poster for “Heroes of the Comics” Exhibition

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What sets a fan’s heart beating faster than a classic comic? Its creator. Hundreds of these legendary artists have now been immortalized by celebrated portraitist Drew Friedman in Fantagraphics’ two-volume series Heroes of the Comics and More Heroes of the Comics. Now, fans will have a chance to see the original work-up close and extremely personal-in the Society of Illustrators/Museum of Illustration’s Heroes of the Comics. A companion exhibition will be presented at SI/ MI’s MoCCA Arts Festival, to be held at New York’s Metropolitan West Pavilion on April 1-2, 2017.

Drew Friedman-of whom the legendary illustrator Robert Crumb has said, “I wish I had this guy’s talent”-grew up in New York, the son of novelist, screenwriter and playwright Bruce Jay Friedman. At New York’s School of Visual Arts, Friedman studied under masters of comics including Will Eisner, Harvey Kurtzman and Art Spiegelman; he launched his career in the alt comix world in the 1980s. Friedman’s tragicomic tales of misadventure, first published in RAW and often created in collaboration with his brother, Josh Alan Friedman, drew the attention of notables including Kurt Vonnegut, who compared him to Goya. Through the 1990s, Friedman’s work was featured in numerous comics-oriented publications, including Robert Crumb’s Weirdo, Heavy Metal, and National Lampoon; he also appeared regularly in the pages of the New York Observer, Time, New York Magazine, and Entertainment Weekly.

Friedman’s deft, meticulous portrait skills were given greater exposure in the monthly feature Private Lives of Public Figures for Graydon Carter and Kurt Andersen’s SPY magazine. The feature, which captured the famous and the infamous engaged in pursuits from the sublime to the ridiculous, were collected in a book published by St. Martin’s Press in 1992. In 2006, Friedman turned his lens on Old Jewish Comedians, a collection of portraits of Jewish comics of film and TV that inspired The New York Times’ Steven Heller to call him “the Vermeer of the Borscht Belt.” Friedman followed this with Heroes of the Comics, which immortalized the artists who transformed the comic book business at its very beginning, between 1935 and 1955.

SI/MI’s Heroes of the Comics invites visitors to meet the minds behind the magic…to imagine themselves in the room with the comics industry’s most imaginative artists, authors, editors, and publishers as they held a mirror to social history, transforming the way America perceived its own identity and values. The exhibition’s works celebrate luminaries of the field including pioneer Max (M.C.) Gaines (co-publisher of All-American Comics, which introduced Green Lantern and Wonder Woman); Superman creators Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster; MAD creator Harvey Kurtzman; Batman creators Bob Kane and Bill Finger; writer, artist and independent publisher Wally Wood; syndicated cartoonist and satirist Jules Feiffer; and legendary cartoonist Will Eisner, also the subject of SI/MI’s Will Eisner: The Centennial Celebration, on view through June 3. Also included are largely unsung pioneers including artist and professor Alvin Hollingsworth, one of the industry’s most prolific African-American artists; and Clarence Matthew Baker, who drew Phantom Lady and was the first African-American known to have had success in the field. Greats and near greats alike-many long forgotten with the passage of time, but each deserving of recognition for their signature work-are honored here and in Friedman’s eponymous books.

Heroes of the Comics will be on view at SI/MI from May 2 through June 3. A companion, smaller exhibition, also entitled Heroes of the Comics, will be on view at SI/MI’s 2017 MoCCA Arts Festival- New York’s largest independent comic, cartoon art, and animation festival-from April 1 through 2 at Metropolitan West Pavilion, West 46th Street between 11th and 12th Avenues, New York City. Drew Friedman, himself also a hero of the comics and the subject of Kevin Dougherty’s forthcoming documentary, Drew Friedman: Vermeer of the Borscht Belt, will be featured as a Guest of Honor at the MoCCA Arts Fest.



from May 02, 2017 to June 03, 2017

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