Nerdy celebrities are all the rage these days. Is a yearning to star/appear/be vaguely associated with the inundation of Box Office/TV hits based on comics the reason why? Or is that just the wicked cynicism coursing through my veins making its latest scathing emergence...?
In all seriousness, and unbeknownst to many, the bond between celebrities and comic books was established quite some time ago.
Some of ‘em of these old school trailblazers not only appeared inside monthlies, but went so far as to star in them!
Behold this assortment of nerd-approved pioneers:
Superman vs. Muhammad Ali (Superman vs. Muhammad Ali, 1978)
The most widely known pairing on this list, Dennis O’Neil and Neal Adams had the Man of Steel go up against Muhammad Ali in a boxing match. It was no exhibition bout, either—the world’s very fate hinged on its outcome! Talk about high stakes.
And to think, fight fans squandered $100 to watch Mayweather & Pacquiao's snooze fest live on PPV…
The book was originally scheduled to ship in 1977 (while Ali was World Champ), but a lengthy delay meant fans had to wait until the following year for the much-hyped brawl. Lo and behold the Heavyweight title was no longer in Ali’s possession… Mr. Leon Spinks nabbed the belt from him in February ‘78.
Regardless, Superman vs. Ali proved to be a big hit and actually made for a really cool book. O’Neil and Adams delivered a fun-filled, gorgeous art-laced story that ranks among Superman’s best of the '70s.
The Avengers Meet David Letterman (Avengers #239, 1984)
January 1984 was “Assistant Editor’s Month” at Marvel Comics, with Avengers #239 the most notable title published that month. The guest star? None other than the king of late-night TV, David Letterman!
Letterman’s NBC show had only been on the air for two years, but that didn’t detract from this particular segment of Roger Stern’s legendary Avengers run. Oh no! Earth's Mightiest Heroes found themselves guests on Late Night, with the host helping save the day by hitting Mechnonaut with a doorknob. Badassness 101, surely.
Two years later, David Letterman actually made another comic book appearance. Sort of. Frank Miller included "David Endochrine," a parody of the talk show host, in his classic The Dark Knight Returns. But there were no heroic acts doorknob-utilizing valor this time around; poor David was gassed to death.
Spider-Man Guest Stars On Saturday Night Live (Marvel Team-Up #74, 1978)
More late night TV meshing with comic books? Oh, we're just getting started! And this time it’s Spider-Man getting in on the action.
Marvel Team-Up #74, released in October, 1978, saw Peter Parker take Mary Jane Watson to a taping of Saturday Night Live. The show soon takes a turn for the, well, peculiar.
Logistical mishap sees the late, great John Belushi come into possession of a ring meant for Silver Samurai (Belushi being the Samurai Chef, and all), prompting shenanigan-infused villainous gatecrashing. Peter Parker makes a sneaky change of costume, and it's Spidey's job to sort out the mess. Along with the help of Bill Murray and Dan Aykroyd!
Oh, and that night's SNL host was none other than Mr. Stan Lee. Is there anything The Man hasn't done...?
"The King" Unites Jimmy Olsen And Don Rickles (Superman's Pal, Jimmy Olsen #141, 1971)
It doesn’t get any more random than this. Jack “The King” Kirby was the brains behind Jimmy Olsen, Superman's Pal #141, and boy, does he embrace the bonkers. The story serves as something of a springboard for several of Kirby's cosmic "Fourth World" concoctions (most notably Darkseid), featuring all manner or otherworldly oddness.
Not satisfied with introducing "Goody Rickles," Don Rickles' devious alter-ego, a photo of the legendary actor and comedian appears on the comics' front cover. Whether or not DC Comics received permission to do so is anybody's guess.
Murphy Anderson was brought in to redraw Clark Kent and Jimmy Olsen's faces; not the first (nor the last) time Kirby's DC work found itself tweaked to accommodate corporate consistency. Did this motivate Kirby to push the barriers of untold bewilderment? Or was the comedian's involvement planned since the story's conception?
To quote The King directly, "Don't ask! Just buy it!"
And who are we humble admirers to argue...?