Traveler, writer, reviewer, all-round observer. I like anything cool & fast, but occasionally sit at a cafe watching the world go by.
SUPERHEROES! DOCUMENTARY AND COMPANION VOLUME DEBUT AT THE NY COMIC CON 2013
written by Aki Solomos -Oct. 13, 2013
Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Spiderman, The Hulk, Captain America…I can go on and on with a plethora of superheroes. Writer/Historian Laurence Maslon, and Producer/Director/Writer Michael Kantor teamed up to create a documentary series called Superheroes!, taking a look at superheroes from the last 75 years (which will air this Tuesday Oct.15, 2013 on PBS). Along with the documentary, they came up with a companion volume to the series, a 300 page book, also called Superheroes!, which covers everything you want to know about them (published this past Oct.1 by Crown Archetype -a subsidiary of Random House).
I asked Laurence, “What made you start this project?” “Well, I was always a comic fan since the Batman series in the 60’s. I was a collector and have gone to comic book conventions, but when I went off to college, I kind of forgot about it for a while. It’s great to have worked on this project and get back into the swing of things.”
I then asked, “How long have you been working on this project?” “We’ve been working on this for about 5 years, and took about a year to write the book.” This isn’t the first time Laurence and Michael worked together. Their previous project was called Broadway, the American Musical also for PBS in 2004.
Michael, on the other hand, was never a major “fan boy” as he was growing up, but the history of superheroes is a unique American story which definitely caught his interest and thought it would make a great documentary series for public television. PBS thought so as well and financed the project. NY Comic Con had some forums discussing the possibility of having courses on comic books and superheroes in the classrooms. I asked Michael and Laurence what do they think of this approach. “Well, as Larry pointed out earlier, ‘with great power, comes great respectability.’ And at long last, these guys who were changing their names and feeling terrible about their positions in the world are getting the respect they deserve. So whether the Hollywood boom will keep up or not, it feels as though superheroes are now part of our culture, and that’s not going to change.”
Another question I asked, “What do you think about the phenomenon of their popularity, whereas for a long time it was seen as something for “geeks and nerds” to have this interest, but now it is much more mainstream.” “Well, in our documentary, noted writer Mark Waid had a very good explanation of when superheroes flourished. It’s in times when our culture is anxious, whether it’s during The Depression, the Atomic Age in the 60’s, and even now with terrorism, is when we’re looking for heroic models and we can invest ourselves in them in a way. So that, coupled with film technology, which can make people fly, become invisible, go under doors, and so on, makes a really good combination.”
Something I had to ask them, “From all this research you’ve done for this documentary and book, do you have a favorite superhero?” Michael answered, “Spiderman, definitely!” Laurence’s is more classic, “I go way back, Doc Savage. I always liked him. He was more of a do-it-yourselfer.”
My final departing question, “Before I let you gentlemen go, ComicsCrux has a lot of readers and followers, ranging from the common enthusiasts to even writers and artists, as well as those wanting to break into the industry. Do you have any words of wisdom for them?” Laurence spoke out, “I would say it’s good to know your comic book history, like our book, but doesn’t hurt to know Shakespeare, who was Stan Lee’s greatest influences. There’s also Homer’s The Odyssey, The Iliad, and all the past great works. It’s all about great story-telling. You can be a great artist, a fan, but the characters that we’ve learned that has stayed in the game are the ones that has great stories to tell. So I would encourage anyone to learn how to tell a great story.” Michael added, “I’d echo what Larry said, which is the more you learn about the history of what the different great creators did, the better off you are in terms of figuring where to go to now.”
As Michael stressed to me, if you’re interested in learning more of the documentary, not only can you catch it on PBS this Tuesday Oct. 15, which by the way, they’re thrilled to have Liev Schreiber, who played Sabretooth in Wolverine Origins, as the host and narrator, but a big conversation was started on Twitter -you can find it at #superheroespbs. I don’t know about you, but I certainly will catch it!