Tonight on David Letterman: The Avengers!
While that list of special guests is impressive, however, it pales compared to the actual superheroes that made their way to NBC Studios in 1984 for their own appearance with David Letterman. The visit is immortalized within issue 239 of The Avengers comic book series—subtitled “Late Night of the Super-Stars with David Letterman”—with Hawkeye, Wonder Man, Black Widow, the Beast and Black Panther all on hand at 30 Rockefeller Center. It is explained early in the issue that Captain America and Thor were busy with “personal matters,” while other members of the superhero team were on the West Coast dealing with a “mysterious phenomena.”
Even with the absence of these heavyweights, however, Late Night with David Letterman was still an evening to remember, with a supervillain attack that not only had the Avengers initially on their heels but even featured Letterman himself getting into the act by whacking the culprit on the head with a giant doorknob.
“Late Night of the Super-Stars with David Letterman” begins with a previously absent Hawkeye returning to Avengers Mansion with his new bride Mockingbird. The couple barely get settled into their new home when an urgent phone call from Simon Williams, a.k.a. Wonder Man, results in an emergency “Avengers Assemble” alert.
“Here’s the situation,” Wonder Man explains. “My acting career hasn’t been going anywhere lately. So my agent, without my approval, used the fact that I’m a reserve Avenger to get me booked on David Letterman’s show. And now they want me to bring other Avengers along with me!”
Despite being busy with their own lives, the opportunity to appear on Late Night is something that the Beast, Black Widow and Black Panther can’t pass up. The announcement of the impending appearance by Earth’s Mightiest Heroes also attracts the attention of Fabian Stankowicz, an aspiring engineer from the Bronx who won the lottery and decided to use his new-found wealth to become a world famous supervillain.
In Stankowicz’s mind, the fastest way to fame is to defeat the Avengers. His first attempt ended in defeat at the hands of Iron Man, however, while a team of female Avengers easily thwarted a second assault a few months later. Armed with the knowledge that the Avengers would now be appearing on Late Night with David Letterman, Stankowicz believes that he is not only ready for a rematch but will also finally find the notoriety that he has been longing for as well.
With band leader Paul Shaffer donning a Captain America jersey in honor of the occasion, Hawkeye, Wonder Man, Black Widow, the Beast and Black Panther arrive at 30 Rockefeller Center for their late night appearance. The resulting interview doesn’t get very far, however, before Stankowicz unleashes a barrage of concussion grenades and a motorized steamroller on the unsuspecting superheroes.
The audience believes it is all part of the act, and Shaffer launches the World’s Most Dangerous Band into a version of “Wipeout” in the hopes of maintaining the illusion and keeping panic from erupting in the studio. As the Avengers struggle to defeat the mechanical creations, meanwhile, Stankowicz makes his way onto the stage and takes a seat next to Letterman.
“Good evening, Dave,” he begins. “I’m Fabian Stankowicz! I created the machines that have the Avengers helpless.” Letterman immediately realizes that Stankowicz is a “twisto” and decides to stall the upstart engineer until a security team can apprehend him. During the resulting conversation, Stankowicz reveals that a power-pack on his belt controls a force field that protects him from any assault by the Avengers. Being within the force field as well, Letterman pulls a giant doorknob out from under his desk and bashes the wannabe supervillain on the head with it.
“I’m really sorry it had to end this way,” the late night talk show host explains. “I’ve never had to do this to a guest before. But I’m afraid you stepped just a lit-tle out of line!” Letterman then removes the power-pack from Stankowicz and turns off the force field. By this time, the Avengers themselves have finally destroyed the mechanical devices that had been wreaking havoc on the set.
“And would you believe there’s more to come?” David Letterman rhetorically asks the audience. “We’re going to pause now for a commercial message while we hose down the studio—and then we’ll be right back!”
Later that evening, Wonder Man anxiously awaits the airing of his pending debut on national television. Just as Late Night with David Letterman begins, however, it is interrupted by a special bulletin reporting on “a chemical barge burning out of control on New York’s east river.” While Wonder Man may have missed his fifteen minutes of fame, he quickly rallies the Avengers to assist with the crisis nonetheless.
“Remember, there’s a three-hour time difference between the coasts,” the Beast tells Wonder Man as they prepare to leave Avengers Mansion. “If we can get this mess cleaned up in time, maybe some folks in California will still see you get your big break.”
And if not, the Beast adds, “Well, that’s show biz!”