Just five months after his gift to the nation’s library was revealed, Diamond Comic Distributors President and CEO Steve Geppi stood at the podium for the announcement that the Library of Congress will open a new display of select items from the Stephen A. Geppi Collection of Comics and Graphic Arts from November 6, 2018, through February 11, 2019, in the Great Hall of the historic Thomas Jefferson Building, 10 First St., SE, Washington, DC.
Introduced by David Mandel, the Library’s Director, Center for Exhibits and Interpretation, Geppi appeared before the press on Tuesday, October 30, in front of tables lined with a representative selection of pieces from his collection.
Displayed at the press event were items from the exhibit including Ub Iwerks’ original storyboards for Walt Disney’s Mickey Mouse in Plane Crazy, Joe Simon’s original concept drawing of Captain America, Don Levine’s hand-sculpted G.I. Joe prototype, a copy of Rodolphe Töpffer’s pioneering The Veritable History of Mr. Bachelor Butterfly, the 1933 Big Little Book Mickey Mouse, the Mail Pilot, and examples of the Popeye Daily Dime Bank (1956), the Superman Krypto-Raygun (1940), and the Captain Marvel Club welcome letter and envelope written in code accompanied by the code key.
Geppi’s multi-million-dollar donation of more than 3,000 items from his personal comic book and pop culture collection to The Library of Congress was announced by Dr. Carla Hayden, the Librarian of Congress, on Wednesday, May 30, 2018. It encompassed comic books, photos, posters, original comic book and comic strip art, newspapers, pinback buttons, and other rare, vintage pop culture artifacts.
Hayden was in attendance as Geppi fielded questions from the press and talked about the remarkable feeling of seeing his collection in such an environment. Library curators from the Prints and Photographs Division, the Serial and Government Publication Division and the Rare Book and Special Collections Division were also present with the U.S. Capitol just a glance out the window. The press event was held in the Library’s historic Members’ Room, an impressive setting of vaulted ceilings, wood panel walls, and gold leaf accents.
The move to the nation’s capital, with the Library’s 1.8 million visitors per year, offered the chance to get many more people to see his pop culture treasures. He said he hoped that the presence of his collection would help attract even more attendees.
The collection had been housed at Geppi’s Entertainment Museum in Baltimore, which closed June 3 following the announcement of the donation. Geppi said at the time he viewed the move as an extension of the thoughts he had first acted on in 1981 with the expansion of his Geppi’s Comic World chain to the tourist-friendly Harborplace development, and again with the 1995 launch of Diamond International Galleries.
“Baltimore has had the exclusive for 23 years,” Geppi said. “And literal tears were shed when the museum closed on June 3. But so many collections sit in the basement waiting for a flood or fire to destroy them and never get displayed. I can’t live forever but wanted to put it somewhere where it could be forever.”
Steve Geppi with Dr. Carla Hayden, the Librarian of Congress, at the press event announcing the first exhibit of items from the Stephen A. Geppi Collection of Comics and Graphic Arts.
The selection of items from this initial display was available for the press to photograph on five tables including his one, centered on patriotism, which includes both Joe Simon's original concept sketch of Captain America and Don Levine's hand-sculpted G.I. Joe prototype.
Steve Geppi at the podium on the Members Room press event at the Library of Congress on October 30, 2018. In the foreground is the hand-sculpted G.I. Joe prototype, which was among the items he donated earlier this year.