Is Jerry Seinfeld still angling to replace Jimmy Olsen as Superman’s best friend? The host of Netflix’s Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee is making a quick dash through the DC Universe in March for some face-time with the Man of Steel. The comedian will be featured on a special variant cover for World’s Finest No. 1, the splashy revival of a once-proud DC Comics title that traces back to the FDR years.
That publishing heritage adds to the prestige factor of Seinfeld’s celebrity cameo (and it is just a cameo – the comedy icon is not part of the issue’s story). The polished, lighthearted artwork is by Dan Mora and it depicts an enthused Seinfeld at the wheel of the Batmobile with a cheerful Superman in the passenger seat. The pair have coffee cups and appear to be sharing a toast to their friendship. The intimidating owner of said Batmobile, meanwhile, is perched behind the pair and seems dissatisfied with his skim latte and/or Seinfeld's driving.
The issue’s formal name is Batman/Superman: World’s Finest No. 1 and the editions with the Mora artwork will be $4.99 US. All editions of the 32-page issue go on sale March 15.
I suspect a framed version of the Mora image will be getting a special place of honor on Seinfeld’s wall (perhaps next to his prized Mad! Magazine cover art that also featured his likeness). Hollywood trophies and plaques are all fine and good (yadda yadda yadda) but for Seinfeld getting on his own DC Comics cover is no joke.
Make no mistake, the 67-year-old funnyman is a serious fan of Superman. That enthusiasm goes back long before he made sitcom history with Seinfeld (1989-1998) but the NBC series elevated his obsession to new heights. Seinfeld flew his flag with recurring references to the Man of Steel and some prominently placed Superman memorabilia in his sitcom apartment. It all led to some memorable moments in episodes like The Bizarro Jerry, The Stock Tip, and The Race. At one point, even the obtuse George Costanza (Jason Alexander) called out his friend’s fixations: "His whole life revolves around Superman and cereal!"
That may sound flakey but the ever-savvy Seinfeld later found a way to make bank with his hero worship. That was in 2004 with the success of The Adventures of Seinfeld & Superman, a pair of ambitious short films bankrolled by American Express as a creative promotional effort. How ambitious? The five-minute shorts were directed (and co-written) by Oscar-winning filmmaker Barry Levinson, whose burnished body of work includes Rain Man, Bugsy, Avalon, and The Natural.
Does the voice of Superman sound familiar? You’ll get ticked off at yourself if you don’t recognize the Seinfeld alumnus and accomplished voice actor.
Yeah, that’s right. It’s Patrick Warburton, star of The Tick, giving voice to the Man of Steel. Warburton, who grew up in Huntington Beach, California, also portrayed the dim David Puddy on 11 episodes of Seinfeld. These days Warburton portrays the title character on Lemony Snicket’s Series of Unfortunate Events, also on Netflix.
I’m actually surprised that it took this long for Seinfeld to secure a splashy appearance in Superman’s native medium. He joins a long and quirky parade of real-world comedy stars to bring their punchline powers into the pages of a superhero comic book.
There is plenty of screen history of comedians and superheroes, of course. Who could forget, for example, when Adventures of Superman star George Reeves dropped in on the Ricardo household for some history-making hijinks in a January 1957 episode of I Love Lucy? The end-product was less memorable in 1983 when comedy titan Richard Pryor was recruited to portray a bumbling computer genius who nearly defeats the Man of Steel in Richard Lester’s campy Superman III.
Comedy stars of the 1960s scene were a routine sight on the Batman series with Adam West, too, but it’s less common for those screen stars to make the leap to the printed page adventures of superheroes.
Late-night icon David Letterman (looking more like presidential hopeful Gary Hart) memorably teamed up with the Avengers in the January 1984 issue of the team’s Marvel Comics title. The line-up for the issue: Hawkeye, the Black Panther, the Beast, Black Widow, the Vision, and Wonder Man. Unlike Seinfeld, Letterman got in on the heroic action by walloping a bad guy with a giant doorknob prop from his show.
Even better, the Not Ready for Primetime Players of Saturday Night Live teamed up with Spider-Man in 1978. John Belushi, Bill Murray, Jane Curtin, Dan Aykroyd, Gilda Radner, Garrett Morris, and Laraine Newman were all on hand as was Stan Lee, who the story presents as the guest host of Saturday Night Live. Also on hand, the Silver Samurai, who wants the mysterious ring that’s stuck on Belushi’s finger. It’s unclear if the ring (or the plot) were plucked directly from Ringo Starr and the movie Help! but the issue is big fun regardless.
It wasn’t in a DC comic book, but Jack Benny once crossed paths with the Dynamic Duo in their syndicated newspaper strip. It was 1967 and the campy spirit of the Batman television series was informing Gotham City depictions of all sorts. Benny agrees to pay $1000 an hour to Batman and Robin if they can retrieve his stolen Stradivarius. The money is for charity, of course, but Robin the Boy Wonder is glum when the prized violin is back in Benny’s hands. “Gosh Batman, I don’t mind getting his fiddle back for him but do I have to hear him play it??”
Within the pages of DC Comics, meanwhile, the biggest champs from the comedy world were two of Seinfeld’s heroes: Jerry Lewis and Bob Hope. Incredibly, Lewis appeared in 124 issues of his own comic book series, which began in 1952 (as Adventures of Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis, a title that was shortened in 1957 to Adventures of Jerry Lewis) and, somehow, endured until 1971. (Along the way it featured the work of some legendary creators, among them Neal Adams, viewed by many as the greatest Batman artist of them all) That impressive mark still wasn’t enough for Lewis to top the funny-book longevity of his fellow Hollywood import: Adventures of Bob Hope was published by DC from 1950 to 1968. Amazing to think there was a sustained reader interest for those comics but, you have to admit, that kind of success is nothing to laugh at.