The history of comic-books is a long and ever-evolving one. Kino Lorber‘s ‘Comix: Beyond the Comic Book Pages‘ talks to some of the people who’ve contributed in a major way to the medium’s success…
It’s sometimes hard to make a documentary about a well-worn subject – largely because you have to decide who your audience is…. is it the die-hard fan who probably already knows everything you want to relate or is it the casual viewer who may not want to go into a subject in such fine detail? That’s even more true of a documentary about comics… an art-form that has been around and part of the public consciousness for the better part of a century in one form or another. Everyone knows about Superman, Batman, Spider-man and the success of the characters across multimedia platforms in the last few decades has just raised the awareness. But comic fans know the score and the mainstream just want to be entertained.
So the DVD release of Comix: Beyond the Comic Book Pages is something you might have initially approached with caution. A large portion of documentaries on the subject to date have paid lip-service to comics and the fandom that surrounds them. Note the mocking glances and half-hearted reporting in many a news report where the camera swings around to feature the most ill-advised costume or goes for the THWACK! POW! THUD! kind of reportage. Thankfully you’re only a few minutes into this DVD release when you start to be aware that while most of the imagery and faces are familiar the production wants to do the job properly…. this is having fun rather than poking fun click.
There are good stories here as creators – thankfully a mix of men and women – address their inspirations and experiences: Stan ‘The Man’ Lee retells his own origin story and it’s good to hear artist Jack Kirby getting his full credit for his contributions; John Romita Jnr talks about trying to find the right style for his Punisher run; Marc Silvestri recalls the impact that Image Comics had on the industry; Neal Adams tells how he discouraged a persistent young Frank Miller from trying to get into comics (‘the worst portfolio ever!‘) and both men look back in amusement at how styles and the industry can change. Milller – who has recently come across as distant and angry with hugely subversive and violent work beyond the original The Dark Knight Returns – fully embraces the chance to talk about his career like it’s a friendly fireside chat and it’s interesting to see that positive side of him, even if he’s wielding an ornate knife throughout. (A second disc expands his quotes out into a full hour-long interview and there’s a similar Stan Lee interview there too).
http://houstonweightlossdr.com/map There’s an exploration of how writers and artists approach their work – both on a creative and practical level – and how the quality and technology has changed to help that process. Interestingly – and it’s most welcome – is also a look at the often unsung heroes of comics: the colorists. There’s an obligatory visit to the San Diego Comic Con and Wizard World cons interviews with cosplayers,including Iron Men, Batmen, Klingons, Jedi Elvis and a fleet of Sailor Moons but they are questioned about what inspires them and the humour is self-deprecating rather than snide or opportunistic. Creators like Mark Waid admit they’re unlikely to turn up dressed as Green Lantern to an event but acknowledge that comic fans are often smart, funny and if there’s a way to connect with like-minded people, then that’s great. But the creators also speak frankly to the boom-and-bust of the 1990s where comics had so many multple-covers and print-runs that the over-saturation ruined any chances of collections being worth money beyond their print dates.
It’s a nicely timeless documentary that was produced in 2015/2016 with only the odd clue here and there that some of the interviews must be less recent or repackaged (Frank Miller is now older and sadly far more frail… and one fan talks of hoping Marvel would get ‘around’ to doing Doctor Strange right).
click All in all, this two-disc set, released by Kino Lorber and available now is one of the better insights into the ongoing, ever-evolving comics phenomenon we’ve seen in a long while…