SDSUxCOMIC-CON: IDW Founders Collection Enhances Comics Library

The addition of more than 20,000 items from the founders of IDW Publishing opens up new opportunity for comics studies.

Monday, July 17, 2023
The IDW Founders Collection, donated to SDSU, included the seven titles shown above.
The IDW Founders Collection, donated to SDSU, included the seven titles shown above.

It’s a completist’s dream: Every issue, every title, every year.

From a “My Little Pony” tie-in to the late U.S. Rep. John Lewis’ highly acclaimed graphic memoir of the civil rights movement, the founders of IDW have given San Diego State University a copy of each comic published under its imprints from the day it was launched by four people in a windowless office above a Pacific Beach Tower Records store.

The IDW Founders Collection of more than 20,000 titles, donated last year, enhanced an already robust Comic Arts Collection of more than 100,000 titles maintained at the University Library.

From the very beginning, Ted Adams and Robbie Robbins kept a copy of everything that they published — a new title would come out, and they would toss a copy in a box. As the boxes filled, they were moved to a storage facility. Now they’re housed at SDSU.

After almost 20 years with the company they founded, Adams and Robbins left IDW in 2018 to start Clover Press the following year. They continued to purchase IDW books published after their departure to keep the collection complete.

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IDW publications have included such licensed titles as “Transformers," "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” and “Star Trek”; “Dungeons & Dragons” and “My Little Pony” “Sonic The Hedgehog,” and “Godzilla.”

Now a publicly traded company and the fifth-largest comic book publisher in the U.S., IDW’s Top Shelf Productions imprint is renowned for publishing works of literary significance including the  trilogy, “March,” by Lewis, Andrew Aydin, and Nate Powell, and actor George Takei’s graphic memoir, “They Called Us Enemy.”

“San Diego has been home to a vibrant community of comic book writers, artists, and publishers for decades, and has become a global center for the study of comics, graphic art, popular culture, and fandom with the rise of the San Diego Comic-Con and, more recently, the establishment of the Comic-Con Museum,” said University Library Dean Scott Walter.

“With the addition of the IDW Founders Collection to the University Library, San Diego State extends its commitment to learning, scholarship, and community engagement in an area of study that is distinctively San Diego's.”

Although the donation value was estimated at about $289,000, its true value as a complete collection, including many rare and highly collectable items, “is a treasure of inestimable value”, Walter added.

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Ted and Paula Adams (née Beerman, SDSU '00 and '07) also made a bequest to the library.

“We're also incredibly thankful for Ted Adams' visionary generosity in making a significant pledge and bequest to support the collection,” the dean said. “These gifts will establish an endowment to ensure that the Library has the resources in perpetuity to preserve and maintain the materials, and engage students, faculty and researchers to explore this very unique collection.”

In addition to items created for standard publication, the University Library’s collection includes special convention editions, retailer incentives, exclusives for big box department and toy stores, and items with limited distribution to schools and libraries.

The collection also includes single issue comic books, trade paperbacks, limited editions and hardcovers.  There are rare publications that were never distributed, items created as wedding gifts, promotional ashcans, prototypes for books never published, scripts for unproduced movies, advance reader’s editions and items previously only made available to IDW employees.

For a multisensory experience, the collection also includes scented editions of Strawberry Shortcake comics.

There are also hand-drawn sketches by Stan Sakai (“Usagi Yojimbo”), Dan Khannan (“Transformers: Infestation”), Kevin Eastman (“Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles”), Gordon Purcell (“Star Trek: Infestation”), Katie Cook (“My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic”), Eric Powell (“Godzilla: Kingdom of Monsters”), and Dan Schoening (“Ghostbusters: Infestation”).

Comics are afforded significant study in at least 16 SDSU classes, and the Center for Comics Studies, a collaborative and innovative nucleus of comics research, scholarship, and action, is actively developing additional courses and a certificate in comics studies.

Adams said he hopes that the Founders Collection can be used to illustrate entrepreneurship and business practices, and how a publishing empire was created.

Popular Culture Librarian Pamela Jackson previously produced a video to give an overview of the library’s collection. Jackson’s video explains how comics in the SDSU library may be viewed: some are available through regular circulation and some must be viewed on-site through an appointment with Special Collections.

Comics Corner, sponsored by alumnus Jack Sword, is a comfortable space in Love Library to curl up with some of the circulating comics, and view an exhibit of some of the comics from the new IDW Founders Collection. There is also a library research guide to help library users learn more about the comics collection.


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