Advertisements

R.I.P. Geppi Museum: A 2017 Road Trip Epilogue

Batcave Shakespeare!

Once upon a time, this dead author was the gateway to a crimefighter’s lair. Who knows where he’s headed next.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:

Every year since 1999 my wife Anne and I have taken a trip to a different part of the United States and visited attractions, wonders, and events we didn’t have back home in Indianapolis. From 1999 to 2003 we did so as best friends; from 2004 to the present, as husband and wife. For 2017 our ultimate destination of choice was the city of Baltimore, Maryland. You might remember it from such TV shows as Homicide: Life on the Street and The Wire, not exactly the most enticing showcases to lure in prospective tourists. In the course of our research we were surprised to discover Baltimore also has an entire designated tourist-trap section covered with things to do.

As a fan of comic books for nearly four decades and counting, I wish I could say we find comic-related tourist attractions everywhere we go, but that’s nearly never the case. Leave it to one of the most powerful men in the comics industry ever so kindly to place one in our Baltimore path. And not just comics — Geppi’s Entertainment Museum is a haven for collectible 20th-century pop culture in general.

Its founder and namesake is Steve Geppi, also the founder and owner of Diamond Comics Distributors, the near-monopolistic juggernaut through which the vast majority of American comic shops are required to receive their weekly comics and ancillary products. Geppi has been a leading figure in the industry since the 1970s, with Diamond rising to indispensable prominence when the tumultuous 1990s market saw the company either outliving or outright buying its competitors. In 2006 Geppi — himself a big fan of all those worlds — decided to try something different and opened his Entertainment Museum on the second floor of the former B&O Railroad Station, with its exhibits curated out of his own enormous personal collections.

As of June 3, 2018, those paragraphs became past tense.


Geppi's!

The doorway to adventure on the second floor. The first floor was empty, formerly a sports museum.

The Comics Beat recently reported the news that Geppi’s Museum would be closing its doors for good after a 12-year run marred by financial issues. This isn’t the first time we’ve witnessed a museum with comics in it shut down. See also: Manhattan’s Museum of Comic and Cartoon Art, which closed a year after our 2011 visit. In Geppi’s case the unfortunate ending promises a brighter coda: Geppi would be donating over 3,000 pieces from his collections — worth a good 7-figure amount — to the Library of Congress. Hopefully that’s a better and very different fate than tossing his prizes into a warehouse where they can be “researched” by Top Men.

Mickey pop-up book!

An old pop-up book lets Mickey Mouse spring to life, unlike Geppi’s place.

We enjoyed our visit, but I can’t say why others can’t say the same. Maybe the admission fare was beyond their means or preference. Maybe it was the fact that all the comic books were behind glass at a distance and hard to appreciate from covers alone, most of them with no accompanying plaques to provide context. Maybe it was the lack of interactive exhibits, an integral feature of children’s museums and even the two small-town toy museums we later visited in Wheeling, WV, and in Bellaire, OH. Maybe it was the somewhat remote location, next door to topically unrelated Camden Yards but quite a few blocks from Baltimore’s Inner Harbor, where their tourists tend to stay flocked. Judging by the number of thriving museums in and around the Inner Harbor area, the issue certainly isn’t that people hate museums.

Sonny and Cher!

From the Director of The Exorcist.

Anne and I took enough photos on our visit to compose at least two full chapters in Our 2017 Road Trip. I was tempted, but I ultimately figured the one gallery was enough to convey the experience and left most of Geppi’s outtakes offline. In honor of their farewell, we here at MCC now offer the following unplanned bonus gallery so that You, The Viewers at Home, can get another round of glimpses into what you missed. I’m sorry to see the place go, but here’s hoping America’s next east-coast comics museum will be even better.

Wimpy mask!

With this handy Wimpy mask, kids could have fun offering to pay people Tuesday for a hamburger today, only to weasel out of paying like a chump.

JG Jones!

Rotating exhibits included this spotlight on comics artist J.G. Jones, co-creator of Wanted, which later spawned a movie that barely resembled it.

Bullwinkle's Electric Quiz!

Trivial Pursuit meets Operation in Bullwinkle’s Electric Quiz Fun Game.

Saludos Amigos!

International poster for Saludos Amigos, one of the Walt Disney Animated Classics no one talks about anymore.

Star Trek Happy Meal!

In the early days of the McDonald’s Happy Meal, their marketers entertained numerous cross-promotional opportunities with things children were sure to love, such as Star Trek: The Motion Picture, which proved to be a big hit with some kindergartens during naptime.

Last Day in Vietnam!

Original art from the 2000 graphic novel Last Day in Vietnam by comics legend Will Eisner.

Eisner tank safety!

Sample from Eisner’s job drawing military safety materials during World War II.

Superman in wartime!

Like Eisner, Superman did his part to support the right side of history in WWII.

Superman weird toy!

Unexplained Superman toy hiding in a skyscraper alcove.

Hostess!

Once the world was safe from Nazi evil, Superman and other super-heroes turned their attention to a new pet cause: luring kids into buying Hostess snack cakes.

DC miscellanea!

DC Comics merchandising potpourri.

Batman Red!

Batman movie poster promises Caped Crusaders in all the colors of the wind. Or something.

Advertisements

It's the comments section! With our very special guest star: YOU!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: