COSI Announces a Marvel-ous New Superhero Exhibit Opening in November

The science center will host a six-month run of the largest exhibition dedicated to the Marvel Universe, including iconic comics, TV shows and the ever-expanding MCU.

Julanne Hohbach
Columbus Parent
“Marvel: Universe of Super Heroes” opens Nov. 26 at COSI.

Marvel fans, get ready to assemble.

The 10,000-square-foot, interactive “Marvel: Universe of Super Heroes” exhibition is coming to COSI in November. 

The exhibit takes fans through 80-plus years of the Marvel universe, from Asgard to Wakanda and all points in between. It showcases more than 300 objects from comics, television and movie lore, including illustrations, props and costumes, not to mention photo ops galore.

COSI will display the all-ages exhibit from Nov. 26 through May 30. “Marvel at COSI will please everybody from the womb to the tomb,” says President and CEO Frederic Bertley. “We’re all about science, and science is everywhere in society, in the world, and science is for everyone. And so we constantly think about, ‘Well, what other content can COSI bring, what programmatic mission can we do that speaks to a wider audience so people don’t just think we’re for kids?’ And Marvel is a perfect example of that.”

Comics fans will find more than 50 pieces of original art, including numerous book covers and pages featuring Spider-Man, the X-Men, the Incredible Hulk, the Avengers, Captain Marvel, the Fantastic Four and other iconic characters—notably a page from Marvel Comics #1. The exhibit, which also honors the work of co-creators Stan Lee, Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko, is the first time some of the items have been displayed publicly.

“Daredevil” fans will find the comics and TV series represented, and those who follow the Marvel Cinematic Universe will be flying higher than a Quinjet thanks to the number of movie props and costumes on display.

Costumes include those from Chadwick Boseman’s Black Panther, Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow, Captain America (Chris Evans and Reb Brown), Thor, Hela, Nick Fury, the Winter Soldier, Gamora, Star-Lord, Doctor Strange and others. Props include a bust of Groot, two of Captain America’s shields, Mjolnir, Loki’s helmet, Star-Lord’s Walkman, Drax’s knives, the Tesseract and th Infinity Stone.

If that’s not enough, fans can partake in photo ops with character statues and explore re-creations of Tony Stark’s lab and Doctor Strange’s mirror dimension.

Bertley, himself a Marvel fan (“Do I have blood coursing through my veins?” he asks rhetorically when the question is posed.), is looking forward to the exhibit personally and professionally. “I grew up being a Spider-Man junkie and then a Black Panther junkie, but Spider-Man was my definitive first favorite Marvel character,” he says.

COSI’s reputation for being able to draw strong foot traffic helped it land the in-demand exhibition, Bertley says. “COSI, being the No. 1 science museum in the nation now two years in a row by USA Today and by virtue of all the things we’ve been doing over kind of the last half-decade or so, developed a really good reputation of being a seminal science center. Yeah, we’re based in Central Ohio, but people know us nationally and even internationally,” he says. “So when it came to have the opportunity for us to put our hat in the ring, folks said ‘Absolutely, we’d love for it to spend some time at COSI.’ ”

Beyond all the eye candy in “Marvel: Universe of Super Heroes,” visitors will find education, too—not just about how the comics connect to the movies, but about how Marvel has incorporated history into its stories and dealt with big-picture societal issues such as mental health, race and gender.

“This is a human story. Marvel is superheroes, but it’s really drilled down into the human story. And you know, more than anything else, that’s what we need these days. It’s been a tough two years, who knows how long it’s going to be tough moving forward,” says Bertley, who views the exhibit’s Columbus timing as fortuitous.

“It’s been a really tough two years,” he says. “One of the things I’ve noticed is even though the pandemic has been a really tough time, there have been these amazing examples of heroism and just great stuff like good humanitarianism … people stepping up and doing extraordinary things. And so for me personally, to have on exhibition one of the greatest if not the greatest comic strip superhero brands come to COSI at a time when society is climbing out from a really trying time because of the great heroes and heroines of our time, you couldn’t make up the timing of this. And then you layer on what Marvel characters are about.

“The cool thing about every Marvel character is they’re regular human beings with character flaws, each of them have their own issues that they’re dealing with, and then of course they have a superhero gift and that allows them to go to some extraordinary level,” Bertley says.

“It’s just the perfect timing for society to celebrate, see some cool stuff, identify with their own superhero, identify with the characters they love to see come on the screen and now come alive through a physical exhibition,” he says. “So it’s not just that we’re having cool characters that’s great eye candy from a movie. For me, not even close. It’s really almost a metaphor for, ‘Hey man, we need superheroes now more than ever.’ “

Bertley hopes visitors come away from the experience with more than just fun memories and photos. “I hope that people see the beauty in us as individuals. Again, the cool thing about Marvel is these are based on real people with real character flaws that we can all identify with. And so on a personal level, I hope that people see the kind of hero and goodness that can be found in all of us,” he says.

“Marvel: Universe of Super Heroes” is designed by SC Exhibitions, the Museum of Pop Culture and Marvel Entertainment, and is curated by Benjamin Saunders, Brooks Peck and Jacob McMurray.

Exhibit admission is $15, $13 for COSI members. COSI is currently open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Thursdays through Sundays, but Bertley says operating hours may be expanded to accommodate demand for the Marvel exhibit. Reserve tickets and learn more at cosi.org.