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Comic book collection on medical themes

Call Number: Pam Coll 7

Scope and Contents

The collection contains issues of true adventure American comic books of the 1940s collected by Bert Hansen and arranged by title, and also a smaller collection of later American comic books on medical themes collected by historian of medicine William Helfand. Among the topics of these latter comics are drugs including the underground series, Cocaine Comix; public health; and the advertisement of health products. Major Inapak: The Space Age is a 1951 story of travel to the moon in 1984, advertising the health drink, Inapak. The medical stories in these comic books are annotated by Bert Hansen from his article, "True Adventure Comic Books and American Popular Culture in the 1940s: An Annotated Research Bibliography of Medical Heroes" (see Bibliography) or by the archivist.

The Supplement contains additional true adventure comic books from the 1940s, comic books containing medical history stories from the 1950s and 1960s, more comic books with public health messages, other comic books related to medicine, and some reference sources on comic books, including a price guide to comic books.


  • Publication: 1941-2013


Language of Materials

Most materials are in English. There is some material in French.

Conditions Governing Access

The materials are open for research. Yale does not own copyright.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The first and third series were donated by Bert Hansen, Ph.D., in 2015 and 2017. The second series was donated by William Helfand.


The comic books are organized in three series: 1. True adventure comic books of the 1940s. 2. Other comic books including comics on public health. 3. Supplement 2017, 2019.


2.5 Linear Feet ( 6 boxes)

Catalog Record

A record for this collection is available in Orbis, the Yale University Library catalog

Persistent URL


The main body of this collection consists of issues of comic books from the 1940s containing "true" stories of medical heroism and biomedical progress. There are a smaller number of later comics containing history of medicine stories; comics with a public health message; comics advertising a "health" product, and some reference sources on comic books.

Biographical / Historical

The 1940s were the Golden Age of American comics. In addition to comic books on the exploits of superheroes, there was a lesser-known genre of comic books containing stories of "true" heroic adventures. Among the many other kinds of heroes in these stories were doctors, nurses, and medical scientists who braved adversities to save lives and to solve biomedical puzzles. Examples were Louis Pasteur, Edward Jenner, Alexander Fleming, Howard Florey, Walter Reed, the Mayo brothers, Clara Barton, and Sister Kenny. There were many lesser known figures as well. Several stories highlighted recent wartime achievements such as penicillin and blood banking. The stories reveal a highly positive and progressive image of medicine. The comics were collected by historian of medicine Bert Hansen, PhD, for his research and publications on mass media medical images in American popular culture.


Bert Hansen, "True Adventure Comic Books and American Popular Culture in the 1940s: An Annotated Research Biblography of the Medical Heroes," International Journal of Comic Art 6(1) (Spring 2004):117-147.

Bert Hansen, "Medical history for the masses: How American comic books celebrated heroes of medicine in the 1940s," Bulletin of the History of Medicine 78(1) (Spring 2004): 148-191.

Bert Hansen, Picturing Medical Progress from Pasteur to Polio: A History of Mass Media Images and Popular Attitudes in America. New Brunswick, NJ: Retgers University Press, 2009. Chapter on "Popular Medical History in Children's Comic Books of the 1940s."

Comic book collection on medical themes
Toby A. Appel
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.

Part of the Medical Historical Library, Cushing/Whitney Medical Library Repository

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