So, just as Wonder Woman finally discovers the wonders of pants, Batman gets caught with his tights down.
The first trailer for Vivid Entertainment’s latest title has been bouncing around the web since May, but it’s only fitting that the last word on Batporn comes in the form of a comic—Ward Sutton’s brilliant take on Batman XXX in last week’s Village Voice gathers seven decades worth of assorted Batmen, all reacting in character to the film, a spoof of the iconic Sixties TV series starring Adam West.
Batman XXX is just the latest product of the porn parody trend that has already engulfed popular series like Seinfeld, 30 Rock, and even The Golden Girls.
Porn parodies are clearly nothing new, but the recent reliance on popular sitcoms for material has introduced odd notes of (intentional) humor and nostalgia into the stereotypical mix of sex and stilted “I’m here to fix the cable” dialogue (warning: link slightly NSFW). Television sitcoms like Seinfeld and The Golden Girls are fueled by tongue-in-cheek double entendres and awkward sexual situations—in a way, the parodies simply cut to the chase by addressing the scantily-clad elephant in the room (and then offering to fix its cable).
Batman, of course, is different—there’s history there. As arch and campy as the Sixties’ incarnation of the Caped Crusader, the Boy Wonder and their ever-revolving host of guest-starring nemeses certainly were—anybody remember Liberace seducing Aunt Harriet as the villainous pianist Chandell?—the show remains an indelible childhood memory for at least three decades worth of fans, thanks to syndication. Beyond that, of course, is the history of the character as a whole, from his earliest appearances in Detective Comics through all the various evolutions, revivals, animated and live action TV and film versions…which brings us back to Ward Sutton.
Sutton’s comic slyly addresses this bizarre intersection of fandom, sex, and nostalgia from a variety of bat-viewpoints, driving it home with special appearances by Burt Ward (whose smarmy tell-all Boy Wonder: My Life in Tights chronicled the off-screen sexual shenanigans of the original Batman series) and Frederic Wertham (Seduction of the Innocent author and expert witness for Estes Kefauver’s Senate Subcommittee on Juvenile Delinquency, which led directly to the development of the Comics Code Authority in 1954).
And then there’s the inclusion of Robert Smigel’s Ambiguously Gay Duo, created in the mid-Nineties to satirize the often dubious banter and seemingly questionable behavior which earned comics (and Batman in particular) Wertham’s wrath and pride of place in the hallowed “Seduction of the Innocent” section of Superdickery.com, one of the greatest sites ever, ever on the internet (if you’ve never been, run there now).
The fact that the same elements that incited hysterical moral panic in the mid-fifties, served as the basis of good-natured camp in the mid-sixties, then eventually became a source of complete hilarity (or at least creepy titillation, in the case of Ward’s memoir) in the mid-nineties serves to drive home Sutton’s point that Batman changes with the times, and reflects the changing face of the culture that continues to remake and remodel him.
In other words, Batman may not be the hero that Gotham needs, but apparently he is the porn star that Gotham deserves.
The overall reception of Batman XXX has been rather positive, at least in terms of its success as a parody. After watching the trailer, Chris Sims at Comics Alliance wrote, “considering how good the costumes are and how new that footage of the Batmobile looks, this might be the first pornographic parody that actually has higher production values than the source material.” In a entertaining review of the entire movie, Gilbert Short at Multiversity Comics concludes, “That may or may not be your thing, but I can tell you this, it was made by true fans of the franchise and it was a loving send-up of Adam West and crew.”
And whether it’s your thing or not, it seems that Batman XXX is riding the porn-wave of the future, hard: thanks to the on-line success of the trailers, Vivid Entertainment has announced plans to launch a new imprint dedicated to parodying additional superheroes, beginning with Superman and slated to include The Green Hornet, Spider-Man, Wonder Woman (fancy new pants—all for naught), Captain America, Thor and the Incredible Hulk. Sign of the apocalypse or not, it seems that superheroes are suddenly the new porn stars—what that fact says about our current society, whether positive or negative, is very much up for debate.
Cartoon panel images by Ward Sutton
Bridget McGovern really, really hopes that Alfred and Commissioner Gordon don’t know what’s going on in the Batcave right now.