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MARVEL – THE BOOK Annie Nocenti and Michael Balgavy

We all wish we had super powers. We all wish we could do more than we can do. – Stan Lee

The spectacular exhibition catalogue MARVEL: UNIVERSE OF SUPER HEROES has been published by Verlag für moderne Kunst recently. The publication celebrates 80 years of Marvel history with original comics pages, amazing sculptures, artifacts, original commissions, panoramic hallways and interactive displays. In the following editor Annie Nocenti and art director Michael Balgavy about good exhibition catalogues. Many thanks to Showbiz Culture!

Annie Nocenti conjured up the contents, Michael Balgavy packaged it and supplied the icing

Annie Nocenti: “Exhibitions have accompanying catalogues to both archive the shows for history and create a treasured memento for a visitor to the exhibition. For MARVEL: UNIVERSE OF SUPER HEROES, we wanted to create something that reflected both these notions, but also the passionate, multivoiced world of Marvel. Marvel Comics and Marvel Studio Films are not only the enduring voices oft he Super Heroes themselves, but the diverse visions of Marvel´s writers, artists actors and film makers. So while the artefacts, artwork, and panoramic hallways of the exhibition were photographed for the book, we tried to also represent all the voices of Marvel. We interviewed legendary comics creators, up-and-coming talent, editors, executives, artists, art collectors, actors and showrunners. We commissioned articles about the history and power of Marvel fandom, and stories that stretch the mind in how we think about heroes, be it through personal history or fashion. The catalog content was conjured at the same time as work on the exhibition was launched, so the two were simultaneous projects. In the end, like siblings separated at birth, we hope they echo and compliment each other.”

Marvel Universe Of Super Heroes Book Balgavy Cover

Catalogue designer Michael Balgavy on the texture of good books and the sobriety of design

How did you start designing books? I have always been involved in design – whether digital or analogue, between graphic design and video design. The nice part about book design is that, in the end, the product is there before your very eyes, a physical thing you can literally carry around with you. A book, with its paper pages, the smell of printing ink and the haptic experience, is still a tangible, intellectual and lasting experience. Which is completely different from a temporary website on your smartphone.

How do you as a designer handle the comic strip, which itself has a rather distinctive visual language? Comics have all the same elements as graphic design: words and images. Since we see the comic as an artwork in itself, we don´t try to upstate it. It gets the space that usually other media oft he visual arts are given, such as in painting or photography. I also don´t like to see a book about Klimt or Hundertwasser that uses the typical fonts. Typographically, we are as sober as the Marvel logo here – clear and self-confident – while the exhibits can be everything between sketches and statues that they want to be: contained and wild, colorful and black and white, old and new. 

Thank you Annie and Michael! 

Interview: Showbiz Culture

Annie Nocenti is a journalist, writer, editor and filmmaker. She wrote many comics, including “Daredevil” and “Catwoman”. Her journalism has appeared in Details, Utne, HEEBStop Smiling, PRINT, Filmmaker, Scenario, and more. She taught filmmaking in Haiti for two years, for which she was given the Humanitarian Award at the Tulsa International Film Festival. 

Michael Balgavy connects state-of-the-art designs with creative ways to communicate. By visualizing music, narrating unique visual & audible stories. His portfolio of work includes visual productions for film music concerts, art direction for theatre, musicals, tv shows, room creations for exhibitions and tributes. His conceptual & aesthetic approach may be found in all forms of advertising and design.

Marvel Exhibition: Museum of Pop Culture, Seattle 21.4.2018–3.3.2019