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Marvel Universe Exhibit Arrives at Franklin Institute

See some of Marvel’s most iconic costumes, props, and original artwork, plus some one-of-a-kind photo ops!

This weekend, the Franklin Institute opens its long-awaited special exhibit celebrating Marvel’s 80th anniversary and its indelible mark on pop culture. The immersive 15,000-square-foot “Marvel: Universe of Super Heroes” features more than 300 original artifacts, including some of Marvel’s most iconic costumes, props, and original artwork, plus some one-of-a-kind photo ops. This is the exhibit’s East Coast premiere, and features a new layout, new installations, and some never before seen content—such as concept art from Into the Spider-Verse and Brie Larson’s suit from Captain Marvel!


Whether you are an avid Marvel fan or a complete novice, this exhibit will enhance your knowledge and appreciation for the artwork and the characters. While the spectacle of pretending to be smashed by a life-size Hulk or seeing Iron Man’s real suits up close is incredible, “Marvel: Universe of Super Heroes” also shows visitors the emotional depth of the characters, and their unique way of processing history, culture, and very human issues.


At the media preview, Marvel Editor in Chief C.B. Cebulski explained that part of what makes Marvel so special is what he calls the “4 Hs: the humanity, the heroism, the heart, and the humor you find in the characters under the masks…That is what makes Marvel so relatable.” For example, Spider-Man is not simply an exciting superhero, but “an allegory of the pain of adolescence.” By showing the characters’ comic book origin stories as well as their present-day representation in blockbuster media, the exhibit is comprehensive and much deeper than you may have thought.


Of course, it is also an amazing and fun experience, and there is truly something to enjoy for all ages and levels of interest. So start practicing your best Spider-Man kiss, because you’re just a ticket away from being up close and personal with one Mister Peter Parker. Here’s what to expect from the exhibit, which opens April 13 and runs through September 2.


Dive into Marvel’s History

“Our show begins with the origins of the Marvel Universe and moves through to the present day, giving a chance to see some of the rarest and most precious objects from the past 80 years of pop culture history, and pointing toward the future with work from some of today’s foremost creators,” says curator Ben Saunders about the exhibit. This includes the issue that started everything, Marvel Comics #1 published in 1939, and the only surviving original page from that issue.


The exhibit traces the story of Marvel—including how it changed the culture, and how it was affected by cultural change. In addition to celebrating beloved characters, visitors will see how their stories have responded to historical events and even addressed broader issues such as gender, race, and mental illness. “Marvel has always been a reflection of the world outside your window, and one of its most compelling messages has always been, that anyone—regardless of race, religion or gender—can be a Super Hero,” says Brian Crosby, Creative Director of Marvel Themed Entertainment.


Artifacts include rare, hand-drawn images of iconic heroes such as Spider-Man, Black Panther, and Captain America by the artists who first designed them; plus many more pages of historically significant original comic art. The exhibit also pays tribute to creators including Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, and Steve Ditko in a section that is stylized like their drafting tables with facts and photos about their lives and work.


If you only know Marvel characters from their movies and shows, this will give you an in-depth history of their backstories; and for some like Captain America, their historical significance that went well beyond the page.

Original Props and Costumes!

Captain America’s shield! T’Challa’s Black Panther suit! Those, and so many more items from the iconic films are on display. Each section celebrates a different character, using their original comic art, film costumes and props, and sometimes even clips that you can access via touchscreens. Detailed life-size sculptures of characters complement the artifacts.


And it is not just Iron Man’s suits and Thor’s hammer that you’ll see, but also more quirky items like Star-Lord’s Walkman from Guardians of the Galaxy– don’t worry, there is also a bust of Groot! And as we mentioned, the Franklin Institute is also the first museum to have a costume on loan from one of the studio’s newest films Captain Marvel. Costumes from shows like Jessica Jones and Luke Cage are also included in the collection, in the “Street-Level Heroes” section.

Photo Ops and More

We can’t wait to see social media flooded with your shots from the exhibit’s specially designed tableaux that will provide one-of-a-kind photo ops that put you in the action with classic Marvel characters. You can travel through the mysterious mirror dimension of Doctor Strange, pose for selfies with Black Panther, get smashed by Hulk, and of course kiss Spider-Man. In another section, you can sit on the couch and have a nap with The Thing, while behind him the “window” screen is constantly changing, so different characters photobomb you each time!



You’re going to want to take your time taking everything in and posing for shots while you visit, so set aside a couple of hours to get through this massive exhibit. And don’t forget to tag #phillyfamily so we can share our favorites shots!

Marvel: Universe of Super Heroes” opens April 13 and runs through September 2 at the Franklin Institute, located at 222 North 20th Street in Philadelphia. The exhibit is open from 9:30 am — 5 pm daily (with last entry at 3:30), and will also have evening hours, remaining open from 5 — 8 pm on Thursdays — Saturdays. Tickets are sold in timeslots, so the exhibit won’t get too crowded.


Tickets are $35 for adults and $31 for kids ages 3-11, but if you come during the evening hours, that drops down to $20 for adults and $15 for kids (Note: evening admission does not include general museum admission). Members pay just $12, and kids under age 3 are free.


Photographs by Laura Swartz.

Contributing Writer