This is Foggy Ruins of Time, a feature that provides the cultural context behind certain comic book characters/behaviors. You know, the sort of then-topical references that have faded into the “foggy ruins of time.” To wit, twenty years from now, a college senior watching episodes of "Seinfeld" will likely miss a lot of the then-topical pop culture humor (like the very specific references in “The Understudy” to the Nancy Kerrigan/Tonya Harding scandal).
Today, based on a suggestion from reader Rob H., we take a look at the bizarre homage to My Mother My Car by John Broome and Gil Kane in 1967's Green Lantern #52!
It has now been a year since we have lost the great comedic actor, Jerry Van Dyke, younger brother to the great Dick Van Dyke. While Jerry was never quite to the same level as his legendary older brother, Jerry was still a very successful actor, especially later in his life when he Craig T. Nelson's sidekick on Coach.
In the Fall 1965 season, Jerry starred in one of the most critically lambasted television sitcoms of all time. My Mother the Car was about a lawyer, played by Van Dkye, who went to buy a second car for his family and instead found himself drawn to a vintage car from the 1920s. After purchasing the car, he discovers that the car is actually the reincarnation of his dead mother.
So his mother would talk to him (and only him) through the car's radio (the great Ann Sothern did her voice). The car turned out to be a very rare and valuable car and so one of the key plot points of the series is Van Dkye's character trying to keep a jerky rich guy from getting his hands on the car.
What's funny is that the show's creators, Allan Burns and Chris Hayward, were no slackers. The very same season that they introduced My Mother the Car, they also debuted Get Smart! Burns later co-created the Mary Tyler Moore Show, Rhoda and Lou Grant (granted, the latter two were both spinoffs of the first show, but even if he "only" created the Mary Tyler Moore Show, that would still be very impressive). In fact, the man that Burns created those shows with, James L. Brooks, got his start as a television writer while writing for My Mother the Car (that is likely why the Simpsons later did "The Lovematic Grandpa," about Grandpa Simpson getting stuck in a love measurement machine, as an homage to Brooks' early days).
The show lasted for just a single season, in which it was ridiculed like crazy. However, it was certainly memorable and that is why inspired Broome to adapt the show's concept into Green Lantern #52!