Editor’s note: DC Comics President Paul Levitz returns once again to talk about the Met’s Fashion and Fantasy exhibit.
by Paul Levitz
Philippe de Montebello, who’s as close as there is to a one man incarnation of high culture in America, is standing on the platform gesturing to a statue that’s older than most of western civilization, and pointing out the connection between the Diana the huntress and Wonder Woman. He’s sandwiched between Anna Wintour and Giorgio Armani, all celebrating the opening of the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s exhibit on Super Heroes, Fashion and Fantasy. I’m sitting in the audience, wondering when they changed the laws of physics to allow this collision of high culture and low, befuddled.
When I walked into the Met yesterday morning, it was under the gaze of a set of 12 foot high statues of Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman, cast digitally from our licensing department maquettes modeled on the Jose Luis Garcia Lopez art that has been a core of our style guide program for so many years. Apparently the output process is fairly faithful, digitally fabricating them in 4 foot long segments, so that only a sculptor’s final polish was needed. Alex Ross art gleams out as backdrops behind so many of the fashion displays, and the rest are backed by work by Nathan Crowley, the production designer of BATMAN BEGINS and THE DARK KNIGHT, who I first met in Chris Nolan’s garage workshop. Nathan was brought on board by the Met to design the exhibit, which is the centerpiece for their big spring gala tonight (to which mere comic book publishers are not invited). Comic book folks are in the crowd at this press event, scattered between the international film crews and personalities. Besides the DC team, there’s Heidi, Michael and Nancy Uslan, and Peter Sanderson…looked for the Marvel folks and didn’t find them, but of course I don’t know many of the current crowd. Steve Ditko won’t show on principle, but I bet Jack Kirby’s ghost is pointing to the Iron Man armor, showing it off to Roz who’s wondering what women actually wear the fashions that make Jack’s Big Barda outfit look restrained. Crossover folk too, like Michael Chabon, who did the narrative for the Museum exhibit catalogue, a piece that also ran in THE NEW YORKER. Michael’s been one of the most important people in connecting comics to high culture in recent years.
A few months ago I was in the Met’s basement offices, talking with curators Andrew Bolton and Harold Koda about the proposed exhibit, and I couldn’t have envisioned anything this beautiful or extensive. When original costumes worn by Chris Reeve and Lynda Carter are only a modest element in an exhibition, you get a sense of the scale. It’s up until September 1st, so if you have a chance to visit New York this summer, take it in.
(It was also pretty cool to see the Dawnstar character that Mike Grell and I introduced into the Legion some thirty years ago in the May issue of VOGUE in a Dior Haute Couture dress, as part of a spread on the exhibition.)
Been quite a week for culture…before that spent an afternoon at Princeton, talking to a class on People of The (Comic) Book: Jews In American Comics, which ended up being a delightful dialogue with Chris Claremont. As his wife Beth said, we have to go this far out of town to talk to old friends? But at least I didn’t embarrass my about-to-graduate-Princeton son too much.