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The Deep End: Golden Age Comic Books

Underwater imagery from the Golden Age of Comics (Courtesy of Malcolm Mobutu Smith)

In 1940, the latest superhero movie wasn’t a movie at all. It was a comic book. Superman got his start in Action Comics Number 1 in 1938. His popularity, along with Captain Marvel, Batman, Green Lantern and more, made comic books a lucrative new medium. And they continue to be a major influence in American culture, from the Marvel Cinematic Universe to literary graphic novels like Fun Home.

A new exhibition about the Golden Age of Comics opens this Friday, January 13, at the Grunwald Gallery at IU’s Eskenazi School of Art, Architecture and Design. “The Deep End” showcases the theme of underwater imagery in comic books from 1938-1961, and it’s drawn from Malcolm Mobutu Smith's comic book collection. Smith is an associate professor of ceramics here at IU who’s collected around 20 thousand items related to comic books. We talked about how he got started collecting, why he decided to focus this exhibit on underwater imagery, and what we can learn from Golden Age comics today.

The Deep End: Golden Age of Comic Books runs January 13-March 4 at the Grunwald Gallery at IU’s Eskenazi School of Art, Architecture, and Design. Smith will be giving an opening talk at noon on Friday the 13th, followed by a panel discussion at 5 o’clock that evening, and an opening reception from 6 to 8.

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