Event review: DC’s Dawn of Superheroes at the O2, London

Today I want to tell you about DC’s Dawn of Superheroes exhibition, currently located in the O2, in London. Dawn of Superheroes is an original creation by Art Ludique. It runs until 9th September – so, if you’re reading this when I post it, you don’t have long to plan a visit! 

Here’s the promotional blurb:

“An original creation by Art Ludique-Le Musée, ‘The Dawn of Super Heroes’ will feature nearly 200 original drawings, more than 300 preparatory sketches for the cinema and a curated selection of authentic costumes and props used in the films.

“Also on display are the original costumes from blockbuster DC films including the famous cape worn by Christopher Reeve in the Superman movies and Lynda Carter’s iconic Wonder Woman costume from the 1970s.”

At the time of writing this blog post, the cost is £10 per adult, and £5 per child (plus booking fees). It takes about 2-3 hours to walk around, and includes an audio assistant as well (basically a narration track for some of the key exhibits). It’s very easy to get to, and has access for disabled persons as well. 

So, what did I think of it? Dawn of Superheroes is a genuinely impressive exhibition. From the introduction of Superman, through to his success in comics and animation, we are taken on a journey through the decades, ending with the Justice League films and the most recent versions of the DC heroes. 

The emphasis is, understandably, on the “big three” DC heroes. However, that’s not to say that villains, or DC’s lesser stable of heroes, are ignored. The villains of the Batman universe are given some exhibition space (including costumes from the Burton and Nolan films), and latterly there is some material relating to Green Lantern, Green Arrow and other members of the Justice League. If you’re hoping to see a wider display featuring a bigger range of heroes, then this exhibition won’t be for you, but I don’t think that’s much of a criticism, given DC’s recent focus on these particular characters. 

The show has a full range of props, costumes and other articles used in film, which were great to see in person. However, the real highlight for me had to be the original art. I’ve never seen some of this material at all, and seeing it up-close is a real treat. Digitisation and computers have changed how writers and illustrators work, but here we see material at the very inception of the comics industry. Things were done in person, and far more crudely, back in the early days! It’s possible, for example, to see how the cover images for the early Superman comics were altered manually – with tippex or by pasting images over the original! This is the sort of thing you just can’t really appreciate unless you see it in person. 

It’s also really interesting to see how these big screen marvels have evolved over time. The superhero genre continues to grow in popularity, and a previously fringe interest has become mainstream. The power of characters like these is that they can move with the times; they are infinitely adaptable. This is very much apparent from the artwork at this exhibition. Most of us know how Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman have developed over the years, but this show brings decades of material together, and allows you to see it in one place. If you are in any way interested in DC, or the superhero genre in general, then I think that you’ll really enjoy Dawn of Superheroes.  

A final word: if you do attend, be sure to pick up a brochure. Priced at £12, this is far more than promotional fluff! The book is a weighty volume, and reproduces many of the pieces of display, as well as containing pictures of some of the costumes. It’s well worth the money. 

I’ve added some highlights from the show below – you’re just going to have to forgive my rather amateur photography!