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Comics 411: Favorite Documentaries About Comic Books

July 8, 2020 | Posted by Steve Gustafson
Necessary Evil Super-Villains of DC Comics

Welcome back! I’m Steve Gustafson and if you enjoy discussing anything comic book related, you’ve come to the right place. Each week we cover something in the industry and I always enjoy your input in the comment section below.

Previously on…

Last week we discussed our Favorite Marvel Superhero Teams.Here’s what some of you had to say:

El Atomico: “Squadron Supreme! Also, X-men, Avengers, and West Coast Avengers. Alpha Flight had their moments, but for me were never consistently good. I always thought the Fantastic Four pretty much sucked, except for the Thing. It was like seeing someone in a shitty band that you hoped would go solo!”

Tayo Jones: “Thunderbolts. I love the concept of reformed villains saving the world. Best incarnation for me was the version from the raft, with Luke Cage as the leader. It was the first Thunderbolts run I read and I instantly became a fan. Ghost was my favourite member. He always stole the show whenever he appeared.”

Gil: “My top 3 Marvel teams are all X-Factor.
1. X-Factor. Multiple Man’s team. I just really enjoyed the team dynamics and the series shot Madrox as one of my favorite Marvel Characters.
2. X-Factor. Havok’s original team. Was my all time favorite until Madrox made his team.
3. X-Factor. Polaris’ team with Gambit and Quicksilver. They work really well together, story wise.
Honorable mention for the Hulk, Spider-Man, Wolverine, Ghostrider version of the Fantastic Four.”

Ken Wood: “For me, Marvel is topped by X-Men and Spiderman, so obviously X-Men is my favorite Marvel team.
“And…sheesh. I could have a Top 10 X-team books column easily. Make a note.”
No doubt.
The original X team was great (I’m actually reading through those books right now), but second genesis is where things start to get amazing. Cyclops and Storm are both badass leaders.
I’ve recently started getting more into New Mutants and Gen X. From their older stuff to the current, there’s so much good stuff in there, just weirder, more sci-fi, more philosophical stuff. Great.
The New X-Men (Surge, Hellion, Mercury, etc.) quickly became one of my favorite teams. I love them and I really hope we see them in the new era soon.
The Marauders are freaking amazing. Kate Pride and Emma Frost are amazing, and their little pirate team just rules.
X-Force is fun because they’ve always been about not following the mutant rules and being more brutal and action packed.
Two teams I’d like to read more on are S.W.O.R.D. and Starjammers. I’ve only read bits and pieces of them in X-Men but they seem fun.
Now I haven’t read much FF or Avengers stuff. I’ve been eyeballing Young Avengers. I mean it has Prodigy so that’s enough to get my attention. I’ve heard good things but it’s kind of pricey at the moment.”

“Carl Rood: “I’d go with the West Coast Avengers, the original lineup up until Byrne took over. This was Hawkeye’s team and was a little laid back, but kicked ass. They ended their missions with a team barbecue. Hank Pym dressed like the Fourth Doctor for a very brief time. Ultron reformed and bonded with his “dad” until a previous iteration returned from Secret Wars.

Ok, I could have done without Wonder Man’s green costume.”

Gold Any Ranger: “In the canon of the Marvel Universe, I’d go with the mid-80s, pre-Mutant Massacre X-Men. Storm, Wolverine, Colossus, Nightcrawler, Kitty Pryde, Rogue and Rachel Summers. That’s the team when I first started reading the series around the original Secret Wars.

Outside of the MU, GI Joe. I’ve got the whole run of the Marvel series, including most of the spin-off books, except for European Missions.”

Eggplant: “The Defenders back in the day were fun, no idea what they’re like now.

the Avengers was my favorite before they added everyone and their mother to join, it got so convoluted and dumb, I tuned out.. but I dig the movies.

I’ll go with Fantastic Four, because even though it wasn’t my favorite team as a kid, their storylines and team dynamics always worked well with the adventures they went on, even on their downtime they were well written.”

Dorath: “I agree with Guardians and Defenders, but not the lineups you have. I prefer the 30th century GotG and Gerber’s goofy Defenders teams. But, the Infinity Watch will always be my favorite.”

Robert Stewart: “Does Damage Control count?”

Richard C: “West Coast Ultimates……cue up the classic John Cale song — “Mercenaries (Ready for War)”.”

Dexter Plisskin: “My favorite was the Defenders when the core trio was Valkyrie, Nighthawk and Hellcat. Just like last weeks question, it was the constant rotation of associates (can’t really call them “members” 😀 ) of the original group and new faces that made the comic distinct from other teams at Marvel.
I was also a big fan of the duo teams. Power Man & Iron Fist. Captain America & Falcon. Daredevil & Black Widow. Cloak & Dagger. Fun stuff!”

Steed: “X Men
X Factor (Peter David run especially)
The Defenders
The New Warriors (in its early run)”

David Spumpkins: “My number one would be The Avengers. I got away from comics about fifteen years ago, but I was a voracious Avengers fan before that.
The Moore/Cheung X-Force team from the late Nineties also made for a really fun book. I need to dig out those issues and read them again.”

redraptor: “FF are always my top team. The 2000’s X-factor is great, X-statix is fun as hell, shout outs to the Great Lakes Avengers, the original Thunderbolts, and the quintet of losers that make up the Superior Foes of Spiderman’s version of the Sinister Six are always interesting.”
Thank you to everyone who commented!

This week we discuss our…

Favorite Documentaries About Comic Books

Given the circumstances we find ourselves in, finding new and engaging things to watch has become something to do all on its own. Why not dust off some comic book documentaries to watch and get some recommendations on ones I haven’t seen. 

Someone had recommended Robert Kirkman’s Secret History of Comics on AMC and that was a treat. Kirkman’s love for the industry is clear in every episode and I’m surprised how under the radar this was. 

Another one that was recommended to me that I was shocked to realize I hadn’t heard of is 1988’s Comic Book Confidential that covers the beginnings of comics as an art form through the 80s. Wonderfully produced and talks with real legends of the game. A worthy addition to any list.

One that you can catch on YouTube is The History of Image Comics (So Much Damage) from SYFY Wire. I enjoyed it even though it was very broad in terms of what transpired in the storied publishers history. I’d love to see an Image documentary that really looked at some of the details of its origins and the drama of the early days, especially with Mr. Robert Liefeld. One that they really open up on what was going on instead of just grinning and acting like everything was fine. 

One of my all time personal favorites is Will Eisner: Portrait of a Sequential Artist. The 2010 film is a complete encompassing of the life of this master storyteller. This award-winning full-length feature documentary tells the story of one of the most influential creators in comics. While watching it you will be blown away by just how much Eisner did to impact the industry. If I had to pick just one documentary to watch, this would be the one.

A very close second is In Search Of Steve Ditko. The man behind the original art of Spider-Man, Ditko is a complete mystery of a man. This documentary attempts to unravel that aura and is a roller coaster ride of emotions. 

Back in 2014 She Makes Comics came out and took the viewer on a journey through the history of the female comic book creator. Director Marisa Stotter shares an eye-opening documentary through the 1900s with input from a number of legendary creators, editors, and publishers. It’s become even more timely with the current state of the industry today.

Do you know who Bill Finger is? You will after watching Batman & Bill, a documentary that puts the spotlight on the exclusion of the late Bill Finger as co-creator of Batman. Yes, while Bob Kane is the name you think of most when it comes to the creation of the Dark Knight, it was Finger who designed Batman and his world. This one will have you shaking your head in disbelief.

Two that I’ve been told over and over that I need to see is Grant Morrison: Talking With Gods and The Mindscape of Alan Moore. I’ve seen trailers and clips, and they are on my list to see in the very near future.

While not mentioned as much as the others, R. Crumb is the King of the underground comic scene and Crumb sets out to show you why. Inspirational yet depressing, this is an unflinching look at a brilliant man.

The Image Revolution is a fun look at Image and goes deeper than the SYFY one, I still feel more could be mined from one of the craziest periods in comic book history. Still, it takes me back to the days when I got most of my behind-the-scenes news from Wizard Magazine and that usually left me with more questions than answers.

Another one that I’ve not seen, but need to asap, is Comic Books Unbound. This comes highly recommended as one of the better ones about the history of comics. With interviews with Guillermo Del Toro, Stan Lee, Neal Adams, Ron Perlman, Mike Mignola, Paul Pope, Jim Steranko and a host of others, this looks like a fun ride.

If you haven’t seen it, put Necessary Evil: Super-Villains of DC Comics on your list, as it covers both the baddies and the people behind them. One that I’ve seen but don’t remember well is Superheroes Decoded and plan on watching it again soon.

One that I have seen that covers the industry well is Comix: Beyond the Comic Book Pages. It gives the focus to the legends like Stan Lee, Neal Adams, Frank Miller, Mark Waid, Marc Silvestri, John Romita Jr., Steve Niles, and others. It also covers more than just Marvel and DC.

What about you? Is Superheroes: A Never-Ending Battle on your list? Which comic book documentary do you recommend?

That’s all the time I have. See you next week!