I realized today, apropos of nothing, that I could name five comic-book characters off the top of my head that were modeled on movie stars. Fred MacMurry was famously the inspiration for Captain Marvel, while Marvel's Fandral was based on Errol Flynn, Hogun was based on Charles Bronson, Percival Pinkerton (of the Howling Commandos) was modeled on David Niven and DIno Manelli was quite clearly Dean Martin.

Oh, wait, there's a sixth -- the Ultimate Universe Nick Fury was based on Samuel Jackson.

With the exception of Jackson (who gave his permission for his likeness to be used), I sometimes wonder if those stars were just completely unaware of their images being lifted, or simply didn't care. Or is it just too hard to prove? I remember in 1990 Butch Guice using an image of Amy Grant from the cover of one of her albums, and Grant's lawyers getting on Marvel's case for making it look like the Christian singer was endorsing Dr. Strange.  (Marvel settled out of court.)

Anyway, can anyone think of any more? I sometimes see famous mugs being used in comics for non-recurring faces (especially in Greg Land books) but I'm thinking more of ongoing characters.

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Commander Benson said:

It just goes to show how much the public underestimated what acting skill and comedy talent Dean Martin brought to the pairing.

I think people tend to underestimate anyone who plays the straight-man. Bud Abbott and George Burns were very effective in their roles. In a more recent example of a not-so-straight part, Matt LeBlanc's portrayal of Joey Tribbiani in Friends got short shrift at the time. This was possibly due to the overt stupidity of his character. In re-watching the show today I can see a lot of complexity he brought to the role.

I think that Bud Abbott had great comic timing and was a natural in front of the camera. He gave a marvelous yet under-rated performance in Time of Our Lives which was made when he and Lou didn't want to work together.

Alan Hale, Jr. had the same problem standing out from Bob Denver's antics. I've been watching Gilligan's Island on ME TV and was impressed how he shifted between comic and straight-man.

For those who don't know, the Bob Hope and (Dean Martin and) Jerry Lewis titles were both drawn in bigfoot styles. The stories in DC's other movie star comics were like those in its adventure-oriented titles. Neal Adams drew covers and interiors for late issues of Adventures of Jerry Lewis.

Another DC movie star comic was Jimmy Wakely. John Wayne Adventures #21, from Toby, cover-featured a story about oil-well fires that predated Wayne's film Hellfighters by over a decade. Another comic in this vein that interests me is A-1 #22 from Magazine Enterprises, which features "Dick Powell - Adventurer". I don't think it actually describes Powell as a PI, rather than an actor, but that's how it depicts him. In contrast, the story I've read from The Adventures of Alan Ladd represented him as an actor who has a dangerous adventure.

When the first Batman serial was made Alfred was redesigned to look like actor William Austin. The resemblance was particularly close in Jerry Robinson's version.

Chief O'Hara from the Batman TV show was subsequently used in comics, and at least sometimes drawn to look like the actor who portrayed him, Stafford Repp.

Professor Pepperwinkle from the Adventures of Superman made some appearances in the Super-titles in the 70s, and was at least sometimes drawn to look like actor Phil Tead.

Inspector Henderson has been used by DC since the 70s. In that decade he appeared in Black Lighting as well as the super-books. I don't think all his artists all aimed for a close likeness of Robert Shayne, who played him on TV show, but some may have done so. Reportedly the character first appeared on the Superman radio show.

When DC's Shazam! title was remodelled after the TV show Uncle Dudley grew a moustache like the one possessed by Mentor (Les Tremayne) on TV, and started dressing in a similar way.

(corrected)



Philip Portelli said:

I think that Bud Abbott had great comic timing and was a natural in front of the camera. He gave a marvelous yet under-rated performance in Time of Our Lives which was made when he and Lou didn't want to work together.

Alan Hale, Jr. had the same problem standing out from Bob Denver's antics. I've been watching Gilligan's Island on ME TV and was impressed how he shifted between comic and straight-man.

They were both great. Bud was part of my favorite comedy team all-time and was funny by himself when he had the chance.

As for Alan Hale, his widow said the Skipper (Jonas Grumby) was his favorite role. He really had great chemistry with Bob Denver and made Gilligan's Island one of my favorite shows to watch during the '70s (yes, I still watch it today on MeTV, too :-). Now the real question is: who was greater - Alan Hale, Jr or his father?

Here's an Alex Ross Marvel Family portrait with Fred Mc Murray as Cap, Kathy Ireland as Mary and Michael Gray who played Billy on the SHAZAM! TV how as Junior.

Not sure if Kathy was a good choice but I can't think of a better one.

Does Captain Strong count, since he was based on "movie star" Popeye? ;-)

Philip Portelli said:

Not sure if Kathy was a good choice but I can't think of a better one.

 

Judy Garland

The Caped Crusader said

Now the real question is: who was greater- Alan Hale Jr or his father?

Alan Hale Jr. is one of the most iconic and loved TV characters of all time. But his father Alan Hale, Sr. played Little John with both Douglas Fairbanks AND Errol Flynn!

Major, major PROPS there, my friends as The Adventures of Robin Hood is one of my all time favorite movies and had a great impact on what I deem as heroic.

"Norman or Saxon, what does it matter. It's injustice I hate, not the Normans."

I suddenly thought about a teenage Shirley Temple.
 
PowerBook Pete, the Mad Mod said:

Philip Portelli said:

Not sure if Kathy was a good choice but I can't think of a better one.

 

Judy Garland


Richard Willis said:

 

I think people tend to underestimate anyone who plays the straight-man. Bud Abbott and George Burns were very effective in their roles.

That's very true. Most folks assume the only job the straight man has is to feed the comic the set-up lines. I've never had any show-business aspirations, but I always knew that if I were going to be part of a two-man comedy team, I wanted to be the straight man.  So I studied them carefully, and I realised that the straight man has the more difficult task.

All the comic has to do is deliver the punchline and do crazy antics.  Now that takes skill and timing, to be sure---I'm not saying the comic has an easy time of it---but it's a pretty simple mission statement.

The straight man, conversely, has to straddle an almost imperceptable line.   He has to be the voice of reason, the "adult", so to speak.  But at the same time, he has to be able to deliver the wryer, more subtle humour.  (In a sharp comedy routine, the straight man gets a few witticisms; it takes the audience off guard when the straight man delivers a funny line and it is funner for that.)

In the same vein, the straight man has to be able to bully the comic, sometimes even slap him around; yet, at the same time, he must remain sympathetic and seem like a pal to the comic.  Otherwise, the straight man comes across as cruel and as a result, the comic no longer comes across as funny or madcap, but instead, pathetic.

Philip was keen in his identification of Alan Hale as a superb straight man on Gilligan's Island.  He seamlessly moved back and forth from being the rational, capable ship's captain and foil for Gilligan to being part of the funny business himself.  I've read that Sherwood Schwartz picked him for the rôle because of that very ability---Hale was able to retain that warmth and image as a person to respect, even when he was belting Gilligan over the head with his cap.

George Burns, to be sure, was a stellar straight man.  I've mentioned his "Because I love her" running gag in the past, and that's only one example out of many.  But I have to join the ranks of those who feel that Bud Abbott was show business' finest straight man.  His ability to straddle that line between seriousness and humour, between browbeating and warmth, was impeccable.  And his sense of timing, in keeping the pace going to properly set up Costello's punchlines, was so smooth that he made it look easy---which again goes to the misperception that there's nothing to the straight man's job.

All this talk made me think about a 1960's Avengers movie/TV show so how about:

Chuck Connors as Captain America

John Forsythe as Iron Man/Tony Stark

Guy Madison as Henry Pym/Goliath

Dawn Wells as the Wasp

Steve McQueen as Hawkeye

Ann Margaret as the Scarlet Witch (which should make Commander Benson happy!)

David McCullem as Quicksilver

Clint Walker as Hercules or maybe Bruno Sammartino

I drew a blank on Thor!

Luke Blanchard said:

Chief O'Hara from the Batman TV show was subsequently used in comics, and at least sometimes drawn to look like the actor who portrayed him, Stafford Repp.

A momentary thread-jack: In recent years I became aware of a curiosity in the Batman TV show that affected the comics. In real-world New York, which is arguably the model for Gotham City, they don't have a "police chief." They have a "police commissioner," which is really the same job but is not a uniformed position. In Los Angeles, where the Batman TV show was conceived, they have a "police chief," which is a uniformed position. The "police commission" in Los Angeles is a civilian review board, not a single person. I think the TV show's producers and writers didn't understand this, which is why the Chief O'Hara character was created.

I was somewhat annoyed when the comics suddenly had both a "commissioner" (Gordon) and a "police chief" (Mackenzie Bock ), duplicating the TV show's error. If they had Chief O'Hara in the comics I don't remember it, since at the time I wasn't aware of this inconsistency.

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