Marvels Behind The Mask Documentary Looks At How Superheroes Lift Us Up
Written By Matthew Sadowski
As a kid, I was often a loner. Always picked last in sports, always too shy to approach my crush, and always lost in my head. To make myself feel better, I’d make up my own superhero and draw little comics in my spare time; comics where somebody like me saves his whole class from some awful terror. Even if my imaginary loner kid kept his identity secret, at least he knew that he mattered; that only he knew what to do. Certainly, this experience has to be universal at some level. Indeed, Disney+’s new documentary Marvel’s Behind the Mask is all about the outsiders in Marvel’s first few decades who would lay the foundation of the most successful entertainment brands in history.
Marvel had early hits back in the 1940’s with heroes like Captain America, a hero who made his first appearance punching Adolf Hitler in the face, before the United States was even involved in World War II. His creators, as well as subsequent heroes’ like Spider-Man, The Fantastic Four, and The Incredible Hulk, were either first-generation American Jews or Jewish immigrants themselves.
Knowing what it is to be persecuted, whether by Nazis abroad or by bullies at home, being “different” became a core tenant which superhero stories would follow. As comics matured and gained ever more readership, artists, writers, and readers in the civil rights era and beyond also found a voice at Marvel. Black heroes like Black Panther, a post-feminist revamped Captain Marvel, and a new telling of The X-Men that spoke to the gay community, continued the tradition of giving the underrepresented a fantasy they recognize.
While there is nothing particularly groundbreaking in Marvel’s Behind the Mask, it is a very satisfying and informative look at how adversity can inspire creativity. Surprisingly, the movie does not even include a single still from any of the blockbuster Marvel Cinematic Universe flicks: it’s all about the comics. If you are looking for something fun, quick, and inspirational, Marvel’s Behind the Mask is a great way to fall in love with superheroes all over again.
Marvel’s Behind the Mask
Directed by: Mike Jacobs
Streaming on: Disney+
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