Documentary Review: So Much Damage: How Image Comics Changed the World (2017)

Original Run: November 20th, 2017
Directed by: Jon Erwin
Written by: Michael Avila
Music by: Paul Terry

Syfy, 5 Episodes, 15 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

This is the second documentary I have seen on Image Comics but this isn’t just a rehash of what was already covered in the slightly superior The Image Revolution.

This one was broken out into five 15 minute web episodes and put out by Syfy, who used to be the much cooler Sci-Fi Channel before they changed their channel’s spelling into something stupid.

Anyway, like The Image Revolution this documentary interviews all the key players and gets their stories. But what I like most about this is how it spends a good deal of time talking more about modern Image Comics and not just the revolution of 1991. As cool as that revolt was, modern Image has grown into something that I don’t feel any of the founding members could have fathomed back then.

It’s always fun to hear these guys talk about themselves, their experiences and the creation of Image, as it was a really exciting thing for me to experience as a fan in 1991. It was and still is the coolest thing that happened in the comic book industry in my lifetime.

So this certainly stirs up nostalgia but that doesn’t mean that this survives on that alone. It’s informative, has a good pace and is well organized and presented.

Younger comic book fans today will probably find some value in this, even though it’s made to attract the older fans who remember all of this like it was yesterday.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: The Image Revolution and Chris Claremont’s X-Men.

 

TV Review: The Comic Book Greats: Episode 5 – Spotlight on Harvey Kurtzman & Jack Davis (1992)

Released: 1992
Created by: Stan Lee
Directed by: Rick Stawinski
Music by: Rick Stawinski, Rob Stawinski
Cast: Stan Lee (host), Harvey Kurtzman, Jack Davis

Excelsior Productions, Stabur Home Video, 45 Minutes

Review:

This episode of The Comic Book Greats was the first one released in 1992 and was also the first episode of the second run of video releases.

Like the previous episodes, it features Stan Lee as host and interviewer. Here, he brings in legends and friends, Harvey Kurtzman and Jack Davis.

What’s sad about watching this one, is that Kurtzman passed away shortly after this. I’m not sure if this is his last appearance but I’d assume that it probably is. While I enjoyed seeing him here and how he and Stan took friendly jabs at one another, he seemed a bit slower than the other two men on screen.

Sadly, Kurtzman didn’t create any art in this episode but Stan did get Davis to sit down and crank out a couple fun sketches.

This was a slower episode than most but it was still worth watching if you care about comics, cartoonists and artists. Stan does a great job of carrying the show, as the other two men, as talented as they are, don’t have the same level of charisma as Stan.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: other episodes in The Comic Book Greats video series.

Book Review: ‘Excelsior!: The Amazing Life of Stan Lee’ by Stan Lee and George Mair

With Stan Lee passing away recently, I wanted to finally read his autobiography, as I’ve had it for quite some time.

Overall, this was a good and informative read. The highlight is reading Stan’s stories, told in his own words.

The only real negative about this book is that it had a co-writer. While that’s okay and most autobiographies have co-writers, I didn’t like the style in which it was done.

There would be long sections written by Stan, himself, and then long sections spliced in by the other writer, George Mair, in an effort to add more context. I certainly appreciate the extra clarity but it made this a disjointed read.

When I read Don Cherry’s biography, I loved that it was Don Cherry speaking to me as Don Cherry. It was tightened up or edited to come off as cleaner and more academic, it felt as if the entire book was the man talking to me. I heard Cherry’s voice in my head, which made it a really fun experience. I had that same experience here, as I read Stan’s words, but it was always broken up.

I don’t want to sound like I’m hating on the book, as it is a must read for fans of Stan. It is his life’s story, it covers a lot of ground but I feel like it could have been presented better.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: other comic industry biographies but most notably, “Kirby: King of Comics” by Mark Evanier.

TV Review: The Comic Book Greats: Episode 4 – Overkill with Todd McFarlane and Rob Liefeld (1991)

Released: 1991
Created by: Stan Lee
Directed by: Rick Stawinski
Music by: Rick Stawinski, Rob Stawinski
Cast: Stan Lee (host), Todd McFarlane, Rob Liefeld

Excelsior Productions, Stabur Home Video, 26 Minutes

Review:

Revisiting this video series from my childhood has been a lot of fun. In fact, this episode is a real highlight in this series, even if it only clocks in at a scant 26 minutes. But unlike me in the early ’90s, you don’t need to spend half of your allowance on this episode just to see it, as these are all streaming on YouTube for free… assuming they don’t get pulled down, at some point.

The first two episodes in this series were interviews with comic book legends Todd McFarlane and Rob Liefeld, this brings both of them back in an effort to create a new character, as dictated to them by Stan Lee.

What’s funny about this, is that this character named Overkill eventually showed up under the name Overt-Kill in Todd McFarlane’s Spawn about a year later. I’m assuming the name alteration, change of color scheme and some artistic tweaking saved McFarlane and Liefeld from any legal shenanigans, as Stan Lee did come up with the name and had some other creative input.

Anyway, this was really fun to watch, especially for me, as I was an aspiring comic book artist the first time I saw this. Todd, Rob and Stan talked through the process and I learned a lot from their insight here and I think any aspiring comic book artist would find this just as useful as I did back in 1991.

This is just a really engaging and fun video series. I’m still glad that Stan Lee did this way back in the day and even if it feels dated, the knowledge gained from these episodes isn’t.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: other episodes in The Comic Book Greats video series.

TV Review: The Comic Book Greats: Episode 3 – Spotlight on Sergio Aragonés (1991)

Released: 1991
Created by: Stan Lee
Directed by: Rick Stawinski
Music by: Rick Stawinski, Rob Stawinski
Cast: Stan Lee (host), Sergio Aragonés

Excelsior Productions, Stabur Home Video, 51 Minutes

Review:

This is one of The Comic Book Greats videos that I didn’t own. When I was twelve, I didn’t know much about Sergio Aragonés. However, as I got older and learned who he was, I found out that I had enjoyed his work from Mad Magazine and his long running Marvel comic book series, Groo the Wanderer.

So this was the first time that I checked out this episode. I’m glad I did, though, as Aragonés was very personable and you could see that he and Stan lee were very fond of each other.

Aragonés is more of a cartoonist than the typical comic book artist of the time. He talks about his style and how life led him down the path that saw him eventually work for Mad and Marvel.

He also talked about growing up and moving from Spain to France to Mexico and then the United States. Stan joked around about how many languages Aragonés knew and how he can be difficult to understand in all of them. They exchanged some fun old school ribbing.

The highlight of the Aragonés interview is when Sergio went to the drawing table and created several pieces with almost lightning fast speed.

This was a fun installment and I enjoyed it more than I expected. Aragonés is a unique talent, skilled in his style and it was cool seeing someone outside of the more popular Marvel creators or better known legends get his own episode in this series.

But as Stan Lee said in the beginning, Sergio Aragonés is the guy he really wanted to interview for this series.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: other episodes in The Comic Book Greats video series.

 

Documentary Review: Comic Book Confidential (1988)

Release Date: September 10th, 1989 (Toronto Film Festival)
Directed by: Ron Mann
Written by: Charles Lippincott, Ron Mann
Music by: various
Cast: Jack Kirby, Stan Lee, Frank Miller, Sue Coe, Robert Crumb, Will Eisner, Al Feldstein, William M. Gaines, Harvey Kurtzman, Harvey Pekar

Sphinx Productions, Cinecom Pictures, 90 Minutes

Review:

This might be the best documentary on comic book history ever made, even if it is thirty years old and might feel a bit dated now.

I first found this as a kid around 1990 or so. A guy that used to work at my local video store gave me his personal copy to borrow and I had to copy it, which I did and then enjoyed for years until the tape warped to shit. I then got it again via a torrent site but finally, all these years later, I now own an actual copy of it.

I was inspired to watch this again, after checking out the commentary done by Ed Piskor and Jim Rugg on their Cartoonist Kayfabe channel on YouTube. Everyone that’s into comics should check them out, by the way. It’s one of my favorite channels to watch at the moment and I’ve thought about writing about it, as well as a few other channels I enjoy.

Anyway, I love everything about this documentary. All the interviews are pretty engaging and pull you in. It spends time on a bunch of comic book creators from the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s. Everyone gets their time to talk about their work and their creative style.

This also has great music sprinkled throughout and fantastic editing techniques that still look great and that more documentary filmmakers could benefit from using. Creatively, the execution of this documentary felt ahead of its time and honestly, that’s probably why it sucked me in when I was eleven years-old.

Comic Book Confidential also came out in a time when I was drawing my own comic books. This, along with The Comic Book Greats video series, which I’ve also been reviewing episode by episode, were great resources for me as a kid that was trying his hand at the comic book medium.

The highlights for me were seeing Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, Will Eisner and Harvey Kurtzman talking about their craft. This also made me a fan of the work of Frank Miller, Harvey Pekar and Robert Crumb. It was also my introduction to Sue Coe, who a lot of my straightedge and vegan friends in my teen years were hardcore fans of.

Comic Book Confidential is, hands down, a must own or at the very least, a must see documentary for long-time fans of the comic book medium. Solid, through and through, and its also a fun and interesting experience.

Rating: 8.5/10
Pairs well with: other comic book documentaries reviewed on this site: In Search of Steve Ditko, The Image Revolution and Chris Claremont’s X-Men just to name a few.

TV Review: The Comic Book Greats: Episode 2 – Spotlight on Rob Liefeld (1991)

Released: 1991
Created by: Stan Lee
Directed by: Rick Stawinski
Music by: Rick Stawinski, Rob Stawinski
Cast: Stan Lee (host), Rob Liefeld

Excelsior Productions, Stabur Home Video, 40 Minutes

Review:

Since I really liked revisiting the first episode in this series, which featured Todd McFarlane, I definitely felt the urge to revisit this one with Rob Liefeld. Besides, I’m trying to work my way through all of these, as there were many I hadn’t seen back in the early ’90s and the ones I own, haven’t been played in years because PlayStations doesn’t play VHS tapes.

This one is like the previous one in that it is hosted by Stan Lee and he interviews a single comic book pro: Rob Liefeld.

Liefeld talks about what inspired him to get into comics and the really unorthodox story at how he got his foot in the door, which seemed really easy compared to the stories of other pros.

This also gives a good rundown of his art style, his creations and also his earliest work on DC Comics’ Hawk & Dove, as well as Marvel’s The New Mutants and X-Force titles.

While Rob would go on to help found Image Comics a year later, along with McFarlane and others, there isn’t any mention or allusion to that here. Well, other than Rob drawing Diehard, who would become a character in Youngblood. I think that more Image stuff does come up in later videos, however, as Stan Lee has a few of the other Image creators in later episodes and Liefeld and McFarlane also return in one of the 1992 video releases.

I love revisiting these, thus far. I hope the other installments continue to be as engaging. Especially, since some of the later episodes feature some old school legends.

Rating: 7.75/10
Pairs well with: other episodes in The Comic Book Greats video series.