Saturday, March 31, 2012

The Superman Copyfight Crisis rages on!

Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster were both about 19 years old when they created the character called "Superman," in 1933. He was based upon the title character from a novel called Gladiator, by Philip Wylie, Hercules, and Samson. Also, interestingly enough, Siegel and Shuster seem to have swiped the name "Superman" from an ad for "The Man of Bronze," Doc Savage:

(Image source)

He was not originally appreciated by editors:
But the two did still try to sell Superman and got back nasty replies from some editors. Bell Syndicate told them, "We are in the market only for strips likely to have the most extra-ordinary appeal, and we do not feel Superman gets into this category." United Features said that Superman was "a rather immature piece of work."
Finally, in 1938, the pair managed to sell the character and an initial 13 page story to Detective Comics, which is now known as just DC. The total value of their first check was $412 and, as it turns out, that supercheck is now up for auction by a company called ComicConnect, which features a suitably purple description:
On March 1, 1938, DC Comics gave two young men from Cleveland $130 for the rights to a comic character named Superman. That $130 check essentially created a billion dollar industry and set in motion nearly 70 years of legal battles that continue to this day. Without this check being written out by DC Comics, there would be no Superman, and thereby no Batman, Wonder Woman, Spider-Man, X-Men, and all the characters that came into existence after the concept of "the superhero" was born with Superman.

Much has been made of the original 1938 $130 payment to Jerome Siegel and Joe Shuster. Did DC Comics take advantage of two eager young men looking for their big break in the comic business, or was this an unequivocally fair business practice between comic book writers and publishers in 1938 America? Whatever you believe, the $130 check is the quintessential symbol of the debate.
No, Superman was not the first superhero to appear in comics. He wasn't even the first superhero that Siegel and Shuster published. He was the first one to hit, and he hit really, really big. But who's to say that there wouldn't have been another, equally as big, perhaps even bigger? Who's to say that some other genre character might have caught on, and superheroes been an afterthought? Maybe one of the other characters with stories in that first issue of "Action Comics" would have been even more popular, if Superman hadn't gotten in his way -- perhaps the Mandrake the Magician knock-off Zatara would have opened the floodgates to a slew of comic book magicians, and today we'd all be suffering through an era of big-budget Supermagician films? Robert Downey Jr as... Starkoni the Surprising!

Obviously, that is all Earth-2 speculation that doesn't get anywhere. The point is, on this particular of the infinite earths, Superman was created and Superman opened the floodgates. And his creators received $130 for the character. Here are some images of the check, taken from the ComicConnect auction site:

Please note the ominous notation on the left side of the check:


Today's contract language is much more thorough and clear, covering all media that now exist or will exist in the future, in perpetuity, but the message behind those words is clear enough.

By signing this check, you acknowledge that we own Superman.

But, there have been complications, as the AP inadvertently notes in their coverage of the auction:
Made out to the duo for $412, the check includes a line item for $130 showing that DC paid for full ownership and rights to the man from Krypton and paved the way for comic books, TV, radio and films. But, a legal dispute over creator’s rights to the character is still far from settled.
Did you catch the error in the paragraph above? If you're a comic book fan with a sense of history, or if you've been following the convolutions of the Superman Copyfight Crisis, you probably did.

The error is this: In that first story, Superman was not from Krypton. In the first panel of Superman's first story, from the first issue of Action Comics, we learn,

"As a distant planet was destroyed by old age, a scientist placed his infant son within a hastily devised space-ship, launching it toward earth!"

The planet didn't get the name "Krypton" until the next year, in the first panel of the first issue of "Superman":

"Just before the doomed planet, Krypton, exploded to fragments, a scientist placed his infant son within an experimental rocket-ship, launching it toward earth!"

See-- they were rebooting characters even in the 1930s.

Anyway, if you've been following the legal shenanigans swirling around Superman, you know that concepts like the exact date on which the concept of Krypton was created take on fabulous significance. Also, when did Clark Kent start working for the Daily Planet rather than the Daily Star? When did he move from Cleveland to Metropolis? When did Superman's biological father, Jor-El, get his name? These questions are partly why the heirs of Jerry Siegel were able to recapture only some elements of the character back in 2009:
This means the Siegels -- repped by Marc Toberoff of Toberoff & Associates -- now control depictions of Superman's origins from the planet Krypton, his parents Jor-El and Lora, Superman as the infant Kal-El, the launching of the infant Superman into space by his parents as Krypton explodes and his landing on Earth in a fiery crash.
In 2008, the same court order ruled on summary judgment that the Siegels had successfully recaptured (as of 1999) Siegel's copyright in Action Comics No. 1, giving them rights to the Superman character, including his costume, his alter-ego as reporter Clark Kent, the feisty reporter Lois Lane, their jobs at the Daily Planet newspaper working for a gruff editor, and the love triangle among Clark/Superman and Lois.

While ownership of the Man of Steel is one point of all this legal activity, the real issue is money and how much Warner Bros. and DC owe the Siegels from profits they collected from Superman since 1999, when the heirs' recapture of Siegel's copyright became effective.

DC owns other elements like Superman's ability to fly, the term kryptonite, the Lex Luthor and Jimmy Olsen characters, Superman's powers and expanded origins.
That original check was not for "the rights to the man from Krypton." The Superman that Detective Comics bought in 1938 was not the same Superman that we all know today. That Superman couldn't fly, for example -- he could "leap 1/8th of a mile." That's why DC still owns Superman's ability to fly. It was the Fleischer Brothers studios who first had Superman fly -- apparently it looks silly to have an animated man in blue acrobat tights and a red cape "leaping" around all the time.

The whole legal fight is even more complicated and nonsensical than DC's post-Crisis continuity. In fact, the legal issues are so convoluted that back when DC was fighting with the Siegels over the rights to Superboy they created a distasteful allegory called "Infinite Crisis." As they were losing that case, they turned Superboy into a villain, canceled his book, and shut him away from the DC Universe.

Now, things are getting more complicated:
In a strategic move in the copyright battle between Warner Bros and the heirs to Superman’s creators, the studio has filed an appeal to reverse earlier rulings in the case and put everything out in open court in a trial.
“This case is about the ownership of copyright in the earliest comics that introduced elements of the iconic Superman character and story,” the appeal from Warners lawyer Daniel Petrocelli states. “The case presents an unusually broad array of doctrinal, factual, and procedural issues. But much of the case reduces to a familiar proposition: a deal is a deal.”

Warners contends that Laura Siegel Larson, the heir to the Siegel estate, “reneged” on a copyright deal with DC that “guaranteed the family many millions of dollars in cash, royalties, and other compensation.” In its call to have the issue decided by trial, the studio says “the family asserted there was no deal without a long form and the district court agreed, casting aside established California contract law principles — principles essential to the entertainment industry, where many business deals are never formalized.” 
So, a deal is a deal, but in the entertainment industry, many business deals are never formalized. Do you understand that? Because I don't. I admit I have had only very limited experience with this, but I think that in the entertainment industry those "business deals" that aren't "formalized" consist of you and your buddies sitting at Cantor's talking about how cool it would be to make a movie with Robert Downey Jr as a Supermagician called Starkoni the Surprising, and he battles this woman who's sort of a cross between Hugh Hefner and the Wicked Witch of the West, who's trying to take over the world with her coven of centerfold models.

So, yes, Warner Bros, a deal is a deal, and that's fair and all. And Mr. Siegel and Mr. Shuster (whose names were misspelled on that check, by the way -- that's why they each had to endorse it twice) signed that NO OTHER RECEIPT REQUIRED check, but. In that case, a deal being a deal and all, can you please explain why it is that you and your corporate entertainment cohort continue to clamor for changes to copyright law? A deal is a deal and all, unless of course we can get the government to come in and change the terms for us. And all the while, DC and Warner Bros -- who actually just started publishing a new comic book about the Frankenstein monster, created by Mary Shelley, who had the bad form to create her intellectual property long before it could be protected by modern law -- have been let's just call it zealously protecting their "intellectual property."

But, back to Siegel and Shuster.  Mr. Siegel wrote the scripts, and Mr. Shuster did the artwork, for awhile at least. The character became so popular, and was appearing in so many pages per month, including appearing in a daily newspaper strip, that Mr. Shuster employed a stable of artists to help him keep up with demand. Also, sadly, Mr. Shuster's eyesight began to deteriorate, making it all the more difficult for him to draw.

By 1942, Superman's creators were in their late 20s, and making more money than they'd ever made before, chronicling Superman's adventures. Meanwhile, Detective was licensing the hell out of their character. He appeared in a radio show, a series of animated shorts, puzzles, trading cards, dolls, and an official fan club.

Siegel and Shuster would sue National (formerly Detective) Comics in 1946, in an attempt to get back the rights they'd signed away with NO OTHER RECEIPT REQUIRED back in 1938. They'd settle for $94,000.

For how long had they been thinking about suing their publisher? At what point did Superman's creators start to feel resentment over the fact that while they were doing work for hire on their own character, the publisher was making... well, who knows how much on those Superman trading cards and puzzles?

Siegel himself might have given us an answer, with the help of Shuster's art studio, in the 14th issue of Superman's self-titled book. There is an astonishing story in that issue about an unscrupulous businessman who cheats an inventor out of the fruits of his labor, only to be manhandled by Superman. The opening panel gives an overview of the story:

Siegel and Shuster, the "impractical dreamers," signed that check four years before this story was published, and the fruits of their labors were annexed by Detective/National Comics. So they used their character to get revenge on those unscrupulous schemers, just as they'd used him to get revenge on slumlords, war profiteers, gangsters, and coal mine owners.

Siegel and Shuster's MarySue is an inventor called Chet Farnsworth, who has created "a powder which would almost instantly extinguish flames." Clark "Superman" Kent intends to introduce Mr. Farnsworth to an honest businessman who might help him, but the impetuous Farnsworth has already signed with an "unscrupulous schemer" called Jim Baldwin.

Darkly, Clark Kent hopes -- for his sake -- that he gives Farnsworth a square deal.

But he doesn't.

These might be the most amazing five panels ever to appear in a mainstream superhero comic book. The creator of the most popular superhero figure in the world is openly protesting the treatment that he and his partner are receiving at the hands of people who own his creation. And he got them to publish this pulp cri de coeur for him.

But, as bleak as things get in this story, Siegel and Shuster's Superman sets everything right:

Things didn't work out quite as well for Siegel and Shuster.
Jerry Siegel and his family were broke, their economic status had gotten so bad that Siegels wife Joanne, visited Jack Liebowitz at DC and told them how bad things were. She asked him "Do you really want to see in the newspaper-Creator of Superman Starves to Death?" Jack Liebowitz did not, so DC gave Siegel some writing assignments in 1958. At a price, Jerry would receive no credit or special privileges for his work. But sometime in 1964 Jerry made a comment about wanting to be treated better, and he was immediately fired for it.

In the late 60's and early 70's Siegel and Shuster were once again the focus of public attention through comic conventions. They would then go back into court in 1975 for another attempt to sue DC for the rights to Superman. The court decided that the two were not owed any money, but DC did decide to pay the two a "pension" of sorts. They received $35,000 a year for the rest of their lives. Jerry and Joe also got credit for their Superman creation. They got this with the help of then DC Publisher/Editor in Chief Carmine Infantino and many other big name creative people, who persuaded DC to give the creators something. While DC didn't have to pay anything, it is still a small sum considering the 10's or possibly 100's millions that DC made off of Superman in movie, cartoons, comics, and merchandise deals. DC also made Superman related money from copyright infringement lawsuits against other companies, the most famous of these was their out of court settlement with Fawcett Comics.
As we've already seen, the legal battles that Mr. Siegel and Mr. Shuster began in the mid-1940s have continued all the way up to today.  Superman has remained an iconic character, despite DC's continued efforts to neuter him. He's worth hundreds of millions of dollars, and he's subject to one of the most mind-bendingly convoluted stories ever conceived.

The never-ending Copyfight Crisis!

Superman comics scans from Superman Chronicles vol 8, which is well worth your time.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

"Avengers Assemble" #1: Mainstream comics creators really have no idea what's going on anymore.

Have you heard about the new "Avengers Assemble" #1? On March 13, USA Today had a big preview that is sure to whet your appetite for... well, um, more of the same. At least, if the cover is to be believed:

Obviously the first question when looking at this stupid image is, Why is Captain America leaping off from Hulk's crotch? Hulk has a super crotch, I'm sure, so it would take a lot to injure him, but Captain America has super feet, so there's still a chance for injury.

The second question is, Haven't I already seen this image before, about a million times already, including within the last year, on a comic book that made national headlines? Well, yes, as it turns out, you have seen this image before:

Let's see... There's a green one, a blue one, a red one, a gray one... there's a bunch of men and one woman... there's a bunch of action lines... there's a blue background with some photoshop lighting effects... they're all leaping up from a spot on the floor just outside camera range. But the characters are different. For instance, one of the teams has a wealthy industrialist with no real superpowers, but a lot of skill, and a suit that helps him fight crime. Then the other team has a nearly omnipotent godlike humanesque creature who wears a cape and can fly.

Anyway, they're forced to get together, despite their obvious differences and clashing personalities. They have to solve a problem that no one else could possibly handle.

Sorry. Got a little distracted there.

Last summer, when DC "rebooted" their entire lineup, they used this as the cover of their flagship title, Justice League #1. In fact, USA Today itself covered that reboot. Extensively. They've been all over it:
Justice League No. 1, with its A-list team of writer Geoff Johns and artist Jim Lee, kicked off DC's ambitious "New 52" relaunch in the fall and sold more copies than any other single comic during the year, according to Diamond Comic Distributors.

"New 52" issues dominated the pack, with 19 of the top 25 comics of 2011. Three Justice League, two Batman and two Action Comics issues cracked the top 10, which had only one Marvel title: Ultimate Comics Spiderman No. 160, which featured the demise of the Ultimate Universe's Peter Parker.
According to DC, as of last month the company has sold more than 361,000 copies of Justice League No. 1 and more than 250,000 each of the first issues of Scott Snyder's Batman series and Grant Morrison's Superman-centric Action Comics since September.
361,000 is a lot for a comic book, these days. Of course, the population of the United States alone is over 315 million. That means that at least 99% of people in the United States were able to resist that cover image. And remember that DC was beginning a program of releasing its books digitally on the same day as their print release. Are those numbers included? USA Today exhibits absolutely no curiosity on that front, but DC Comics has been exceptionally shady where their digital sales numbers are concerned:
[I]t looks like DC won't be releasing its New 52 digital numbers but will feel confident in making claims on their behalf. It also looks like comics sites will then repeat this claim as news, perhaps qualified by source or as a claim but still putting that information out there.

This should stop. I think DC has a really dubious history with using the hidden portions of their numbers to PR advantage -- call it the "I have a girlfriend in Canada" of sales analysis. My take is that this practice has intensified slightly ever since the numbers have become smaller and therefore more crucial.
It's not just "comics sites" that are repeating DC's sales claims as news. Actual "news" papers like USA Today are doing it, too. Speaking of which:
There was good news for the comic-book industry as a whole, too. Boosted by a slew of popular Marvel titles and renewed interest in DC's relaunch, annual single-issue sales to the specialty market increased in 2011, up 1.2% from 2010 figures, although graphic novel sales dipped 5% from the previous year.
But, what were the sales figures for 2010? Was that an up year? Not particularly. But saying that 2010's figures almost clawed their way back up to 2009 levels doesn't sound nearly as impressive, which is clearly what USA Today was going for.

But back to "Avengers Assemble" #1. It's been a fairly common complaint that superhero comics today are written exclusively by and for people who are hermetically sealed within the Fandom Bubble (as far as I know, I just made up that term, copyright and trademark by me!), and that there's nowhere for a curious outsider to jump in, therefore alienating a potentially new audience. Will "Avengers Assemble" #1 be the book that comics newbies can jump in with? Let's get back to the intrepid USA Today:
Writer Brian Michael Bendis has been hearing a lot from people wondering where to start in reading Avengers comics before the film opens. "Here's the place," he says, meaning Assemble. "It is a clean-as-a-whistle, come-on-in-the-water's-nice Avengers story."
Giving new fans an easy entry point into "what can be a confusing world of comics" is a goal for Marvel, executive editor Tom Brevoort says. But that's especially important considering the massive promotion en route for the film.
This makes excellent artistic and financial sense. Tell a new story in a fresh way, unencumbered by a melange of continuity, and you could potentially make a lot of money doing something artistically fulfilling. There's obviously a market for the characters and situations, since filmmakers have been mining the 70+ years worth of mainstream comics material to create massively successful feature films.

Maybe they're finally getting it. Maybe these creators and editors are starting to understand that there is a potentially massive audience out there, if they'd only reach out to it. Maybe they're starting to realize that for almost 20 years they have been actively antagonizing all but the most devoted fanboys, who don't have time to consult decades of back issues to understand what's going on in the latest issues.

Or, maybe not.
"Our problem is that people don't read anything, and kids read less and less," Bendis says. "That's my focus even more than the movie people. I want to get everyone on the planet into comics."
No. No, no, no, no, no. And no.

Mr. Bendis is so far into that Fandom Bubble that he needs a plumber to help him swallow his food. I don't know what that statement means, but is he aware of the massive popularity of, for instance, The Hunger Games? Does he not remember the phenomenon that was Harry Potter? How about Twilight? Bookstores were opening at midnight for the releases of the latest editions of some of those series. What about Artemis Fowl? The Percy Jackson books? Diary of a Wimpy Kid? His Dark Materials?

Kids are not reading "less and less." As the sales figures of the above books show -- some of them in the hundreds of millions of copies! -- kids are actually reading "more and more." What they are reading "less and less" of, Mr. Bendis, is comic books. It's now mostly white men in their mid to late 30s who read comics.

If you believe that what you're competing with is a cultural trend toward kids reading "less and less," and not with the material that the kids are actually really reading, then you've already admitted defeat and given up on expanding your base. You're going to continue to sell to the same core of about 300,000 or so people, who are just getting older and more entrenched. You claim that you want to get "everyone on the planet into comics," but nothing, absolutely nothing that you or the company for which you work has demonstrated that. And the same is true of DC. For all their "New 52" hype, they're still churning out the same old stuff.

Meanwhile, you're being lapped, by The Hunger Games. And all you can do is shake your head, and sigh, and say, Kids these days, huh?... They're just reading less and less.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

What the heck is going on in this panel? Captain America #131 page 18 edition

Today I offer the first of what will probably be a series of classic comic book images in which I ask, "What the heck is going on in this panel?" First up is something from Captain America #131, cover dated November 1970. Below is the image, completely unaltered by me, except for some minor altering for clarity, crispening, and to get my point across about the sheer what-the-heckedness of the panel in question:

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Tom Hanks makes a bestiality joke with a guy in blackface.

Last year, the actor, producer, director, writer and narrator Tom Hanks, who rose to fame dressing in drag on a situation comedy, refunded the money of a couple he met at a gas station who said his most recent directorial effort, Larry Crowne, "wasn't that good." At the time I chastised Mr. Hanks for giving the refund, and the couple who accepted it, on the grounds that art is subjective and one man's disappointment is another's !BEST!FILM!OF!THE!YEAR!.

But now. Now I want my own refund.

Yesterday, a video surfaced which showed Mr. Hanks and the singer, songwriter, and guitarist Glenn Frey, star of South of Sunset, performing at a fundraising event for the St Matthew's Parish School in Pacific Palisades. At one point during the event, these two entertainment legends were joined on stage by another parent, and hilarity ensued.
The 2004 auction’s routine included a white man in blackface, identified in the footage as investment banker James Montgomery, CEO of the Santa Monica, Calif., firm Montgomery & Co. In addition to blackface makeup and the wig, Montgomery wore a leopard-print toga and an arm band made to look like it consisted of animal teeth.

During a lull in the auction, Frey refers to Montgomery and comments, “See how boring money management and stock investment is, people? It’s not nearly as much fun as, like, professional basketball.”
The final item auctioned in the 2004 fundraiser depicted in the video was a large stuffed “trophy gorilla” that came with what Hanks described as a “dowry”: 5,000 shares of pre-IPO stock in Corus Pharmaceuticals, a company whose limited partners included Montgomery’s family trust.
Oh, wow.


Monday, March 19, 2012

Classic lost comic from 1997: Urkel

Over at the terrific new site Fickle Pants, I have a new piece up celebrating the classic comic book incarnation of Steve Urkel, from "Family Matters," and current "Dancing with the Stars" contestant. Why not slip over there and take a peek?

Read all about it, and see more image scans here!

Are you frightened about the frighteningly commonplace choking game epidemic? You should be!

Over at When Falls the Coliseum, I posted a piece about the great Choking Game epidemic, which is apparently sweeping the world, or something. A little bit:

Today, Yahoo had a link on their main page to an alarming story about an alarming trend -- actually, it's more like an epidemic! -- of children (who are our future and our most precious resource) asphyxiating themselves in an effort to achieve a "high," to just feel something in this callously dull world. This deadly dangerous activity goes by many names, but the most alarming by far is "The Choking Game," and only the most naive among you don't believe it's already infected your community.
Researchers at The Crime Victims' Institute at Sam Houston State University surveyed 837 students at a Texas university and found that the behavior, which works by cutting off blood flow to the brain in order to induce a high, was frighteningly commonplace:

•16% of students said they'd played the game, and three-quarters more than once
•On average, students first played the game at age 14
•Males were more likely to have played than females
•90% of students who had played the game learned about it from friends, and most students said they first played in a group
16% of a group of 837 students at one Texas University might have choked or hyperventilated themselves at some point in the past. And three-quarters of those might have done it twice!

That is "frighteningly commonplace" (by the way, emphasis added, because, see below)! That's practically everybody!

It turns out that The Choking Game is a crisis that media outlets have been trying to manufacture for some time. With limited success, because today was the first I'd ever heard of it -- now, of course, I'm panicked.

You can read the rest here, if you like.

Monday, March 12, 2012

The Fanboy's lament: What if "The Dark Knight Rises" turns out to not be the greatest film of all time?

"The Dark Knight Rises" is my all-time favorite movie. I know it hasn't come out yet, and I haven't seen it, but no movie has ever made me happier, and there's no movie that I've ever wanted to see more than this one. Christopher Nolan's first two Batman films were masterpieces of the genre, perhaps the two greatest comic book movies ever made. And since comic book movies are dominating our culture right now, that makes them perhaps the two greatest and most important films ever made.

The featured character in the film, Batman, is the greatest superhero character of all time. That makes him the greatest character ever created. That character will be taking on two of the greatest of his villains, Catwoman, the cunning and beautiful adventuress who works both sides of the law, and Bane, the only character who ever broke Batman's back and almost killed him.

When the first seven minutes of the film screened before IMAX presentations of "Mission: Impossible 4," it boosted that film's fortunes, helping it to become the most lucrative film in that series. There were cheers when those first seven minutes screened. In some cities, midnight screenings of "The Dark Knight Rises" started selling out back in January. And the teaser trailer alone was better than 90% of the films released last year.

So "The Dark Knight Rises" is highly anticipated, not just by me, but by everyone who loves both great comic books and great films. It will be a great film.

But I can't help but wonder -- What if it isn't?

I know that's a stupid question to ask, since there's no way that this movie won't be the greatest film of all time, and won't live up to the hype. Christopher Nolan has masterfully taken characters and situations from 70 years worth of comics, television shows, and movies, and assembled them into powerful works of art that stand as unique and visionary works of originality. He's used these works of art to make bold statements about not only what it means to be a superhero, but also what it means to be a regular hero, even a common person, which is what most people are. These are allegorical works that comment on the times in which we live. Rationally, consciously, I know that "The Dark Knight Rises" will be the greatest film of all time. But -- and I hate myself for this -- I fear that, however subconsciously, I have my doubts.

A couple of nights ago, I had a dream. More of a nightmare, really, because it seems to suggest that I'm actually worried that "The Dark Knight Rises" won't kick my balls off. It started out with that famous scene from Implausible Batman #43, where Batman and Bane are having nachos in Bane's secret underground underworld lair.

Then, it cuts to me talking to a friend about the eyeholes in Batman's mask. Not only are we talking about the minutiae of how one would be able to see through those eyeholes, but there's also a discussion about why comics illustrators have traditionally neglected to draw pupils in Batman's eyes when he's wearing his mask. I know that it's because artists have thought that drawing the pupils makes the characters look silly, so they just don't do it, but for some reason (in the dream) I can't bring myself to say this. All I can say is, "When he wears the mask, he also wears protective contact lenses that disguise his eyes, so that no one can see what color his eyes are, nor could they employ a secret retinal scanner to discover his true identity!" But I wonder why I can't bring myself to say what I really know to be true.

Suddenly, we're at the theater. The clerk wants to park our car for us, and charge us for valet parking. We start arguing with the clerk, because we don't want valet parking services. We just want standard parking, where we park our car in the lot (in my dream, it's the Century City Mall parking lot). But the clerk asks, "Why do you just want 'standard' parking, when you're going to see the greatest film of all time?" Something about this argument makes me feel uneasy, but the person I'm with says that makes sense to him, so we argue some more. Then, when I look down at my ticket, I see that there has been added to it something called a "HIGH ENTERTAINMENT SURCHARGE."

I ask the clerk about it. The clerk says that because I already know that the film is going to have high entertainment value, they have gone ahead and added an extra surcharge to cover that. We start to argue. I don't want to pay that surcharge, and they didn't tell me about it before I bought the ticket. "Would you have not gotten a ticket, if you'd know about the surcharge?" the clerk asks. "Well," I sputter, "that's not the point--" The clerk smiles, smugly. "You should be willing to pay a little extra for a highly entertaining filmgoing experience," he says.

We continue arguing. My reasons for not wanting to pay the full ticket price seem lame to me, but for some reason I can't bring myself to articulate anything properly. I feel confused and anxious. Off in the distance, I can hear that the film has started, and I can hear Batman and Bane talking to each other, having that same conversation about salsa from that issue of Implausible Batman. "You've made me miss the start of the film!" I shout at the clerk. "Now I want a full refund!"

"Why do you want a refund?" the clerk asks. "This is your all-time favorite movie!" I turn to my friend, to ask for help, but he has jumped into an aquarium, and I realize suddenly that the friend with whom I drove to the theater is Aquaman.

I've spent a lot of time thinking about this dream, and the only conclusion that makes any sense to me -- as stupid as it seems -- is that I'm actually worried that "The Dark Knight Rises" won't be the great work of art that I know it will be. I think that the discussion about eyeholes and pupils is my subconscious mind's warning that I might try to rationalize reasons for liking the film, even if I don't. The argument over valet parking is just me coming up with excuses not to get to the movie on time. And of course the "HIGH ENTERTAINMENT SURCHARGE" is my subconscious mind's questioning of my conscious mind's belief that "The Dark Knight Rises" is the greatest film ever made, even though it hasn't been released yet and I haven't seen it. The part about Aquaman is a reminder that DC Comics treats its properties like crap.

I know that consciously I would never let anything stand in the way of my seeing this film. Yet, in the dream, a few petty disagreements have made me miss the opening scene, and therefore I want a refund. A refund for the greatest film ever made! It makes no sense.

Up to now, my biggest worry about "The Dark Knight Rises" was that it wouldn't have a 100% Tomatometer. I mean, not counting that troll Armond White, who pretends to hate things that he knows are great simply to generate hits because he had a crummy childhood and is now incapable of recognizing real artistry and emotion. But, what if other, good film critics don't like it? What if Owen Gleiberman gives it a bad review? Or Peter Travers? Or A.O. Scott? I don't know what I'd do in that case.

But now, my own dream has sowed a seed of doubt in my mind. What if my favorite film of all time, "The Dark Knight Rises," turns out to not be the greatest film ever made?

Monday, March 5, 2012

Olivia Munn cell phone pictures: Men and women really are different

You will remember that a couple of years ago, the famous (American) football player Brett Favre got into some trouble when Jenn Sterger, a woman who had received cell phone pictures of his you-know-what, released those pictures. Although Mr. Favre was subjected to some not-so-good-natured ribbing, at the time I pointed out,
The displaying of the male member to the object of his interest is a proud one that has been ingrained through generations of evolutionary history. It is not only a way of showing the woman what she might gain access to; it is also a way of prostrating oneself before her. The masturbation photo shows a man who is alone, and in need of invigorating companionship.

The man is "exposing" himself to the woman, placing all of his trust in her hands. The gift is both sensual and sentimental.
So, okay, some women, and apparently Ms. Sterger is among them, don't want to receive such gifts. Perhaps Mr. Favre got a little overzealous in his attempts at wooing the object of his affection. But did he truly deserve the scorn which was heaped upon him?

Fast forward to today. Cell phone pictures of Christina Hendricks, one of the stars of the television show "Mad Men" (coincidentally -- that show's season premiere is March 25!) and Olivia Munn, the popular fanboy dream date, have made their way ("leaked," as they say) onto the internet. Oh No They Didn't has a cache of them which can be seen here (NSFW!), if you're so inclined (and here [NSFW!] is the original source of the photos). Here is one of the snaps that Ms. Munn took of herself, and apparently sent to a romantic partner:

This is one of the more "modest" (SFW!) of the photos in question. Although Ms. Munn shows more savvy with photo editing techniques, and shows more cleverness in her rather expansive use of dirty text, the principle behind these photos and those that Mr. Favre sent to his object of affection is exactly the same.

Ms. Munn's photos are a sensual and sentimental gift.

The difference seems to be that Ms. Munn was apparently dating her object of affection, an actor called Chris Pine. Some of the text on some of the photos suggest that they were sent after they'd engaged in the act of coitus. Then again, perhaps some of the photos in question were sent before they started dating. Perhaps Ms. Munn used some of these photos to woo Mr. Pine.

That's only speculation. And speculation has no place on a blog.

Anyway, my point was, men and women are different, and this story only proves my point. Where Jenn Sterger laughed at Mr. Favre, and released the photos he sent her, the person who received Ms. Munn's sentimental gifts did no such thing. Also, Ms. Munn apparently waited until after she and her beau were actually dating before she started sending the more bold of her photos. Mr. Favre led with his pants down. There wasn't too far to go after that.

I wonder if Mr. Favre has met Ms. Munn?