Comic drawings on display at Huntington Museum of Art

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Jul. 30—HUNTINGTON — Original comic book art, comic strips and drawings by some of the country's most noted comic artists will be in the spotlight in "Pow! Comic Drawings from the Permanent Collection" at the Huntington Museum of Art.

Artists featured in the exhibit include Bob Kane, Ernie Chan and Neil Adams. Items are from the museum's Michael Reynolds Collection of American Popular Culture.

"Comic culture is decidedly mainstream," John Farley, HMA senior curator/exhibition designer, said. "It is no longer a niche hobby. The original artwork for newspaper comic strips and comic books is coveted by collectors and exhibited by major museums. Once primarily an American art form, comic books and the pantheon of characters spawned within their pages now connect legions of devoted fans around the world through a common language. Comic sales have risen consistently for decades, and consumer demand continues to reach astonishing heights, a trend supercharged by the popularity of graphic novels and digital downloads."

Farley said comic art is more than entertainment.

"Comic art represents a natural evolution of the political cartoons and satirical caricatures which have been printed in European and American newspapers and periodicals since the early 1800s," he said. "Cleverly designed interplays of text and image allowed for effective communication with a wide audience, regardless of age or literacy, making this format ideal for delivering social critique, propaganda, and entertainment."

The first comic book featuring original cartoon artwork was released in 1935. However, the Golden Age of Comic Books began in 1938 with Action Comics, no. 1, when an extraterrestrial infant refugee with superhuman potential crash landed in the idyllic American Midwest. The boy's adopted parents named him Clark Kent, but humanity came to know this archetypal superhero by his alter-ego: Superman.

By the mid-20th century, in addition to a growing number of mainstream comic creators, diverse independent artists, writers and publishers were producing self-expressive comic art that commented on culture and politics from new perspectives. Barriers continue to be transformed into frontiers for creativity as artists and writers who once had limited voices in the traditional comic industry now enjoy a wider audience and larger platforms to tell their stories.

The exhibit, which opens today, will run through Oct. 25.

For more information, visit hmoa.org or call (304) 529-2701.