Comic Book Confidential

Director: Ron Mann
Screenwriters: Ron Mann

Institute History

  • 1989 Sundance Film Festival


The two-year wait for Ron Mann’s new film has been worth it. Comic Book Confidential is a lively and inspired homage to/expose’ of an often-maligned art form and both its legendary and its contemporary creators. Equally as much a cultural document, Comic Book Confidential chronicles the genre from its origins during the thirties, through the heyday of the Nazi-bashing superheroes during World War II, to the “gore ‘n’ horror” period of the fifties (e.g., Tales from the Crypt, Weird Science). At that time Senate investigations branded comic books as a social evil, linking them to juvenile delinquency, and drove many of the most original artists underground to avoid the rigidity of the industry’s new seal of approval.

All the granddaddies of the original underground comic books movement have their day in the film: William Gaines of Weird Science and Mad, Will Eisner of The Spirit, marvel Comics’s Stan Lee, Harvey Kurtzman and, best of all, the reclusive Robert Crumb, cartoon laureates of Haight-Ashberry and creator of Mr. Natural (“Keep on Truckin’”) and Fritz the Cat. Mann also follows the genre into contemporary times, profiling such new-wave cartoonists and book artists as Art Spiegelman (Maus), Bill Griffith (“Zippy the Pinhead”), feminists Lynda Barry and Shary Flenniken, and the RAW collective that bills itself as “the graphix magazine that lost its faith in nihilism.”

Comic Book Confidential has a classy pop-art quality, utilizing comic=book graphics and texts to bridge historical eras, adding a spicy sound track and even animating sequences for comic creators to narrate. With all their energy, satiric wit and spirit, these artists emerge as the rock and rollers of newsprint, iconoclastic bad guys and gals driven to the margins of graphic expression, but still keepers of a rebellious North American id. The films of Toronto-based Ron Mann, including Imagine the Sound and Poetry in Motion, were featured at the 1986 United States Film Festival. As a Canadian production, Comic Book Confidential is playing out of competition.

— Tony Safford

Screening Details

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