Superheroes, Bricolage and ToonSeum converge in the Cultural District
Spider-Man art by Gil Kane/John Romita is featured at ToonSeum, Downtown.
"Daredevil" by Gene Colan/Frank Giacoia at ToonSeum.
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Summer movie season is the time of superheroes -- and in Downtown Pittsburgh. While "Thor" was opening the movie floodgates for "X-Men: First Class" this week, to be followed in a flash by the Green Lantern and Captain America, the 900 block of Liberty Avenue has been flexing its superhero muscles as well.
That's where the ToonSeum, at 945 Liberty, and Bricolage Theater Company, at No. 935, started a chain of events that has supersized into a Downtown Superhero Block Party that now includes the August Wilson Center, Visit Pittsburgh and the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership, slated for June 25.
The notion took hold last year, when ToonSeum director Joe Wos and curator John Mattie were preparing the current exhibition, "Superheroes: Icons & Origins."
"We were talking to Joe, and we wanted to partner on something," said Bricolage's Tami Dixon. "He was interested in the opportunity and we had an inkling of stuff being filmed here and thought this would be a great time."
"Stuff," of course, is the "The Dark Knight Rises." A portion of the third movie in Christopher Nolan's Batman trilogy will film in Pittsburgh.
With the convergence of events in mind, Bricolage's third-season opener will be "Episode 1: Superhero Edition!" starting June 16. The family-friendly block party activities will include make-your-own superhero costumes, music and a matinee of Midnight Radio's "Superhero Edition!" There will be free cookies and comic books while supplies last.
The ToonSeum exhibition that started the ball rolling includes more than 40 original works at various stages of the creative process, from legendary creators Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko, Curt Swan, Carmine Infantino, John Romita, Gene Colan, Gil Kane and more from the Golden and Silver Ages of Marvel and DC Comics. It runs through July 31.
"It's purely coincidental that it's at the same time as the movies," Mr. Mattie said. "It's common sense that as a museum of comic books and cartoons we would get around to superhero art. Today it's so ubiquitous in other media, the connection to comic books doesn't exist in people's minds as the printed word or art on paper. We wanted to show how it came together, to expose people, like the title says, to origins and icons."
Amazing Spider-Man is represented by Mr.Romita's work from the mid-1960s and his collaborations with Mr.Kane in 1970, and into the 1980s with Ron Frenz creations. Mr. Mattie is loathe to pick a favorite work, but he describes the emotional power of the Kane/Romita page that shows the death of Captain Stacy in Spider-Man.
"It's the final page of this particular issue, and it's really powerful on so many levels," he said. "Besides the beautiful art and layout, it's just overwhelming with emotion. It shows exactly what comic books can do, with no action, no explosions. It's still amazing and vividly emotional."
Spidey and Batman have the most works, with seven each, and there are three Green Lantern pieces, including the #60 "Spotlight on the Lamplighter" cover by Mr. Kane and Murphy Anderson. The many phases of Wonder Woman from 1968 through last year are seen in four black and white works.
Along with the exhibition, which runs through July 31, are screenings of animated features to celebrate the work of Bruce Timm. Next up: "All-Star Superman" (2011) at 7 p.m. June 16 and "Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker" (2000) 7 p.m. June 30.
ToonSeum hours are 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday, and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday and Saturday; suggested admission is $4; children under 12 are free.
Over at Bricolage, Midnight Radio is live radio like it used to be, with commercials, musical guests and sound effects created there and then. For "Superheroes," Ms. Dixon said some of the stories will be based on Fleischman Studio's "Superman," a series of shorts made between 1941 and 1943, and a modern-day superhero.
The early stories "are slight and ridiculous, and for kids, there are plane crashes and explosions. It's campy fun for the adults, like how Lois Lane gets into these situations and how funny it is that she doesn't recognize Superman as Clark Kent because he wears glasses."
Shows are mostly at 9 p.m. with Saturday matinees and a midnight performance on June 24; tickets and more information at webbricolage.org.
First Published June 3, 2011 12:00 am