The film production arm of DC, publisher of super hero comics including Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman, has caused a schism among movie-going nerds.
While critics have derided virtually every post-Christopher Nolan DC movie (with the notable exception of Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman), a vocal group of internet trolls and Men’s Rights Activists have used them as a rallying point for their absurd, cry-baby politics (some even attempted to shut down the neutral aggregation site Rotten Tomatoes, while others tried to arrange a boycott of the wildly successful Marvel film Black Panther).
This sweeping exhibition at the O2 is a welcome reminder that these iconic characters have weathered far greater storms than this, surviving world wars, great recessions and a vehemently anti-comics political movement. They have adapted with the times, becoming different things for different generations, reflecting our concerns and fears and aspirations.
The sheer amount of memorabilia collected is astonishing, with original page layouts for comics dating back to the earliest days of Detective Comics next to the costumes from movies spanning more than five decades alongside props including the actual “Batpod” motorcycle used in Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy.
By arranging the exhibition by character (rather than chronologically) the “hero” pieces – the suit worn by Jack Nicholson’s Joker; the cowl donned by Christian Bale; a weaponised penguin – are placed in their historical context, giving you a fascinating insight into how the characters have evolved.
The exhibits are supplemented with interviews with costume designers, directors and artists who have added to the mythos over the years.
Die-hard comics fans will find enough depth to really geek out, while even those with just a passing interest in the superhero phenomenon will be won over by the impressive collection of concept art and movie paraphernalia.
As well as being visually arresting, Dawn of Superheroes is a reminder that even in the early days, when comics tended to be full of musclemen and pneumatic women, they were striving to be better, more progressive, and that’s a valuable lesson for DC fans today.