The Superheroes In Gotham exhibition opened at the New York Historical Society Museum and Library last October 9th. It explored the birth of superheroes in New York City, their transition from the comics to radio, TV, and film, how fandom has evolved over the years, and how they’ve inspired and influenced other artists, painters, and cartoonists. I was fortunate to make it to the exhibition on its final day (this past February 21st), and it was certainly worth the effort. On the first floor, one of the Batmobiles used in the 1960s Batman TV series was on display (the exhibition’s biggest attraction, and I actually got to get my picture taken with it!). The exhibition was located on the second floor of the museum, which is where I proceeded next.
The exhibition was divided into three rooms full of goodies. The first room featured a full color Superman costume from TV’s The Adventures of Superman, the typewriter that Jerry Siegel had used to type up his Superman comic scripts, and some old comics, including Action Comics #1 (Superman), Batman #1, Captain America #1, Amazing Fantasy #15 (Spider-Man), and Tales of Suspense #39 (Iron Man). There was a section on superheroes and how they were used during World War II (there were Armed Services editions of comics for American soldiers who were fighting overseas). Artists and writers that were focused on included Jerry Siegel and Joe Schuster (Superman), Bob Kane and Bill Finger (Batman), Jack Kirby and Joe Simon (Captain America), William Moulton Marston and H.G. Peter (Wonder Woman), Larry Lieber and Don Heck (Iron Man), Stan Lee and Steve Ditko (Spider-Man), and Will Eisner (The Spirit). There was even original art and black-and-white drawings for Spider-Man’s first appearance in Amazing Fantasy #15 on display.
In the next room, there was a transcription disk that had been used to record a radio broadcast episode of The Adventures of Superman (a 1940s radio show), an animation cel and poster for the first Superman animated short film from Fleischer Studios, a Catwoman costume (complete with gloves and ears) from the 1960s Batman TV series, a giant poster for the first Superman film serial, some production paintings from the 1960s Batman TV show as well as some props (including the Batphone, the Gotham City Telephone Directory, the Penguin’s umbrella, and the Batinhalator). There was also a poster for Chapter 5 of the Batman and Robin film serial, a section of a wall with the first Superman animated short being projected onto it (no audio), and a marketing and merchandise section that included a Captain America shield and Iron Man helmet (both signed by Stan Lee), a Wonder Woman doll, and a couple of boxes containing Superman costumes that had been sold in stores in the 1950s.
The third room contained sections on fandom and comic book conventions (a couple of NY Comic Con posters were on display). Also on display was Darryl McDaniels’ DMC #1 as well as his fedora hat, Goliath sunglasses, and Superstar sneakers (items also worn by the character). There was even a copy of The Amazing Spider-Man #36 (the 9/11 issue) in the room. Overall, the exhibition was a delight (the only thing that I didn’t like was that we weren’t allowed to take any pictures; I had to search the Internet to find the pictures shown in this post, except for the one with me and the Batmobile below). If you managed to attend this exhibit when it was still open, I hope you enjoyed it (I certainly did).