For this installment I turn my column over to an expert. Hannah Wallenbrock is an author, book lover and comics expert. With the buzz still swirling about Comic-con in San Diego and with a huge celebration of Stan Lee’s 75 years in the comics business underway, Hannah provides a review of a timely DVD release from Kino Lorber.
Comix: Beyond the Comic Book Pages is a documentary about the worldwide comic book phenomenon, featuring interviews with creators, artists, writers, and fans alike. Its main focus is on those fans that enable the industry to remain a global force.
It is clear that this is a film by fans for fans. Interviewed fans mention how comics are an escape, and cosplayers – fans who dress up as those fictional characters – explain how it’s a fun way to “become” their heroes. There is not a huge female presence in the film, which is disappointing, especially with the huge leaps the industry has made in recent years regarding inclusion.
There is a huge amount of name-dropping, even beyond the super-famous creators. Several of these creators, like Stan Lee, are interviewed on-screen. Also, many have optimistic views on the fandom, and the actor Doug Jones, whose roles include the Silver Surfer and Abe Sapien, even says that without the fans liking and supporting comics and comic book movies, he’d be out of a job!
The film briefly touches on the history of comic books, choosing to focus more runtime on explaining how they get made. It is clear that many of the writers understand story and how characters can make or break one, depending on how well they’re written.
Comix assumes the viewer is a comic book fan themselves and already knows the majority of the history and in-industry lingo. There is also an oddly-long segue into Sin City, the neo-noir comics (and later films) by Frank Miller, and while it is a very important piece of comic book history, the extended focus is jarring, especially when everything else is brief in comparison.
This film features some editing flaws that are jarring and take you out of the narrative. The score occasionally is louder than the rest of the audio, making interviews hard to hear. It also features weird zooms up into interviewees’ faces, and the producers have chosen not to edit out some of their more awkward comments and too-long pauses. This is somewhat excusable, however, as it was produced with a lower budget. The use of comic panels as transitions, while cliché, looks very nice.
All in all, Comix: Beyond the Comic Book Pages is an informative, if brief, documentary showcasing and celebrating comics. It truly shows that comics will remain in the American psyche, as well as its ever-changing pop culture, for years to come.
Hannah can be reached directly at [email protected]