I went to see Superheroes: Fashion and Fantasy at the Met in New York. These pop culture exhibits can get a little bullsh*tty with their what-does-it-all-mean? blurbs, but you’ll have fun if you go in the spirit of the craven organizers (”Superhero movie costumes will bring in the kids!”) rather than that of the hapless exhibit designers (”Well, a loosely knitted shawl is kind of Spider-Man-y, right?”). A few fashion designers actually were inspired by Superman, Wonder Woman or (Tim Burton’s) Catwoman — and here the show works as intended — but the rest is a bigger stretch than Plastic Man.
My big problem with the exhibit is that while due credit is given to the amazing designers and craftspeople that realize superhero costumes on screen, NO credit is given to the original comic book illustrators or editors that created or influenced their designs. (They may be credited on the website, but not in the exhibit itself.) It’s as if superheroes just are — like the Greek gods or something — their origins too arcane to explore, or their designs such a foregone conclusion that if Steve Ditko hadn’t picked Spider-Man’s ensemble someone else would have?
Strangest of all, there is no comic book imagery accompanying the movie costumes and haute couture creations; All the backdrops are from the films, or one of Alex Ross’ (albeit thrilling) photo-realistic paintings. Only on the last wall, crowded together as a seeming afterthought before the giftshop, do we see any comics. But what comics they are! Action Comics #1, Amazing Fantasy #15, Captain America #1, Flash Comics #1, etc.! Sadly, the most valuable items in the show — both money-wise and culture-wise — have the least value to the exhibitors.