With great artifacts comes a great collection.
That’s on display in “Marvel’s Beyond Amazing: Spider-Man The Exhibition,” which opens Friday at the Comic-Con Museum in Balboa Park.
Celebrating the 60th birthday of one of the most popular and enduring cartoon characters, the exhibit is the biggest attraction yet to land at the museum, which opened last November and, like other indoor art venues, has struggled to attract crowds during the pandemic.
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But with the exhibition opening just three weeks before the return of the giant Comic-Con pop culture convention, museum leaders are excited about the wave of fans expected to arrive at the museum.
“It’s really great to have it here,” said Rita Vandergaw, director of the museum. “The Comic-Con vision has really come to life.”
What can you see and hear?
Fans entering the exhibit are greeted by wall-sized reproductions of Spider-Man comic books featuring life-size cutouts of Spidey and villain Doctor Octopus literally jumping off the pages. All this while heroic music plays from speakers and a light show flashes webs and Spidey’s mask on the floor in front of you.
The exhibition works on different levels.
Casual fans of the web garland will be excited to see props from the various Spider-Man movies that have earned a huge worldwide box office.
Hardcore fans will be on the lookout for rare items, including valuable original comics, a Stan Lee script, and a listening station where you can hear and see the jumpy musical intro to the old Spider-Man television animation show.
But the heart of the exhibit is a faithful retelling of the Spider-Man saga of decades past. Large informational panels go back to the beginning and tell of clumsy teenager Peter Parker who is forced to grow up quickly as a superhero and learns that “with great power comes great responsibility.”
Displays focus not only on the creators and artists of Spider-Man’s comics, but also on the characters in his universe, including the villains, bringing us to today with the newer versions of Spider-Man from the Marvel multiverse.
Time is also spent detailing the tragic and heroic arcs of the Spider-Man saga, from the ‘Death of Gwen Stacy’ to the ‘Clone Saga’.
Add to that some Instagram-worthy photo settings and fans can spend hours at the exhibit.
Artifacts were collected from private collectors, from Marvel and from the personal collections of Patrick Reed and Ben Saunders, co-curators of the exhibition.
“We had a lot more material than we could ever use,” said Reed.
Many of the items have never been shown in public before.
“This may be the only chance people have to see these things,” Vandergaw said.
Brian Crosby, director of Themed Entertainment/Development for Marvel, said the 7,500-square-foot museum is the perfect place to display all the items, especially with Comic-Con coming up in a few days.
“All the stars have been aligned to bring this exhibit to life,” he said. “It’s very exciting.”
The exhibition is intended to run until the end of the year. Tickets can be purchased online at beyondamazingexhibition.com.
Luis Monteagudo Jr. is a freelance writer and pop culture enthusiast. He has written for The San Diego Union-Tribune, USA Today, and numerous other publications.