If you have read comics your whole life, this documentary will reaffirm your love of the medium.
Comix: Beyond the Comic Book Pages is a love letter to the comic book industry that is a must-see for those who follow the lore. However, others not steeped in comic book mythology may have a harder time, as its presentation and delivery feels a little too unfocused.
Comix is a documentary that details the very beginning of comic books, their evolution from the page to the store shelves, and how they have left an impact on pop culture, from the big screen to the small screen to the cosplay scene. This is mainly told through some of the industry’s most revered writers and artists, including former Marvel Comics president and professional film cameo guru Stan Lee, Frank Miller of Sin City and 300 fame, Top Cow Productions’ Marc Silvestri, and DC Comics writer Neal Adams.
There is no doubt from watching the film that director Michael Valentine is fascinated by the world of comics. There is a passion there, and that passion is definitely on display. While the documentary is not the most groundbreaking in terms of covering the comic book industry, there is a bouncy energy to it that is reflective of what it is like to read a comic book.
Of course, the film is only as interesting as the subjects who tell it. Here, Valentine takes the backseat and lets the creators do the talking. Are these people icons of modern comics? Sure, but they are also natural presences on the camera. The more Stan Lee, the better. Watching Frank Miller delve into the dark aspects of character while simultaneously holding a variety of blades can’t not be entertaining. The way they use comic panels as visual transitions is also creatively well done.
The documentary aspires to cover nearly every facet of comic history, which is both a strength and a weakness: You are not spending the whole time with big names like Lee and Miller. The film also takes you into the world of independent publishers and their efforts to get their works noticed. We go into who is in charge of making sure pages look their best, such as the inkers who finalizes the look of the page. Delving into how a comic book is made is interesting because the action is fascinating to watch. When the film focuses solely on comic books, it is at its most interesting.
It is only when Comix starts to get away from that that it starts to lose focus. While it’s admirable for wanting to cover the entire industry, that’s a lot of information to cram into 85 minutes. Some elements are just not as fleshed out as they should be, because the film has to move on to the next facet of comic history. A lack of outsider perspectives is a glaring problem.
The world of cosplay, where people dress up as their favorite characters, is big in this film and we get cosplayers talking about how they are probably perceived by others: as a bunch of nerds. However, is that really how others perceive them? We don’t know, because the film does not even ask a non–comic follower how they feel. And that leads to an even bigger problem: the way comics are perceived by society as a whole is missing. The opinions are of those who are already steeped in the lore; that can make those seeking to learn more feel left out.
All of this is accompanied by a score by Michael Crane that obviously pays homage to the grandiose music of John Williams and Danny Elfman, who both scored iconic superhero themes. However, there are too many times when it almost verges on self-parody. It is also not mixed that well into the film, with the music sometimes drowning out what is being said.
If you have read comics your whole life, this documentary will reaffirm your love of the medium. It’s a vibrant look at the industry that could have benefited from focusing on one aspect of comic books rather than all of them. Sure, Comix gets unfocused, but there is a passion that is infectious. | Bill Loellke