2020 Lucy Shelton Caswell Award Winner: Kevin Cooley

The Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum (BICLM) is pleased to announce the winner of the annual Lucy Shelton Caswell Research Award.  The award of up to $2500, named for the founding curator of the BICLM, Professor Emerita Lucy Shelton Caswell, supports researchers who need to travel to Columbus, Ohio to use the collections materials of the BICLM on site.

We were delighted to receive a robust and diverse range of proposals from both national and international scholars and artists. A panel of reviewers from a variety of disciplines at Ohio State was appointed to assess the proposals.

The recipient for 2020 is Kevin Cooley. Cooley holds a Master of Arts in English Literature from St. Bonaventure University, and is currently completing his Doctorate in English Literature from University of Florida. Cooley will utilize the research award in support of two related projects. First, in support of his dissertation and monograph Queer Beyond Here: Animated Sex and How To Get Used To It, which Cooley states “chronicles the development of queer animation from the earliest moving image devices to contemporary cartoons like Steven Universe.” In order to do justice to this lineage, Cooley “found it crucial to investigate the queer energies (and sometimes characters) of the formative comic strips that inspired early animation.” During a research visit to The Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum in the summer of 2019, Cooley found that George O. Frink’s strips Circus SollySlim Jim and the Force and The Picture Show revealed “obvious influences on the chase scenes of Warner Bros. animation (impossible physics, drag performances, and all).” This has led him on an exhaustive pursuit of Frink, including a visit to the Elgin Mental Health Hospital, the contemporary site of the asylum in which Frink was institutionalized and where he died. As a result, the second project that the award will support will be an article and monograph about Frink’s life, tentatively titled Acrobats, Asylums, and Would-Be Animators: The Surprisingly Queer Stories of George O. Frink, the Forgotten Cartoonist. Cooley will utilize the San Francisco Academy of Comic Art Collection to conduct close readings of Frink’s strips The Awful BoreThe Goat FamilyMister MainbrakeMrs. Clubberly ClubberTommy Town, and Ratty and Algy, as well as those of his contemporaries at the Chicago Daily News.

Congratulations Kevin Cooley!

Ongoing support of this award was made possible by a generous gift from the Will and Ann Eisner Family Foundation, which was matched by many additional donors to create an endowment.  The endowment will provide funding for one award to be given each year.