Comic-Con Museum opens during Thanksgiving weekend
SAN DIEGO — Marvel’s Ironman, Groot and others stand as proud sculptures with intricate detail, but these superheroes don’t have feet of clay.
Brothers Connor and Bauer Lee, 17 and 14 respectively, created them from cardboard, and their art stands in the new Comic-Con Museum in San Diego’s Balboa Park.
Just across from the cardboard works are costumes that stood out during San Diego Comic-Con’s masquerades (including, of course, Superman), and off to another side is the Tunnel of Positivity. Follow the timeline in that tunnel to enter the “Gene Roddenberry: Sci-Fi Visionary” exhibit, where you can see James Kirk’s captain’s chair from the original Enterprise and the Gorn that Capt. Kirk fought.
Next to the exhibit about the “Star Trek” creator is one tracing the eight decades of Archie Comics, with life-size drawings of the characters on the walls. Upstairs is the exhibit, “Out of the Darkness: Comic Art in the Times of COVID,” featuring art by students, and another exhibit salutes the artist who created the Addams Family: Charles Addams.
That’s the Comic-Con Museum, which had its soft opening last weekend during the first in-person Comic Con International: San Diego since the pandemic started. Fans took a bus ride from the special edition of Comic Con at the San Diego Convention Center to the museum, where organizers promise new content will be a regular feature.
“Obviously one of the things important to Comic Con is making sure we have great content,” Eddie Ibrahim, senior director of programming for Comic-Con International, told fans during a panel at the convention center. “If you’ve been to Comic-Con or WonderCon or any of our other shows, you’ve gotten to experience that and see that.
“But we recognize pop culture and pop art is not something that should be experienced just five days a year,” the nonprofit’s programming director continued. “It’s true art. One of the reasons the museum became such an important part is that it’s something that can be admired not only for its arm form, but it can be used for education, bring joy, create mind sets and to look toward a better future.”
Mr. Ibrahim said the late Gene Roddenberry, who would have been 100 this year, had the vision of a better future early on, and that’s why the Roddenberry exhibit is included in the museum.
Sitting near Mr. Ibrahim on the panel was “Rod” Roddenberry,” Gene Roddenberry’s son and an executive producer of the current “Star Trek” shows on Paramount+.
“I wanted his name and message out there, more than ever,” Mr. Roddenberry told fans. “I’m thrilled to have his name part of the museum.”
As the News-Press learned during a visit to the museum, a walk into the exhibit is accompanied by recordings of actors reading quotes by Gene Roddenberry. A timeline of his life and creations grace a path on the floor, and the artifacts vary from the current “Star Trek: Discovery” uniforms to the tricorders from the original “Star Trek” series.
There are also notes and sketches from “Star Trek: The Motion Picture,” character cels from the first animated “Star Trek” series in the 1970s and a storyboard detailing how Gene Roddenberry, as the senior surviving officer on a commercial jet, saved the lives of 22 people aboard when his plane crashed in 1947 in Syria.
He went on to work as a Los Angeles police officer, later writing speeches for Police Chief William Parker. He then left law enforcement to become a writer and producer, creating shows such as “The Lieutenant” (1963-64 on NBC).
Rod Roddenberry said that besides the tribute to his father, he likes the museum’s other exhibits.
“Not only do you guys have the opportunity to see cool things, but there’s a lot of things you can learn over there,” Mr. Roddenberry told the fans about the museum, which has an interactive area where families can create things together. “It’s fascinating the way they designed these exhibits for all sorts of audiences in mind. Hopefully it gets you thinking.”
The Gene Roddenberry exhibit is right next door to the Archie Comics exhibit, which chronicles the iconic comic’s history and Archie’s relationships with Betty, Veronica, Jughead, Reggie and others at Riverdale High School. There’s original art and TV and film props, and the exhibit salutes the past animated shows and the current live-action “Riverdale” series on The CW.
Nearby, people can play traditional and new versions of PAC-MAN in a free arcade.
When the News-Press visited, many people were interested in the Cardboard Superheroes exhibit, which, besides Marvel heroes, featured “Star Wars” characters as C-3PO. Connor and Bauer Lee started building the life-size sculptures six years ago and have established Cardboard Superheroes as a nonprofit supporting free arts education workshops for people of all ages.
Upstairs at the museum is a poignant corner with “Out of the Darkness: Comic Art in the Times of COVID.” It’s presented by A Reason To Survive, a youth development nonprofit in San Diego, and is sponsored by Kaiser Permanente.
The exhibit features youths’ artwork that resulted from a collaboration between the Comic-Con museum and ARTS.
Along the walls upstairs are the works of New Yorker cartoonist Charles Samuel Addams, who created the Addams Family and much more. The exhibit includes his 60 original works divided into various categories. They vary from his Addams Family drawings to paintings such as one showing a field of self-carving pumpkins on Halloween.
Elsewhere, the costumes representing the masquerade show at Comic Con are bright, colorful and dramatic.
And a movie downstairs in the museum discusses the third inductee into the museum’s Character Hall of Fame: Wonder Woman.
“Her incredible 80-year-legacy and influence on popular arts and culture cannot be denied and may even be more significant today than at any time in her long venerated history,” Comic-Con spokesperson David Glanzer said in a statement.
The other inductees are PAC-MAN and Batman.
Over time, the museum will add other exhibits, but in the meantime, additions will be made over the months to the existing exhibits, Mr. Ibrahim said.
“Even if an exhibit is there for six months, it will be refreshed with new things.”