Marvel Universe of Super Heroes exhibition: The Details

What is it? The Marvel Universe of Super Heroes exhibition of art, costumes, props and other material from the Marvel Universe.

Where is it? Museum of Pop Culture (MoPOP), 325 5th Avenue N, Seattle, WA 98109

When can I see it?Open Daily 10:00am-5:00pm starting April 21, 2018. The Marvel Universe of Super Heroes exhibition runs through January 6, 2019.

The Introduction

I had the pleasure of touring the new Marvel Universe of Super Heroes exhibition at the Museum of Pop Culture (MoPOP) in Seattle this morning.  The 10,000 square-foot exhibition covers parts of two floors at MoPOP. The roughly chronological journey through Marvel starts at a newsstand, the quintessential location where children originally purchased their comic books, and exits through the latest streaming properties like Jessica JonesLuke Cage, and The Runaways.

The exhibition is organized by Museum of Pop Culture, SC Exhibitions, and Marvel Entertainment. SC Exhibitions is a German live entertainment producer that also produces the Tutankhamun—His Tomb and His Treasures; The Discovery of King Tut tour. Eventually, the Marvel exhibition will tour, but dates and venues have not been announced.

Brooks Peck, Co-Curator of the Marvel Universe of Super Heroes exhibition, who curated the current MoPOP hit Star Trek: Exploring New Worlds, said, “groundbreaking, innovating, it [Marvel] constantly was changing the landscapes of comic art…all themes we really like at MoPOP.”

Benjamin Saunders introduces the press to the Marvel Universe of Super Heroes exhibition. Photo credit: Alyssa Rasmus/Pink Camera Media.
Benjamin Saunders introduces the press to the Marvel Universe of Super Heroes exhibition. Photo credit: Alyssa Rasmus/Pink Camera Media.

The University of Oregon’s Benjamin Suanders, Chief Curator of the Exhibition says that “We worked for over a year on this. I just got to see it really for the first time in its current set up. I”m really delighted by it. I think its going to be something hardcore fans will enjoy, and also the more casual fan. I think there is something for people who have enjoyed comic for half a century, as I have and something for fans where Infinity War might be their first Marvel movie.”

Saunders explains the origins of the exhibition as he stands in front of props from various Thor movies. Photo credit: Alyssa Rasmus/Pink Camera Media.
Saunders explains the origins of the exhibition as he stands in front of props from various Thor movies. Photo credit: Alyssa Rasmus/Pink Camera Media.

On the genesis of the idea, Saunders said, “We had been kicking around the idea of a super heros show. It got a lot easier when it became clear it was going to be a Marvel show. Because the first thing I started to think about…there is a location you can tie things to and an 80-year history. Really what I wanted to do was balance the very high recognition factor, the iconic nature of the most well-known characters with the less well-known stories of the people who created them. And then there is a lot of nuance…between the comic book versions of continuity, and the film continuity. We decided rather than just tell a simple chronological narrative what we wanted to do was keep moving backwards and forwards between these two forms of media, and really telling people, teaching people what the differences between these two media are and how the storytelling process is working. That is the goal.”

Don’t Miss! What to see during your visit

The original art. Amid all the bright colors associated with Marvel’s heroes, several black-and-white images line the walls. These are the real treasures of the exhibition. In its early days, comic book production was a business that turned art into inexpensive, mass-produced magazine-style books that aimed at a low price point so publishers used cheap materials and processes. The medium was incapable of capturing the subtlety of the artists. Unfortunately, because the business was producing books, not selling art, much of the early art was lost. The exhibition includes very rare pieces such as the first drawing of Spider-Man in costume and the last known page of original art from the first Marvel comic book.

The first appearance of Spider-Man. On loan to the Marvel Universe of Super Heroes exhibition by the Library of Congress.
The first appearance of Spider-Man. On loan to the Marvel Universe of Super Heroes exhibition by the Library of Congress.

Costumes. The exhibition displays several original, screen-used costumes from various Marvel films and televison shows including Marvel’s AvengersMarvel’s Avengers: Age of UltronGuardians of the GalaxyLuke CageBlack PantherThor RagnorakIron Man and, Doctor Strange.

Captain America Costume worn by Chris Evans in Marvel Studios’ ‘Avengers: Age of Ultron.’ (2012). Courtesy MoPOP.

Spaces. Don’t just look at the walls. The exhibition includes several unique spaces that provide a sense of what it’s like to be a comic book artist, a surreal trek through Doctor Strange’s “world,” some unique photo ops with the likes of Ben Grimm, The Thing from Marvel’s The Fantastic Four and a reading room where guests can actually touch and read real comic books. Saunders remarked that “Besides being introduced to characters, and different incarnations of characters, we also created studio spaces that really get into the craft of comic book storytelling.”

History Lessons. The exhibition covers the nearly 80-year history of Marvel and celebrates the 10th Anniversary of Marvel Studios. Look for important popular culture milestones such as the iconic image of Captain America taking a swing at Adolph Hitler several months before the United States entered World War II following the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Look for the first inter-racial kiss on the pages of Marvel. Looks for explorations of addiction and mental illness that often recognized issues in society before they arrived on the covers of mainstream magazines and newspapers.

Becoming Iron Man. A digital feature simulates Tony Stak’s laboratory. The Microsoft Kinect-driven experience maps an Iron Man suit onto guests and permits them to fly, interact with displays and fire weapons.

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