Old-School Comic Review – Marvel Team-Up #74

MarvelTeam-Up074

“Live From New York–It’s Saturday Night!”
Written by Chris Claremont
Art by Bob Hall and Marie Severin
Published by Marvel Comics

The medium of comics has evolved greatly in the past few decades, but one thing that I miss from today’s mainstream superhero comics is their ability to try new, wacky ideas in their monthly titles. Sure, we have books like Howard The Duck, Harley Quinn, Deadpool, and the like that show the more humorous side of the Big Two, but for the most part they don’t seem to have the time or the patience to devote a single issue of their tentpole titles to off-the-wall ideas or concepts anymore. Back in the Bronze Age of the Seventies, however, the two biggest comic publishers seemed to be a little less strict with their overall tone and occasionally treated their readers with a fun, goofy issue that was not necessarily bound to their overall continuity. One such example is “Live From New York–It’s Saturday Night!,” a bizarre standalone issue of Marvel Team-Up from 1978 that teamed The Amazing Spider-Man with the original cast of NBC’s long-running late night sketch comedy show, Saturday Night Live.

The issue begins with Peter Parker and Mary-Jane Watson rushing to get to 30 Rockefeller Plaza in order to get seats for a live taping of SNL, hosted by none other than Stan Lee with Rick Jones as the musical guest. Shortly after arriving, Peter’s Spider-Sense is triggered by a suspicious-looking gentleman hanging around the studio that turns out to be the Silver Samurai out to find a mysterious ring that was mistakenly mailed to original SNL wildman John Belushi. When the Samurai’s goons hijack the show, Peter suits up and joins forces with the “Not Ready For Prime Time Players” as they use their gifts of improvisation and unpredictability to overtake the gang of criminals, while Belushi winds up dueling with the Silver Samurai while wearing the costume of one of his most famous characters (bet you can’t guess who).

Cocaine's a helluva drug!

This particular issue of Marvel Team-Up is a great example of two styles of mainstream comics that we frankly don’t see much of anymore – the ongoing team-up book and the inter-media crossover. While both Marvel and DC’s properties are all over TV and movie screens nowadays, we hardly get any melding between the comic universe and other current aspects of pop culture as shown in this issue, which is probably due to the Big Two’s insistence that their overall universes be treated seriously. We still get a little bit of cross-promotional synergy, as with that strange Marvel / General Hospital crossover from a few years ago, but current readers hardly get anything like what is found in this issue. Story-wise, this comic is somewhat weak, though it is refreshing to see the normally dour Chris Claremont write something so overtly silly, and he does a decent job giving each respective castmember a chance to contribute to the overall plot. The art by Bob Hall and Marie Severin also does a fantastic job in making each member of the Not Ready For Prime Time Players look as close to their real-life counterparts as possible, even if Belushi looks a bit more buff on the comics page than he ever did in real life. The fact that a formidable villain like the Silver Samurai is bested by a group of comedic actors with Spidey mostly relegated to a supporting role might irk a few devoted Marvel readers, but it’s obviously not meant to be an official story within Marvel canon but was only meant to be a one-issue lark by the creators who wished to pay homage to a popular and influential television show.

Reading this issue made me wish that Lorne Michaels would have returned the favor by actually getting Stan Lee to host SNL back in the day, which would have been much more entertaining than some of the other one-off hosts from the show’s first five years (I’m looking at YOU, Fran Tarkenton). I also would have liked to see more TV tie-ins within the world of comics. Imagine an issue of Ghost Rider where Johnny Blaze runs afoul of the two motorcycle cops from CHiPs or the cast of Hill Street Blues trying to bring the Punisher to justice. Sadly, these types of stories just wouldn’t fit in the current climate of current Marvel or DC, which only leaves us weird little oddities from the past like Marvel Team-Up #74 to read and enjoy. 3.5 out of 5 Perfectly-Timed Catch Phrases.

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Ben Gilbert is an avid comic and movie fan, father of two amazing kids, and husband to one awesome chick. He resides in the hills of East Tennessee and still doesn't quite know what he wants to be when he grows up.

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