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MoPOP Marvel
Tony Stark’s Lab is one of many different settings in which visitors can immerse themselves and interact with their favorite characters at MoPOP’s “Marvel: Universe of Super Heroes” exhibition next spring. (Studio TK rendering)

The largest exhibition ever staged at Seattle’s Museum of Pop Culture will feature hundreds of original artifacts and much more as it lifts the mask on one of the most iconic brands in comics and film.

MoPOP Marvel
MoPOP and SC Exhibitions commissioned several renowned Marvel artists to create a series of posters for the Seattle show which will be released over the months to come. Michael Allred’s interpretation shows Spider-Man swinging from the iconic Space Needle. (MoPOP / Marvel Image)

“Marvel: Universe of Super Heroes,” opening next April at the museum created by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, is billed as the world’s first and most extensive exhibition celebrating Marvel’s visual and cultural impact.

The story of the nearly 80-year-old company will include a selection of rare pages of original comic art from some of the most impressive private collections in the world as well as costumes, props and interactive elements. Many of the items have never before been seen by the public

Marvel is home to such heroes as Spider-Man, Hulk, Iron Man, Captain America and teams including the Fantastic Four, the X-Men and the Avengers.

“Our show takes us from the origins of the Marvel Universe to the present, providing a chance to see some of the rarest and most precious objects to have survived from the past 80 years of pop culture history,” curator Ben Saunders said in a news release about the exhibition, which is being produced by MoPOP, SC Exhibitions and Marvel Entertainment.

MoPOP Marvel
(Studio TK rendering)
MoPOP marvel
Marvel statues will provide photo opportunities throughout the exhibition. (Studio TK rendering)

According to MoPOP, “Universe of Super Heroes” will trace the story of the company and its influence on visual culture — including how it’s responded to historical events and addressed wider issues such as gender, race and mental illness. It will also honor creators such as Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, and their efforts behind the expansive fictional universes.

Other highlights include:

  • Immersive set pieces to bring comic book world to life, including an immersive soundscape created by acclaimed composers Lorne Balfe and Hans Zimmer.
  • Among the rare artifacts, the only known surviving page from the very first Marvel comic ever published, “Marvel Comics #1” (1939), as well as several pages from “Amazing Spider-Man #121” (the classic “Death of Gwen Stacy” storyline).
  • More than 70 iconic covers and interior pages by Marvel’s most foundational and influential artists, including Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko, John Romita Sr, John Buscema, Jim Steranko, John Byrne, and Frank Miller.
  • Original comic pages will be juxtaposed with contemporary designs of the same characters from both comic books and Marvel’s recent movies and TV shows, which will be represented by dozens of props and costumes. These will include items from the sets of “The Avengers,” “Thor: Ragnarok,” “Black Panther,” and Dr. Strange.”
  • Visitors will also be able to interact and take photos with some of their favorite heroes, recreated in the form of carefully constructed 3-D sculptures. These include a 7-foot-tall version of the Hulk preparing to do battle with a flying figure of Thor.

The exhibition has been curated by a team that includes comics scholars Benjamin Saunders, Matthew J. Smith and Randy Duncan, along with MoPOP curators Brooks Peck and Jacob McMurray. Comics writers and editors Ann Nocenti and Danny Fingeroth also contributed.

“Marvel: Universe of Super Heroes” opens April 21.

MoPOP Marvel
The exhibit is brought to life through numerous walk-in scenes, borrowed from the comic world. It all begins with a leap back in time, to a New York City–style street scene of the 1940s and a classic newsstand — the venue that paved the path to success for Marvel’s comic books. (Studio TK rendering)
MoPOP marvel
Visitors can stroll through the streets of New York, catching a glimpse into artists’ studios to learn about the creators behind the comics and gaze at original props from Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, and more. (Studio TK rendering)
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