Written, Directed and Hosted by: Miguel Cima
Produced by: Dirk Van Fleet & Corey Blake
Firstly, let's get one thing out of the way: if you love comics you're going to love DIG COMICS. This is a well made and lovingly crafted short film "documentary" about comic books and the love of comic books. I put the word "documentary" in quotes because while the movie is informative and well crafted it definitely has an agenda. That agenda is to get the viewer to begin reading and hopefully grow to love the art form that is comic books. Which, in my opinion, and I'm sure for many of you out there, is a very noble agenda. DIG COMICS wants to get people to "dig" comic books. It essentially asks the question: why don't more people read comics?
It's a question that I'm sure a lot of us have asked before. Why, especially at a time where movies like "Iron Man" and "Spider-man" are raking in figures near the billion dollar mark, don't people read comics? Why is an American cultural creation, like Jazz or Rock and Roll, losing readers as decades go by? Why can't comics be just as popular here as they are in Japan or in some areas of Europe?
These are loaded questions for every comic fan, to be sure, and questions that have been debated on line in recent years again and again and again. DIG COMICS asks those questions and tries to address them and get to the bottom of why all other entertainment forms (movies, books, television) seem to thrive or be culturally acceptable to mainstream America while comic books (not comic movies) seem unable to make the same profits or achieve the same respect as other pop art forms. For the most part DIG COMICS succeeds in looking at what has gone on in the industry in the past several decades to get us to where we are today in comic-dom. Let's face it, while I agree that this is probably one of the best times to be reading comic books as far as content is concerned (to see some of my views on this from several years ago click here) the industry itself is bleeding readers and has been for a while. Not only that, but it's bleeding readers and failing to replace the older generation with a new and rabid younger generation of readers. Sure, there's a ton of great stuff out there to read but comic book sales don't even come close to the numbers they used to reach only decades ago. Heck, sales here don't even come close to the numbers they've reached in the aforementioned Japan or some sections of Europe. Why is that?
DIG COMICS looks at these questions in a terrifically entertaining way. Writer/Director/Host Miguel Cima is a charismatic and passionate guide through the ins and outs of the comic book industry and its history. Step by step he goes through the history and the problems that have vexed comics throughout the years. He does it charmingly and with an obvious love that only someone who cares about their subject matter could do. This is not a lecture on why you should love comics. It's a fervent plea to the viewer to just give comics a try. It's also a loving warning to the industry to get its act together or face possible extinction. DIG COMICS is as fun and entertaining a documentary about comic-books as I have yet to see. It's informative without being dry or stuffy and doesn't take itself too seriously. Like many of the best comics out there it has a sense of fun to it and that's where it succeeds best.
My only problem with it is that it seems to have a bit of a preaching to the converted feel to it. Early on in the film Cima confesses that he's pretty much a "normal" guy. He's got a job, a house, a real girlfriend. But during the course of the documentary he's wearing a t-shirt with a variation of the Meltdown Comics logo on it (a fantastic comic shop here in Los Angeles). We discover that his house and garage have pretty much been taken over by comic books. When he interviews comic creator Scott Shaw! there is a Flintstones/Dino lamp in the back round. Even later, while interviewing a female comic creator, she's wearing a tiara during the interview. I'm sorry to say, to your average viewer, these people are not going to come across as "normal". Which is fine. Hey, I'm one of you. I've got comics and maquettes all over the place in my home. I'm often seen at work wearing a Captain America or Superman shirt as I wander the halls. That's fine. I'm with you. But if what you're trying to do is draw Mr. and Mrs. "Normal" into your crowd a more conservative approach might be what is called for. Otherwise, and I hope I'm not being insulting here, many of your subjects run the risk of being looked at in the same league as a gun nut with a wall full of guns or a sports fan wearing full body paint and a multi-colored wig at a Giants game. We are unique. We have a passion for what we love. There's nothing wrong with that. But if you're trying to get the unwashed masses into your groove it might be best to go at it a bit more gingerly, the Jeph Loeb interview in this documentary being the best example of that. Or possibly the "Searching for Steve Ditko" documentary produced by the BBC several years ago. I'm not saying lose your passion...I'm saying maybe tone down the "geek" a little.
Regardless, this is a great film. As a matter of fact I would put it up there with the "Searching for Steve Ditko" documentary and the brilliant Alex Toth documentary released on the "Space Ghost" DVD set a while back. As of right now the running time is at about half an hour. My understanding is that the producers are looking to expand it to a feature length film. I hope they are able to do it. With some tweaking this could be a really great documentary film. Hell, someone needs to save comics. Maybe the creators of DIG COMICS can do it. I, for one, hope so.
Discovered as a babe in an abandoned comic book storage box and bitten by a radioactive comic fan when he was a teenager, superhero is actually not-so mild mannered sometime designer & cartoonist, Kristian Horn of Los Angeles, California. He's been an @$$hole for three years. Some of his work can be seen at www.kristianhorn.com.