The Simpsons writers love to waddle out Comic Book Guy and poke fun at his fanboyism, but don’t be fooled by the attempt at misdirection. Truth is they’re just as obsessed with the medium. Perhaps even more so. In the early years, they snuck in a few tentative, faux-comic gags, including Radioactive Man, Lava Girl, ManBoy and Power Person. When audiences reacted positively, the floodgates opened to include references to actual Super Heroes and even episode-long cameos with comic creator greats.
There is so much comic book DNA floating around in The Simpsons, it’s a marvel. That being the case, let’s get “up and at them” and try to identify the most deliciously nerdy, Marvel-inspired moments in this franchise…
Here’s an oldie but a goodie. In S05’s “Lisa vs. Malibu Stacy,” Lisa’s friends lose their minds over the new Talking Malibu Stacy doll. Everybody except Celeste, however, because her Stacy regales everyone with pure, unadulterated Peter Parker. We’re talking classic lines like “my Spidey senses are tingling” and “anybody call for a webslinger” instead of “I wish they taught shopping in school.” Clearly an improvement.
9. SOME GOLDEN OLDIES
Marvel fans were treated to some Nick Fury action in S24 “Dark Knight Court.” When the hero known as Fruit Bat Man is captured, the Director of S.H.I.E.L.D. decides to set up an “elite” team of Octogenarian Super Heroes named The Dependables. Our personal favourite: Hans Moleman as Iron Lung (and as you’d expect, said ventilator comes in “Hot Rod Red”).
8. THE FANTASTIC FAUX
The Treehouse of Horror episodes can always be relied upon for a bit of reality-bending weirdness, and the one in S15 turned it up to eleven. At some point in the proceedings, Lisa got her hands on a stopwatch that could effectively reset the space-time continuum. One click managed to recast the family as the Fantastic Four with Homer being The Thing, Marge being the Human Torch, Bart being Mr Fantastic, and Maggie being the Invisible Woman.
7. OFF-BRAND AWESOMENESS
Over the decades we’ve loved whenever The Simpsons took a moment to poke fun at crappy knock-off brands. We watched those early episodes on our Sorny (we’ve since upgraded to a Panaphonics Smart TV). Some Marvel characters got their turn in S20’s “Sex, Pies and Idiot Scrapes” when The Thung had an epic fight with The Incredible Mulk on St. Patrick’s Day. Now that we mention it, Mulk puts us in the mind of Malk, the cruddy substitute for milk that’s provided to Springfield Elementary students. Zero bone-strengthening agents in it, but plenty of vitamin R!
6. LOVE AND UNDER-STAN-DING
Being that S25’s “Married To the Blob” centres on Comic Book Guy in love, you just know it’s going to be jam-packed with Marvel references. The basic gist: an attractive young Japanese woman/manga fan named Kumiko takes a shine to CBC, and then Stan Lee swings by to dish out some advice on comics, romance and romance comics. As amusing as that back and forth was, we also chuckled at Martin Prince cosplaying as “Captain Canada” and the clawful imitation of Logan that was The Badgerine.
5. ENHANCING YOUR ‘JKS’ WITH J.K.
When a nameless editor voiced by J.K. Simmons published Moe’s poetry in S18 “Moe’N’a Lisa,” our Spidey senses tingled as our funny bones were tickled. Simmons, who plays J. Jonah Jameson in Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man films as well as various Marvel animated TV shows, removed all doubt by then asking for photos, then poems, of Spider-Man. And you just know whoever supplied them was paid atrociously. If at all.
4. THE AMAZING PIE DER MAN
In S15’s “Simple Simpson”, the public humiliation of his daughter prompted Homer to become an avenging angel. His weapon of retributive choice: pies. Clearly his superhero approach was unique, but there were also a number of hilarious head nods to other, less confectionery-based righters of wrongs. For starters, Homer designed his red and blue costume in a very Raimiesque montage. Doubling down, our gravity-defying hero then rescued Marge and recreated that timeless Peter Parker/Mary Jane upside-down smooch.
3. VINDICATORS, CONVENE!
S31’s “Bart the Bad Guy” is basically wall-to-wall Avengers references and voice cameos from Marvel biz luminaries. For example, we get a supervillain named Chinos (Kevin Feige) and two “Marble Studios” execs (played by the Russo brothers) who go to extreme lengths to stop Bart from spoiling their film. Said film includes more off-brand Marvel Super Heroes than we have time to list. Our top two personal favourites: Magnesium Man (Iron Man) and Airshot (Hawkeye).
2. A NEXT LEVEL EARWORM
In The Simpsons Movie, Plopper burrowed his snout into our hearts, Homer’s especially. The peak of their gluttonous bond came when our curly-tailed friend was rebranded as Spider-Pig (a transformation that earned him his own Spider-Man theme parody). Interestingly, Spider-Pig’s adventures were woven back into the show via a number of title screen gags. Flybys, usually, that started out heroic and full of webslinging. Then they…uh, kind of ended when he got gunned down. Dark.
1. ALL THE REFERENCES YOU CAN STAN
S013’s “I Am Furious (Yellow)” is peak Marvel x The Simpsons – an episode that’s absolutely packed full of excelsior. The fun began with the obvious head nod that was Homer getting angry, falling into green paint, and becoming The Ingestible Bulk. (Note: the writers were so pleased with their work here, The Bulk would make a return visit in S19’s “Eternal Moonshine of the Simpson Mind”.)
But the “nuff said” clincher for the top spot in our list came from the sheer amount of Stan Lee in this ep. We still laugh ourselves silly when he ruins Database’s Batmobile toy by cramming a Thing action figure right through it, just to prove their compatibility. And the icing on the cake happens when our beloved comic creator one-ups Homer by casually transforming into the actual Hulk. In his mind, at least. Which, as Comic Book Guy rightly deduced, was not exactly in “mint condition.”