Monday, April 02, 2012
Previously, images tended to be more generic scenery and felt a bit like watching someone's vacation pictures. With the licensed properties, the reels were used to tell a story, generally based directly off the story the original images came from. You could get Star Trek, The Man from UNCLE, The Beverly Hillbillies, Peanuts... and, of course, superheroes.
I had a several superhero sets as a kid. (Most of the reels, I still have, in fact!) Many are taken from the DC cartoons from Filmation in the 1960s. I had a few sets of Batman ones taken from the TV show starring Adam West. The plots of the stories were, obviously, insanely simplified -- as they tried to fit a half hour or hour story into three reels of seven images each.
But why would I suggest they might be comics?
Well, on each disc, as you can see from the image there had printed on it some text to accompany each image. Sometimes descriptions, sometimes dialogue. Frequently, though, the story would not hold up very well at all unless you read BOTH the images and the text. While they visually did not interact (though there were occasionally sound effects drawn onto the images) it was only by taking in both that the story unfolded.
Furthermore, the text HAD to be in a specific location relative to the image to make sense. For example, in the disc shown above, the two images on the left and right sides of the reel are a pair that would display at the same time. But the text for that image is the upside-down caption that reads, "The golden lasso changed Diana to Wonder Woman!" If that text were moved to ANYWHERE else on the disc, it would not be read with the correct visual.
Now, of course, this points back to the whole "what is the definition of comics" debate but it's an interesting consideration, I think, to look at Viewmaster reels in that light. If they don't qualify as comics -- which I suspect many people would argue -- why not?