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October 5th marks the 60th anniversary of the release of the Beatles’ official debut single, “Love Me Do”(at least in the UK). In celebration of this significant date in pop cultural history, I decided that I would take a look at some of the Beatles’ most memorable references in Another bastion of pop culture that was huge in the ’60s: superhero comics.
This is by no means a comprehensive list. For starters, I’ve limited my scope to Marvel and DC — and specifically to their superheroComics, which can also be translated as “no” Stan Lee Presents: The Beatles Story (it’s a real thing), no MAD Magazine appearances, etc. I’m also not interested in the many uses of the Beatles in background shots and collages meant to evoke “Hey! It’s the ’60s!”It is used to set the scene.
No, we’re looking at ’60s and ’70s Beatles interactions with superheroes specifically, mostly because nothing says “How do you do, fellow kids?”Like a bunch middle-aged men trying to capture a moptop zeitgeist in The Pages of Jimmy OlsenOf whatever.
The franchise that seems the most likely to have encountered Fab Four the most often is, fittingly enough: Fantastic Four. The earliest reference is in Fantastic Four#34 (January 1965), when Thing gets a gag gift from his recurring enemies, the Yancy Street Gang: a Beatles wig. Though initially irritated, Ben eventually dons the wig, confessing that he’s always wanted to try one. This panel is worth the 12¢ cost of the issue alone:
Two months later, in Strange Tales #130 (March 1965), the FF actually met the Beatles, in a story called — what else? — “Meet the Beatles!” Well, almost. Alicia Masters and Dorrie Evans, the respective girlfriends of the Thing and the Human Torch, just happen to spot the Beatles wandering around New York City, and are inspired to buy four tickets to that evening’s concert, which is miraculously not sold out. Now, I’ve seen A Hard Day’s Night, which I’m assuming we can take as strict historical fact, and I am highly skeptical that the Beatles would just be meandering around a major city without being mobbed. But maybe teens are more blasé in the Marvel universe?
Johnny, A Youth, is happy about the tickets. Ben grumbles (though he may be right). DoesBring your Beatles wig. Tragically, as soon as they arrive at the venue some hoodlums rob the ticket office. The Human Torch and the Thing have to step in. After defeating the thieves, they return to the venue to discover that they’ve missed the entire concert. What a revoltin’ development!
Other Fantastic Four Beatles references were made later and were less meaningful: they visited an alternate universe where John Lennon was still alive. Fantastic Four #47 (1998 series); both 4somes meet in a proper setting Fantastic Four: Life Story, a retelling of the FF’s history. But probably the best known and definitely the most charming is in 1994’s Marvels, when artist Alex Ross snuck at least the Beatles into the crowd at Reed and Sue’s wedding. Can you spot them all!
On the DC side, I believe that the Metal Men were the first characters to meet the Beatles. Metal Men #12 (March 1965), in which we learn that both groups are mutual fans.
You’d think the DC characters most likely to hang out with the Beatles would be the Teen Titans, but as I’ve said before, early Titans comics weren’t exactly plugged into youth culture — even though the Beatles appeared to be fans of the Titans, at the very least, according to Teen Titans #11. Boy, the DCU’s Beatles are kind of a bunch of fanboys, aren’t they?
If you needed proof that DC was less hip than Marvel in the ’60s, note that something as mild as “being liked by the Beatles”must be balanced by “also being liked by President Johnson,”We should not assume that the Titans were juvenile delinquents. This issue also dates back to 1967. The Beatles did. NotLook like this in 1967
DC finally emerged from the ’50s in around 1970, and so they’re a little more with it in Batman#222 (June 1970), when Robin & Batman are involved in the “Paul is dead”Conspiracy theory. I mean: “Saul is dead.” Yes, that’s right, “Saul Cartwright,”A member of the Twists, one of the most thinly disguised celebrity cameos in comics history. Whatever, I’m counting it!
In this delightfully silly story, Dick Grayson’s college buddies convince him, a literal detective, that
PaulSaul has been secretly replaced by a lookalike by playing hidden messages on Twist records. Fortunately, Dick is the ward Bruce Wayne. Bruce Wayne is a major stockholder in the Twists’ record label, a power he’s apparently all too willing to abuse. “As Batman — I don’t want to be party to a hoax,” Bruce thinks, thereby justifying the nonsense he’s about to get up to, before inviting the Twists to Gotham for a concert.
The band agrees to remain at Wayne Manor. However, Saul is moody, cynical, and makes Bruce and Dick more suspicious. They make various and increasingly stupid attempts to record Saul’s singing voice so that they can compare it to a pre-death track — at one point, they pretend it’s Alfred’s birthday to get the Twists to sing “Happy Birthday”Only he can realize it When they listen to the track that Saul wasn’t singing solo. Are you the world’s greatest detectives or aren’t you???
Our embarrassingly incompetent heroes are convinced that they’re on the right track when they’re violently attacked under the cover of darkness. Until Saul tells the truth.
That’s right: it was the OtherThree members of the band died and were replaced by look-alikes. This is actually a pretty clever solution, since I suspect DC didn’t want to either call its teenage readers gullible dupes OrBoldly proclaim that Paul McCartney was dead. Robin and Batman forget that Lohn Jennon is over there trying to KillThey are open and honest, which suggests that they are honest. Neue band. I’m choosing to believe that the name of this fake band, Phoenix, inspired the real Paul’s formation of Wings a year later.
(Fun fact! This comic was created 11 days after Paul announced his departure. Awkward.)
But even this delicious zaniness pales in comparison to what is probably DC’s most infamous Beatles comic, which doesn’t even have the Beatles in it: Superman’s Pal Jimmy Olsen #79 (September 1964).
This incredible story begins with Jimmy dancing by himself to the Beatles in a custom-made Beatles wig. He looks like a cool, hip teenager. Suddenly, he’s visited by Kasmir, a criminal from the 30th century, who tricks Jimmy into piloting a stolen time machine 3,000 years into the past. Jimmy speaks the local language, which is great! There’s a reason!
Jimmy is saved from this futuristic desperado, by a mysterious, strong teen known only to as Mighty Youth (yes really). Inexplicably, Jimmy’s first order of business is not to figure out how to send a message to his time traveling bestie Superman, but to get a job. Capitalism is poison, children.
He ends up shearing sheep as a local shepherd. Disappointed by the pay, he decides to make a side hustle and dye excess wool black, turn it into Beatles wigs, then sell them to teenage Judeans.
He’s playing “I Want to Hold Your Hand” on a ram’s horn. I don’t know why everyone says Superman movies are hard to make when they’ve never even Try itThis issue can be adapted.
Unfortunately for Jimmy, Kasmir is still hanging around, and jealous of Jimmy’s success. He rats him out to the shepherd, who claims the wool for Jimmy’s wigs was stolen from him (which…yeah, it was), and has Jimmy thrown in jail. Jimmy blows on the ram’s horn for help, and Mighty Youth shows up to save him…oh, and Mighty Youth is actually the biblical Samson, because of course he is.
Kasmir attempts to revenge himself upon Team Jimmy by cutting Samson’s hair, but luckily Jimmy saw him coming and plopped his own ginger Beatles wig onto Samson’s head just in time, meaning Kasmir only cut the wig. Again, the Beatles save the day!
Superman appears completely random at this point, and handily defeats all those who are still in need of his help. Jimmy and Superman stay in ancient Judea to give one last farewell concert.
“You seem to be as popular as Ringo, the Beatle drummer!” Who says Superman’s not hip and with it? This epic, Beatlelical biblical story is only nine pages longThe comic also includes two other Jimmy stories. Say what you will about mid-’60s DC and how cringingly embarrassing their attempts at relevance could be, but you got your money’s worth.
This is just a quick look at the many appearances by the Beatles in comics. However, these examples still delight me, even though they reveal a profoundly hapless absence of cool throughout. Ok, so the profoundly hapless absence of cool is probably. Why?They are a delight to me.
If you’re looking for a comic that’s actually About the Beatles, there’s no better place to start than The Fifth Beatle: The Brian Epstein StoryVivek J. Tiwary and Andrew C. Robinson. Kyle Baker. Meanwhile, I’ll leave you with my favorite (relatively) modern appearance of the Beatles in a superhero comic, from Tiny Titans #8 (November 2008):
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