Past Exhibitions

Wonder Woman: VISIONS

Celebrating the 75th anniversary of the Amazing Amazon

The ToonSeum showcases a superhero icon with the opening of WONDER WOMAN: VISIONS, a new exhibit celebrating the 75th anniversary of The Amazing Amazon. In regular publication since her debut in All-Star Comics #8 in 1941, Wonder Woman was the first widely-recognizable female comic book superhero. As evidenced by this year’s sensational summer blockbuster film, she remains a popular and culturally symbolic figure of female empowerment, and an inspiration for all.

WONDER WOMAN: VISIONS is co-curated by ToonSeum board president Anthony Letizia and regional visual artist Jessica Heberle. The exhibit contains original art from Wonder Woman comic books published over the last 75 years, and new drawings by regional female artists that pay tribute to the character while likewise reflecting on what Wonder Woman means to each of them personally. VISIONS literally illustrates these messages, and explores what they mean to audiences here in Pittsburgh.

Throughout the exhibition, The ToonSeum will feature programming that sheds more light on the character’s history and evolution, including presentations, workshops, and tours. Demonstrating that The Spirit of Truth still resonates in the 21st Century, VISIONS is not only designed as a way for Pittsburgh to celebrate the character of Wonder Woman, but presents a “vision” of what she represents to Pittsburghers as well.

This exhibition is suitable for ages 8 and above.

Our galleries at 945 Liberty Avenue are designed for wheelchair access, featuring an accessible, gender neutral restroom, and wheelchair seating. Please contact us with questions related to accessibility at our location.

WONDER WOMAN: VISIONS runs at The ToonSeum from November 17, 2017 to February 25, 2018.

Play Time

The Comic Art of Puzzles and Games
Exhibit runs June 16 - August 13, 2017

PITTSBURGH, PA:  Play Time: The Comic Art of Puzzles and Games is currently on display at the ToonSeum, one of the very few museums of comic and cartoon art in the US. Play Time features nearly one hundred examples of work of games and puzzles featuring classic comic and cartoon characters. Included in the show is original work by the artists George Carlson, Paul Terry, and others. The Show also contains extremely rare work by the artist and puzzle makers, Sam Loyd and his son, Sam Loyd Jr, who are among the most important figures in the world’s puzzle history,

“As far as I know, there’s never been an exhibit of this type on display before,” said ToonSeum Executive Director John Kelly. “We wanted to put up a family friendly show this summer featuring well know and forgotten comic and carton characters that would appeal to both kids and their parents—and, well, everyone.  So far from the feedback we’ve received during the show’s ‘soft launch’ phase, we are more than achieving that goal.”

The work in Play Time largely comes from Kelly’s collection that he has amassed over the last four plus decades.  In addition to original art, the show includes samples of vintage games and puzzles featuring famous superheroes and cartoon characters, as well was a number of more obscure items with images of clowns, magicians, side-show entertainers, and others.

“A number of these pieces are ones that I’ve owned since I was a little kid,” said Kelly.  “A few others come from my cartoonist friend Mark Newgarden, who shares my somewhat obscure interests with this type of work.  And I’m particularly pleased that we have on display pieces by the legendary Sam Loyd and Sam Loyd Jr in the exhibit.  We have numerous examples of Sam Loyd Jr’s Adventures of Tom Tinker – The Puzzle Kid strip from the early 1900s.  I believe these strips were the first to incorporate puzzles into the traditional newspaper comic strip format.  As far as I know they’ve never been seen since the time they were published more than 100 years ago.”

A special part of he show is devoted to original pieces by Toonseum Founder and former Executive Director Joe Wos, from his new book of mazes, A-Maze-Ing Animals: 50 Mazes for Kids.  Wos will be at the ToonSeum the night of July 7th during Pittsburgh’s July Gallery Crawl to sign copies of his new book. The ToonSeum will be open free to the July Gallery Crawl.

Playtime will run at The ToonSeum until August 13th.  The exhibit coincides with The ToonSeum’s renewed effort to teach kids and teens how to cartoon.  The next workshop sessions at the ToonSeum will be for kids age 7 to 14 on each Saturday morning from 9 to 10:30 am.  Cost is $150 for the four week session.  Go to for more.

The ToonSeum is Pittsburgh’s museum of comic and cartoon art, located in Pittsburgh’s historic Cultural District at 945 Liberty Ave, Pittsburgh, PA, 15222.

To Boldly Go: The Graphic Art of Star Trek

Exhibit runs October 28, 2016 - January 15, 2017

The science fiction television series Star Trek premiered on NBC on September 8, 1966. Over the course of fifty years, what began as a simple TV show has evolved and endured to become one of the most iconic franchises in history. It’s basic narrative of a Utopian future where mankind has resolved its internal conflicts and has moved beyond planet Earth has resonated with millions of viewers around the world, while the show’s fictional technological advancements have inspired an untold number of scientists, engineers, astronomers and medical professionals to enter their chosen fields.

Thirteen months after the premier of The Original Series in September 1966, the first Star Trek comic book was released, and with the exception of a brief five year period during the early part of the Twenty First Century, illustrated narratives have been published non-stop ever since. In keeping with its mission of celebrating the cartoon and comic arts, the ToonSeum will pay homage to Star Trek with a special exhibit focusing on 49 years of illustrated narratives, including historic US comic books and British comic strips from the early 1970s as well as original comic art from the 1980s and 1990s and on into the present.

While the focus of “To Boldly Go: The Graphic Art of Star Trek” will be on the illustrated medium, the exhibit will also shine the spotlight on the numerous ties between Pittsburgh and the Star Trek franchise that, like the series itself, go back decades.

Leonard Nimoy, who portrayed Mr. Spock on the original series, made his Shakespearean debut at the Pittsburgh Public Theater in 1975, for instance, while Zachary Quinto, the current Mr. Spock in the new slate of big screen movie adventures, is a Green Tree native who attended Central Catholic High School in Oakland and Carnegie Mellon University before heading to Los Angeles.

Fans have likewise played an instrumental role during the five-decade history of Star Trek, and here again the ToonSeum will highlight various zines and fan fiction created in Pittsburgh, as well as a Star Trektacular convention held at the William Penn Hotel in 1975 that featured William Shatner, DeForest Kelley, James Doohan and George Takei among its attendees.

“To Boldly Go: The Graphic Art of Star Trek” opens at the ToonSeum on October 28, 2016, and runs through January 30, 2017 – a fitting tribute to the Star Trek franchise, its history within the comic arts, the fans who helped it endure, the STEM-career professionals inspired by its themes, and Star Trek’s ongoing connections to Pittsburgh.

From MLK to March

Civils Rights in Comics and Cartoons
Exhibit runs September 23 - March 5, 2017

This exhibition begins with the 1958 comic book Martin Luther King and the Montgomery Story, a visual recounting of the Montgomery Bus Boycott of 1955-56 which also served as a primer in the principles of non-violent resistance. The exhibit ends with work from March (2013-16), a graphic novel trilogy that recounts the life and social activism of Rep. John Lewis and is inspiring a new generation to practice non-violence in the pursuit of racial justice. In between these two iconic works, dozens of civil rights-era editorial cartoons, including work by Herblock of the Washington Post, Sam Milai of the Pittsburgh Courier, Bill Mauldin of the Chicago Sun-Times and others are on display.

The exhibition was curated by Dr. Sylvia Rhor, Professor of Art History, Carlow University and Rob Rogers, ToonSeum President.

Free MLK/Star Trek Event on Jan. 13th

Celebrate the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. at the ToonSeum on Friday, January 13, 2017, with free admission from 7pm to 10pm to our “From MLK to March: Comics and Cartoons of the Civil Rights Era” exhibit. The evening also marks the closing party for “To Boldly Go: The Graphic Art of Star Trek.” This will be one of you last remaining opportunities to see these two exhibits that commemorate both real life and fictional icons from the 1960s side-by-side! Hope to see you there!


The Art of the Cartooning Schools & ‘How-To-Cartoon’ Culture in America
Exhibit runs August 20 - December 11, 2016

Pittsburgh, Pa – The ads called out to aspiring youngsters from the back of comic books, copies of Popular Mechanics, newspaper classifieds and, even, matchbook covers. The tags shouted, DRAW SPARKY!, DRAW SPUNKY!, DRAW WINKY!, DRAW THE PIRATE!, but more often then not, just DRAW ME! The gimmick was that on the basis of a simple drawing aptitude test (that no one ever failed), one could be chosen – or win a scholarship – for an elite, hands-on cartooning instruction program that would be conducted, via the US mail, by a roster of esteemed working professionals.

Hundreds of examples of the art from these programs will be on display in a new ToonSeum exhibit, DRAW ME! The Art of the Cartooning Schools and How-To-Draw Culture in America, opening August 20th. Also on display will be dozens of rare How-To-Draw cartoons books and forgotten mechanical devices created to assist young artists in their career aspirations.

“Before commercial art was called visual communications, the correspondence school was the principal American academy of art and an early training ground for American graphic designers,” said Steven Heller, Senior Art Director at The New York Times. “Scores of advertisements, like the famous ‘Draw Me!’ matchbook cover, offered willing aspirants the big chance to earn ‘$65, $80 and more a week’ in ‘a pleasant, profitable Art career.’ Although the ads often shared space at the back of cheesy pulp magazines with offers to learn, well, brain surgery at home, they offered a legitimate way for anyone with a modicum of talent, limited means and an existing job to train in their spare time for a new profession. Let’s call it the precursor of ‘distance learning.’”

The Draw Me! industry flourished during the golden age of magazines and newspapers, when the use of photographs was extremely rare and complicated, and when illustrations and cartoons were the primary images used in editorial pages and ads. It was also a time when a career as a cartoonist could be seen as incredibly lucrative. An 1926 ad for the Washington School of Cartooning in Popular Mechanics shouted that: “Cartooning does pay enormous money! Clare Briggs, Fontaine Fox, George McManus, Sid Smith and all other headliners earn more than the President!”


It is unknown just how many took the bait and got their parents to part with their hard-earned dollars for these cartooning correspondence schools, which thrived for decades and, indeed, still exist in some manner today. But a look at the roster of graduates from these mail order schools is astonishing. Charles Schultz and Mort Walker both not only took lessons from the Minneapolis-based Art Instruction, Inc. school (better known to many simply as the Draw Me! School), but they also served as faculty members there. Founded more than 100 years ago and still in operation today, the Draw Me! School claimed to have on staff early cartooning and illustration legends like Gaar Williams, John T. McCutcheon, Clare Briggs, and Fontaine Fox. Schulz has said that several members of his Peanuts cast were based on his co-workers and friends at Art Instruction.

There were many, many other similar schools in locations around the US from the turn of the last century and through the 1970s. And several of those schools boast similarly jaw-dropping alumni and “faculty” lists. One of its best-known competitors is the Connecticut-based Famous Artists School, which has offered lessons by mail since 1947 (at a price of $200 for the three year course). At its peak, the school had 40,000 students and ran ads in the back of Popular Mechanics featuring faculty members like Al Capp, Rube Goldberg, Stuart Davis and even Norman Rockwell; some of its students were even more famous than its instructors—Dinah Shore, Charlton Heston, Tony Curtis, and Pat Boone all studied there.

Rare instructional materials from these and dozens of other schools will be on display at the ToonSeum exhibit, which runs through December . An opening event is scheduled for Friday, August 26th at 7 pm at The ToonSeum and several workshops and lectures are planned for the run of the show.