Pittsburgh as Gotham City
In the midst of the stately turn-of-the-century high rises and gleaming skyscrapers of Downtown, the ToonSeum makes a colorful statement. In the front window, in the midst of a number of other whimsical decorations, a small Batarang inconspicuously hints at the comic wonders that can be found inside. Pittsburgh as Gotham City, a special exhibit that opened July 21, features all things that combine Batman and Pittsburgh, from comics to film paraphernalia.
The recent hype from the release of The Dark Knight Rises is clearly a driving force behind the exhibit; however, the ToonSeum has done justice to the entire franchise by including an array of merchandise from throughout the years.
The exhibit features numerous attractions, not the least of which is a wall of Batman comic panels from a variety of Pittsburgh artists that pays homage not only to the longevity of the legend, but also to the tremendous skill of local illustrators. The collection ranges from Pittsburgh Post-Gazette artist Rob Rogers’ biting political cartoons to dramatic scenes depicted in DC Comics’ books, and all feature a familiar masked figure.
One wall of the exhibit shows a video screen with clips from the cartoon series and the recent films, while a speaker blares a dramatic soundtrack to enhance the overall experience. Alongside the video clips, several mock-official Gotham City Police dossiers on “criminals” hang on the wall — all about actors from the series who have connections to Pittsburgh.
In fact, many of the “criminals” are Carnegie Mellon alumni, including Ming Na (the voice of Dectective Ellen Yin in the animated series), Frank Gorshin (the voice of Professor Hugo Strange in the animated series), and Lou Scheimer (who produced the series for several years).
Fans with a passion for behind-the-scenes glimpses of The Dark Knight Rises will go batty for the original concept art and location research photos on loan from Warner Bros. that adorn the walls of the exhibit. The photos and sketches feature scenes from around town, some of which are close to home for Carnegie Mellon students, including the Mellon Institute and the Software Engineering Institute. All of the scenes — especially the striking photo of a destroyed Heinz Field — are easily recognizable, both from the movie and from walking around town.
The highlight of the exhibit is undoubtedly the Batman mask, which sits in a glass case in the middle of the room. The mask on display was worn by Christian Bale in the most recent installment of The Dark Knight and allows visitors a quick and iconic glimpse at the costuming magic of the film.
Pittsburgh as Gotham City offers an in-depth look at the Batman franchise, from the original comics to the television series and films. Even if you’re not a Batman aficionado, the exhibit is an interesting look at Pittsburgh’s affiliation with the franchise and is well worth the trip to the ToonSeum. The behind-the-scenes photos are fascinating, and Batman’s connection to the city is enough to make any resident proud.