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Two exhibits open, showcasing hip-hop, comic art

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Superheroes and rappers have always had a lot in common.

Both wear funny costumes and accessories (spandex, blinged-out chains); both utilize code names in place of government monikers (Batman instead of Bruce Wayne, Ice Cube instead of O'Shea Jackson); and both wield amazing skills and abilities (super strength, devastating mic control). So, with all those similarities, it should come as no surprise that both would invade Charlotte in a big way around the same time ... although the takeover is all about art -- not battling bad guys or sucker MCs.

Super folk take the spotlight in an art show aptly titled Super!: The Fine Art of Comics at the Plaza Midwood-based gallery Twenty-Two, opening May 1; and lyricists (as well as dancers, DJs and more) come into focus during the touring display Art, Beats + Lyrics at Centerstage (in NoDa) on May 7. We recently spoke to organizers of both exhibitions, and got the details.

Look Up, On the Wall

Shelton Drum is the mastermind behind Super! -- and that shouldn't come as a surprise. Drum is not only the founder of one of Charlotte's most frequented comic book shops, Heroes Aren't Hard to Find, he's also the creator of one of the comic industry's most respected and attended conventions, HeroesCon. Plus, on top of all that, he just loves comic art. "The art aspect of comics is my favorite thing," he says. "It's what kept me in the business."

"I always wanted to do an art show," Drum continues. "We've had some shows in the shop from time to time. But when [Twenty-Two] opened up, the owners actually approached us about putting together an exhibit. And I jumped on it."

The show is set to feature a collection of pieces -- from poster-type works to actual comic book pages -- created by an impressive lineup of big-name artists; keep your eyes peeled for images by guys like Adam Hughes, Brian Stelfreeze, Michael Golden, Andy Smith, Joe Jusko, Cully Hamner, Mark Texeira, among many others.

"Almost everything is published comic art," says Drum. "There will be a few pieces that are unpublished ... some pages from an unpublished story by [artist] Tom Lyle, for example, are gonna be in there. And there may be one or two pin-up pieces done by some of these guys that are brand-new that will probably never be published."

It's important to note that Super! is being hosted in conjunction with the national comic-centric holiday "Free Comic Book Day," which -- as the name suggests -- is a day that comic book shops across the nation pass out select free titles to customers. Drum's shop always rolls out a massive welcome wagon and this year is no different; along with the art show (going down Saturday night) and a booty-load of free comic books (Saturday at Heroes from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.) the shop is also playing host to a gaggle of visiting comic creators -- such as the previously mentioned Hughes, Stelfreeze, Lyle and Smith, as well as Sanford Greene, Mark Brooks, Allison Sohn and more (Saturday from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.). They'll all be on hand greeting fans, sketching pictures and signing comics (and other items).

For more Super! info, visit www.heroesonline.com.

And Ya Don't Stop

Almost a full week after the opening of Super!, hip-hop gets the star treatment as Art, Beats + Lyrics pumps back into Charlotte.

This is the third year that the traveling celebration of beat-and-rhyme-flavored visual art and culture has stopped through the Queen City. So, if you attended the event last year, expect to partake in the same type of engrossing paintings, graffiti, photography, dance performances, DJs and live music (and more) as before. And yes, once again, creations by artists like Dwayne "Dubelyoo" Wright (AB+L's co-producer), Goldi, Charlotte's own God City and many, many more will be adorning walls.

"We've just got a cool template that we're working with," says AB+L founder Jabari Graham. "As they say: If ain't broke, don't try to fix it. We still get the cool vibe from the people and the atmosphere. We just keep it moving."

But as things stay the same, they also change. AB+L is rotating in a new crop of visual art makers and rolling out a number of brand-new, never-before-seen pieces for your ass. The event (which is again sponsored by Gentleman Jack) will also be rocked by music spun by the Q.C.'s lauded DJ Fraser and some surprise live performances that Graham doesn't want to divulge. ("I don't want to put it out there yet," he says evasively.) Oh, and the venue is changed for 2010; instead of the Blake Hotel (the 2009 location), the fun is moving back to Centerstage @ NoDa, which is where AB+L set up shop for its first year. Explaining why they chose to return to NoDa, Graham says: "The venue is tight, parking was great, the people over there were accommodating for us, and it was in a good artsy area. It was cool."

For more info about and to register for Art, Beats + Lyrics, visit www.gentlemanjackabl.com.

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