Superheroes: A Never Ending Battle (DVD review).

When I read ‘Superheroes!’ written by Laurence Maslon and Michael Kantor, I said I would look at the 2013 TV series it was based on, available on this DVD, ‘Superheroes: A Never Ending Battle’. Hosted by actor Liev Schreiber, we get the history of the American super-hero starting from Superman, with a little jumping around to other characters, before looking at Batman, Captain Marvel, Wonder Woman and Captain America, with a variety of comicbook creators and researchers giving their opinions and that’s only the first episode.

Apart from the lapses to the other multitude of comicbook companies from the period, you would have to know your subject to ponder on what is missed. I was surprised at the absence of the Phantom, considering that apart from the Shadow who is covered, Lee Falk’s character both in the pulps and comicbook strips does appear before Batman. Then again, I do have problems as with what just is ‘the American Way’ when success comes to commerce and dollar signs.

The second episode focuses on the growth of Marvel Comics and issues that revised the Comics Code Authority and its stance on drugs. The comparison between Marvel and DC characters with the former dealing with more human problems did make me think. One other significant thing was because Marvel characters with the exception of Captain America, started in the 1960s, they had no associated baggage that DC characters had.

The emphasis of the third episode is more on violence, gay marriage with a tad of event comics and the future of comicbooks using examples from Watchmen, X-Men, death of Superman and Spawn.

I made a comment when I reviewed the book version there was a singular absence of the likes of DC Comics best-selling (Teen) Titans, Legion Of Super-Heroes or the British competition, let alone anything not super-hero but I think this has more to do with just how much can you slot into 150 minutes. Something that I did find a bonus is seeing and hearing some of the creators speak. Not all of us go to comic conventions and such, so it does give some face value and what they sound like.

What was the biggest surprise was the nine extras that could be watched as a whole lasting 46 minutes and if you watched the series in the USA, you might not have seen. Let’s dig out some highlights:-

Lynda Carter explores the change of women’s roles during World War 2 and who didn’t want to do back to being just housewives. Most telling is her saying there is nothing in the American Constitution in recognising women.

Jules Feiffer explores comicbooks gave optimism in the American recession.

Eddie Friedfeld explores how the Superman radio show added so much to the comicbook by coming up with Jimmy Olsen, Daily Planet and Perry White and allowing Superman to fly.

Stan Lee goes over the origins of Spider-Man in the real world, the Silver Surfer philosophical observations before explaining Jack Kirby’s dynamic art and the expression of physical emotion.

Jerry Robinson was inking Batman and became one of its writers creating the Joker and Robin, whom he called ‘the boy’.

Joe Simon discusses Jack Kirby, whom he partnered for several years.

Jack Urbont composed songs for the 60s Marvel animation shows and for this extra sings the Hulk, Iron Man, Captain America, Sub-Mariner and Thor. With a different pianist, he then sings the Merry Marvel Marching Society song. Priceless.

Michael Uslan goes over the first 1964 New York Comic Convention and how cosplay started there. In case you didn’t know, he was the producer of the 1986 ‘Batman’ film and goes over some of its history.

Finally, Adam West goes over violence in films saying it is getting far more excessive than it needs to. He draws these extras to a close about the importance of super-heroes and wish fulfilment.

If that doesn’t encourage any of you to pick up the few remaining copies of this DVD that are out there, I don’t know.

GF Willmetts

September 2020

(region DVD: pub: PBS, 2013. 1 DVD: 180 minutes, 3*55 minute episodes plus extras. Price: I pulled my copy for about £11.50 (UK). ISBN: 978-1-60883-974-2)

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