SCRANTON — It’s a bird … It’s a plane … It’s the upcoming superhero-themed exhibit at Scranton’s Everhart Museum!
Superman, Batman, Robin and a number of other comic-born characters are featured in “Here I Come to Save the Day! The Science, Culture & Art of Superheroes,” a new exhibit in the museum’s Maslow Galleries. Everhart Museum Curator Nezka Pfeifer wanted to use the space to do more than just retell the history of the comic book medium — that’s when inspiration struck from an unlikely, taxidermic source.
“The genesis of the show was really our animal specimens,” Pfeifer said. “Tying in the animal-powered superheroes — Wolverine, Batman, Black Panther — all of these were mostly heroes that have animal-based powers. A lot of it came from noticing that.”
The exhibit will spotlight well-known costumed crusaders and villains, as well as more obscure characters like Captain America rogue The Armadillo. Pfeifer said the exhibit will reference a nearly equal number of characters from the pages of Marvel and DC Comics (possibly to avoid arguments among passionate patrons), with a number of other comic icons, like the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, also making an appearance. She even included one of her personal favorites, Nightcrawler, although the “X-Men” mainstay’s powers aren’t culled from a worm as much as they are his lineage as a mutant-demon hybrid.
When it came time to recruit the exhibit’s roster of heroes and villains — and obtain artwork of them — Pfeifer reached out to Comics on the Green Owner David Romeo, whose super power is his collection of art and industry experience. Romeo said it was “neat” to look at the pantheon of comic book characters in an educational way.
“It became figuring out what characters could be involved, what the museum has in their taxidermy collection, then if we could find corresponding artwork that could tie everything together and make it a coherent exhibit,” Romeo said. “Of course we tried to go with how important they are, how recognizable they are to the public, but we have a lot that aren’t, which is kind of neat because how many people know The Porcupine?”
Along with the animal-centric portion of “Here I Come to Save the Day!,” Pfeifer has also chosen a number of superhero-inspired art pieces to hang as part of the exhibit, including Baltimore artist Jeffery Kent’s “Pain (Batman and Robin).” Kent, who was previously featured at Everhart Museum as part of the institution’s “Altered Books” exhibit, uses backwards text in his work as a reference to his personal experiences with dyslexia.
“He’s referencing that, but he’s also referencing language and understanding and comprehension,” Pfeifer said.
Kent’s contribution is part of a series of paintings lifted from real comic book panels that spotlight superheroes at their most vulnerable, “Pain (Batman and Robin)” chronicling a bullying incident between Superman and Batman. Pfeifer said each of the featured artists look at their super-powered subject matters through a humanizing lens.
“A lot of the contemporary artists are looking at the impact of superheroes or their vigilantism or some element of what they do,” Pfeifer said. “They’re interpreting some aspect of that.”
“Here I Come to Save the Day!” opens up for interpretation Feb. 3.
Reach Gene Axton at 570-991-6121 or on Twitter @TLArts