Lifelong collector donates comic books

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Hey, Paul Bunyan and Dorothy: move over and make room for Batman, Superman and the X-Men.

A 50-year collector of comic books recently made a large donation from his personal collection to the University’s Children’s Literature Research Collection.

Minneapolis resident Judy Borger said she and her husband John are moving from their home to a downtown condo and decided to donate his collection of comics.

About 40,000 individual issues are currently being appraised, she said, and are estimated to be valued “well into six figures.”

The comics will join the University’s existing comic collection of a few hundred items, curator of the Children’s Literature Research Collections Karen Hoyle said. The CLRC also houses the Paul Bunyan collection, an “Oz” collection and a “Treasure Island” collection.

John Borger said he received his first comic book as a gift from his parents when he was in elementary school, and has been collecting ever since.

As a boy, he began collecting the Silver Age DC Comics superheroes series like Superman and Batman, he said.

“The most fun has been reading copies with my youngest child,” John Borger said.

“When he was young we’d read together; when he got older, he would read alone, and we’d discuss plot points and characters.”

One of the most exciting items in the collection being donated is a giant-sized copy of X-Men issue No. 1, he said.

Comics are able to speak to people on an ethical and real level, professor and director of undergraduate studies in the school of physics and astronomy James Kakalios said.

Kakalios, a comic book enthusiast, teaches a freshman seminar called “Physics of Superheroes,” in which he uses examples from comic books to show how physics work.

“I don’t view it as a guilty pleasure,” he said. “You like what you like, and there’s no reason to feel embarrassed about it, unless you golf.”

Kakalios said comic books act as a platform for the discussion of “what are our responsibilities to other people if you have a set of very special talents and gifts?”

Hoyle said she thinks the Borger collection will be of interest to American studies students, to see “what interested Americans in each decade.”

Wonder Woman, for example, Hoyle said, could be used in a women and gender studies approach.

John Borger’s law firm, Faegre & Benson, gave the University a grant to facilitate the cataloging and maintenance of the collection, she said.

“It was an agonizing decision,” Judy Borger said of parting with the comics. “We both believe that a collection like that should be available to everybody. And it’s not if it’s sitting in our basement.”

Although Kakalios called the donation wonderful and very generous, he said, “My first thought was if this will give my wife ideas of what to do with my comic book collection.”

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