Marvel’s Behind the Mask Documentary takes us behind the masks to dive deeper into the mythos of some of our most beloved Marvel Heroes
When it comes to comic book characters, as a comic book reader, you’re looking for something to connect to. Something relate to. In Marvel’s Behind the Mask, Marvel’s Joe Quesada and some of Marvel’s most iconic comic book storytellers peel back the layers to some of Marvel’s most iconic characters to give us the reader a new perspective about how these characters came to be, the complexities of having a dual identity and how these characters are a reflection of us “regular people” in the real world.
We go way back to the early days of Marvel Comics where Marvel Legends, Jack Kirby, and Stan Lee amongst many others were at the forefront of creating the faces of Marvel Comics. Off rip, we dive into the duality and the dual identity of Peter Parker/Spider-Man. What makes Spider-Man so great? What makes Peter Parker such a likable character?
The answer is that we care more about Peter Parker, the man Behind the Mask, rather than Spider-Man the hero. It’s an interesting take but one that’s really stuck with me throughout my viewing of this documentary. As Stan Lee told Joe Quesada if Spider-Man jumps off the top of a building and you know nothing about Peter Parker, it’s just a red and blue costume that’s jumping off the building. But tell me who Peter Parker is and who is he fighting for or rather what is he fighting for and who he is trying to protect and who he cares for; then that jump becomes that much more important.
Now take that and apply it to a comic book reader or just any general person, your average Joe. We all have that same sense of duality. We all wear different masks for different reasons. We wear a certain mask when it comes to being in our workplace and a mask for being out with friends or certain family members. But at home, that’s where the real us shines. For others, putting on that mask can bring out the real them. The person they hide from the world. Alas, shy Peter Parker compared to super quippy Spider-Man. Different masks for different occasions.
And while at the surface level this documentary might seem to just want to give you a peek at what it was like to work for Marvel Comics and come up with the ideas for these characters. The story runs deeper than that and a lot of that is brought to the forefront from the comic book creators themselves.
Whether it was from the likes of Jack Kirby a Jewish immigrant looking to be accepted in America during his time of assimilation and during a time in the world where Jews were ousted and discriminated against or the likes of Christopher Priest and his legendary runs on Black Panther and Luke Cage to add a more personal black flavor to the character that was missing before.
The great thing about this documentary is that it doesn’t shy away from the writers and some of the editors at Marvel from revealing that Marvel was shying away from hitting certain demos and not properly representing their readers in the medium and how the writers and artists were the main folks advocating to push these boundaries and get the proper representation going in the comic book medium but to also do it correctly.
Whether it was stopping the higher ups at Marvel from forcing The Avengers or the White Man to come into Wakanda to “help” Black Panther or properly representing the LGBTQ+ community or the fight to stop painting Asian characters yellow. There was a lot of advocating behind the scenes from these creators to properly represent every respective aspect of their readership.
Behind the Mask for lack of a better word takes off the veil and shows how real-world social problems and political problems, while not the best experience for everyone can be taken and be woven into this medium to create a world, although fictional, for a reader to escape to. To make you sit back and say “this is the ideal world I would want to live in”.
One Marvel character who’s been a super hot topic in terms of debates and the narrative of SJW agenda/propaganda is being pushed by some comic book readers, is none other than Captain Marvel and we learn how Kelly Sue DeConnick revamped the character and really drove home Carol Danvers’ feminist storylines and building off of those feminist storylines that predated her run on Captain Marvel to elevate the character to greater heights. Higher. Further. Faster.
Also showing that while these powerful women of Marvel Comics are super-powered, they’re still human and are also relatable. There are real human issues and real human pains that these characters all throughout Marvel Comics have to battle with. Points like these are driven home even more with Chris Claremont’s X-Men run, Greg Pak’s creation of Amadeus Cho alongside Takeshi Miyazawa, to Black Panther, Ms. Marvel, and Brian Michael Bendis’ creation of fan-favorite Miles Morales.
While we are taking a look Behind the Mask of all these characters. There’s more that lies beneath each respective hero. I think this documentary does a great job at presenting that core idea that in order to properly represent people and properly incorporate real-world social and political problems into these comics, we have to take off the mask and see the world for what it truly is.
Marvel’s Behind the Mask is streaming now exclusively on Disney+
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Founder/Editor-in-Chief of The Nerdy Basement.