From the moment a person sets one foot into the gallery they are transported through time on an incredible adventure through the Golden Age of comic books. The Skirball Cultural Center does a fantastic job at creating the prefect atmosphere for its new exhibit ‘ZAP! POW! BAM! The Superhero: The Golden Age of Comic Books, 1938-1950.’
In the middle of the economic and political instability of the 1930s and 1940s, comic books offered America defenders who shaped an entire generation. The exhibit examines the creative processes and influences that drove young Jewish artists to express their gifts through the storylines and art of comic books.
The Golden Age refers the years 1938-1950 when modern comic books were first published and gained popularity. The model of the superhero was created and defined, and many of the most famous superheroes debuted, among them Batman, Captain America, Superman, and Wonder Woman. The period saw the arrival of the comic book as a mainstream art form, and the defining of the medium’s artistic and creative conventions by its first generation of artists, writers, and editors.
The exhibit explores the creative process and early influences of the artists and shows their rare and vintage artwork, books, and 1940s movie serials. Inside the gallery, visitors are able to draw the Joker, browse comics at the newsstand, ride a classic batmoblie and change into a superhero inside a telephone booth. It also shows the stories behind getting each superhero made and its villains, how the artists drew them, who they were modeled after, and what the artists were really like.
The second half of the exhibit features the Comic Book Heroes of Film and Television. Inside you can see up close the batcycle from the TV Batman starring Adam West on loan from the Peterson Automotive Museum, see costumes worn by Christopher Reeves, and Michael Keaton who played Superman in the films and Batman in the 1989 movie.
The exhibit was organized by the Breman Museum, Atlanta, Ga.’ Special permission was given by Jerry Robinson and DC Comics for the museum to use the Superman comics and Detective Comics. Artist Jerry Robinson, who also gives a video history talk of DC Comics, owns the collection.
Walking into the gallery, seeing the hand drawn sketches with notes in the margins is like viewing the holy grail of Americana. Comics were the simplest form of art to show patriotism, hope, and American values. They show you the time when life really was simpler.
The Skirball exhibit is a must see for anyone and everyone who enjoys art, Stan Lee, comic book movies, and most definitely the comic book lover. The exhibit is mind-blowing and just a good time to be had. It draws you in and everywhere you look is a smile what other museum does that? I assure you, it won’t be a disappointment, the exhibit closes Aug. 9, so don’t miss out. Student tickets are $7.