Kapow! A Superhero Exhibit Lands in Gotham City

Signage

For hardcore comic fans or cape twirling tots, there’s something for everyone at this show. Photo: Meredith Craig de Pietro

Last weekend, “Superheroes in Gotham” opened at the New York Historical Society. Holy smokes! This show pulls out all the stops for both hardcore comic fans and young cape-twirling tots. The museum shop even sells replicas of the original vintage underoos. Finally, a way to bridge the museum experience and my five-year-old’s interests.

Excitement mounted from the street, where we could see the original Batmobile parked right inside the lobby. My son has never seen the classic Batman episodes, but was still enchanted by all of the gadgets and controls. The pure size of the vehicle commands attention, but my son was quickly drawn to the craft table set up at the other side of the lobby. Attendants were handing out clipped toilet paper roll cardboard for making your own superhero cuffs with stickers, pipe cleaners and hole punchers. My son declared himself “WOLFIE BOY” and joined the ranks of the other young superheroes to climb the stairs for the exhibit. (Many kids came in complete head-to-toe costumes, so if you want to get a jump on Halloween, here’s your chance.)

It's a bird, it's a plane, it's Superman! Philip Pearlstein Superman, 1952. Oil on canvas.The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Image © SCALA / Art Resource and Betty Cuningham Gallery

It’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s Superman! Image credit: Philip Pearlstein Superman, 1952 © SCALA / Art Resource and Betty Cuningham Gallery

Upstairs, the exhibit looked closely at how comics from the 1930s still influence our culture, in movies, TV, video games and fashion. For those unfamiliar with the characters, one room is dedicated to summing up the Alter Ego, Character Traits and Superpowers of the most popular heroes. This was just enough to pique my son’s interest, without boring him to tears. The artists, such as Stan Lee and Will Eisner, are honored here, too, and kids will be inspired to hear how so many of them started drawing in school. Also recognized here is the original Gotham City–New York. Without skyscrapers, no one would be “leaping tall buildings.” Superheroes are entrenched in NYC’s history, and the museum does a great job proving that. Also, the exhibit feels timely with the current nostalgia for the gritty city of yesteryear, and the romanticized notion of one man (or woman) protecting the city from crime.

Top Secret Superhero Training in progress. Photo: Meredith Craig de Pietro

Top secret superhero training in progress. Photo: Meredith Craig de Pietro

As my son and I watched a vintage episode of Superman, we were shocked to see the “real” Catwoman sneak past us, and invite all the children to follow her to a “secret hideout” for some “top secret superhero training.” Not surprisingly, all of the kids were up for the task. Tiptoeing down a long hallway into a spacious room, they were joined by the “real” Batman, who launched into a 20-minute training session including push ups, leaping, superhero posing and high kicks. 

After such a rigorous workout, we were hungry. A light-filled restaurant at the museum, called Storico, served us delicious pastas and cappuccinos among the ladies-who-lunch crowd. But, for something less fussy, there’s a Shake Shack down the block.

Superheroes in Gotham” runs through February 21, 2016. New York Historical Society, 170 Central Park West at Richard Gilder Way (77th Street). Hours: Tuesday-Thursday, Saturday: 10am-6pm, Friday: 10am-8pm, Sunday: 11am-5pm, Monday: CLOSED.  NOTE: Check website for special family programs going on every weekend. Admission: Adults, $20, Kids (5-13 years old), $6, Kids under 5, free.