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Superhero movies come of age – Batman XXX: A Porn Parody

When Will Smith promoted his superhero comedy Hancock he joked that when the inevitable porn knock-off was made, the schlockmeisters wouldn’t even have to change the title.  Smith was acknowledging the near pandemic frequency of low-brow, low-budget pornographers who hijack mainstream movies and, with little evidence of wit, transform them into adult entertainment. Edward Scissorhands, West Side Story and Saving Private Ryan, to name a few, have been reimagined as the Edward Penis Hands, Breast Side Story and Shaving Ryan’s Privates.  It’s easy to create a lascivious sounding title; it’s much harder to recreate the essence and look of the original source material.

Vivid Video, an adult film company, has recently released Batman XXX: A Porn Parody.  CNBC.com reported that the film’s “two trailers garnered over 1 million views on YouTube and the DVD has topped sales charts for nearly two months.”  The Hollywood Reporter estimated Vivid films sales account for a “$100 million slice of an industry that has been estimated to bring in as much as $13 billion a year (compared to mainstream box office of $10.6 billion).”

Judging from the two trailers, the filmmakers have accurately and slavishly copied the glossy and colorful look of the popular Batman 1960s TV show. The costumes are near perfect facsimiles of the outfits worn by the original cast (although I’m pretty sure that Adam West’s duds did not have “XXX” emblazed across his chest.)  Reuters reported that Vivid implied that in an effort to make the outfits look authentic they hired the show’s original costume designers.

Batman XXX: The Porn Parody recreates hallmark moments from the original show including: Batman dancing the Batusi, Robin idiosyncratically using the interjection “Holy,” the Dynamic duo chit-chatting while climbing up the side of a building, purple-suited and green-haired Joker laughing maniacally, and sultry Catwoman slinking suggestively around her lair.  Unlike the TV show, the porn version posits what happens when the heroes take off their costumes and make nice with the bad guys and gals.

During production of the original series, Caesar Romero didn’t want to shave off his famous mustache to play the Joker and the producers didn’t want to alter the look of the iconic baddie.  A solution was devised whereby the make-up team covered up and mashed down the offending facial hair with copious amount of white paint.  The near perfect result is that unless you know about the secret stash you wouldn’t notice it.  Amusingly, the actor portraying The Joker in the porn parody also sports a mustache that is similarly but, in this case, purposefully not completely concealed.

In the trailer, we also see a Batmobile so authentic that I wondered at first if the filmmakers illegally used footage from the original show.  They didn’t; they simply rented a replica.  Familiar sound-alike music punctuates the action, and we are reminded of the cartoon that preceded the series starring Adam West and that words like “Kapow!” and “Thwack!” were sprinkled over fight scenes.

Batman XXX, sold for a whopping $36.79 at Vivid’s website, has proven to be so popular that the company created a new division called Vivid-Superhero which will be tasked with creating other superhero-inspired films.  Superman XXX is already in preproduction and future films will feature other DC and Marvel characters, including Spider-Man, the Hulk, Wonder Woman and Captain America.

The roots of these superherocentric porn films lie somewhere between Slash fiction (where writers create stories that depict fictional characters engaged in sexual situations) and fan-films (where amateur filmmakers makes moves based on their favorite characters for their own amusement).

Because fan-films are rarely made as commercial ventures, the fan community was surprised that DC comics (as well as Paramount and other film studios) targeted them, aspiring Christopher Nolans, with legal cease-and-desist letters. The well-intentioned fans were relieved when DC changed its official position in 2008 by stating “We’re against anything that monetizes our assets and our copyrights without our permission. We are not against things where people use our assets if they don’t do anything monetarily with them.”

At the end of the Batman XXX trailer, a disclaimer states obviously that the film is a parody and that Batman and the gang are copyrighted characters that are owned by DC and Warner Bros. who are not affiliated with Batman XXX. Given the all-too-faithful recreations of the original show’s look and sound, Vivid Video is probably testing the legal limits between parody and copyright violation.  The 2011 release of Star Wars XXX: A Porn Parody will no doubt further intensify the discussion.

© 2010 Mark Edlitz

Posted by Mark - October 15, 2010 at 7:21 am

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This week’s comics pick: Countdown #42

Welcome to the first of what will hopefully be a weekly review of my top pick of the week’s new comic releases.  This week’s pick is Countdown #42, written by Paul Dini, Sean McKeever and Tony Bedard, pencils by Carlos Magno, inks by Mark McKenna and Jay Leisten, color by Rod Reis.

Countdown 42 cover artFor those of you who don’t follow DC Comics, Countdown is the follow up to 52, last year’s hugely successful weekly series about a year without Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman.  I didn’t read 52 as it was being released, largely because it was introduced as the follow up to Infinite Crisis, an “event” miniseries which I fould so tedious that I stopped reading after a few issues.  But when I heard that Paul Dini, one of the masterminds behind Batman the Animated Series, was the head writer on Countdown, I decided to give it a try.

Countdown is a weekly series with backwards numbering (counting down, get it?), so issue 42 is actually the 10th issue in the 52 issue series.  The series jumps back and forth between multiple plot lines concerning Jimmy Olsen, Donna Troy (formerly Wonder Girl), Jason Todd (formerly Robin, the one that died), Mary Marvel (the sister of Shazam’s Captain Marvel, with similar powers of flight, invulnerability and super strength), Karate Kid from the Legion of Superheroes, the Trickster, and others.  So far there is little linking the various plots together, but the hope is that the gradual unfolding and linking of these seemingly unconnected events will be the point of the series as a whole.

Issue 42 distinguishes itself mainly by introducing what is probably the most unlikely superhero team up ever: Mary Marvel and the Riddler.  In recent issues of Detective Comics the Riddler has supposedly reformed and now uses his considerable criminal experience as a freelance detective and security consultant.  Of course, no one seriously believes that he’s reformed, certainly not Captain Marvel’s sister, but nevertheless the two enter into an useasy alliance to track down Clayface.  Hopefully it will be the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

The rest of the issue moves forward plotlines concerning Jimmy Olsen discovering that he might have super powers, Jason Todd and Donna Troy’s search for Ray Palmer, the original Atom, Batman’s macho feud with Karate Kid (the kid beat him in a fight and his ego really can’t take it), the Trickster’s apparent remorse over  his part in the death of Bart Allen (formerly Impulse and until his sudden demise the current Flash), and, most interestingly, former Joker sidekick Harley Quinn’s new job as assistant director of an Amazon-themed women’s shelter.

So far, Countdown has been an intriguing look at the ins and outs of the DC Universe, seen through the eyes of some of its lesser known characters, and the themes of redemption and change are ones not often seen in comics, especially at DC where most of the major characters have remained relatively unchanged for 60 years or more.  It will be interesting to see what permanent effects the events in Countdown end up having on the DC Universe as a whole.

Posted by Jefferson - July 13, 2007 at 9:12 am

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