Wednesday, March 4, 2015


Live, from New York, it’s …

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 story between the covers follows a pair of plotlines interrupted by interstitial comedy bits, more or less familiar to the viewers of SNL or at least accommodating the appearance of a familiar skit (why, for instance, Dan Akroyd at one point dresses up as the apparently invented “Mad Dog Mulcahey, the Crazed Killer Colonel of the Crimea” and not, say, a Killer Bee or a wrath-crazed Julia Child is beyond me, but it’s Claremont at the helm so let’s just roll with it).

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.
The crossover between SNL and Spider-Man actually makes a great deal of sense, as both Marvel and Saturday Night were institutions of New York city, much as were the Avengers and Late Night with David Letterman during their crossover a few years later, in Avengers vol.1 no.239, January 1984.

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.


James W. Fry 3.0 said...

Yeah, I remember both of these---and I remember how much more I enjoyed the concept than the execution. Apparently Marvel Comics and deliberate comedy were not on speaking terms any more. Not hard to understand why they used the Giant Doorknob--- it was a recurring bit during the early '80s (and apparently one of Dave's personal faves), though I like your Larry "Bud" Melman idea MUCH better. As for The Guy Under The Seats, it's probably for the best that he never put in an appearance. If he had, and the story ended in ANY OTHER WAY than with him BECOMING A FULL-TIME AVENGER, I'd have burned the Marvel offices to the freakin' ground!!! Just sayin'.

neofishboy said...

While we'll probably never see Garett Morris' Thor call anybody a "jive turkey" there's always this ...

Even as a kid I wished that they'd tried a little harder with these.

Calamity Jon said...

What, you mean "comics"?

Calamity Jon said...

By the way, I thought you guys might appreciate this - from the dedication of my book:

neofishboy said...

Woo Hoo!

Cheers, man!

Unknown said...

Wow. Thanks, Jon. It's an honor just being nominated.

James W. Fry 3.0 said...

Yeep. Hey, Jon. I just noticed that my comment re:being mentioned in the dedication of your book was credited to "Unknown". Guess I wasn't signed in that day. Anyway, "It's an honor being nominated" in English means "Thanks, that's awfully cool of you".

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