She Makes Comics” (2014) is invaluable simply for its existence. Although it juggles a bevy of comics-related topics and raises more questions than it answers, director Marisa Stotter’s documentary illuminates women in the industry like never before, putting faces to famous names. Driven by interviews with dozens of key women in comics — along with historians, fans and comic-shop clerks – the 70-minute film leaves an overwhelming impression that women have – and always have had – an important place in the field.
The creation stories of the three biggest DC heroes all have a notable amount of injustice behind them. “Superman’s” Siegel and Shuster and “Batman’s” Bill Finger were denied credit for decades. But the story behind “Wonder Woman” – where there has never been debate that William Moulton Marston created her – is the weirdest, as chronicled in the biopic “Professor Marston & the Wonder Women” (2017).
As its title suggests, “Necessary Evil: Super-Villains of DC Comics” (2013) only chronicles DC villains, but that’s not a problem since “Batman” is widely acknowledged to have the best rogues gallery in comics, plus there are icons like Lex Luthor from “Superman.” Indeed, one of the interviewees – most of whom work on DC comics or animated series – notes that there have been literally thousands of villains in the DC Universe’s history.
Superheroes Decoded,” a two-episode History Channel documentary from 2017, isn’t what I thought it would be. But it turns out to something good: The definitive analysis of the history of superheroes and how they bob and weave with American history over the past century. Adults will learn a little something – even if a lot of it is a fun refresher — and brainy younger viewers should be enthralled too. Its only major problem is that if you’ve just watched PBS’ “Superheroes: A Never-Ending Battle” (2013), the first episode will be redundant – although it does go deeper.
Adecade ago, Dark Horse gave us the previously secret backstory of Book in one volume, “The Shepherd’s Tale.” Now we get a similarly classy (and expensive) hardcover volume for Hoban Washburne – Boom! Comics’ “Firefly: Watch How I Soar” (November) — and it’s good, but it can’t be quite as good because Wash is pretty much the opposite of Shepherd Book. Serenity’s pilot is an open book, so to speak. Continue reading “‘Firefly: Watch How I Soar’ is a flighty but fitting tribute to Wash (Comic book review)”
Comic-Con Episode IV: A Fan’s Hope” (2011) chronicles a slice in time in the history of San Diego Comic-Con International, held over four days every July. In 2010, as director/co-writer Morgan Spurlock follows five convention-goers, the event still features comic-book dealers, but it’s certainly a step into its commercial era where studios get to test film clips and fans get to be the first to experience a taste. The 88-minute documentary only pays lip service to the convention’s history, which dates back to a gathering of 300 people in 1970, instead focusing on the modern mass of geek humanity.
Batman & Bill” (2017, Hulu) is about the fight to correct one of the great injustices of early comic book history – the omission of “Batman” co-creator Bill Finger’s name alongside Bob Kane’s. The documentary weaves from tragedy to fun to hopelessness to delight, avoiding that grim feeling found in most chronicles of injustice, while also contrasting the sweat-shop work process of the 1940s comic industry against this new age when writers are known and celebrated.
If you’re a fan of superheroes thanks to the 2010s cinema boom and are curious about their history in comics, “Superheroes: A Never-Ending Battle” (2013), a three-part PBS documentary, is a nice overview. Hosted by Liev Schreiber (Sabretooth in the “Wolverine” films), it’s aimed at a wide audience in a somewhat academic tone, but I – as a mid-level superhero/comics fan – learned several tidbits and had fun watching it.
Like most fans, I thought “Volume 22: Memories of the Futures” (2013) was the final “Valerian and Laureline” book, but artist Jean-Claude Mezieres and writer Pierre Christin came back with one last (for now?) book, “Volume 23: The Future is Waiting,” in 2019. As with the previous entry, this reads like a gift to fans; its five short stories revisit famous characters and tropes (and some weaknesses) of the saga. The collection is up to the duo’s usual storytelling and artistic standards but is not an entry point; it’s for already-hooked fans.
As comic companies are wont to do, Boom! Studios has accompanied its regular “Firefly” series with a handful of one-shots throughout the early part of the run, focusing on specific characters and their backstories. Here’s a look at three such books, from 2019-20: