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Tuesday, October 15, 2013 

PBS's Superhero documentary had to include rotten writers on its list of interviewees

The Washington Post wrote about the new PBS documentary Superheroes: A Never Ending Battle. Though it does have some positive highlights and great folks worthy of hearing from, there's also some very bad contributors to the medium whom the documentarians just had to speak with:
“I just loved that we celebrated those guys and their contributions ... ,” Kantor says of the comics pioneers who speak in the film. “We could have tried to get Nicolas Cage and Jerry Seinfeld” — celebrities noted for their Superman fandom — “but we wanted the creators.” (Among the dozens of on-camera interviews, the film — hosted by superhero-movie veteran Liev Schreiber — features such incisive contemporary writers and artists as Mark Waid, Michael Chabon, Todd McFarlane, Len Wein, Trina Robbins, Joe Quesada, Jim Lee and Geoff Johns. Also featured: Such superhero performers as Adam West and Lynda Carter, as well as “Watchmen”/”Man of Steel” director Zack Snyder.)
Do they ask Quesada any questions about why he felt it was so important to break up a decent marriage between Spider-Man and Mary Jane Watson? I figure the answer to that is sad but easy to guess: no. And they probably didn't take any objective stand regarding Johns's awful writing either. IIRC, Chabon is very ultra-lefty/PC for an author writing a comic-inspired novel, so he's not a great choice for interviewing either.

The Hollywood Reporter reviewed the documentary, and says:
As the series points out, it’s not a niche anymore, it’s mainstream.
Alas, no. The pamphlets are not. Only the adaptations are. But, they do point to a positive part of the documentary:
...for all of its industry back-patting and heralding of the greatest of superhero kind though, the documentary doesn’t shy away from mentioning the commercialization of the form, or its greatest money maker: merchandising. Nor does it ignore the impact that independent comics like Image have on the industry, and why their creators left the main comic houses (namely, that big-name titles, like Superman, have become too corporatized to be innovative).
Obviously, some credit will have to be given where it's due if they acknowledge one of the worst results of commercialization. Then again, do they think to acknowledge that the big two have become micromanaged disasters where the editors only allow a select few writers with PC-tactics to write their products? Probably not, and they must leave out some of the biggest scandals that cropped up since the turn of the century in comicdom. If they don't have the guts to research those, so again, they've thrown away a big chance to let the world know what goes on in the medium today under their noses.

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I dunno, I watched the first two segments (Golden Age, then Silver Age) and I doubt they could have gotten into a lot of minutiae about various characters. It was a good program, but if you're really into comics, it might bore you -- b/c you already know much of what was presented.

I liked it mainly for the vintage film and photo shots, and little "insider" tidbits that guys like Steranko and Neal Adams shared.

That's exactly why I didn't watch it. I figured it'd be a regurgitation of things I already knew.

I watched the whole thing and while you could nitpick some political bias and when discussing external media animation was mostly ignored I thought they were rather unbiased. They avoided controversy because that wasn't what the show was about but did acknowledge the speculators bubble (only highlighting some problems and not getting into the specifics of what went wrong) as well as Wertham and the Comic Code.

Personally I thought it was pretty good. It's up on iTunes and PBS had the DVD/Blu-Ray available if you want to take a look.

One of the segments in the documentary actually was the wedding between Spider-Man and Mary Jane. They even showed footage of the Shea Stadium wedding officiated by Stan Lee, who, in one the interviews, said it only made sense for them to get married. Granted, it was introduced in the context Granted, it was presented in the context of how readers, as they grew older, wanted to see "static characters" grow, develop, and tackle adult themes, and how the various comic book companies were looking for ways to boost dwindling sales. Even so, I found it rather telling that this moment got the attention it did right along with Spidey's creation and origins, the death of Gwen Stacy, Todd McFarlane, the 9/11 issue, and the first Spider-Man movie. But what really floored me was when they asked Joe Quesada about it:

"If you had been reading Spider-Man for ten years, fifteen years, [SPIDER-MAN AND MARY JANE GETTING MARRIED] WAS A LOGICAL PLACE FOR THE CHARACTER TO GO. But when you have a character that has to be there for the next wave of young readers, at what point do you stop? Does Peter Parker then have kids? Does he then grow old and become a grandfather? Does he then die? We really couldn't go there."

Yep, no mention at all how Quesada ended the marriage with One More Day.

In otherwords, this documentary is nothing more than an extended recap episode.

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