'Heroes Among Us' art exhibit in planning stages

We've heard a lot about the various tribute comic books created to benefit charities following the Attacks on America on September 11th. Marvel Comics released "Heroes" a few weeks back and has "A Moment of Silence" coming up. Alternative Comics has "9-11: Emergency Relief" due out early 2002. There have been other tributes and even more on the way.

One thought that comes to mind is wouldn't it be nice to have the artwork from all these various tribute books in one place to look at up close? David Gabriel had just that idea.

David Gabriel is the president of the New York City Comic Book Museum. Started in 1999 by Gabriel, a life-long comic fan, this non-profit corporation has focused on unique programming and exhibits. While they don't currently have a permanent facility, the museum has hosted a number of interesting programs. Their first exhibit "Comic Books and AIDS" found itself hosted at the Empire State Building earlier this year, then traveled to New Rochelle High School and spent time at New York Hospital for World AIDS Day. They produced an award-winning video documentary called "Comic Books and AIDS: What's the Story?" which contained interviews with Peter David, Jim Valentino and many others. They're current focus is a "Women in Comics" exhibit that has traveled around a bit, starting with a panel discussion at Comic-Con International: San Diego earlier this year and will continue on the NYCCBM Web site in interviews with female professionals in comics followed by an exhibit in the spring of 2002 of women's work in New York City and possibly another video documentary. Most exciting for Gabriel is a recent development for the NYCCBM.

"I have met with individuals who are ready to begin the process to search, secure and develop a permanent home that will serve as a research facility as well as a showcase for the comic book industry," Gabriel told CBR News. "More on that soon, but the goal is the next two years!"

The latest exhibit for the New York City Comic Book Museum is titled "Heroes Among Us" which will collect artwork from the various tribute books out there in one place for fans to look at up close.

"Shortly after the tragic events of 9-11 the NY Post ran a single panel comic strip (still posted in our online exhibit) with three solemn figures of Spider-Man, Superman and Batman asking a NY Firefighter for his autograph," Gabriel said. "I thought that this humble comic said so much about the human spirit that existed in the city (and if you haven't actually been here to NYC since then to witness any of this, it is truly a different place). The thought of our comic heroes being in awe of a true-life hero was so inspirational that I, and many board members, just knew an entire exhibit should be created to exemplify this idea of the 'Hero.'

[Heroes]"I sent out a few emails to artists and contacts in the industry and found that Marvel Comics was quickly interested in helping us out however they could. I spoke with editor Andrew Lis who said that Marvel would donate the artwork from 'Heroes' to the museum by allowing us to create enlargements of the entirety of the book. They still retain the originals and will be auctioning them off for charity starting in January. As hard as it is to imagine, the enlargements are even more stunning than the pages of the book itself. The 'Heroes' section makes up an incredible part of the exhibit. Marvel wants to also include its upcoming 'Moments of Silence' in the exhibit."

[9-11: Emergency Relief]"Then I heard about '9-11: Emergency Relief' from Alternative Comics. Publisher Jeff Mason was equally forthcoming with allowing us exclusive enlarging rights to many pages of the book and these story pages will also be an integral part of the Heroes Among Us exhibit. Different from the Marvel book in that '9-11' contains actual stories from artists and writers who witnessed the tragedy on that day. The stories are quite moving and really show the depths reachable through comic book format!"

In addition to the above, individual pieces from New York artists and portions of the upcoming Dark Horse Comics relief project will be included in the exhibit.

A date for the exhibit isn't set and a location hasn't been firmed up yet, but Gabriel has three venues he's negotiating with and wishes to travel the exhibit all around New York City. Once a location and time has been finalized the news will be posted to the NYCCBM Web site and right here on CBR.

"I am also planning an offshoot event called 'Heroes on Fifth,'" said Gabriel. "For this I am seeking the help of all the stores and businesses with storefront windows on Fifth Avenue to place one piece from the exhibit in their window for a few weeks either in January or February. This will be an amazing tourist and shoppers draw for all involved, and it has the potential to be as famous as the cows that were all around the city last year. [In 2000 statues of cows painted by different artists could be spotted all over New York City.] My feeling is that we need to concentrate on the human aspect of this tragedy, on the heroic deeds and consequences, rather than the horror of it all. I think it will be quite cathartic for everyone. And the best part will be that thousands of non-comic book fans will be seeing this great artwork!"

An opening night New York City event will be free to the public and the cost for the permanent exhibit will depend on the venue that hosts "Heroes Among Us." Those museums under consideration as hosts for the exhibit have nominal fees attached as entrance into their own museum space.

Visitors to the upcoming exhibit will be able to look at incredible art by comic artists from around the world in the city that the work pays tribute to.

"People will see AMAZING art and read some incredible stories," said Gabriel. "I think people will understand what it is to be a hero, through the eyes and dedication of a superhero loving industry. Comics-lovers will enjoy having their art form elevated to new heights of glory. While the non comics-lovers will fondly remember what it was like to hold a comic in their hands and may want to revisit that feeling. Above all, the exhibit will grant audiences the gift, if only for a little while, to remember the men and women affected on that horrible day, remember the spirit of those who redefined heroism, and, hopefully, to ease their minds and maybe remove some of their pain. Art has a comforting way of doing that."

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