Sunday, September 18, 2016

Superhero Media: Superheroes - A Never-Ending Battle

Another fun discovery on a streaming service, this time, my 30-day free trial of Stan, Superheroes: A Never-Ending Battle was a fun little diversion for a few episodes, even if I was hearing stuff I already knew for the most part. Hosted by Liev Schreiber, best associated with superheroes through his lackluster performance in the lackluster X-Men Origins: Wolverine, the programme goes through the major salient points of comics history, only missing out several major players like Dark Horse and Image Comics, the Speculator Boom and Golden Age icons Fletcher Hanks and Lee Falk. Now that I think about it, no Scarlet Pimpernel or Nyctalope, either, what a waste of an opportunity. What we do get is still pretty good though, interviews with Stan Lee, Lynda Carter and Jim Steranko, the Golden, Silver and Iron Ages in broad strokes, and recognition that Richard Donner's Superman is a masterpiece. However, by far the greatest moment of the series is when Adam West reads the "every punk has a mother" speech from The Dark Knight Returns; check this shit out: 

This is what my dreams sound like. 

If terms such as "Golden Age" and "Lee/Kirby" go over your head, Superheroes: A Never-Ending Battle is worth a watch, it's clearly designed for those without a categorical knowledge, so that they may catch up a little, rather than be drowned by the missed references in the next round of summer superhero blockbusters. That kind of explains Schreiber, actually, he's reconisable, but not such a big name that this PBS doco couldn't afford him. Makes sense that Stan Lee was up for it, his dedication to the industry is almost pathological, though it's good to see Jim Steranko, an iconic visionary of the medium, get some of the props he's owed. Seriously, read the 1960s Nick Fury: Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. and prepare to be blown away by the high-concept spy-fy and pop art sensibilities. 

As with most superhero "history" lessons, Superheroes: A Never-Ending Battle is almost entirely American-centric, missing out Marvelman, Judge Dredd and the countless French avant-garde supers that never hit the mainstream. Missing Falk and Hanks feels like something of an insult, though The Phantom is only still popular in a handful of markets and explaining Stardust and Fantomah to a contemporary audience will always be difficult. There are some gems to be found in the programme and a quick look indicates that the entirety can be found on YouTube, so check it out, at least for the Steranko and West interviews and the most concise explanation of why no actor will ever surpass Christopher Reeve as Superman

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