The three-hour PBS mini series Superheroes: The Never Ending Battle aired last night, and because I’m a dumbass I forgot to watch it or DVR it, but it’s out on DVD so I’ll check it out when I’m less brain dead. The reviews and tweets were good, anyway.

The series also had a spin-off book which I’ve been seeing around, called Superheroes!: Capes, Cowls, and the Creation of Comic Book Culture by Laurence Maslon and Michael Kantor. But every time I saw it I kept thinking, “I already have that book.” And when I saw the name of designer Arlen Schumer in the credits, I remembered where. The cover design is very similar to Schumer’s own 2003 book The Silver Age of Comic Book Art. If Schumer didn’t design this book himself (one hopes) then someone sure ripped him off.

There’s nothing wrong with influencing yourself a few years later, but this was a memory jogger!

Meanwhile, did anyone watch the PBS show? How was it?


  1. This Saturday at 2PM it reruns on PBS Channel 13 in NY. It was a nicely done without any of the “gee whiz or golly wow!” Funniest moment for me was Adam West voicing over dialogue from Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight. I missed some of the program as I channel surfed between Agents of SHIELD, the NY Islanders game and this show.

  2. I was quite impressed by it, though, admittedly, I’ve seen snippets of it over the last few years. Appreciated seeing the industry’s history placed in a societal context. Great to see candid interviews from some of the greats that recently passed (Simon, Kubert, Infantino, Robinson). And Neal Adams was supercharged! My business partner was also in it and I was very impressed by how white his teeth were.

  3. I really enjoyed it. I was very pleased to see so many women including top of my head Jennete Kahn, Ramona Fradon, Louise Simonson and Trina Robbins included in the interviews. The book also has a chapter on Women in Refrigerators that examines the changing role of women.

    @MG – I also loved West’s reading of Miller. And @Steve said it was both good and sad to see so many folks who are no longer with us.

  4. It reminded me of Comic Book Confidential, and I enjoyed it but I learned nothing new. Due to the focus on the titular subject, it wasn’t really a history of comics, it’s more of a superficial examination of the 20th Century superhero myth. It hit most of the high points (though it devoted much more time to Steranko than to Kirby). I think the subject would be well-served by an expensive 10+ hour Ken Burns style doc – hey, why not?

  5. I started watching it last night. So far so good. I do not expect it to cover much new ground though. But anytime people talk comics in a positive light I’m happy.

    I’d love to see a documentary that is closely based on the Fred Van Lente and Ryan Dunlaevy Comic Book History of Comics. That was the first time in a long time that I learned something about comics. I loved their attention to Disney, European and Japanese Comics as well as the comic underground.

  6. Essentially, it’s a brief history of corporate superhero comics and their continuing expansion into mainstream pop culture. It was interesting to see some unexpected pros pop up (Christina Strain. Larry Hama, Jenette Khan, Ramona Fradon) along with the usual suspects (Joe Q, Stan, Morrison) as well as some recently deceased legends (Joe Simon, Jerry Robinson, Carmine Infantino).

    It’s very selective about the historical moments it examines, glossing over big chunks of time (which I understand). Basically, it’s more interested in creating a narrative out of superhero comic book history rather than covering all of the ups and downs. But with that said, it also details some stuff that’s conventionally left out of superhero documentaries.

    My only beef is that the film continually conflates “comics” with “superhero comics”. There’s nearly no mention of independent American publishing (with the exception of Image) or comics outside of the US. And there are lots of blanket statements like “that was a moment that changed all of comics forever!” and so on. I think they easily could’ve fixed that if they just made sure to acknowledge that they’re talking specifically about superhero comic books and not the entire medium of comics.

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