Comic Character Collectibles
By J.C. Vaughn
Geppi’s Entertainment Museum (GEM) founder and CEO Steve Geppi conducted a personal of the museum for members, lenders and other special guests to celebrate the museum’s 10th anniversary. The tour through the pop culture history on display, including GEM’s current special exhibits, took place on Saturday, September 10, 2016.
While hundreds of comic book retailers, publishers and creators attended BOOM! Studios’ kick-off party for Diamond Comic Distributors’ Retailer Summit on Wednesday, August 31, Geppi’s personal 10th anniversary tour was a much more intimate affair. About 60 people enjoyed the experience. Cupcakes and wine accompanied the festivities.
Past and present employees were also on hand to enjoy the anniversary celebration and tour.
“Over the past few weeks it’s been great to see so many people enjoying GEM as we mark our first decade. When we started, I hoped to share my collection with as many people as possible, so they could see firsthand how so many aspects of popular culture have shaped our culture as a whole. Looking back over the last 10 years we’ve done that very well, but there’s always more to do. I have some big things in store for GEM,” Geppi said.
“The best part of it for me is that every time I hear someone say, ‘Oh, I had that!’ it tells me that we’re really connecting with folks. The online reviews show it, too,” he said.
The facility’s concept came from Steve Geppi’s desire to share his collection with Baltimore. If you meet Steve, very quickly you will learn how much he loves Baltimore. He wears it on his sleeve and it peppers almost every conversation, so it wasn’t surprising that he wanted to share it with the city he loves and the world at large.
There were, of course, thousands of details to be completed before it could be opened to the public, but everything sprang from Geppi’s initial concept, said GEM President Melissa Bowersox.
“We set out to showcase the history of popular culture and show that it was truly the history of American culture as a whole. We wanted to reinvigorate that childhood sense of wonder in our visitors. If you’ve read the reviews, we’ve largely succeeded, though there is always more to do,” Bowersox said.
In the decade since, GEM has hosted comic art exhibits, displays from significant collections, the annual Zombie Gras festival, superhero and other costume events for children, murder mysteries, Free Comic Book Day parties, and more. It’s also hosted weddings, birthday parties, company events, and more.
Bowersox said that many of the events and exhibits have been memorable. Among them have been “75 Spirited Years: Will Eisner & The Spirit,” “Steve Epting Originals: Captain America & The Winter Soldier,” “The Artistry of Amanda Conner,” “Matt Crandall’s collection of Walt Disney’s Alice In Wonderland,” and “Atlas At Last.”
In addition to the major exhibits, GEM has also staged presentations of original comic art by Kelley Jones, Jim Aparo, Sal Buscema, and Frank Cho, among others. Presently their “Artist Spotlight” series is showcasing comic book work by Mike Hawthorne and paintings by acclaimed fantasy artists Greg and Tim Hildebrandt.
“Because we’re a society comprised of so many different kinds of people and I knew that going in, I can’t say I have been surprised by it, but the experience has definitely reaffirmed my belief that happiness is something our world sorely needs and that creating or fostering happiness is something worth doing,” she said.
This year GEM staged its first large traveling exhibit for Washington, D.C.’s Awesome Con. Bowersox said she sees the museum doing more of that in the near future.
“Our goals definitely include more traveling exhibits, keeping up the great parade of comic and other original art shows at our facility and elsewhere, adding some new events and more cool stuff to the pop culture artifacts we presently have on display,” she said. “And our original goal remains: Share Steve Geppi’s collection with as many people as we can.”
J.C. Vaughn is Vice-President of Publishing for Gemstone Publishing. Amanda Sheriff-Bollinger contributed to this piece.