‘Spider-Man: Beyond Amazing’ exhibit swings into Comic-Con Museum

Spider-Man art for "Spider-Man: Beyond Amazing" Comic-Con Museum exhibit.
Spider-Man art for “Spider-Man: Beyond Amazing” Comic-Con Museum exhibit.
(Comic-Con Museum.)

The Comic-Con Museum at Balboa Park is preparing to unveil its latest exhibit, “Spider-Man: Beyond Amazing,” just in time for the bustling pop culture convention’s summer return. Set to debut to the public on July 1, the exhibit will commemorate the 60th anniversary of Spider-Man’s comic debut and undeniable presence in the world of entertainment.

Between film, television, literature, video games and more, the Spider-Man universe has expanded immensely over the years, growing to encapsulate many versions of the beloved hero. From Miles Morales to Ghost-Spider, the exhibit will explore this multiverse as well as the numerous creators who have helped to construct it.

Packed to the brim with a range of artifacts spanning the decades-long existence of the influential superhero, “Spider-Man: Beyond Amazing” is the first and only Spider-Man exclusive exhibit in the world. The collection will feature never-before-seen art, props from every “Spider-Man” film, comic books and plenty of photo opportunities with fan favorites such as Spider-Ham and a life-sized, upside-down Spider-Man.

Co-curators Patrick A. Reed, comic book and pop culture expert, and Ben Saunders, an expert and professor who created the comic book studies minor at the University of Oregon, worked closely together to establish what Reed calls the “central narrative logic” of the exhibit. From co-writing documents and infographics to mapping out the show, each brought their own personal passion for Spider-Man to the project.

In addition to the array of physical artifacts, Reed and Saunders, in collaboration with their design team Studio TK, opted to disperse a number of immersive digital elements throughout the exhibit. Visitors will be able to interact with media tables, where they can sift through illustrated mini essays about the various heroes, villains and storylines that have made their way into the Spider-Man universe over the years.

“There are people who will want to go through a show like this in 40 minutes, and there are people who will want to read every single label and check out every item on every media table. They can have something more like a three- or four-hour experience,” Saunders said.

Given that Spider-Man resonates with a variety of age groups, the incorporation of such thorough digital elements will allow visitors to cater their experiences to their individual interests. Whether you’re 6 years old or 60 years old, the exhibit is designed to engage and educate.

Reed and Saunders aimed to encapsulate a little bit of everything when developing the exhibit.

“The ultimate goal of this show is to meet the audience at whatever their individual point of access for Spider-Man is,” Reed said. “Making sure we include things in there that resonate with all of these different audiences is really a key part of our job because our goal is to share what we love about the character but, if everyone approaches the character from a different place, then we need to build paths to all those different places.”

Curating such a collection was no easy feat. Limited by space, Reed and Saunders had to ponder what to include and what to cut, and figure out what kinds of objects would best tell certain aspects of the larger story.

After drawing up an outline of the exhibit, complete with main plot beats and key characters, the pair turned to original art collectors, Sony and Perception studios and a variety of private lenders to source the artifacts that would eventually be featured in the exhibit.

Despite having access to Marvel’s extensive digital archives, they also consulted their own personal comic book collections during the curation process. Reed and Saunders have a deep appreciation for the detailed pencil markings and Ben-Day dots present on physical copies of the older comics. Wanting this texture and grit on full display in the exhibit, the pair scanned hundreds, if not thousands, of images by hand.

“It creates a completely different feel … we have all these different textures to play with, and in collaboration with our design team, it lends a depth and a richness to this,” Reed explained.

The exhibit will be organized chronologically, with the opening gallery set shortly before Spider-Man’s creation, and the subsequent sections progressing alongside the hero as he develops across various forms of media. Visitors can expect to encounter a variety of character-based sections of the exhibit in addition to this visual timeline, each of which will focus on a different iteration of the web-slinger.

“Spider-Man: Beyond Amazing”

When: Through the end of 2022

Where: Comic-Con Museum, 2131 Pan American Plaza, Balboa Park

Tickets: $18-$30