Interview With Michael Kantor

We had a chat with Michael Kantor the director of the new documentary "Superheroes: A Never Ending Battle." We talk about the process of the film, superheroes and more. You can check out our review / Can you tell us about how this project came about?  

Michael Kantor: While producing Make 'Em Laugh: The Funny Business of America for PBS, I interviewed Gerard Jones, who handed me his fascinating book, Men of Tomorrow that explored the creation of the comic book industry.  My co-writer Laurence Maslon had been a comic book fiend as a kid -- he almost became a professional artist -- and we reached out to the National Endowment for the Arts with a grant proposal.  When the NEA offered us production funding, we immediately flew up, up, and away! How long have you been a filmmaker and when did you catch the film bug?  

Michael Kantor: I was trained as a theater director, -- I have an MFA in that, and did some work professionally, but I learned how to make a documentary from Stephen Ives.  Steve was working with Ken Burns on a doc on Charles Lindbergh, and then a history of the American West, and I joined the team, and worked my way up to producer. What is the difference from making a documentary opposed to directing a TV Show?    

Michael Kantor: I've never directed a sitcom, or a one camera drama, but I've seen them filmed.  Documentaries obviously can't play fast and loose with the facts, but on the other hand you aren't as tied to the actors.  If an actor comes late to work, or it rains, that can really mess with your production schedule on a TV show shot on location. How important was this project for you and when did you first fall in love with Superheroes?  

Michael Kantor: I've now made three series about major American cultural contributions -- the Broadway musical, American comedy, and superheroes.  I like to let the major talents speak for themselves about their own experiences -- I'm sort of the chronicler who makes sure that everyone can see and celebrate what they did. Superheroes have made a major impact around the world and to so many people. What impact has superheroes had on you?    

Michael Kantor: Superheroes and their creators inspire me.  I'm not big on all the violence and the battles, but I like the idea that these characters have a highly refined moral code.  We could use a little more of that in today's society. What we love about the documentary is that it didn't just focus on one particular company's impact on the industry. This documentary showed the history of comics from the beginning of Superman to the impact that comic book movies have today. How long did it take to complete the project and can you tell us about the research process?  

Michael Kantor: The film took five years to make, and we are grateful to both Marvel, DC and Image Comics among others for their support.
 Can you tell us some of your favorite comic book writers?  

Michael Kantor: Grant Morrison, Mark Waid, Geoff Johns, Gerry Conway There is always a debate on whether comic books can be consider literature or not. What is your take on that debate? Are comic books a form of  literature? 

Michael Kantor: I'm not sure how literature is defined.  Is that a qualification regarding the writing? Comic books are definitely art, and like the Broadway musical or jazz or film, its a collaborative art form, so I'm not sure it makes sense to single out the writing alone.  Are feature film scripts literature?  Is the libretto from a Broadway show literature? Is a collection of Woody Allen stories literature?  What about a collection of his jokes?  What about one great joke?  I don't think there is a dividing line.  I do think Stan Lee should be recognized with a Kennedy Center honor for his contributions to American culture. What would like people to take away from this documentary?  

Michael Kantor: We don't want any parents to ever throw away their kids comic books ever again!