5BC: Five Times Super Heroes Met Real People

Crossovers among characters originating in different comic books have become by this point so commonplace as to not even be worthy of notice, and crossovers between characters from different publishing entities have similarly increased to the point where, while they’ve still got a bit of built-in excitement to them, they’re still relatively commonplace. But the one sort of crossover that still holds some of its strange elemental appeal for readers–especially those who do not regularly follow comic books–are when fictional super heroes team up with real life celebrities. This has been happening off and on since the 1940s, but due to the variety of guest-stars and characters involved, these are still often novel. So here are Five Times Super Heroes Met Real People.

Lois Lane meets Pat Boone, SUPERMAN’S GIRL FRIEND LOIS LANE #9 – Despite the growing popularity of rock and roll music, especially among the age group that was buying comic book, old school crooners such as Pat Boone remained incredibly popular with a generation of listeners even by the end of the 1950s–so much so that DC licensed the rights to Pat Boone and starred him in five issues of his own series during this time. In a move that was almost certainly cross-promotional (and easier as they had a business arrangement in place already) Pat also guest-starred in this issue of SUPERMAN’S GIRL FRIEND LOIS LANE in a story whose cover made fan Fred Hembeck wonder aloud if it would really take ALL of the fabulous powers of the Man of Steel to prevent Boone’s latest song from becoming a hit. In the story, after Superman saves his life, Boone writes a song about the Man of Steel which he and Lois are going to perform on a live variety show. But by a complete fluke, the first letter of each verse spells out the name Clark Kent vertically–and so Superman has to prevent the song from being performed in case it might give somebody the tip-off to his secret identity. Superman tended to worry about a lot of strange stuff in the 1950s. The story was the work of writer Robert Bernstein and artist Dick Sprang, who didn’t often work on editor Mort Weisinger’s Superman titles. If that wasn’t enough, this issue also includes a cameo by Ralph Edwards and the “This Is Your Life” television program in a separate story, making it a two-fer in terms of celebrity cameos.

Batman and Robin meet Jerry Lewis, JERRY LEWIS #97 – This is a story that I’ve covered in-depth elsewhere:

but it remains such a good example of this sub-genre that I can’t leave it off of this list. Released during the height of Batmania following the debut of the live action BATMAN television program in 1966, this issue of Jerry Lewis’ long-running self-titled series saw Jerry and his annoying nephew Renfrew take up costumed heroic identities in emulation of the Caped Crusader, and battling a number of his foes. Batman and Robin turn up as well, but they’re being run ragged having to bail out the assortment of copycats who have sprung up in the wake of their success (to say nothing of the journeyman costumed villains, all of whom want to send the Dynamic Duo bad riddles and puzzles as clues to their crimes.) The whole thing is a very funny send-up of just what the influence of camp had done to the comic book industry, and it’s a shame that licensing issues have prevented it from ever having been reprinted. It was written by Arnold Drake and drawn by Bob Oksner.

Jimmy Olsen meets Don Rickles, SUPERMAN’S PAL JIMMY OLSEN #139, 141 – How does one follow up the introduction of rhe DNA project, the debut of Darkseid and his earthly agents Intergang and the Evil Factory, and the resurrection of the Guardian and the Newsboy Legion? Well, if you were writer-artist-editor Jack Kirby, you did so by crafting a two-part adventure in which the Daily Planet’s junior reporter and his friends ran afoul of not just the genuine insult comedian Don Rickles but also his completely-unexplained doppelganger Goody Rickles. Not a byproduct of the cloning facilities at the DNA Project or an operative created by the Evil Factory, Goody Rickles was apparently just a much-reviled employee of WGBS owner Morgan Edge’s conglomerate. For no explained reason, Goody walked around in everyday life wearing a full-on super hero costume. This whole two-parter (broken up by an all-reprint special issue) was an utterly bananas conglomeration of wild ideas, weird humor, and bizarre plotting. Fans at the time were mostly just baffled by it, but it actually holds up reasonably well in hindsight. Apparently, the real Don Rickles wasn’t entirely happy with the outcome, as when DC had contacted him, it was only for what they termed a “cameo”, so the comedian was perturbed to find his photograph on the cover of a pair of successive issues.

Daredevil meets Uri Geller, DAREDEVIL #133 – Uri Geller was a mentalist and conjurer of some note in the 1970s who claimed that all of his abilities were real. His most famous illusion was being able to seemingly bend a spoon or other small object with the power of his mind alone, as well as duplicate a concealed drawing that somebody else had done in a feat of “remote viewing”. Geller parlayed these skills into a successful career as a celebrity, and was even brought in as a special guest star in an issue of DAREDEVIL by none other than Stan Lee.. According to the text page in the issue, prior to work beginning on the story, Geller came up to the Marvel offices and dazzled writer/editor Marv Wolfman with his abilities to the point where Wolfman was virtually convinced that his powers were genuine. And that’s how they’re depicted in this story, where Geller helps Daredevil defeat the Mind-Wave and his Think Tank. This story drew some controversy even at the time, as witnessed by a later issue’s letters page, as Geller’s feats had been called into question by others and his claims of possessing mystic powers debunked by the Amazing Randi among others as being simple conjuring tricks. Bob Brown drew the adventure.

The Avengers meet David Letterman, AVENGERS #239 – Assistant Editors’ Month was a strangely inside baseball promotional stunt that Marvel ran across its entire line in 1983. The conceit of the event was that the entire editorial staff was going to be away for a month at the San Diego Comic Book Convention, thus leaving their under-trained assistant editors to put out that months’ comic books. This led to a bevy of strange and self-referential tales, the whole thing smacking of an April Fool’s joke that got out of hand. But among these many released, both good and bad, was this issue of AVENGERS, in which writer Roger Stern, artist Al Milgrom and assistant editor Mike Carlin (with editor Mark Gruenwald being involved to a limited capacity) having the Avengers make an appearance on the relatively-new Late Night with David Letterman television program. Late Night wasn’t all that established at the point where this story was put together, but Carlin and company had been fans of Letterman’s earlier morning program, and so were among the earliest viewers. The story is more-or-less played straight and incorporates a number of recurring bits that Letterman would put up regularly–and Dave himself defeating the attacking Fabian Stankowicz (a recurring character in AVENGERS at that time) with a gigantic doorknob.

9 thoughts on “5BC: Five Times Super Heroes Met Real People

  1. I got the DD & Avengers issues new off the racks. Of the DD yarn, I’d never heard of Uri Geller before but thought the story was rather lame. I wasn’t all that surprised when I read letters a few months later chastising Wolfman for being taken in by Geller’s fraudulent tricks masquerading as “real” supernatural powers. Decades later, I actually met James Randi twice, once at a university in Jacksonville where did a presentation, and later in Pasadena where i attended a science conference at CalTech with a friend and during the dinner prior to the opening night presentations, Randi and Skeptic Magazine publisher Michael Shermer sat down at the table with my friend and I. My friend had also met Randi & Shermer years previously. Anyhow, we had a good, albeit brief conversation before heading out to the auditorium. I’d rate Randi as a true hero and Geller as a conman.

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  2. The Daredevil Uri Geller story was at best an embarassment, though I consider it in harsher terms as shameful; they promoted a fraud. Another “real world” transgression in Daredevil was a Punisher storyline wherein, I recall, The Punisher tracked down a criminal and set out to kill him based on The Jehova’s Witnesses telling him that the suspect was rude to them when they came by proselytizing. I figured Frank Castle would have to murder 75% of New York’s citizens if that was his standard of guilt. What editor let that through?

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  3. What about the issue of Marvel Team-Up when Spider-man teamed up with the original cast of Saturday Night Live? That was a classic!

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  4. I was always more forgiving of Asst Editors Month, because of what ROM did with it. The status quo of the series was completely upended, and characters had all sorts arcs that came out of it, the ones that survived, that is. Now, I’ve got no idea of what was going on in the title at the time, in retrospect I suspect that the events of the title were coming anyways and the combination of the month and an anniversary issue gave them the excuse to say, we are going to do this here and now, and thus the readers will forgive us because there was an excuse and we’re not going to do it again. Really.

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