Black Panther from “Marvel: Universe of Super Heroes”
Arts

Marvel: Universe of Super Heroes in Columbus

This expansive exhibition at COSI traces the progression of some of Marvel’s most iconic characters from the printed page to the big screen. 

In one section of “Marvel: Universe of Super Heroes,” wardrobe pieces worn by Vision and Wanda in the 2021 Disney+ series “Wandavision” are juxtaposed with the cover of Vision’s first comic book appearance in Avengers #57 in 1968. These moments of connection are plentiful throughout the exhibition, which is on display at COSI in Columbus through May 30. It provides fans the chance to see iconic pieces from some of their favorite superhero films while also learning about their favorite characters’ roots through seeing the original art boards for Marvel comic books.

Three scholars of comics — university professors Benjamin Saunders, Matthew J. Smith and Randy Duncan — curated the exhibition, which features more than 300 artifacts, from original art to authentic costumes and props from films and series featuring Marvel characters. Saunders, the exhibition’s chief curator and a professor at the University of Oregon, says the goal was to have a balance between the comic pages and the on-screen artifacts. Costumes and props on display include pieces from films featuring Black Panther, Captain America, Iron Man, Thor, Spider-Man, Doctor Strange and others.

“In every room, I wanted a sense of ‘Here is what you might have seen in a movie scene, but here is a key drawing from 1966,’ ” he says.

Private collectors loaned much of the original artwork featured in the exhibition. It is an element Saunders is proud of and one that he says he believes sets this exhibition apart from ones that have previously been assembled.

“There have been other Marvel-related museum experiences before,” he explains, “but no one has gone to the trouble or effort to track down original art like we have.”

When finding the artwork, exhibition curators had to determine what survived, who owned it and then find out if they were willing to lend it. While planning the exhibition, Saunders says he kept wanting to return people to the idea of works on paper.

“I love the fact that the incredibly powerful reach of this fantasy material starts with an individual working with a pencil,” he says. “I think that is miraculous and fantastical all by itself.” 

333. W. Broad St., Columbus 43215, 614/228-2674, cosi.org

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