Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Live from New York

There's a movement on Facebook (the only book you can't close by yourself!) to get (a la Betty White) Stan Lee to guest-host Saturday Night Live. Ah, people, people! Do I have to remind you of everything? Stan Lee has already hosted SNL!


MTU #74
Cover to Marvel Team-Up #74 (October 1978), cover art by Dave Cockrum and Marie Severin

Set your wayback machine/TARDIS/Delorean/Guardian of Forever to October 1978, and be sure to bring along your (still only!) 35¢ so you can pick up Marvel Team-Up #74, mint on the spinner rack at 7/11, back in the days when they used to open at seven and close at eleven...hey, so that's where they got their name! I never figured that out before.

The setting: glorious Studio 8H at NBC's Rockefeller Center, 11:30 PM on a Saturday night. And for once in his life Peter Parker's scored a decent place to take Mary Jane Watson out on a date. This certainly beats the time he took her to the hot dog stand on Fifth Avenue across from Avengers Mansion in the hopes they could spot the Beast! Oh yeah, Peter's getting' lucky tonight.

SNL
Two-page spread from MTU #74, script by Chris Claremont, pencils by Bob Hall, inks and colors by Marie Severin, letters by Gaspar Saladino and Annette Kawecki
(Click picture to killer bee-size)


Hey, look, it's Staler and Waldorf from The Muppet Show! Yeah, you'd be cranky if you had Jim Henson and Richard Hunt's hands up your bottom.

Tonight, joining the pantheon of big-name SNL hosts of the 1970s like Ron Nessen, Fran Tarkenton, Jack Burns, O. J. Simpson, Michael Sarrazin, and Miskel Spillman is "Smilin'" Stan Lee, who does not dare take off his sapphire-quartz sunglasses for fear of blasting his audience through the wall and into Studio 8-G, where Phil Donahue is hugging studio members. The cast members are on stage as well, which usually didn't happen during a SNL host's monologue, but, what the heck, there they are; there're all there. Except for one former member as Stan's show takes place in the third season of SNL. In other words: He's Chevy Chase and he's not...there.

Soon enough the regular cast is gathered backstage in "Mr." Belushi's dressing room. Clockwise from John Belushi, seated: Jane Curtin, Garret Morris, Bill Murray, Dan Ackroyd, Gilda Radner, and Laraine Newman. Not pictured: large amounts of cocaine on John's dressing table.


MTU #74

John's received a ring in the mail from some fan in Japan, and naturally, as Belushi is well-renowned for doing, he leaps right into the situation and puts the ring on. And it won't come off, no matter what he does. Now, if this were Wolverine teaming up with the Not-Ready-For-Prime-Time Players, we all know how he'd get the ring off, so luckily for Belushi he just has to deal with Spider-Man.

Meanwhile, on stage, Stan is doing the with-it, cutting-edge, creative experimental comedy routine that made Lenny Bruce retire in awe and respect. One of the studio pages, young David Letterman, reflects that he's not bad "no Steve Martin"...but who among us are, except for Steve Martin, whom Spidey has never teamed up with. (Get right on that, Joey Q.) The page is abruptly manhandled (and I think we all know how painful that can be) by one of a large group of criminal thugs that have taken over the control booth (holding Lorne Michaels hostage).


MTU #74

From his catbird seat, Peter Parker, clearly too bored to listen to Stan's monologue, spies the bad guys moving into the studio. "This is a job for...Spider-Man!" he boldly and heroically thinks, but what he says to MJ is something along the lines of that sidewalk cart burrito from dinner not being his friend, and he dashes off to jump into the rafters and change into his Spider-Jammies, almost dropping his shoe on Stan. That's Petey for ya...he won't let a criminal escape, and he won't give up his Hush-Puppies!


MTU #74

Belushi's still trying to get off the ring as Bill Murray heads backstage to hammer out a few things. Throughout the comic the SNL cast continually refer to each other by name, a common trick when you have a large number of non-costumed civilians in your comic. Bob Hall's artwork actually does capture the spirit if not necessarily the exact likeness of the crew, and I'm sure that the inking of Marie Severin, the Marvel Bullpen's greatest caricaturist, is owed a big thank-you in this regard as well. Chris Claremont's dialogue isn't quite Emmy Award-worthy, but he avoids the lengthy monologues and extensive flowery captions that would become a later trademark of his writing. Not that I wouldn't pay good money to hear Belushi say "I'm the best there is at what I do, bub, and what I do isn't very pretty."


MTU #74

It's Bill Murray who discovers that the villain of the piece is...no, not his later co-star Scarlett Johansson in her underwear (sorry!) but the Silver Samurai, Wolverine's almost-half-brother-in-law. It's like they say: "you can choose your X-teammates, but you can't choose your extended Japanese family, especially when your bride jilts you at the altar after being mind-controlled by a mutant supervillain."


MTU #74

The Samurai's invaded Studio 8-H with a gang of thugs to find the ring that was mistakenly delivered to Belushi instead of him. Geez, it's like the plot of a Molière play in here! Then Spidey comes in, and, I dunno, gets the exposition in the gutter between the panels, and off they go to head the crooks off at the pass.


MTU #74

Somehow this involves Spider-Man rescuing Weekend Update correspondents Jane Curtin and Emily Litella with his webbing. Sniffle...I miss Gilda.


MTU #74

The thugs are surprised when they find Ms. Marvel backstage...but actually it's Laraine Newman, dressing up in one of the superhero costumes they're using for sketches on tonight's show.


MTU #74

Nine out of ten hired crooks can't tell the difference between Carol "Ms. Marvel" Danvers and Laraine Newman. Can you?


MTU #74

This gives Spidey an idea: thwart the bad guys by masquerading as the Avengers. Because it's...I dunno, it's obviously too difficult to get on a phone and call the real Avengers to come down Fifth Avenue a few dozen blocks. Fifth Avenue even goes one-way southward!


MTU #74

And hey, Garrett...please don't use the word "gunsel." You keep using that word. I do not think you know what it means.


MTU #74

So up on the catwalk, a group of gunsels evildoers is confronted by...the Mighty Thor! And by Asgard, he's mighty thor at them, too!


MTU #74

Anticipating a fanboy argument about the casting of the 2011 Thor movie, one of the hired guns points out that Thor, like all the Norse gods, is, actually, a honky.


MTU #74

It's acting like this which had Garrett Morris phoning Kenneth Branagh every ten minutes last year, begging to audition for the role of Dr. Donald Blake and his hammer-wielding alter-ego. Well, acting, and electricity. Remember, kids: it's okay to run 40,000 volts from a lighting rig onto the metal catwalk to thwart criminals: just remember to wear rubber Thor boots. (In 1978, the young Macaulay Culkin looks up from reading this comic book scene and says "Hmmmmm!")


MTU #74

And that's when Dan Ackroyd breaks out a costume never before or after seen on either Saturday Night Live or any Marvel Comic: Mad Dog Mulcahy, The Crazed, Killer Colonel of the Crimea! To explain this, we need merely remember one thing about this comic book. Chris Claremont. Yes, the same Chris Claremont who turned NPR's Neil Conan into an X-Men character for "NPR Television." What, Chris, you couldn't get Dan into his "Fred Garvin, Male Prostitute" outfit? You woulda done it if Dan was a female, Chris.


MTU #74

Meanwhile, on stage, Stan Lee—oh yeah, forgot about him!—is vamping through the show to kill time. See folks: this is the sort of SNL you'll get if you ask Stan to host (again).


MTU #74

Through the magic of expanding fire-repressing foam, Danny and Laraine save Lorne Michaels, thus ensuring the world would not be denied The New Show, which ran, as Wikipedia tells us in its precise, N-POV technical terms "8, possibly 9" episodes.


MTU #74

...while the Silver Samurai finally catches up with Belushi, dressed as his famous Samurai character. Whoo hoo! We're gonna see some expert swordplay now! Take notes, Elektra Natchios!


MTU #74

But the S.S. has forgotten the first rule of backstage at SNL: don't make Belushi angry. You wouldn't like him when he's angry!


MTU #74

Something else happens, and somebody wins...look, it's a Claremont comic, I'm not paying attention to every panel. Suffice it to say that at the end the theme song is playing and the cast gather on stage to take their bows with Stan Lee. Coming up next on your local NBC stations: The Best of Carson! So, go to bed.


MTU #74

After the show, Peter and Mary Jane and Belushi and Morris are in a "Fifth Avenue bar"...and I call no way. The scare from fighting a Marvel super-villain or no, that's too sedate for Belushi's traditional post-show reverie. (In real life, the cast and often the host partied at the Holland Tunnel Blues bar, where the jukebox was filled with 45s by classic blues and soul artists and Belushi and Ackroyd would jam on stage. This was the genesis of The Blues Brothers! All I think that this bar in the panel is the genesis of, is Peter going home alone to watch Harry Osborn mutter and paw at his Green Goblin costume suggestively.


MTU #74

So there ya go: Spider-Man and Stan Lee on Saturday Night Live. This wasn't, of course, the first or last time a Marvel superhero crossed over with an NBC TV show. There was the time The Thing appeared on The Gong Show...and who can forget Spidey's earlier TV appearance on the thinly disguised Marvin's Midnight Talk Show:


ASM #82
Panels from Amazing Spider-Man #82 (March 1970), plot and layouts by John Romita, Sr.; script by Stan Lee; pencils and inks by Jim Mooney; letters by Sam Rosen

It went about as well as everything goes for Spider-Man, I guess, but at least no one got thrown off a bridge, huh?


ASM #82

Then there was the time alternate earth where Spidey actually did host The Tonight Show. Man, that really ticked off Dave and Conan when Johnny retired and left the show to Peter!


What If #19
What If #19
What If? #19 (February 1980), script by Peter Gillis, pencils by Pat Broderick, inks by Mike Esposito, colors by Roger Slifer, letters by Tom Orzechowski

Of course, no wrap-up of NBC/Marvel team-ups is complete without the David Letterman/Avengers issue (which I really oughta give a full post to one of these days!)


Avengers #239
Avengers #239
Avengers #239
Avengers #239 (January 1984), script by Roger Stern, pencils by Al Milgrom, inks by Joe Sinnott, colors by Christie Scheele, letters by Jim Novak

And let us never forget and honor with respect the very last night we saw Conan O'Brien alive, cracking jokes about Norman Osborn on the final show of his too-brief host duties for The Tonight Show:


SKK #5
Panels from Skrull Kill Krew v.2 #5 (December 2009), script by Adam Felber, pencils and inks by Mark A. Robinson, more inks by Mike Ransom Getty, colors by Andres Jose Mossa, letters by Joe Caramagna

But...you know...Marvel Comics...the National Broadcasting Company...there's still one team-up that I can but hope and dream they do some day. Or, as the phrase goes...if I ran Marvel Comics...well, I think it would go a little something like this:


Marvel Team-Up: Spider-Man and 30 Rock


3 comments:

Jack Roberts, Annabelle's scribe said...

I hope you do one on the Lettermen Avengers issue, and all of Assistant Editor's Month.

Nimbus said...

R.I.P. Peter's right shoe. It died of a broken neck.

And hey, what are the Infinity Gems doing on the set of the alternate Tonight Show?

Lazarus Lupin said...

They never did Captain Britain meets Monty Python which could have been truly epic. Also why didn't they have ol' Red Foxx pop up. I'd love the Fantastic Four on Sanford and Son.

Lazarus Lupin
http://strangespanner.blogspot.com/
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