Editor’s Note: To commemorate the completely unexpected return of David Letterman to television on his new Netflix series My Next Guest Needs No Introduction, we’re going to look back at Dave’s one and only comics appearance:
Emotions are running a little high at COMICS 101 HQ these days, as we count down the days until this May, and the retirement of David Letterman from his late-night throne. It’s no small exaggeration to say that Letterman, his wit, and his comedic style was a huge influence on me growing up, and it’s still hard to even imagine that come this June, there won’t be new Dave on my TV every night the way there has been since 1982. (And yes, I’ve been watching that long, although way back when I was watching with the help of a VCR, since I couldn’t stay up that late every night and still make it to elementary school in the morning.)
So to help us get through these tough times, let’s take a look back to how a lot of people my age were first introduced to David Letterman: when the Avengers guest-starred on his show back in January of 1984:
You may be asking: What’s Assistant Editor’s Month? This was a fun promotional idea Marvel did back in the early ‘80s, with the conceit being that all of Marvel’s editors were out in California for the San Diego Comic-Con, so their assistants were running the show back in New York and putting all kinds of strange stuff in the comics. It was a fun little idea that both encouraged readers to check out all of Marvel’s comics that month, and reinforced the even-then growing perception of the San Diego Comic-Con as a Big Deal, since all of Marvel’s editors were flying out to attend it.
So anyway, back to the Avengers. Our story, “Late Night of the Super-Stars!”, written by Roger Stern and drawn by Al Milgrom and Joe Sinnott, kicks off with the arrival to Avengers Mansion of prodigal son Hawkeye, who’s returned from the events of his own recent solo miniseries with two new things to tell his teammates about: his new bride Mockingbird and a fairly serious hearing problem (suffered in battle with the criminal mastermind Crossfire).
Not long after Hawkeye’s return, sole Avenger in residence Vision (at the time stuck in a healing tube for reasons too complicated to get into here) gets a call from reserve Avenger and aspiring actor Simon “Wonder Man” Williams asking for a favor: it seems Williams’s agent used his Avengers status to book him on the Letterman show, and the pressure was on to bring more Avengers on with him.
The Vision pulls together a team of reservists to do the show with Simon, and before you know it, the Avengers are heading out on a stage at 30 Rock to chat with Dave.
The appearance has a couple of bumps, of course. First off, team spokesman Hawkeye refuses to wear his new hearing aid, and tries to fake his way through Letterman’s questions, which doesn’t exactly go well:
The bigger problem is an attack by perennial Avengers irritant Fabian Stankowicz, a.k.a. “the Mechano-Maurauder,” an inventor determined to make a name for himself by defeating the Avengers.
The Avengers try to stop Fabian’s murder machines and protect the studio audience, while Paul Shaffer and the World’s Most Dangerous Band provide musical accompaniment.
Meanwhile, Fabian makes his way down to the desk for a chat with Dave, who quickly realizes that his new guest is a couple tacos short of a platter.
It really does feel like an early Letterman interview, I have to admit.
Eventually, Hawkeye and the Widow clue in to the fact the mastermind behind all this is upstage chatting with Dave, and Hawkeye tries to take him out.
Unfortunately, Fabian has a personal force field protecting him. However, he didn’t count on Dave Letterman and his giant doorknob.
Even worse for poor Simon, the whole show gets pre-empted for a special report later that night.
But at least for one night only, David Letterman was an Avenger. That’s pretty cool.