Better Than Fiction: Arnold T. Blumberg ’93

The next time someone teases you about your hidden passion for philately, Hummel figurines or sudoku, consider the successes of UMBC’s own Dr. Arnold T. Blumberg.

An avid comic book reader and collector since early childhood, Blumberg ’93, English, has managed to weave his love of super heroes, zombies, monsters and robots into a career as a published author, adjunct professor and – most recently – curator of the brand-new Geppi’s Entertainment Museum, a mecca of pop culture paraphernalia located in Baltimore’s Inner Harbor.

“I like to joke with people and tell them all my hobbies have eventually turned into jobs,” said Blumberg, the author of five books ranging in subject from comic book pricing to the finer points of zombie movies.

“It’s pretty much true, though.”

A Passion for Stories

Blumberg, who grew up in Randallstown and has lived in Baltimore ever since, started reading comics like Richie Rich and Casper the Friendly Ghost as soon as he was able – around two years old if you believe his mother. Like many young readers, he also started writing short stories. When it came time to choose a college, he knew two things right away. He would be an English major, and he would do it at UMBC.

“I always felt comfortable at UMBC,” said Blumberg, who visited the campus as a 10th grader. “When I walked around on campus I felt a sense of the world opening up to me.”

While a student at UMBC, Blumberg joined the staffs of student literary magazines Bartleby and the now-defunct Apostrophe, which gave him his first taste of desktop publishing. He also worked with the late Dr. Philip Landon on an honors project examining how robots in science fiction film and literature reflect America’s changing relationship with technology.

The Next Steps

Following graduation from UMBC, Blumberg entered the publications design program at the University of Baltimore, earning first a master’s, then a doctorate. During this time, he found employment with Gemstone Publishing, a local publishing house devoted to comics and toy collecting literature owned by the Entertainment Museum’s namesake/owner Stephen A. Geppi.

In November 2000, Blumberg self-published his first book, a comprehensive guide to collectibles associated with the British science fiction series, “Doctor Who,” entitled Howe’s Transcendental Toybox (co-authored with David J. Howe). To date, Blumberg has written or co-written ten books, including The Overstreet Comic Book Grading Guide, The Big Big Little Book Book, Pop Culture With Character: A Look Inside Geppi’s Entertainment Museum, and Zombiemania: 80 Movies to Die For, which he penned with fellow UMBC alumnus Andy Hershberger ’99, American studies.

“One of my main passions is to continue to write books about the things I love,” said Blumberg.

In addition, Blumberg has taught a course in comic book literature at UMBC every year since 1999. Not surprisingly, the course fills up pretty darned fast.

“Being able to go back and teach was wonderful,” said Blumberg, who describes himself as an innately nostalgic person. “I love the idea that every year I come back and I’ve never really left UMBC.”

A New Home

Walking throughout Geppi’s Entertainment Museum, Blumberg can spout fun facts about everything from the 1,400 glassed-in comic books to Steamboat Willie, from a Superman secret chamber ring to the display of Star Wars figurines, which includes more than one piece belonging to Blumberg himself.

But no amount of knowledge of comic book statistics or story could prepare him for the effects such a collection would have on viewers. Since beginning his tenure as curator of the museum in August 2005, Blumberg has come to truly enjoy watching the faces of museum-goers as they re-live integral pieces of their younger lives.

“There are very few places where you can go and be completely immersed in your own childhood,” he said. “I learn something new every day.”

– Jenny O’Grady
Originally posted December 2006

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