Right... it's Friday. I should have written this blog post at least a day ago... I kind of lost track of my days. It happens though.
This time of year, I spend much more time outside. At least when it's sunny. So, last Sunday when I had to be at the high school before 7am to chaperone an indoor field trip, I was a little disappointed. Mostly because it was a nice day outside. Partly because it was a 3 hour ride to Philly and the Franklin Institute.
I hopped on a bus with 6 other adults, the driver, and a group of teenagers. The ride there wasn't as quiet as I would have expected with that many teenagers at that hour of the day. Surprisingly, they were all wide awake for a Sunday morning.
With excited chatter they talked about school, made jokes and guessed at what we would find at the Marvel exhibit that's currently going on. They were going for some inspiration for the half time show this fall. I was going because I was asked to chaperone... and I'm a closet comic book fan.
When I was younger, I read. A lot. (I still do... but no where near as much as then.)
Novels and stories were great, but I soon found a stash of old Mad Magazine paperbacks and comics that I loved. I don't know what they're like now, but those old 1970s and early 80s publications, full of satire and parodies, were gold. Alfred E. Neuman and Spy vs. Spy were always fun to see. Don Martin is one of my favorite cartoonists, because I made doodles and drawings in the same style. Bulbous noses and hinged feet were a hoot to draw. Don made his way into the Comic Book Hall of Fame in 2004 (after his death.)
After finishing that box from the attic, I moved on to other comics and magazines that were stashed there and eventually began to buy comics. I read through more Marvel comics than I care to admit to. Heck, I'll even admit that I read the comic version of The Walking Dead a few years back. (It was MUCH better than the show turned out to be in my opinion.)
In 1961 Steve Ditko, Stan Lee, Jack Kirby (and a few others) busted out of the normal comic plot line and moved to superheroes. It was a pull away from the spaghetti western style of comic books and a jump into the deep end of a pool that would become a multi-billion dollar future.
The band kids on the bus were chatting about Captain America, Thor, Iron Man... basically the big names from the big screen. I was curious as to whether it would be predominately that, or would venture into lesser known characters. Doctor Doom, Red Skull, or Sasha Hammer perhaps?
Three hours went by fast enough with all the chatter as we soon found ourselves on the steps of The Franklin Institute. We got our wristbands, Marvel Exhibit tickets and headed in.
The exhibit starts out with a brief film on the history of comics and how Marvel got its start. It lasted around five minutes and gave great insight to those who didn't know. It was a good recap for people who had some knowledge of comic books and how this huge franchise got its start. Seems to me, in the Marvel vs. DC war... Marvel won big.
The exhibit was chock full of details and insight into how the comics came to life, interactive displays that showed the storyboarding, the lives of the writers and much more.
The real excitement for the kids though was all the movie paraphernalia. Captain America's shield, Loki's helmet, the full costumes. The kids took turns posing with the characters and generally having a blast.
I'd like to think they learned a little about comics too... but I won't hold my breath.
Early comic making was much like early newspaper making. Parts and pieces spliced together, single color plates coming together on a webbed press to make a plethora of shades.
If a story was done and something needed to change, the xacto knife came out and the offending part was removed, and a new one spliced in from another sheet of paper. There were some great examples of this framed on the walls in the museum and I took quite a few photos on my phone. The kids thought it was weird, but really paid me no mind. Alex knew why I was taking the photos. She spent enough time with me at work when she was younger, back before we moved to complete digital creation of things.
When we made it through the Marvel exhibit, we split into smaller groups and explored the rest of the museum. I haven't been in the building since I was much younger, and I had some interesting recollections as we laughed our way through. For one, the giant heart you walk through no longer seems so large and mysterious. Now, the steps were too small for my feet, and I hit my head once or twice on the ceiling of it.
Our favorite part was the brain exhibit. Optical illusions in one room had us in fits of laughter. The walls were papers at an angle, the dressers were set that way as well. It really gave you an odd headrush as your brain tried to process how you could be standing straight and yet feel like you were at a 45 degree angle.
We checked out exhibits on electricity, trains, planes, sports, motion and more. We even caught the 4 p.m. planetarium show. Four stories of sky showcasing the summer stars and planets.
Eventually though, it was time to go home. A quick stop for dinner found me sitting there with the same four kids that I was with all day. Let it be noted, they didn't have to hang out with me. Apparently they had enough fun to consider me cool enough to stay around. In my head that means Im not old... or at least I'm old and half-way cool. Thanks band geeks.
It poured while we were on the turnpike and cleared up by the time we rolled back into Honesdale at 9 p.m. 14 hours with a bunch of teenagers was a Sunday well spent.