Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Comic Book Confidential (1988)

Why don't more people talk about this movie?

I, after all, read a lot of comics. I talk about comics a lot. I read blogs and books about comics.

But until I came across it streaming on Netflix last year, I had never heard of it. (At least, to my knowledge.)

Independent comics have been a "thing" since the 1960s, but even now, they tend to be overlooked in favor of their mainstream counterparts. And that's understandable, certainly, but it's amazing to see a documentary from nearly 25 years ago covering this scene with intelligence and respect. It still feels relevant now, especially when taking into account how many of the creators here, such as Lynda Barry, Charles Burns and Jaime Hernandez, are still very much making comics.

Free of narration, Ron Mann's movie has a playful tone. There's a brief overview of the history of comics that uses archival footage to make its points. Mostly, though, the focus is on the creators. Mann doesn't ignore the superhero side of things -- Stan Lee and Jack Kirby are featured here -- but it's primarily about the alternative scene.

Lightly animated and narrated pages from various comics make the focus about the work itself and what it means -- to both creators and fans. I love that the comics themselves get to play such a prominent role in this film. It's a good introduction to the medium for people who may not be familiar with it. I think is a great, entertaining gateway into what comics are all about. It's also a great companion (although it has much higher production values) to the more recent Independents (or rather, Independents is a great companion for this one).

(Just as a note: Everyone looks so young! It's amazing to me! I also love the long-haired Frank Miller toward the end being all self-important. If you like comics and were maybe too young for some of this the first time around, it's a lot of fun to watch it just for that.)

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