The Fantabulous 50s Weekend, Part 1: The Merry Marvel Museum Menagerie

Spidey and jazz hands!

I began collecting Amazing Spider-Man at age 6, around the first time Aunt May died. 44 years later, one of us has aged better.

In addition to our annual road trips, my wife Anne and I have a twice-yearly tradition of spending our respective birthdays together traveling to some new place or attraction as a short-term road trip — partly as an excuse to spend time together on those most wondrous days, partly to explore areas we’ve never experienced before. We’re the Goldens. It’s who we are and what we do.

Whether through a lot of lucky cosmic dice rolls or by divine interference, I’ve just now lived to see 50. We’d had to keep Anne’s own 50th-birthday outing modest because the pandemic curtailed our options. It was her wish that we wouldn’t have to compromise the same way for mine. After weeks of research and indecision, we planned an overnight journey to the next state over, to the capital city of Columbus, Ohio. We’ve driven through them several times on our way to other states, we’ve checked out their As-Seen-on-TV giant burgers, we’ve twice attended the most awesome indie comics show in the Midwest, and we’ve even been inside their capitol dome. We dug a little more deeply and learned they have still more to offer, especially in my fields of interest.

Average citizens might not be excited at the prospect of traveling from Indianapolis to another sizeable Midwest city that’s…well, it’s basically also Indianapolis, and yet not exactly. They have their own specialties and their own community highlights. Most importantly, they had cool stuff that this now-fiftysomething geek wanted to see. Columbus, then, would be the setting for our first outing together as quintagenarians.

First stop was at the Center of Science and Industry, their answer to Indy’s own Children’s Museum. From spring through Labor Day 2022 they’re hosting a traveling exhibit called “Marvel: Universe of Super-Heroes” — a wide, wild collection of Marvel Cinematic Universe memorabilia, Marvel Comics artifacts, life-size statues, original art, reproductions, and a few actual comics of note, not to mention a gift shop full of readable and wearable merch. We missed the exhibit’s previous stop in Chicago during the pandemic, but Anne tracked them down to their current Columbus digs, which amounted to the same drive-time from home that Chicago would’ve been.

Upon arrival Friday morning shortly before opening, we were a little alarmed at the scores of schoolchildren already milling about outside, all waiting for the doors to open, many of them in matching T-shirts. It stands to reason that a lot of Columbus kids, like Indy’s own, are likely required to take field trips to the same cool museum again and again. We worried they’d swarm all over the Marvel exhibit and crowd up the place, but ultimately that never happened. My guess is their teachers were required by state law to force them to go look at the educational exhibits first, like the dinosaur fossils and the obligatory indigenous arrowheads and whatnot. A handful of us families could enjoy quality time with Marvel superhero history in relative peace and unobscured selfies.

An opening sampler of sights:

Marvel elevator!

The mighty Marvel elevator.

Marvel Comics #1!

Timely Comics’ Marvel Comics #1 is for all intents and purposes The First Marvel Comic. This copy is CGC rated 4.0, and you’re unlikely to find one in better condition.

Amazing Fantasy #15!

I’ve seen countless reprints of Spider-Man’s debut in Amazing Fantasy #15, but had never been this close to a real copy.

Captain America wartime ads!

A variety of wall-art reproductions include these WWII-era Captain America ads exhorting kids to join his fan club and help defeat Nazis, not necessarily in that order.

War on Comics!

Despite Cap’s invaluable help, America turned on comics as a scapegoat for its own terrible parenting skills.

Stan Lee Writer's Digest!

Before the 1950s ruined life as we know it, 24-year-old editor Stan Lee was so proud of his company’s accomplishments that he wrote a how-to article for Writer’s Digestwhich you can in fact read online right now.

Stan Lee Carnegie Hall poster!

A poster ad for Stan’s infamous 1972 Carnegie Hall show, which I learned about from Abraham Riesman’s True Believer: The Rise and Fall of Stan Lee. Said show was, uh…what’s a polite term for “embarrassing fiasco”?

Stan Lee cameos!

Let’s pivot back to classier matters with the many faces of Stan Lee.

Jack Kirby tribute desk!

A desk of souvenirs and a classic poster print point to the contributions of the legendary Jack Kirby.

Marvel's Eternity!

A projection montage in a weird mirror room salutes Marvel’s magical and/or cosmic characters, such as the all-encompassing Eternity.

young hero repros!

A trio of covers celebrate young heroes such as Squirrel Girl, the most recent version of the Champions, and my childhood favorites, Power Pack.

Ms. Marvel statue!

Related note: Marvel’s Ms. Marvel is coming June 8th to Disney+!

Groot head!

I am Groot.

Anne and Spidey!

Anne takes her own moment with the Spidey statue in our lead photo.

Anne and the Thing!

Anne has a moment with a snoozing Benjamin J. Grimm.

Black Panther and jazz hands!

Look, let the birthday boy have one more goofy moment and then we’ll move on.

But wait! There’s more! To be continued!

Other chapters in this very special MCC miniseries:

Part 2: Mighty Marvel Cinemania
Part 3: How to Draw Comics the Marvel Way
Part 4: COSI All Around
Part 5: Schiller Park Intermezzo
Part 6: Lichtenstein Pre-Pop
Part 7: All Around the CMA
Part 8: The Columbus Cuisine Collection
Part 9: Arts in Columbus
Part 10: Sir, This is a Wendy’s
Coda: Happy Birthday, Captain Janeway

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