SUPERHEROES™: The Never Ending Bullshit – Truth, Justice and Corporate Greed Part 1

TRUTH: The PBS documentary, Superheroes: The Never Ending Battle flashed onto the screen revealing in it’s title the first and, in my opinion, major obscured truth of the series. How do you accurately tell the history of superheroes without disclosing that the word Superheroes is jointly trademarked by Marvel and DC? This information is not mentioned at all during the entire three hour series and is not even noted in the credits.

The concept of superheroes is then immediately defined as modern American mythology, American gods, American pioneers and an American art form. If It is so American why does the series focuses almost entirely on the properties of only Marvel and DC excluding a huge array of other publishers (mostly American) that have produced superhero comics over the last 75 years? This would be like doing a documentary of the history of the automobile in America and only focusing on product made by  Ford and General Motors.

The documentary  does mention that at one time, just two years after the publication of the first appearance of Superman, there were as many as two dozen publishers putting out 150 comics based on superheroes though only Timely (Marvel), Quality and Fox were named and all of the characters shown are currently owned by Marvel or DC. There is then a fifty year gap until the next publisher of superhero comics is mentioned and that is Image formed by a renegade group of Marvel artists.

One character highlighted as having dominated Superman in the market notably because his alter ego is the young boy, Billy Batson, was Captain Marvel.  There was no insight, however that “The Big Red Cheese” had been published by Fawcett and that DC had won a trademark infringement suit against Fawcett claiming that Captain Marvel was too much like Superman and shut him down. No insight that Marvel hijacked the trademark  before DC could license the rights to the property in 1972 before finally purchasing it entirely in 1991. No dirt to tarnish the super clean image of Superheroes. No dirt to tarnish Marvel and DC.

Superheroes are part of the fabric of our lives as Americans. The concept of superheroes is referred to every day by average people. The idea of being the best, having unique ability, and a desire to conquer obstacles is fundamental to the American Dream. Superman may have defined the concept but it is our culture that has embraced it. We deserve the whole truth.

It is a mistake to reduce a documentary about superheroes to a promotional piece for two major corporations whose only real interest in the characters is their bottom line. I would have expected more from PBS. I would liked to have seen more about all the different perspective of superheroes from different cultures and different media.

Where were the superheroes from books, cartoons and video games that are not from the big two?

Where were other Golden Age superheroes Blue Bolt, Captain Courageous, Captain Future, Doc Savage, Fantoman, Fighting American, Mandrake the Magician, The Spirit, Spy Smasher?

Where were Mighty Mouse, Underdog, Super Chicken, Blue Falcon, Space Ghost, the Mighty Heroes, the Incredibles?

Where were superheroes from other comic books? No T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents, DNAgents, Elementals, Justice Machine, Zot!, Badger, the Tick, or Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles?

Where were the other female Superheroes besides Wonder Woman, such as Black Cat, Miss Espionage, Moon Girl, Sheena Queen of the Jungle?

There is a seemingly endless list of alternative characters that could at least have been referred to but were not. I assume because it would not have been in the best interest of the holders of the Superhero trademark, Marvel and DC.

“Truth Justice and the American Way” is the byline that has become synonymous with superheroes yet the truth in Superheroes: The Never Ending Battle has been distorted by omission. That which did not glorify Marvel and DC was swept under the rug and the few foibles that were presented, necessary to humanize the corporations, were quickly acknowledged, rectified and dismissed like the resolution of a 1960′s sitcom according to this documentary.

Just as the series distorts Truth it also turns a blind eye to Justice especially regarding creators rights. Next week I will shed my opinion on that in part two of SUPERHEROES™: The Never Ending Bullshit – Truth, Justice and Corporate Greed

Making Comics Because We Want to,

Gerry Giovinco



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6 Responses to “SUPERHEROES™: The Never Ending Bullshit – Truth, Justice and Corporate Greed Part 1”

  1. Tim Sparvero says:

    Hey Gerry, if you are looking for a more balanced view on the history of comics in the USA, try grabbing a copy of the book “Men of Tomorrow” Which in my opinion, is exactly what you are looking for based on this entry. (It’s possible you have read it already though). Sadly the history of comics is a cut-throat one, filled with brutal decision makers. Sadly this attitude has somehow managed to survive till 2013. I am hoping there will come a day when comic can be published in a more fair and balanced way, but let’s see.

  2. Peter B says:

    I enjoyed reading this! Can’t wait for part two!

  3. Tim, yes I have read “Men of Tomorrow” and yes it is an awesome read about the underbelly of the comics biz. As a lifelong independent publisher of comics I think I have experienced first hand the tactics that Marvel and DC employ to squash competition to their IP. Until more people look more closely at the unscrupulous business practices of the corporate comics, the medium will always suffer.

  4. Thanks, Peter! I hope you enjoy the next one just as much.

  5. booksteve says:

    For the record, DC did not win its suit against Fawcett. After multiple costly appeals and with sales falling off anyway, Fawcett settled out of court and stopped publishing comics.

  6. Marcus L says:

    “Next week I will shed my opinion” What? I have never heard of “shedding” an opinion.

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