May 19, 2022

Gabbing Geek

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Slightly Misplaced Comic Book Characters Case File #360: Goody Rickles

Jack Kirby claimed he was a Don Rickles fan once. Rickles did not approve.

The late Don Rickles made a career out of insult comedy.  He heckled back at some heckles, discovered he had a knack for it, and became a hugely successful stand-up comic as a result, often using his catch-all insult “hockey puck,” something I only learned recently that explains quite a bit about a throwaway gag in the original Toy Story.  Rickels did a lot of guest appearances in his life on different TV shows, and one time someone asked him if it would be OK to put him in a comic book as himself.  He agreed, but things did not go according to plan.

See, Rickles thought he was going to be in a quick cameo to heckle Superman.  But then DC gave the assignment to Jack Kirby, and he had…other ideas.  Hence, Goody Rickles.

Kirby had come to DC and was offered any book he wanted.  Kirby, realizing that would mean displacing a creative team, wasn’t overly comfortable with that, so he asked to take on a book without anyone currently assigned to the book.  That turned out to be Superman’s Pal Jimmy Olsen.  That series was aimed primarily at younger readers, so naturally, Kirby used it to introduce Darkseid.

Look it up.  Darkseid’s first appearance was in the pages of Jimmy Olsen.

Now, Kirby didn’t quite have carte blanche as he’d been told, mostly in that DC had other artists redraw Superman’s face to make sure he didn’t look too much like something Jack Kirby drew.  They sometimes did the same with Jimmy Olsen.  Kirby got around that by drawing the back of Superman’s head as often as possible.  But beyond that, he seemed to be able to do whatever crazy thing he thought of.  So, when two of Kirby’s assistants came up with the idea of Don Rickles heckling Superman, they pitched the idea to the King of Comics, and it turned out Kirby was also a fan.  Permission was granted by Rickles’s manager, and what was meant for a two-page cameo was cemented in.  However, DC editor-in-chief Carmine Infantino said it needed to be a two parter, and Kirby decided to go for it.

So, he created Goody Rickles, a character that appeared in all of two comics:  Superman’s Pal Jimmy Olsen #139 and 141 (#140 was a jumbo-sized reprint special).  The idea was Goody Rickles worked for media magnate Morgan Edge.  He looked exactly like Don Rickles, had the same speech patterns, and was kind of a pain-in-the-ass.  But he wasn’t in any way related to the real Don Rickles.  One day, Edge wanted to bring the real Rickles in to cut a deal with him because…I have no idea.  The guy running the media empire wanted in on the Don Rickles Game.  Edge sensed that Goody would somehow ruin the deal and decided to get him to go away for the day.  And, for some reason, Goody had been pranked into wearing a homemade superhero costume of some kind.

By the by, Goody was supposed to be nicer than Don Rickles.  That was the big difference.

Then again, I have actually read Superman’s Pal Jimmy Olsen #141.  My grandparents had a small vacation home which had a large box of dozens if not hundreds of old comic books, mostly comedic stuff but there were a handful of Superman related books, and one of them was Jimmy Olsen #141.  The first time I saw it, I was incredibly disappointed that Superman only appeared on the cover, with most of the adventure showing the Guardian and Jimmy Olsen, with Goody tagging along, trying to find an antidote for some poison that Intergang leader Bruno “Ugly” Mannheim had tricked them into ingesting.  Meanwhile, the real Rickles was being wooed unsuccessfully by Edge, a man doing his best to make sure the two Rickleses never met.

Naturally, they did.

That Jimmy face doesn’t look very KIrby-ish…

Don Rickles then left, having not made a deal with Edge.  No one died of anything but embarrassment, and that included the real Don Rickles.  Rickles himself didn’t comment on the matter much, but when he did, he would say he felt exploited after agreeing to a quick cameo, and he didn’t want to talk about it beyond that.  It probably didn’t help that Kirby’s idea of funny for a comic book wasn’t really all that much like Rickles’s act.

As far as I know, no one has really used Goody Rickles again, but that would appear to be for a very, very good reason.

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