Geppi's Entertainment Museum in Baltimore: A Tourist's Guide to Comic Book Heaven!
A Walk Down Pop Culture's Memory Lane!
Geppi's Entertainment Museum is located in Baltimore and is dedicated to all sorts of American pop culture: comic books, television, radio, movies, magazines and lots and lots of toys! Mickey Mouse, The Beatles, Ronald McDonald, The Yellow Kid, Superman and so many others are part of this collection.
You'll love seeing the toys and games you played with when you were young, and marvel at the things that other eras found amusing. We spent a wonderful afternoon at the museum recently, and here is a short guide of what we saw!
Captain Midnight, Tiny Tim and the Cougar!
The main lobby of the museum greets you with movie posters. Lots and lots of movie posters from many decades ago, featuring such stars as Jack Armstrong, Captain Midnight and Brick Bradford.
Then you enter the main hallway, and turn away from the life-sized statue of Superman to marvel at all the art on the walls. Mutt & Jeff and Our Gang posters compete for your attention with Winnie Winkle and Tiny Tim comic strips as well as original comic-book art including foe the covers of Archie comics.
There's two pieces by Frank Thorne: the covers of Atlas comics Cougar No. 1 and Targitt No. 2, a foreshadowing of what is to come!
Frank Thorne Art on eBay!
Frank Thorne is a comic-book artist that started in the late 1940s and is probably best known for popularizing the Marvel Comic character Red Sonja. Here's your chance to own some of his work.
A Comic Book Fan's Paradise!
Walk down the hallway and enter the large room on the left and you are in the main exhibit: One of the greatest comic-book collections any fan could ever imagine. Called A Story in Four Colors, the room displays row after row of old and rare comics by chronology, highlighting the most important on separate displays in the middle of the floor.
The originals are all behind glass, of course, but scanned copies of many comics can be viewed on touch-screen monitors in kiosks.
The collection also has a section for pulps, those 1930s cheap magazines with crime-fighters including Doc Savage, The Shadow, The Spider and The Whisperer, all of whom are considered the forerunners of comic-book superheroes. There's also a great compilation of Big Little Books from Whitman, a series that ran from 1932 into the 1960s.
I had heard of the Big Little Books, but they were from before my time and I wasn't all that familiar with them. I marveled at the wide range of titles and thought what a great deal they must have been for children decades ago!
The Pulsating Purple Prose of the Pulps!
Doc Savage, The Shadow and The Spider appeared every few weeks on the newsstands back in the 1930s and 1940s, fighting evildoers and crime-lords from the back alleys of New York City to exotic locales around the globe. Ebay is a great place to discover these great stories from years ago, and I would start with Doc Savage, the Man of Bronze!
Richie Rich, Green Lantern, Popeye and More!
The bulk of the room is given over to rows and roes of comic books, mainly displayed in chronological order from the 1940s to the present day. And they are not just the ones with super-heroes! There are westerns, sports, war, funny animal, humor, monster, romance -- all sorts of comics, especially in the first few decades. My daughter likes Richie Rich and Archie, and they are there. My son likes The Simpsons, and they are represented also.
But it's not just the real well-known comics that are present. I spotted Freedom Fighters No. 1, which DC Comics published in 1976. It was a fun story to read, I remember, but definitely not something truly special. But that was one of the minority comics in the collection that I had actually at the convenience store. Most of the collection consisted of so many comics I had only ever seen before in a comic book price guide!
I'm Popeye the Sailor Man!
''I yam what I yam...'' is Popeye's familiar saying, and he was never better than in the old cartoons that he starred in back in the 1930s. You can find them on Amazon, so order and enjoy!
Superman! Batman! Spider-Man! Fantastic Four!
There really were too many rare, history-making comic books in the room to list them all, but here are some of the most important ones that I was thrilled to see!
- Action No. 1: the debut of Superman!
- All-American Comics No. 16: the debut of the Golden Age Green Lantern!
- Walt Disney's Comics No. 1 (1940)
- Detective Comics No. 27: the debut of Batman!
- Green Mask No. 1 (1940)
- Pep Comics No. 22: The debut of Archie!
- Sub-Mariner Comics No. 1 (1941)
- Amazing Fantasy No. 15: The debut of Spider-Man!
- Fantastic Four No. 1 (1961)
- The Incredible Hulk No. 1 (1962)
Golden Age Comics on eBay!
Old comics can be found on eBay almost every day, and many of the dealers are fair and honest. But you should be careful and read each listing completely and make sure you are comfortable with the condition of the book you are interested in buying.
In one corner is a special display of the comics from Atlas-Seaboard, a short-lived comic-book company in the mid-1970s. The collection has all 72 issue of the full-color comics and black-and-white magazines the company produced in 1974 and 1975. I have read that many people thought the company failed because the stories weren't very good. Maybe, but as I looked such copies as The Cougar, Planet of Vampires and Police Action I couldn't help but remember the stories from my youth fondly.
I remember how surprised I was as a kid when they showed up in the comic-book rack, jammed in with the Dc and Marvel comics, and how disappointed I was when they stopped appearing.
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Any fan of comic books should check out Marvel Comics: The Untold Story. Author Sean Howe, using information gathered from 100 interviews, tells all the behind the scene action that occurred at Marvel Comics from the early 1960s until today.
Check it out today!
The Yellow Kid and the Brownies!
Across the hall are two rooms that focus on the years 1776 to 1927, when pop culture grew from generic dolls, boats and other toys to items related to such comic-strip characters as the Yellow Kid and The Katzenjammer Kids. Amid old newspapers are some of the first Buster Brown strips and some of Palmer Cox's Brownies, which became a pioneer in name-brand advertising. These rooms also have a small area dedicated to the city of Baltimore, showing posters from its past and some dolls and other items.
The Katzenjammer Kids
The Katzenjammer Kids comic strip debuted in 1897 and still appears in dozens of newspapers in the U.S. and abroad. The strip inspired cartoons, live-action films, a stage play and many, many pieces of merchandise over the decades. Here's your chance to own some!
Flash Gordon, Dick Tracy and Tom Mix
The next room you enter is dedicated to the 1930s through the end of World War II. Disney toys, dolls and games are ever-present, but the one that I found most amazing was a fully operating Mickey Mouse circus train that was set up in the middle of the room. It's in wonderful shape and must be very rare, as it looked extremely fragile.
On the walls are a Flash Gordon gun, Lone Ranger and Tom Mix toys, as well as many model planes. The Betty Boop nearby comes from one of the museum's brochures. Many products are patriotic, as one can well imagine since the U.S. was at war during that era. I thought the Dick Tracy badges looked very cool!
Howdy Doody, Elvis and Peanuts, then Batman, Bullwinkle and the Beatles!
From 1945 through 1970!
The next room shows the emergence of television as a major creator of pop culture. There's a Howdy Doody puppet and plenty of TV Guide magazines, along with Elvis Presley posters and paraphernalia. Figures of Charlie Brown, Lucy and the other Peanuts characters stand ready, and let's not forget Davy Crockett or Captain 3-D! There's a huge Batman statue in the center of the next room, which is appropriate since the displays are dedicated to the 1960s and that Batman show was a pop phenomenon back then!
The Flintstones and Rocky and Bullwinkle products are there, as well as Pez dispensers. G.I. Joe action figures (the larger ones from my childhood) share space with Ken and Barbie dolls. There's a Superboy game. the Beatles, of course, spawned many spin-off merchandise as well as The Monkees, who are also present.
There's even a small section dedicated to the spy genre, since James Bond, the Man from UNCLE and Honey West were all active then.
Vintage Peanuts Toys for Sale!
Peanuts was a comic strip by Charles Schultz that appeared for almost 50 years after its debut on Oct. 2, 1950. The characters are ever-present in today's culture, with Snoopy and Charlie Brown probably known to almost everyone. Here is your chance to own some vintage Peanuts toys and collectibles!
Star Wars, All in the Family and the Space Shuttle
The final room of the gallery is dedicated to pop culture from about 1970 to 1990, with lots of Star Wars toys and games as well as All in the Family buttons and a Space Shuttle lunchbox. There's a McDonald's game with little figurines that I don't remember at all. The smaller GI Joe figures are here, lamentably, as is a Planet of the Apes candy box.
Maybe it's because I was already grown by the 1980s, or maybe I was starting to feel overloaded with pop culture, but this room was the least interesting to me.
Across the hall is a special exhibition area, and when we were there it was turned over to a display of art by a guy named Devin Hannon. I peeked in and told the kids to keep walking down to the museum shop. Inside the room was art that consisted of taking pop figures like SpongeBob SquarePants' Patrick Star and Michael Jackson and imagining them in art as zombies. In the center of the room was a statue of the Silver Surfer as a zombie. I suppose some people would find it artistic but I just thought it creepy. The exhibit has closed, and I don't think you missed anything.
May the Force be With You!
Star Wars debuted in movie theaters in 1977, and I remember watching it in Menlo Park, New Jersey. It was miles aheasd of the Planet of the Apes series, which had been the previous big sci-fi films. I think most of us watching Han Solo, Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader for the first time never really expected the film would become a worldwide pop phenomena, with merchandise pretty much everywhere. Here's your chance to own the movies if you don't already!
The Treasure Hunt
One thing the museum offers to keep the kids interested is a treasure hunt. Kiosks are placed throughout the rooms that contain a question about some piece of pop culture that is displayed nearby. You place your card in the kiosk and answer the multiple-choice question. Some of the questions are fairly basic: Who was the Lone Ranger's companion? Others are a bit more difficult, like which James Bond car is on display or a question about the Mickey Mouse circus.
At the end, you hand your card in to the cashier in the museum shop and say ''Shazam!'' He checks your score and gives you a prize. It's a nice little extra, so I hate to be a bit grumpy. But all four of our group got the exact same Donald Duck comic book, and let's face it, how many copies of a comic book does one family need?
All Kids Like Disney Comics!
There are plenty of Disney Comics, and they are all so enjoyable for children of all ages. Here's an opportunity to own some of your own!
A Convenient Location
The museum is located on the second floor of Camden Station, the city's restored railroad station. The illustration here is from one of Geppi's brochures. the building is right outside Camden Yards, where the major league baseball team Baltimore Orioles play. On the first floor is a museum dedicated to the city's sports legends.
Just be warned, when we inadvertently walked into the first floor the workers of the sports museum were pretty curt with us when they found out we were actually going to the entertainment museum! Nearby is the city's Inner Harbor, with its National Aquarium in Baltimore, Maryland Science Center, Baltimore Maritime Museum, Port Discovery Children's Museum and many other tourist attractions.
Moon Baltimore: A Great Tourism Guide
This was the tourism guide we used when we visited Baltimore, and we found that it was all we needed to get around. Nice, easy-to-read maps, plenty of details, and the book doesn't weigh much. In fact, I liked this book so much I wrote a whole separate review on it! If you are going to Baltimore you definitely won't go wrong by bringing this book with you!
Are You a Pop Culture Expert?
Here are some great games for all pop-culture fans. If you know everything there is to know about the Planet of the Apes movies, Friends, Pet Rocks, and other popular things from days past you probably would have a great chance of winning when playing against your friends!
A Pop Culture Museum?
Comics books, toys and Mr. T lunchboxes are fun and bring back a lot of memories, but are they really items that should be in museums for people years to come to gaze at and study? We're not talking about a Van Gogh painting, a historical document like the Constitution, or Egyptian mummies. Who's to say that a James Bond toy car will be of any value a century from now?
Is pop-culture items really worth a museum?
Visiting Geppi's Entertainment Museum
I hope this lens has given you a good idea of what fun Geppi's Entertainment Museum is. My family and I really enjoyed our visit, and I'm sure that the next time we get back to Baltimore we'll stop by there again.
Have you ever visited the museum, or do you plan to? If no, why not?
Visiting Baltimore's Fort McHenry
The Birthplace of the Star-Spangled Banner!
If you are visiting the Baltimore area and are looking for another great family place to visit, check out Fort McHenry! It's in a great location on the water, with a beautiful park and lots of history. We went there the day before we stopped by Geppi's. Here is a review of our visit to the fort, where the battle that inspired the Star-Spangled Banner occurred!
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Our Washington, D.C., Reviews
Washington, D.C. is only about an hour's drive away from Baltimore so you may want to combine the two cities into one vacation.
We took a family trip to the nation's capital earlier this year and wrote reviews of many places that we visited. Check these out as they will help you plan your trip!
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