Superheroes on PBS

I almost forgot about this myself, but PBS aired Superheroes: A Never-Ending Battle, a 3 part documentary on the history of American comic book Superheroes, this week and now all episodes are online for a limited time only!

Here’s a panel on the documentary from this year’s San Diego Comic-Con if you wanna pre-game post-emptively:


I saw the first installment of the series and enjoyed it, especially to see interviews with some of the original creators in the field who have since passed, like Joe Simon, Carmine InfantinoJerry Robinson, and even some archival footage of Jack Kirby.

PBS' Superheroes book

PBS’ Superheroes companion book

The documentary series has an accompanying book too, reviewed favorably for its inclusionary history over at DC Women Kicking Ass here.

Happy Bicentennial Birthday Wagner!

Today is the 200th birthday of everyone’s favorite German marathon opera composer, Richard Wagner.  I know I’m kind of ready to move on after all the Wagner-festivities of the past season…  To celebrate his first centennial, in 1913, German film pioneer Carl Froelich directed this silent autobiographical movie:


Interestingly, to avoid royalty fees for using Wagner’s music, they instead commissioned Italian-born, German-based composer Giuseppe Becce to create the original, Wagnerian-ish score.  As if that wasn’t enough, Becce even played the title role!  Such an auspicious omen for an aspiring composer, literally stepping into the role of a great predecessor, but doesn’t seem to have rubbed off too much onto Becce.

Wonder Women of (not through) History

If you’re like me and you missed PBS‘ screening of Kristy Guevara-Flanagan‘s documentary Wonder Women!, you’re in luck, because the whole thing is up on the Independent Lens documentary minisite for your viewing pleasure.

Wonder Women! The Untold Story of American Superheroines on PBS

It occurred to me after posting on Monday that my title sounded kinda familiar…  Here’s why:

Wonder Women of History by Alice Marble

As Brian Cronin lays out in this installment of Comic Book Legends Revealed, Wonder Woman‘s 1940s series, by what was then All-American Publications, was graced with the #1 woman’s tennis champion as associate editor!  After retiring from her historic tennis career, Alice Marble went about publicizing Wonder Woman as a icon for young girls and wrote a back-up segment in each issue celebrating notable historic women.  Adorable, no?  Click on the image for the full post and the full Nightingale story too!

Alice Marble had a pretty eventful retirement, later claiming that she had worked as a spy for the US government during WWII.  When I was taking my first class on making comics, with cartoonist Tom Motley, I actually wound up using her as my subject!  Not the greatest, but if you’re curious about Marble or my art “skills”, the story is up in full on my woefully neglected DeviantArt account:

My short comic about Alice Marble

Ms. Marble, by Me!

Wonder Women through History

WONDER WOMEN! The Untold Story of American Superheroines from Vaquera Films on Vimeo.

Short notice since I thought this was airing later, but tonight, in a new installment of PBS’ Independent Lens series of documentaries, is the nationwide TV premiere of Kristy Guevara-Flanagan‘s Wonder Women! The Untold Story of American Superheroines.  The movie looks at how depictions of female characters in popular media, especially superheroes, reflected changing attitudes towards women and women’s issues throughout American history, starting with the grandmommy of them all, Wonder Woman!

You can learn more about the film on PBS’s site for it, including additional air times.  PBS has an interview with the director as does Newsarama.

This double feature might’ve worked better if I’d posted a bit earlier, but PBS has a web-series called Off Book on new forms of artistic expression, and there’s one on Webcomics!

Lucy Knisley is an interviewee, and they show a whooole lot of xkcd and SMBC

Diva to Casta Diva

When she’s not watching non-stop Catholic mass on TV, my grandmother sometimes watches the news from Spain, which is how I learned that today is Catalan soprano Montserrat Caballé‘s 80th birthday!  To celebrate, here is probably her single most famous performance, in Bellini‘s Norma at the 1974 Orange Opera Festival.

Additionally, here’s an interview with her in 1970, where she discusses the role of Norma four years before that legendary performance (Part 2 here).

Show Tunes on PBS, Big Surprise

Sheet Music covers from NYPL

Forgot to plug this, on PBS tonight at 9pm:

Watch Season 3 Preview on PBS. See more from Michael Feinsteins American Songbook.

Michael Feinstein is an American chanteur in the swooning tradition, which I’m not always a huge fan of, but I am interested in his preservationist inclinations…  A prior episode in his series showed his sweet audio archiving and transferring set-up at home, so as a library science student I was intrigued.  (Link below to a video on his collection of old sheet music.)

Watch Lost and Found on PBS. See more from Michael Feinsteins American Songbook.

His American Songbook series on PBS returns for a third season, with episodes devoted to the early 20th century history of popular song through show tunes, dance, and radio in America.

PBS has a real hard-on for Broadway, I feel like I’ve gotten good crash courses in American musicals history just from them.  This should be another good addition to that televised lesson plan, and they have a few other relevant transmissions throughout this month, so I’ll keep you posted on those too…

The Wayne White Story

wayne white beauty is embarrassing

Copyright Wayne White

Missed this on PBS the other day, but seems borderline appropriate for the blog.  PBS‘ Independent Lens recently aired Beauty is Embarrassing by director Neil Berkeley, which is all about Wayne White, a former underground cartoonist, eventual designer on Pee-Wee’s Playhouse, and now an unexpected fine art world success.

The full documentary is available on PBS Video until Monday, Jan. 28th, so good weekend viewing.  After that, you can visit the Beauty is Embarrassing website to buy the video or learn more.

Beauty is Embarrassing – The Wayne White Story on PBS Online

gary panter last glare 2010

Copyright Gary Panter

Another interesting comics connection through Pee-Wee’s Playhouse is Gary Panter, another underground cartoonist-cum-artist (and recipient of MoCCA’s 2012 Klein Award!) who also worked on the design of that show.  I guess they knew each other?  Interesting network…

As You Sleep, You Stir Up Love

A whole slew of “good night” arias to lull you to sleep…  These are all from settings of Metastasio‘s libretto for L’Olimpiade, set by more than 60 composers!

First off, Italian contralto Sara Mingardo sings Vivaldi‘s take, followed by Caldara, for whom the libretto was written in the first place; noted French countertenor Philippe Jaroussky sings here.


Finally, Pergolesi‘s version, sung by German soprano Simone Kermes.  With all these settings of a single text laying around, it was really genius of Naive Records to create a pastiche, uniting arias by different composers to showcase the range of interpretations.  But it’s also interesting to hear different takes on the same aria, no?  Here’s a review of Naive‘s recording, and a behind-the-scenes video too:

aka, Beauty and Heart of Iron

BBC Radio 3‘s weekly streaming opera offering this time is a Rossini rarity, Matilde di Shabran, which was apparently controversial enough to cause fights after its 1821 premiere, so check it out to see what all the fuss is about…


This performance is coming from the Rossini Opera Festival in Pesaro, Italy, which mounted the first production of Matilde di Shabran in 175 years back in 1996 and produced the accompanying short documentary.  Italian with French subtitles, but still plenty of 90s datedness to enjoy even if you can’t understand.

PhD Comics explains Open Access!

Jorge Cham of PhD Comics occasionally takes a break from comics about graduate student life to create animated versions of academic talks or theses (or even make a live -action movie based on his comics!), and his latest such venture is all about Open Access in the scientific publishing community, an interesting subject to me as a library science student…

These videos can make a good introduction to some heady scientific concepts (like the Higgs-Boson particle and the CERN Large Hadron Collider), and you can seem them all at PhD TV.