Maybe I’m just getting sentimental in my old age, but I do have a soft spot for Thanksgiving.
However, comics and Thanksgiving don’t really cross paths all that often, with one glaring exception: The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade!
As far back as 1940 there’s been the occasional bit of superhero visibility at the parade, thanks to this original Superman balloon, which has a nice Old World charm to it. It almost looks like a Christmas nutcracker:
Superman returned to the parade in the 1980s with an all-new and much bigger balloon, which lacks much of the charm of the original. Plus, and I realize it’s hard to tell from this shot, but he’s always looked kind of angry to me.
The gold standard for super-Thanksgiving balloons has been and remains Spider-Man. Designed by comics master John Romita himself, the Spidey balloon perfectly captures the character, and just looks cool from every angle.
However, with every good must come the bad, and as for Spidey’s arrival on the parade route, well, he didn’t come alone. Along for the ride was the Marvel Universe float.
How could that be bad, right? A cool-looking float packed with Marvel characters. Seems like good news all around. Well, it would have been, except for one thing: a skit.
Take a gander for yourself, then come back and we’ll discuss.
Wow. I mean, wow. Where to begin?
First off, how about that amazing display of sorcery by Dr. Strange? A floating ball over a fan. Mystifying! I’m surprised Doc wasn’t asking Captain America “Is this your card?”
Anyway, after Doc conjures Cap out of a giant comic book (curiously, an issue of X-FACTOR), Cap heads upstairs to help out Wolverine, who’s being viciously …tugged, I guess, by the Enchantress and Magneto. I also like it when Cap and Enchantress engage in the battle-tested combat technique of chasing each other around in circles.
Dr. Doom shows up not long after, and by the way, someone should have either gotten Doom a pair of boxer shorts or a longer tunic, because we see way too much of Doom’s area, resplendent in silver support hose, when he’s heading down those stairs. Gaah.
Cap and Doom’s fistfight, by the way, is a wonder, with the dubbed-in gasps from the crowd only accentuating the hokiness of the maneuver. Of course, things do take an unexpectedly dark turn when Captain America electrocutes Doom. Is this the Thanksgiving Parade or Guantanamo Bay? Luckily, Robocop shows up to stop Doom’s torture session. Yes, that paragon of ethics, that protector of civil liberties, Robocop. Wha–?
Also suddenly on the scene is Luke Cage, looking delighted to be, well, anywhere. And visible just for teasingly fleeting glances are Iron Man and the Silver Surfer, there to flank Cap as he defends himself from the White Queen’s confetti streamers.
And by the way, what’s up with the BACK TO THE FUTURE music? I keep expecting Doc Brown to jump out of a doorway and scream “Marty!” Although I do have to admit, all the costumes here look pretty sharp for the most part.
That is, with the exception of the Hulk, who just looks like a giant plush toy walking around, and who has curiously been cast as a villain in this particular tableau. The way he “falls” into the waiting arms of Doctor Doom, the Green Goblin and Luke Cage absolutely kills me. And then they freeze for the ending, and all it needs is for Hulk to cut loose with the jazz hands.
And what the hell is Wolverine so happy about? All he did was play tug of war with the Enchantress…
Now, you may be thinking, “Sure, this was fun, but it’s missing something. How could it be improved?”
Naturally, there’s only one answer. A musical number. Cut to two years later, for the 1989 Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Take it away, Melba Moore…
First off, kudos to the Goblin and Magneto, who are doing their damnedest to try and save everyone from having to see this, but to no avail. And by the way, Captain America is doing way too many squat-thrusts up there on the catwalk.
Hilariously, the one time we hear crowd reaction (and I don’t think it’s piped in) is when Spider-Man suddenly shows up and it’s like when Fonzie would enter a scene on HAPPY DAYS. The crowd roars. Even if it was planted by the producers, I love the fact that they thought Spidey deserved the Fonzie treatment.
As Melba lip-synchs her away around the float (to “Holding Out For a Hero,” naturally), the Marvel characters awkwardly lurch and pose in time to the music (with the White Queen once again unleashing her streamers, which makes no more sense here than it had two years prior).
There’s a really unfortunate close-up of the Silver Surfer costume toward the end. What is up with his face?
Is that the Surfer or Mr. Roboto from the Styx video?
And look at Doctor Doom hanging off the float pumping his fist to the music. Who knew that all Doom really wanted was to dance!
He still needs pants, though.