REVIEW: DC EXHIBITION DAWN OF SUPERHEROES
My loyal followers may remember last year I went to Star Wars: Identities at the O2 Arena London. Well this event is in the same exhibition space and has been running from March this year right through to September. Upon arriving at the arena I immediately noticed they weren’t pushing this event as much as the Star wars one. No giant posters outside guiding the way. The only mark there is actually an event on is on the exterior of the actual exhibition space.
I am going to keep comparing this event to the Star Wars event which may at times seem unfair, whilst at the same time it makes my job easier. There are a few similarities between and plenty of differences too. The most obvious difference is the size. Of course being movie based the Star Wars exhibition needed more space for larger props. So I assumed as DC encompasses many forms of media it would be equally large. Thats not to say the stuff on display isn’t brilliant because it is. It will stir a range of emotions in you. Ranging from excitement and awe to good old fashioned nostalgia. I spent a good hour and half walking the space taking everything in. The layout was key to what this exhibition was trying to get across. The first small room was a simple timeline of when all the key characters in the DCU were created. The first section is then dedicated to the Man of Steel and fittingly this section is in a blue scheme. Maybe for a character if such cultural significance it was a little on the small side. Seeing as he has covered such a wide variety of mediums down the years its soul focus was movies with costumes from Reeves, Routh and Cavill on display and the comics with lots of cool original art work to just be struck with awe at. My favourite piece here had to be a original page from Superman vs Muhammed Ali.
The first item you see as you enter the Batman section is the statue from The Dark Knight Rises. It is very imposing to be in its presence. Naturally the Batman section was the biggest and for me the best. Again though there were a few little disappointments. Firstly there was only one item from the Batman 66 TV series and I had read there was a lot of BTAS stuff too and there wasn’t a great deal. Seeing the entire storyboard sequence for the opening credits was pretty cool though! Also Batman’s sidekicks were a little undervalued. The vast majority of this section was dedicated to the movies, especially the Chris Nolan trilogy. There were movie worn costumes from Keaton right through to Affleck. I can’t get over how in shape Michelle Pfeiffer must have been to get into that Catwoman outfit and yes I may have stared at the ass longer than I should have! After I has gone through the whole exhibit I went back to the Batman section and spent time just poring over every detail of all the comic pages on display.
There was art from Jerry Robinson, Neal Adams, Frank Miller all the key Batman artists really. The art ranged from original cover art, unused pages, promotional pieces and original interiors. What was really great was to see the changes in techniques on how covers or pages come together. The last three/four sections felt a little rushed and three of the four were completely dedicated to movies with some comic book connection. The Suicide Squad section may well have been labelled the Harley Quinn section. They had Margot Robbie’s costume from the movie along with some concept art. Also from Amanda Conner’s personal collection was a load of Harley Quinn art. Wonder Woman was represented by Gal Gadot’s costume and Linda Carter’s plus a load of concept art from the Patty Jenkins movie and a few comic originals. The last section was dedicated to the evolution and different members of the Justice League. This was mainly done with comic artwork. There was only concept art from the Justice League movie no costumes. The comic displays really would only appeal to a hardcore DC fan not someone coming just from the movies. There were pages from Green Arrow/Green Lantern ‘Hard Travelling Heroes’, lots of Darwyn Cooks seminal New Frontier and plenty of Alex Ross too.
I did find it strange how there was no representation from the very successful Arrowverse from TV. I am a big fan of Arrow I would have liked some art work or costumes and it would have added some extra time to the exhibit. Like with he Star Wars exhibit I attended last year there was a interactive element. With this exhibit it was twenty one audio clips further highlighting something in a section you were looking at. I admit to actually missing the first four symbols on the wall which signalled when to listen to a clip. Eventually after about the seventh I gave up anyway. The twenty first clip was just a heroic theme playing while you could sit and watch a video. The video was rather good at is showed elements from the exhibit like original covers and pages and intercut them with scenes from DC movies.
Also throughout each section was a TV playing a video on a loop. This ranged from Geoff Johns talking about the Richard Donner Superman movie, Neal Adams talking about how all comics come from Superman and Batman and Chris Nolan talking about the real world approach for The Dark Knight. Because the interactive element wasn’t as involved as the Star Wars one where you had to answer questions to build a character I think this led to negating the exhibition space rather quickly. One advantage this exhibit did have over the Star Wars one was the variety of items available in the gift shop. I didn’t plump for the £20 programme this time though it was twice the size of the Star Wars one. A lot of the items last year were geared towards the exhibit and carried the exhibits logo. Where as this time with the DC there was lots more to choose from. T-shirts, figures, a few comics not everything was restricted to the exhibit. I picked up a Arrow book I had never even heard before and a Batman magnet of classic Neal Adams era.
On the day I attended if you spent over £10 you got a free t-shirt. I got a ‘Wayne Areospace’ one from Justice League movie. I would recommend this exhibit for for hardcore DC comics fans. Like I said the main focus was movies and to see all this Batman stuff in one space was enough to entice me. Also all the art work from Joe Shuster and Jerry Robinson right up to more modern stuff was brilliant to see. It would really be an inspiring trip for any aspiring artists. It is not everyday you get to see originals from some industry legends at such close quarters.
About Ian Wells
Ian currently runs the THEBLOGOFCOMICSHOTTOPICS blog. Check him out on Twitter @IanWells87.
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