Mecca of the West:
The Cartoon Art Museum in San Francisco
so I'm a giant geek.
my ass up at 7am and drove out to Fremont BART to get up to
MacWorld for the day's opening. Using my free pass, I did
a couple of laps, ogled a couple of Booth Bunnies and walked
away, my pride and checking account intact.
the Moscone Center and heading out into the Windows-dominated
world, I came across a beacon: The Cartoon Art Museum.
it before, had met with a couple of their volunteers at WonderCon
last year and am even currently working with a former CAM
employee. Even though I had known the name, even knew roughly
where it was, I had never made plans to visit. And so, as
I wandered lost trying to get from the Moscone Center to the
Swiss Consulate (another story for another time), I stumbled
upon it. It's a small building, hardly recognizable from the
other offices that line Mission Street. They have a couple
of simple sandwich board signs out front, which tipped me
Luck was on my side.
Art Museum is a place where every fanboy should make a pilgrimage
once in their life, or even better, every time they change
their exhibits. The museum is dedicated to the medium of cartoon
art, from comic strips to editorial cartooning, animation
to comic books. It is a warehouse of the beloved artform.
every square inch of wall is covered with various pieces of
comic art, in all the various stages from sketch to proof
to final product. It's amazing to see earlier version of strips
that I recognized and the early sketches where you could see
the erasures from paths not taken. The Permanent Display (if
such a thing can be said to exist in museums) features examples
of every style, with an Eighteenth Century editorial cartoon
being the highlight for me.
have on display a great selection of Disney animation, which
included drawings from Steamboat Willy. This alone made the
visit worth it. But the rotating exhibits make it a must see.
of the current rotating exhibits deals with turning comics
into movies, titled Lights, Camera, ACTION!: From Printed
Page to Silver Screen..
The Hulk, Spawn, Blade, Spiderman, Hellboy, Daredevil,
and Batman all get mentions, as I expected, but the
museum goes far beyond. They mention L'il Abner, Blondie,
Bringing Up Father, the early Dick Tracy serials,
and even Conan.
don't shy away from the true turkeys, featuring Howard
the Duck, Punisher, Popeye, Teenage Mutant
Ninja Turtles and Brenda Starr as if they were
just as significant as From Hell and Superman.
They feature drawings, some stills from the films, and a few
artifacts, including a life-sized Spawn, toys from the 1930s
to the 1990s, and an awesome BatPlane prop.
however, it was the American Splendor section, where
they have a panel from Harvey Pekar's comic and a few sketches.
I was most impressed that they went that far with it.
rotating exhibit is on outgoing San Francisco Mayor Willie
Brown called Don't Parade On My Reign. They have a couple
of dozen editorial cartoons about the Frisco Fashionplate,
some of which were brutal. I've always been a big fan of the
Mayor, but even the biting ones were great to see.
The Cartoon Art Museum also puts a spotlight on some Small Press
Creators and Derek Kirk Kim, an artist who I had only heard
of in a conversation at a con once, provides a few fantastic
examples of his wonderful work (which can also be seen at www.smallstoriesonline.com).
current exhibit is on editorial cartoons called Too Hot To
Handle: Creating Controversy Through Political Cartoons, which
has controversial editorial cartoons (duh) of the recent past.
The section devoted to 9-11 is touching, hilarious, and hard-edged.
Great stuff through and through.
Make the trip. They are open Tuesday through Sunday, 11 to
5pm. Admission is 6 bucks for adults, 4 for students and old
folks, 2 for six to twelve year olds. Anyone younger than
that is free.
655 Mission Street, across from the California Historical
Society. You can contact them at 415-CAR-TOON or at www.cartoonart.org.