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Monday, August 27, 2007


Since we last met, I buzzed up to Montclair Art Museum with some friends to take in the comic book-themed exhibit spearheaded by "Batman" executive producer Michael Uslan. I can only say that for any comics-history buff, this exhibit is a 100 percent, absolute must-visit.

With my own eyes, I got to see what is, for me, the Holy Grail: "Action Comics" No. 1 (1938), the first appearance of Superman -- or, for that matter, of ANY superhero.

I'd never seen a copy of "Action" 1 in person before, only reprints. It was under glass, of course, with a security guard hovering nearby. It looked so frail and fragile sitting there -- like it was just another comic book. It had a little bit of what we anal-retentive collectors call "spine roll," revealing the edge of yellowed pages. It's hard to believe that the whole thing sprang forth from this modest piece of printed material!

Next to it was "Detective Comics" No. 27 (1939), the first appearance of Batman. But under the glass, this copy of "'Tec" 27 was also sealed in plastic for grading purposes (a comic-book-geek thing I won't bore you with at this moment). As such, I just didn't feel the same vibe from it that I felt from the copy of "Action" 1. Henceforth, I feel as if I a have a relationship with "Action" 1; but I felt twice-removed from "'Tec" 27. It's a comic-book-geek thing.

But there are so many history-making books to see in this exhibit: "Captain America" No. 1, "Sensation Comics" No. 1, "Wonder Woman" No. 1, "Showcase" No. 4, Dr. Fredric Wertham's anti-comics diatribe "Seduction of the Innocent," and on and on. There are many pages of original artwork, and a screening room continuously running a History Channel documentary about comics. A highlight is a room devoted to artists Joe, Andy and Adam Kubert, with three '40s splash pages by papa Joe, including an unpublished Hawkman page. (Comic-book geeks are now drooling.)

Not to mention the museum's many wonderful permanent installments, such as its American Indian section and a painting of George Washington for which the father of our country actually sat! I love this museum.

Of course -- and I'm starting to sound like a broken record, or should I say a corrupted iPod -- revisiting Montclair Art Museum provided many "habituation" moments. Kathy and I twice visited MAM to take in its 2003 exhibit on the paintings of Man Ray, "Conversion to Modernism," which Kathy dearly loved. She purchased MAM's book about the Ray exhibit, which I brought with me last week to have autographed by an in-house essayist. What a sentimental fool I am.


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