When it hit network television towards the end of the '60s, the Adam West-starring adaptation of DC Comics "Batman" was an instant hit and, some would argue, a hit against comics as the high camp exercise led to "Biff! Bam! Pow!" parodies being the predominant mode in which the artform was discussed for decades.
All that considered, it's hard to imagine exactly what comics fans will make of "Batman XXX: A Porn Parody" – a new hardcore treatment of the classic TV show courtesy of Vivid Entertainment and director Axel Braun that goes on sale next week. Early screen captures and trailers from the movie betrayed a very fine attention to detail from the accurate costumes worn by lead actors Dale DaBone and James Deen as Batman and Robin to the music and settings and caught the attention of numerous comic blogs and message boards. But beyond the camp value of having the Dark Knight done up in the adult film industry, many have asked whether or not such a specific take on a comic book hero can see release without a legal pushback.
To ask about the movie, its legal protection as a parody and future plans to turn more and more comic book characters into XXX films, CBR News spoke to Braun, who explained that a fondness for the characters and their many film adaptations is what brought his camera to comic books in the first place.
CBR News: Axel, your movie certainly has people in the comics community talking of late. I think the most obvious question is why have you made this movie now? We all know superheroes are popular in Hollywood these days and Batman is always popular in general, but the '60s Batman show does seem a very specific choice to send up in porn form.
Axel Braun: Well, there are many reasons. The main reason is that I'm a huge fan of the '60s TV show. When I grew up as a kid, I was born and raised in Italy, and my father traveled to the United States when I was five and brought me back a Viewmaster where you put the little disc in and watch pictures in 3D. It's really great, and the disc that he brought me with it was a Batman disc which I still have. I'm staring at it right now, and I've had it since 1971. That was the first time that I'd actually seen a live action version of Batman. I had no idea [it existed] because it wasn't brought to TV in Italy until many years later in the '80s. I was a huge fan of the comic book, and I could not believe they had a show that featured the real Batman in the flesh. The episode [on the disc] was "The Purr-Fect Crime" with Julie Newmar, and I'm telling you, it was just unbelievable.
So I've always been a fan of this TV series, and the other reason was that I've been doing parodies for a couple of years now, and they've been very successful. And I could not think of a better thing to parody because the humor of that show is so tongue-in-cheek. It has so many double entendres and is so funny. It's just so easy to parody something like that that I thought it would be a perfect candidate for my films. I loved the costumes, and I wanted to see how many "Holy's" I could get Robin to say with weird things. It was something I was very attached to emotionally.
The show has so much humor in it originally that it seems like it'd be almost harder to parody. Beyond the fact that the characters are having sex left and right, how do you ratchet that feeling up when the show was in a way a parody of itself?
Well, you're going to have to watch the movie to figure it out. [Laughs] But the whole thing is that the show was really absurd with ridiculous situations, and they were handled with a straight face. You never really knew if Adam West was in on the joke or not. When you watched the show for the first time, it was like, "Oh my God...are they really doing this?" I thought I'd basically do the same. I played it straight while putting the characters in some absurd situations which are, of course, very sexual, and that's it.
As the images and trailers have been hitting, it seems that attention to detail has become very important from the costumes to the casting of supporting characters to the animated title sequences.
When you see Dale DaBone's impersonation of Adam West, it's unbelievable, man. But yeah, I've always approached making movies with an eye for detail. That's what I do. I'm very anal, and I want things to be perfect. In the specific case of "Batman XXX," it was so important that the costumes were right and that the casting was right. I could not just replace people. And especially in the adult industry, this happens where people don't show up and what do you do? "Well, just get me another blonde with big tits and there you go." That's not the case here. I wanted specific people, and the costumes had to be perfect, and I actually had to postpone the production several times because when you don't get exactly what you want, you can chose to half ass it or wait to get it right, and that's what I did.
And in the costuming specifically, I understand you recruited some of the costumers from the original show. Did you have to go around to comic conventions recruiting people?
I went to comic conventions and all the message boards. I did so much research to prepare for this. This project has been at least a year in the making. With the message boards I was on, I found the original fabrics used, I found the original patterns used, I found the people who made the costumes and the cowl...it's like, there's a lot of effort that went into this. And it was very important because it was my first movie in a distribution deal with Vivid, and I really wanted to impress everybody and especially to impress the fans of the show. I think what transpires on a parody like this is that since I am a fan and I'm not just trying to make a buck by putting out a movie – I mean, I shoot like 60 movies a year. I don't mean to taint people's childhood memories. I am one of them. This is my childhood memory. I don't want to be disrespectful to it. I want to have fun with it, and I make adult movies. That's my work. But when I did "Star Trek" and so many parodies, I wanted to make sure that the fans like them.
Well, I think if the first comment that everyone made when they saw the trailer was "That looks surprisingly accurate," then the second comment they made was "How can this possibly be legal?" That question keeps coming up is whether or not you're expecting to be sued by Warner Brothers because, even though this is a parody, you're using the character names right out front. Is that a worry at all for you?
Listen, let me tell you this. First of all, me and Vivid – it's not like we decided to do this without a team of lawyers behind us making sure all the laws are respected. If you've noticed in the past year and a half, every other movie that comes out of the adult industry is a parody. So there are so many ways that it's been done that, believe me, there's a parody law in place that allows us to do this. We don't just decide to make a movie and put it out and see if we get sued. There's a lot of research going into that. That's something I'm not worried about.
I think people are used to parody, but I think they're used to thinking of it in terms of being something that is close to but not exact, and this movie does seem to ride that line very finely.
It's very close, but I'd be more offended if it was a cheap version. [Laughs] I don't know. It's close enough.
You've made a big deal in the announcements surrounding this movie how big the budget has been for the project and that you're already moving on to more superhero films. Maybe this is a silly question, but can you justify that expense with the internet today? Do people really buy pornography at a store anymore?
Obviously, the numbers aren't what they were three years ago or five years ago. Every year, the internet takes a chunk out of DVD sales, but at the same time, that's exactly why the parodies are enjoying such success in the adult industry. Just like in music, there are songs you're going to download or torrent, but there's an album you're going to want to buy to keep. As much as the CD has been made ancient by digital downloads, when your favorite band comes out with an album, you're going to want to buy it and smell the booklet and keep the CD there, even if I'm going to convert it to my iPod. The same is true with "Batman XXX." The movie comes out next week and preorders are ridiculous. People are going to want to have this movie to own.
And let's not forget, in the special features I included a non-sex version of the movie. It's not a softcore version...there's no sex at all. It's funny, and it's a 30 minute version with no sex. So people who are into the characters can watch it without having to worry about the sex.
So with the future of your superhero imprint, are you just going to be sending up the film versions of these characters in the same way this is very specifically tailored to the Adam West TV show?
I'm already in preproduction on "Superman." I'm going to shoot that at the end of next month, and with that I'm going to do the Christopher Reeve Superman. It's not going to be an origin story. It's going to start with him working at the newspaper because the origin story involves situations with kids, and that's not something we can do in an adult movie. [Laughs] So it'll be him as an adult, and it's going to have some really great action. The costume is being made now, and it's unbelievable. And then I'm going to do "Spider-Man" right after, and that's going to be an origin story. It'll be a reboot of the whole thing, and I'm going to have my favorite villain in it with Electro. It's something I've always wanted to see in a Spider-Man movie that they haven't done. Then I don't know the exact order. The first three are Batman, Superman and Spider-Man, and then there's Wonder Woman and we're going to do a Green Hornet that'll come out the same day that the Seth Rogen movie comes out. We're going to basically follow the releases of the mainstream movies with Captain America, Thor and Green Lantern. We have a bunch of them, and they're going to be a lot of fun.