Of all the things that bother me about Michael Kantor et al.’s PBS documentary Superheroes: A Never-Ending Battle, which aired last night, the most disheartening is the show’s one-dimensional take on the rise of Marvel Comics in the 1960s and its almost entire neglect of the crucial role played by Jack Kirby in that rise.
Kirby’s singular contribution to the look and substance of Marvel—the fact that he provided characters, premises, stories, and the overarching visual aesthetic of the company—is never forthrightly addressed. The show simply reinforces the familiar corporate mythology about Stan Lee creating properties and writing stories that were then illustrated by Kirby, Steve Ditko, and other artists—a shallow view that fundamentally misunderstands the role of the cartoonist in the Marvel style of production. The result is all fog and strobe lights, not history.
My full take on the documentary can be found at The Superhero Reader website, here.