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Superhero celebration at MoPop

The world premiere "Marvel: Universe of Superheroes" exhibit isn't specifically for kids, but they'll find a lot to like.

Ramona and Pete Chavez defend the universe, or visit MoPOP.



A giant diorama of Black Panther comes to the Museum of Pop Culture (MoPOP) this month as part of the Marvel: Universe of Superheroes exhibit (opening April 21). It won’t look exactly like the version in this year’s hit film because the exhibit focuses on the comic creators, such as Jack Kirby, whose original drawings and sketches brought the Marvel Universe to life.

The exhibit, the largest that MoPOP has ever staged, includes original art, costumes (including those from the new Black Panther movie), and interactive exhibits that demonstrate how Marvel comics get made — and, perhaps equally important, why. “It’s easy to talk about comics and stay in comics, to ignore how they connect to the real world,” says MoPOP curator Brooks Peck. Marvel, he explains, first brought superheroes into actual places and had them respond to current and historical events.

The reality-fantasy connection tackles genuine human issues in everyday life and in the Marvel Universe. The focus on Black Panther, as well as the character Nick Fury (originally a white character, updated in 2002 to its current likeness based on the actor Samuel L. Jackson), show how Marvel addressed racial stereotypes and issues using storyline and characters.

The exhibit is definitely geared to an adult audience, but its outsized imagery and interactive elements will appeal to kids. For the youngest, there’s a screen where they can watch Ironman’s armor fly onto their body. Large dioramas such as Lockjaw, the teleporting dog, make great backgrounds for photos. Older kids keen on the making of their favorite comics can learn about how comic books were produced through the years, including a touchscreen demonstrating how the panels come together into a complete work.

The exhibit balances appealing to a mainstream audience and to deep comic-book fans. For kids, it also communicates an overarching theme: “You can’t choose who your family is, you won’t always get along,” says Peck. But the Fantastic Four will come together when they have a job to do, despite a lot of family-like bickering. With this exhibit, MoPOP brings superheroes down from lofty guardians to that very human level: fighting for justice, understanding and acceptance.

325 Fifth Ave. N., Seattle, mopop.org


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