BGSU hosting Spider-Man in Popular Culture Conference with expert panels, keynote speakers

BOWLING GREEN, Ohio – As the only institution in the nation to have a Department of Popular Culture, Bowling Green State University is playing host to a conference that will discuss a character that has become an institution itself: Spider-Man.

Presented by University Libraries, the BGSU Department of Popular Culture and the School of Cultural and Critical Studies, the free Spider-Man in Popular Culture Conference will take place Sept. 29-30 in the Pallister Conference Room on the first floor of the Jerome Library.

Registration will begin at 8 a.m. on Friday, Sept. 29, with opening remarks slated to begin at 8:40 a.m. Registration continues on Saturday, Sept. 30, at 10 a.m.

The conference is being organized by BGSU teaching professors Drs. Matt Donahue and Charles Coletta and pop culture library manuscript archivist Tyne Lowe to take a deeper look at the beloved character that is now the subject of seven feature films.

“We want to look at why this character, who, in terms of all the merchandise and superheroes, still outsells everybody around the world,” Coletta said. “I have a friend, for example, who named his son Parker because he loves Spider-Man so much. Why do people take this character so much to heart?”

The conference will feature a full slate of panels and keynote speakers within the Spider-Man orbit, including Marvel Comics and Spider-Man artist Rick Leonardi; Marvel Comics writer and BGSU alumnus Marc Sumerak '00; owner and operator of JCs Comics N More Pop Culture Superstore Jim Collins; and world-renowned Spider-Man collector Bruce Wechtenhiser. 

In recent years, the BGSU Department of Popular Culture has hosted conferences related to music and a similar one for Batman, which was so well-received that Donahue and Coletta began planning for a conference that examined Spider-Man, a popular culture vehicle with massive, worldwide appeal.

“There's something about Spider-Man that I think everybody can kind of connect with,” Donahue said. “I think Spider-Man is something folks from all different backgrounds can identify, connect with and appreciate.”

BGSU is home to the Ray and Pat Browne Popular Culture Library, which is one of the most thorough archives of popular culture material in the United States.

The Spider-Man in Popular Culture Conference will offer visitors a tour of the Browne Popular Culture Library, which researchers visit from all over the world due to its unique, extensive collection of materials. 

“One of the reasons that we started doing these conferences a couple of years ago was we wanted to highlight the collections in the Pop Culture Library, which are in the top three or four collections of comic books and graphic novels in an academic space,” Coletta said. “We want people to be able to view all these great things that you can come and research, and let's talk about this iconic, personal character for a couple of days too.”

After the success of previous conferences, Donahue said the department hopes to use Spidey-Con as a way to showcase BGSU and the city of Bowling Green, ranked as one of the most popular college towns in America.

“For the Batman conference, people were blown away by the hospitality that we showed them, the popular culture library, the sound recordings and they were blown away by BGSU,” Donahue said. “It's a great way to introduce folks who may have never come through here to BGSU.”

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Updated: 09/22/2023 01:03PM