By Sara Petyk
The ToonSeum, located in the Pittsburgh’s Cultural District, is an art gallery for all ages. Their current exhibit, Superheroes: Icons & Origins, runs to the end of July. It explores the origins of some of the best-known and most beloved comic heroes of the twentieth century.
945 Liberty Avenue
Pittsburgh, PA 15222
Monday and Tuesday — Closed
Wednesday and Thursday — 10 am to 3 pm
Friday and Saturday — 10 am to 5 pm
Sunday — 10 am to 3 pm
Suggested Admission: Adults/Children 13 and over $4.00; Children 12 and under are free!
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Superheroes: Icons & Origins is an exhibit of original, and quite rare, pieces of comic art from classics like Superman, Wonder Woman, and Spiderman. The pieces on display date from the 1950s to the 1980s. Fans of the new Green Lantern movie can see the early vision of the Green Lantern as he appeared in comics.
Because all of these pieces were created before the digital age, the exhibit offers great insight for kids into how skilled artists created these comics without any use of programs like Photoshop, Illustrator, or other modern aids. Most of these original pieces would have been thrown away once used, because they were really just the foundation for the finished products. What you see on the black and white pages are the figures and words cut and pasted to create a single page. Look closely and you can find a missing hat or finger, or other mistakes that had to be whited-out before achieving the finished product.
For parents, and grandparents, Superheroes offers a nostalgic glimpse of childhood years spent reading the latest story of your favorite comic hero. Informative panels also provide depth to those memories as they explain some of the social and cultural influences that affected the artists as they created these superheroes during the mid-twentieth century.
Here’s a great tip when you’re at the Toonseum, there is a special treat hidden behind the register. When you enter the exhibit space be sure to look at the small wooden desk placed against the partition behind the register. This desk is an original artist’s desk from Disney studios. Your aspiring artists can sit at the desk and create some superheroes of their own knowing that they’re sitting at the same desk that created some of Disney’s classics.
Another hidden treat is just a couple store fronts down the street at 945 Liberty Avenue. Before or after your visit to the Toonseum, be sure to check out the Liberty Avenue Musicians by local artist James Simon. These larger than life figures have stood in front of this renovated office building since 2003.
The ToonSeum is an excellent choice for families and comic art fans. In addition to the temporary exhibits, which the ToonSeum presents several times a year, there are a few permanent pieces of very early comic art to wow the experts. True comic aficionados can find some rare pieces here, the general public can enjoy seeing familiar heroes in their original forms, and a cartoon is always playing on the big screen to hold the interest of kids and parents alike.