Arriving in London following a successful launch in Paris, the DC Exhibition: Dawn of Super Heroes arrives at London’s O2 this spring. Created by the Art Ludique-Le Musée, Paris, the first museum in the world dedicated to the art of entertainment, in association with DC Comics and Warner Bros. the exhibition features over two hundred original comic pages, three hundred preparatory sketches, concept artworks for the movies, and a huge collection of original costumes as well as models and props used in the films.
Opening with a timeline that starts with Action Comics issue one and the creation of Superman by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, we see the roster of DC characters grow through the years as more characters stepped onto the world stage. This opening room gives an introduction to guests before they step forward to the real exhibit pieces.
The next room focuses on Superman stepping from the comic pages to the big screen, the centrepieces being the screen-worn costumes of Christopher Reeve, both as Superman and Clark Kent. Well preserved, they are iconic and wonderful to see.
A smaller but no less fascinating piece is two small dolls with Lois and Superman’s costumes which were used for some of the special effects work during their flight over Metropolis hand-in-hand. Continuing through the room we see storyboards form both Superman (1978) and Superman II (1980).
From there the exhibition shows the evolution of Superman on screen, including Brandon Routh’s outing in Superman Returns (2005), Henry Cavill’s attire from Man of Steel (2013) and impressive art panels from Dawn of Justice.
A surprising collection of pieces included is artwork and even a small statue of the ill-fated Superman Lives project, which Kevin Smith worked on and would have shown Nicolas Cage as the last son of Krypton. It is fascinating to see the art for the film that never was which many believe would have been one of the truest depictions of the character on screen, shaped by a filmmaker who is also a fan.
The exhibition then moves to the darker parts of Gotham and the second of DC’s trinity, Batman. As guests walk from the lighter Superman area to the darker area they pass a statue of the brooding Dark Knight marking a passage not just for the comics but also the movies.
While Richard Donner’s 1978 Superman made audiences believe a man could fly, Tim Burton’s 1989 Batman changed the way Hollywood made and marketed movies forever and while the exhibition features costumes from the Adam West era and stunning Bruce Timm artwork from the critically acclaimed Batman: The Animated Series, the props and costumes from the Burton era take pride of place.
From Keaton’s original costume, to mind controlled penguins and Max Shreck’s cat heads this area belongs to Tim Burton. If you want to dance in with the devil in the pale moonlight you can get close and dance in front of the Jack Nicolson Joker costume, but as it is protected behind a display screen you will be dancing alone.
An item that will instantly attract the eye is Michelle Pfeiffer’s infamous catsuit from Batman Returns (1992). While showing signs of wear and quite disturbing without anyone (not even a mannequin) inside, it remains a stunning focal piece.
Moving from the gothic Batman quickly though the Schumacher period and famous Bat Nipple toting costumes of Clooney, O’Donnell and Silverstone, we move onto the Nolan/Bale era, and it is telling that Batman has a larger display area than his two counterparts. Though stumbling at times this character has maintained more continued success on the big screen.
A Batsignal lighting up one wall of the room, it attracts countless guests to pose in front of it as they pretend for just a moment that they are the ones being called to aid Gotham.
Continuing into the modern DC Universe with Justice League artwork and costumes such as Ben Affleck’s “Do you bleed?” Batman, from there guests move onto a Suicide Squadarea which is primarily the Harley Quinn tribute area. Aside from the expected costume, it features a wall of impressive Amanda Conner artwork from the recent Harley Quinn comic series.
Finishing the holy trinity of DC is Wonder Woman who, with only her big screen debut to date, occupies only a single room but the displays are impressive, with comics through the years on the wall, beautiful movie related artwork of the Amazons and the main display pieces of both Gal Gadot and Linda Carter’s costumes, completing the character sections well.
The exhibition continues through to a final display, a selection of art of other DC heroes and Justice League combinations largely featuring the incredible work of Alex Ross, a beautiful selection to end on.
The exhibition features hundreds of original drawings of legendary artists including Jim Lee, Bob Kane, Neil Adams, Bruce Timm, Frank Miller, Bill Sienkiewicz, Alex Ross and more which are all great to see. Perhaps understandably given the tangibility of the items, there feels more a focus on the big screen outings of these characters than on the small page, and while the walls of the exhibition are lined with drawings and comics the large show pieces are the movie items.
The impressive collection of screen worn costumes and huge props such as Christian Bale’s Bat Bike all clamour for guests’ attention dominating the exhibition’s smaller pieces. Adults visiting therefore may get more out of the experience than younger visitors. There are so many pieces that it will take time to walk through the exhibition and appreciate them all.
The DC Exhibition: Dawn of Super Heroes runs until 9th September 2018.
Ticket prices vary depending on time with adult non-peak starting at £18, children at £9 and concessions at £16. Family and premium tickets are available.