This fall Svengoolie Meets the DC Universe in the pages of DC Comics!
Svengoolie meets the Justice League and the Joker in the pages of DC Comics starting in October. We chat with Rich Koz and Dan DiDio about the event.
Image: DC Comics
This October, Svengoolie fans are in for a real treat — and you won't have to go knocking door to door in a costume to get it. You will, however, be required to visit your local comic book dealer. In the biggest crossover since Burt Ward fought Bruce Lee, Svengoolie will meet the Justice League in the pages of DC Comics.
DC and MeTV are bringing fans one of the quirkiest pop-culture mashups of all time when Svengoolie Meets the DC Universe, a series of custom inserts featured in DC comic books goes on sale throughout the month of October. Each two-page chapter will be written by DC Comics co-publisher and Svengoolie superfan Dan DiDio, with an assist from Svengoolie himself, plus art by Christopher Jones.
Svengoolie is not exactly a stranger to DC Comics. In 2018, Mad Magazine lovingly spoofed Svengoolie (and "MehTV"). Now, the iconic horror host will rub shoulders with Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman and more!
Look for the first installment of the four-part tale in DC comics published on October 16. Collect the rest of the story in titles hitting stands on subsequent Wednesdays — October 23, October 30 and November 6. (You can find a list of DC issues coming out those weeks here and here.)
Fans will cherish this charming adventure, which celebrates the 40th anniversary of Rich Koz first stepping into the Svengoolie role.
We chatted with Rich and Dan to talk about this surprising team-up, horror comics, turtlenecks, puns and "disco scarves." This conversation has been edited and condensed for clarity.
MeTV: How did this epic crossover come about? Whose idea was it?
Rich Koz: The basic beginning of it was when I was doing the C2E2 [Chicago Comic & Entertainment Expo] convention a couple of years ago. And there was a guy waiting in line — who just happened to be Dan! I couldn’t believe he was waiting in line just to say hello to me! And we talked, we got together and became friends. He always talked about putting me in MAD Magazine. From there, he said, "We should do something else with you." From there, we came up with this idea.
Dan DiDio: We felt there was a lot of crossover with his audience and ours. It just sounds like a natural mix to bring the two together.
MeTV: Dan, talk about your fandom of Svengoolie.
DD: I've been a fan. AT&T buys Warner Bros. and I’m on DIRECTV all of the sudden. And the big benefit of that is that I get MeTV, and that’s where I discover Svengoolie. I’ve been a longtime horror fan and I’ve always enjoyed the hosted situations. I grew up in the New York area. My sister was actually good friends with John Zacherle who was a host for a period of time in the New York / Philadelphia area, as well. This has always been a part of my life, my childhood, so naturally, I became a fan of the Svengoolie show. As the fates would have it, I was in Chicago for an appearance that Rich was at.
MeTV: What about Svengoolie's show appealed to you?
DD: I always enjoy the perspective Sven brings to the movie. I find it so enjoyable because he's having so much fun with the movie. You get to see these really great movies and [B-movies] and crazy ideas on the screen, but Rich treats them all with the same level of fun and excitement and love and exploration and behind-the-scenes. It helps validate the love of a genre that’s hard to come by these days.
RK: One thing that comes from me being a fan of the movies, one thing people seem to appreciate, is when we go over the cast list and tell what their connections are and other things that they’ve done. I’ve always been the kind of guy who’s watching a movie and sees somebody and goes, “I know who that is! And I don’t know why!” So, I like to help fill in the blanks a little bit and make the connections for people. That was what I always found interesting when watching some old movie — "Wait a minute! That’s Walter Brennan!"
MeTV: Rich, talk about your attachment to DC Comics.
RK: I must have been 10 years old when I discovered them and I just loved all the superheroes. I still have at home my comics back to, like, 1961 or 1962. I’ve always loved the characters. I have my favorites — Batman, Superman, The Flash. It’s stuff that’s always inspired me. I’ve always said that reading comic books helped me to learn how to write stories and how to write contained episodes. It was very educational — and, you know, it was just great storytelling! And great characters.
MeTV: Dan, what do you think the fan reaction will be to seeing Svengoolie alongside the DC characters?
DD: I think they’ll have a great time. When we did the Svengoolie appearance in MAD Magazine, the people who were most excited about it was the staff itself. They really enjoyed working on it and they were fans of the show. If you look at the pieces that they did, you can see there is a lot of love on the page. What I like to do is identify common themes that our fanbase gathers around, and I think the Svengoolie show is one of those things, so I expect fans to react very positively.
MeTV: Christopher Jones’ artwork is spectacular.
DD: He did a beautiful job. By the way, we picked him because I saw him on Svengoolie. You had him as a guest one day and he was talking about our stuff. When it came time to pick the team, I wanted to go with people who had that sense of connection.
RK: On our set, if you look in the background when we’re by the desk, there is a portrait of me that Chris made that is sort of a Basil Gogos-type picture that he created and presented to me when we met him at one of the conventions. Just such a talented guy. The artwork — when we saw this stuff, it really blew us away. You look at some of the images of me and it's like, man, he got the expressions! He got my less-than-perfect posture! He really captured it so well.
MeTV: This event is in celebration of Svengoolie's 40th anniversary. Looking back at the Seventies, horror comics were notably popular. As Rich was making his debut, DC had titles on the stand like House of Secrets, Ghosts, Weird War Tales, Secrets of Haunted House. The pages of House of Secrets, in particular, had a host named Cain. Rich, the idea of how you present things — was that born from comics? Horror comics were huge in the '50s. Was the whole concept of the "horror host" born in comics?
RK: It seems represented when you go back to the EC Comics that had the Crypt Keeper, and the various characters in the various magazines, who would open the story with wisecracks and puns and then come back at the end with the same sort of thing. I think at first, the first hosts like Vampira [Maila Nurmi] and John Zacherle, they just went with their own personalities. I don’t know that it was planned that it was doing the same sort of thing that had happened in the comics, but obviously there is a parallel there. It’s the same sort of thing with the puns. If you watch my show, you know how pun-heavy the show can be.
MeTV: And there is no shortage of puns in Svengoolies Meets the DC Universe.
DD: I would say that monster craze also started because of the TV. A lot of the Universal movies and these monster movies became available on television and they started putting packages on these local channels. And each one of the channels started to create their hosts. I think what’s great about Sven — you can see out there, there are dozens of horror hosts, but Sven really rose above that, and by going national, keeps this whole genre alive.
MeTV: Dan, I’ve noticed one of the big trends in comics, many classic reproduction issues have been coming out. In addition, DC is launching a new horror line, Hill House, in October. Have you seen interest in horror comics coming back?
DD: We recently put out a facsimile of House of Secrets No. 92, which is the first appearance of Swamp Thing, who was a breakout character for DC overall. Yes, there is a resurgence of horror. We’re seeing that more and more. We did a really crazy mash-up of DC and zombies, called DCeased. It's actually our bestselling series of the year right now. It just shows that people have an appetite for horror.
MeTV: Rich, did you have any input into which characters you interacted with in Svengoolie Meets the DC Universe?
RK: Originally, Dan sent us a really nice outline of how the story would work. And for the most part, we just went with what he sent us. I think I might have helped get Harley Quinn in there for a brief moment—
DD: I think you got Joker in there, too!
RK: Oh, did I? [Laughter] Okay. Yeah, as I said, there are all sorts of my favorite characters in there. The fact that I get to interact with Wonder Woman and the John Stewart Green Lantern is so cool and… Dan really had the outline of the story.
DD: Rich and his associates are the ones who put the words in everybody’s mouths. So, therefore, when you are reading it, you can be assured that every bad pun is theirs. [Laughter]
RK: And even some good ones!
DD: Let’s not get crazy. [Laughter]
MeTV: Rich, you talked about this comic featuring some of your favorite characters. Why are they your favorite characters?
RK: Going back to when I was a kid, Superman was the all-American idol. Being a small and scrawny kid, it was like, "Boy, I’d like to be like him!" And Batman, not only was he very athletic and did the fighting and everything, but it was the intelligence he had and the fact that he was a detective and could figure things out that other people couldn’t. I always found that really fascinating. And, I loved his utility belt. There were those little capsules in it. He could put just about anything in there — color TVs, things like that. It was always amazing to me, all the gadgetry he had.
DD: By the way, what’s fun for us at DC, with Svengoolie, Wonder Woman precedes the show, Batman was running there for a while, as well. Our characters were really being enjoyed on the channel.
MeTV: Speaking of DC characters, two of them come to mind — Zatara and Zatanna. They are magicians who wear black tops, black capes, tuxedo tops. Rich, were these characters a sartorial influence on Svengoolie?
RK: As much an influence as Mr. Peanut would be. [Laughter] There was really no connection there.
MeTV: In that case, how did you come up with Svengoolie's look? If people go back to your first appearance as "Son of Svengoolie" in 1979, you don’t look like the original Svengoolie, Jerry G. Bishop. So how did you come up with your look?
RK: When I did my original audition, I looked exactly like Jerry G. Bishop. I had the long, green wig and the sweatshirt and everything. The people at the station there were like, well, that’s a hippie look and it’s getting past the time of hippies, so you should look different. I went and looked through the junk I had at home. I found a top hat that I had from when my friends and I had made a silent movie — I was the villain. I found a five-dollar, double-breasted tuxedo coat that I got when they were selling used stock at a tuxedo place. I wore a bad, green disco scarf — for reasons I still don’t know — and I used to wear a chain. I thought, oh, that looks very horror like! But actually, the chain was from a wall clock that looked like a pocket watch. That was another mistake, because any time I moved, the chain would hit the microphone and cause problems. After a while, I made the brilliant change that instead of wearing just a different T-shirt every week, I would wear a turtleneck. Brilliant! Under hot lights in a studio! A turtleneck! What genius! Eventually, we got to the red tuxedo shirt and it all worked out.
DD: Turtlenecks are coming back in style! [Laughter]
RK: Someday, all those clothes will come back in style.
MeTV: Dan, is Svengoolie now an honorary member of the DC Universe?
DD: I think he’s going to be an honorary member of the Justice League by the time we’re done with this. Which could explain why we’re disbanding the team at the end of this year! [Laughter]
RK: I’m honored and somewhat unsure of what my powers would be.
MeTV: Any tease for the fans at New York Comic Con and what they should expect to see?
DD: What I'd like to say is — for all the rubber chickens we see on the Svengoolie show — I think we'll finally see the revenge of the rubber chickens!
Fans attending New York Comic Con will get a chance to learn more about this comic and celebrate Svengoolie’s 40th anniversary during a special tribute panel hosted by Dan DiDio on Friday, October 4, from 2:45–3:45pm at the Jacob Javits Convention Center, room 1A24. For more information on Svengoolie, please visit svengoolie.com. For the latest information on the World’s Greatest Super-Heroes, visit the DC website at dccomics.com, the DC YouTube channel or follow @DCComics on social media.