Ben Stevens is a self-professed kid of the 80s’ who appreciates all things pop culture and still dreams of that iconic galaxy far far away. That’s all well and fine until he starts talking about what he’s been doing all these years.
It is then that you realize — this isn’t your ordinary pop culture fanatic.
“I’m definitely living that dream,” Stevens said with a laugh. “It’s a very truthful statement.”
Stevens, 54, founded, owned, and operated the Dallas Comic-Con for over 20 years. The ultimate fan expo, Comic-Con is a multi-genre entertainment and comic book convention. It draws everyone from actors and celebrities to creators, artists, directors, publishers, comic book fans, autograph seekers, and other star-struck geeks from all over the world. If you wanted to meet Luke Skywalker, take pictures with Stan Lee, rub elbows with pro wrestlers, or get your “Back to the Future” poster signed, this is where you’d get your fix. It’s the mecca of conventions, and Stevens was in charge of all of it — all the while building friendships with icons like Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill, and the late Carrie Fisher.
When he suddenly sold Comic-Con in 2014, Stevens found that he had way too much time on his hands. So he’s moved on to the next stage of his life as an art gallery owner. But not just any art gallery.
True to form, the Copper Canyon resident is bringing everyone’s childhood back to life — this time with Galactic Gallery in Flower Mound.
“This is the fun part,” Stevens said. “Running the Comic-Con was fun, but it was also 16 hours a day of planning where to put people, where to line people up, how much to charge, where to put vendors, creating floor plans, etc. This gallery is like my giant man cave. It’s a destination spot — a place that has some really cool stuff in it.”
The 5,000-square-foot custom-built facility opens in September and is being lauded as a fresh new look at the world of pop culture art. It is home to original art, vintage posters, animation arts, classic illustrations, reproductions, and other goodies that you simply can’t find at any convention gallery or traditional memorabilia store in the mall. For example, there is an 18-foot tall reproduction of a Xenomorph Queen from the movie “Aliens II.” There are only six in the world, and, of course, Stevens has one. There’s also a lifelike Yoda statue, hundreds of limited edition prints, and classic movie posters from practically every cinematic masterpiece ever made.
Stevens said there is a room dedicated to vintage science fiction works from the 1940s and 1950s and another smaller area featuring other pop culture artists, more affordable items, reproductions, etc. But the bulk of the gallery is dedicated to the life’s work of Drew Struzan, an artist known for his movie posters and other priceless works for titles such as “Star Wars,” “Indiana Jones,” “Blade Runner,” “Hook,” “An American Tail,” “Cannonball Run,” “Harry Potter,” “Back to the Future,” “The Muppets,” “Hell Boy,” and more.
Basically, this is the guy who painted every eye-catching movie poster you’re used to seeing on the facade of movie theaters nationwide, and seeing the originals is 100 times more inspiring than seeing the flat poster.
“There’s all the texture, brushwork, pencil work — all the things he did to make those posters so memorable,” Stevens said. “They may print 10 million “Star Wars” posters, but that one original is amazingly special. And it’s hard to imagine they’d be sitting in storage. Drew painted my childhood. I remember being 10 years old, and on my wall was the movie poster for “Star Wars.” That was his. I still have that poster, and it really influenced my life in ways that I would never have guessed. We have dedicated most of the gallery to displaying his legacy and helping people who have seen that iconic poster 100 times but don’t know who Drew Struzan is. He’s a very important artist in our time.”
Stevens said his friendship with Struzan developed over years of trying to get the iconic artist to sign autographs at one of his conventions. Struzan, who is in his mid-70s and known for shying away from the spotlight, never understood why anyone would want to stand in line for two hours to get his autograph. So he graciously said no year after year.
But Stevens stayed in contact, even buying one of Struzan’s rare “Indiana Jones” pieces in 2014.
Struzan eventually agreed to do a few shows and had a lot of fun meeting fans. But more importantly, a unique friendship developed between him and Stevens — one that continues to this day.
“Dinners became longer, and our personalities really clicked,” Stevens said. “I generally have just a small group of friends, and he and his wife, Dylan, became a big part of that group. My daughter, Julie, works with me and sort of handles the day-to-day stuff at the gallery. They just love her, and she loves them back.”
After doing a few conventions, the idea of the gallery came about. And the rest is history.
Stevens said he’s hoping to have appointments for the gallery available in September. He also hinted that there could be an open house somewhere later down the line for autograph seekers and people who want to get their hands on rare art. In the meantime, friends and artists who have seen the gallery with their own eyes have been blown away.
How can you expect anything less from the quintessential pop culture fanatic?
“I’m just a kid of the 80s. I grew up in that world, and it’s a really cool thing for me,” Stevens said.