A year after the idea, a 9-foot tall statue of The Hulk was unveiled at the Northlake Library Sept. 12.
The lobby filled with local residents such as Amanda Efta, who carried her nephew Aiden Kolanizios. A library trustee offered green cupcakes to visitors.
“This is the biggest crowd the library’s seen in a while,” Northlake Mayor Jeff Sherwin said.
As the sheet was removed from the statue, people applauded, cameras clicked and little kids gazed up or rubbed the big toe — about the size of a grapefruit.
“It’s awesome,” said Richard Guitierriz of Northlake. “It raises the bar for comic books being in libraries.”
Library Director Sharon Highler agreed.
“Yes, its outside-the-box thinking,” Highler said.
The challenges of gaining the massive green and purple statue are a saga worthy of a comic book. It started when Tom Mukite joined the Library Board in October 2012, with the aim of buying The Hulk, comic making equipment and more graphic novels. In April, Mukite and several librarians started a campaign to raise $30,000 using website Indiegogo. They offered perks to donors such as signed graphic novels, transportation by fire engine to the Northlake fire station for a pizza party and dressing up as a comic character for a photo in a randomly chosen part of Northlake.
The campaign received attention from both mainstream media and more bloggers than can be counted. The Guardian newspaper website in England, Entertainment Weekly, websites in Poland, Redeye, The Chicago Reader, CBS, the Onion and — strangely — men’s magazine Maxim.
“I’m pretty sure we’re the first library to be covered by Maxim,” Mukite said.
The Northlake Library also saw a large increase in library card renewals, increasing from an average of 120 during the six-week campaign up to 600.
Ultimately the campaign only raised $5,000. But Steve Williams, the owner of L.A. Boxing in Orange City, Calif., had a fiberglass statue of The Hulk outside his business. A new landlord didn’t care for it. In May, Williams went to Google to seek a buyer for the statue and instead found the Northlake Library.
The next challenge was shipping the statute 2,000 miles. At 9 feet tall, 150 pounds and with an arm span of 7 feet, one can’t just drop it off at a post office. The estimated cost was $2,000, which would eat up a chunk of the money designated for comic-making equipment and graphic novels.
Jason Reinertsen from Fastmore Logistics, who grew up in Franklin Park and attended West Leyden High School, approached the owners of the trucking company and they agreed to ship the statue for free.
Ron Jordan of Brutal Grafix donated his time in refurbishing the statue, which had faded in the California sun and smog. On Sept. 7 it was Jordan who cut statue in half and put it back together when they found it didn’t fit through the library doors.