Expect a few postings in the next few days from me. I have an extended break from school/work, and I have a number of topics I want to discuss that I just haven’t had time to write out in the last few weeks.
First off, I just watched the Ryan Reynolds-narrated Secret Origin: The Story of DC Comics DVD that was released in early November.
As documentaries go, this one was great. The part that stands out the most to me, after watching it twice, is the way the history of the comics follows history in general. We see how the comics changed in storytelling during World War II, and how the end of the war–which falls in with the Golden Age–signified a low point in comics. This was also in part to the publication of Seduction of the Innocent by Frederic Wertham during that same time period.
Then comes the Silver Age, and the first generation of creators who were, as someone (I can’t remember who) proclaimed, getting into the business because that’s what they really wanted to do. These were the same creators who grew up reading the adventures of Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman and decided that they wanted to do that when they grew up.
One of my favorite segments during the documentary is Denny O’Neil talking about Wonder Woman’s “Mod” make-over during the 60’s and how he was responsible for it. He reminisced that Gloria Steinem wrote an article in Ms. magazine for its inaugural issue (that had Wonder Woman on the cover) saying that the current incarnation that he created was stupid and that she should be returned to her original state. O’Neil admitted that he was wrong in making the change, thanked Steinem for not mentioning him by name, then apologized once again, saying it was a stupid idea. Hindsight is 20/20, I guess.
The narration is very free-flowing, following the history of comics at DC and how the creators changed the characters to fit the times, creating characters that will always have a place in culture, no matter what format they appear in.
Of all the creators who appear in the film, one of my favorites has to be that of Louise Simonson, who is probably most famous for her work on the Superman books. In some of the earliest discussions of Superman, in the first 20 minutes of the documentary, her comments on Lois Lane are that of genuine love of the character. She mentions that one of the great things about Lois when she first came along was her tenacity and her “go get-em” style. On the other hand, Simonson also shares her severe dislike of the character assassination Lois went through during the 1950s when the “Superman’s Girlfriend Lois Lane” title was in its hey day. While many characters might find those stories funny, Simonson hated them, saying that everything she loved about the character was gone. She (Lois) was no longer the tenacious investigative reporter, but instead a love-sick puppy who only cared about impressing Superman.
Most lovable about Simonson’s comments throughout the course of the film is her comments during the “Death of Superman” arc. I won’t go into detail on this, because I really do believe that if you love Superman even just a little bit, her comments will stick with you.
And that’s what solidified my opinion on this film, was her love for the characters. Overall, these are people who really wanted to entertain others, so much so that they put their hearts and souls into what they wrote or drew. It’s (the documentary) is well written, and Ryan Reynolds is smooth in his delivery of the history. Though, you can hear his voice lift every so slightly whenever Green Lantern is mentioned. I guess I can let it slide…just this once.
Ultimately, this is worth getting if you like the “how did we get to this point?” aspect. All the bases seem to have been covered, making this a great way to celebrate 75 years of DC Comics.