Saturday, January 9, 2016
Superheroes: A Never Ending Battle
There are of course countless other heroes aside from Punisher, and there is a great history to be told of the comic book platform and its many rise and falls over the past century in America. PBS is here to tell that story. In 2013, PBS released Superheroes: A Never Ending Battle (preview), a three-part mini-series hosted by Liev Schreiber. Each part is dedicated to the three main era of comics with the Golden Age (1938-58), Silver Age (1959-1977) and Bronze Age (1978-current). I originally saw it on Netflix streaming, and I believe you can still watch it there for free, but just a few days ago I finished re-watching the collected series on DVD.
The first episode also has a big focus on how comics were a big part of World War II and how many of the early heroes were depicted against the Axis Powers. This lead to big sales for the business, but in the years following the war those stories against WWII villains tapered off and the documentary does a good job detailing how the rise of the more graphic crime and pulp books came as a result. This also caught the eye of the government and resulted in the comic business creating the Comic Code Authority, which until 2011 was their way of policing themselves much like the MPAA is for the movie business and the ESRB is for videogames. The creation of the code, and thus the end of the golden age of comics is where the first part of the mini-series ends.
Part two also dedicates a solid amount of time to how the civil rights and anti-drug movements of the 60s influenced comics. It made sure to cover how Marvel started to show all races in their books, and how it lead to them creating the first two African-lead comic books with the creation of Black Panther and Luke Cage. DC also got covered here too with the documentary showing how Green Arrow and Green Lantern teamed up to expose racism and later how Louis Lane went undercover as an African news reporter to show how she was treated differently.
The documentary tries to hit on as many big moments in the business as it can between all the films such as DC having a big year with darker-themed comics in 1986 with The Watchmen mini-series and Batman’s infamous Dark Knight Returns story arc. Writers’ Frank Miller and Alan Moore are interviewed here to show how they provided some much needed change to the light-heartedness of the DC Universe. Ample time is also given to The Death and Return of Superman arc in 1993. On the Marvel side of things, they were featured for the 9/11 events getting featured in their books, and Spider-Man getting a resurgence with Todd McFarlane’s unorthodox art on Spidey which the feature then segues into McFarlane and Jim Lee departing Marvel to create Image Comics and their marquee comic, Spawn. Episode three ends with what the future holds for comics as the business shifts to a bigger reliance on digital sales.
There are 46 minutes of bonus interview clips in the extra features. Highlights include Lynda Carter reminiscing on the low budget of the Wonder Woman TV show and bonus interviews with creators on origins of Joker, Spider-Man and Silver Surfer. I could not help but have a big grin as a fan interviewed who attended the first comic convention in 1967 detailed what their experience was like and how dressing up as heroes (more commonly referred to today as cosplay) took off at the very first con that had only about 200 attendees. It is a nice amount of extras they could cram on the one disc on top of the near three hours the main feature runs. It is hard to recommend Superheroes: A Never Ending Battle to buy when it is available for free on Netflix. I picked it up because I feel this is as good as an overall documentary on the business we are going to get without going into the overkill territory by being a 20-part endeavor that covers all the nuts and bolts of the business.
Previous TV/Web Series Blogs
2013-14 TV Season Recap
2014-15 TV Season Recap
Angry Videogame Nerd Vol 8
Angry Videogame Nerd Vol 7
Mortal Kombat: Legacy - Season 1
RedvsBlue - Seasons 1-12
Seinfeld Final Season