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Every so often, famous folks appear in comic books to lend some real-world veracity to the spandex-clad antics. Sometimes the cameo works and everyone has clean, kitschy fun. Other times the cameo fucks up the plot beyond all comprehension.

These are some of those "other times."

5
Jay Leno meets Spider-Man (2002)

Superheroes and late night TV hosts have a curious history of teaming up to fight evil. The Avengers guest-starred on Letterman, and the cast of Saturday Night Live joined Spider-Man in defeating the Silver Samurai.

These unlikely team-ups combined two great tastes that don't seem to go together, but, like Nutella and Jagermeister, somehow make perfect sense when you're absolutely shitfaced.

In July 2002, Marvel Comics debuted Jay Leno & Spider-Man: One Night Only. Marvel presumably created this three-part crossover to capitalize on the release of the Spider-Man feature film, but why they chose Leno to be the star is anyone's guess. You wouldn't think Leno's audience of senior citizens would overlap much with audience for Spider-Man on the Venn diagram.

Where it goes wrong ...
We have to start with One Night Only's criminally ridiculous plot, wherein Spider-Man and Leno team up to film a General Motors commercial, then get attacked by ninjas. What the hell help is Jay Leno going to be in a ninja fight? Couldn't they, say, have them attacked by a race of aliens whose only vulnerability is really stale monologues and awkward, polite laughter?

No, instead we get a 52-year-old Jay Leno practicing kung fu on a ninja-defeating level:

Don't bother trying to find this comic in stores. Marvel divided it into three parts and tucked it non-sequentially at end of random serieses during summer 2002. This is bad for the 2.5 of you who actually wanted to read this turd, but good for the rest of us who avoided accidentally running across it.

And to make things worse ...
The writers tantalized us with a promising homoerotic subtext, yet for some reason chose not to pursue it.

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4
Ayatollah Khomeini of Iran meets The Joker (1988)

The team-up of The Joker and Ayatollah Khomeini in Batman #429 may seem unorthodox, but there was historical precedent for it. Political leaders have appeared alongside superheroes ever since the inception of the modern comic serial. For example, Captain America and Superman took on Hitler and his Nazis during World War II. More recently, First Lady Hillary Clinton appeared with supervillain Lex Luthor at Superman's 1993 funeral.

How that hasn't been turned into an Obama campaign ad is beyond us.

Where it goes wrong ...
This cameo provides what has to be the most fucked up portrayal of '80s-era international affairs since Rocky IV.

The Ayatollah appeared in the infamous "Death in The Family" issue, in which the Joker blew up a warehouse on Jason Todd, the second Robin. On September 15, 1988, Batman fans had a mere 36 hours to call DC's 900 number and choose whether his taut little green-Speedoed ass survived the blast. Being the charitable souls they are, comic fans voted 5343 to 5271 to ice the Boy Wonder, thus sparing him a lifetime of counseling and sexual maladjustment.

For killing the most famous sidekick in comic history, The Joker was now the second-most evil man on the planet. Obviously, he had nowhere to go but up. Luckily, opportunity came a-knocking when the Ayatollah, the first-most evil man, appeared out of nowhere to offer the Clown Prince of Crime a job.

The Joker's new gig gave him diplomatic immunity and the chance to fill the United Nations with toxic laughing gas, a deed only Batman could anticipate because, y'know, he's Batman. He's omniscient and shit.

And to make things worse ...

The 1980s--a decade when comics didn't have to be PC because we knew we were right.

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3
John Walsh meets The Outsiders (2004)

In Outsiders #17 through #19, America's Most Wanted host John Walsh teamed up with Teen Titans spin-off squad, the Outsiders.

The premise of superheroes coordinating with the media had promise, assuming that at no point would John Walsh, say, whip out a jetpack.

Where it goes wrong ...
First off, who the hell were the Outsiders?

They were a C-List superteam made up of twentysomething hard-bodies who bickered often, swore freely and enjoyed indiscriminate sex:

Note that "the Pequod" is their superhero battle-jet, which apparently had a lot of suspicious stains on the seats. So they acted less like the Justice League and more like the cast of The Real World. This similarity probably had to do with the fact that the series was penned by Judd Winick, a.k.a. Judd from The Real World: San Francisco, a.k.a. the season the housemates kicked Puck off the show.

Naturally, readers bought Outsiders for all the cussing, fighting and fucking. For a while, all was good with our band of brassy super-hedonists. That is, until John Walsh showed up.

Walsh appeared in a three-issue story arc entitled "Most Wanted," in which the Outsiders took a break from fighting the Joker and Lex Luthor to battle a child prostitution racket. It doesn't take a fanboy to realize which of these villains is not like the other.

It's unfair to blame Walsh for the mediocrity of "Most Wanted"--the trouble was Walsh and the Outsiders couldn't have been a more mismatched pair. Given the plot's grimness, the comic's devil-may-care tenor changed rapidly, what with everyone having to tip-toe around the whole child rape thing.

And to make things worse ...
To get an idea of how intense Outsiders suddenly became, here's John Walsh on the case:

TO THE PEDOMOBILE!

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2
Princess Diana joins the X-Statix (2003)

In 2003, writer Peter Milligan announced that the deceased Diana, Princess of Wales would be joining the X-Statix, a media-whoring X-Men spin-off team. In an interview with The Guardian UK, Milligan noted that "Diana exerted a strange, mysterious power from beyond the grave," so why not turn that into a mutant power?

Diana was set to appear in a storyline cheekily titled "Di Another Day." Her zombified body would join the X-Statix, thwart assassination attempts from the British Royal Family, and thwart further assassination attempts from her jealous teammates, who would grow increasingly annoyed that she was hogging the limelight.

Milligan's run on X-Statix received critical acclaim for satirizing both comic book and tabloid cliches, so as idiotic as this all sounds, it could have been good satire. Maybe.

Where it goes wrong ...
Unfortunately, Di's cameo was a little too crazy for some people. And when we say "some people," we mean "most people." And when we say "most people," we mean "also the British Royal Family."

Marvel never published Diana's appearances. After an outcry from Buckingham Palace and the press, particularly UK tabloid The Daily Mail, Marvel redacted the story. Milligan replaced Di with "Henrietta Hunter," a European popstar who was a replica of Di with the exception of a bouffant haircut.

The Diana debacle may have helped kill X-Statix. After Marvel delayed the comic (presumably to draw all the bouffants), sales dwindled and, eight issues later, the series was extinguished like a candle in the wind.

And to make things worse ...
This was not the last time Marvel ran afoul of European royalty. In 2005, Marvel was on the receiving end of a lawsuit from King Juan Carlos I of Spain after an artist turned him into Magneto.

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1
Muhammad Ali in Superman vs. Muhammad Ali (1978)

The most iconic boxer of all time versus the most iconic superhero of all time sounds like a knockout of guilty pleasure kitsch. Sure, the writer has to devise some excuse for Superman to throw the match. Nobody wanted to watch Superman punch a ragged hole in Ali's torso, as he could so easily do.

Where it goes wrong ...
Given the comic's title, you would think Muhammad Ali is ostensibly the hero of the piece. Sadly, the boxer spends most of the comic getting in Superman's way. The comic opens with Clark Kent bumping into Muhammad Ali, who is inexplicably schooling a cadre of 12-year-olds in a game of basketball.

For no apparent reason, a malevolent alien overlord then appears and challenges the entire Earth to a death match. Superman volunteers to fight on Earth's behalf, but Ali, being the egomaniac that he is, ignores the invaders and challenges Superman to a fistfight.

Ali's boast reminds the forgetful aliens that they possess Superman-depowering technology. Had Ali kept his goddamn mouth shut for another 30 seconds, Superman would have tossed the alien armada into a black hole, and this comic would be mercifully over in three more panels.

After a training montage or two, Super Cracker whisks Ali off to the fight, where The Greatest of All Time waxes poetic on intergalactic aviation with the dignity only a team of white writers can bestow upon a great black man.

The fight is the comic's most egregious problem. Despite being called "Superman vs. Muhammad Ali," the two of them never actually fight. Bundini Brown, Ali's cornerman, disguises himself as Superman in order to allow the real Superman, who is dressed as Bundini, to infiltrate the invaders.

Unfortunately for Bundini, this plan involves Ali beating him unconscious in front of a billion jeering aliens. Unfortunately for Superman, this plan involves dressing up in blackface.

Yeah, that's the kind of PR mistake you have to save the Earth four or five times to make up for.

And to make things worse ...
The comic continues along an equally insane, yet predictable, trajectory until the last couple pages. Superman saves the world and Muhammad Ali loudly asserts his own greatness to no one in particular. The last batshit twist comes when Ali deduces Superman's secret identity.

To put this ridiculousness in perspective, Lex Luthor, the smartest supervillain in DC Comics, has spent the last 60-plus years trying to figure out Superman's secret identity. Muhammad Ali, though bright for a boxer, still made a living getting punched in the head.

If you liked that, you'll probably enjoy our look at Pop Culture's Top 5 Fictional Mayors. Then, drop by this week's photoshop contest, where you can see this week's best entries before everyone else, or submit your own comic genius and win 5000 pennies.

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