With Robert Downey Jr. portraying Iron Man, Scarlett Johansson as Black Widow, and Jason Momoa as Aquaman, the notion of celebrities in comic book films is nothing new - but the history of famous people turning up in comic books is even older than that. Long-time readers of Marvel or DC Comics will no doubt fondly remember all the times their favorite comic book characters crossed paths with larger-than-life figures from the real world.
Most celebrity appearances in mainstream comic books are limited to minor cameos, but every so often, a famous person actually plays a legitimate role in the plot of a series. Some of the greatest comic book runs ever printed have prominently featured notable cultural figures, and some of the most significant superheroes of all time have brushed shoulders with the real-life rich and famous.
Marshall Mathers is better known by his stage name of Eminem - or as the real Slim Shady - and he’s still recognized worldwide as one of the most notorious rappers. His impact on pop culture is wide-reaching, but Eminem himself was influenced by multiple forms of media, including comic books. Slim even teamed up for a full-scale action adventure with his favorite anti-hero.
Eminem/The Punisher places Mathers directly into conflict with Frank Castle, who he doesn’t realize is trying to save him from a hitman hired by the Parents Music Council. After Eminem improbably knocks out the Punisher during their first encounter, the two team up to take down the bad guy. Once their mission is complete, Castle pledges to follow up with the Parents Music Council and Eminem says to tell them "Shady sent ya."
When Marvel Comics launched X-Statix in the early-2000s, they intended it to be an eccentric new twist on the X-Men concept. Although creators succeeded in exaggerating the wackiness of the X-Men in the published X-Statix, they initially wanted to include a resurrected Princess Diana.
Writer Peter Milligan pitched the new team with Diana as part of the roster and Marvel approved it. The only thing that stopped the character from going public was outrage on behalf of the British royal family after the news broke. Against Milligan’s wishes, Marvel acquiesced and replaced Diana with Henrietta Hunter - a character who happens to look at whole lot like the late Princess of Wales.
The Ultimate Universe is a Marvel imprint personified by the Ultimates, an alternate version of the Avengers. It's a grittier, more modern reimagining of the mainstream Marvel Universe. Popular actor Freddie Prinze Jr. even appears in the Ultimates' first adventure - establishing the Ultimate Hulk as a genuinely frightening entity.
Unlike the mainstream Bruce Banner, the Ultimate Hulk has all of his personal traits exaggerated when he grows to monstrous proportions. This leads to the Hulk going on a rampage throughout New York City when he learns his ex, Betty Ross, is now dating Prinze. Hulk threatens to eat the actor and the Ultimates are forced to put him down publicly in response.
Thanks to 2019’s Captain Marvel, the Skrulls are now a widely recognized component of the Marvel Universe, but the shapeshifting alien race has been around in the comic books for decades. In all that time, the Skrulls have attempted to infiltrate Earth over and over. One of their wackiest schemes involves replacing the Marvel Universe version of the Beatles with four lookalike imposters.
Like the real Beatles, the four Skrulls eventually lose interest in their mission and part ways, but the Skrull version of John Lennon ends up sticking around the mainstream continuity for a while. The phony songwriter joins with MI-13 - the UK’s version of S.H.I.E.L.D. - alongside Captain Britain and Pete Wisdom. Skrull Lennon even fights for the Earth against his own people, but he gives up his life in the process.