In “The World Outside,” I examine comic books showing up in outside media, like TV shows, sports, novels and films.
Today, we look at a cute bit in a recent episode of the megahit TV series, This Is Us, and note how it could have been a spot where they could have fit in a cute callback to Smallville. Spoilers about This Is Us ahead!
Okay, so the concept of This Is Us is that it follows the lives of three siblings in the present day, but then also flashes back to events in their past to show how the past informs the present (which, well, of course it does). In a current plotline on the series, Kevin (played by Justin Hartley) is in rehab after becoming addicted to pain medication following an injury he suffered on a movie that he was filming.
A recurring plot point in the first season of the series is that Keven felt like an outsider in his family when he was younger, because his sister Kate and his brother Randall had so many more obvious issues as kids (Randall was black and adopted and Kate had been dealing with weight issues since she was a kid). Thus, when his family visits him in rehab, he brings up those issues with his family and his therapist.
They then flash back to 1991, when the family all went to a cabin for a vacation and Randall thinks that Kevin stole his brand-new glasses. Kevin says he didn’t, but it becomes a whole thing. Kevin goes out to the porch and just reads a comic book with a flashlight, in a moment familiar to many comic book fans out there.
The comic book that he is reading is Batman #468…
The story was the second part of a three-part story by Chuck Dixon, Tom Lyle and Andy Mushynsky that served as a sequel to the megahit Robin miniseries by Dixon and Lyle. King Snake, the villain that Robin beat in that series, comes to Gotham City to get revenge on Robin…
While Batman keeps trying to take on King Snake by himself to protect Robin…
Anyhow, the funny thing, of course, is that Justin Hartley previously played Green Arrow on Smallville…
So it would have been neat to see him reading a Green Arrow comic book.
Of course, the problem there is that, in 1991, Green Arrow was a “Mature Readers” comic book, as it was during Mike Grell’s run on the book…
So it wouldn’t really have worked, but maybe a Green Arrow back issue? Like his 1983 miniseries?
Anyhow, it’s a cute bit either way.
That’s it for this installment! If anyone else has a suggestion for an interesting time when a comic book ended up getting featured in a TV show, music video, novel, etc., drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org!
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