Comic Books Unbound (Anchor Bay, 2008) Rating: NNN; DVD package: NN
If you like the current crop of superhero movies but don't have a clue about comic books and why they're suddenly all over the big screen, this is an okay place to start finding out. It's a fast, easy and relentlessly superficial hour of talking heads and movie clips designed for television and likely cut together from old press kit interviews, which may be why no director is credited and the extras are so skimpy.
The 1940s Batman, Dick Tracy, etc, movie serials get skimmed along with the 50s comic book witch hunt and the 60s Batman TV show. A bit of revisionism here: people now view the series as embarrassing kitsch, but at the time it garnered high praise and did much to revive the ailing comic.
Richard Donner's Superman (1978), Tim Burton's Batman (1989), Sam Raimi's Spider-Man (2002) and Guillermo del Toro's Hellboy (2004) launch us into DC Comics, Marvel Comics and Dark Horse, the two major publishers and the smaller indie that also spawned Sin City. The big titles get most screen time, but there are little segments on Roger Corman's never-released Fantastic Four and Ralph Bakshi's Fritz The Cat, plus mentions of other comics-inspired movies you may want to hunt down.
One message comes through the history and hype. The talking heads - among them directors Donner and del Toro and comics creators Neal Adams, Jim Steranko and Stan Lee - all believe that comics are just like movies and that it's only natural that comics creators will start directing movies. Sure. Just wait till some artist/writer is faced with a drunk actor on a $100 million show.
Movies aside, comics are a terrific medium in their own right, with a rich history and a highly evolved approach to storytelling. If Comic Books Unbound only whets your appetite, check out Scott McCloud's Understanding Comics, available at fine comics stores everywhere or at amazon.ca for as little as $8.04.
EXTRAS interview outtakes. Widescreen. English audio and subtitles.