Comic Book Confidential

A find, more than a find, A treasure-trove. Don't say you're bored by comic books. Wait. Ron Mann's documentary may make you an addict. See it if only to prepare for the onslaught of comics-derived movies that starts this month with Batman and will continue through Spiderman, Brenda Starr, Archie, Boris & Natasha and Dick Tracy.

In 1954, a Senate subcommittee called comic books "an important contributing factor in juvenile delinquency." Mann thinks they're an art form. His remarkable film includes archival footage, animation and interviews with twenty-two artists and writers who have helped build a $1-billion-a-year industry.

The film begins with Jack Kirby's patriotic, World War II-era Captain America. As Kirby says, "What I was doing was putting my dreams down on paper." William M. Gaines's dreams were less wholesome. The Gaines horror comics (Weird Fantasy, The Crypt of Terror) drew congressional ire, forcing him to work around government censorship. His subversive spirit paved the way for such underground cartoonists as Stan Lee (Marvel superheroes), R. Crumb (Fritz the Cat) and Dan O'Neill, whose parody of Mickey Mouse in Air Pirates had him charged in court by Disney for "defiling Mickey's innocent delightfulness."

Today's artists, including Art Spiegelman (Maus) and Jaime Hernandez (Love and Rockets), have taken comics to further levels of self-expression. They owe a good deal to these pioneers. Comic Book Confidential lets you see why. In the process, you'll be educated, enthralled and royally entertained.

From The Archives Issue 555: June 29, 1989