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Stephen Colbert is a swinger for Marvel

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Plenty of television comedy stars have hung with Spider-Man, but Stephen Colbert may be the first to swing with him.

Colbert, the master parodist of Comedy Central, shares an eight-page adventure with the world-famous web-slinger in issue No. 573 of ‘The Amazing Spider-Man,’ on sale Oct. 15. The folks at Marvel sent over a page from the story and while I can’t quite tell what’s going on, it’s pretty clear that Colbert actually takes to the rooftops of Manhattan with the arachnid hero.

Colbert and his name have been popping up a lot in Marvel pages lately (perhaps too much, actually), following the January announcement by the company’s editor-in-chief Joe Quesada that Colbert’s faux campaign for president in our world would be mirrored by a genuine bid for the White House within the Marvel universe. The references have been scattered in different issues (a cameo here, a campaign poster there, some T-shirts, etc.) but nothing quite as dramatic as this.

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Marvel has always been open to daffy gimmicks like this -- hey this is the company built by Stan Lee, after all.

For instance, 30 years ago, ‘Saturday Night Live’ was all the rage so, in the October 1978 issue of ‘Marvel Team-Up,’ Spider-Man met up with John Belushi and six other Not Ready for Prime-Time Players (Dan Aykroyd, Jane Curtin, Garrett Morris, Bill Murray, Laraine Newman and Gilda Radner) for a deliriously cheesy adventure. On the cover, Belushi is in samurai mode, but he looks vaguely like Anne Ramsey from ‘Throw Momma from the Train.’

The ‘plot’ has Peter Parker attending an ‘SNL’ broadcast on the same night the evil Silver Samurai comes looking for a ring of great value that has accidentally ended up in the possession of Belushi (yes, that’s right, he’s basically Ringo Starr in ‘Help!').

The best moments in the story: Morris dressed up as Thor and the late Radner wondering to herself at one point, ‘Hm, what’s that noise from Belushi’s dressing room?’ And I’m guessing that on most Saturday nights on the real set, that was a loaded question...

In 1984, it was David Letterman’s turn to rub elbows with heroes in the pages of ‘The Avengers,’ and the results were even cheesier, with Al Milgrom’s art rendering Letterman as an Alfred E. Neuman look-alike beneath a Gary Hart hair helmet. (I’ve never been a fan of Milgrom, sorry.) Paul Shaffer wore a Captain America T-shirt and Dave help beat the bad guys with the use of a giant door knob.

Has Letterman ever had a lamer career moment? I doubt it.

Oh wait, I forgot ‘Cabin Boy.’ Sorry.

It was much more subtle back in the Summer of Love, 1967, when Johnny Carson and Ed McMahon popped in a true classic, ‘The Amazing Spider-Man’ issue No. 50.

That book had J. Jonah Jameson on the couch of ‘The Tonight Show’ discussing the apparent disappearance of Spider-Man. It was a fleeting cameo with a totally different purpose; instead of trying to pull celebrities into a comics adventure, it felt like it was pulling the Marvel characters into a real world that added energy to the story arc.

So, of course, classy old Carson doesn’t tussle with any villains (that issue, by the way, happened to have the first appearance of the Kingpin), he doesn’t swing through the sky with Spidey or even try on the clothes of a Norse god for yucks.

And then there’s that gorgeous John Romita Sr. cover, which must have jumped off the newsstand next to so many of the staid DC Comics issues of the day.

I’m just guessing that, no matter what Colbert pulls off next month with the modern web-head, Carson and the 1960s Spidey will still be the ones who age best.

UPDATE: How’s this for a coincidence; I just saw an interview with writer Mark Waid where he says that the upcoming Colbert story will have a homage to a classic Spider-Man image that shows the hero throwing his costume in a trash can. That image is from ... ‘Amazing Spider-Man’ No. 50, the same one with Carson.

-- Geoff Boucher

All images courtesy of Marvel Comics.


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