The Art of the Brick: DC Super Heroes is a contemporary art exhibition featuring a vast collection of LEGO artworks inspired by the DC universe. The lawyer-turned-artist, Nathan Sawaya, built more than 120 interpretations of characters, environments, themes, and vehicles, among others, using more than 2 million pieces of LEGO. The exhibition made its debut in London’s South Bank in March 2017 and held its final show last month.
Sawaya, like most people his age, grew up reading and watching DC comic books and shows, which established a strong presence in the U.K. as early as the 1950s, when British publishers like Thorpe & Porter (T&P) and L. Miller & Son would reprint US titles for the UK market. With the reprints lasting for only a few issues, T&P began importing actual DC comics, which led the distribution arm of DC to acquire the company in 1964.
After the release of the films Iron Man (Marvel) and The Dark Knight (DC) in 2008, superhero narratives blew up. Throughout the past decade, the marketability of DC’s characters has become more powerful than ever and they're now featured in a wide range of industries.
Today, not only are the movies selling out, but merchandise related to the characters as well. In 2016, consumers spent £3.4 billion on DC Comics merchandise alone. More recently, the successful release of Wonder Woman prompted high-end fashion brands to create apparel and accessories based on the Amazon princess and her world.
Likewise, the video game industry has its fair share of superhero titles. For instance, Injustice: Gods Among Us as well as Batman: Arkham City both have massive followings, and the latter even received the distinction of being the most critically acclaimed superhero video game in 2015, according to the Guinness World Records. While these titles are geared mainly towards seasoned gamers, there are also superhero games for occasional players, which are either officially designed or simply influenced by the many famous characters. The popular online slots portal Spin Genie hosts a slew of superhero-inspired titles including King of Atlantis and Thunderstruck, to name a few. Generally speaking, the lasting appeal of superheroes allowed them to grow from comic book illustrations to multi-industry franchises tied to their respective names.
Similarly, Sawaya's art exhibition is one of the many by-products of DC’s cultural impact. To a certain extent, the artist was able to bring the studio's characters to life through his creative use of LEGO blocks. Needless to say, the arrival of the iconic figures at South Bank was very much welcomed.
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