When assigned to review Geek and You Shall Find, I thought what I usually think in such circumstances, the circumstances under which my experience as an art gallery owner that specializes in film art, including superhero, Disney, and, just generally what would be termed “geek art”, is meant to come to bear. In the 20+ years I’ve represented art used in the making of films, I’ve had my share of art collectors that insult, dismiss, and otherwise disparage anything relating to pop culture, enter and exit the gallery in less than a minute’s time.
As a film critic, I’ve also seen my share of articles, videos, and other media that attempt to explain the value of all things geek, only to fall short by simplifying its value, or rationalizing it as fanciful, yet worthwhile distraction from more important, “serious” pursuits.
Gratefully, the new documentary Geek and You Shall Find delves deeper, showing great respect to the subject matter, offering research and historical references to illustrate why comics, current myths, and pop culture have the same value as any other art.
It also makes the case that comics and all films and culture derived from them have always been and always will be political. They remind everyone, including the Trumpsters out there who want everyone to “keep their politics out of comics”: Superman, Captain America, Wonder Woman, and scores of other superheroes are all social justice warriors.
A labor of love for the filmmakers, including writer/director Brad Faye, Geek and You Shall Find is made with money raised through Kickstarter, realized through the hard work of Faye and the team of producers of Superhero Faces Productions. That includes visual designer Arvind Navaratnasingham, and Kelsey Dickerson, whose enthusiasm as interviewer and narrator is infectious and clearly genuine.
Geek and You Shall Find doesn’t just follow the history of comic books, it explains the connection they have always had with social justice and a focus on inclusion and representation. There are a number of interviews with experts, including Dr. Cary Atkinson, a college professor who uses Spider-Man in his criminal justice class, and psychologist Dr. Janina Scott, a Chernobyl survivor and expert on PTSD, who utilizes superhero stories in her therapy. The relationship between Joseph Campbell’s work about heroes and the power of myth and the attraction to superhero culture is examined. This is not fluff, it successfully brings the threads together of why millions of people all over the world flock to comic books stores, conventions, and movie houses, and why they spend thousands on costumes to cosplay their favorite characters that follow the hero’s journey referenced in The Power of Myth and The Man With A Thousand Faces.
Marvel’s most famous creator Stan Lee, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles creator Kevin Eastman, Game of Thrones writer George R.R. Martin, and Star Wars comics writer Roy Thomas are also interviewed as part of the film. The most interesting and moving aspect of Geek and You Shall Find, however, is the power of comics to help those suffering, and the power to influence political perspectives. The film includes the creators of a comic in India called Priya’s Shakti, which is about a superhero that is also a rape survivor. I was impressed they included that, because I remember seeing that comic when it came out, and watching how influential it became over a relatively short span of time. It actively built empathy in its readers across the world. It also features a non-profit group called Comicare, which is a non-profit group that brings cosplayers into hospitals to lift the spirits of sick kids.
If I have one beef with the film, it’s that they should have hired a professional actor or actress as narrator, as opposed to using Kelsey Dickerson’s voice. Narration is a skill that requires honing, and it would have been worth hiring someone expert in the craft. It is obvious, however, that Dickerson is committed to the subject matter, and as a fellow geek, I’ve got to respect that. It would be wonderful if even just a few of the people who believe comic books and comic book movies are a waste of time would watch Geek and You Shall Find.
4 out of 5 stars.