Jason: Welcome, friends, to our May edition of From the Archive. We’re doing something a little different for this particular issue. Obviously, we decided to record a video for you. Max and I are here in one of our ancillary collections. This is our massive comic book collection that we received from Dr. William Touponce’s family after he passed away in 2017.
As family, It’s very, very generous and gave us a large reference library that Bill had accumulated over a lifetime of scholarship.
Who is Bill Touponce? He was one of the founders of the Ray Bradbury Center along with the good Dr. Jonathan Eller.
Just by pure serendipity, two of the world’s leading scholars on Ray Bradbury ended up right here on IUPUI’s campus in the early to mid 90’s. A natural intellectual friendship sprung up between the two of them. And in 2007 they collaborated in founding the Center for Ray Bradbury studies, which is now called the Ray Bradbury center.
Jason: Max, I remember, this was before your tenure with us, but I remember about a year after Bill passed his family and surviving children reached out to us and asked us if we’d like to take on the comic book collection. And we said yes, it was in a storage facility in Indianapolis.
And it was me, Dr. Eller, Greg Kishbaugh – who’s on our advisory board – and Mike Hughes who took over teaching the comic book course after William Touponce retired. And the four of us, we had three minivans and all of these boxes here, these heavy comic books boxes were loaded up. We took multiple trips in those three mini-vans to make sure that they got to IUPUI’s campus safely and securely.
And I just remember that day, every time we we’d pull up a box off the shelf and get it downstairs into the IAT (Institute for American Thought) – where the books remained for the first few years that they were in our collection – we would pop open the lid and we would rifle through and we were sharing, “Aw man, he’s got this he’s got that. He’s got a near complete run of the original black panther. This is amazing.”
But the comics really were not touched from that day until we relocated them over here into the Bradbury center where they stayed on shelves, kind of dormant. We knew we had a treasure on our hands, but it wasn’t until Max Goller came on board as a volunteer and decided to take on the accessioning process.
Jason: So Max, you’ve been incredible. Tell us a little bit about why you’re here and what it’s been like working with this collection.
Max: So I came over as a result of a relationship that I gained with Dr. Eller and Jason as a result of working as a Director of Education for the Kurt Vonnegut Museum and Library. So I was over there for a long time, and both Dr. Eller and Jason had done presentations for a Teaching Vonnegut course I did.
And then when COVID hit I was let go at the Kurt Vonnegut museum. So I was thinking, what else can I do with my time? I’m retired from teaching and I need something else to do. So I contacted Jason and said, “Do you guys need any volunteer help?” and, of course, they were happy to have that help.
So I came over here and and for the past year, literally the past year, I’ve been inventorying the comic collection, which now totals more than 20,000 copies. And it is down to almost all the comics are now inventoried. So it’s been absolutely wonderful to be able to play around with these classic comics.
Jason: Yeah, Max, if it wasn’t for you, these comics would still be on the shelves. And we’d have no idea what we have or what the value is.
Before we get into the details about what’s in this amazing comic book collection that the good Dr. Touponce collected over many, many years.
I had the great honor of working almost as an apprentice under Dr. Jonathan Eller for close to half a decade. I never actually got to meet Bill Touponce. He passed away just weeks before I started working here full-time with Dr. Eller and he’d been long retired at that point.
But Max, you actually got to get to know him and take a class with him at one point. So tell us a little bit about what Bill Touponce was like.
Max: Yeah, I got to take a course with him on textual editing, which didn’t fit into what I was doing for my master’s degree – at least, I didn’t think so, because I was kind of going for an Educational English degree since I was a teacher. But I took his class – absolutely fascinating class. And I got to know Dr. Touponce because we were both military veterans.
So he’d been in the army during Vietnam. I’d been in the Navy for 20 years. So we bonded on being able to talk about our military experiences, as you often do when you share those military experiences. And he was an absolutely treasure of a man.
I really enjoyed his company and adored the class that I took with him.
Jason: He had a very eclectic range of things that he studied. You know, just just looking at the ancillary book collection, that does not include the comic books, you’ve got all kinds of critical theory, literary theory. But you’ve also got a whole bunch of HP Lovecraft and horror writers. And he consumed voraciously all kinds of literature.
How do you see that eclectic nature reflected in our comic book collection?
Max: Well, the fact that he’s collecting comic books, you look at this idea of what is literary. And I remember as a teacher, having to argue with some of the other teachers about. No, there really is incredible value for people reading comic books and you really must not take that away from students as a way of reading, because they get interested in reading matter what they’re reading – it’s great.
So just the fact that he was ahead of the scale in terms of being a huge comic book collector, and he knew what he was collecting. This comic book collection has things that, since I’ve become interested in comics, I would have loved to have in a collection if I’d had that.
Jason: So Max, you came on in July of ‘21. Oh my gosh. So we’re in 23 and now it’s been almost two – you said it’s been a year, but we’re talking almost two years to get this thing inventoried. That takes just incredible diligence and persistence.
You’ve been in here two days a week, almost every week, right? Since you came on board and you’ve given us, I don’t even want to try to calculate how many hours you’ve devoted to processing this. What stands out to you in terms of what are the high value, high ticket things that you’re really in awe of and what Bradbury connections do you see in this class?
Max: So when I came on to do this, I started out doing it in an Excel spreadsheet. Like let’s just tally you these things up. And I’m like, this is not a way to tally these up, because I could never even come close to figuring out the value on my own.
So, I discovered that there was software out there for coming book collectors. So I investigated that, tried out a bunch of different ones and found out we’ve got one that will tell you the value of each comic – and it’s contemporary, it’s for comic collectors.
So when we converted over to that software, it made it, one, much easier to inventory the collection. But two, it allowed us to see – What are the values of the ones that we have?
So, The two highest value comics that we have, now, there’s a Zap Comix. This is the very first Zap Comix – It is identified as one of the first underground comics in the United States, which is one of the reasons that it became very valuable. And it was done by R. Crumb, who is absolutely a treasure of an illustrator, very well-known in the comic book world. So the very first Zap Comix is a high-value item.
Another one we have is the Fantastic Four, number 52. And the number of the issues makes a big difference too, because, I mean, 52 is pretty far into the run of Fantastic Four. And Dr. Touponce really liked the Fantastic Four because we’ve got a bunch of those. But number 52, because it was the introduction of the Black Panther, was the first time Black Panther appeared in the comic, that’s what increased its value.
So those are two of the higher value ones. There are certainly others, but those are two of them.
And then as far as Bradbury connection, so of course, Dr. Touponce was involved in starting the Ray Bradbury Center and was a big Ray Bradbury fan, but he also got comics that related to Ray Bradbury. And so The Haunt of Fear – that story was the coffin in that.
This was also the first authorized release of a Bradbury story or the authorized use of a Ray Bradbury story in an Entertainment Comics comic. And that’s kind of important because EC actually got called on the carpet by Ray Bradbury, when he discovered that one of his stories had been used without his permission.
So they cleared that up very well. And when they did, EC paid him for the original story that he kinda caught him for. But they said “We would really like to work with you in the future. Can we get an agreement going?” So, this was the first authorized use of a Bradbury story.
Then he was also featured in Tales from the Crypt, a story “The Witch’s Cauldron” was featured in that – another EC story. And then in Weird Science, he had the story “Outcast of Stars.” So these are three of the EC Comics that Ray Bradbury was featured in.
In addition to that, there are the Martian Chronicles comic that he collected. There’s Ray Bradbury comics, Ray Bradbury Chronicles. So Dr. Touponce definitely got a lot of Ray Bradbury stories that were featured in comic books, both EC and others into his collection.
Jason: Well, fantastic work, max. We still wouldn’t know what we had here. We wouldn’t know about all of these treasuries if it wasn’t for your selflessness, your diligence, and your hard work. So thank you so much for coming on the team.
And I also want to thank the William Touponce family, yet again, for being so generous and allowing part of Bill Touponce’s material legacy to be curated right here in the Ray Bradbury Center, a place that meant an awful lot to him, and he continues to mean an awful lot to us.
Transcript Edited by Kylie Adkins