The museum will display the exhibition from the 1st April.

New York World’s Fair Comics, Vol. 1 #2, Jack Burnley ©️ & ™️ DC
All Rights Reserved. Used with permission

This newly announced exhibition is set to explore the representation of foundlings, orphans, adoptees, and foster children in comics, graphic novels and sequential art from around the globe. From DC’s Superman, who was found by his adoptive parents, Spider-Man’s parents die in a plane crash; to Batman’s parents who are killed in a street robbery and Black Panther – whose mother dies soon after childbirth and whose father is killed – is known as ‘the Orphan King’ the superheroes early life experiences helped develop them into the character millions of people are fascinated by today.

By examining over a century of mainstream comics from around the world, Superheroes, Orphans & Origins: 125 years in comics will look at the challenging origins and complex identities of some of the most famous superheroes.

The exhibition will go beyond traditional ‘superhero’ genre to explore characters from early newspaper comic strips, including Skeezix from Gasoline Alleywho was left on a doorstep in 1921, and Little Orphan Annie. Historical newspapers, original artwork and contemporary digital work will be on display, as well as examples of international comics rarely exhibited in the UK. 

Talking about the exhibition, Caro Howell, Director of the Foundling Museum said: “When viewed as a group, these characters encourage discussions about identity, trauma, autonomy and social belonging. Their stories collectively form a unique lens through which we can better understand the feelings of isolation, unrest and resilience that care-experienced children encounter every day. Superheroes, Orphans & Origins weighs our fascination with foundlings and children in care in popular culture against our diminished awareness of their presence in the real world. Framing discussions about superheroes around their experiences in care – kinship, foster, adoption and residential – encourages deeper consideration of the connections between these identity labels. Not all of the characters included in the exhibition have superpowers; nevertheless, they are all revealed to be heroic in their efforts to overcome extraordinary challenges.”

Superheroes, Orphans & Origins: 125 years in Comics will be on display at the Foundling Museum from the 1st April until the 28th August.


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