jens would be the six batman scripts from Jerry’s collection and Jen’s basically said, and I don’t think I’m giving anything away here, We sold some stuff this year on auction, and so we’re doing this donation because it offsets the profit that we made. If you don’t want to keep your entire collection intact, sell off some pieces, donate some pieces so that you don’t take the big capital gains bite. There are lots of ways to make everybody happy.

JT: And that’s important. I mean it’s a question everybody has and there’re people who want to preserve the history and people also want to be able to use that aspect, it is important. It’s motivated a lot of things being preserved that might not otherwise have been capped.

KG: Absolutely.

JT: Karen, thank you so much for this. This was invaluable. You’ve gone from preserving history to preserving tax deductions, which is fantastic as I’m a former tax lawyer, so thanks so much. One thing that’s become apparent in talking to you is that you know so much of what you do. When people think about libraries, they think about preserving the past and keeping the past alive, but comics has a strong sense of its history, and I feel like what you’re doing is not just preserving the past but you’re creating the future. People will be looking to your works to draw inspiration, to make new things, to be keeping comics alive for millennia to come! Thanks for doing that for us!

KG: Thank you, it’s my pleasure, and thank you for asking me to chat. This has been lovely.

(This interview has been edited for length and clarity.)