Where do they get those wonderful toys? Find out how the other half live with an all-encompassing tour around the Batcave, Superman’s fortress of Solitude, Wonder Woman’s Themyscira wardrobe and the Suicide Squad’s… evidence locker? All of the above and more are amassed within DC’s Dawn of Superheroes exhibition, from the days of Adam West to the recent Justice League movie. This impressive collection of comic book and movie history artefacts would put even Batman’s trophy room to shame. There’s not a giant coin though.
While the comic book history of the DC Universe is treated with due reverence, it’s the movie props and memorabilia which take centre stage. The very first thing visitors to the exhibition can expect to see (aside from the shockingly overpriced gift shop) is Superman’s classic red-and-blues, as donned by the mighty Christopher Reeves himself. Each major subsequent costume is on show too, including that of Brandon Routh and Man of Steel-era Henry Cavill, but Reeves’ iconic costume is unbeaten, and even more impressive in reality. Clark Kent’s day clothes are there too, the red and gold ‘S’ poking out from beneath the popping shirt buttons.
Talking heads on wall-mounted television sets discuss Superman’s inception and the evolution of his costume, while a giant projector plays out an episode of the classic animated series. This first room is brightly lit and full of wonder and cheer, home to the most hopeful, aspirational Supermen. Then somebody turns out the lights, and it’s on to Zack Snyder-ville, the road twisting on through to the Man of Steel years (kryptonite! A couple of Cavill costumes!)
The dark turn, however, is an appropriate enough palette cleanser before what many will consider to be the main attraction: the Batman exhibit. As the character with the most credits to his name, Batman has enough screen history to host an exhibition of his very own. There’s an old Riddler suit and a TV set playing a 60s Batman episode, but it really kicks off with the Tim Burton movies, and Michael Keaton’s Batsuit. In keeping with this era, this very impressive costume is overshadowed slightly by the villains; all represented in costumes for Nicholson’s Joker, DeVito’s Penguin and Pfieffer’s Catwoman. There’s even an actual (alright, plastic) Penguin.
Poor Val Kilmer is shoved up into a corner, while The Riddler, Two-Face and Mr. Freeze take up prime cabinet space, their bright and vivid costumes making up one of the most impressive and striking displays in the show. But worry not, aficionados of camp, George Clooney is here, and he brought the rubber nipples along too. Or Chris O’ Donnell and Alicia Silverstone, if you want to use their IMDb credited names.
The exhibition continues chronologically, through the Nolan years, before catching up with Snyder again for Batman vs Superman. Ethically murky and ill-advised as much of the movie may have been (exemplified by a number of production pieces depicting Batman carrying a massive machine gun) its costumes are undeniably impressive work, the mecha-Batsuit from the film’s finale a fantastic technical achievement, its eyes blazing bright white in the otherwise dingy room. Like Dawn of Justice itself, this segment of the tour could do with turning the lights up a bit.
Suicide Squad and Justice League are also represented, although there’s a physical lack of any other heroes for the latter, perhaps due to an increase in CGI or the simple sad fact that these newer costumes are far less impressive than the classics. The third member of the Trinity is comparatively under-served too, in a smaller room which houses only a small number of Wonder Woman outfits and props. Gal Gadot and Lynda Carter’s iconic outfits are displayed though, and it’s every bit as goosebump-raising to see the Carter costume as it is Keaton’s and Reeves’s. The Invisible Jet is a really impressive piece of work too.
If Dawn of Superheroes feels lopsided in its hero worship, that’s through no fault of the exhibition itself. Wandering through room after room stacked full of Batman bumpf, one is inadvertently reminded of how short the world outside of the Batcave has fallen thus far. One measly Wonder Woman room? And where are the likes of Green Lantern, the Flash and Aquaman? In addition to being a celebration of DC’s cinematic successes, Dawn of Superheroes serves as an unfortunate Must Try Harder for the WB/DC overlords.
These are just niggles though; what is on show here is more than enough to get fans of DC superheroes salivating. Original artwork, well-worn costumes and actual props from some of the greatest comic book movies of all time will have fans desperately planning out elaborate supervillain style heists, determined to make these precious artefacts their own.