By: Zoe Compton, Assistant Features Editor
Photos: Katelin Bolig
Bloomsburg University’s Museum Exhibition class presents to the university community “The Many Faces of Batman.” Opening the night of April 24, Professor Natalie Harris’ Museum Exhibition students present a well-organized snapshot of the famous comic hero, Batman. The class concluded the purpose of the exhibit is to expose to the public the beauty found within the medium of comic book art, while also educating them on the visual evolution of Batman over the last 60 years.
Gabrielle Ferrara, project manager of the exhibit and creator of the Batman proposal, explained the process of how the comic star became the featured topic.
“Each student presented a proposal to the class regarding what subject they’d like,” Ferrara said. “After a voting process, Batman was selected. Some of the other proposals were eco-art and video game aesthetics.”
“The Many Faces of Batman” exhibit welcomes viewers with a unique take on the infamous Batman symbol. Although the symbol appears in its basic shape, the surface is covered with Bloomsburg University students wearing different examples of Batman masks. Below the hanging symbol, a “create your own mask” table is set up. There, viewers can create their own Batman mask to wear, while visiting the exhibit.
Highlighting student’s perceptions of Batman, the Museum Exhibition student ‘s artwork depicting Batman is draped down the wall connected by string. The hanging art included a piece by Aaron Bekisz named “And I Thought My Jokes Were Bad.” “My inspiration derived from the Joker, who plays a big part in the Batman comic,” Bekisz explained. Bekisz’s medium of art involved the use of acrylic paint on a canvas background.
The exhibit opened with the year 1939, Batman’s birth. Batman made his first appearance in “Detective Comics #27”. As the Great Depression was ending, D.C. comics (who got its name from the Detective Comics series) were interested in making a similar character to Superman, who had struck popularity with Americans. Comic artist and writer, Robert Kane, introduced “the Batman.” Batman encompassed a mysterious darkness, which Americans struggling in the Great Depression could relate to. Batman began to evolve in the ‘40s and showed no signs of stopping. The exhibit demonstrates Batman’s development through the decades with snippets from comic books, which are hand drawn.
Comparing Batman’s image from the ‘30s to the ‘40s, there are a few distinct changes. Batman was first designed with large ears, few detail and the lines were sketchy. Into the ‘40s, Batman developed a figure. His ears shrunk and the details began to emerge. His body underneath his Batman suit begins to gain muscle and tone. As Batman developed, his popularity increased. Within the decade of the ‘60s, other artists joined Robert Kane and Jerry Robinson, the original Batman artists, to create versions of the comic hero. In addition to many new artists joining the trend, Batman begins to have a story. His history, mission and enemies are slowly revealed.
Stepping into the ‘80s, the image of Batman is twisted. Batman begins to become darker. The pop art color once featured turns to grays and blacks. A major influence was the release of Tim Burton’s Batman film. Project manager, Ferrara, explains “there was no going back” (to the one colorful comic pages), once artists were introduced to the grimness of the new Batman. Batman was not only ruling the pages of comic books but also the hearts of comic book lovers.
The exhibit successfully displays the transformation of Batman and his comic series experienced. It shows Batman in different lights while telling his story throughout a timeline of decades. The exhibit is on display through May 10, located in the Haas Gallery. The exhibit is open for viewing weekdays from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Saturdays from noon to 2 p.m.