This exhibition explored the representation of foundlings, orphans, adoptees, and foster children in comics, graphic novels and sequential art from around the globe.

DC’s Superman, who was found by his adoptive parents, is one of many comic heroes who are orphans: Spider-Man’s parents die in a plane crash; Batman’s parents 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’. Marvel’s X-Men experience both discrimination and social ostracisation. The superheroes’ early life experiences impact on their roles and the stance they take over good and evil in their comic lives.

Looking beyond the traditional ‘superhero’ genre the exhibition also included characters from early newspaper comic strips, Japanese Manga and contemporary graphic novel protagonists. Historical newspapers, original artwork and contemporary digital work will be on display, as well as examples of international comics rarely exhibited in the UK.

Three new artistic commissions that examine care identity and experience were specially created for the exhibition by comic artists Asia Alfasi, Bex Glendining and Woodrow Phoenix.

In the context of the Museum there were striking parallels to explore between real foundlings and their illustrated counterparts.

Superheroes, Orphans & Origins had its own origins in a previous work commissioned by the Museum in 2014, when care-experienced poet and performer Lemn Sissay OBE created the site-specific piece Superman was a Foundling, a poem printed on the walls of the Museum’s Study Studio.

Watch our exhibition trailer here!

It's time to discover the back stories ... of the legends you know and love

Superheroes, Orphans & Origins is a fascinating flick through 125 years of comic strips whose heroes and heroines – role models to generations of children – are all orphaned, abandoned, adopted or fostered.
The Spectator