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The BG News
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November 30, 2023

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Spider-Man conference slings webs to BGSU

BG News Issue 6. Artwork by Namie Edge, senior graphic design student

The Popular Culture Department, Browne Popular Culture Library (BPCL) and School of Cultural and Critical Studies are bringing Spider-Man to BGSU for a two-day conference. 

The conference, set to start at 8 a.m. on Sept. 29 and 10 a.m. on Sept. 30, will take a deep dive into the well-known character. 

Teaching professors Dr. Matthew Donahue and Dr. Charles Coletta, along with BPCL manuscripts archivist Tyne Lowe, are at the forefront of the conference as the organizers. 

“We have been doing these popular culture related conferences for a number of years now. We were sort of putting our heads together to do another one and then COVID-19 hit, so that took a backseat to everything. Now that things have opened up, we are going with Spider-Man in popular culture,” said Donahue. 

Donahue said the free event, which is open to the public, students, faculty and staff, will provide a platform for the presenters and highlight a connection between Spider-Man in popular culture. 

Some of the keynote speakers and presenters will include Marvel Comics and Spider-Man artist Rick Leonardi, Marvel Comics writer and BGSU alumnus Marc Sumerak and world-renowned Spider-Man collector Bruce Wechtenhiser.

Donahue said Spider-Man is a character that he feels all people can connect with – and this connection played a big role in choosing him for the conference topic.

“We sort of chose Spider-Man because he is every person,” he said. “People out there in the world can really identify with this character. Peter Parker has all of these trials and tribulations that are kind of common in everyday life and I think that’s something that a lot of people can identify with.” 

Lowe said the consistent media presence, from the comics to the television shows to the different iterations in movies, has helped Spider-Man become such a prominent figure in popular culture. 

“There’s something unique about the fan love and also academic exploration that Spider-Man has had – maybe to a greater degree than some of the rest,” she said. 

Hosting the conference in collaboration with the BPCL was a no-brainer, said Donahue, as the library has been important in connecting popular culture with the BGSU community. 

Lowe said with collecting comics, the BPCL was on the “cutting edge” of making that a “real collecting priority.” 

“These last few conferences that we’ve done have been very well received, very successful and it’s just kind of a great way to highlight the connection that the University has towards popular culture or that the University has with the popular culture library,” said Donahue. 

Lowe said the event will be in-person only with no online component, as they want to “emphasize the experience of being together and sharing the experience in-person,” something that is slowly becoming the new normal since the pandemic. 

Donahue said he’s most excited to see all of the fans of Spider-Man and presenters come together. 

“I’m looking forward to the keynote presenters, because each of them has a kind of unique, maybe a little bit more of a professional connection to Spider Man,” he said. “There’s also a cosplay Spider-Man presenter who dresses up as Spider-Man and goes into children’s hospitals and schools to try and get the kids kind of a little bit of ray of light in their day. So just the opportunity to kind of bring people together and have such a wide wide array of topics presented.”

Tyne said she’s excited to see how many of the community members in Bowling Green come out and join the conference, as well as show visitors the BPCL and a “behind-the-scenes exclusive” of the stacks. 

There will be displays made by the library employees that visitors can see, highlighting the regalia the library has of Spider-Man and a display highlighting when Stan Lee came to BGSU in the 1970s. 

“We’re really thrilled to bring our presenters to BGSU, many of whom have never visited the campus or area, and show what great places BGSU and Bowling Green are,” said Donahue.

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