Bill Blackbeard, Author of Sherlock Holmes in America, is Dead

Bill Blackbeard, author of Sherlock Holmes in America (1981), is dead at 84.

Known as “the man who saved comics”, Mr. Blackbeard will be remembered primarily for his work in preserving, documenting and re-popularizing comic-strips. His obituary in the New York Times highlights some of his achievements including owning “more than 2.5 million strips published between 1893 and 1996, culled from libraries and newspaper morgues across the country”, founded the San Francisco Academy of Comic Art in 1967, wrote/edited a number of books including: The Comic Strip Art of Lyonel Feininger, about the German-American painter who drew strips for The Chicago Tribune; R. F. Outcault’s the Yellow Kid; and the volume I know him for: Sherlock Holmes in America (SHIA).

[Sherlock Holmes in America.]

SHIA, at first glance, looks like it could be just another Sherlock Holmes oversized hardcover coffee table sized tome until you notice the newspaper print ‘pixilation’ and realize the illustration of Holmes is not your typical Paget or Steele drawing: it is from a cartoon by John T. McCutcheon from the long defunct Chicago Record-Herald from January 16, 1903.

The book is filled withAmerican Sherlockian art: story illustrations, comic strips and cartoons, motion picture advertisements, and business advertisements incorporating the Holmes image. Stories are included also - hilarious American burlesques of Arthur Conan Doyle’s Great Detective; and there are critics’ reviews of old and new Holmes stage productions and of the many Holmes films…gems of Holmes poetry…letters and news items…and serious Sherlockian commentary aplenty.”

As the title implies, all the material (including 500+ illustrations!) in Sherlock Holmes in America has it’s origin in some American newspaper, magazine or publication, making this a truly one-of-a-kind item. 

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