MARVEL’S BEHIND THE MASK dropped on Disney+ this weekend and it offers a glimpse into the history of some of the most notable aspects of Marvel’s history. It’s a nice dive into the renowned comic company but somehow doesn’t quite seem to pack the punch one might expect.
To be clear, this documentary is strictly looking at the Marvel characters from the comic-books and their impact from that standpoint. Any mentions to the movies or other media is purely in support of the discussion to the characters committed to the illustrated pages.
Admittedly, we’re far from experts on the source material. We’ve been covering San Diego Comic-Con for several years and always feel slightly out of our element not being avid comic-readers. We were hoping for a little more specific of a dive-in into specific characters or comics but that’s not what we found here.
Instead, the documentary is not trying to be a historical anthology of the heroic powerhouse — it approaches the characters from the perspective of broader topical themes. Relatable truly-conflicted heroes who happen to have super powers are discussed within the framework of the various societal constructs in which they fit historically including personal identity, racial equality, and also gender and sexual identities.
There’s definitely some interesting moments including really great interviews — both contemporary and archival — with marvel notables including Stan Lee, Joe Quesada, and Larry Hama, plus insights from others including Jack Kirby’s son Neal Kirby, Henry Jenkins, Jeanine Schaefer, and even Darryl “DMC” McDaniels. A notable assemblage of writers and artists and other commentators provide the dialogue.
What’s better, the documentary does not shy away from the company’s “learning moments” over the years approaching the topics female empowerment, racial representation, and queer identity.
While we’re certainly not worse for wear having watched BEHIND THE MASK it’s hard to emphatically say that it’s the next must-see item for your Disney+ watchlist. Still, if you have a scant knowledge of Marvel and its history and are looking for a deeper connection to the source material then BEHIND THE MASK should definitely help to inspire the spark to pick up a comic and find yourself behind the mask.
See it for Yourself
MARVEL’S BEHIND THE MASK documentary is available now on Disney+.