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.

Carol Cate Blanchett

Spirit Guide

Check Out the Spirit Awards Nominees for Best Male and Female Leads

Catch the 2016 Spirit Awards live Feb. 27th at 5P ET/2P PT on IFC.

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Photo Credit: Wilson Webb/©Weinstein Company/Courtesy Everett Collection

From Jason Segel’s somber character study of author David Foster Wallace, to Brie Larson’s devastating portrayal of a mother in captivity, the 2016 Spirit Awards nominees for Best Male and Female Leads represent the finest in the year of film acting. Take a look at the Best Male and Female Leads in action, presented by Jaguar.

Best Male Lead 

Christopher Abbott, James White
Abraham Attah, Beasts of No Nation
Ben Mendelsohn, Mississippi Grind
Jason Segel, The End of the Tour
Koudous Seihon, Mediterranea

Watch more Male Lead nominee videos here.

Best Female Lead 

Cate Blanchett, Carol
Brie Larson, Room
Rooney Mara, Carol
Bel Powley, The Diary of A Teenage Girl
Kitana Kiki Rodriguez, Tangerine

Watch more Female Lead nominee videos here.

“Captain America” Lego short film is your Friday “Avengers” fix

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With all the rumors, stills, trailers, teasers for trailers and even teasers for this weekend’s Super Bowl commercial for the upcoming superhero blockbuster “The Avengers,” Marvel has an even better grasp on keeping the attention of addicts than Avon Barksdale in “The Wire.” Here it is, Friday afternoon with at least another day and half before we get another glimpse of Tony Stark going toe-to-toe with Loki, and we’re all starting to get the shakes.

But fear not, true believers, the ambitious animators over at Forest Fire Films have us covered with “Lego Captain America,” an over-the-top, stop-go short that features the Sentinel of Liberty cold shooting Nazis in the face. From the detail on the custom Lego figures, to the seamless (albeit gory) effects, this short delivers more than enough action to get you through to game day.

Do you have a favorite “Avengers” fan-film? Tell us about it in the comments below or on Facebook or Twitter.

Rumor pegs Spider-Man for a cameo in “The Avengers” (right after the flying pigs sequence)

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There are rumors, and then are rumors, folks — and one of the latter that’s being tossed around the online world now regarding “The Avengers” is a doozy.

According to various sites, “The Amazing Spider-Man” star Andrew Garfield is poised to make a cameo as the friendly neighborhood wall-crawler in “The Avengers,” much like a certain clawed Canadian mutant dropped by for a quick scene in “X-Men: First Class.” And while it might not sound like such a big deal to people who aren’t plugged in to every detail of Hollywood’s relationship with the comics world, let’s just say that an appearance by Peter Parker (or his web-slinging alter ego) in “The Avengers” is, well… highly unlikely (to put it mildly).

But hey, anything’s possible in comics, right?

Now, before I get into the reasons why such a cameo is so unlikely, let’s look at how the rumor got started.

Earlier this month, the eagle-eyed crew at Bleeding Cool cited an interesting interview with actress Jenny Agutter in which her role in “The Avengers” was brought up. Like much of the cast, she’s sworn to secrecy about anything related to the superhero team-up extravaganza, but she did let slip with one potential bombshell.

Here’s an excerpt from the interview that was published in The Radio Times:

As for Agutter, she’s about to metamorphose again to appear alongside Samuel L. Jackson and Scarlett Johansson in upcoming Hollywood blockbuster The Avengers.

“I’m sworn to secrecy! I wasn’t allowed a script until I got there, and when I did I felt like a complete child being on big sets and a huge parking lot full of Winnebagos.”

She does let slip that two of these housed Spider-Man and Iron Man; we suspect Agutter won’t able to avoid sci-fi conventions for much longer.

Just in case you missed it, go back and read that last line again. It’s okay, I’ll wait.

So the Winnebagos on the set were for Iron Man and Spider-Man, eh?

Now, since this interview was picked up, lots of sites have attributed the Spider-Man reference to a mistake on the part of either Agutter or the Radio Times, which probably doesn’t know Doctor Doom from Darkseid, but that hasn’t stopped some from seeing this as proof of a certain webslinger’s cameo in the film.

Many of the sites trumpeting the rumor as fact point to the announcement that Walt Disney Company (which owns Marvel Entertainment) and Sony Pictures (which owns the rights to make Spider-Man movies) settled on an agreement back in November 2011 to share the rights to “The Amazing Spider-Man.” Sony would own the movie rights to Spidey, while Disney would own the merchandising rights to the character and his movie incarnations.

According to Best Movie Ever News, a “trusted source” has not only confirmed the cameo, but offered some details on why it’s happening:

“This will be similar to how Wolverine made a quick cameo in X-Men: First Class and Sony’s going to make sure to promote their new Spider-man movie any way they can,” reports the site’s anonymous source. “Andrew’s (Garfield) isn’t a widely known actor so they want to get his face on everything, including The Avengers even if it’s for a couple seconds.”

Now, before you get psyched to see Spidey swing across the screen while carrying Captain America on his back, make sure to keep in mind that this is all just a rumor right now — and an extremely questionable one at that, posted by a site who neglected to include the hyphen in “Spider-Man.” (Sorry, that’s one of my pet peeves. But I digress…)

First, to say that studios usually frown upon letting their characters appear in competing studios’ films just might qualify as the understatement of the decade. These sort of crossovers are more rare than DC vs. Marvel brawls because in Hollywood, if a character appears in your movie, that usually means you own it.

Want to know why studios tend to cram in a bunch of new characters in the second or third films in a franchise? That’s because the studio wants to establish ownership of that character, just in case they want to bring it back for a sequel or spin-off movie. Combining characters from different studios in the same film muddies the legal waters, and if there’s anything that a studio doesn’t want, it’s a legitimate legal challenge to one of their big revenue generators.

The aforementioned scenario is the reason a Wolverine cameo in “X-Men: First Class” was possible (Fox owns the rights to the X-Men and Wolverine), and why we’re more likely to see a cameo from Ghost Rider in “The Amazing Spider-Man” (Sony owns the movie rights to both characters) than a cameo from Spider-Man in “The Avengers.”

Beyond the legal reasons why a Spidey cameo is so unlikely, there’s also the logistical and narrative problems to consider.

In the world of “Avengers,” superheroes are a new development and so are the superhuman threats they face. While it’s true that Spider-Man’s comic book history was retroactively padded out to include connections between his parents and S.H.I.E.L.D., an appearance by Spider-Man in “The Avengers” would necessitate the super-team’s awareness of every threat Spidey faced.

For example, now that we know The Lizard will be the villain in “The Amazing Spider-Man,” a crossover between Peter Parker’s universe and that of the Avengers will have everyone asking why Iron Man, Captain America, and the rest of the team didn’t bother to help out when a massive reptile terrorized a New York high school. And what about the Avengers’ foes? Are we to believe Peter Parker just sat back and let Nick Fury’s team handle every crisis when people were dying?

In previous Marvel movies, we’ve seen nods to the events occurring in other films that are part of the company’s cinematic universe, so the decision to suddenly cram Spider-Man into the Marvel movie-verse would likely seem out of place to anyone who’s been following along through the previous films. Sure, many sites are saying that the promotional opportunities for “The Amazing Spider-Man” that come with a cameo in “The Avengers” and the merchandising benefit to Disney make it a win-win scenario for both studios, but the fact remains that such a crossover could be a narrative nightmare for both films.

In the end, you have to ask yourself: do you think “The Avengers” director Joss Whedon would jeopardize his film for the sake of a cameo? And would Sony risk its own ownership of Spider-Man and the “back to basics” vibe of its film for the same?

I’m guessing they won’t — but hey, anything’s possible in comics and Hollywood these days.

Do you think a Spider-Man cameo in “The Avengers” is possible? Chime in below or on Facebook or Twitter.

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