On History: Marvel on 20/20

By | Tuesday, July 01, 2014 2 comments
In 1986, Marvel was celebrating its 25th anniversary. They managed to convince 20/20 to do this spotlight piece on them, which I just discovered on YouTube. (Clearly pulled from a VHS recording of the broadcast.) I don't think there's anything particularly revealing about the piece to anyone with a cursory knowledge of Marvel, but it does strike me as almost having been written by the folks at Marvel themselves! I'm sure the folks at 20/20 did the actual writing and editting, but I see very little evidence that there was any real research done. I didn't catch any obvious lies, other than ones of omission. There's zero mention at all, for example, of Jack Kirby or Steve Ditko (which is hardly surprising given that was in the midst of his art fight with Marvel). There's no mention of how Marvel was largely trying to cash in on the success DC was having with their superheroes in the late 1950s/early 1960s. There's no mention of how two of the most popular/genre-blowing comics in decades that were on the stands right then (Watchmen and The Dark Knight Returns) were published by DC.

Some of that would have been almost self-evident just based on the interviews they conducted. I can't imagine the university professor here (Arthur Berger) not mentioning Kirby or Ditko, or the kids in that comic shop not mentioning Frank Miller. There's very clearly a certain story that's being told here, one that's being fed by Marvel. I can't begrudge them for wanting to spin their corporate story in a way that makes them look as good as possible, but I'm kind of wowed by how little anyone questioned it.
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Jim Shelley said...

Do you suppose that this made at a time with ABC may have been toying with the idea of buying Marvel? Then this 20/20 episode might have been made to gauge viewer reaction. That would have explained the lack of DC references.

It's possible, but I suspect that it was mostly from Marvel's PR department, trying to push the 25th anniversary.