As part of the AMC Visionaries series, EP Robert Kirkman (The Walking Dead, Fear the Walking Dead) sat down at TCA to discuss Heroes and Villains–his new six-part one-hour docuseries which will look at the history and inspiration behind iconic comic books. Alongside him was Eli Roth (Hostel), whose own Visionaries series Eli Roth’s History of Horror was just announced, while James Cameron joined in via satellite. His docuseries James Cameron’s Story of Science Fiction will look at how sci-fi has addressed the questions of humanity through the ages.
Kirkman said his series will have something for everyone – even the most educated comic book enthusiast. “There are elements to the stories that you think you know,” he said, “that we’ve uncovered different aspects of – even our researchers found things that I don’t know about. I think if you’re a die-hard comic book fan, you’re still going to get things from the show that you didn’t know about.”
One thing that has always seemed lacking in the comic book sci-fi genre is gender equality. Kirkman said. “We’re actually doing two episodes that focus on that specifically, we’re doing one about the creation of Wonder Woman, which was created by William Moulton Marsten. A lot of people don’t know that he had a polygamous relationship with two women and those two women were very instrumental in the creation of Wonder Woman, so we do a deep dive into who they were as people.”
Cameron will also address societal changes through the lens of sci-fi he said. “I think the role of women in science fiction has been varied. We’re not going to do specific episodes [on that], we’re doing six episodes and they’re themed around space travel and dark futures, dystopias, time travel, but throughout it, we want to have this thread of analyzing the interaction between science fiction and society. Science fiction traditionally in the 30s and 40s was by and for men and women writers had to have nom de plumes. But in the 60s and 70s science fiction became a forerunner in breaking down social barriers whether it was around race or gender.”
Kirkman will also deal with racial diversity within the comic book world. “We’re also doing another episode called ‘The Color of Comics’, ” he said, “which explores the history of black characters and the lack of black characters in the comic book industry, which touches on the creation of Black Panther.”
“With regard to horror, you wouldn’t have horror without Mary Shelley or Frankenstein,” Roth added, saying he would also discuss racial diversity within the horror genre. “We sadly lost George Romero,” he said, “but at the height of the Civil Rights movement, he put an African American as the lead of Night of the Living Dead and at the end of the movie he’s shot by a bunch of rednecks, not for the color of his skin, but because they think he’s a zombie, but obviously you can read into it the implications of that.”
Roth also said the popularity of themes within the horror genre are usually a reflection of society’s concerns at that given time. “Get Out is a movie that gives everyone a safe context to talk about racial tensions,” he said. “It’s such a great film. It’s really resonating with people”