My Rating: 4 stars
I think everyone has memories of that childhood glee they felt upon unfolding the big, colorful sheets of the Sunday comics. That seems like a pretty universal experience. So, even though newspaper comic strips have become pretty cheesy and are relatively light on actual humor, we all have a soft spot in our hearts for them because of that nostalgia. So, because of this feeling, I was really interested in watching this documentary about classic comic strip artists. It’s actually a movie I help fun on Kickstarter.
The film crew managed to get an impressive amount of different artists to participate in the project. They lured in some of the old, classic guys, like the talent behind strips like Peanuts, Garfield, and For Better or For Worse. And, then they talk with some of the new generation of artists who are releasing most of their panels on the internet, like the creator of The Oatmeal. This crew even managed to snare an (audio only) interview with the infamously reclusive Bill Waterson. That’s quite a feat! The documentary follows the whole timeline of newspaper comics. It takes us through the heyday, when every town had a local newspaper, and artists were raking in syndication money. And, then it scans the landscape today, now that most news reporting has moved online, and physical newspaper companies are shutting their doors. But, the tone of this documentary isn’t defeatist or pessimistic. While it recognizes the ending of an era, and respects the mourning of the elder artists, it is ultimately embraces change as the natural progression of society and technology.
I really liked all the personal touches in this film. The tone is so warm and friendly because the filmmakers captured so much candid and relaxed conversation with all the artists. They talk about how they first got into comics, their process, and their early careers. And, they discuss the current state of the industry. There aren’t big gatekeepers anymore, so many more people can offer their contributions to the world. But, the internet is such a big place, that it’s really hard to get anyone to notice you. But, none of these guys feel too bitter about it. Or, they don’t let it show on camera, at least.
I really liked this documentary. But, even though the experience of enjoying newspaper comics is a pretty universal one, I do recognize that this film is only for a very niche audience. It’s for people who like to nerd out about comics, and who absolutely must know about all the work and personalities behind their favorite strips. So, I think your casual fan might be a little bored. But, I found the film very worthwhile watching, so if it piques your interest even a little, go for it.