What to Know
- The Society of Illustrators has opened a new exhibit dedicated to original Marvel comic book art, including work by the late Steve Ditko.
- Every page is hand penciled, then inked, with the lettering done by hand as well
- The art will be on display from now through October 20, 2018 at the Museum of Illustration on 63rd and Lexington Avenue.
The original comic book art behind Spider-Man, Captain America, Thor and other Marvel favorites is now on display at the Society of Illustrators’ super new exhibit in New York City.
The new “Art of The Avengers and Other Heroes” exhibition on the Upper East Side features the largest selection of vintage and modern original Marvel art ever displayed in one place in the world. This includes rare original work by Steve Ditko, the reclusive co-creator of Spider-Man who recently passed away. Ditko’s pieces can sell for a pretty penny, with prices ranging from $50,000 to $250,000 per page, while the cost for a cover could reach over $1 million.
A great deal of creativity and labor is put into these pieces of production art: every page is hand penciled, then inked, with the lettering done by hand.
Among the collectors and artists attending the exhibit’s grand opening reception last Thursday was Walt Simonson, whose work is among the pieces on display. An award-winning comic book writer and artist best known for his work on Thor in the mid 1980s, Simonson was in awe to see how far the appreciation for comic art has come.
“When I came to New York in 1972, we all thought comics would be dead in 10 years,” Simonson told News 4 New York. “I’m used to comics being the subversive underground, but they’ve become mainstream. There’s a sense of wonder seeing all this now.”
Rob Pistella, the curator of the exhibit, told News 4 that the exhibition took approximately a year to put together, thanks to the many collectors who loaned art to the museum.
“Comics combine words and pictures, which is a synthesis that creates something new,” Pistella said, speaking to the special properties comics have as a form of storytelling. “The non-verbal communication of the images speaks to you in a unique way.”
The collectors, whose love of the medium helped make this display possible, couldn’t agree more.
“As a kid, comics helped me learn how to read,” Mike Burkey, a collector who contributed over 100 pages to the exhibit, told News 4 New York. “They’re important to the literacy of young Americans.”
Burkey owns the largest collection of Spider-Man comic art in the world. He believes that what makes Marvel characters stand out from other superheroes is Stan Lee’s writing and their relatability.
“Peter Parker was a nerd with real-life problems,” Burkey explained. “He’s someone that everyone can relate to.”
“They were ordinary people put in extraordinary circumstances,” Pistella added. “The best qualities of America were put into these characters. There was always a redemption arc and the introspection of the heroes moved comics from 5 year olds to 20 year olds.”
Will Gabri-El, another prominent comic art collector, talked about how special it was to now share his passion with his daughters Jada, 17, and Jasmine, 21.
“It warms my heart as a father that my kids get to enjoy what I did. Now it is a tradition with my daughters to go and see the new movies together,” Gabri-El said.
Attendees at the exhibit's opening marveled over how far the general appreciation of comic art has come.
“Comics were first-printed on cheap materials. They were disposable,” Pistella said. “Now they’ve gone from pulp paper to museum walls.”
Located on the corner of 63rd Street and Lexington Avenue at the Museum of Illustration, the art will be on display through Oct. 20, 2018.
More information about the exhibition and the Society of Illustrators can be found on their website.