?It’s certainly not unheard of for a comics writer or artist to throw himself into an issue of a comic. Usually there are plenty of bystanders who need to flee from a supervillain’s rampage, and they all need faces — why not include an inside joke for true believers? Only occasionally do they show up as more than that, such as narrators, merely setting up the story to come or winking at the reader about how we know the characters are fictional, but they don’t. These cameos are fun, but hardly consequential…
…except the even more rare times when they are. On a few occasions, comic creators have become active participants in a comic, talking directly to the characters they’re writing, and becoming part of their own story. Heck, sometimes they show up in a comic they don’t even contribute to. Here’s eight times when comic fact snuck its way into comic fiction.
8) Stan Lee in What If? #19
?As I said up top, Stan Lee has been in more comics than you can count, many examples of which Bully the Little Stuffed Bull has documented on his amazing blog. For instance, he showed up at Reed Richards and Sue Storm’s wedding with artist Jack Kirby. But probably the most fun example of Lee appearing in a comic — not written by Lee himself in this case, but writer Peter Gillis — is in the “What If?” series. In issue 19, Spider-Man stops the robber who killed Uncle Ben and never becomes a superhero. Instead, he becomes a super-rich celebrity who decides to buy Marvel Comics (because who wouldn’t). He then demands that Lee (who wasn’t editor at the time, but whatever) put out two monthly Spidey titles every month. How Marvel managed to produce Spider-Man books when Spidey wasn’t a superhero, I have no idea. Also, the idea of two monthly Spider-Man books seems adorably quaint today, don’ t it?
7) Jack Kirby in Fantastic Four #511
?This wasn’t the first time Kirby showed up in an FF comic (as I mentioned, he was at the wedding, and in several other issues he drew), but it’s certainly the sweetest. Around the middle of Mark Waid and Mike Wieringo’s landmark run on the book, the FF travel to heaven (that’s right, heaven itself) to try to find the soul of Ben Grimm, whose rocky body had been taken over by Dr. Doom. After discovering that Ben was still holding on to a spark of life, the group travels through heaven and finds itself at some familiar gates. They walk through and see their Creator himself: Jack Kirby, seated unassumingly in a studio behind a drawing table. He erases some scars from Reed’s face, draws The Thing’s rocks back on and sends them back for more stories.
6) John Byrne in Fantastic Four #262
?Fantastic Four was a comic that established early on that it had a shaky fourth wall. During one of Marvel’s infamous (and very fun) assistant editor months in 1984, John Byrne shattered it with this story, one where he (supposedly) didn’t write the story itself — instead, it came to him in the form of The Watcher, who grabbed him up to document a cosmic trial of Reed Richards that results in Eternity causing him and everyone else in attendance to experience and overwhelming sense of oneness about the destiny of the universe. It’s nuts.
5) Peter David in Incredible Hulk #418
?Peter David wrote the main Hulk title continuously for more than a decade in the 1980s and ’90s, so it stands to reason he’d throw himself in there a time or two. At the end of his big, initial run (issue 467), he threw himself into the story as a reporter interviewing Rick Jones, though you never see his face. A few years earlier, however, penciler Gary Frank drew David into the issue in which Jones and Marlo (not the dude from The Wire) get married. He’s the priest that marries them.
4) Paul Jenkins in New Avengers Vol. 1, #7-10
?The Sentry was always a weird character. Jenkins and artist Jae Lee created him about a decade ago as something of a prank — a character Stan Lee created in the ’60s and promptly forgot about, something that isn’t altogether unbelievable when you consider Lee often forgot his own characters’ names. That prank led to a pretty terrific miniseries in which the Sentry tried to get his old superhero pals to remember him. In 2005, Brian Michael Bendis brought the character back in the pages of New Avengers, and he got even weirder. Turns out The Sentry had a brain virus that made him forget everything about himself. As a cry for help, he implanted memories in comic book writer Paul Jenkins, whom the Avengers contact for help, and who is, understandably, confused as hell. Like I said, pretty weird.
3) Warren Ellis in Powers Vol.1, #7
?Bendis likes to put comic book writers in his comics. In the seventh issue of his first big comic, Warren Ellis of The Authority and Transmetropolitan rode along with protagonist Detective Christian Walker to do some research for his own comics. He ends up seeing some things he probably would rather not have seen, and doing some things he’d prefer not to have done. Turns out, Ellis is the writer of the Powers comic in the Powers universe. That’d be quite a book to read.
2) Grant Morrison in Animal Man #26
?When Morrison wrapped up his two-plus-year run on Animal Man, the character he saved from obscurity and who made him a known name in comics, he clearly felt like he had a lot to say. So he made his final issue a long conversation between himself and Buddy Baker, who had lost a lot throughout Morrison’s run on the book. Morrison addresses what fans want, whether characters are real, tells readers to write to PETA, makes the animal-rights subtext of the book text, wonders about violence in comics, and, eventually brings Buddy’s family back. It’s totally self-indulgent, but it’s also a brainy and thought-provoking read.
1) Mark Millar in Simpsons Comics #88
?As a contrast to Morrison’s deep thoughts in Animal Man, this issue of Simpsons Comics by Gail Simone features both Morrison and fellow Glaswegian Mark Millar getting into a fistfight over who writes the “real” X-Men comic. Thought-provoking? Nope? A hoot? Very much so.