Tuesday, June 24, 2003

To complete my comic book geekfest yesterday, I was front row center for the History Channel's documentary on comics, Comic Book Superheroes Unmasked, heretofore referred to as CBSU. As I said yesterday, when this was announced I was a bit skeptical, mostly because of the generic-looking spandex and "biff!" "sok!" trappings they used to promote the thing. However, I'm pleased to report that my fears were unfounded and CBSU was a pretty good two hours spent.

Of course, I had problems with it, mostly of the nitpicky nature. While I understand that they only had two hours and had to narrow the focus to the Big Two, still, a lot of fine companies and seminal creators got short shrift, including EC comics, the undergrounds, Warren, Dell/Gold Key, Harvey, First, Pacific, and Fantagraphics. Fawcett got a passing mention, mostly for the big DC lawsuit that caused them to stop publishing Captain Marvel. It was annoying to see them get quotes from Will Eisner, against the background of one of the Warren Spirit reprint magazines, and not mention the Spirit once, except in Eisner's ID line! Also, there were a few occasions where they showed panels of artwork of a more recent vintage during discussions about Golden Age books, most notably the depiction of several panels of Frank Robbins art from Marvel's mid-70s Invaders series when discussing the 40s Captain America. This sort of thing doesn't bother nine out of ten people, but it makes the geek in me go nuts. Also, a hell of a lot of Gene Colan and John Buscema art got showcased but they got no mention. No mention of Wally Wood, either. It would have been nice if they could have interviewed someone like Roy Thomas or Neal Adams, as well.

That being said, it was great to see people like Dennis O'Neil, Jim Steranko and Neil Gaiman get a lot of screen time, and there were a couple of instances where stories were told that I hadn't heard before, like the amusing tale of the creation of the story that featured the first meeting of the Human Torch and the Sub-Mariner in the 40s. For every deserving creator that was overlooked, many more got namechecked like Mike Sekowsky, Steve Ditko, Bill Everett (accompanied by that well-known picture of him looking up from his drawing board), C.C. Beck, Gil Kane, to name a few. Lots of great art and covers were shown, and often they would animate certain pages in a limited way that was often a bit cheesy but still fun.

It's airing again on Saturday at 9 PM CST, and also Sunday at 1 AM and 5 PM.

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