Comic Book nerds, your day has come. (I’m looking at you, Professor Levitz and the Comic Books and Graphic Novels class). PBS is airing a documentary special featuring comic legends such as Adam West, Lynda Carter, Michael Chabon, Jules Feiffer, and more and is hosted by Liev Schrieber. This documentary spans through the origin of comic books, starting in 1938 onto present day, and what the medium has left in its wake.
TRUTH, JUSTICE, AND THE AMERICAN WAY (1938-1958)
During the Depression, the popularity of dozens of superhero characters opens the door for a new generation of artists and writers. World War II creates a patriotic fervor for star-spangled adventurers to represent the American spirit at war and on the home front, but in the 1950s, superheroes are caught in the fire of government scrutiny and regulation.
When the thrilling “Adventures of Superman” is broadcast on the new medium of television, America’s first and greatest superhero leads the entire comic book industry to renewed strength.
GREAT POWER, GREAT RESPONSIBILITY (1959-1977)
In the 1960s, a new breed of superhero emerges in the pages of Marvel Comics, inspired by the age of atomic energy and space travel and, in turn, inspiring the pop culture and Pop artists of the time.
Spider-Man, the Hulk, and others are the first to have “problems” with which an adult audience can identify, and contemporary social issues make their way into comic books. Black powerhouses such as the Black Panther and Luke Cage appear on the scene and the pages of “Green Lantern/Green Arrow” explode with relevant storylines, as comic books are forced to confront the reality of an increasingly complex world.
A HERO CAN BE ANYONE (1978-Present)
This episode captures the enthusiasm for superheroes as they are embraced in all forms of media and by all demographics, beginning with the historic “Superman” movie featuring Christopher Reeve as the Man of Steel. In 1986, Batman is overhauled as The Dark Knight to reflect the nocturnal underside of his character, and Watchmen brings new sophistication to comic book narratives, illuminating a violent and politicized world.
In the burgeoning new millennium, superheroes have taken over popular culture with feature films, television shows and video games complementing a new generation of web-based comics that bring superhero adventures to every corner of the world.