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Top 10 Comic Book Documentaries - HOOKED ON COMIX!!!!!

Top 10 Comic Book Documentaries  
craveonline Iann Robinson

Most older comic book fans are not just interested in reading comics; they also want to learn about the medium. Over the years many comic book documentaries have been released covering everything from the heyday to the dark times and all ages in between. I’ve compiled what I feel are the ten best comic book documentaries. Most of these are available either at your local video store, online or through the dark underbelly of bootlegs. Being the time of giving if any of our readers can think of one I forgot please let me know.

10. Comic Books Unbound

This is the newest and most current documentary about comics and it’s a pretty good one. Instead of looking simply at the history of comics CBU looks in depth at the influence comic books have had on movies. From the early serials to The Dark Knight this documentary has it all.

Interviews include Guillermo Del Toro, Stan Lee, Neal Adams, Ron Perlman, Mike Mignola, Paul Pope, Jim Steranko and a host of others. One of the best sections is when Roger Corman explains the origin of the little seen Corman Fantastic Four. Really amazing stuff.

09. Look, Up In The Sky! The Amazing Story Of Superman

Even if you don’t like superhero comics there is no denying the historical importance of Superman. This hugely entertaining and informative documentary traces every single step of the Superman legacy. Going back before his creation to tell the story of Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster who first thought of and created the Man Of Steel.

Narrated by Kevin Spacey Look Up In The Sky features interviews with folks from Superman’s TV days, comic book writers and artists who worked on him, Richard Donner and the others who brought the Superman to life through movies and new TV shows, this has everything. It literally takes you right up to the door of Superman Returns, which was the last real movement in the Superman pop culture phenomenon. This is the kind of documentary you can watch with your dad and he’ll fucking dig it too.

08. Frank Frazetta: Painting With Fire

Anybody who loves Frank Frazetta must own this documentary and those who don’t know him should run out and buy it. A really comprehensive look back at the career of one of not just comic books but art’s great talents. Detailed interviews and archival footage show his rise from nobody painter to the man behind the art of Conan to one of the modern masters.

This film not only shows who Frazetta is but also how his style grew and changed over the years. One of my favorite sections is when Frazetta sits talking to the camera during an interview while painting this incredible painting. Very inspiring and simply a must have.

07. Hooked On Comix: Life On The Cutting Edge Of An All-American Artform

This documentary released in the mid-nineties chronicles the re-birth of the independent comic book movement. These are the people that took the reigns from Crumb, Spain, Harvey Pekar and others to make sure that the independent spirit didn’t crumble or die. Hooked On Comix features interviews with Peter Bagge (Hate Comics), Daniel Clowes (Ghost World), Roberta Gregory (Naughty Bits), Jamie Hernandez (Love And Rockets), and a dozen more major talents in the world of comic books. The interviews are very relaxed and informative as well as very honest.

This film shows the ups and downs of being an indie comic artist not willing to deal with the big two of DC and Marvel. Getting by on talent, gumption and a belief in what they are creating these artists show why they are the future of the medium.

06. The Mindscape Of Alan Moore

Only recently released in the states this documentary is everything you’ve ever wanted to know about the man behind The Watchmen, V For Vendetta, The Killing Joke and so many other comic book classics. There is nothing on this two-hour plus DVD than Alan Moore discussing everything from his start in comics to his love of magic.

There are no bells and whistles; in fact the camera never seems to move. I say this only to warn you that this is for the die hard Alan Moore fans who love the idea of sitting and watching the man talk about himself and his craft. Personally I loved it and have watched it several times. There are friends of mine who hated every minute so go figure.

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05. Comic Book Heroes Unmasked

The History Channel rolled this two-hour documentary out to coincide with the release of League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen the movie. Though that dates it this is still a kick ass film that goes incredibly in-depth to the world of Superheroes and their origins. Interviews with everyone from Frank Miller to Joe Quesada to Steranko to Stan Lee outline the history of comics from simple strips in the 30s to the massive juggernaut they are now.

To me this is the “training wheels” documentary that all new comic fans should get. It’s extremely detailed but done so in a very accessible way allowing even the newest comic book fan to enjoy it.

04: Crumb

To me R. Crumb is the most important man to come out of the underground comic book scene since its inception. This documentary is a fucking ball buster in its unflinching look at the man warts and all. Watching Crumb talk with his two brothers is some of the most heartbreaking stuff I have ever bore witness to.

The camera becomes almost non-existent as it follows Crumb through his days dealing with his son, fans and his time just spent sitting around drawing. If you’re a huge Crumb fan like myself or you’re new to his brilliance, you’ll love this documentary. Inspiring, depressing and packed with more drama than any big Hollywood movie this is an incredible story of an incredible artist.

03. In Search Of Steve Ditko

Is there anybody out there that isn’t a fan of Steve Ditko? The legend behind the original art of Spider-Man Ditko is a legend, an enigma and a bonafide genius. Having walked away from Spider-Man and comics at large Ditko remains a talent shrouded in mystery. This documentary tries to pick apart the mystery and find the man behind the work. Funny, touching and often exhilarating this is one of my favorite documentaries not just about comics but ever.

The only issue with this is that is was made for BBC Television so finding an American compatible version is next to impossible. You can get bootlegs and I suggest you do. If not you can find it on the Internet if you do some digging. However you get it, make sure you check it out.

02: Comic Book Confidential

This is the bible of underground comic books and their history. Starting with the first true independent comic company EC Comics and taking us up through the mid-eighties hey day this documentary is a treasure to love for all time. Interviews with everybody from Jack Kirby to Harvey Kurtzman to Crumb to Harvey Pekar and on down the list this is as close to perfect as you’ll ever find a comic book film.

The DVD features an intro by Kevin Smith (which I fast forwarded through) as well as a physical comic book featuring art from everybody represented in the film. If I had one complaint it’s that this is so filled with artists it doesn’t allow for enough depth for me. That being said anybody with a need to understand comic books must own this.

01: Masters Of Comic Book Art

It was a tough call between this and Comic Book Confidential for first place but I had to go with Masters Of Comic Book Art for a few reasons. First off Harlan Ellison who is so unintentionally funny when he tries to be off the cuff you find yourself laughing out loud hosts it. I was also attracted to the fact that the finite amount of artists it covers lets the documentary be incredibly in-depth. MOCBA includes Will Eisner, Harvey Kurtzman, Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko, Neal Adams, Bernie Wrightson, Moebius, Frank Miller, Dave Sim and Art Spiegelman.

Everyone represented here is a giant in the industry and this format allows them to talk frankly and in depth about their lives and inspirations. This documentary is worth it simply for Ditko’s section, which doesn’t show the man but plays a recorded message of him reading some kind of life mission. Sadly this is only available on VHS but it’s well worth it.

OK so there you have it, my list of the ten best comic book documentaries out there. They may be hard to find but they’re worth every second of looking. Whether a comic book fan yourself or trying to find something for the comic book fan you love any and all of these will do you right.


Hooked on Comix screening in Seattle!

Hooked on Comix will be screened at this year's Bumbershoot Festival in my home town - Seattle!

September 4-6 at the Seattle Center