SLPBS:Superheroes: A Never-Ending Battle
October 17, 2013 6:04 PM   Subscribe

Superheroes: A Never-Ending Battle

Here's a would-be documentary miniseries that PBS has buried in a single 3-hour bloc. It conatains the perspective that has been lost in all of the reimaginings and reboots durinng the last 15 years. It will broadcast in repeats during the nest 2 weeks, or you can watch it online.
posted by vhsiv (21 comments total) 26 users marked this as a favorite
Variety review.
posted by vhsiv at 6:08 PM on October 17, 2013

"We're sorry, but this video is not available in your region due to right restrictions." Huh! Wrong restrictions, if you ask me.
posted by unliteral at 7:32 PM on October 17, 2013 [3 favorites]

My wife and I caught it last night, and enjoyed it. It doesn't go nearly as deep as I was hoping, but it hits the main plot points, addresses some historical inequities in the comics industry, and raises some smiles and good memories.

The segment featuring Alan Moore was the apex of the miniseries for me, because it signaled a shift from superhero-as-demigod to superhero-as-flawed-and/or-imbalanced-individual. That's about when I returned to comics, and started devouring every Vertigo title I could get my hands on.

Nearly every one of the artists, writers, superheroes, comics, seminal issues and concepts deserves its own show or miniseries. Maybe the appetite (and funding) is there for more in-depth studies -- the audience certainly is.
posted by vverse23 at 7:57 PM on October 17, 2013

Here's the AV Club review.
posted by whir at 7:57 PM on October 17, 2013

I really liked the first half. I tried watching the second half on my tablet and the damn thing wouldn't allow me to full-screen it.

Whatever web player PBS is using is pretty shit.

I heard someone talking about the Morrison / Moore interviews, and that's what made me really want to see it!
posted by codacorolla at 7:59 PM on October 17, 2013

Heh. My new public library gig has given me domain over graphic novel purchases (also, all adult fiction). I'll give this a watch and hope I can pin some purchases on it to tie together a History of Comics display in the future. What are the Top 5 (currently in print) collections that represent the Gold, Silver, Bronze, Modern, and Now ages?
posted by robocop is bleeding at 8:07 PM on October 17, 2013 [1 favorite]

I like the idea of anything broadcast on PBS as being "buried".
posted by jscott at 9:04 PM on October 17, 2013

And once again we have a post where the entire content is not available to the approximately 1 in 4 users of the site that don't happen to live in your country. It's not like this is a surprise, PBS content is always country restricted (given it's a television station for your one country), so even a small amount of thought before posting would have made it obvious this was going to happen. How is this best of the web?
posted by shelleycat at 2:53 AM on October 18, 2013

I get the Hatfield criticisms, but an awful lot of them come down to "this should have been a history of comics instead of a history of superheroes." It's not -- it's a history of superheroes. (I also would disagree with his characterization of how it treats Kirby, but that's opinion stuff.) An attempt to do comics in three hours would have been even worse, in terms of completeness, and would have left people feeling even more wronged.

It's not for comics experts; it's just not. It's a survey course for non-experts, and as such, yes, it's incomplete. But I think it's a pretty accessible way in for people who want to understand how pop culture works in general.
posted by Linda_Holmes at 5:04 AM on October 18, 2013

shelleycat, it's a slightly dodgy 3-hour documenary that PBS snuck on the air without promotion whlle the 3rd episode of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. was airing on ABC.

It seems as though PBS was heddging its bets against reaching their intended audience, which makes it even more controversial.

In another few days, Superheroes will be repeated and some devoted viewer(s) will upload the documentary to YouTube and torrent it. Now you, outside the US, know that the show exists and can look for it. This is one of the informative aspects of Metafilter.
posted by vhsiv at 5:07 AM on October 18, 2013 [2 favorites]

I found it interesting because it is a light thumbnail sketch of this history. I was into the mutant titles in the late 80's/early 90's, and held on to them for far too long hoping for a return on investment that will probably never arrive. I have recently gotten back into it through graphic novels, although generally not the superhero ones, so seeing a lot of stuff I had heard about pulled together into a narrative was fun.
posted by Badgermann at 5:10 AM on October 18, 2013

[Further discussion of the geolocking problem would be better in Metatalk; thanks.]
posted by taz (staff) at 5:58 AM on October 18, 2013

I wanted to like this, and there are some good stories, and mildly interesting insights, but on the whole it was too brief and had too many movie clips. Acting like the movies are of a piece with the original comics is distracting and factually wrong. In fact the movies, even something like Superman 1, are totally uninteresting, worthy only of a passing mention. It's like obsessing over Tattoo You and skimming the history of Exile on Main St.

Also, sure there is a difference between superheros and comics, but underground comics are a vital part of the story of superheros. No Wonder Wart-Hog = no Howard the Duck = no Chaykin= no Alan Moore = no Dark Knight.

This is like a history of Rock And Roll that ignores funk, punk and reggae. The BBC would have done a much better job.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 7:04 AM on October 18, 2013

I wasn't too interested in this because superheroes, meh, but the AV Club review upthread mentions that it includes Trina Robbins, whose books introduced me to much of the real history of women comic artists and female characters, and so, I must watch.
posted by emjaybee at 10:00 AM on October 18, 2013

Why does PBS hate this show? On their iPad app, they have the three episodes listed in reverse order.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 11:24 AM on October 18, 2013

I don't know a whole lot about comics, but I fall into a similar camp: liked the first 3rd because I'd never really learned about early comics history. The more it got into stuff I've read the less I liked it, which made me question liking the first 3rd.

Not talking about the controversial content of Image and just representing it as being "darker" than the two major houses seems sort of silly. Stopping revolutionary comics at Frank Miller and Alan Moore seems sort of silly. Not talking about underground comics and their influence on Alan Moore seems very silly. Sort of disappointing.
posted by codacorolla at 11:29 AM on October 18, 2013

They could have found a way to shoehorn Dream in as a superhero.
posted by whuppy at 12:44 PM on October 18, 2013

My local PBS ran Wonder Woman! The Untold Story of American Superheroines right after, which filled in the feminism gaps fairly well.

(and also made me cry, dammit.)
posted by emjaybee at 2:04 PM on October 19, 2013

posted by vhsiv at 1:33 AM on October 20, 2013

Charles Hatfield had some pretty substantial criticisms.
read that as including the name of A Certain Spaceman.
I was disappointed.

I just got finished spear-fishing this from international waters, argh!, and I loved it. Moore and Morrison I knew well, and Lee, but Claremont and Wolfman, and Infantimo, and Conway and.... my gods, they looked not what I imagined.

Steranko was Steranko. He looks like his Twitter.

I enjoyed it. It was nice to see stuff I knew against stuff I didn't (US race relations) and the people who created it, and why.
posted by Mezentian at 8:02 AM on October 28, 2013

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