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Off My Mind: Celebrity Cameos in Comic Books

Seeing 'famous' people in comics might give the story more realism but does it end up dating the comic?

Comic books are full of make believe characters. No matter how much you want to believe that Batman or Spider-Man exist and are out there watching over you, it's just not true. As comic readers, we know they are just stories. Seeing familiar buildings and landmarks can give the comic a sense of realism. Driving over the George Washington Bridge in New York (where Gwen Stacy died) or passing by Alcatraz (which has popped up recently in the pages of Teen Titans and X-Men), you get that silent little nod to the comic.

Locations aren't the only 'real' elements added to comics. We sometimes see little references to pop culture events or social media tools such as Twitter. What we have seen numerous times over the years is the appearance of real life people. Presidents and celebrities often are incorporated into stories in order to add a little touch of reality.

Seeing these cameos and appearances might give the reader a smile or chuckle, there is a problem with them. Comic book readers often go back and read older issues. Whether it's a copy of the comic, a reprint or collected in a trade paperback, seeing a famous person years later can cause a distraction and interrupt the flow of the story. Should cameos with real people be used or should comics focus only on fictional characters?

== TEASER ==

Is That You Mr. President?

There often comes a time when the President has to make an appearance. Heroes sometimes are faced with dangerous threats to the country and the President sometimes has to give his thoughts on the situation or give thanks to the hero. Going back and seeing Superman talk to John F. Kennedy puts an immediate halt to the story. We know comic book characters don't age at the same rate we do. We can usually go back and read a story from years or decades ago and with a little sense of disbelief, we can accept that it's something that happened not too long ago. If a hero is talking to a President that is no longer in office (or even alive), that immediately dates the comic and makes the hero feel older. The same with President Obama appearing in today's comics. Eventually these stories will also become dated.

To prevent this, we sometimes get a generic President. A random guy is drawn and sometimes the face isn't even shown. Because we have places that don't exist in the real world like Metropolis or Latveria we don't have to have the actual current President depicted in comics. Drawing a generic President will prevent this problem until the day we finally get a female President.

TV & Movie Celebrities

The cast of Saturday Night Live and Stan Lee
Jay Leno...why?

The appearance that always comes to mind is when the Not Ready For Prime-Time Players (also known as the cast of NBC's 'Saturday Night Live') turned up in the pages of 1978's Marvel Team-Up #74 (along with a younger Stan Lee). Members such as John Belushi and Gilda Radner are no longer with us. When David Letterman made his comic appearance in 1984's The Avengers #239, you'll immediately notice how much younger he's depicted since it occurred 27 years ago. In 2002, Spider-Man teamed up with Jay Leno. Daniel Craig even made an appearance in a fantasy in an issue of Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season Eight.

Celebrity cameos are less essential than the presidential ones. These are usually done more for easter eggs or just for the fun of it. A writer or artist will have to make the decision to use them wisely, if at all. Batman R.I.P. will be known as one of the great Batman stories of recent time. How would the story be affected if a celebrity cameo was thrown in and the story was read years later? The overall story would be the same but seeing a cameo that isn't crucial to the story can momentarily pull the reader out of the story.

Relax, These Are Just Comics

Maybe the answer is to not worry about them. If they happen and are done for fun, we shouldn't be uptight about it. The problem is, a lot of readers do take comics seriously. When I read an issue of X-Men and they're on the hunt for vampires and a Lady Gaga reference pops in, I can't help but roll my eyes.

Sometimes cameos can be done tastefully. Did you catch a certain cameo in The Flash #1? To those that don't know us, they'd have no idea two people from Comic Vine made a little appearance. For those that do, it's pretty dang cool, to say the least.

Obviously this was before I grew my beard.

In order for cameos to work, they do need to be subtle. Seeing Stan Lee in Marvel movies is something fans can enjoy but it doesn't necessarily take away from those that (somehow) don't know who he is. The same goes with comic books. Celebrities can be thrown in but because of the way comic characters are timeless, making a bold statement with an official guest star pinpoints the exact time that story took place. They can be fun and goofy from time to time but should really be used sparingly...unless other comic artists wish to insert me into their panels.

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Posted by sinful

Never liked them. Takes me away from the World of the Comic.

Posted by Daveyo520

It is great that you guys were in a comic.

As for celebrities, I think it is dumb but whatever. Also any pop culture references just feel really put of place. In the new BPRD Russia they talk about wikileaks and how their info had been leaked and it was really dumb. Not like it happens all the time.

Edited by ArtisticNeedham

Is that really you guys in the Flash? That's awesome. That is how a good cameo should be, not too in your face about it. It reminds me of the Frank and Ollie cameo in the Iron Giant. sitting on the side of the tracks after a train crash, "It was a Giant Metal Man!"

My favorite Stan Lee Cameo of all time is in the Incredible Hulk where he drinks the juice with the radioactive blood in it and passes out... or dies. It was perfect, clearly needed to be in the movie and didn't need to be Stan Lee at all. It really works. I think that's how good cameos in comics are. Subtle and not necessarily a wink to the audiences.

What if something happens to the celebrity? Like they die, or the cameo is of a married couple who later get divorced like Kim Basinger and Alec Baldwin on the Simpsons. Its not just that it dates the comics but now it has a different feeling to it. You watch or read it thinking that that person is gone now, or that that couple is not together anymore. Thats another risk I would guess.

What bugs me is not that it dates the comic, but that is can seem like nothing more than a stunt.

Posted by Cervantes

Because it breaks the 4th wall, and requires a change to the art style so they can get the caricature down, it makes me feel...

Posted by GraphicCasualFreak

I don't like them; but I think they DO sell comics. Which is probably why they are done to begin with.

Posted by InnerVenom123

Admit it. You just made this article so you could show off your Flash cameo.

Posted by Chris2KLee

It's one of the reasons I don't like Mark Miller's writing. The guy either cameos celebrities or name drops them constantly. Remember Shannon Elizibeth in The Ultimates. Does anyone remember her at all now?

Posted by leokearon

Reminds me of in Transformers UK, Richard Branson turned up. The story called for a Richard Branson lookalike but Lee Sullivan drew a full-on likeness, so they had to go and get permission. Still it gave TF's  a big publicity boast
Posted by Diamondblade

@InnerVenom123 said:

Admit it. You just made this article so you could show off your Flash cameo.

seems so :D

Posted by Michiel76

Oh man, you guys really put to much into this.

It's just a fun thing to do from time to time, mostly they are stand alone stories anyway, and who cares? Are you guys really that serious about your comics? That you know everything that happend years ago sentence for sentence? Sure i remember magneto pulled out wolverine's adamantium way back, or the x-men first fight against the brood. but i don't remember what exactly was said in these comics, let alone some reference to some pop artist or celebrity.

Comics will always feel outdated even without famous people or old presidents. Just look at hairstyles or clothing worn by the comic characters in these comics. Look how Kitty Pryde changed through the years. Older comics will always feel just that, old.

Really you guys are way to anal about comic history and that's probably why a lot of you don't support reboots as well. Even though a reboot makes a comic more modern and feel less outdated.

Posted by Joesoef95

@Michiel76 said:

Oh man, you guys really put to much into this.

It's just a fun thing to do from time to time, mostly they are stand alone stories anyway, and who cares? Are you guys really that serious about your comics? That you know everything that happend years ago sentence for sentence? Sure i remember magneto pulled out wolverine's adamantium way back, or the x-men first fight against the brood. but i don't remember what exactly was said in these comics, let alone some reference to some pop artist or celebrity.

Comics will always feel outdated even without famous people or old presidents. Just look at hairstyles or clothing worn by the comic characters in these comics. Look how Kitty Pryde changed through the years. Older comics will always feel just that, old.

Really you guys are way to anal about comic history and that's probably why a lot of you don't support reboots as well. Even though a reboot makes a comic more modern and feel less outdated.

This is kinda harsh but I agree with your point

Edited by Eyz

G-Man and Sara in the FLASH???! Really? (I mean, confirmed?)

It does look like so! AWESOME XD

Once you made it INTO an actual comic, you're a legend!

Posted by EdwardWoods

I own a sizable collection of old 2000 AD's. One of most memorable storylines I enjoyed was with Strontium Dog: Johnny Alpha featured Ronald Reagan. It's dated as hell (and as a British kid I had no idea who this guy was) but as an adult now I really enjoy the frelling craziness of it all.

Posted by Phaedrusgr

@sinful: Never thought of it...actually I'll go with you on this...

Posted by Omega Ray Jay

Lol i never knew you guys were in the Flash, Awesome stuff that would have made my year and then some.

Posted by DarkChris

That means that if I buy Flash #1, you can sign it? Awesome!

Posted by Halberdierv2

although, the Superman vs Muhammad Ali does sound awesome.

also congrats on your comic book cameo, you guys!

Posted by RazzaTazz

To be honest the thing that bothers me more is when they write in dialogue which is meant to sound cool.  this makes sense at the time I guess (though often comic book writers don't have a firm grasp on it) but even three years later sounds dorky.  Whenver I see any president or celebrity in a comic I usually ascribe it to a generic person anyway.  David Letterman could be just any host, just as Obama could be any president. 
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Posted by shrmntnk62

I would much rather have a generic shadowy person as the president than seeing someone like  Jimmy Carter of George Bush in comics. It definatly takes you out of the story. Celebrity cameos are even worse and there's no excuse for them. I can excuse having a real famous person in a comic only if it's some sort of time traveling adventure. Like is Spiderman was sent back in time and had to team up with Teddy Roosavelt to stop the apocalypse or something. It still would be awful but not as awful riding a motorcycle with Jay Leno.
Posted by Michiel76

@Joesoef95: Thanks, sometimes things just need to be said however harsh they may be. :-)

Posted by msavo

I read Flash and never thought that was you guys. That makes the comic even more awesome!!!

Posted by kfhrfdu_89_76k

I don`t hate them. In fact, I have an explonation to all of that, which I`m gonna use, if I get to make super-comics. And it`s obvious that I don`t get to make them.

Posted by Gambit1024

I think it's ok if it's in a special standalone issue.

Posted by Namor1987

Not keen on celebrity cameos unless they thoroughly enhance the storyline which they rarely do.

Posted by Jake Fury

Millar's use of Freddie Prinze, Jr was good for some laughs... 
 
Posted by RedheadedAtrocitus

In all honesty I do not mind if celebrity cameos make their presence in issues of comics. Yes, it can lead to continuity issues if the celebrities are outdated and come from equally outdated eras, but in the end like you said it adds all the more to the realism. Truth is that can happen with famous works of architecture or landmarks as well. After all, how many issues of comics set in New York before 9/11 depict a NYC where the old World Trade Center still stands? Should that bother anyone? I think not. Just choke it up people and enjoy the ride, I say.

Posted by danhimself

this is the problem that Gen 13 faced....they had all these references to grunge bands throughout the book like characters wearing Soundgarden and Nirvana t-shirts even a character named Grunge....then grunge music died and kids were no longer able to relate to the characters

I often think more about what's going to happen to characters like Magneto and Captain America when World War II is 100 years in the past...it's a little easier for Captain America where they can just say that he was frozen longer but what about Magneto who's back story is so heavily tied to one era....how do they explain that Magneto was a child in Nazi Germany when World War II happened 100 years ago?

Posted by jubilee042

i like it esp if stan lee comes

Posted by CrimsonTempest

G-Man and Babs in an issue of The Flash... not bad, dudes!!

Posted by Ultimate_MiracleMan

oddly enough the only one that catches my interest is the last one, every other one, couldn't give damn about

Posted by labarith

Dude, that's not you 2. You're seeing what other people have told you to see. You're seeing what you want to see. Sorry.

Posted by Jolt92

I feel like they add aboslutely nothing, takes me out of the story and are often done badly. So, of coure I love them.

Posted by kennybaese

I think that, while they do take you out of the moment when reading back issues, I don't think it's that big of a deal. Technology and fashion instantly dates things, and that bleeds into comics as well. Art styles in comics have changed drastically between the 30's and now as well. There's a whole lot more than just cameos that dates a comic. It's something that you just kind of accept and move on.

Posted by Burnstar1230

Look at him....makes one little appearance and all of a sudden he thinks of himself as a celebrity, lol.

Celeb cameos are okay as long as they don't interefere with the story.

Posted by stambo42

Preserving a sliding time scale is always fraught with issues, and it's never going to be pulled off smoothly. When reading a comic from the 80s, 70s or 60s there are so many anachronistic elements in the writing and art alone that your best bet is to try to enjoy it for exactly what it is, a comic from another time. When you look at silent film, it's such a different art form than sound film, that unless you accept it for what it is, you're going to get frustrated with it not delivering what you are looking for. It's less extreme with old comics .. but still there. I find charm in Reagan and Carter cameos... especially when the letterer tries to reflect Carter's accent.

Posted by Samimista

I've never seen celebrity cameos in comics before.

Posted by Dernman

I want a Cameo.

I got that mail Captain Universe Comic and card. :-p

Posted by fbdarkangel

Mythbusters in X23

Posted by pahphoenix

@sinful: I agree. Like listening to Beethoven with one dummy's instrument out of tune.It doesn't subtract from the symphony itself, just your complete enjoyment of it.

Posted by Lvenger

Woah G-Man and Babs got a cameo in Flash. Impressive. Comicvine's going up in the world. Maybe next you guys can cameo in the next big superhero film lol.

Posted by Grim

Tony... is your comics character having a panic attack?

Posted by Decept-O

Cameos, well, I don't think they are all that bad, but at the same time I can do without them completely. I understand the point of this but honestly, it isn't that big of a deal nor should we get hung up on them. "Dating" a comic whether it is due to a cameo or some other cultural reference in the story is often unavoidable.

Cameos can be fun but I do prefer my fictional comic book characters to avoid any "real" mentions or appearances of celebrities, political figures or the like. Unless it is some type of humorous slant, like a time traveling Abe Lincoln, or clone of Ben Franklin.

When done right, cameos can be fun.

Posted by ApolloBob

I want my comics dated, if they are part of a long storied history. I have collected runs on DVD ROMs, and when I go through those, I want to see how the current events of that time were reflected in the stories and that includes the famous people of the time. When Marvel reprinted old Amazing Spider-Man as Marvel Tales and updated the dialogue with current pop culture references, it didn't work. People wearing 60's clothes and referencing 80's culture....it was obvious.

Just because we live in an era where all entertainments will be available for all time, it doesn't require creative people to plan ahead for a future where someone is going to get butthurt about not resonating with every single reference. God forbid someone learn about a world they weren't personally part of.

Plus, and I'm sorry to show my age here, I like the David Letterman cameo because I bought that issue when it was new and seeing it again all these years later connects me to that time. Not wispy nostalgia nonsense, just a mile marker on a road ever longer.

Posted by eatmore_payless

I remeber the one Issue of Sentry where he saved a PHIVOLCS chopper from falling to a hot magma of Mount mayon in the Philippines

Posted by G-Man

@labarith said:

Dude, that's not you 2. You're seeing what other people have told you to see. You're seeing what you want to see. Sorry.

That would be strange since Francis Manapul, the artist, specifically drew us in the comic. I've known this since 'The New 52' was first announced.

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Posted by Mr.Hulk_Smashin'!

@InnerVenom123:Wouldn't you, if you were in a comic?

Posted by Bestostero

So that was you guys! awesome!!!

Posted by jenningshobson

I feel like comicvine is spying on me. I just finished the first volume of the Jack Kirby Fourth World Omnibus which finishes with a very ham-fisted appearance by Don Rickles, or rather his look-a-like Goody Rickles.

Posted by The Mighty Monarch

Don't forget when Outsiders had John Walsh.

Posted by daredevil21134

@Cervantes said:

Because it breaks the 4th wall, and requires a change to the art style so they can get the caricature down, it makes me feel...

I agree

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