Comic Book Exhibit Puts Heroes and Their Creators on a Pedestal

Two new exhibits in California will highlight the contributions of superheroes and the men who created them. The Skirball Cultural Center, based in Los Angeles, presents an interesting set of exhibits, designed to highlight the impact that comic books have had on popular culture and America. "ZAP! POW! BAM! The Superhero: The Golden Age of Comic Books, 1938-1950" will take a very specific look at this early and formative age of superheroes and the Jewish roots many of these characters had. Another exhibit, "Lights, Camera, Action: Comic Book Heroes of Film and Television", will highlight the often parallel development of superheroes not only in comics, but their emergence in TV and in movies as well. This particular exhibit will highlight several classic and rare items, such as a copy of Action Comics #1, an extremely rare comic, known for introducing Superman to the world. The exhibits are described as very important in explaining the contribution of young Jewish artists to this very American medium. "When European Jews immigrated to the United States, they brought a rich culture of storytelling, which took root in such art forms as theater and the fledgling film business," said Erin Clancey, associate curator at the Skirball Cultural Center. These early authors and artists, who faced discrimination in America, were able to make their mark in the comic book medium, one that allowed them to have their talent, creativity and ability recognized. Melissa Conway, head of special collections and archives for the University of California-Riverside, who helped organize and obtain the materials from UCR's archives for the exhibit, feels that comics have a very important place in the cultural discourse, especially with her background in classical literature. "I see that background (classical and biblical) in these comic books. I see the deeper levels...They do grow from a very rich cultural background. Comics take on different themes at different times. They're a wonderful barometer." This exhibit promises to elevate the discussion of not only the medium of comic books themselves, but the role that many of these Jewish artists played in the creation of some of the most iconic characters of all time. The exhibit will run through August 9th. For more information, check out the Skirball's website at skirball.org.

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