Comic Books Heroes and Chess Players Join Forces to Empower, Entertain Kids

By Nicole Plegge | Thu, 03/23/2017 - 4:05pm

Chess grandmasters and action heroes aren’t usually known to run in the same circles. But once you start comparing the adventures of Superman or Batman to the game of chess, you begin to see the similarities.

While they may not have god-like strength or the ability to fly, every chess player has the superpower of strategic thinking. In a chess board battle where kings, queens and knights fight it out to the end, brains beat brawn every time – and that’s one superpower every kid can aim for.

The World Chess Hall of Fame (WCHOF) has launched Pow! Capturing Superheroes, Chess & Comics, a family-friendly, hands-on exhibit that explores the overlap between chess and our kids’ favorite comic book heroes.

According to chief curator Shannon Bailey, the unusual mix is the perfect match. “We have more than 200 comic books, from the 1940’s to the present, that either have chess on the cover or chess as part of their story. Even the very first Justice League comic had the heroes playing chess on the front. It’s just amazing how the game of chess relates to these stories of good and evil.”   

Helping kids discover their inner chess superhero

After the overwhelming success of its first children’s exhibition, Kings, Queens & Castles, last year, WCHOF discovered engaging even the youngest kids through hands-on exhibits sparked their interest in chess. And the earlier a child can pick up the game, the faster and easier it is to learn and the sooner it can positively impact their reading, writing and strategic thinking skills.

For Bailey, who has a superhero-obsessed five-year-old of her own, making Pow! as colorful, engaging and interactive as possible was a powerful way to connect with kids.

“First and foremost, the goal of the exhibit is to encourage a child to learn about chess,” she remarked. “I love that Pow! is a different avenue to get there. I mean, what kid doesn’t like cartoons? By bringing superheroes into the game, it’s the perfect gateway to learning. Kids can see their favorite villains as chess pieces, learn about the background of the game, and just have fun playing around. When the public sees how chess is engrained in popular culture, they get so excited to see the collection.”

Pow! features an extensive compilation of rare chess-themed comic books, including DC Comics’ More Fun Comics 76 released in 1942 and Superman in The Cross Country Chess Crimes from 1947, to thrill both kids and comic book aficionados. It also offers a number of interactive activities - kids can dress up like their favorite superheroes, take a selfie in the photo booth, and design their own comic books. In addition, a number of chess boards featuring Spiderman, Wonder Woman and other superheroes are available for play.

All works in the exhibit are from the WCHOF collection or on loan from renowned collectors Bernice and Floyd Sarisohn. Pow! includes written contributions from Roy Thomas, former editor-in-chief at Marvel Comics, and Michael Tisserand, author of Krazy: George Herriman, A Life in Black and White.

Pow! Capturing Superheroes, Chess & Comics runs through Sept. 17 at WCHOF, located at 4652 Maryland Ave. in the Central West End. Hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Mondays, Tuesdays and Saturdays, 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Wednesdays and Fridays, and 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Sundays. Admission to Pow! is complimentary with a suggested donation of $5. To learn more about Pow! and the WCHOF, visit


Metro East mom Nicole Plegge is the lifestyle and pop culture blogger for STL Parent. Besides working as a freelance writer & public relations specialist, and raising two daughters and a husband, Nicole's greatest achievements are finding her misplaced car keys each day and managing to leave the house in a stain-free shirt. Her biggest regret is never being accepted to the Eastland School for Girls. Follow Nicole on Twitter @STLWriterinIL