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Marvel superheroes storm Beirut.

Summary: Disney may have brought Captain America to life for a new generation, but for die-hard afficionados The Avengers have always been bigger than the big screen.

BEIRUT: Disney may have brought Captain America to life for a new generation, but for die-hard afficionados The Avengers have always been bigger than the big screen.

Since it was created in 1939, Marvel Comics has produced dozens of iconic characters -- The Fantastic Four, X-Men, The Amazing Spider-Man, Iron Man and Captain America. This century many of these 20th-century demigods have migrated to film, and are now as easily recognized through their blockbuster movies as from their print media origins. For real Marvel fans the films are never enough.

Enter Geek Express' Marvel Comics Exhibition. Serving to sate both the superhero fetish and a genuine curiosity on the part of art lovers, the exhibition is comprised of over 400 Marvel comic books, figurines, posters, and collectibles, including limited and anniversary editions.

Created by tech-savvy "explorers" -- as they term themselves -- intent spreading a DIY (Do It Yourself) culture, Geek Express was initially an interactive concept space with kits to build your own circuits, assemble robotics, and create your own LED card.

GE also holds educational workshops on subjects ranging from how to use tech-related gadgets to photography. GE's debut exhibition of pop culture objects came into being thanks to Geek Express owner, Tarek Dajjani.

"We decided to turn the place into an art gallery," says manager Abed Jrab. "He's a [Marvel] fanatic. Everything here is from his personal collection."

GE is located on the ground floor of the Beirut Digital District Building in Bachoura, near Downtown Beirut on Nassif al-Yazigi street. The run-down back alley leading to the entrance betrays nothing of the exhibition within. With a large Marvel logo at your feet to welcome you, enthusiasts feel immediately overwhelmed by the variety of comics-related paraphernalia in this compact space.

Sprawled on the tables are The Amazing Spider-Man comic books dating back decades, shadowed by Iron Man cufflinks, Thor and Green Goblin action figures and statuettes, The Incredible Hulk murals, and The Avengers mini-figurines, to name a few.

Comic book enthusiast Boushra Batlouni says she's always been interested in comics and collectibles: "The problem is there isn't a local place I can regularly go to in order to buy rare comics, so I usually have to order them or have friends bring them for me from abroad."

For Batlouni and 18-year-old Anoushka Asmar, this exhibition was the first of its kind.

"I've just started collecting, and I'm thinking about buying a few things," Asmar says, running across the room, excitedly picking up collectibles and asking about prices.

You wouldn't imagine many people would be interested in attending such an exhibition in Lebanon but the opening night saw an overwhelming turnout.

"We expected a certain number of people to come, but we didn't expect that many," Jrab says elatedly.

The exhibition has lured non-geeks as well. Farah Aridi says she's never really been interested in the medium, but attended the exhibition out of sheer curiosity and love for pop culture exhibitions: "I've always been very interested in the art scene in Lebanon," Aridi says, "and since this exhibition is the first of its kind, I was very curious to see what it was all about."

Comic books, and their lucrative spin-off franchising, have long been the creme de la creme of contemporary pop culture, yet, as this exhibition attests, these objects can also be mounted in a manner not unlike pieces of fine art.

"I think it's very interesting," Aridi opines, "and even though it caters to a specific audience, it does have an added value to the booming art scene in Lebanon."

"MARVEL Exhibition" is up at Geek Express, Beirut Digital District Building, until the May 25. For more information please call 01-652-789.

Copyright 2013, The Daily Star. All rights reserved.

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Publication:The Daily Star (Beirut, Lebanon)
Geographic Code:7LEBA
Date:May 13, 2013
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