Pop Culture: Norman Rockwell Museum explores graphic novel

Apparently the writers’ strike in Hollywood and the stagehands’ strike in New York have not slowed the nation’s appetite for – or appreciation of – popular culture. In addition to some interesting news from the Heritage Marketplace Auction, there’s plenty of intriguing material to go around.

The Norman Rockwell Museum has a new exhibit titled, “LitGraphic: The World of the Graphic Novel,” on display through May 26, 2008.

The museum will feature 146 works by 24 of the best contemporary graphic novelists and historic practitioners. Their stories explore adult themes of culture, society and current events, in genres ranging from thought-provoking to heart-wrenching to risque.

The exhibit contains wordless narratives by 1920s artist Lynd Ward and modern-day Peter Kuper; humorous personal stories by Lauren Weinstein; and the pioneering art of Will Eisner, Dave Sim, and Terry Moore, as well as work by Jessica Abel, Sue Coe, Steve Ditko, Milt Gross, Mark Wheatley and others.

Located in Stockbridge, Mass., the Norman Rockwell Museum is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., from May through October, and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., November through April. Admission is $12.50 for adults, and visitors 18 and under are free. Learn more about the exhibit and the museum by calling 413-298-4100 ext. 200, or go to www.nrm.org.

Heritage Marketplace Auction

DALLAS – The Heritage Marketplace Auction, which closed Oct. 25, realized $262,433, making it the best marketplace auction they’ve had to date. A total of 1,542 lots were sold to 398 different winning bidders and the diversity of the slate reflected the strength of the overall collecting market. The auctions, held online at www.ha.com, offer material such as fine and decorative arts, vintage comics, entertainment memorabilia, vintage sports collectibles, and political memorabilia and Americana.

The top lot, an Asian porcelain wall marker, circa 1800, brought $22,750.

GEM’s new honor and line-up

Baltimore’s City Paper named Geppi’s Entertainment Museum “Baltimore’s Best Non-Art Museum” for 2007. The award said, “You might as well call Geppi’s Entertainment Museum the ‘Hey, I Had That’ Museum, Lobby Shot.jpgsince the bulk of the collection isn’t comic books but the precious ephemera of everyone’s childhood.

The lobby at Geppi’s Entertainment Museum in Baltimore.

Moving from gallery to gallery works like a nostalgia-based method of carbon dating as visitors of every age visibly melt when they rediscover the toys, games, and pop artifacts of their formative years, no matter whether their Rosebud was a Tom Mix decoder ring or a Mouseketeer uniform or an Atari 2600. There are comics, of course, and plenty of them, all sealed behind slaver-proof glass for the salivating geeks who long to stand face to face with a genuine Action Comics No. 1, Steve Jim and Sta2.jpgbut it’s the reunion with your once-treasured stuff that’s worth the price of admission.”

From left, longtime Baltimore sports writer Jim Henneman; Geppi’s Entertainment Museum founder Steve Geppi; and local sports figure Stan ‘The Fan’ Charles.

We should point out that with one modern exception, there was actually no such thing as a decoder ring, probably much to the dismay of Herman Munster.

GEM’s Curator, Dr. Arnold T. Blumberg, filled us in on the facility’s changing exhibits, which augment its permanent displays.

Scrooged! – Through Feb. 27, 2008

“Celebrate the legacy of the ‘Good Duck Artist,’ Carl Barks (1901-2000), through a unique exhibition of original oil paintings, artwork and other memorabilia starring the likes of Uncle Scrooge McDuck, Donald Duck, and the rest of their orange-billed family.”

Going Ape! – March 12-May 21, 2008

“In 1968, a science-fiction film debuted that blended audacious special effects, pulpy plotting and pointed socio-political commentary. In the last 40 years Planet of the Apes spawned four theatrical sequels, a live-action TV series, an animated cartoon, a theatrical remake and a multitude of merchandise. Go ape with GEM this spring!”

Up, up and away: 70 Super Years – June 4-Aug. 27, 2008

“The Man of Tomorrow. The Last Son of Krypton. The Man of Steel. Since his debut in 1938, Superman has been the ultimate embodiment of our highest ideals and aspirations – the quintessential superhero. Join us in celebrating 70 years of Clark Kent, Lois Lane, Lex Luthor, kryptonite, imaginary stories (not a hoax!) and much more. Up, up and away!”

Mickey Mouse: 80 Years of Big Round Ears – Sept. 10-Dec. 3, 2008

“From his humble beginning as a replacement for another cartoon character, Walt Disney’s Mickey Mouse has grown into one of the most beloved pop-culture icons in history. Take a look back at 80 years of adventures and escapades with Mickey, girlfriend Minnie, loyal pooch Pluto, and best friend Goofy.”

Barbie: 50 Fashionable Years – Dec. 24, 2008 – March 4, 2009

“Since her debut in a plain black-and-white swimsuit in 1959, Barbie has been a symbol of America’s changing and sometimes controversial perception of the role of women in our society. GEM looks at a half-century of dream houses, sports cars, shifting fashions and hairstyles, and how Barbara Millicent Roberts has changed the face of pop culture.”

While these dates are tentative at this point, Blumberg also gave a hint as to what GEM has on its slate after the above-listed exhibits.

“Coming up later in 2009, we have Batman’s 70th in the spring and the Wizard of Oz celebration in the summer, as well as possible exhibitions on Flash Gordon and Popeye for the end of the year.”

In memoriam: Don Vernon

Veteran collector and pop-culture enthusiast Don Vernon passed away recently in his hometown of Schenectady, N.Y. A lifelong collector of comic books, Big Little Books, original artwork, and Disneyana, he also collected model airplane kits from the 1930s and 1940s, and just about anything else that brought back the nostalgic feelings of his youth.

Vernon, who had just turned 79, is survived by his wife Linda, daughter Christine, and two grandchildren, Jamie and Thomas.

J.C. Vaughn is the associate publisher and executive editor of Gemstone Publishing. Members of the Gemstone staff contributed to this column.