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I Love Ya But You’re Strange – The Avengers Visit Letterman!

Every week, I will spotlight strange but ultimately endearing comic stories (basically, we’re talking lots and lots of Silver Age comic books). Here is the archive of all the installments of this feature.

This week we look at one of the stories people often ask for, just in time for the Avengers film! It is the time that the Avengers appeared on Late Night With David Letterman!

The issue was part of Assistant Editor’s Month, a bit Marvel did in 1983 where the conceit was that the main editors on all of their titles were at the San Diego Comic Con, so the assistant editors had to take over so stories that never would have normally happened happened. It was a cute bit. For the Avengers’ installment, we see Wonder Man call up the Avengers in a bind…

This was during the time that the Vision was acting really super cool to hide the fact that he was planning on taking over the world (due to a connection with an alien computer).

So with the regular Avengers indisposed, the scru…sorry, the RESERVISTS were called in…

I love the depiction of how Black Panther has meetings. “What? Is that not how everyone has meetings? They sit on a big panther throne and lord over everyone?”

Also, it is weird that Black Widow has a wig of her old hairdo ready to go at any moment.

Hawkeye recently lost a good deal of his hearing in the Hawkeye mini-series (which ended with him marrying Mockingbird). I love the logic in this next sequence…

“I can’t wear a hearing aid.” “Why not?” “People can’t know that I’m hard of hearing.” “Oh, the Avengers have communicators the size of a business card but they can’t have a small enough hearing aid that it won’t be visible?” “This marriage will not end well.”

Roger Stern does a nice job capturing Letterman and Paul Shaffer…

Then the interview begins. Hawkeye does a fine job not letting anyone know he might be hard of hearing…

The bad guy is Fabian Stankowicz, an engineering genius who wants to be a super-villain. He ended up becoming an assistant to the Avengers after he saw the error of his ways.

I love this bit where the band keeps playing to make the audience think it is a gag…

Too bad no one shouted, “What is this, a masquerade ball? It must be an advertising gimmick!”

Finally, in the issue’s most awesome moment, Dave saves the day…

Of course, that sad sack Wonder Man doesn’t even get his moment in the spotlight…

This is why Wonder Man fought the Avengers recently. He is still mad about this night.

What a fun issue. Roger Stern rules.

36 Comments

I like how Panther totally drops the whole “running his own country” thing to go appear on an American TV show.

i had a subscription to the Avengers as a 10-year old kid when this issue came out. i didn’t know what the heck was going on, but it was still a fun issue.

Wow. How much of a b-list hero do you have to be in order to be shown-up by David Letterman? Time to retire, guys.

Just like Hitchcock said, “if you have a giant doorknob behind a table in act one, somebody has to get hit on the head with it by act three.” Or something like that. Assistant Editor’s Month was great!! So many weird comics came out that month. I kept waiting for them to try it again sometime, but they never did. Must have been a Jim Shooter idea. I know a lot of Marvel folks didn’t like working under him, but they sure put out some excellent comics during that period. Tom DeFalco’s run as Ed. In Chief saw a massive decline in quality across the whole line, he hired and promoted some real hacks, and his writing was awful.

what exactly is Natasha doing in the second panel ? ripping off her bikini top ?

“This is why Wonder Man fought the Avengers recently. He is still mad about this night.”

Funny!

…but I vaguely remember a not-too-long-after story that mentioned his acting career DID take off because someone on the West Coast saw the show after all. Continuity!

Omar Karindu

May 4, 2012 at 2:42 pm

If the Black Panther is supposed to be the head of his country’s religion as well as its government, I suppose a meeting with him might look more like a meeting with the Pope than a meeting with the President. Of course, some would say the Pope looks pretty goofy too. Not me, though. Make sure you repeat that last part to Bill Donohue if he shows up.

I’m sorry, but I remember this issue as a huge letdown. Here Marvel had a comic that had a shot at cross-media publicity with tv and newspaper coverage, a plug from Letterman himself, drawing in people who’d dropped comics years ago deciding to check it out…and what did they produce? Something so tied in with ongoing Avengers continuity and obscure character beats that the issue would be nigh-incomprehensible to outside readers. It was cutesy and in-jokey when it needed to be accessible. Absolutely no one was enthusiastic about this issue when it came out; no newspaper mentioned it to my knowledge. Letterman himself didn’t even acknowledge its existence until years later, when he used it as a prop in a gag about fictitious comics, making it look as if this issue was a phony mock-up created by his art department just like all the other issues in the segment were.

Am I the only one that doesn’t know what issue this is from? It doesn’t seem to mention it anywhere…

found this issue about a year ago, having never heard of it before. As Richard saya above me, it’s not too great, but if I’d known about it at the time I would have camped out of my LCS, as I was a HUGE Letterman fan.
Still happy to own it, as a curiosity, and a fan of those bygone days of Assistant Editors’ Month–Ann Nocienti’s HULK issue was absolutely great.

I found this on my local shop’s spinner rack a couple weeks back, and I thought it was absolutely charming!! I wonder what would happen if, as part of the whole Avengers hype right now, a guest on Letterman’s current show brought out the comic and asked what Dave thought of it.

Damian: I was confused at first too, but, if you look close at the first panel, her top is untied to avoid tan lines. So in the second panel she is holding it on as she sits up.

What’s great is that I didn’t know that guy in the audience was the bad guy at first, so I thought there was just a guy in the audience who was a huge asshole. “Blast it, where’s Captain America? Where’s that bitch She-Hulk?” Geez, dude, rein it in. It’s a free taping.

This is one of the greatest issues in comic book history. If anyone here says different, I will fight you. :P

Brian, I think Hawkeye doesn’t want it publically known that he’s half-deaf because that would be VERY valuable info for the bad guys to have. Any supervillain worth his salt could think of a dozen ways to take advantage of a half-deaf hero. Didn’t you ever read that old issue of What If? where the entire world found out that Daredevil was really blind? :)

MonikerNV: It’s Avengers #239.

Brian Cronin

May 4, 2012 at 7:33 pm

Brian, I think Hawkeye doesn’t want it publically known that he’s half-deaf because that would be VERY valuable info for the bad guys to have.

Right, but my point is that a hearing aid wouldn’t have to be visible, right? So no one would notice. He ends up drawing more attention by trying to fake answers.

Man, I loved this when it came out! Back when Letterman was…you know…FUNNY.

That issue is a lot of fun. The art is surprisingly good too, given how terrible the Milgrom/Sinnott combo was on WCA.

I loved this issue when I was a kid, even though I had no idea who most of the B-list Avengers were.

It really is amazing that Marvel never did another Assistant Editor’s Month. Those were some fun comics.

Hawkeye’s head isn’t completely covered. In particular, his ears are exposed. A hearing aid would be noticeable.

Which begs the question “Why doesn’t he use a mask that covers his ears, so that he can then have hidden hearing aids?”

As for the second panel of Natasha in a bikini, I couldn’t tell what was going on, either. At first, I wondered if she was actually supposed to have been sunbathing topless, and a bikini was penciled/colored in afterwards. The top doesn’t have shoulder straps, and she’s wearing it in the first panel, so it doesn’t look like she has it loose to prevent tan lines. I guess the first panel could have it untied though, as there are a couple of lines at the edge that don’t match the chair. But then what did she do, tie the backstrap with one hand while holding the phone with the other?

But that’s the thing, he DID wear a hearing aid for years after this, and it WASN’T visible, right?

Bernard the Poet

May 5, 2012 at 12:13 am

I always thought the funniest thing about this comic was a letter they published a few months later from England.

“Dear Marvel, I really enjoyed Avengers #239, just one question, who is David Letterman?”

Travis Pelkie

May 5, 2012 at 12:15 am

At least this one ended up better than when the Joker was on the David Endochrine show. And a little better than the times Harvey Pekar was on Dave. But just a little.

I like when Mockingbird is turning on the TV, the announcer says the comedian and then the Avengers. They don’t even get top billing!

@John Trumbull: You must admit, however, that this issue pales in comparison to Marvel Team-Up #74. You had Stan Lee hosting “SNL” with special musical guest, Rick Jones. Then there was the original Not Ready for Prime Time Players. And working around them all–Spider-Man battling the Silver Samurai (and all because a teleportation ring intended for the Samurai ends up in the hands of John Belushi).

And Garrett Morris dressed as Thor trying to stop a group of thugs (who seem to be a bit confused as they all thought Thor was white)? Priceless.

(Of course, the MTU issue, #137, that came out during Assistant Editors Month was simultaneously charming and frightening. Galactus chooses Aunt May as his herald and his enormous appetite is eventually sated by “Twinkies”–actually, the Marvel Universe equivalent–supplied by Franklin Richards.)

You must admit, however, that this issue pales in comparison to Marvel Team-Up #74. You had Stan Lee hosting “SNL” with special musical guest, Rick Jones.

I would agree with this. The Avengers / David Letterman thing is pretty good (and reminiscent of a time when Dave was kind of edgy and cool) but the Marvel Team-Up with Spider-Man on SNL is way better and much funnier.

The thing is, Hawkeye’s not very smart.

Great post, I’ve got a blog dedicated to Assistant Editors’ Month. I blogged about the Letterman/Avengers issue in a little more detail myself the other day:

http://assistanteditorsmonth.blogspot.com/2012/05/avengers-239.html

always found this issue really crazy mostly david letterman managing to take out the bad guy with all things a door knob and beast about that time looking to make the defenders work as a team. plus hawkeye being too vain to wear a hearing aid of all things when given all the geniuses the avengers have surely some one could create one for him that no one would ever know about.

@John Trumbull: You must admit, however, that this issue pales in comparison to Marvel Team-Up #74. You had Stan Lee hosting “SNL” with special musical guest, Rick Jones.

Of the two, I actually prefer the Avengers issue. But I read it when it first came out as opposed to in back issue form like the SNL Marvel Team-Up, so nostalgia may be coloring my impressions a bit here.

ChrisTheDude

May 7, 2012 at 2:44 am

Like the letter-writer mentioned above, I live in the UK, and when I picked up this comic (as a back issue in about 1990) I had absolutely no idea who Letterman was. I assumed he was simply a fictional Marvel Universe TV host and remember being curious as to which other issues he might have previously appeared in………

ChrisTheDude

May 7, 2012 at 2:48 am

In an even more extreme example, I didn’t find out that news reporter Manoli Wetherall, who appeared in the X-Men Fall of the Mutants issues which I bought over twenty years ago, actually exists in the real world until YESTERDAY, when I saw her mentioned in another column here on CBR :-S

Steve Englehart had Black Widow and Mockingbird meet for the very first time again a couple of years later in the first West Coast Avengers Annual. I suspect someone somewhere tried to claim a no-prize from that little inconsistency.

This issue was pretty dumb but in a very charming way. It didn’t hurt that the reserve Avengers featured were some of my favourite (the Beast had been absent from these pages for far too long by this point).

R.M.Carpenter

May 19, 2012 at 10:31 am

Check out Hawkeye prospecting for gold in that last panel!

Has there ever been a trade with the Assistant Editor’s stories? My favorite was the Crystar issue.

If I remember, the Assistant Editors Month didn’t actually have the assistant editors in charge–was that a comic book urban legend, Brian?
Stenkowicz was a wonderful loser villain. I don’t know what possessed Mark Gruenwald to turn him into a dorky Avengers tech guy instead.

This is by far one of my favorite issues growing up. …I always hope to get it signed by David Letterman one day,… I told myself I wont do it until they cancel Comic Book Men… Should be get’n his signature sometime next year :-)

Evidently the artist and colorist were not actual viewers of the show, coz that is not “the” Letterman doorknob. Looks more like a spittoon, which is exactly what I thought when he bonked the wannabe with it. But I was considerably more upset by his stance a few panels later. Dave looks like he’s gonna skullbang the poor bastard. It probably doesn’t help that the art department appears to have had a single photo reference for Letterman.

I really like that Natasha is ready to go Peg Bundy on a moment’s notice.

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