Sidney Museum’s new assistant director Alyssa Gerwing, left, and Comic Book Exhibit Curator Terri O’Keeffe stand with some of the Canadian comics on display now to July 6. (Steven Heywood/News Staff)

Comics through the years at Sidney Museum

Exhibit showcases the golden age of comics to the present

By Terri O’Keeffe

SIDNEY — When visitors stream into the Sidney Museum’s comic-book superheroes exhibit, they’ll see dozens of display cases filled with comic-books, action figures and other super-hero paraphernalia.

What they won’t see is the small team of volunteers who have worked behind the scenes for the past year recruiting contributors, conducting research, fabricating displays and activities to create a display that’s fun, colourful and educational.

Peter Garnham, Executive Director, says the Museum is very fortunate to have such a dedicated community of volunteers that contribute so much of their time and energy to all facets of the Museum. In particular without the wide-ranging collaborators and contributors, exhibits like Comic Book Superheroes would not be possible.

Members of the exhibit team include Dan Cawsey from Central Saanich who has been collecting comic-book and action figures for almost 50 years. He’s a walking encyclopedia on the various superheroes, comic-book artists, writers and publishers and an expert fabricator of superhero costumes, dioramas and sets. He used his talents to build a Bat Cave for the exhibit, a quirky Deadpool display and several dioramas featuring Wolverine, Justice League, Fantastic Four and Flash of 2 Worlds.

Mark Ashfield is an accountant by day and a real life superhero on evenings and weekends. As founder of Superheroes of Victoria, he dons his costume along with dozens of others, to provide support to awareness campaigns and fundraising events for local charities. Mark put together displays for Superman, Junior Superheroes and the audio-visual display of superhero cartoons.

Rhea Smilowski has been a superhero fan for over 20 years. Sailor Moon was her “gateway” into the genre. By day Rhea is a security official. In her spare time she likes to build cosplays and props and also dons a costume as a member of Superheroes of Victoria at charity events throughout the year. Rhea used her creative powers to put together displays on Harley Quinn, Wonder Woman and assisted with the Canadian Superheroes.

Krista Michelle is new to the team this year but is a huge superhero fan. One of her favorite superheroes is Hawkgirl, who she transform into to help Superheroes of Victoria with their charity work. She’s put together this years Spiderman display.

Peter Hansen, a retired environmental engineer and comic-book collector, is lending some rare Canadian Superhero comic-books from Canada’s little-known Golden Age in the 1940s.

Other community support has come from McTavish Academy of Art who will be displaying art work from their students. Ken Steacy, comic artist and Program Instructor from Camosun College’s Comic & Graphic Novels Program, will be displaying work from the Camosun program. Chapterhouse Publishing from Toronto, is working to revive older Canadian superheroes so they’re contributing comic-books featuring such as Captain Canuck, Freelance and True Patriot.

Rounding out the volunteer team is Terri O’Keeffe from Sidney, who is the odd one out in the group, who up until two years ago had no interest in comic-books or superheroes. Recently retired and volunteering at the museum she agreed to take the lead on the project. As a History major she wanted to ensure the exhibit had a strong historical and educational component.

“We really wanted to show,” she said, “that comic-book superheroes reflect our history, culture and values over the years. We’ve developed an educational module targeted at middle school and high school students which was popular with classes from North Saanich, Bayside, Royal Oak and Parkland last year. It’s an age group that we don’t see too much of in small town museums, so we’re very pleased to host them.”

Admission is by donation and the exhibit runs daily until Friday, July 6, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Group tours of 10 or more are available upon request at 250-655-6355.

— Submitted

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