Celebrity cameos are common on TV shows, but many real-world stars have graced the pages of comics too. Some celebrity cameos make sense, whether because the star in question is a fan of the title, has some connection to the story, or has been added to the story to encourage readers to pick up the book.
Nobody is surprised to see Stan Lee appear in the background of a Spider-Man story, or hear Deadpool make jokes about Ryan Reynolds. However, some celebrity cameos make a lot less sense, and readers are often left wondering how on earth they came about.
10/10 Jay Leno Teamed Up With Spider-Man
Jay Leno and Spider-Man: One Night Only By Ron Zimmerman, Greg Capullo, Danny Miki, and Dan Kemp, 2002
Tonight Show host Jay Leno has turned up in Spider-Man comics more than once. He played a small part in Amazing Spider-Man #332 by David Micheline, Erik Larsen, and Bob Sharen but then appeared again in his own mini-arc in 2002. Jay Leno and Spider-Man: One Night Only was a three-part story written by Ron Zimmerman with art by Greg Capullo, Danny Miki, and Dan Kemp
As if the wall-crawler teaming up with Jay Leno wasn’t confusing enough, the story’s three parts each appeared apparently randomly at the end of different Marvel Comics. The odd couple fought ninjas, while Leno made quips and complained to Spider-Man about their ongoing adventure. This weird arc was likely intended to tie in with the 2002 Spider-Man, starring Tobey Maguire, but making Jay Leno its star was an unexpected choice.
9/10 Freddie Prinze Jr. Was In A Love Triangle With The Hulk
Ultimates #4 by Mark Millar, Bryan Hitch, Andrew Currie, Paul Mounts, and Chris Eliopoulos, 2002
The Hulk found himself in an unlikely love triangle in the Ultimate universe. Bruce Banner’s ex-girlfriend Betty Ross was dating Freddie Prinze Jr., and the Hulk was, characteristically, really mad about it.
It’s technically never clear that Banner’s love rival is that Freddie Prinze Jr., but with a name that is unique, and the fact that the comic Freddie is presented as a big Hollywood star, it’s obvious who Betty’s new boyfriend is. At the time, the actor was well-known, but not a huge A-Lister, making it a strange choice. Even more unexpected was the fact that the Hulk was threatening to eat the actor, and it didn’t feel like a joke.
8/10 Orson Welles Stopped A Martian Invasion
Superman # 62, by Wayne Boring & Stan Kaye, 1950
Legendary actor, director, and writer Orson Welles created one of Hollywood’s greatest masterpieces in Citizen Kane, but he’s also remembered for his staging of a radio version of H.G. Wells’s War Of The Worlds at the Mercury Theater. While it’s been overreported, some listeners apparently thought Welles’ radio invasion was genuine.
DC Comics took inspiration from this event and cast Orson Welles in a story where he uncovered a plan for a real Martian invasion of Earth. He tried to warn Earth with a radio broadcast but his previous staging of War of the Worlds made it hard for listeners to believe him. Luckily, Superman was exactly as credulous as the story required, and stopped the invasion thanks to Welles’ warning.
7/10 Princess Diana Almost Joined The X-Statix
X-Statix #13, By Peter Milligan, Mike Allred & Laura Allred, 2003
This cameo never quite happened, thanks to a huge outcry before the comic’s release. Writer Peter Milligan decided to have Diana, Princess of Wales, come back from the dead, get superpowers, and join Marvel’s reality show heroes, the X-Statix. If this cameo had made it into print, it certainly would have been one of the strangest celebrity appearances ever.
Unsurprisingly, when the idea was announced, there was uproar. Comics readers, fans of the Princess, and the British royal family all strongly objected. Deceased fictional pop star Henrietta Hunter joined the team instead, but the only change to the art was her dark hair. She only lasted a few issues but the Princess Diana impersonator was a genuine superhero.
6/10 Eminem Knocked Out The Punisher
Eminem/The Punisher #1, By Fred Van Lente, Salvador Larroco & Frank D’Armata, 2009
Eminem makes no secret of his love of comics and has made several references to iconic comic heroes in his videos and songs. The rapper making a cameo in a comic himself is not that surprising, given his love of the medium, but when he teamed up with the Punisher, the results were unexpected.
After a show in Detroit, Eminem’s entourage was accidentally gunned down by the Punisher. Understandably, Eminem was pretty angry, and he attacked the antihero. Somehow, the rapper was able to knock out one of Marvel’s deadliest easily, while quoting his song Kill You. After this cringeworthy opening, the two teamed up to take out some generic villains, but it’s hard to forget the cheesiness of that knock-out.
5/10 David Letterman Saved The Day
Avengers #239, By Roger Stern, Al Milgrom, Joe Sinnott & Christie Scheele, 1983
If superheroes really did exist, it makes sense that they’d be very popular guests on talk shows. David Letterman clearly agrees as he made an unexpected, but famously entertaining, comics cameo to interview the Avengers on his late-night talk show. What made this funny Avengers cameo unusual is what happened next.
After Letterman spoke with the heroes, the show was attacked by the attention-hungry Mechano-Marauder. The villain managed to distract the Avengers and sit down next to Letterman, forming a force field around them. Rather than panicking, Letterman kept his cool and pretended the attack was part of the show. He was even able to stun the Marauder and turn off his power source, so the Avengers could subdue him. Letterman taking out a fairly incompetent villain actually made sense here, even if there’s no way they could have kept the attack a secret like the comic tried to imply.
4/10 Obama’s Inauguration Was Saved By Spider-Man
Amazing Spider-Man #583, By Zeb Wells, Todd Nauk & Frank D’Armata, 2009
Spider-Man has made plenty of cameos of his own and met a lot of celebrities over the years, but one of the biggest stars to grace his pages has to be former US President, Barak Obama. In this story, Spider-Man met and helped the then-President-Elect at his inauguration.
Peter Parker was sent as a photographer to the event by the Daily Bugle but when he arrived, he noticed a second Obama getting out of a car. Spidey realized that the Chameleon was impersonating Obama in an attempt to be sworn in as President. Spider-Man was able to stop this nefarious plot and share a moment with notorious Spider-Man nerd, Barack Obama.
3/10 Justin Trudeau Faced Off Against Tony Stark
Civil War 2 #5, By Chip Zdarsky, Ramon Perez & Clayton Cowles, 2016
During Marvel’s Civil War II event, another world leader made a cameo in a Marvel comic. Justin Trudeau, the prime minister of Canada appeared in one issue to face Tony Stark in a boxing match, apparently fighting to settle a political dispute.
Making this cameo even odder, Trudeau turned out to be a capable boxer, managing to take Stark off his feet before delivering a lecture about civil liberties. Chip Zdarsky’s known for his humorous writing, so maybe this story was an attempt to knock the wind out of the self-serious Civil War storylines and give readers some satisfaction after Iron Man’s fascistic behavior in the first Civil War.
2/10 Tim Gunn Donned Iron Man Armor
Models, Inc. #1, By Marc Sumerak, Paul Tobin, Jorge Molina & Vincent Villagrasa, 2009
Tim Gunn isn’t an obvious choice for a comics cameo. The fashion designer is best known for his reality show Project Runway, but he also made an appearance in the Iron Man crossover event, Models, Inc.
This story is set during New York’s Fashion Week where some of Iron Man’s armors are on display. A set designer is found murdered, and Millie the Model finds herself the prime suspect. Mary Jane Watson and Hellcat team up to try and clear Millie’s name and find the real killer. When things turned deadly, Gunn donned Stark’s armor, making a meme if not a coherent story.
1/10 KISS Teased Their Own Comic Via A Wierd Guest Appearance
Howard The Duck #12, By Steve Gerber, Gene Colan, Steve Leialoha & Janie Cohen, 1977
Howard the Duck is known for cleverly bringing humor and drama together in his comics, making him a beloved cult character. When he was at the top of his game, still penned by creator Steve Gerber, Howard met rock legends KISS (sort of) in a strange moment, even for Howard.
KISS have popped up in comics several times, but their encounter with Howard the Duck was a real surprise. Celebrity cameos are usually heavily marketed, but this appearance wasn’t even teased on the cover. Instead, readers were greeted by KISS emerging as a psychic illusion during an exorcism. This bizarre appearance was theoretically intended to create excitement for KISS’s own comic book series.
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