On History: A-Team/FF Crossover

By | Tuesday, September 27, 2016 3 comments
The fifth episode in the very first season of The A-Team was called "A Small and Deadly War," originally airing on February 15, 1983. The series was almost an instant hit, and helped cement creator Stephen J. Cannell's place in television.

Cannell, despite often using formulaic scripts, was a solid writer. He was very careful about making sure that his audiences were clear on all the characters and the plot for every episode. As such, even with the opening narration in The A-Team, each episode's script made clear who the four protagonists were and how they related to one another very clearly, usually in the opening minutes of the story before the first commercial break.

Which leads us to "Howlin' Mad" Murdock, the pilot of the fictional team. He was very clearly defined as being certifiably insane, and many episodes included a sequence where the other team members had to break him out of a mental institution. He was also shown, throughout each episode to do stereotypically crazy things like talk to his invisible friends or suddenly decide he is a fish. ALong those lines, the producers have him, in that "A Small and Deadly War" episode, a comic book to read while the team was discussing their plan. Keep in mind that this was before Maus, Watchmen and Dark Knight Returns so comics were still very much relegated to "kids' stuff" in the minds of society at large, and this display was meant to showcase Murdock's ostensibly juvenile mind.

The cover is clearly seen and can readily be identified as Fantastic Four #253. Although cover-dated April 1983, it would have been released in January of that year, meaning that it would have only JUST come off the racks when the episode aired. The issue was in the middle of John Byrne's Negative Zone saga, which ended with the Fantastic Four switching to their all-black uniforms, the first team-wide uniform change since they first started wearing them.

The following year, Murdock could be seen reading another Fantastic Four comic, this time in The A-Team comic's second issue. This time, he's reading #264. Interestingly, and impressively, that FF issue had only come out the month before as well! Presumably, though, they at least had the original art to stat into place and the FF issue hadn't actually been published when The A-Team #2 went to the printer itself.

"A Small and Deadly War" can be viewed below. The comic book sequence (not that there's much to it, honestly) is about 17 minutes in.
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Matt K said...

From the title, I thought for sure this would include the letters page (from one of Byrne's issues, I think) which featured a drawing of the Thing dressed up as Mr. T.

"I ain't gettin' in no spaceship, Richards!"


Matt K said...

And it was even connected with this, which goes to figure now that I see it. Neat.