Sunday, January 01, 2017

A Month of... Celebrities in Comics, Day 1: There's Something Fishy About This Movie Studio

Andy Warhol once famously said "Who stole my can of Campbell's Soup?" He also said something or other about fifteen minutes, celebrity, yadda yadda yadda. But what he didn't say is that in the future, every superhero would be a celebrity! And he oughta to have done. Look, for instance, at the fame the Fantastic Four have achieved pretty early on in their careers: so famous that not only do kids play-act at being the FF, but there are licensed masks available in stores for the greatest superhero of them all!

Panels from Fantastic Four (1961 series) #11 (February 1963), script by Stan Lee, pencils by Jack Kirby, inks by Dick Ayers, colors by Stan Goldberg, letters by Artie Simek

Yes, the Fantastic Four are such worldwide celebrities that they get a metric ton of fan mail every day. Actually, most of that is from Nigerian Princes to Johnny. And need we point out that this is the very first time that someone applies to be a member of the FF? That Galactus Trilogy woulda been over in six panels when faced with Willie Lumpkin's harrowing ear-wiggling power!

But superheroes as celebrities is not what we're going to feature this new year, all year! No, it's those occasional cameo stars, those special guest appearances, those "you'll never guess who shows up in this issue!" characters making a trip from the real world to Earth-616 or Earth-1 or whatever four-color paradise they're popping up in! In other words, welcome 2017, a year of 365 Days of Celebrities in Comics!

EDIT on 01/29/17: As you'll see elsewhere in this blog, I've made the mid-January decision to switch this year's feature from Celebrities in Comics to 365 Days of Defiance! Never fear, though: this feature is now A Month of Celebrities in Comics. And there'll be more throughout the year even after January, I promise you! So for please mentally replace all references here to 365 Days of Celebrities in Comics to A Month of Celebrities in Comics! You'll be glad you did!

Panels from Fantastic Four (1961 series) #9 (December 1962), script by Stan Lee, pencils by Jack Kirby, inks by Dick Ayers, colors by Stan Goldberg, letters by Artie Simek

Hooray for Hollywood! Hooray for guest-stars! Like (in panel one, left to right), Amanda Blake and James Arness of TV's longest running oater, Gunsmoke, and that's the infamously recognizable profile of fright-meister Alfred Hitchcock! The guy next to Hitch is hard to ID, but I've read that he might be director André DeToth, who directed the 3-D classic House of Wax (even though he'd lost an eye at an early age!).

The bottom tier of panels: well, just call me Dorothy Lamour if you don't recognize Bing Crosby and Bob Hope, and on the bottom right being startled all the way to the moon by Ben Grimm is The Great One himself, Jackie Gleason!

In this next panel we can see alongside Gleason, by kind permission of DC Comics, Mister Dean Martin! An expy of Dino was very soon to begin appearing in Marvel's Sgt. Fury: Dino Manelli of the Howling Commandos, so you can look on this as a try-out of Jack Kirby drawing the proclaimed King of Cool.

Ladies and gentlemen, and especially gentlemen, prepare for wolf whistles for Miss Ann-Margret! Or, it might be Brigette Bardot! We're not certain and Stan doesn't remember, so an official Bombshell No-Bull Prize goes to the first Conqueror of Time to hop in his Delorean back to 1962 and ask Jack Kirby about it! All I know for sure is, it probably isn't Nicole Kidman.

Of course, no celebrity surprise appearance could be quite as shocking and improbable as the revelation that "S-M Studios" (bad name, marketing department) is headed by...Namor, the Sub-Mariner! Shown here, dashing, debonair, and smoking one of those seaweed cigarettes all the kids love so much. Hey, where'd he get that green suit? (rings bells, sounds klaxon for the first appearance of that joke in 2017)

So there you have it: 2017 is the year of 365 Days of Celebrities in Comics! You'lkl be seeing all sorts of guys 'n' gal from the real world crossing over to the land of four color comics in the next 52 weeks, all the way from Frank Sinatra to Lea Thompson! Look for Walter Cronkite and Humphrey Bogart! Popping in along the way will be Courtney Cox and Sarah Silverman! (And I'm hoping Jane Wiedlin will show up somewhere.) To paraphrase Lucy van Pelt, "how can you say someone is great who's never had his picture in comic books?" Stay tuned and find's gonna be a star-studded year! But remember: with fame comes fan mail, and with fan mail comes...well, show us the risks, Ben Grimm:


Dave said...

I never noticed how much Namor looked like Fred Astaire in that last panel.

And I'm sure S-M Studios product raised no objections.

Daniel Frank said...

Speaking of expies (and feel free not to say anything if it's a spoiler),

1) Will you be featuring Archie Comics not-celebrities (although I just remembered you did that as a theme month...)

2) Or the mid-70s Superman not-Johnny-Carson character of Johnny Nevada?

Dave said...

Or Johnny Nevada's replacement Les Vegas? (Not to be confused with Chevy Chase.)

(By the way, I just want to congratulate myself for digging Les's name out of the mires of memory; haven't thought of him in 30 years.)

Daniel Frank said...

You stumped me.

Per the Superman wiki, Mr. Vegas was not Nevada's replacement but was, rather, the star of "Friday Night Revue". (And since he was a Chevy Chase expy, they really should have done a Maryland-based pun).*

*It wasn't until 9 years ago that I got the Carson City pun in Johnny Nevada.

Daniel Frank said...

And I just read your comment and see that you made the Chevy Chase connection. Sorry.

Joe Torcivia said...

Could that be Sydney Greenstreet, rather than Alfred Hitchcock, I wonder?