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.
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.
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.
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.