Seattle Central Graphic Design students Jules Naujoks, Cole Williams and Mara Stokke have created a temporary museum exploring superheroes in society on the fifth floor of the Broadway Edison Building. The interactive exhibit is free to explore now through May 8.
Superhero Academy is “a history lesson pretending to be entertainment” says Stokke. While the exhibit is informational, it’s also genuinely fun, featuring interactive elements including a quiz to determine what kind of superhero you’d be, a voting board for who your favorite batman was and a felt-board for designing superhero costumes. Integrated into those lighter elements is a discussion of how superhero stories interact with society and what they say about the societies they come from.
During research for the project, Naujoks realized that after 9/11 there was a distinct uptick in the amount of damage to New York in superhero movies. It was as if the “heroes were taking the role of first responders rather than being able to save everyone.”
Superhero Academy also explores the way the creators of comics and superhero movies put their own perspectives into their stories. Sometimes, that means deep explorations of race and gender politics. Indie comics, such as Black or Faith, seem to be especially well poised to face social issues head on. The exhibit shows how mainstream comics are more frequently following the prejudices of the society they come from; more often than not, they lack minority representation and are rife with hypersexualized women.
Naujoks, Williams and Stokke created Superhero Academy as an independent project for their second and last year in the Graphic Design program. The students say they spent at least 1000 hours on the project, a level of effort that shows in the polished and well thought out exhibit. If you have some free time on campus in the next couple of days, don’t miss out on Superhero Academy.