Pop Culture

When real people star in comic books

Though they’re slower than a speeding bullet and less powerful than a locomotive, real people are muscling in on Superman and Spider-Man’s turf: comic books.

Image: Handout publicity photo of the cover of "Female Force: Paula Deen"

Comic books starring real people

Not everyone in a comic book is faster than a speeding bullet or swings on a web. TV stars, musicians, politicians, popes, comedians and even accused criminals often show up on comic book racks next to superhumans in spandex. Here are some colorful examples. Paula Deen Deen lost book deals, contracts and her television cooking show on Food Network after she admitted using a racial slur, but at least she gained a comic book: "Female Force: Paula Deen," detailing her career and fall from grace.

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Lindsay Lohan

Lindsay Lohan’s lifestyle has been wild enough to seem like the stuff of comic books ... and in 2011 it became one. Titled "Infamous: Lindsay Lohan," it featured the actress in a prison jumpsuit on the cover.

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Mark Zuckerberg

How did a nerdy computer programmer wind up the youngest billionaire in the world, the subject of a high-profile film, and now the star of his own comic book? It's complicated ... but this biographical comic from Canada's Bluewater Productions tries to explain it in 48 pages.

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Justin Bieber

Having already cemented his place in the hearts of teenage girls across the globe, pop star Justin Bieber took on the realm of comic books. Bluewater Productions devoted 32 pages to the young Canadian’s biography and portrays his swoon-inducing likeness on the cover in a manner fittingly reminiscent of Antoine de Saint-Exupery’s classic children's novella, “The Little Prince.”

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Ellen DeGeneres

Looking to take the comics medium where it had rarely gone before -- to female readers -- Canada's Bluewater Productions launched Female Force, a series of biographies of prominent women. Bluewater contacts the celebrities profiled and offers to donate one-third of the proceeds from their comic to the charity of their choice; Ellen DeGeneres accepted the offer and chose the Humane Society.

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Martha Stewart

With a daytime TV show, a magazine, best-selling books and myriad other media ventures, it seems Martha Stewart has no worlds left to conquer -- except maybe comic books. But then Bluewater Productions filled that gap with this issue of its "Female Force" series of women-centric biography comics. (In contrast to "Infamous: Lindsay Lohan," Bluewater chose to show Martha in an apron, not a prison jumpsuit.)

Bluewater Productions Inc.
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Lady Gaga

Her seemingly endless array of outrageous get-ups could put even a superhero's array of capes, cowls and spandex to shame. LIttle wonder, then, that pop diva Lady Gaga was the star of the first issue of "Fame," a series focusing on "culturally relevant celebrities." You hear that, little monsters? You're cuturally relevant!

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Stephen Colbert and Spider-Man

Is there anything Stephen Colbert can't do? Not only does he make merciless fun of right-wing pundits on Comedy Central and jam with top rock musicians -- in Marvel Comics' fantasy universe, he ran for president and, in Amazing Spider-Man #573, teamed up with the web-swinger himself. Which just goes to show: Truthiness is stranger than fiction.

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Image: Archie Comics, Obama v. Palin

Obama and Palin meet Archie

Archie Comics publisher Jon Goldwater called a "metaphoric battle between left and right." The story behind the covers: Archie and Reggie are running against each other for student president and manage to embroil Obama and Palin in their campaigns. "That's what makes our country great," Goldwater told TODAY.com in September 2010. "It's a very brisk and vigorous debate."

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O.J. Simpson

"He Said/She Said Comics" was a short-lived series published in 1993-94 by an outfit called First Amendment Publishing. Successfully capitalizing on the then high-profile saga of "Long Island Lolita" Amy Fisher in its first issue, the comic when on to make hay out of the Bill Clinton/Gennifer Flowers imbroglio (Monica Lewinsky wasn't even on the radar yet), Tonya Harding, and, for its fifth-issue finale, the sensational O.J. Simpson murder trial.

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The Avengers on David Letterman

The Avengers are Marvel Comics' premier superhero team, with heavy hitters like Iron Man, Thor, and Captain America. But none of those guys was around when the Avengers fictively guest-starred on "Late Night with David Letterman" in this January 1984 issue. Thus it fell to a bunch of second-stringers to deal with the deadly gadgets that a rather incompetent villain had rigged the studio with -- and to Dave himself to clobber the bad guy with an oversize doorknob.

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Already boasting a visual aesthetic that borrowed liberally from the wardrobe of superheroes, KISS’s jump from the concert stage to the comic book stand was both natural and somewhat inevitable, given the band’s notoriously insatiable penchant for promotional merchandising. Were the appearance of their high-decibel heroes doing battle with the fearsome likes of Dr. Doom in their own comic book not enough to entice dutiful KISS fans, the band added an extra patina of headline-begging sensationalism by printing the comic in their own blood. On the inner-spread of the comic came photos of the band manfully drawing blood and pouring vials of the stuff into the red ink.

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Spider-Man on Saturday Night Live

Stephen Colbert isn't the first late-night comic Spider-Man has teamed up with. In this zany 1978 issue of his team-up comic, the web-swinger is planning on a pleasant date with girlfriend Mary Jane as part of the audience on "Saturday Night Live." Unfortunately, a villain called the Silver Samurai is after a ring mistakenly sent to John Belushi, and it takes Spidey and the entire SNL cast to outwit him.

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Pope John Paul II

One of the odder projects to come from Marvel Comics, the people who gave us Spider-Man and the Hulk, was this reverent 1982 biography of Pope John Paul II. In fairness, the pontiff did lead a colorful life, living under Nazi occupation in Poland and surviving an assassination attempt. The comic sold in the millions, much of it through religious channels, prompting a 1984 follow-up about Mother Teresa.

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Superman meets Pat Boone

In one of the weirdest chapters of Superman's career, singer Pat Boone, then at the height of his fame as a teen idol, guest-starred in the May 1959 issue of Lois Lane comics. In case you're wondering why Superman is so worried about the song topping the charts, it's because the lyrics contained a hidden clue to his secret identity. Somehow we think he needn't have worried.

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