Top 5: Superheroes on Late Night TV

The cape-and-cowl set are just like any other celebrities: occasionally, they need to do some publicity to raise their public profile. It's hard to plug something like crime-fighting, but it happens more often than you'd think. To wit:



5. Jay Leno saves Spider-Man's life ("One Night Only," 2002)

Like many things related to Jay Leno, this isn't really playing fair. Spidey didn't actually go on Leno's show; he appeared in a car commercial with him in this backup story because Jay wanted it… and what Jay wants, he gets. Besides, you know how Spider-Man is always doing car commercials. Anyway, naturally they are attacked by ninjas, which are fought off by Jay Leno, after Jay saves Spidey from a hail of bullets by whisking him away on his badass chopper as Spidey shrieks like a newborn. All the while, Spidey begs to be on Jay Leno's great show everyone loves. I think Jay Leno may be the Sentry's secret identity. Writer Ron Zimmerman really captures Leno's voice; let us leave it at that.



4. Spider-Man drops in on Johnny Carson (Amazing Spider-Man #99, 1971)

After a chance meeting, Johnny begs Spider-Man to do an unannounced cameo on his show; Spidey only agrees to do it in exchange for cold, hard cash. Poor Carson's so excited, he doesn't even let Ed get through "Heeere's Johnny!" before rushing out and introducing the wall-crawler. How is his enthusiasm repaid? Spidey was invited on to quip and do his shtick, but the minute he gets out there he starts droning on about his newest pet cause. This prison reform lecture goes on for a good five more panels before the po-po come in and chase him off out of sheer boredom.


3. The Avengers kill on Letterman (Avengers #239, 1984)

Poor Wonder Man's acting career isn't taking off, so his agent gets him booked on Letterman. One catch: his agent promised the booker all the other Avengers would be there, too. Another catch: when you do a commercial on national television announcing that the Avengers are going to be at 30 Rock that night, bad guys show up at 30 Rock that night. Luckily, in this case, the bad guy in question is the kind of wannabe boob who waits in line for a ticket to get in and plans the whole fight as a way to get on TV. The Avengers beat his killer robots, but it's Dave himself who knocks out the chump. Sidebar: the Black Panther in this issue is way too amiable about abandoning his nation to do a Letterman guest shot. Sidebar sidebar: no, I don't know what the hell the Beast is wearing either. Or doing, for that matter. Christ, Henry, just sit in a chair for once, would you please?



2.The Joker kills Letterman (The Dark Knight Returns, 1986ish)

Is there any comics connoisseur who doesn't know this one? The modern era of comics as we know them was ushered in when a "cured" Joker got booked on the "David Endocrine" program (not even as the lead guest!) and ended his appearance by promptly gassing the entire studio to death. This book features killer dolls, a bloated prostitute Catwoman, and a shark-toothed semi-nude killer with swastikas on her nipples, but as a twelve year old the only thing that deeply disturbed me was the Joker murdering Dave.


1. Live from New York, it's Spider-Man fighting a guy! (Marvel Team-Up #74, 1978)

Man, Spider-Man is a whore for late night, isn't he?

Not as iconic as Dark Knight Returns, this one nevertheless gets the #1 spot for a crucial reason: because I like it more. Marvel Team-Up #74, featuring Spider-Man and the Not Ready For Primetime Players, is also on the list of Top 5 Favorite Things I Own. I have not made a secret of this. Call it rater's bias. It's a fair cop.

Is this an insane comic, in which Spider-Man and John Belushi fight the Silver Samurai on live TV as if it's a sketch to avoid "panicking the audience"? Yes it is. Was it a shock to learn that the artist had never seen SNL or its cast when he drew the book? Absolutely not. Does the idea of SNL hosted by Stan Lee with musical guest Rick Jones make me want to start a Facebook petition? You're goddamn right it does. We need to make this happen, people.


  1. Jeff Reid (@JeffRReid) says:

    This is a great list, Jim. Spider-Man really loved being on late-night TV. I suppose that’s because it had the least chance for Aunt May to see it and go off on another "Spider-Man is awful" rant. And Gil Kane has his strengths, but I’m not sure that doing a characture of Johnny Carson was one of them.

    I do like the idea of Beast getting antsy on national television. "Maybe no one will notice if I casually shift my weight and turn this into a subtle handstand." We noticed.

  2. That Spider-Man… Stick him in front of a camera and it’s yap-yap-yap…

  3. I can’t wait for when Savage Dragon announces he’s on Team Coco.

  4. So is Spidey gunning for his own late nite talk show? And if he is I wonder what kind of guest he would be able to pull in.

  5. I was going to mention that Rick Jones isn’t a person, but then I remembered that guy who does standup as Dr. Doom, and I thought, you never know.

    Great list.  That Avengers comic is one of the first things I bought when I started looking at back issues because, come on, the Avengers on Letterman.

  6. My personal favorite would be Spidey’s appearance with Conan in Spider-Man: Mythos.

  7. "You’re said to have only killed about six hundred people, Joker. Now don’t take this the wrong way, but I think you’ve been holding out on us."

    "I don’t keep count. I’m going to kill everyone in this room."

    "Now that’s darn rude."


  8. I wracked my brain so hard for a Conan appearance. I was convinced it had never happened, and then sure enough: not only has it happened, it’s happened in a book I read. It’s sitting right here in the house.

    And again with the Spider-Man, by the way. He’s just shameless.

  9. Now that is a fantastic idea. We need Stan Lee on SNL! He’s crazy enough to do it.

    Although the SNL team up sounds mighty crazy…..I really love the scene with Joker on Letterman in DKR. It really is funny to think that Joker, probably the greatest serial killer of all time in DCU, is behind Dr. Ruth! Crazy.

  10. … I remember that Leno piece.

    I HHHHATED that Leno piece. I INSTANTLY dropped spider-man after that. Of course it wasn’t the only reason but it was definetly the straw that broke the camel’s back.

    Next I want to see Dynoboy, Rage, Rictor, Echo, Victor Mancha, Renee Montoya, Araña and Spider-man 2099 on Lopez Tonight. Because… you know why….

  11. I’m hoping that Darkseid will drop in for a segment on the Colbert Report.

  12. Galactus on Leno

  13. This article made my day. Thanks!

  14. Miller absolutely nailed mid-80’s Letterman and his whole ironic shtick. His description of Joker as "a man who’s brought a lot of smiles to the world" is classic Dave.

  15. The Wonder Man story was by far the best.

  16. What about Conan and Andy in Madman?