Friday, December 07, 2007

Friday Night Fights: Temple before their birth, solution saturated with gods that are almost insoluble...: Gong!

Sure, Spider-Man teamed up with The Not Ready for Prime Time players on Saturday Night Live in 1978...
Marvel Team-Up #74

...and the Avengers appeared on Late Night with David Letterman in 1984...
Avengers #239

...but the man who did it first, the hero who burst onto a 1977 network TV show before any of these super-heroes, was, of course, ever-lovin' blue-eyed Mister Benjamin J. Grimm: The Thing, fighting a giant robot duplicate of himself (running amok on the set of a Fantastic Four movie), a Friday Night Fight that busts right onto TV's hottest game show of the late 1970s. No, not Match Game '77 or Let's Make a Deal...but Chuck Barris's cult classic The Gong Show!

FF Annual #12 panel
FF Annual #12 panel
FF Annual #12 panel
FF Annual #12 panel
FF Annual #12 panel
FF Annual #12 panel
FF Annual #12 panel
FF Annual #12 panel
FF Annual #12 panel
All panels are from Fantastic Four Annual #12 (1977), script by Marv Wolfman, penciled by Bob Hall (except for faces of Gong Show celebrities which are penciled by Marie Severin), inked by Bob Wiacek, colored by Glynis Wein, lettered by John Costanza

NBC logoIt's pretty fair game to poke fun at Marvel for jumping on board pop culture bandwagons long after their ships have sailed (to mix a metaphor), but give the House of Ideas some credit in their timely TV team-ups: this FF annual came out in the summer of 1977, only one year into the four year run of the popular Gong Show. 1981's Avengers #239 appeared in 1984, just when the popular Late Night with David Letterman was in year 2 of its 11 year run on NBC, and MTU #74 captured the fervor for Saturday Night Live in its fourth year on the air. The show's still running but I'm not 'lowed to stay up that late and watch it—don't weep for me, Bully-fans, I'm in love with Miss Tina Fey on 30 Rock and I can watch that all I want. So, for every Dazzler that premieres after disco is dead and buried or U.S. 1 that debuts long after the "Convoy" 45s have been tossed in the 49¢ bin, at least Marvel had its finger on the pulse of what the nation was watching in those colorful pre-cable days. Either that or Stan had cut a contract with GE: all three of the shows featured in these comics ran on NBC. I wonder how many free light bulbs they got in the Bullpen for that deal?

Today, of course, I'd like to see Marvel do the same. Why not Daredevil on Law & Order: Criminal Intent? Watch the sexy fun as Tony Stark moves onto Wisteria Lane and seduces all the Desperate Housewives! Doctor Don Blake guest-stars and is quickly nicknamed "McGoldilocks" on a steamy Grey's Anatomy! Nick Fury pops up from hiding to show Jack Bauer how it's done on 24! And of course, The Hulk on America's Next Top Model.

Gosh. I really wanna run Marvel Comics now. Sigh.

Unknown to most, Bahlactus is the true face of the Unknown Comic.


Bret said...

I've tuned into WURF on occasion. The Ben Grimm interview was must hear radio, but Black Bolt's early morning DJ act... less good.

I do want to see the marvel U at NBC again. Iron Man's 30 rock episode where he bought out the company and put Kenneth in the negative zone would be a hoot.

Ron Hogan said...

It wasn't an exclusive NBC deal; I swear there's an issue of Captain America from the early '80s where Animal, the photographer from CBS's "Lou Grant" series, is snapping away at Cap walking away from a fight.

Rockie Bee said...

"U.S. 1' a toy tie-in, to slot-car racing set that used model tractor trailers.

Rockie Bee said...

'U.S. 1' WAS a toy tie-in, that is... y'know, I had th' option to preview and I didn't take it up...

The League said...

If you enjoyed the SNL/ Spidey Team-Up, I highly recommend checking out this post at Chronological Snobbery.

bitterandrew said...

I love the Thing almost as much as I love The Gong Show (which is a lot), but I had no clue that this story existed.

Outstanding, Bully, and thanks for bringing it to my attention.

Harvey Jerkwater said...

I miss the strange tie-ins (Marvel's recent short link to "Guiding Light" notwithstanding.)

The Marvel-rock tie-ins of the late seventies were even weirder. KISS showing up as apparitions in a mental hospital in "Howard the Duck?"* Alice Cooper starring in his own issue of "Marvel Premiere"**

*Howard the Duck #12-13, frantic ones! Classics both!
--Historian Harv

**Coop starred in Marvel Premiere #50, for all you completists!
--Hard-workin' Harv