Late night talk show hosts like Jay Leno and Stephen Colbert have made appearances in the pages of Marvel Comics over the last few years, but these appearances don’t hold a candle to the original, official, on-the-cover and everything crossovers experienced when major mainstream Marvel Comics superheroes met up with major late-night New York-based TVshow stars. This should have been an annual event, like the JLA/JSA crossovers.
The first of these hit the racks in October 1978 in the pages of Marvel Team-Up No.78, the cover of which boasted Spider-Man’s team-up with the original Not-Ready-For-Prime-Time-Players, minus Chevy Chase who’d gone on to a movie career at this point and would have to show up in a much-later issue of Crystar instead (no he didn’t).
|Damn near took off|
Stan's toupee with that
The primary plotline involves late comedian John Belushi receiving a phony baloney super-scientific ring by dint of a post office screwup and Marvel baddie The Silver Samurai coming by to claim it, violently, during a Saturday Night broadcast. The lesser plotline involves Peter Parker coincidentally accompanying Mary Jane to the same SNL taping, but when he leaves her to go fight the Silver Samurai she gets hit on by the guy in the next seat who apparently wants to bang her in the can. But he looks like Prez, so I’m counting this as a triple-crossover!
In the interim, Stan Lee is the not-so-unlikely host of the episode, while the castmembers get to do some of their shtick – Curtin hosts and Weekend Update segment, Radner does an Emily Litella bit, and Belushi naturally faces off against the Silver Samurai with his own Samurai routine. Unfortunately, I don’t think Michael O’Donoghue was writing that night, so we didn’t get a guest appearance by Buck Henry as Uncle Roy attempting to molest the Silver Samurai and his crew. Ah well, missed opportunities.
The cast also gets to dress up in Marvel superhero costumes, with Laraine Newman putting a little meat on her thighs with a Ms.Marvel get up and Garrett Morris breaking all our hearts twice by not only failing to reprise his excellent Ant-Man performance, but by playing Thor and just talking in a phony baloney Asgardian dialogue. I wanted Thor to call someone a jive-ass turkey, is that too much to ask?
|Banging you in the can.|
Taking place during the legendary Assistant Editor’s Month, the otherwise woefully overwritten issue put the roster of Black Panther, Haweye, the Black Widow, Wonder Man and the Beast on the couch next to Dave. By contrast to the Spider-Man/SNL crossover, the Avengers make for lousy hosts. Whereas the Marvel Team Up allowed the SNL castmembers to take the spotlight for most of the adventure, the Avengers occupy a lot of the issue and leave Dave and his then-entourage very little room to breathe.
We do get a glance of Paul Shaffer at the keyboards, although we aren’t fortunate enough to have Chris Elliot popup from below the seats to lend the Avengers a hand against the deathtraps unleashed among them. Disgruntled would-be Avengers foe Fabian Stankowicz uses the premiere super-team’s TV appearance as an opportunity to ambush them en masse and make a name for himself in the super-villain community, only to be unseated by a sly Letterman wielding a giant doorknob which … which maybe they used once on the show? I would’ve had Larry “Bud” Melman smash into him, lowered from the ceiling on a rope, personally speaking.
Letterman does basically get to save the day and do a little superheroic posing along the way, and if the issue doesn’t do much to capture the show’s sense of humor or irreverence, we can at least agree it came off better than Dave’s appearance in American Splendor.
While it was never again a regular crossover-type event, other Marvel comics did feature the Silver Surfer on Real People, the Defenders on the Today show, the Champions talking with Tom Snyder, Power Pack on Romper Room and the one time Wolverine appeared on Dateline during a “To Catch A Predator” sequence, all of which I made up just now.
|Stare into the leering rictus of late-night.|