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DID YOU READ

“Avengers” boycotters assemble online

MARVEL’S THE AVENGERS

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For most comic book fans, this summer’s “The Avengers” movie is a culmination of a lifelong dream. After decades of page-bound adventures, Captain America, Thor, Iron Man, and The Hulk are teaming up for maybe the biggest comic book movie of all time. One film with all those characters? For the dyed-in-the-tights comic nerd, it almost feels too good to be true.

In a piece over at Slate, cartoonist and columnist James Sturm explains why he thinks it is. His “troubling origins story” behind this summer’s biggest blockbuster details how one of the two men who invented The Avengers as well as most of the individual heroes that make up its ranks, Jack Kirby, receives absolutely no compensation from the film or any of its ancillary products including video games, toys, lunchboxes, and who knows what else. In response, Sturm — a lifelong comic book lover and onetime writer for Marvel — is calling for a boycott.

On the legal front, Kirby’s case against Marvel looks fairly cut and dry, and not in his favor. Sturm says his boycott is the direct result of a failed suit brought by Kirby’s estate (the artist himself passed away in 1994) against Marvel/Disney for control of his creations. When Kirby was “The King” of Marvel’s Bullpen, he was employed under a work for hire agreement, which meant everything he made belonged to he company. Kirby’s deal might have been lucrative for the time and the short-term, but that was before comics became a multibillion dollar licensing empire. When those revenue streams began to emerge, Marvel worked to maintain their grip on Kirby’s creations by forcing him to sign over more rights in exchange for the return of his original artwork (original artwork, Kirby advocates would argue, that should have already belonged to him in the first place).

In the intervening years, Kirby’s chief collaborator, Stan Lee, has remained Marvel’s gregarious figurehead. Even as he spends most of his time these days dreaming up new characters for partners like the NHL and Archie, Marvel still pays him a hefty annual salary just to play the role of the cheerful, ebullient public face of the company. Kirby’s family gets nothing. Even if it’s legal — and it is — that doesn’t necessarily make it right. Or, as Sturm puts it:

“What makes this situation especially hard to stomach is that Marvel’s media empire was built on the backs of characters whose defining trait as superheroes is the willingness to fight for what is right. It takes a lot of corporate moxie to put Thor and Captain America on the big screen and have them battle for honor and justice when behind the scenes the parent company acts like a cold-blooded supervillain. As Stan Lee famously wrote, ‘With great power comes great responsibility.'”

As a fan of Marvel Comics, that is tough to read. A lifetime of super-hero stories has sutured those characters’ moral code right into the fiber of my DNA. I was raised on Lee and Kirby’s work, and it continues to resonate with me to this day. My dog Kirby sure as hell ain’t named after a vacuum cleaner.

Is a boycott the right thing to do? I don’t know (if you think it is, there’s an online petition you might want to sign). And even if it is, I’m doubtful it would be effective. The hardcore comic book audience is loyal, vocal, and relatively small. When they set their minds (and their wallets) to something, they can usually get the publishers to listen. But “The Avengers” will be sold to a mass audience many times larger than comics fandom. Even if every comic buyer boycotted “The Avengers,” the film could still turn a profit many times over from ticket sales to average joes who, as Sturm puts it, don’t care how the sausages get made.

Instead of a boycott, I’d personally rather do something positive. I wish Sturm had suggested some alternative means of fans directly supporting the Kirby estate. Maybe that’s by buying the latest book from Kirby’s own company, Genesis West. Or maybe that’s by donating to The Jack Kirby Museum. If I could find a way to enjoy “The Avengers” and give back to the man who helped make it all possible at the same time, that would really be too good to be true.

Do you think Jack Kirby’s estate should be compensated for the success of “The Avengers?” Tell us in the comments below or write to us on Facebook and Twitter.

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Hacked In

Funny or Die Is Taking Over

FOD TV comes to IFC every Saturday night.

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We’ve been fans of Funny or Die since we first met The Landlord. That enduring love makes it more than logical, then, that IFC is totally cool with FOD hijacking the airwaves every Saturday night. Yes, that’s happening.

The appropriately titled FOD TV looks like something pulled from public access television in the nineties. Like lo-fi broken-antenna reception and warped VHS tapes. Equal parts WTF and UHF.

Get ready for characters including The Shirtless Painter, Long-Haired Businessmen, and Pigeon Man. They’re aptly named, but for a better sense of what’s in store, here’s a taste of ASMR with Kelly Whispers:

Watch FOD TV every Saturday night during IFC’s regularly scheduled movies.

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Wicked Good

See More Evil

Stan Against Evil Season 1 is on Hulu.

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Okay, so you missed the entire first season of Stan Against Evil. There’s no shame in that, per se. But here’s the thing: Season 2 is just around the corner and you don’t want to lag behind. After all, Season 1 had some critical character development, not to mention countless plot twists, and a breathless finale cliffhanger that’s been begging for resolution since last fall. It also had this:

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The good news is that you can catch up right now on Hulu. Phew. But if you aren’t streaming yet, here’s a basic primer…

Willards Mill Is Evil

Stan spent his whole career as sheriff oblivious to the fact that his town has a nasty curse. Mostly because his recently-deceased wife was secretly killing demons and keeping Stan alive.

Demons Really Want To Kill Stan

The curse on Willards Mill stipulates that damned souls must hunt and kill each and every town sheriff, or “constable.” Oh, and these demons are shockingly creative.

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They Also Want To Kill Evie

Why? Because Evie’s a sheriff too, and the curse on Willard’s Mill doesn’t have a “one at a time” clause. Bummer, Evie.

Stan and Evie Must Work Together

Beating the curse will take two, baby, but that’s easier said than done because Stan doesn’t always seem to give a damn. Damn!

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Beware of Goats

It goes without saying for anyone who’s seen the show: If you know that ancient evil wants to kill you, be wary of anything that has cloven feet.

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Season 2 Is Lurking

Scary new things are slouching towards Willards Mill. An impending darkness descending on Stan, Evie and their cohort – eviler evil, more demony demons, and whatnot. And if Stan wants to survive, he’ll have to get even Stanlier.

Stan Against Evil Season 1 is now streaming right now on Hulu.

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SO EXCITED!!!

Reminders that the ’90s were a thing

"The Place We Live" is available for a Jessie Spano-level binge on Comedy Crib.

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Unless you stopped paying attention to the world at large in 1989, you are of course aware that the ’90s are having their pop cultural second coming. Nobody is more acutely aware of this than Dara Katz and Betsy Kenney, two comedians who met doing improv comedy and have just made their Comedy Crib debut with the hilarious ’90s TV throwback series, The Place We Live.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Dara: It’s everything you loved–or loved to hate—from Melrose Place and 90210 but condensed to five minutes, funny (on purpose) and totally absurd.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Betsy: “Hey Todd, why don’t you have a sip of water. Also, I think you’ll love The Place We Live because everyone has issues…just like you, Todd.”

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IFC: When you were living through the ’90s, did you think it was television’s golden age or the pop culture apocalypse?


Betsy: I wasn’t sure I knew what it was, I just knew I loved it!


Dara: Same. Was just happy that my parents let me watch. But looking back, the ’90s honored The Teen. And for that, it’s the golden age of pop culture. 

IFC: Which ’90s shows did you mine for the series, and why?

Betsy: Melrose and 90210 for the most part. If you watch an episode of either of those shows you’ll see they’re a comedic gold mine. In one single episode, they cover serious crimes, drug problems, sex and working in a law firm and/or gallery, all while being young, hot and skinny.


Dara: And almost any series we were watching in the ’90s, Full House, Saved By the Bell, My So Called Life has very similar themes, archetypes and really stupid-intense drama. We took from a lot of places. 

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IFC: How would you describe each of the show’s characters in terms of their ’90s TV stereotype?

Dara: Autumn (Sunita Mani) is the femme fatale. Robin (Dara Katz) is the book worm (because she wears glasses). Candace (Betsy Kenney) is Corey’s twin and gives great advice and has really great hair. Corey (Casey Jost) is the boy next door/popular guy. Candace and Corey’s parents decided to live in a car so the gang can live in their house. 
Lee (Jonathan Braylock) is the jock.

IFC: Why do you think the world is ready for this series?

Dara: Because everyone’s feeling major ’90s nostalgia right now, and this is that, on steroids while also being a totally new, silly thing.

Delight in the whole season of The Place We Live right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib. It’ll take you back in all the right ways.