Superheroes: A Never-Ending Battle (2013) s01e02 Episode Script

Great Power, Great Responsibility

1 I think I was born in the best possible era in American history.
It was the era of space travel, atomic energy, discovering what science could do for us to change and make our society better.
MAN: But at the same time, there was this Cold War paranoia.
Atomic warfare was going to happen at any moment.
But then you also have, you know, the wonder of getting into space, so you had good science and bad science.
It inspired a whole new kind of superheroes, as if they were an atomic blast themselves.
They weren't, you know, that strange visitor from another planet, Superman, they were real people that you could relate to.
I'm Liev Schrieber.
During the Second World War, superheroes were star-spangled morale boosters.
As times changed in the 1950s, many disappeared forever.
The few that remained at DC Comics, including Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman, had to conform to the strict rules of the Comics Code Authority.
In the 1960s, as a cultural revolution took hold, a new breed of superheroes emerged.
These characters weren't simply for little kids anymore.
Racial diversity came to comics with the Black Panther, Luke Cage, and a wave of costumed vigilantes fought their own version of urban warfare.
Superheroes from Marvel comics such as Spider-Man, the Hulk, and the Fantastic Four not only gained amazing powers, but real-life problems, too.
As America engaged in the space race and grappled with civil rights and the political crisis, a new generation of superheroes learned that with great power comes great responsibility.
MAN: These are your neighbors, people like you, with time for leisure, time for modern living.
These people are in tune with the times.
They choose that which best fits their needs.
These are the choices of convenience, something the whole family can enjoy.
You too can be in tune with the times.
SCHREIBER: At the beginning of the 1960s, comics like Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, and Green Lantern made DC Comics the titan of the industry.
WOMAN: Sally, do your homework.
SCHREIBER: Marvel Comics was struggling just to stay in business, pushing old humor comics like Millie the Model and Westerns like Kid Colt -- Outlaw.
I had been doing these comics for about 20 years or so, and I really had had it up to here.
I felt, "I want to quit and try something else.
" I told my wife, so she said, "You know, Stan, before you quit, why don't you do one book the way you'd like to do it? Something for people, hopefully, with a higher IQ.
" I came up with the Fantastic Four.
They were trying to be the first people to reach the moon.
I had them take a spaceship.
It was belted by cosmic rays and they had to crash-land.
And because of the cosmic rays, each of them got a different power.
SUE: Oh, no, no! RICHARDS: You're changing! You've turned into monsters, both of you! SUE: Oh, Reed, Reed! Not you, too! JOHNNY: I can fly! Look, I can fly! Stan really didn't think the stuff was going to succeed, so his attitude about much of it was, "Let's try it.
What the heck's going to happen? The worst thing is we're doing Westerns again next week.
" He quickly realized that there was a market.
The characters started getting interesting, people started following them with regularity.
They succeeded far beyond, I think, Marvel's original intention or expectations.
SCHREIBER: In tandem with the great artist Jack Kirby, Lee created a new universe of heroes for Marvel Each character fueled by the Cold War with the Communists or some form of crackpot radioactivity.
They were the first superheroes born out of the anxieties of the atomic age.
Oh, yeah, Ben.
A few days in space.
It'll be great.
What's the worst that could happen? The whole superhero industry is seized by space-age fever.
The sleekness of the costumes, the sleekness of the artwork, and, more importantly, the goals and the boundaries that we can break as a society.
I am the least scientific person you'll ever know, so I tried to seem scientific with out characters.
I had the Hulk, and he was inundated by gamma rays.
That's how he became the Hulk.
Now, I wouldn't know a gamma ray if I saw it.
I don't what a gamma ray is.
But if it sounds good, I'll use it.
§ Doc Bruce Banner § § Belted by gamma rays § § Turned into the Hulk § § Ain't he unglamorous! § § As ever-lovin' Hulk! § § Hulk! Hulk! § After a very bad time in the early '60s and in the '50s where the comic book business virtually collapsed, Marvel had suddenly emerged because Stan Lee created characters with an additional dimension to them.
That is superheroes with problems.
SCHREIBER: Emboldened by his success with Fantastic Four and The Hulk, Lee turned to a frequent collaborator, artist Steve Ditko, to weave another kind of tale.
LEE: I really hate teenage sidekicks, but I thought it would be fun to get a character who's a teenager who isn't a sidekick, but a real hero himself.
That would be a first.
Okay, world, better hang onto your hat.
Here comes the Spider-Man.
In order to make him believable, I said, "Well, what are real teenagers like? They have more problems" -- I mean, it's hell being a teenager.
And so I wanted to get this guy, he never had enough money, he wasn't the most popular kid in school.
He didn't always do well with girls, but he had to have some qualities, so he was a good science student.
PARKER: Ow! MAN: Radioactive spider bites Peter Parker, and then, as a result of it, Peter Parker causes or lets his uncle die.
And it's not until his uncle dies that he decides to become Spider-Man.
That life-changing moment where he has to learn the lesson of the responsibility of having his power.
Up to that point, he's a jerk! Only then does he change.
LEE: And a lean, silent figure slowly fades into the gathering darkness, aware at last that in this world, with great power, there must also come great responsibility.
There's a poignancy of that idea, that you can have all these powers.
With great power comes great responsibility, but you know what doesn't come with great power? A love life.
He's subject to fits of rage, of despair and uncontrollable longing.
He's a real teenager.
He's insecure, he's self-doubting.
What makes Spider-Man such an enduring character isn't Spider-Man.
It's Peter Parker.
Clark Kent was a disguise.
Peter Parker was a fact.
He was a 98-pound weakling.
His life sucked.
CHABON: Even if you have the ability to, you know, swing from skyscrapers over the streets of New York, it doesn't help.
That endures in the character Spider-Man to this day.
SCHREIBER: Spider-Man would go on to become the most popular comic book character since Superman.
Now, this is the way -- Lee referred to spidey as the superhero who could be you.
LEE: And so a legend is born.
Welcome to the Marvel Age of comics.
We choose to go to the moon.
We choose to go to the moon, and do it first before this decade is out.
SCHREIBER: As President John F.
Kennedy's administration urged America to look out on the horizon of the new frontier, Marvel Comics was still looking to catch up to the undisputed giant in the field, DC Comics.
Led by artist Carmine Infantino, DC retrofitted a 1940s character, the Flash, with a new, built-for-speed style that mirrored the streamlined look of the age.
STERANKO: Carmine Infantino, even from the very beginning, was a stylist.
One of the things he brought to his art and to the comics form itself was a fluidity.
His work always seemed to be in motion.
That was particularly good for his Flash work, because that was a character that was predicated on movement.
His panel arrangement, the elements within his panels, always seemed to be moving forward.
SCHREIBER: The Flash joined Batman and Superman in the DC superhero roster, but no matter how fast these heroes could go, they had difficulty keeping up with the times.
You would never think of having Superman be neurotic or have doubts or anxieties or anything like that.
That was true of all the DC characters.
What was different about Marvel compared to DC was like in Greek drama, the gods were in their heavens, unquestioned, and then Euripides came along and decided to analyze them and, you know, make them more human and bring them down to, you know, to a human level, and I think that's what Marvel did with the superheroes.
And maybe it was time.
You know, you can't have those characters running around forever without beginning to wonder what they did, you know, in their off-hours.
RICHARDS: What are you reading, Johnny? JOHNNY: Great new comic mag, Reed.
Say, you know something? I'll be doggoned if this monster doesn't remind me of the thing.
GRIMM: Very funny.
LEE: I tried to say if such characters existed, how would they act in the real world, and that's where we tried to inject a little bit of reality.
The dialogue that Stan created was different.
It was very folksy and it seemed to work.
§ You belong, you belong, you belong § § You belong to the Merry Marvel Marching Society § § March along, march along, march along to the song § § Of the Merry Marvel Marching Society § SCHREIBER: Reality came crashing into the world of superhero comics on November 22, 1963 -- the assassination of President Kennedy.
Four months later, Jack Kirby and Stan Lee were inspired to resurrect a superhero that had defined the greatest ideals of the country -- Captain America.
He became the most psychologically complex of the Marvel characters.
He's a man out of time, a guy who survived an era and survived a war and his peers didn't.
AMERICA: Can you bring back the years of my life that I lost, that I could never recapture? FINGEROTH: It became this great soap opera of the early '60s and of this very optimistic, you know, age that was sort of traumatized by the assassination of John F.
AMERICA: Let this be our answer to the scoffers and the doubters, to those who think democracy has lost its resolve.
Wherever the deadly specter of tyranny looms, the spirt of free men, proud and united, will drive it from our shores.
My father was a veteran of the Korean War.
He would see that character, and Captain America represents one thing for him.
You know, me not being a veteran of the war but being the first-born, you know, child of an immigrant family here, I see Captain America and I see something completely different.
And I think that's what's beautiful and amazing about the character.
And this is before Vietnam really hits the fan and before we question the very idea of what it means to be a patriot and means to be American.
MAN: Jack Kirby reinvented the visual language of comics at least a couple times over his career.
And by the middle '60s, he had reached a new flowering, and he was doing superhero comics like really nobody had done before.
And so from that point on, I see Jack as a watershed artist.
You had pre-Jack Kirby artists and post-Jack Kirby artists.
SCHREIBER: Lee and Kirby weren't the only ones bringing superhero icons back into the limelight.
In the early '60s, artist Andy Warhol started making silk screen designs based on Superman and Batman, characters he loved while growing up as an isolated adolescent in Pittsburgh.
He used Superman for his first window display at the elegant Bonwit Teller department store on Fifth Avenue.
WOMAN: You and Rosenquist and Lichtenstein all were working very independently.
Does that seem odd to you, that they all began to look at the world in the same way? Um I think we just read a lot of comic books.
SCHREIBER: The abstractions of superhero images that Warhol and artists like Roy Lichtenstein created were part of a movement called pop art.
With its bold, colorful images, the comic book was a great source of inspiration.
For many years, the Parkhurst Galleries have been noted for their exhibitions and auctions of art that have stood the test of time.
But now, Mr.
Benson Parkhurst, the owner of the galleries, has bowed to the inevitable.
And the galleries are having their first exhibit of pop art.
ROBIN: Holy masquerade! It's Clock King! SCHREIBER: Pop art and comic book superheroes made a leap into living rooms across America when Batman came to television in 1966.
The show was heralded by a TV Guide cover specially designed by Roy Lichtenstein.
You can only fool some of the people some of the time, Clock King.
MAN: When you look at Batman, you see all those primary colors that were kind of borrowed from the earlier comic books.
It's Batman! WEST: You see references to pop culture.
Anything I can do for you, sir? Check your cape? And we rode that crest and what was happening out there.
ADAMS: I love the TV show, with the "pows" and the "bangs" and the lettering and all the rest of it.
Terrible, terrible humor, terrible, insane, funny, stupid stuff.
Climbing up the side of the building by walking across the stage and turning the camera to the side.
Sometimes I think people expect too much of us, Batman.
They have a right to expect it.
But we're only human.
All too true.
In the late '60s, there were the three bs -- the Beatles, Bond, and Batman.
It was a tribute to the comic book, and the comic book sales increased exponentially when we came out.
To the Batmobile.
Better put five cents in the meter.
No policeman's going to give the Batmobile a ticket.
No matter, Robin.
This money goes toward building better roads.
We all must do our part.
Good citizenship, you know? Holy taxation! You're right again, Batman.
MAN: Batman became camp.
Molly, don't panic.
MAN: In those days, camp was a fairly serious intellectual enterprise.
I'm slipping! Oh, Batman! MAN: But when kids see it, they take it literally.
When adults see it, they realize it's comedic.
What a terrible way to go-go.
The Batman TV show of the '60s was the type of game-changer that brainwashed an entire generation of kids, myself included.
MAN: They're trying to get the Bat Computer.
Can Batman and Robin stop them? Use your Bat Signal! Send Robin down the Batpole and put the dynamic duo into action! CATTO: It had this crazy vibe that no one had seen before.
Batman has many tools and toys and gadgets and friends and villains, and all those things are just ripe for licensing.
Little boys, by that Christmas of '67, got Batmobiles under the Christmas tree and Batman figures and Batcapes and Batarangs.
It was a fad, like hula hoops and coonskin caps, and when it's over, it's over.
I knew it was going to be trouble when it ended, and it was.
The books died immediately.
SCHREIBER: For the first quarter century of the comic book business, publishers tried to capture an audience of children.
Marvel Comics, on the other hand, captured the zeitgeist of its own times, and with it, a new generation of more mature readers.
I used modern music, I used modern design.
I used psychedelic art.
I brought surrealism into the mix.
I brought expressionism.
I brought pop art, optical art.
I used everything I could to update comics and bring them into today.
ADAMS: So what started happening, because of guys like Steranko, is the letters that would come in would come in from college students or young people who were studying art.
And they would go, "Wow, this is really great.
" So an awful lot of young artists were inspired to think of comic books as a form.
SCHREIBER: Jim Steranko had grown up on comic books, paid the bills doing graphic design for an advertising firm and performing as an escape artist.
In 1966, Steranko arrived unannounced at the Marvel offices and convinced Stan Lee to look at his portfolio.
STERANKO: He said, "I really don't have anything for you, but you're too damn good to let get away.
" And then he pointed to a rack that was on the wall that held all the Marvel titles, and he said two words that changed my career.
"Pick one.
" So I pointed to the worst book that they had.
“Was Nick Fury, Agent of SHIELD.
They simply don't know how to handle a James Bond, Man From UNCLE kind of character.
So I said, "I’ll take that guy," and Stan said, "It's yours.
" To me, SHIELD was an open, empty, high canvas that I could do virtually anything in, especially experimentation.
I did this three-page silent sequence.
It began with Nick Fury penetrating an enemy fortress.
There wasn't even a thought balloon.
There wasn't even a caption.
There were no words anywhere.
Three pages of silence, the first time in comics.
And then he gets killed at the end.
I took the pages into production, where Sol Brodsky held court, and he said, "I can't pay you for writing these first three pages.
There's nothing here, so I can only pay you for 17.
" But the writing was there.
It's all done visually.
I grabbed this guy by his shirt, and I said, "I'm going to throw you out this window if you don't pay me for those three pages.
" Well, in his infinite wisdom, he decided to pay me for the three pages, and we were cool about it.
MAN: Jim Steranko many people consider the Jimi Hendrix of comic book art in the late '60s, because just like Hendrix, he came on like a comet, an overnight sensation, and, just like Hendrix, creates a body of work that its influence and impact is in converse proportion to the actual quantity of comics he turned out.
This is one of the first of the -- of my interactive page experiments.
Fury has penetrated some enemy fortress and he has to go through a labyrinth, and to get from panel one to panel two, the reader had to actually transverse the maze.
At the bottom of the page, he's got to turn it, because the balloons are now in a vertical configuration, and to go to the final panel, he has to turn the page completely upside down.
SCHREIBER: While the 1960s brought new artistic and storytelling techniques to superhero comic books, the restrictions of the Comics Code Authority still remained in effect.
I created a character for Fury to develop a romance with.
I called her the Countess.
And in one of my books, I had another wordless page.
But every comic book had to pass these certain stringent rules of the Comics Code.
SCHREIBER: A phone being off the hook was too suggestive.
Couples couldn't fully embrace.
But a gun in a holster was perfectly acceptable.
By the time the Summer of Love arrived in 1867, American culture was being radically transformed.
Sidney Poitier was the top box office star that year, and the civil rights movement was taking America by storm.
[ Marchers singing ] MAN: We're going to lop out some militant, and I do mean militant, demonstrations, for March Mississippi.
[ Crowd cheering ] MAN: It made sense that the trend towards greater racial, ethnic diversity in superheroes would begin with Marvel Comics, since the Marvel comics of the 1960s had really made their reputation by casting outsiders as superheroes.
So as early as 1964, 1965, you at least started to see street scenes where not everybody was white.
You would see a black policeman or a black doctor, just little things like that to highlight some of the diversity in American culture.
My mind was blown.
At the high school where Peter Parker went to, there were black students going.
And he spoke to one of them! The guy said, "How's it going today?" "Fine.
" That was enough for me.
You can stop talking now.
Um I just -- I like that idea that it wasn't like a special thing.
"Oh, we're going to go to a black school today.
" He had -- he was part of an integrated school, and you can't imagine what that was like in the early 1960s to see.
We should be representative of the whole world.
I mean, actually every type of person should be represented in these stories.
SCHREIBER: In 1966, Stan Lee and Jack Kirby introduced the first black superhero -- T'Challa, the Black Panther.
FOSTER: He's a king of an African nation.
They are a super-scientific nation that has never been conquered and never had slaves taken from them, which, to me, was just amazing.
Right after the Black Panther, for Marvel, at least, comes Luke Cage, and he is a bad mammajamma.
SCHREIBER: Cage, a former street criminal, gains superpowers from an experiment in prison and becomes the first mercenary in comic books, complete with business cards.
LEE: His name is Luke Cage, and being a hero for hire is his thing.
We've put it all together for you in the first sensational ish of our newest superhero mag, on sale right about now.
WRIGHT: It was Marvel's answer to blaxploitation films that were popular in 1972.
WOMAN: Mmmmm.
FOSTER: He's like Shaft, he's like Superfly all rolled into one, and who wouldn't love that? Except he's not a pimp, thank you very much.
CAGE: Yeah, outfit's kinda hokey, but so what? All part of the superhero scene.
Don't dare miss Luke Cage -- Hero for Hire.
He's really something else.
Excelsior! SCHREIBER: Marvel superheroes had revitalized the field, but there were those at DC Comics who wanted change as well.
In 1970, DC contributes one of the most seminal superhero comics of all time.
It began when editor Jule Schwartz lumped two characters together in a seemingly random way.
ADAMS: Jule decided to put Green Arrow with Green Lantern.
And he said, "Okay, we're going to do the book, it's going to be combined Green Lantern and Green Arrow.
" I said, "You mean it's going to say Green Lantern/Green Arrow on the cover?“ He said, "Yeah.
" I mean, it's just too green.
It's ridiculous.
But we did it.
SCHWARTZ: We decided to go into an evolution for Green Lantern, and actually, isn't it curious that Green Lantern has helped people of all colors and never touched a black man? And that's his next-door neighbor, so to speak.
And we said, "By God, that is the story.
" MAN: And now read the copy -- I think it's important to read that copy, Jule, because that's the key to it.
And the black man says, "I've been reading about you, how you worked for the blue-skins, and how on a planet some place you helped out the orange-skins.
" MAN: And you've done considerable for the purple-skins.
Only there's skins you never bothered with -- the black skins.
I want to know, how come? Answer me that, Mr.
Green Lantern! GREEN LANTERN; I can't.
ADAMS: Danny O'Neil wrote a classic script, for a comic book.
Maybe for any medium.
A classic script.
He put the two characters against one another.
Made one represent the establishment, made one represent the downtrodden.
And so Green Lantern and Green Arrow conflicted with one another.
You've no cause to yell at me! I have a job.
I do it! GREEN ARROW: Seems I've heard that line before, at the Nazi war trials! ADAMS: They decided in the end, because of their conflict, that they would take a trip across America so they and we would discover America.
GREEN ARROW: On the streets of Memphis, a good black man died, and in Los Angeles, a good white man fell.
Something is wrong.
Something is killing us all.
Some hideous moral cancer is rotting our very souls! O'NEIL: I thought, what if We plotted the stories from the headlines? What if we did the stuff that we were really concerned about? I did hope that we would wake kids up.
If I had been thinking about this stuff from age eight onward and I was aware that these problems existed, maybe my mind would have come up with something.
ADAMS: Those were revolutionary comic books.
They changed comic books since that day.
We said in those comic books, "We can talk about things.
Anything we want, we can talk about in comics.
All those things that we haven't talked about, we can talk about.
" SCHREIBER: Except for drugs.
Cover art was submitted for a cautionary tale about drug use, but the publishers at DC Comics had to heed the Comics Code Authority, which, since 1955, had forbidden any depiction of illegal narcotics.
In 1970, when President Nixon declared drugs public enemy number one, superheroes were still prohibited from fighting this menace to society.
LEE: One day I got a letter from the Office of Health, Education, and Welfare in Washington.
I don't remember the exact wording, but it's something like this.
"Recognizing the influence that your character Spider-Man has on young people, we think it would be very beneficial if you would do an anti-drug story in Spider-Man.
" Well, no kids want to be lectured to, so I wasn't about to do a story that he said, "Don't take drugs.
" But I made that a part of the story.
A boy who had overdosed on something, thought he could fly.
He stood at the edge of a roof.
BOY: They gotta see, see how I walk on the air LEE: Spider-Man had to go up there and save him.
SPIDER-MAN: Gotcha! ADAMS: I went over to Marvel Comics, because I would go and hang out, and I find out they did a Spider-Man book, a character pops pills and walks off a roof.
Really? LEE: Any drug strong enough to give you that kind of trip can damage your brain -- but bad! But how do you warn the kids? How do you reach them? That's cool.
Stan's being cool.
That's, like, great! We sent that book to the Comic Code office, as were sending all the books, and they rejected the book.
I said, "Why?" They said, "You're not allowed to mention drugs in the comics.
" I said, "But we're not telling the kids to take drugs.
It's an anti-drug message.
" "Sorry.
" So I was so proud of my publisher.
I told him about it and I said, "Martin, I think we ought to put the book out without the seal of approval.
" He said, "Do it, Stan.
" ADAMS: It went out, it had no Comics Code seal.
Nobody mentioned it.
That is definitely cool.
We got more mail from teachers and parents and doctors and everybody all over the country saying how much they loved that book and how delighted they were.
Within a week they had a new meeting of the Comics Code Authority, which was all the publishers, the self-regulating agency, and they re-wrote the Comics Code.
They re-wrote it to such an extent that it's gone! SCHREIBER: The relaxed Comics Code enabled DC to put out its own landmark issue.
This new trend of comics for grownups was big news.
As the New York Times put it, "Today's superhero is about as much like his predecessors as today's child is like his parents.
" Even Superman confronted the issue of race relations when intrepid reporter Lois Lane turned black in order to cover a story in a ghetto of Metropolis called Little Africa.
FOSTER: I Am Curious (Black)! Issue of Lois Lane, where Lois Lane turns black for 24 hours.
Uh I thought it was a really brave attempt on the part of DC Comics.
You always have to go through different phases when you're reaching out to somebody, particularly with race in America.
There's tokenism, there's patronism, you know, and there are different stages we go through.
I thought that they made a valiant attempt.
LANE: There's Benny the Beret! He'll taxi me to Little Africa.
Why, he zoomed past me, as if -- as if I don't exist! So this is the way it is! My first lesson in the meaning of "black.
" FOSTER: The fact that you could kind of predict where the story was going to end, with the blood transfusion, and then they begin to appreciate that we're all one, you know, and they don't sing "Kumbayah" quite, but the idea's -- I get that.
And they took a little chance inside the book.
They asked -- Lois asked Superman, "Would you marry me even though I'm black now?" Whoa! So Superman answers by saying, "Well, Lois, I'm not even from this planet.
I'm an alien.
I don't even know if I can answer that.
" LANE: But your skin is the right color.
SCHREIBER: Though DC Comics' superhero stories were earnestly grappling with topical issues, the all-male writing staff was ill-prepared to handle the rise of a popular new movement in the 1970s.
WOMAN: We talk about equal opportunities and employment, we mean to have it now! WOMAN: We just want what men have had all these years.
But we don't want the bad things they took with them, like male chauvinism.
O'NEIL: I was a blue-collar, lower-middle-class Irish kid from north St.
Louis, and I believed in pacifism, in racial equality, and along came feminism, and I thought, "I ought to believe in this.
" But emotionally, I was five years away from accepting and understanding feminism.
MAN: Danny O'Neil took over the writing reigns of Wonder Woman and stripped the Princess Diana of all her powers and turned her into a street-level woman, basically someone who dressed in really hot catsuits, went around the world fighting international crime, drug cartels.
Folks like Gloria Steinem and other feminists believed that by stripping Wonder Woman of her power, you literally stripped her of her ability to be a physical peer to Superman.
Almost exclusively until the past couple of years, Wonder Woman has been written by and drawn by men, and Wonder Woman is a classic exercise, I think, in watching how men through the decades are trying to handle the ideas of women and equality through this character.
WOMAN: I Wish that I could say that superheroines have changed in a way that reflects the women's movement, but I don't think they really have.
I think there's been lip service, a lot of lip service given to "strong women," but -- but they're not.
I mean, they're still sex objects for the most part.
I certainly never played sexy.
I never even thought about it.
I think that's one of the reasons women embrace her.
§ Wonder Woman, Wonder Woman § § All the world is waiting for you § ROBBINS: Gosh.
In the '70s, when Lynda Carter was Wonder Woman, me and all my feminist friends loved it.
We watched it and we loved it.
JIMENEZ: The Wonder Woman TV show, particularly its first season, captured the essence of Wonder Woman perfectly, and what I mean by that is that Lynda Carter, the lead who played Wonder Woman, understood very clearly what that character was and what she was about, which was peace, which was about equality, which was about challenging gender norms, which was about power through strength, but strength of will.
What makes you so strong? On Paradise Island, there are only women.
Because of this pure environment, we are able to develop our minds and our physical skills, unhampered by masculine destructiveness.
Such information is utter rubbish! Can't you see she's trying to make fools out of us? Perhaps not.
It is an interesting theory she advances.
After the first episode aired, I can recall having some feminists be up in arms a bit that it was, um, exploitive.
And it kind of stunned me at first, until I realized that they just -- they weren't understanding the whole piece of this.
Women are the wave of the future, and sisterhood is stronger than anything.
No one can stop this mission, least of all a woman.
You obviously have little regard for womanhood.
You must learn respect.
Oof! SCHREIBER: For three seasons, Wonder Woman found a comfortable home on the small screen, joined on another network by Marvel Comics' first real media success up to that time -- the Incredible Hulk.
Kids were transported by these television escapades and parents were happy that their children were distracted from some of the real violence encroaching on the streets of America.
But by the mid-1970s, as the crime rate in New York City reached alarming levels, the world of superheroes changed dramatically.
[Man shouting ] WAID: New York was falling apart.
The infrastructure was collapsing.
It was crime central.
You go there, you get mugged.
And all of these young writers -- Gerry Conway and Walt Wolfman and Len Wein and those guys -- were living in New York.
And not only were they living in New York, they were working for slave wages, so they were not living in the nice parts of New York.
MAN: Writing Spider-Man, I was writing about my own life, and my own life was living in New York and being afraid to take the subway and knowing that at any moment, you know, a guy could walk down the street and shoot me.
There was a sense, you know, that the world was not a safe and nice place.
And comics hadn't really reflected that.
The Green Goblin captures Peter Parker's girlfriend, Gwen Stacy, takes her up to the top of a bridge in New York, and threatens to throw her off the bridge if Spider-Man doesn't surrender.
Now, in the traditional superhero story, the hero rescues the damsel in distress.
That's what happens.
Superman catches Lois Lane.
It's no big surprise.
There's a little tiny sound effect right down near her neck, Snap! Peter Parker, Spider-Man, trying to save the woman he loves, ends up killing her.
Well, readers went ballistic.
It ruined my life.
You know what? That was the darkest day of my life.
When I was ten years old, Gwen Stacy was my girlfriend.
I just -- I adored Gwen Stacy and I will tell you to this day that that was my Kennedy assassination moment.
When Gwen Stacy died, I remember where I was, I remember what I was wearing, I remember where I was reading that comic, and I remember walking around in a daze for the rest of the day, because in comics, characters didn't die.
CONWAY; I don't think We really thought it through.
I can guarantee you we did not really think this through.
But many people have later decided that this is the moment in the history of comics when comics literally turned the corner from being about fantasy to being about real life.
[Siren wailing] MAN: We have the police on the way, ma'am.
WOMAN: Please, I've got a baby in here.
Please! MAN: Madam, they're coming, they're coming.
WRIGHT: In the 1970s, there was a growing backlash against crime waves, against what some considered the permissiveness that had crept into American society in the '60s and '70s, and this backlash found reflection in some popular vigilante anti-heroes.
In Hollywood, for example, you had the Dirty Harry films.
You've got to ask yourself a question.
"Do I feel lucky?" Well, do ya, punk? What else you got? WRIGHT: And there was Death Wish.
Let's see the money, man.
You'll have to take it.
[Gunshots] [Gunfire] WRIGHT: In comic books, you had a character like the Punisher.
The Punisher was a Vietnam veteran who returned home to find his family murdered in a gangland killing.
He undertook a one-man war against crime, saying justice had failed to punish the guilty.
So he was going to exact justice himself.
In comic books, of course, superheroes were supposed to apprehend the bad guys, not kill them.
Even when the Green Goblin killed Gwen Stacy, there's a scene where Spider-Man flies into a rage and comes very close to killing the Green Goblin before he backs off and says, "No.
If I kill you, I'm going to be just as bad as you are.
" If you think about it, Spider-Man as the good superhero fails to save the innocent girl, so in effect, heroes failed.
Well, the Punisher comes along, he's the anti-hero.
MAN: Americans always talk about the love of -- of justice in that very, you know, abstract form, but what the person on the street really wants is street justice.
The bad guy gets his comeuppance.
The Punisher doesn't just punish them, he punishes them.
He's got a skull on his chest.
MAN: The biggest White House scandal in a century, the Watergate scandal, broke wide open today.
I have no comment.
MAN: The White House is in a state of shock.
How many more heads are going to roll? I intend to cooperate, as I said, fully, with all of the appropriate -- CONWAY: We were in the middle of Watergate and the incredible craziness of the Nixonian years.
What did the president know and when did he know it? CONWAY: Here you have the highest power in the land committing criminal acts, or if not committing them, condoning them.
Here you have a social breakdown of all the rules and regulations that we had all thought we were living by.
The Punisher comes along and he has a simple answer to that.
His answer is, "I’ll take care of it.
" The Caped Crusader and the Something Avenger and, you know, there is all about vengeance and things like that, you know? We don't have a hero named Jurisprudence Man.
SCHREIBER: The abuse of power in the White House even disarmed the stalwart Captain America.
Cap abandoned his identity and became a vigilante named Nomad, a hero without a country.
The superhero industry was at a crossroads.
Comic books had matured, but sales were plummeting.
Kids were still excited by the characters, but in the coming years, new technologies would emerge to unleash the power of superheroes like never before.
AUNT MAY: Peter? Yeah? Are you all right? Uh I'm fine.
AUNT MAY: Better this morning, any change? Change? Yep.
Big change.