DC Sketch Cover Madness: Goodbye, Goodie Rickles.
Don Rickles, the acidic stand-up comic who became world-famous not by telling jokes but by insulting his audience, died on Thursday at his home in Los Angeles. He was ninety years old.
For more than half a century, on nightclub stages, in concert halls and on television, Mr. Rickles made outrageously derisive comments about people’s looks, their ethnicity, their spouses, their sexual orientation, their jobs or anything else he could think of. He didn’t discriminate: his incendiary unpleasantries were aimed at the biggest stars in show business (Frank Sinatra was a favorite target) and at ordinary paying customers.
He even made an appearance in two issues of DC’s ancillary Fourth World book: “Superman’s Pal, Jimmy Olsen.” Kirby took the reins of DC’s lowest selling book, because WHY NOT — you can’t crash a plane that’s already hit the ground. Jack made that former bastion of Silver Age goofiness…interesting. He injected a bit of zaniness into the Man of Steel’s world, which had become pretty bland by this point. Like the rest of Kirby’s DC experiments, it didn’t soar, but it was at least different. Kind of wacky, in a good, charming way.
Nothing was more wacky than when Don Rickles showed up.
It’s not even clear if he was consulted or anything. Bear in mind, this was the same time frame that Sonny and Cher teamed up with Scooby Doo in the animated series, so…there’s kind of a precedent driven groundwork here.
We should note that there’s a metric ton of storytelling going on in these issues, with enough parallel narratives to make an episode of “Game of Thrones” green with envy. Not only is Superman adrift in space, but the Guardian is battling hoods in Metropolis. The book has that going for it, to be sure.
For a couple of issues the master of insults, the man who made a living out of roasting the whole world, made an appearance. In issue No. 141 he visited Morgan Edge at his GBS headquarters. Kirby gamely tried to replicate Rickles’ unique brand of humor, but like many of Jack’s attempts to be “hip” and “with it,” it fell a little flat. I hate saying that, because I love Kirby, but he was better at Epic, not so good at Groovy.
Anyway, back to Rickles. Or Rickleses. Because Kirby didn’t just have Don to work with here. He also had his very own creation, the bumbling, costume-wearing Goody Rickles, Don’s doppelganger and a GBS employee. Who goes on an adventure against a Science Mafia with the Guardian and Jimmy Olsen. That sentence alone is Epic.
Though Jack had an uphill climb replicating the distinct humor of Rickles, this is one case where the mere effort is all that’s needed. Jack Kirby once threw Don Rickles (and his doppelganger) into a Superman comic book that also featured the Guardian, Lightray and boom tubes. It’s like taking a piece from a Disney Princess puzzle and jamming it into a Van Gogh. I can’t really complain about the insanity of creativity that it represents, the veritable explosion of ideas.
Apparently, Mr. Rickles did not record his performance as Mr. Potato Head in “Toy Story 4” before he passed away. We will not have that performance, but we will at least always have the two issues of “Superman’s Pal, Jimmy Olsen.”
I wonder if Goody and Don will get a “Rebirth” appearance? One can hope.
Oh…and the cover text, that I hand lettered? That craziness is from the actual cover of the comic. “Defoliants in your succotash” and “Landmines in your lunchbox” were legit cover copy. I felt like it was so crazy, I just needed to run with it.