The Doc Option: Watch PBS’s ‘Superheroes: A Never-Ending Battle’ Instead of ‘The Amazing Spider-Man…

By  · Published on May 2nd, 2014

The Doc Option: Watch PBS’s ‘Superheroes: A Never-Ending Battle’ Instead of ‘The Amazing Spider-Man 2’


The Amazing Spider-Man is one of those movies that obtained a solid Rotten Tomatoes score solely on the basis that so many reviews gave it praise that was faintly damning, but still praise. “Not as bad as it could be” was the refrain. The Amazing Spider-Man 2 looks to be even less successful than its predecessor. If you want to fulfill your superhero needs, there is no shortage of options. You could of course check out the original, far superior Spider-Man films. You could watch any of the better superhero films that are out there, or you could catch a few episodes of the excellent superhero cartoons that exist. But if you’re documentary-minded, then I suggest watching Superheroes: A Never-Ending Battle.

A three-part series made for PBS, Superheroes is an excellent primer for anyone who knows about costumed crusaders from the movies or the comic books but who wants to learn about the writers and artists behind the characters. It covers the complete breadth of superhero history, starting in the 1930s and continuing on through to today. “Truth, Justice and the American Way” covers from 1938 to 1958, as superheroes were birthed with Superman and eventually made their way to radio, even as comic books were hobbled by a series of congressional hearings. “Great Power, Great Responsibility” shows how Marvel comics shook up the formula in the ’60s and ’70s, while the genre also found exposure on television. “A Hero Can Be Anyone” acts as an overview of modern superheroes, as storytellers have pushed them in new directions while cinematic success has made them more popular than ever.


Christopher Campbell began writing film criticism and covering film festivals for a zine called Read, back when a zine could actually get you Sundance press credentials. He's now a Senior Editor at FSR and the founding editor of our sister site Nonfics. He also regularly contributes to Fandango and Rotten Tomatoes and is the President of the Critics Choice Association's Documentary Branch.