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Beyond Words
Graphic novels part of new Shafer Art Exhibit
Famous Funnies.jpg
Famous Funnies, c. 1936; 10 1/2 x 6 1/2 inches, ink on paper; Courtesy of University of Missouri Libraries, Special Collections.

Updated Sept. 10 to correct reception error.

Comic books and graphic novels have made a resurgence thanks to the success of the Marvel Universe movies. In the Shafer Art Gallery’s next exhibit, “Beyond Words: Visual Narratives from the Block Book to the Graphic Novel,” visitors will explore the rich history of graphic novels dating back toward the end of the middle ages.

The exhibit opens Wednesday, September 12 and continues through October 20.

“If you grew up loving comics or recently discovered graphic novels this exhibition will put the visual narrative art form into historical and cultural perspective,” Shafer Art Gallery Director Dave Barnes said. “Far from being literature just for children, comics are a medium of artistic expression that can be used to communicate sophisticated and nuanced content.”

Modern comic strips first began to capture audience’s attention toward the end of the nineteenth century. The improvement in printing presses both encouraged artists to explore the medium and newspapers to purchase the comics for their readers. 

Comic books were first developed as a way for artists to re-sell their comics to readers. The comic books many know and love did not become popular until Superman was released in the late 1930s. Graphic novels weren’t created until the 1970s and 80s. 

The works selected for this exhibition are intended to encourage visitors to consider the roles of image and narrative in our cultures, and to examine storytelling techniques in different media.

“The Shafer Gallery is very fortunate to be able to exhibit these unique works of art that are rarely available to the public in a comprehensive form,” Barnes said. “We hope to make this a fun and thought-provoking experience.” 

The works in Beyond Words are from the Rare Book Collection and the Comic Art Collection in the Division of Special Collections, Archives, and Rare Books at the University of Missouri Libraries. The exhibition was curated by Kelli Hansen, Librarian, University of Missouri Libraries, Special Collections and Rare Books, Columbia, Missouri, and organized by ExhibitsUSA,, a program of Mid-America Arts Alliance. 

The gallery is open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday. Admission is free. 

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Canticum Canticorum, c. 1922 reproduction of 15th century original; 11 x 16 inches, ink on paper; Courtesy of University of Missouri Libraries, Special Collections.

This exhibition is toured by ExhibitsUSA, a national program of Mid-America Arts Alliance. ExhibitsUSA sends more than 25 exhibitions on tour to more than 100 small- and mid-sized communities every year. These exhibitions create access to an array of arts and humanities experiences, nurture the understanding of diverse cultures and art forms, and encourage the expanding depth and breadth of cultural life in local communities. For more about ExhibitsUSA, email or visit

Mid-America Arts Alliance (M-AAA) strengthens and supports artists, cultural organizations, and communities throughout our region and beyond. They achieve this primarily through their national traveling exhibition programs, innovative leadership development, and strategic grant making. They are especially committed to enriching the cultural life of historically underserved communities by providing high quality, meaningful, and accessible arts and culture programs and services. They believe in more art for more people. Additional information about M-AAA is available at

Exhibit reception canceled

A reception for the Shafer Art Gallery’s new exhibit has been canceled. The Great Bend Tribune’s “Community Events” calendar in the Sunday, Sept. 9 paper showed a reception scheduled for this Friday, but that event is no longer on the schedule, according to Brandon Steinert, BCC director of public relations and marketing. “There will be some type of event near the end of the exhibit’s duration, depending on a guest speaker’s availability,” he said.

The exhibit will be open from Wednesday, Sept. 12, through Oct. 20. The gallery is open 10 a.m. to 5

p.m. Monday through Saturday. Admission is free.

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George Herriman, Krazy Kat, c. 1920s; 11 x 17 inches, ink on paper; Courtesy of University of Missouri Libraries, Special Collections.