2011-03-09 - WITH GREAT PORN COMES GREAT RESPONSIBILITY
Editor's Note: A little change of pace here this week, as for the first time I'm turning over the floor to a guest lecturer, our very own Scott Bowden, who recently went on assignment for us into a very different kind of comic-book continuity. Comic-book fans who spend any time at all online no doubt noticed the amount of exposure that Vivid Entertainment received last year for their adult parody of the classic 1960s BATMAN television series, which wound up doing very big business. Vivid apparently noticed the exposure as well, and began actively reaching out to comics sites like this one in the hopes of reaching out to comics fans about their successive superhero-themed projects.
When the press release for their upcoming SPIDER-MAN VS. SUPERMAN XXX project crossed my desk along with an invitation for journalists to visit the set, and when I saw the list of characters who would be making appearances, I knew we had to send someone out to investigate. Although the following report is as "safe-for-work" as anything else that's run here (mostly), I realize the subject matter may not be for everyone, so the more sensitive among you should consider yourselves warned. Not to worry, we'll be back to the usual fare next week. In the meantime, I'll leave you in the more than capable hands of Scott Bowden, as he takes us behind the scenes with a group of comic-book fans as they make a decidedly different kind of comic-book movie...
Director Axel Braun is in the middle of a back-to-back shoot of porn parodies featuring iconic superheroes Spider-Man and Superman, but during this brief break from behind the camera, it's Han Solo who's on the native Italian's mind.
"I'm shooting Star Wars soon -- and in my version, not only does Han shoot first, but he just starts blasting Greedo without saying a fuckin' word. 'Blam, blam, blam, blam!' Just blows him away, man. Then Han casually finishes his drink. None of this shit with Greedo shooting first. Han's gotta shoot first, man."
Spoken like a true fanboy.
Braun, the director of last year's outrageously successful Batman XXX: A Porn Parody has been a comics/sci-fi fan since he was a 5-year-old in Italy. Already a fan of the Batman comic, young Axel was blown away when his father, legendary porn-pioneer Lasse Braun, brought his son a View-Master upon returning from a business trip to the United States. Included were reels featuring the costumed Adam West and the rest of the cast from the camp '60s TV series. Up until that time, Axel had no idea there was a live-action TV show featuring the alter egos of Bruce Wayne and his young ward, Dick Grayson. He marveled at the 3-D images of Batman and Robin -- and especially Catwoman, played by Julie Newmar -- as they POW'd, CONK'd and ZAP'd their way through the episode "The Purr-Fect Crime." When Batman finally hit Italy in syndication in the early '80s, Axel went absolutely batty.
Braun's brain: A fanboy at heart, Axel combines his film expertise with solid comics sensibilities and keen attention to detail.
"I was a huge, huge fan of the show," he says. "I loved the costumes and the humor of it. It didn't take itself seriously. It was fun."
In other words, it was tailor-made for a porn parody. After directing such parodies based on other classic American programs, including Star Trek, Happy Days and I Dream of Jeannie, Braun had the inspiration to film his childhood hero when he saw porn actress Tori Black.
"I thought, 'My God -- she looks so much like Julie Newmar. I'll do Batman!'"
About a year ago, when I initially saw the trailer for Batman XXX: A Porn Parody, I was amazed at the production values, which seemed to be nearly on par with the original material. (OK, admittedly, that's not saying a lot, but...) To be honest, I wasn't sure if this was the coolest thing ever -- or the creepiest. Then I watched the film. The more I saw of how the actors took to the roles, especially Evan Stone, who seemed to be doing his best to channel the spirit of Frank Gorshin in his role as the Riddler, and Dale DaBone's near-perfect Adam West impression, the more I realized they weren't making fun of the comics or degrading the series, but having a hell of a lot of fun celebrating these characters.
Braun explains that casting the first Batman XXX parody for Vivid Entertainment was unlike most porn casting sessions. The actors couldn't just look the part -- they had to be able to, you know, act. At least a little. Braun's love for the show is evident, from the spot-on costumes to the mannerisms of the actors. (He reportedly rejected the initial costume designs as unauthentic.)
Then there are the little details in the film -- like Batman correcting Robin's grammar (even when the Dynamic Duo is tied up and facing certain death) and Joker actor Randy Spears growing a pencil-thin mustache that could be visible under his makeup a la the late, great Cesar Romero, who refused to shave after earning the role of the clown prince of crime back in the '60s. (You may recall Spears from such films as The Girl from B.I.K.I.N.I., Snatch Adams and as the Starfleet Captain in Sex Trek: The Next Penetration.) In a weird way, I appreciate Spears' commitment to mimicking Romero's zaniness almost as much as Jack Nicholson's buffoonery in Tim Burton's 1989 film.
In true villainous feline fashion, after being double-teamed by the Caped Crusader and the Boy Wonder (who, apparently, isn't gay, after all, as he also beds Batgirl), Catwoman double-crosses them, leaving them to die in a trap at the film's end. To learn their fate, you'll have to tune in to the next Bat-porn from the same Bat-director.
"Tori was supposed to have much of the costume on during that scene, but the Joker got so into it, he ripped her costume off," Braun says. "It was so hot that I didn't want to stop it."
Batman XXX: A Porn Parody was the biggest-selling porn film of 2010, prompting Vivid Entertainment to launch Vivid SuperXXXHeroes, a division devoted to films featuring the icons of the Marvel, DC and other comic universes.
"With Batman and these superheroes, I wanted to go for a whole new demographic," Braun explains. "I can't go after people who buy porn because most people just get it off the Internet for free. But if you're into comics, you're gonna want to see this -- it's like an event film, a blockbuster for porn."
I don't know what to expect when I walk onto the set of Braun's latest epic parodies: Spider-Man XXX and Spider-Man vs. Superman XXX. In fact, I'm not even sure I'm at the right location when I pull up next to what appears to be a row of factory warehouses in downtown Los Angeles.
I call the producer, Shylar Cobi, on my cell, saying, "I'm here at the address I wrote down…but I don't think I'm in right place."
After I describe my surroundings, Cobi reassures me, "Yeah, you're here. Come around back."
I walk behind the building through an opening in a chain-link fence layered at the top in barbed wire to find what appears to a shipping dock -- just the sort of place where a gang of supervillains might call a meeting, or the mob might have somebody bumped off. Cobi emerges, welcoming me into the converted warehouse facility, and gives me a brief tour of Lex Luthor's underground lair, which looks decidedly less glamorous than Gene Hackman's digs in 1978's Superman.
"We had a wild scene last night," he says. "Doc Ock was fighting Superman while Lex had sex with Lois in a cage. Then Spider-Man showed up. We were here all night and into the morning."
He points out the actor playing Spidey, obviously worn out, taking a nap on what appears to be an old, uncomfortable bed that you might expect to find in Peter Parker's pad in the '70s.
"Spider-Man's not available to talk right now, but Miss Teschmacher is in makeup, and Supergirl is outside, so feel free to interview them," he says. "We're shooting a girl-girl scene with them tonight. Take as many pictures as you want between takes -- but no hardcore. Make yourself at home."
Supergirl and Miss Teschmacher. In a girl-on-girl scene.
Lex appeal: Supergirl and Miss Teschmacher dig Luthor's underground lair.
As I'm praising Odin for putting me here on the day that one of my darkest childhood fantasies is about to come true, Eric Masterson, the actor playing Luthor, shows up, gripping his script as if it were his latest master plan. I recognize him from the first Superman XXX parody (I had to do my research, after all), so I strike up a conversation.
Turns out that Masterson's a fanboy, too. In fact, his "stage" name is taken from the secret identity of Thunderstrike, who briefly replaced Thor in the Avengers in the early '90s.
"Is this a dream come true?" he asks rhetorically, gleefully repeating my question. "To play Lex Luthor? To play one of the greatest comic villains, the greatest criminal mastermind of all time? Absolutely! And the fact that I get to wear the purple and the green is just amazing. The Legion of Doom suit is the way to go."
Evil minds think alike: Heel wrestling manager (and guest columnist) Scott Bowden joins forces with Lex Luthor, the greatest criminal genius of all time.
When I ask if he gets a jetpack, his boyish smile disappears momentarily.
"Sadly, no jetpack. But I do get these power gauntlets that I get to smack Superman around with. Very cool!"
He explains that while they paid a bizarre homage to the Richard Donner films with the first Superman XXX (including Christopher Reeve lookalike Ryan Driller in the lead), this new film has more elements of the comic books, which suits Masterson just fine.
"I grew up with comics, just like Axel," he says. "In fact, I used to grade comics for both Christie's and Sotheby's auction houses. I graded a copy of Amazing Fantasy #15 for [longtime comic-book distributor, publisher and former comic-book store owner] Steve Geppi. Axel is really good -- he knows the books. He can sometimes just look at a girl and say, 'Hey, that's my Mary Jane Watson.'" (M.J. is played by Capri Anderson, who made headlines when she was found by police locked behind Charlie Sheen's bathroom door at the Plaza Hotel during the troubled star's infamous October bender. Hmmph -- where was Spider-Man then?)
When I mention the sex scene from the previous night, I declare that he might be the most diabolical Lex Luthor ever on film because he's the only one who's ever raped Lois Lane.
Masterson cuts me off, emphatically correcting me, "Whoa, whoa, whoa. Lex doesn't rape her in our movie. Lois says she'll have sex with me in order to save Superman's life. So while Ock's got him pinned down, Superman's forced to watch as I'm saying, 'Did you hear that, Man of Steel? Lois wants me to give it to her!' And Superman's screaming, 'Noooooooooo!'"
Masterson was pleased with the first Superman XXX, especially since he got to work with Miss Teschmacher, who's played by Alexis Texas, a shapely blonde who's got more junk in the trunk than She-Hulk.
"I've actually had a lot of people tell me they like our movie better than Superman Returns," he says. "But then I guess they're gonna say that because ours has a bunch of naked chicks in it."
I go outside to find Kagney Linn Karter, Supergirl, who's in the middle of a conversation with a female hairstylist. The pretty, busty blonde takes a drag off her cigarette and says, "No, I don't think Superman ever has to go to the dentist -- super teeth."
I interject, saying, "Ah, but what about super cavities? And I have to say, I think Superman would be pretty disappointed to see you smoking."
They both laugh politely at my lame jokes.
Karter admits she wasn't a fan of the Supergirl character growing up but did some online research to prepare for the role.
Super curls: The Cousin of Steel has her hair done between takes.
"I think she looks like me, or rather, I look like her. I have that comic-book heroine figure ... small waist, big bust, nice legs. Some of my biggest fans are the Comic-Con crowd. I love those guys."
This is my first time interviewing a female porn star -- it feels as awkward as a first date. I find myself asking questions like, "How's the suit...do you feel sexy in it?" and "You don't have sex with Superman in this film, do you? Because, y'know, he's your cousin...and that would be weird."
She explains that Luthor and Teschmacher attack her with the dreaded Kryptonite necklace, a prop similar to that of the Donner film. While Lex watches the progress of his speeding missile on a monitor, Teschmacher takes advantage of the weakened Supergirl before releasing her so she can divert the missile and save her mother in Hoboken, New Jersey. (Yeah, in the Donner film, the missile was headed for Hackensack, but whatever.)
She points out that "no self-respecting Supergirl would do it with Lex Luthor's girlfriend unless she was seduced with Kryptonite or had to make a self-sacrifice to save the world or something. After all, a Supergirl's gotta do what a Supergirl's gotta do."
Good point. As we wrap up our interview, I realize, in a strange way, I'm playing the Lois Lane part to her Superman from the famous interview scene in the '78 film. For a second, I flirt with the idea of asking, "What...color...underwear am I wearing?" I walk away, relieved that I showed restraint.
I'm making a beeline to see the scantily clad Miss Teschmacher in the dressing room when I overhear a man jokingly say to a member of the crew, "Well, blame me. I helped write this damn thing."
I abruptly ask, "Oh, so you're the co-writer?"
Eli Cross pauses before answering, "I guess you could say that."
When I ask how he's bringing the worlds of Spider-Man and Superman together on film, Cross surprises me when he says that much of the material is based on the meeting of the two heroes in the "big comic book from the '70s."
Treasured source material: Think of the screenplay as the '76 Marvel/DC Treasury meets Penthouse Forum.
I blurt out, "The oversized Treasury Edition?! I loved that book!"
"Well, parts of it," he says. "The villains are the same -- Doc Ock and Lex -- and some of the dialogue is based on the book. And we added stuff, too." (Such as the caged Lois Lane sex scene, I would imagine.)
Step into my Ocktagon: The Doctor is in.
An admitted fanboy as well, Cross is lightheartedly ambivalent about his work on the project.
"I imagine I feel a bit like the Pope would if he desecrated the Sistine Chapel," he sighs jokingly. "With the Batman parody, that was different because that whole show was a parody itself. I mean, c'mon, Bat Shark Repellent? I'm 43, so I grew up on Marvel -- I remember buying the issue off the stands when the Green Goblin murders Gwen Stacy. Marvel was doing some great stuff then that had more realism than DC, so I liked Spider-Man. Most of the dialogue in this film is comic-based -- but it's almost as if Richard Donner adapted a Spider-Man vs. Superman script."
"With, obviously, a lot more sex," I say.
"Right, a lot of sex," he says, laughing. "When people ask about me working on this, I usually grunt like Lurch: 'Urgghhhhh.' But, if somebody's gotta do it, it might as well be me -- a guy who was a huge fan of the comics. You know, Axel asked me the other day if our Spider-Man movie was a comedy. I told him no -- not the way I wrote it; however, the way he's directing it, yes, it's a comedy. And Spider-Man vs. Superman? I'll put it to you this way: We've got a sex scene with Liz Osborn, Mary Jane...and Superman. Now that's a farce. But I look at it this way: I can't do anything worse to Spider-Man that George Lucas didn't do with the last Indiana Jones movie or the new Star Wars films."
When I mention The Electric Company's version of Spider-Man, with all the silly villains, Eli says, "Yeah, but, oh man, that Electric Company costume -- that was one great Spidey suit!"
Okay, but that suit has nothing on the negligee Alexis Texas is wearing as she prepares to don her leather garb as Lex's sexy partner in crime.
She smiles when I coyly ask, "Miss Teschmacher, I presume?"
"That's right," she says, smiling.
I humbly confess, "As big fans of the '78 Donner film, all my friends and I fantasized about Miss Teschmacher," failing to mention that I was also pretty sweet on Sarah Douglas, who played Ursa in Superman II. (Turns out that Ursa, at least in the Braun version of Superman XXX, is a lesbian who seduces Lois Lane on Perry White's desk at the Daily Planet. Guess that explains the haircut.)
"Really?! That's so hot," says Alexis, who seems genuinely excited that a large contingent of super nerds like me is immediately drawn to her merely because she's portraying an oversexed version of Valerie Perrine's role in Superman and Superman II. "I'm really honored to play the character. I always find myself playing the vampy, sexy bad girl...charming yet conniving. And not only does she have a cutting sense of humor, but she always gets what she wants...like me!"
I bring up Teschmacher's good qualities as well, such as the soft spot for her doomed mother, whom she saves by freeing Superman…but not before stealing a kiss.
"Yes, she definitely has a good heart at her core," says Alexis, who also played the Riddler's moll in Batman XXX, in which she drugged the masked crimefighter's grapefruit juice, inducing a stirring rendition of the Batusi on the dance floor.
When I mention how I've overheard of her nefarious plan to seduce Supergirl with Kryptonite, Alexis addresses me as if I were Clark Kent, musing, "I've got a little scoop for you. I don't need Kryptonite or to even buy her a drink -- Supergirl said she would do it with anytime! Ha, ha, ha!"
Nearby, Supergirl, with her freshly curled blonde locks, smiles and begins undressing so she can squeeze into her suit with nary a phone booth in sight. I feel myself blushing slightly like a 12-year-old. Suddenly, Axel arrives on the set and enters the dressing room.
"Hey, when you see Spider-Man, tell him he's gotta shave -- Peter Parker can't have any facial hair," he tells Cobi, who's steam-cleaning Supergirl's cape.
The cape crusader: Producer Shylar Cobi's work is never done.
Clearly, Spider-Man is near and dear to Axel Braun's heart. He scowls a bit when I ask if he's doing an XXX-rated version of the origin story. "Nah, nah, nah -- that's been done to death, and now I think they're doing it again in the new Spider-Man movie. And have you seen their new Spidey suit? Looks like some kind of Japanese TV Spider-Man. With my film, I'm doing everything I've ever wanted to see in a Spider-Man movie."
His eyes widen with giddiness as he exclaims, "Well, for starters...Electro! Also, when Peter Parker's Spidey sense tingles, his face becomes the half mask like in the comics with the little squiggly lines over his head. And have you seen our Spider-Man costume? It's amazing. We spent 10 grand on it -- almost an exact replica of the Maguire suit from the first Spider-Man movie. Come with me!"
Electro company: The power he's supplying, it's electrifying.
Like a mad scientist, he laughs as he darts up the staircase leading to the top floor of the warehouse.
"And our Black Widow suit! You gotta see her! The actress dyed her hair dark red, like blood red, but I made the suit more of a dark pewter color to differentiate her from the Black Cat."
"Whoa. Felicia Hardy's in your movie? Cool!"
As he rounds the top of the staircase, he yells, "Yes, yes, yes!"
Widow peek: Actress Brooklyn Lee looks like she could so kick Scarlett Johansson's ass.
He screeches to a halt in front of the elaborate computer setup manned by the set photographer, who clicks on thumbnails at Axel's request to reveal photos of his actors in classic, colorful renditions of the '70s-era costumes worn by the Black Widow, Doc Ock and the Kingpin. They appear to have leaped straight out of comics of mine bagged and boarded back home, or maybe off of an old Slurpee cup.
"Say, what's a Spider-Woman like you doing in a place like this?": Worlds collide on the set of Braun's latest Marvel/DC parodies.
When I ask about J. Jonah Jameson, he says he agonized over the casting of the surly, bombastic Daily Bugle publisher until Rob Black popped into his head. As the picture revealing the familiar flattop and Hitleresque mustache emerge on the computer screen, with Black's Jameson pounding his desk, I exclaim, "Parkerrrr!" Then he shows me Gwen Stacy (played by Ash Hollywood). I note her blonde feathered bangs perfectly in place, complete with a black hairband.
Make mine Marvel!: Clone or not, this Gwen Stacy has Spidey's senses tingling.
"Yes, yes -- you understand what I'm trying to do," sounding a bit like Seinfeld's "Soup Nazi" bonding with Kramer for realizing the chef's painstaking attention to detail and quest for perfection. "I want to recreate the look and feel of the comics -- I want to capture their spirit. Listen, I am a fanboy, too! I feel obligated to give them these details. I put Luthor in the outfit from the Super Friends because the fanboy side of me wants to see these things. So far, the fans have embraced what we're trying to do, and that makes me feel good."
Finally, he reveals his masterpiece: ol' Web-head. With the exception of an X symbol in place of the spider emblem, it looks exactly like your friendly neighborhood wallcrawler in the Raimi films.
Oh, what a tangled web he weaves: Spidey apprehends the Black Widow and the Black Cat in ways never before seen in Axel Braun's upcoming porn parodies.
Braun is also gearing up to shoot The Avengers XXX: A Porn Parody; he reveals his movie begins with the death of Captain America.
"I took one look at that great suit they've done for the new Cap movie, and I said, 'No way. I can't even try to replicate that.' But we'll have Iron Man, Hulk, Thor in his classic costume, Hawkeye with Black Widow as his girlfriend, and Invisible Girl and Ms. Marvel will also be part of the story. I'm most excited about having the Scarlet Witch in the movie -- oh, man, I thought she was so hot as a kid. I gotta tell you, it's fun, man. I get to live out my childhood dreams."
Unfortunately for me, as the shoot drags into the night, Braun orders take after take of the strictly dialogue scene with Luthor, Teschmacher and Supergirl that precedes the Kryptonite attack and, most important, the girl-on-girl showdown. At one point, between takes, he calls for Supergirl's hair to be curled again. One by one, my fellow press members, an odd mix of reporters from Hustler, Adult Video News and GQ, file out of Luthor's lair. Although I realize this is my last chance to see Supergirl having sex in the flesh, I say my goodbyes to Cobi and Braun, thanking them for their hospitality after spending nearly six hours on their set.
"Who are you, his Super Sister?": Lex is stunned to learn that Superman has Krypton kinfolk.
Before I leave, Braun pulls up a picture on his iPhone of Bobbi Starr, an actress he's considering for the role of Princess Leia. She's wearing the classic white costume and holding a laser gun, with her hair set perfectly in the iconic cinnamon buns.
"Wow -- she looks great," I say.
Braun shakes his head.
"Yeah, but I don't know. She might be too pretty...and too tall."
The fanboy in me counters, "Yeah, but she would look awfully sexy in Jabba the Hutt's slave outfit."
Braun looks at me incredulously, questioning my reasoning.
"Yeah, but I'm shooting A New Hope," he says, grinning. "You're thinking Return of the Jedi."
I laugh as I exit, thinking, "The Force is strong with this one."
Scott Bowden, our erstwhile wrestling columnist, can be found more often these days at his own site, http://kentuckyfriedwrestling.com. Thanks to Axel Braun and Jackie Martin at Vivid. Got feedback? We'd love to hear it. Send it here.