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The Best Beatles Cameos in Comics

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Jessica Plummer

Contributing Editor

Jessica Plummer has lived her whole life in New York City, but she prefers to think of it as Metropolis. Her day job is in books, her side hustle is in books, and she writes books on the side (including a short story in Sword Stone Table from Vintage). She loves running, knitting, and thinking about superheroes, and knows an unnecessary amount of things about Donald Duck. Follow her on Twitter at @jess_plummer.

October 5th marks the 60th anniversary of the release of the Beatles’ official debut single, “Love Me Do” (in the UK, at least). In honor of this noteworthy date in pop culture, I decided to take a look at some of my favorite Beatles references in another bastion of pop culture that was huge in the ’60s: superhero comics.

Now, this is by no means a comprehensive list of Beatles cameos in comics. For starters, I’ve limited my scope to Marvel and DC — and specifically to their superhero comics, meaning no Stan Lee Presents: The Beatles Story (it’s a real thing), no MAD Magazine appearances, etc. I’m also not interested in the many uses of the Beatles in background shots and collages meant to evoke “Hey! It’s the ’60s!” as a means of setting a scene.

No, we’re looking at ’60s and ’70s Beatles interactions with superheroes specifically, mostly because nothing says “How do you do, fellow kids?” like a bunch of middle aged men trying to capture a moptopped zeitgeist in the pages of Jimmy Olsen of whatever.

The franchise that seems to have encountered the Fab Four the most frequently is, fittingly enough, the Fantastic Four. The earliest reference comes in Fantastic Four #34 (January 1965), when the Thing receives a gag gift from his recurring frenemies, the Yancy Street Gang: a Beatles wig. Though initially irritated, Ben eventually dons the wig, confessing that he’s always wanted to try one. This panel is worth the 12¢ cost of the issue alone:

One panel from Fantastic Four #34. The Thing is wearing a very scraggly-looking brown bobbed wig and contemplating his reflection in a hand mirror. Alicia is holding onto his arm.

Thing: Are you kiddin?? I always wanted to try one! Wish you could see me, baby! I'm a livin' doll!!
I am not convinced Jack Kirby actually knew what a Beatles haircut looked like.

Just two months later, in Strange Tales #130 (March 1965), the FF actually met the Beatles, in a story called — what else? — “Meet the Beatles!” Well, almost. Alicia Masters and Dorrie Evans, the respective girlfriends of the Thing and the Human Torch, just happen to spot the Beatles wandering around New York City, and are inspired to buy four tickets to that evening’s concert, which is miraculously not sold out. Now, I’ve seen A Hard Day’s Night, which I’m assuming we can take as strict historical fact, and I am highly skeptical that the Beatles would just be meandering around a major city without being mobbed. But maybe teens are more blasé in the Marvel universe?

Anyway, Johnny, A Youth, is pleased about the tickets, while Ben grumbles (though he does bring along his Beatles wig). Tragically, just as they arrive at the venue, some hoodlums rob the box office, and the Human Torch and the Thing must spring into action. After defeating the thieves, they return to the venue to discover that they’ve missed the entire concert. What a revoltin’ development!

Three panels from Strange Tales #130.

Panel 1: Dorrie and Alicia stop short as they realize they've just rushed past the Beatles. The caricatures of the Beatles are...not very good.

Dorrie: The B-Beatles!!!
Alicia: What's wrong, dear?

Panel 2: Dorrie and Alicia turn around to face the Beatles.

Dorrie: Alicia! We almost ran right past them!! If we're real quiet, you can hear them breathing!

Panel 3: The Beatles begin to sign autographs for Dorrie and Alicia, while Thing and the Human Torch come running down a flight of stairs to join them, and a man bursts through a door on the floor below.

Torch: Ben! Look who the gals are with! Hey...stop shovin', you big ape!
Thing: It's them! My ever-lovin' idols!! Be still, my patterin' heart!
Man: Help! Something terrible just happened!
Artist Bob Powell definitely didn’t know what the Beatles looked like. Yikes.

Other Fantastic Four Beatles references came later and were much more passing in nature: they visit an alternate universe where John Lennon is still alive in Fantastic Four #47 (1998 series); both foursomes meet properly in Fantastic Four: Life Story, a retelling of the FF’s history. But probably the best known and definitely the most charming is in 1994’s Marvels, when artist Alex Ross snuck the Beatles into the crowd at Reed and Sue’s wedding. Can you spot them all?

A splash page from Marvels showing Reed and Sue kissing at their wedding. Alicia and Johnny are smiling and Ben is crying. The aisle has several photographers taking pictures, and the pews are filled with superheroes and celebrity cameos.
Also: Dick Van Dyke and Mary Tyler Moore.

Over on the DC side of things, the first characters to actually meet the Beatles that I know of are the Metal Men, of all people/robots, in Metal Men #12 (March 1965), where we learn that the two groups are mutual fans:

One panel from Metal Men #12. The Beatles approach from the left, Ringo holding his bass drum in the air. The Metal Men stretch across the panel from the right, all of them holding pens. Below them is an excited crowd of teenagers holding autograph books for the Metal Men to sign.

Narration Box: Wherever the unique Metal Men appear in person, eager fans stampede toward them...
George: Yeh!
John: Yeh!
Ringo: I say - we haven't a chawnce [sic] of getting the Metal Men to autograph my drum!
Tin: Tina - look! It's the B-B-B-!
Platinum: Aren't they cute? Is your hair real? Of course we'll sign your drum!
Mercury, Lead, Iron, and Gold: Yeh!
Ross Andru, at least, had seen a picture of the Beatles at some point.

You’d think the DC characters most likely to hang out with the Beatles would be the Teen Titans, but as I’ve said before, early Titans comics weren’t exactly plugged into youth culture — even though the Beatles appeared to be fans of the Titans, at least according to Teen Titans #11. Boy, the DCU’s Beatles are kind of a bunch of fanboys, aren’t they?

A panel from Teen Titans #11, showing a bulletin board with notes pinned to it. One has a sketch of the Beatles and says "From one fab foursome to another! The Beatles." One has a sketch of Lyndon B. Johnson and says "For serving their country, grateful best wishes to the 'Teen Titans.' If you all are in Washington, you-all stop in. Pres. L. B. Johnson." The third says "Wonder Girl: Your mother called! You wore too much lipstick in our last adventure. Please correct!"

Narration Box: In the secret Titan Lair, the bulletin board carries its usual quota of reminders, photos and messages...
Robin (off-panel): Holy thumb tacks!
Again, DC is better at drawing the Beatles. Well, sort of.

If you needed proof that DC was less hip than Marvel in the ’60s, note that something as mild as “being liked by the Beatles” has to be balanced out by “also being liked by President Johnson,” lest we think the Titans are juvenile delinquents or something. Also, this issue is from 1967. The Beatles did not look like that in 1967.

DC finally emerged from the ’50s in around 1970, and so they’re a little more with it in Batman #222 (June 1970), when Batman and Robin get caught up in the “Paul is dead” conspiracy theory. I mean, “Saul is dead.” Yes, that’s right, “Saul Cartwright,” a member of the Twists, the most thinly veiled celebrity cameos in the history of comics. Whatever, I’m counting it!

The cover to Batman #222. Batman and Robin stand in a graveyard, watching what is clearly meant to be the Beatles walk past them. Robin is holding an album called "Dead Till Proven Alive"; one band member is facing away from the viewer on the cover.

Batman: Here they come! One of them is dead - but which one?
Robin: The clue is on their album cover!
Batman covers from the ’70s are always so great, and this is no exception.

In this delightfully silly story, Dick Grayson’s college buddies convince him, a literal detective, that Paul Saul has died and been secretly replaced by a look-alike, by playing supposed hidden messages on Twist records. Luckily, Dick is the ward of Bruce Wayne, and Bruce Wayne is a major stockholder in the Twists’ record label, a power he’s apparently all too willing to abuse. “As Batman — I don’t want to be party to a hoax,” Bruce thinks, thereby justifying the nonsense he’s about to get up to, before inviting the Twists to Gotham for a concert.

Inexplicably, the band agrees to stay at Wayne Manor, but Saul is moody and cagey, making Bruce and Dick even more suspicious. They make various and increasingly stupid attempts to record Saul’s singing voice so that they can compare it to a pre-death track — at one point, they pretend it’s Alfred’s birthday to get the Twists to sing “Happy Birthday” to him and only realize when they listen to the track that Saul wasn’t singing solo. Are you the world’s greatest detectives or aren’t you???

Our embarrassingly incompetent heroes are convinced that they’re on the right track when they’re violently attacked under the cover of darkness. That is, until Saul reveals the truth:

Three panels from Batman #222.

Panel 1: A man who looks like John Lennon lies on the floor, scowling and clutching at his jaw. Around him stand Batman, the other three "Beatles," and Robin.

Batman: What did you just call "Glennan," Saul?
Saul: Chumley - his real name! Just like this is really Pritchard and Gilbey! I'm not the phony - they are!
Robin: What?!

Panel 2: Saul covers his face, upset.

Saul: You heard me right! These lads are the frauds - the put-ons! Because Glennan *sob* good old buddies...

Panel 3: A closeup of Saul crying.

Saul: ...they're DEAD! Killed last year in a crash of a private jet that was taking them to groove with the mysteries of the East!
You mean they never got to groove with the mysteries of the East?! Also: BENJI?

That’s right: it was the other three members of the band who died and were replaced with look-alikes! This is actually a pretty clever solution, since I suspect DC didn’t want to either call its teenage readers gullible dupes or boldly proclaim that the real Paul McCartney was totally dead. Batman and Robin, apparently forgetting that Lohn Jennon over there tried to kill them, suggest that they come clean and form a new band. I’m choosing to believe that the name of this fake band, Phoenix, inspired the real Paul’s formation of Wings a year later.

(Fun fact! This comic hit stands 11 days after Paul announced his departure from the band. Awkward.)

But even this delicious zaniness pales in comparison to what is probably DC’s most infamous Beatles comic, which doesn’t even have the Beatles in it: Superman’s Pal Jimmy Olsen #79 (September 1964).

The cover to Superman's Pal, Jimmy Olsen #79. In an ancient Middle Eastern city, Jimmy stands on a stage, wearing a toga and a red Beatles wig and playing a drum and ram's horn simultaneously. A crowd of teens in togas and black Beatles wigs cheer for him in the foreground. Superman is flying in the background, looking shocked.

Superman: Great Krypton! Jimmy has started a Beatle craze here in the ancient past. He's become as popular as Ringo!
Drink it in, friends.

This truly sublime story begins with Jimmy dancing alone to the Beatles while wearing a custom-made ginger Beatles wig, like a cool and hip person all teenagers would admire. Suddenly, he’s visited by Kasmir, a criminal from the 30th century, who tricks Jimmy into piloting a stolen time machine 3,000 years into the past. Luckily, Jimmy speaks the local language! For some reason!

One panel from Jimmy Olsen #79. Jimmy is watching the Beatles on TV and dancing while wearing a red Beatles wig.

Narration Box: In a Metropolis apartment one day...
TV: I wanna hold your ha-a-a-nd!
Jimmy: Man! Those Beatles are a blast! And I always seem to enjoy their music more when I wear my personal Beatle wig!

Jimmy is rescued from this futuristic desperado by a mysterious, super-strong teen known only as Mighty Youth (yes, really). Inexplicably, Jimmy’s first order of business is not to figure out how to send a message to his time traveling bestie Superman, but to get a job. Capitalism is a poison, kids.

He ends up shearing sheep for a local shepherd, but disappointed by how little it pays, comes up with a side hustle: dying surplus wool black, turning it into Beatles wigs, and selling said wigs to teens of ancient Judea:

Four panels from Jimmy Olsen #79.

Panel 1: Jimmy is standing next to a table, lifting a hank of black wool out of a pot. Also on the table are several hanks of white, undyed wool. Several more black hanks are hanging from a clothesline in the background, dripping black dye.

Narration Box: Soon Jimmy is working swiftly in a secluded part of the city...
Jimmy: I picked up enough wool to make a dozen wigs! Now to dye them black! I'll wear my own red wig, which was in my pocket when I came to the past!

Panel 2: Wearing his red wig, Jimmy dances and plays the ram's horn and drum simultaneously. A group of teenagers has gathered.

Narration Box: Later, Jimmy begins a weird performance...
Teen #1: Who is this strange fellow who twists and twitches like a beetle on a hot stone?
Teen #2: That catchy drumbeat! I can't keep my own feet from twitching!

Panel 3: Jimmy holds up a wig to the excited teens.

Jimmy: Hold everything, kids! You can't do the Beatle dance without a Beatle wig! Get 'em while they last. A silver piece each!
Teen #1: I'll take one!
Teen #2: Me, too!
Teen #3: Aren't they darling?

Panel 4: Jimmy continues to play while the teens, now all wearing black wigs, dance. An old man looks on in surprise.

Narration Box: Presently, the market-place is rocking...
Jimmy: Yeah! Yeah! Yeah!
Jimmy (thinking): Crazy, man! Imagine starting a Beatle craze thousands of years back in the past!
“Who is this strange fellow who twists and twitches like a beetle on a hot stone” oh my GOD.

He’s playing “I Want to Hold Your Hand” on a ram’s horn. I don’t know why everyone says Superman movies are hard to make when they’ve never even tried to adapt this issue.

Unfortunately for Jimmy, Kasmir is still hanging around, and jealous of Jimmy’s success. He rats him out to the shepherd, who claims the wool for Jimmy’s wigs was stolen from him (which…yeah, it was), and has Jimmy thrown in jail. Jimmy blows on the ram’s horn for help, and Mighty Youth shows up to save him…oh, and Mighty Youth is actually the biblical Samson, because of course he is.

Kasmir attempts to revenge himself upon Team Jimmy by cutting Samson’s hair, but luckily Jimmy saw him coming and plopped his own ginger Beatles wig onto Samson’s head just in time, meaning Kasmir only cut the wig. The Beatles save the day again!

Superman shows up completely at random at this point and handily defeats everyone who still needs defeating, but he and Jimmy stay in ancient Judea for one last farewell concert:

One panel from Jimmy Olsen #79. Wearing his red wig, Jimmy plays the ram's horn and drum while Superman looks on in surprise. Below them, teens in black wigs dance.

Narration Box: Then, just before they take off for the future, Jimmy puts on a special "Beatle" performance for Superman...
Superman: You've really started a "Beatle" fad here, Jimmy! You seem to be as popular as Ringo, the Beatle drummer!
The girl in green up in the front having ecstasies is my favorite.

“You seem to be as popular as Ringo, the Beatle drummer!” Who says Superman’s not hip and with it? I should also note that this epic biblical, Beatlelical story is only nine pages long, with two other Jimmy tales in the comic. Say what you will about mid-’60s DC and how cringingly embarrassing their attempts at relevance could be, but you got your money’s worth.

As I said at the start, this is just a glancing look at the many appearances of the Beatles in comics, but these examples all delight me, even if they betray a profoundly hapless lack of cool throughout. Okay, the profoundly hapless lack of cool is probably why they delight me.

If you’re looking for a comic that’s actually about the Beatles, there’s no better place to start than The Fifth Beatle: The Brian Epstein Story by Vivek J. Tiwary, Andrew C. Robinson, and Kyle Baker. Meanwhile, I’ll leave you with my favorite (relatively) modern appearance of the Beatles in a superhero comic, from Tiny Titans #8 (November 2008):

One panel from Tiny Titans #8. Blue Beetle is in the office of Principal Slade (Deathstroke wearing a suit jacket over his costume). What is clearly meant to be the Beatles, in their matching early years suits, stand behind Blue Beetle, but they are too tall to fit in the panel so we can't see their faces.

Deathstroke: Blue Beetle needs help with all his subjects.
Beatle #1: Maybe a little help from his friends?
Beatle #2: Imagine that!
Blue Beetle's Scarab: [something unreadable in coded scarab language]
Blue Beetle: I know, I know. Sometimes they go on like this all day.
I can’t wait for this exact scene to be adapted in the Blue Beetle movie next year.