Fantastic Four Shout-Out on Silver Spoons

By | Thursday, May 06, 2021 Leave a Comment
Silver Spoons
I stumbled a cross a clip from the sitcom Silver Spoons in which Kate (played by Erin Gray) presents Ricky (played by Rick Schroder) with "that issue of The Fantastic Four where the Hulk meets the Thing" as a gift. Being the old Fantastic Four geek that I am, I could tell the actual comic being used as a prop was not a Thing vs. Hulk issue, despite the cover not being shown very clearly at all. So of course I had to spend some time tracking down just what issue it actually was.

OK, as I said, the front cover isn't very visible. Gray keeps it rolled up before she hands it to Schroder and, when Schroder takes it and opens it up, he keeps the back of the issue facing the camera. Fortunately (for my purposes here, at least) the ad on the back cover is pretty recognizable. It showed up on and in a number of both Marvel and DC books right around the time I was seriously getting into comics. You can watch the clip yourself from the link above, but the ad being shown is obviously this one...
Comic Book Lego Ad
It sports a 1982 copyright on it and showed up in a variety of issues in the back half of that year. The episode of Silver Spoons in question, "A Little Magic," aired in December 1982, so that aligns pretty well as the prop department likely would've just gotten a recent issue off the newstand when they filmed everything a few months earlier.

(As a complete aside, that episode does feature a young Jason Bateman, who was a somewhat regular cast member for the show's first two seasons, and -- more interestingly -- a 24-year-old Sharon Stone!)

Going through my collection, there are exactly four Fantastic Four issues that feature that Lego ad on the back cover: #248-251.
Fantastic Four #248 Fantastic Four #249 Fantastic Four #250 Fantastic Four #251
None of those issues feature the Hulk at all. In fact, the then-most-recent issue of the title to include the Hulk was #167 from 1976. Clearly much too early to sport that Lego ad!

And from what little of the front cover we can see, that doesn't seem to match the visuals of any of the FF covers that included that Lego ad. The comic they used on the show seems to feature a lot of reds and yellows, including what appears to be a large yellow banner above the logo. Definitely larger than the "Marvel Comics Group" banner most Marvel titles sported around that time. My original thought was it was one of those cover blurbs/ads announcing a Toys 'R' Us contest, but those ads ran in 1980. There were some similar ads that ran in 1982 for a ten-speed bike contest, but A) those were at the very start of the year and B) the ones on the FF issues at least were primarily black and green. Plus all those issues seemed just old enough that it would've been too much of a pain to (in 1982) track them down unless they really wanted to be accurate to the script and, as none of those issues feature the Hulk either, that struck me as really unlikely.

Going back to that ad. In going through the rest of my collection, I could confirm the ad also appears on the back covers of Avengers #225, Daredevil #190, Captain America #278, Conan #2, Weird War Tales #117, and Wolverine #3. But here again, none of the cover visuals seem to line up with what we do see in the episode. Avengers #225 does have a lot of yellow across the top, but there's almost no red anywhere on the cover at all.

Amazing Spider-Man #235
All of those issues are dated towards the end of 1982, so at that point, I just started browsing cover galleries for issues that came out around the same time. I eventually came across Amazing Spider-Man #235. Primarily a red cover, and there's a handy yellow banner across the top advertising the Spider-Man cartoon on NBC, the same network Silver Spoons aired on. Spidey's eye does seem to also match the fairly central white patch you can partially make out in the episode, and a current ebay auction for the issue shows that Lego ad on the back cover. I think we have a match!

That it's a Spider-Man comic with no trace of either the FF or the Hulk would explain why Gray keeps the issue rolled up, and why Schroder only really displays the back cover. They're trying to hide the fact that the prop doesn't match the script. I suspect someone in the prop department thought the NBC logo on the cover was a nice touch and that was more important than the Fantastic Four or Spider-Man or whomever. From a story perspective, the comic's only purpose is an excuse to have Gray enter the room, interact briefly with Schroder, and leave. What issue it actually is is irrelevant. But that prompts me to ask: why not adjust the dialogue to match the prop? "That issue of Spider-Man where he fights Tarantula" would work just as well in this context, and then you wouldn't have to have the actors and camera operaters trying to dance around a stupid -- and ultimately inconsequential -- discrepency.

As a Fantastic Four fan, I appreciate the shout-out to my favorite superhero comic, but it literally took more effort on their part to get it wrong than it would have to get it right.
Newer Post Older Post Home