“Avengers” boycotters assemble online


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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.


'Soft' Rock

Get Gentle and Soft With The Blue Jean Committee’s New EP

The Documentary Now! band has a new EP.

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The Blue Jean Committee is about to head straight up the charts with their new song “Gentle & Soft.” Is it us, or did it just get really smooth in here?

The band, whose tumultuous history was chronicled in a compelling two-part episode of Documentary Now!, is back with an extremely soft bullet with the release of Catalina Breeze, an actual 12″ EP with actual songs that you can actually (and should actually) buy. As Fred Armisen, who sings in the Blue Jean Committee along with his Documentary Now! cohort Bill Hadertold EW, he wanted the band to capture the ’70s California soft rock sound. “So the best way to do it for us would be to just spell it out and call the song ‘Gentle and Soft,'” Armisen said.

The EP, which will be released on November 20th, also features the classic BJC tracks “Mama You’re a Dancer,” “Walking Shoes” and the titular jam all about relaxing Catalina breezes. True to its name, the Catalina Breeze EP will hit you like the wind, rushing your hair into a halo, which is as gentle and soft as it comes. Head over to Drag City to listen to song samples and grab the EP.

For more Documentary Now!, check out the complete archive, episode clips, and music from the show.


The Future Is Funny

The 10 Funniest Sci-Fi Comedies

Happy Back to the Future Day!

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Often covering heady concepts like philosophy and tragic social norms, science fiction is always in danger of being too dry and dour for its own good. However intelligent and astute the observations may be, if the themes don’t align with the tone, the end results could be a slog to watch. Sometimes we just want laughs to accompany aliens, time travel, and dystopian futures. Fortunately, there’s no shortage of sci-fi comedies that perfectly pair humor and futuristic wonder into a delightful package.

Here are 10 such sci-fi comedies that deserve a play when you need cheering up.

10. Repo Man

A staple in the cult film pantheon, Repo Man throws a punk-rocking Emilio Estevez into the bizarre world of car repossession set against a backdrop of a slightly-more-dystopian version of Los Angeles. Featuring veteran weirdo Harry Dean Stanton, a Chevy Malibu with aliens in the trunk, and a thumbnail philosophy centered around a hypothetical plate of shrimp, this midnight movie is a must-watch for those who are sick of boilerplate plotlines.

9. Night of the Comet

If you ever watched Valley Girl and thought it could use some zombies, then Night of the Comet is for you. This unfairly forgotten gem pits two mall-obsessed sisters against undead stockboys, bloodthirsty soldiers, and healthy teenage hormones in a post-apocalyptic land straight out of Omega Man. With tongue firmly in cheek, Night of the Comet is a fun and cheesy sci-fi comedy that doesn’t take itself too seriously.

8. They Live

Written and directed by genre king John Carpenter, They Live is a hilariously over-the-top treatise against commercialism, government control, and religious zealotry. The movie stars the sadly late (and never-better) Roddy Piper as migrant worker Nada who finds a special pair of sunglasses that reveal a world choked with subliminal consumerist messages and humanoid aliens. It’s endlessly quotable with a ridiculous yet valid message and contains the best street fight ever captured on film.

7. Idiocracy

If you’ve read the comment section for an article on the Kardashians, energy drinks, or the state of our educational system, then you’re probably familiar with Mike Judge’s Idiocracy. Depicting a future where every American institution has crumbled due to wanton stupidity, average bloke Joe Bauers (Luke Wilson) becomes an Einstein among the mentally challenged and humanity’s last hope for survival. Like Judge’s Office Space, Idiocracy achieved cult status after a mismanaged theatrical release. It was also oddly prescient.

6. Innerspace

Endless charm and eye-popping special effects rev this high-energy, high-concept Joe Dante sci-fi comedy. Basically a goofball version of Fantastic Voyage, Innerspace injects a minuscule bio-pod piloted by Dennis Quaid into a neurotic Martin Short and propels them into the dangerous scientific underworld of nanotechnology supremacy. Quaid and Short — along with Meg Ryan, Robert Picardo, and Kevin McCarthy — are fun personified in this rollicking, rewatchable classic.

5. Galaxy Quest

Unfairly derided as “Three Amigos in space,” Galaxy Quest is actually one of the most accurate depictions of sci-fi tropes and geek fandom ever produced. A thinly veiled satire of the original Star Trek series, the ensemble comedy tackles everything from fan conventions to space-based MacGuffins, but does so with an unmistakable love for the genre.

4. Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure

Movie concepts don’t come any higher: A lovable pair of wannabe rock gods travel through time in a phone booth to assemble historical figures as a means to pass their history final and unite the planet through music. Keanu Reeves and Alex Winter are an effusive duo you can’t help but love, George Carlin as their time-guide Rufus is perfectly cast, and the moral message (“Be excellent to each other and party on, dudes!”) should be a real-world Golden Rule.

3. Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Movie

With a running time of 75 minutes and lacking a second “Mad” for loonier interplay, MST3K: The Movie is considered a lesser entry when compared to the television series. However, Mike and the Bots are in top form when mocking the sci-fi flick This Island Earth — Interocitor assembly and alien foreheads have never been richer for riffs — and any fan of the show would be remiss to skip the film.

2. Tie: Ghostbusters and Men in Black

It doesn’t get any more quotable than Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis, and Ernie Hudson as the titular spectre-snatching quartet. At its core, this beloved treasure follows the hardships of a new fringe business as it tries to find a reliable customer base. But add supernatural elements, and Ghostbusters becomes a perfect blend of comedy, sci-fi (those proton packs wouldn’t be out of place on Star Trek) and the occult. Every line in every scene is a bona fide classic, rightfully earning the film its place among other worn-out VHS tapes in our collection. Meanwhile, Men in Black channels Ghostbusters with its mix of comedy, sci-fi and creepy creature-based bureaucracy.

1. Back to the Future

Arguably the best matchup in a comedy film, Michael J. Fox and Christopher Lloyd are absolutely perfect in this 1985 favorite. Back to the Future features Fox as a time-traveling teen sent back 30 years whose existence is in jeopardy when his 17-year-old mother falls in love with him and his father is too shy and weak-willed to pursue her. Nominated for Best Original Screenplay and spending 11 weeks at number one in the box office, Back to the Future is the rare mix of audience appreciation and critical acclaim — not to mention comedy and sci-fi.


This Week on IFC

Benders Meet a Soprano, Gigi Writes a Book and Comedy Bang! Bang! is Back!

Thursday on IFC is the place to be starting at 10P.

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After Benders big premiere last week, the guys meet an actual Soprano. That’s right, Bobby Baccalieri himself, Steve Schirripa, guest stars as a tough guy shaking down the crew. Check out a clip below, and tune in on Thursday at 10P to see if any of the Uncle Chubbys crew gets whacked.

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On the second episode of Gigi Does It, Gigi Rotblum has a plan to get her grandson to respect his elders – she’s going to write a children’s book, just like the one by Harry Potter author J.K. Simmons. Gigi Does It airs on Thursday at 10:30P. Watch a sneak peek below.

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And, finally, as a thank you for waiting patiently for the return of Comedy Bang! Bang!, check out a list of the show’s top 5 “beefs.” Does Fourvel make an appearance? Watch below, and be sure to catch the return of Comedy Bang! Bang! in its NEW TIME SLOT Thursdays at 11P.

That 70s show

That '70s Facts

10 Things You Didn’t Know About That ’70s Show

Catch That '70s Show Mondays & Tuesdays from 6-11P on IFC.

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Every That ’70s Show fan has a favorite character, favorite episode, or even a favorite “Circle” moment. But how well do you know the show? Check out some interesting facts about the series and the Wisconsin gang.

1. Chuck Norris Almost Played Red Forman

Red That 70s Show

We said everyone has a favorite character, and let’s be honest: it’s Red. And Red almost had the ability to lay out Hyde with a swift roundhouse kick to the head. Chuck Norris was considered for the role of Eric’s dad, but was unavailable due to filming Walker, Texas Ranger, opening the part for Kurtwood Smith’s incomparable portrayal.

2. Mila Kunis lied about her age to get the role of Jackie.

That 70s Show Jackie

Snotty (but surprisingly smart) Jackie propelled Mila Kunis to stardom. She got the part by being perfect for it, and by playing older than she actually was. Auditioning at age 14, she told the producers that “I’ll be 18 on my birthday,” neglecting to mention said birthday was still four years away. Having an actual teenager play a television teenager for once is a nice novelty.

3. The show was almost named after a Who song.

That 70s Show Theme

A ’70s-set sitcom couldn’t help but be defined by music, but That ’70s Show was legally forced into its final name. Early ideas included “Teenage Wasteland” and “The Kids Are Alright,” but pressure from The Who’s lawyers forced the creators to come up with something better. At which point they found that test viewers had already given it the wonderfully self-aware name.

4. “The Circle” was a way to get around censors.

The show’s trademark camera spin was a powerful comedic tool for endless one-liners and honest moments where the characters talked directly to the camera. Most importantly, it allowed the show to make it clear the characters were totally baked while never showing them actually smoking pot.

5. Leo Was Really Arrested For Drug Charges

Leo That 70s Show

Hyde’s drug-inspired boss Leo incarnated the ’70s stoner culture on several levels. Not only was he played by the iconic Tommy Chong, but he disappeared from the series for a while because he was serving a jail sentence for selling drug paraphernalia. It was such a natural chain of events, Tommy was surprised they didn’t write it into the show.

6. You can blame a movie for Blonde Donna.

Blonde Donna

Blonde Donna 2

Donna claimed she dyed her hair blonde after her marriage to Eric was called off. But the truth is Laura Prepon went blonde for the lead role in the 2006 psychological thriller Karla.

7. Topher Grace was discovered in a high school play.

Eric That 70s show

Topher Grace got his start in show business after That ’70s Show creators Bonnie and Terry Turner saw him in their daughter’s high school play. We assume he wasn’t constantly called “dumbass” in the play, but he wowed the Turners just the same.

8. Red really is from the “Craphole” state.

Red That 70s show

Kurtwood Smith is the only actor from Wisconsin, where the show is set. In fact, Red Forman is even more authentically Wisconson-ian, being based on Smith’s stepfather, who passed away shortly before the pilot was filmed. Yes, there actually was a real Red.

9. Josh Meyers was originally going to play Eric after Topher Grace left the show.

Josh meyers that 70s show

Josh Meyers, brother of Seth Meyers, was hired to replace Topher Grace, who’d left the series to fight Spider-Man on the big screen. Eric’s suddenly different appearance was going to be explained by the changing effects of coming back from his trip to Africa as a newly grown man, but the writers eventually ditched this ludicrous idea. Instead we got Randy Pearson, a fusion of Eric’s snarky humor and Kelso’s way with the ladies.

10. Eric’s Vista Cruiser license plate marks the passage of time.

That 70s show license plate

That ’70s Show almost lasted an entire decade with eight seasons, but it only took up four years of fictional time. And you can tell what year each episode takes place in by the license plate at the end of the theme song.

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