Could you share more about the artefacts in the exhibition?
Ben: There are so many incredible objects in this show, items we still can't believe we get to actually see up close ourselves, let alone share with audiences around the world! But there is one piece in particular that I want to draw attention to - a page from what we believe may be the only surviving original Stan Lee dialogue script from the era when the Marvel Universe was being created.
I discovered this script while we were working on our previous Marvel exhibition, "Spider-Man: Beyond Amazing – The Exhibition", and was visiting the home of a private collector who was offering to lend items to the show. His house is full of Spider-Man original art, toys, games, books, and comics, and in that immense, overwhelming space, something caught my eye: the only paperwork in this one room of memorabilia, tucked between some items on a low shelf.
I picked up the thin sheaf of papers and looked at the first page. It was clearly a script for Amazing Spider-Man issue #82, which confused me at first, because I knew that Stan Lee did not usually write scripts in the traditional sense – he instead worked in what we now refer to as "the Marvel Method", where he and the artist (in this case, John Romita Sr) would develop a plot, the artist would lay out and pencil the story, and Stan would write the text and make any changes he deemed necessary upon getting back the fully-drawn pages.
Flicking through these papers, I realised that there were no panel descriptions of any kind, and that’s when I realised it must be a script written after the pages were pencilled, containing all dialogue and captions, to provide to whomever did the lettering that issue. It was clearly typed by Stan on his typewriter, but also contains a number of handwritten corrections and notes. And while normally, these scripts would be sent to the letterer and then discarded after production, somehow, this one had survived, and resurfaced more than fifty years later.
Patrick: I'll just follow up by saying that we could not do a show like this without the generosity and trust of our lenders – the props and costumes come from Marvel Studios and Sony Pictures, while all the original artwork and print comics come from private collections, and we're incredibly lucky to be in a situation where we can say "if only we had a piece of art featuring Thanos", and someone we know turns out to own the original art for the iconic cover where Thanos is wielding the Infinity Gauntlet. Then Marvel Studios offers to lend us the actual Infinity Gauntlet that was used onscreen in the Avengers films!
Each piece in this show has that kind of story behind it. Finding and compiling this material requires a certain degree of knowledge and expertise, but that would be nothing without the kindness of our associates, and a healthy amount of good fortune.