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.

Documentary Review: Comic Book Confidential (1988)

Release Date: September 10th, 1988 (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.