Radford professor curates Marvel Comics exhibit in Seattle

RADFORD, Va. (WDBJ7) - A lot of people out there are comic book fans and fans of Marvel Comics. But a local professor has enough knowledge to fill a museum - and so that's exactly what he's done.

Above: Early designs for the Marvel Comics exhibit coming to the museum of Popular Culture in Seattle.

Radford Professor and Director of the School of Communications, Dr. Matthew Smith, said he owns about 16,000 individual comics. He has written numerous books about comic books. And his field of academia has been based largely on the way comics communicate in a unique fashion, using both text and images to tell a story.

Smith said he recently wrote a letter to the Editor of Entertainment Weekly about a typo in a comic reference.

The Museum of Pop Culture in Seattle saw his letter. They reached out and asked him to help curate their newest and biggest exhibit on the Marvel Comic universe.

Smith said it was an honor to participate.

"You know bringing something to the public is a rare and wonderful gift to have and I’m just elated to be able to sort of take this passion, take this interest, take this schooling I’ve done in the comics medium and bring it to a wider audience for the first time," he said. "Just so grateful for that opportunity.”

Smith said on the museum's opening day in April, more people will have seen his work than in his 25 years of academia combined. He said he, along with other curators, contributed ideas on exhibits and also the story they wanted to present. He said, at times, Marvel pushed back on their ideas. He also said it was a challenge to learn how to write for a museum space, vastly different from his usual tone in the world of academia.

Ultimately, he said he and the other curators involved wanted to be able to inspire everyone who visits the museum.

"We want our audience to come out thinking, this was something that people created and perhaps maybe I can be a creator as well and inspire them to think about the contribution they can make to Marvel in particular or comics in general about a medium for conversation," he said.

Smith's favorite Marvel character is Captain America. The museum will open at the beginning of April. After it's run in Seattle, it'll travel the world for four years.