Comics and porn connect in Vegas

justice league of pornstar heroes Comics and porn connect in Vegas
by Brian Heater

[Beat Correspondent Brian Heater reports from the Consumer Electronics Show/Adult Entertainment Expo in Vegas, held January 6-8 in Las Vegas]

On Saturday morning of CES, I got an e-mail from PW’s Calvin Reid, asking if I’d be willing to meet up later. He was in Vegas for the week. The magazine had sent him out in search of comics content at the Consumer Electronics Show.  I told him that it would have to wait until the afternoon. I wouldn’t be at the show until three—or maybe four—that afternoon. I had other work-related business to attend to that morning.

I had already walked the majority of the Las Vegas Convention Center by the time I finally met up with Reid in the South Hall. I’d seen nearly a hundred tablets, more 3D TVs than I’d care to mention, and a handful of robots. As far as comics are concerned, however, there was really nothing to speak of. 

I suggested he check out the color eBook reader on the other side of the room, and the new Batman flash drives from Mimobots—the product of a newly-announced partnership with DC Comics, will manifest itself in the coming year in the form of Superman, Flash, and Green Lantern portable storage devices.

I considered, for a moment, telling him about what I had seen offsite that morning, during a brief trip to the AVN Adult Entertainment Expo—the massive pornographic convention held in the Vegas the same week every year as CES. I’ve attended the show the last few years, (all links SFW, by the way) getting material for my day job—the adult industry has, after all, been disproportionately effective in the advancement of mainstream consumer electronics. The example we often cite is the industry’s role in VHS’s victory over Betamax in the format wars. More recently, companies have been dipping their toes in the world of 3D TV, media streaming, and augmented reality.

And the timing of the show is far from coincidental. AVN was literally born out of CES’s basement—the proverbial redheaded stepchild of the country’s largest consumer electronics show. And likely much to CES’s chagrin, the two shows have maintained a certain bond—according to an AVN rep I spoke with, roughly 40 percent of the show’s foot traffic comes from CES attendees.

Given those sorts of numbers, it’s unsurprising, perhaps, that much of the subject matter for the adult films on parade at the show are direct “adaptations” of prominent geek culture. Perhaps it’s a product of culture at large’s increased mining of comics, sci-fi, and other standard geek fare for its blockbuster entertainment. Or maybe it’s the result of targeting content at those folks who put up the money for a trip to Vegas for the express purpose of having a photo taken with their favorite adult stars. I’m sure its some combination of the two.

Whatever the case may be, it was nearly impossible to miss the giant banner for the “Justice League of Pornstar Heroes” at the show, or the fact that, later that evening, the less-than-brilliantly titled “Batman XXX: A Porn Parody” would take home the prize for “Best Parody-Comedy” at the AVN awards ceremony, later that night at the Palms. The industry passes it off as satire (due, no doubt, at least slightly to some very clear potential legal concerns), but perhaps it’s more appropriately filed under fan fiction taken to a fairly logical extreme. 

The geek influence extends beyond comics, of course—I doubt there was a soul in the audience who expected the award for “Best 3D Release” to go to anyone but the folks behind “This Ain’t Avatar XXX 3D.” And then there was “Bonecraft,” a World of Warcraft spoof for the PC that made its debut on the floor of this year’s show. 

A few weeks after the end of the show, I’m still attempting to process some of the things I saw at AVN. Even after having attended the show for a few consecutive years, there are certain aspects I’d just as soon forget altogether. Oddest of all, perhaps (and that’s including the “balloon fetish” booth), were the parallels between this show and the comics conventions we all attend on a regular basis. 

It’s strange, I suppose, to find a show so entrenched in geek culture as CES almost completely devoid of comics influence, only to discover a porn show roughly three miles away swimming in the stuff. The largest difference, I suppose, is the fact that CES’s primary concern with regards to media revolves around delivery methods (i.e., hardware). And while AVN, too, has its share of, um, hardware, content is king. And that content, for better or worse, sometimes intersects with our own interests.

And while many among us who have fought so long to have the comics medium recognized as a legitimate art form would no doubt shy away from any comparison to adult entertainment, perhaps there’s something to be said about some spiritual connection between the two—the censorship, the obscenity charges, the need to reinvent themselves in a digital age (a theme that ran throughout Saturday night’s award ceremonies), underground renaissances in the early ’70s, and a mainstream embrace in the ’00s. Really, Fred Wertham would no doubt have a field day with this one.

Ultimately, comics and porn both tackle concepts of fantasy. And even though their approaches and goals are vastly different, the adult industry, like the mainstream film industry, is using our medium to give itself something of a head start in the concept department. And adult filmmakers, like Hollywood, are happy to bring our stories to their own perceived logical conclusions.

Comments

  1. “And adult filmmakers, like Hollywood, are happy to bring our stories to their own perceived logical conclusions.”

    In this case: happy endings.

  2. Either that Justice League porn has a lot of gay scenes or Wonder Woman is incredibly busy in it.

  3. There is one scene where Wonder Woman “takes a meeting” with all of the JLA “members”.

    But Zatanna, Catwoman, and other female roles are throughout the films (they filmed 2 back to back) as well.

  4. It’d a great topic for quips and giggles, sure, but as we start talking about the relevance of digital in comics it would be short-sighted to not recognize the relevance of porn-centered design and navigation for the most successful web-based properties. Porn has a specific and measurable client base as well as a vested interest in giving them content unobtrusively with a dollar sign attached. Web designers look at porn to figure out how to make web-based content pay (sort of like reading PLAYBOY for the articles).

    The smarter systems of moving the specific client base for comics onto the web isn’t going to come from a careful study of what makes a GREEN LATERN movie popular. It’s going to come smart designers figuring out how porn serves the internet audience better than adult bookstores do and how to apply some of those methods to a new digital comic user. How do we make and measure our audience in ways that we never imagined before the internet? The porn industry leads the pack on this kind of digital discovery and Apple was silly to have restricted their involvement in such a new field of delivery.

    But, yes, Wonder Woman must be very busy. Yet one can’t help but wonder what might’ve happened if the move to digital coincided with the “Aunt Harriet” period of BATMAN. Porn would be teaching us a lot of lessons there, but some that scare the beejesuzz out of me.

  5. “Either that Justice League porn has a lot of gay scenes or Wonder Woman is incredibly busy in it.”

    :sigh:

    It’s the latter.

  6. Tommy Raiko says:

    “it would be short-sighted to not recognize the relevance of porn-centered design and navigation…”

    I’m reminded of the line in TROPIC THUNDER where the one character is describing the format war between Blu-ray and HD-DVD: “People thought it would come down to pixel-rate or refresh rate, and they’re pretty much the same. What it came down to was a combination of gamers and porn.”

    Gamers and porn. Them’s your segments that are the leading indicators of where media’s going. ;-)

  7. Kate Fitzsimons says:

    Trust me, if it were fanfiction taken to its logical extreme, it would be far more imaginatively filthy and have an extremely involved and ridiculously earnest plot about alien invasion and eternal doomed love.

    Also, women would pay money for it.

  8. Somehow, this headline following the one about the end of the Comics Code in the news feed seems to fit in an amusing sort of slippery slope logic, doesn’t it.

  9. Dan DeLaet says:

    Only in vegas baby, only in vegas

  10. Steven Grant says:

    Did we go to the same CES? While there were few traces of popular comics characters at the show, all kinds of companies were offering giveaway comics to promote their products. They all looked like pseudo-Image comics c. ’94 and read like little kids wrote the ‘scripts,’ but they were there.

  11. Randy @ WCG Comics says:

    Y’know, the comparison between the two industries probably isn’t too offbase–I’m surprised you didn’t mention the fact that they were both kind of bastard/underground industries that were partly founded because mainstream “respectable” business interests wouldn’t touch them with a 10-foot pole (comics partly being an outgrowth of the pulps; like Hollywood, it was open to certain groups that had the doors of opportunity closed to them in the mainstream).

Speak Your Mind

*