Jesus Crashes Archie's Beach Party: 6 Bizarre Comic Cameos
Like any entertainment medium, comics are in a constant, frantic battle to stay relevant. Clearly, the winning move is to force celebrity guest appearances that utterly destroy all suspension of disbelief. After all, if Superman exists in the same universe as Orson Welles, Don Rickles, and Muhammad Ali, why didn't he stop Vietnam, or 9/11, or Batman v. Superman: Dawn Of Justice? Or any of these other stupidly ridiculous celebrity/superhero encounters?
Spider-Man Enlists The Help Of The Original Saturday Night Live Cast (Minus Chevy Chase)
The year is 1978. Taking advantage of the first crime-free Saturday night in the history of New York City, Spider-Man (as Peter Parker) takes his girlfriend, Mary Jane, to see Saturday Night Live, where he improbably thwarts an attack by Silver Samurai with the help of the cast. It is worth noting that Silver Samurai normally battles the X-Men, and the SNL cast normally battles drug addiction.
"Belushi, NO!" is a phrase that was frequently uttered in the 1970s.
The plot involves a magic ring on John Belushi's finger which the Samurai wants to steal. Luckily, Bill Murray spots him, and within one page, makes the decision to sneak up on a henchman, knock him out with a prop Thor hammer, steal his clothes, and infiltrate the Samurai's gang in disguise. And it works.
Who needs Spider-Man when you have Bill Murray?
In fact, the only reason Murray doesn't singlehandedly dismantle Silver Samurai and his gang is that Spider-Man starts a clumsy fight which fills the room with steam. In the confusion, Bill is tackled by Jane Curtin and Gilda Radner. Either the entire cast of Saturday Night Live was recruited from special forces, or they were on so much cocaine that they lost all sense of danger.
"Don't bother calling the cops. No one will ever believe you."
It's not all sword fights with comedy actors. There are scenes of straight comedy as well, such as when Dan Aykroyd convinces Garrett Morris to dress up like Thor to fool the Silver Samurai's thugs. As "Thor" tries to convince them he's the real deal, Murray and Radner electrocute them with lighting equipment.
The thugs' response predicted the internet's reaction to every non-white-male reboot of a Marvel character 40 years ahead of time.
The SNL cast ends up slaughtering the entirety of Silver Samurai's gang, while Spider-Man gets beaten through all their expensive sets. Spider-Man is such a shitty superhero in this comic that the audience actually believes he's just part of a sketch. And he'd absolutely be dead if not for the bravery of Belushi, who dresses up like his samurai character to start a full-on two-page sword fight with a supervillain.
In Marvel's defense, this is absolutely something John Belushi would do.
Any sane person going into this comic expecting a wacky romp with Spider-Man and the cast of SNL trading one-liners had to have been surprised when they discovered it contained approximately two limp jokes and about 25 battles to the death involving Bill Murray. In other words, it is the greatest celebrity/superhero team-up ever.
The Flash Is Weirdly Cool With Fidel Castro
Marvel Comics tried not to wade into the Cuba controversy after Fidel Castro took over. Castro was referenced only as "El Presidente," and was a backup player in the creation of a third-rate Iron Man villain named "The Crusher." (He mostly crushed things.) However, DC Comics had no problem at all letting us know exactly how they felt about communist revolutions.
Fidel Castro made a much weirder cameo in The Flash. In this bizarre story, the dictator holds a birthday party for the Flash, who in turn restores Castro to power on behalf of the CIA. You read that right.
"Ha! You're one of the good ones, communist dictator Fidel Castro!"
According to Fidel, everyone trying to overthrow him wants to turn Cuba into a playground for drug addicts, gamblers, and prostitutes. And despite fighting off the mind-control starfishes of the mighty Starro several times, Flash fully succumbs to the hypnotic powers of Castro's charm. He buys the story instantly and completely. So if you're reading this, Captain Cold and Captain Boomerang, Flash will let you go if you tell him you're just trying to help cash escape a corrupt bank vault.
The whole comic is like that. When Flash first meets Castro (randomly wandering through a jungle), he's angry about Fidel's men shooting down his plane. It's an accusation Castro deftly dodges in only three steps. One, he says it totally wasn't him. Two, he tells Flash that maybe he deserved to get shot. And three, he threatens to shoot Flash. This is more than enough to convince Flash that this Fidel Castro fellow is trustworthy. It honestly seems impossible that anyone this dumb survived even a single day of crime-fighting.
The start of a beautiful friendship.
There are also aliens secretly replacing Cuban citizens (including Castro himself), but the main crux of the story is Flash being a total moron.
Note that man's Spanish gasp has been translated into English for the reader.
If there's any sense to be made from this story, it's that commies are better than aliens, and that you simply can't stay mad at good ol' Fidel Castro.
Richard Nixon Makes A Deal With Doctor Doom
In 1972, Fantastic Four #123 finally brought America's least-beloved superhero team face-to-face with America's least-beloved president, to the delight of children everywhere. This thrilling tale begins with President Nixon immediately caving in to the demands of the space monster Galactus and rabidly insisting that they feed him the Silver Surfer to spare their tiny, roach-like lives.
"Just surrender and do whatever the evil space menace wants, you dizzy broad! Why am I doing your job for you!?"
It's worth noting that even in this nerve-wracking situation of the very world being held hostage, the commander in chief still looks like he's about to sneak up and strangle Sue Storm with piano wire. And while he may be willing to throw Silver Surfer away for the sake of national security, Nixon has a deep concern for the Hulk, weirdly bemoaning the absence of Henry Kissinger's wisdom, because apparently Kissinger has a ton of experience with angry mutants and space deities.
"That Kissinger -- now there's a man who knows how to handle a Hulk situation!"
Usually, when a president makes an appearance in a comic book, it's a quick cameo to demonstrate a situation has dire consequences or political ramifications. Not in this one. Nixon is in every damn scene, like a terrible SNL guest. He even gives a lecture to Reed Richards about how America has never lost a war, because apparently he thinks Reed Richards is some kind of fucking idiot.
There's even a moment when Kissinger negotiates a non-aggression pact with the monarch of Latveria, Dr. Doom. Yes, this story includes a sit-down political meeting with a super villain which leads to a zero-clobbering ceasefire. It's like a motivated effort to get children to instantly hate both politics and comics.
"As we all know, every single thing the Fantastic Four have done up to now has been in complete compliance with the law!"
Jimmy Carter Shows Up In Entirely Too Many Marvel Comics
As we mentioned earlier, having a sitting U.S. president make a quick cameo in your comic isn't that out of the ordinary -- it's when they start negotiating bad deals with planet-devouring superbeings that things start to get weird. But the sitting U.S. president with the most hilarious cameos is far and away Jimmy Carter, the peanut-farming 39th president from Georgia.
And every comic appearance of Jimmy Carter is determined to hammer home those two superlatives, which you can see here in this depiction of him drawling out words with too many extra vowels next to a bowl full of peanuts for absolutely no reason:
"Helloah? Why cahn't y'all understahnd mah!?"
The panel is so absurd that you might think it's meant to be parody, but this was Marvel's actual, humorless take on the American president. Compare this to their depictions of Gerald Ford and Ronald Reagan:
Note how the other two don't talk like Muppets.
Comic writers trying to do a perfect Jimmy Carter impersonation with the written word resulted in several hilarious situations, such as this one, wherein President Carter tries to negotiate with Doctor Doom while inexplicably dressed like Mick Jagger:
Entirely too many presidents try to negotiate with Doom.
Doom can't bear more than three balloons of Carter's ridiculous voice and flies into a rage. Bear in mind, this is the same Doctor Doom who successfully negotiated with Henry Kissinger, a stone-faced man with a thick German accent.
"Doom must go to his private Netflix chamber to watch The American President and contemplate."
It's interesting that, in a meeting between one of the most famous supervillains of all time and a Nobel-Prize-winning American president, the guy who tried to assassinate the Fantastic Four by turning their headquarters into a rocket and shooting it into space is the one who has the Mr. Smith Goes To Washington moment.
Carter has a similarly unglamorous appearance in The Incredible Hulk, wherein he and California Governor Jerry Brown marvel over the Hulk's "powah" ...
... and in The Avengers, in which he yells at Jarvis in his bathrobe:
Beast read this script and ran back to the X-books.
Fortunately, Spider-Man allowed Carter a more dignified appearance. In it, he's caught up in a storyline about Kraven the Hunter convincing everyone that Spider-Man is an alien. It sounds too boring to be true, but the plan works and everyone goes into hysterics. Everyone, that is, except Jimmy Carter, who calls for an investigative committee without a single extra vowel or bowl of peanuts.
Zero action? People reading newspapers? Discussions of gas prices? THIS COMIC HAS EVERYTHING!
All we can figure is that sometime in the 1970s, an artist at Marvel Comics went nuts and drew 5,000 pictures of Jimmy Carter. Instead of firing him, someone said, "Wait. We can use this." It's the only possible explanation for how many Marvel stories involved Carter. They even had one in which he gets fake-assassinated. Seriously, Marvel made a comic wherein the sitting president appears to be shot in the throat right in front of The Thing.
"HEY, PAL! YOU KILL MY PRESIDENT AND IT IS CLOBBERIN' TIME FOR, LIKE, SURE!"
Sure, he turns out to be a double. But the point is that "President Carter Killed by Undead Robot" was brought up in a pitch meeting, and a group of professional adults agreed it was worth pursuing.
The New Kids On The Block Break Into Richie Rich's Mansion (And Basically Kidnap Him)
For anyone who grew up in the '80s, Richie Rich and New Kids on the Block were constant, inspiring reminders of the kind of life you could live if you were a teenage pop star, or your parents were wealthy and dead. So when the two finally came together in comic book form, it should have been a harmless ball of childhood daydreaming. The end result finally answered the question, "How bad does children's fiction have to be before only pedophiles buy it?"
It's a skin-crawling series wherein six children (five of whom were real people) encounter problems that only the cartoonishly wealthy could understand. Every "adventure" is solved by a character suddenly remembering an obvious solution and fixing everything. For instance, look at the cover to the FIRST INCREDIBLE ISSUE:
"The New Kids are lost in my mansion! I've got to turn around and see where they are on these nine security monitors tracking them!"
The comic came from the ill-advised idea to make Richie Rich relevant again by pairing him with a popular music act. It's essentially the same technique Steven Seagal would use 20 years later, to a similarly unappealing effect. The problem with this concept is that New Kids on the Block were adored by teenage girls experiencing their sexual awakening, while Richie Rich tended to skew more toward elderly people and toddlers whose televisions only got one channel. They sort of canceled each other out.
The series begins with the wholesome New Kids breaking into Richie Rich's mansion, mostly to party. Soon after that nail-biter, Richie and the New Kids visit a dinosaur park featuring singing, rideable dinosaurs, because the writers had a difficult time conjuring up real stakes for six of the world's richest children.
"Cocaine finds a way."
There is never really any sense of danger or excitement. The closest they come to adventure at the dinosaur park is when Donnie Wahlberg gets thrown from his dinosaur. And even that is explained away with "We Wahlbergs HATE to get knocked off our dinosaurs!" Now, this is clearly a joke, but it is difficult to say whether the joke is that Wahlbergs rarely get thrown from dinosaurs because dinosaurs are extinct, or because Wahlbergs alone have access to the world's remaining dinosaur population, and spend their entire lives training how to not be thrown from one's back. Either way, Richie and the New Kids immediately stumble onto a giant bag of money, which is something every reader can relate to.
Seriously, that's the story. A harmless dinosaur accident, followed by a bag of free money. The classic hero's journey!
Most plots involve expensive things going slightly wrong or Richie Rich performing with the New Kids, so if you were interested in unlikable famous people finding money or unlikable rich people finding fame, these antics would really appeal to you (and the comic admittedly deserves some credit for predicting the exact structure of every reality show created over the past 20 years). We leave you now with this triumphant closing shot of Richie Rich and the New Kids playing a concert in Rio, where they scream Spanish phrases to a crowd that speaks mostly Portuguese.
Oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, the wrong stuff
Jesus Shows Up In A Van In Archie Comics
They say the Lord works in mysterious ways, but one of his most mysterious moves of all time was sending his son to hang out with Archie and his pals 1974, years after his death. The far-out bit of Christian propaganda titled Archie's Sonshine begins as all great stories must: with a teenage girl trying like hell to get the Riverdale gang to fuck her.
"Goddammit, Betty. Not this again."
Betty's suggestion that Ethel start looking for God instead of a boyfriend is punctuated by an uncomfortably sexy Jesus suddenly rolling his party van onto the beach in denim swimwear. To be clear, this isn't a person who looks like Jesus -- it is Jesus Christ himself.
Under no circumstances should Ethel get into that van.
Jesus then takes the Riverdale gang on a life-affirming adventure, showing them how spectacular the world can be if you live a life of virtue (a word here meaning "sexless and sober"). Rather than preaching at them like some dusty old reverend, however, Jesus raps with the kids in language that they understand, which you can see in this incredible sequence wherein he makes a point by conjuring Liberace in the middle of a field full of Seussian flowers.
"Boy, Liberace sure is a false idol, huh kids?"
"Um, none of us said anything about Liber-"
"WHO IS YOUR GOD NOW?"
As crazy as that is, it's nothing compared to the scene where Jesus uses his god magic to force an apple tree to sprout grapes:
After delivering one of the most bizarre sermons in history, Jesus assures the Riverdale kids that their lives will be an unending carnival of victory if they accept him into their hearts. Then he climbs back into his van and drives away, shouting some final stuff about God's love that could just as easily be considered threats as promises.
"On the third day, I'll return ... I'll always return ..."
We're left wondering whether the son of God really did hop into a panel van and drive down to Riverdale, or if Kris Kristofferson spotted the nerdiest group of kids in existence and decided to spend his afternoon playing an elaborate prank.
Brett Taylor writes for various fine film and literary magazines, including Filmfax, Shock Cinema, and The South Carolina Review. He amuses himself by writing fake news and literary parodies at The Spoof.
For more times comic books should've stuck to their guns, check out The 6 Most WTF Special Edition Comics Ever Released and 6 Absurd Ways Comics Brought Dead Superheroes Back To Life.
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