Some would certainly challenge the claim that the new book Superheroes!: Capes, Cowls, and the Creation of Comic Book Culture is the "first really comprehensive illustrated history of comic books," as co-author Laurence Maslon says. Even so, it's publication this fall, alongside a PBS documentary called Superheroes: The Never Ending-Battle by filmmaker and co-author Michael Kantor, is likely to spark some new interest in the often-rocky, sometimes shocking history of the medium.

The film, which will debut on PBS, and the book will examine the rise of superheroes and their impact on culture at large. For example, the 1966 Batman TV series was a major factor in selling color TVs.

The "never-ending battle" subtitle isn't just about the ongoing struggle between superheroes and villains, Maslon told Publisher's Weekly. It's about superhero comics' struggle to gain cultural respect.

The book includes interviews from 50 comics creators such as Stan Lee, Joe Kubert, Joe Simon and Jules Feiffer. Comics fans such as author Michael Chabon contribute as well. The documentary will be hosted by actor Liev Schreiber, who played Sabretooth in X-Men Origins: Wolverine.

[Via Publishers Weekly]