For most of its 56-year history, the comic book has been treated as an unloved stepchild by critics of the graphic arts and literature.
Ron Mann's "Comic Book Confidential," which is screening at the Nuart Theater, is the first documentary feature on the subject. Anyone who is interested in the comics should plan to see it, but anyone who knows much about them will probably be disappointed by its lack of depth.
"Confidential" includes interviews with artists representing the superhero genre (Will Eisner, Jack Kirby), the underground "comix" of the late '60s and early '70s (R. Crumb and Gilbert Shelton) and contemporary graphic novels (Frank Miller and Art Spiegelman). But these artists really don't get a chance to say anything about their work; instead, Mann has them read pages of their comics as the camera pans slowly over the panels, a device that quickly cloys.
Although he has assembled an impressive array of comic book talent, Mann neglects some of the most important names in the medium: Bob Kane, who wrote and drew the first Batman comic; Joel Seigel and Jerry Shuster, the co-creators of Superman. No mention is made of Carl Barks, who devised the adventures of Uncle Scrooge, Donald Duck et al., or of the late Bob Montana, the originator of the Archie series. But the film does include Lynda Barry (Ernie Pook), Sherry Flenniken (Trots and Bonnie) and Bill Griffith (Zippy, the Pinhead), who draw comic strips, not comic books.