23 Titles of Films and No. 1 Singles by Elvis Presley that Pull Double Duty as Titles of Various Comic Book Tales
1. “Heartbreak Hotel” (1956)
Song: Elvis’s first No. 1 pop record, “Heartbreak Hotel” was also his first million-seller. The lyrics were based on a newspaper article about the suicide of a lonely man who jumped from a hotel window.
Story: Beauty and the Beast #2 (Marvel, 02/85)
Synopsis, courtesy of the Grand Comics Database: “Dazzler’s powers are out of control and she is recuperating under the watchful eye of Beast at the Heartbreak Hotel, a residence for displaced mutants. In such an intimate setting and under such extreme circumstances, the pair begin to foster a romance.” Yeah, I can see that happening.
2. “Don’t Be Cruel” (1956)
Song: “Don’t Be Cruel” was one of several songs recorded on July 2, 1956, during a marathon recording session at RCA studios in New York City; it went on to become Presley’s biggest-selling single recorded in 1956 and he performed it during all three of his appearances on The Ed Sullivan Show.
Story: Real Stuff #8 (Fantagraphics, 08/92)
A guy could do worse in life than be compared to the likes of Jack Kerouac or Ken Kesey. Published from 1990-95, Dennis Eichhorn’s award-winning autobiographical comic was riddled with tales of sex, drugs, and violence, many of them taking place in his native Idaho. In this issue, “Don’t Be Cruel” (art by Joe Zabel and Gary Dumm) is a story about the time Denny gets into a fight with a thug. Probably over a pair of blue suede shoes, is my guess.
3. “Love Me Tender” (1956)
Song: Presley performed “Love Me Tender” on The Ed Sullivan Show on September 9, 1956, about a month before his film of the same name was released. The next day, RCA received 1 million advance orders, making it a gold record before it was even released.
Story: Dark Horse Presents #22 (Dark Horse Comics, 09/88)
Several online sources cite this two-page story in Dark Horse’s anthology series as the first appearance of Duckman, and who am I to argue with information on the Internet? Created by Everett Peck, the foul-mouthed private detective who just happens to be a duck was sublimely voiced by Seinfeld’s Jason Alexander from 1994-97 in an animated series on the USA Network.
4. “All Shook Up” (1957)
Song: How many other hit songs have been inspired by a carbonated beverage? Legend has it “All Shook Up” composer Otis Blackwell wrote the song at Shalimar Music in 1956 after Al Stanton, one of the owners, shook a bottle of Pepsi and suggested Blackwell write a song based around the phrase “all shook up.”
Story: Chip ‘n’ Dale #27 (Dell, 09/61)
Then again, who’s to say Blackwell wasn’t also thinking of the misadventures of a pair of chipmunks and the irascible duck who hounds them (to the extent that a duck can hound, of course) with a tractor attachment designed to shake the nuts off of trees?
5. “Teddy Bear” (1957)
Song: One of Elvis’s biggest hits — it was a No. 1 hit for seven weeks in 1957, and also hit the top of the R&B and country charts — “Teddy Bear” also holds the unfortunate distinction of being the lullaby sung by all three adult stars during the early years of the Full House sitcom to get their youngest daughter, played by Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen, to go to sleep. And thus we find the elusive connection between Elvis Presley and How the West Was Fun.
Story: Amazing Adventures #3 (Marvel, 08/61)
Shortly before Fantastic Four #1 made a slight impact on Marvel’s fortunes, mild horror and monster mags were the order of the day. This issue featured a story about a woman who keeps her childhood bear nearby at all times, much to the dismay of her surveyor husband. He changes his tune after a strange encounter with a mountain lion that ends with the lion dead and the bear sporting inexplicable scratches. Why, yes, now that you mention it, The Twilight Zone was rather popular back in those days…
6. “Jailhouse Rock” (1957)/Jailhouse Rock (1957)
Song/Film: Though not Presley’s first film, Jailhouse Rock is arguably his first brush with scandal, with scenes featuring his ex-convict character in bed with co-star Judy Tyler — not to mention the use of “hell” as a swear word — causing much tut-tutting among the squares of the day. Tyler and her husband died in a car crash shortly after filming ended, and a devastated Presley refused to watch the film as a result. The single spent seven weeks at the top of U.S. charts.
Story: The Incredible Hulk #410 (Marvel, 10/93)
Appearing as it did during the mentally-stable-and-leading-a-clandestine-do-gooder-organization-while-smoking-a-pipe phase of the Hulk’s career, this issue finds Banner and fellow Pantheon member Ulysses trying to rescue Banner’s former girlfriend from a high-security prison protected by SHIELD. Hence the “Jailhouse Rock.” But who cares about all that because it’s also the issue Rick Jones proposes to Marlo! Yay!
7. “One Night” (1959)
Song: Though the song peaked at No. 4 on Billboard’s singles chart, it hit No. 1 twice on the UK singles chart. Don’t ask me who decides how these things happen. Originally titled “One Night (of Sin)” and recorded by New Orleans R&B musician Smiley Lewis, Presley reworked “One night of sin is what I’m now paying for” into “One night with you is what I’m now praying for.”
Story: The Mighty Thor (1998 series) #64 (Marvel, 07/2003)
From the Marvel Comics Database: “In New Mexico, Lord Thor visits a Catholic priest, who tells Thor that the Pope is going to denounce him publicly and call upon his followers to reject him. The resulting violence between the groups leads to the death of Trent as well as Virginia, Trent’s girlfriend.” You can safely assume Loki has something to do with whatever is happening in this issue.
8. “Stuck On You” (1960)
Song: “Stuck on You” was Presley’s first hit single after serving two years in the U.S. Army. He recorded the song during March 1960, and the single went to No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in late April 1960, becoming his 13th No. 1 single.
Story: Speedball #2 (Marvel, 10/88)
It’s highly unlikely Steve Ditko has Presley on the brain when he came up with the title for this tale, but it’s fun to think so. Speedball starred in 10 issues of his own title before moving on the New Warriors and, years later, getting the “grim ‘n’ gritty” makeover as part of Marvel’s Civil War crossover event. Before all that, the “Masked Marvel” did time battling such threats as the Sticker, shown here as a walking pile of mucilage. Innocent times.
9. “It’s Now or Never” (1960)
Song: Nice work if you can get it. After Presley approached music publisher Freddy Bienstock about a song inspired by “There’s No Tomorrow,” a 1949 song written by Aaron Schroeder and Wally Gold, Bienstock returned to his New York office to find songwriters who could take care of Presley’s request… and the only two in the office that day were Schroeder and Gold. Their half-hour’s work on new lyrics resulted in Presley’s biggest single of his career, with 20 million records sold around the world.
Story: Blood Pack #4 (DC, 06/95)
Debuting during DC’s big summer annual crossover of 1993, the members of Blood Pack were humans who gained strange new powers after they survived getting spine-raped by vicious alien predators (with no, I repeat, no blatant rip-off of either Alien or Predator intended). And if that wasn’t outlandish enough, the team’s four-issue mini-series finds them bankrolled by a Hollywood producer with dreams of a Real World-type show, superhero style. It’s as dumb as it sounds. But at least fans of Presley and forgettable ’90s superhero teams are well served by the story’s four chapter titles (“All Shook Up”/”Blue Hawaii”/”Viva Las Vegas”/”It’s Now or Never”).
10. G.I. Blues (1960)
Film: G.I. Blues was filmed in Hollywood, though some scenery was shot on location in Germany before Presley’s release from the army. The plot, like most Presley musicals, is almost beside the point (something about a bet involving a girl); what Presley fans tend to remember is this was his first film after he returned home from the U.S. Army, and that its success at the box office set Presley’s Hollywood career in stone, despite his desire to perform more dramatic roles.
Story: Rogue Trooper: The War Machine (2009 series) #2 (Rebellion, 02/2010)
Those of you not up on your British comic strips (and most days that includes me) may not be familiar with Rogue Trooper, a science-fiction strip that first appeared in the 2000 AD comic in 1981. It follows the adventures of Rogue, a G.I. (or Genetic Infantryman, a genetically modified, manufactured elite soldier) and his search for the Traitor General. Rebellion, a video game developer that branched out into comics in 2000, reprinted a 1987 story arc and titled it “G.I. Blues” in this issue.
11. “Surrender” (1961)
Song: A No. 1 song published by Elvis Presley Music in 1961, “Surrender” was adapted from an early 20th-century Italian ballad by Doc Pomus and Mort Shuman, who composed more than 500 rock-and-roll songs between 1958 and 1965. Shuman (music) and Pomus (lyrics) they achieved their greatest success writing for the Drifters and Presley, who recorded more than 20 of their songs.
Story: Captain America #345 (Marvel, 09/88)
There was a time during the late 1980s that Steve Rogers voluntarily gave up his role as Captain America, and while it wasn’t the first time he resigned from his post, it was a pretty shocking decision at the time. For the better part of two years, the comic followed the adventures of both Rogers (now called just The Captain) and his replacement, John Walker, who had a slightly more take-no-prisoners attitude about the job than his predecessor. “Surrender” saw an ultra-right-wing militia group, upon learning Walker’s secret identity, take his parent hostage and demanded he surrender himself to them. The outcome wasn’t pretty, and it left little doubt the original Cap was needed back in action — and soon.
12. “Little Sister” (1961)
Song: Another ditty composed by Pomus and Shuman, it reached No. 5 on the Billboard Hot 100 and No. 1 in the UK as a double A-side with “His Latest Flame.” Lyrics-wise, it’s a bit of a risqué song, with the singer, after realizing his girlfriend is mean and evil “like that old boll weevil,” deciding to try his luck with her little sister instead. Can’t see how that plan could possibly go wrong.
Story: Sweethearts #75 (Charlton, 01/64)
I can only find one story titled “Little Sister” and it’s a 10-pager in a romance comic published by Charlton Comics. There is only so much research I’m willing to do for this list, and since there are far more productive uses of my time than tracking down a 1964 romance book from a third-rate publisher like Charlton, I’m going to assume the plotline is exactly like that of Presley’s song. You’re welcome.
13. “His Latest Flame” (1961)
Song: The other song released on the same single as “Little Sister,” “His Latest Flame” tells the story of the singer’s best friend, whose latest flame is named Marie and has “the prettiest green eyes anywhere.” Then the twist at the end: she’s also the singer’s former girlfriend who swore to him just yesterday “she’d be mine eternally.” I get the feeling either Pomus or Shuman was having issues with a lady friend around this time.
Story: Marvel Adventures Fantastic Four #4 (Marvel, 11/2005)
You just knew someone writing a Fantastic Four story would use this title sooner or later, didn’t you? Marvel Adventures was an imprint designed for younger readers, with issues hosting standalone stories. Quoth Comic Vine: “The Fantastic Four don’t feel so fantastic when their powers start failing – right when a Sentinel has decided to target them! It’s not all bad, though; at least Johnny has a cool new girlfriend. Or is all this connected somehow…?”
14. “Good Luck Charm” (1962)
Song: “Don’t want a four-leaf clover/Don’t want an old horseshoe/Want your kiss ’cause I just can’t miss/With a good luck charm like you.” Okay, it’s a song about getting lucky. We get it already.
Story: Superman #3 (DC, Winter 1939)
Back in the early days of the comics business, comic books carried at least one full page of text to satisfy U.S. Postal Service requirements for magazine rates. In this prose piece by Hugh Langley, a tough guy named Lucky Malone and his cohort have successfully escaped from prison, thanks to what Malone believes is his lucky charm — a locket that he killed a Hindu mystic to steal some years ago. But that luck doesn’t last for long…
15. “Return to Sender” (1962)
Song: Recorded at Radio Recorders in Hollywood, it’s a song about a man mailing a letter to his girlfriend after an argument. She continually writes “Return to Sender” but he keeps mailing letters, refusing to believe the relationship is over. So that’s what a lazy stalker looks like. Fun fact #1: When the U.S. Postal Service issued its commemorative postage stamp honoring Elvis Presley in 1993, many stamp collectors mailed envelopes with the stamp to fictitious addresses in the hopes they would receive their letters with a “return to sender” postal marking. Those crazy kids.
Story: The Spectacular Spider-Man Annual #8 (Marvel, 1988)
Again, from the Grand Comics Database: “The return of Gwen Stacy’s clone embroils Spider-Man and the Young Gods in the machinations of the High Evolutionary.” Yeah, it’s going to be one of those stories, I’m afraid…
16. “Devil in Disguise” (1963)
Song: “I thought that I was in heaven/But I was sure surprised/
Heaven help me, I didn’t see/The devil in your eyes.” Fun Fact #2: In 1963, when the song was debuted to a British audience on the BBC television show Juke Box Jury, celebrity guest John Lennon voted the song “a miss” stating Elvis Presley was “like Bing Crosby now.” And not in the abusing-his-own-children way, one assumes.
Story: The Ultimates #10 (Marvel, 07/2003)
Kind of an appropriate title for this story, a chapter in a story arc that finds the Ultimates (the Avengers’ counterpart in Marvel’s Ultimate line-up of books) fighting the Chitauri, a shape-shifting alien race that first made themselves known to humans during the Second World War, and are now preparing their final assault. Too bad for them Captain America is also back to finish what they started…
17. Viva Las Vegas (1964)
Film: Easily Presley’s most iconic film, it was also his most successful as the box office, earning more than $5 million in 1964 dollars. Much of the credit for its success goes to the combination of Presley, Ann-Margret (whom Presley had an off-screen romance with), and choreographer David Winters, who oversaw the film’s 10 musical numbers.
Story: Iron Man: Viva Las Vegas (Marvel, 07-12/2008)
A three-issue mini-series starring Marvel’s newest movie star and written — entirely by coincidence, one assumes — by Jon Favreau, director of Iron Man’s big-screen debut. From the Grand Comics Database: “Tony is kicking back in Vegas when the city is overrun by a plague of lizards who are attracted to an ancient gold dragon artifact decorating a new casino.” And you can hear Tony thinking to himself: Not again…
18. Frankie and Johnny (1966)
Film: Presley plays Johnny, a riverboat gambler, while the role of “Frankie” went to Donna Douglas, best known for playing Elly May on TV’s The Beverly Hillbillies. Singing abounds. You know the drill.
Story: Daredevil: The Man Without Fear #5 (Marvel, 02/94)
When Marvel released a five-issue mini-series that updated the story of how young Matt Murdock came to be Daredevil, it tapped two of the artists best known for working on the character: writer Frank Miller and artist John Romita, Jr. “Frankie and Johnny” appears in the final issue of the series and features Romita in fictitious conversations with his collaborators, along with art samples that didn’t make it into the finished story.
19. Double Trouble (1967)
Film: OK, which one of you shouted “Elvis plays twins!” as soon as you saw this title? Alas, no — it’s a madcap caper in which Presley’s character, Guy Lambert, follows co-star Annette Day across Europe and gets mixed up in hijinks involving jewel thieves and a mysterious admirer who follows Lambert wherever he goes.
Story: Archie #579 (Archie Comics, 12/2007)
“Double Trouble” is the kind of phrase that pops up in a lot of places, including various comic book stories, and it’s unlikely any tribute to a light-footed Elvis flick is intended. In this issue of Archie, Archie befriends an older gentleman living in a retirement home caught in a love triangle that bears an eerie similarity to Archie’s situation with Betty and Veronica.
20. “Suspicious Minds” (1969)
Song: As Presley’s 17th and last No. 1 single in the U.S., “Suspicious Minds” is considered the song that returned Presley to career success following his 1968 Comeback Special.
Story: Batman: Gordon’s Law #2 (DC, 01/97)
Starting around the early 1990s, DC put out a number of one-shots and mini-series that followed the many characters in Gotham’s police department, including Commissioner James Gordon. It’s not hard to figure why: DC could reel in the Batman completists while also throwing a bone to fans of hard-boiled fiction (like Chuck Dixon, who wrote the mini-series). The plot: A bank heist leaves several officers dead and Gordon discovers that other cops may have been involved, leaving him wondering who he can trust within his own department.
21.The Trouble with Girls (1969)
Film: Based on the 1960 novel Chautauqua by Day Keene and Dwight Vincent Babcock, The Trouble with Girls is unique in that it’s an Elvis film in which Elvis is on screen for less than half the running time. It’s also billed as a comedy in which Dabney Coleman plays a pharmacist who’s murdered for being a lech… and, yeah, sorry to typecast, but I can totally see that.
Story: Actually, a whole comic book series was named The Trouble with Girls when it first appeared back in 1987. A tongue-in-cheek creation of Will Jacobs and Gerard Jones, TTwG stars Lester Girls, a dashing man of mystery (with a hint of Elvis in his looks, by the way) who wants nothing more than a boring job and a plain wife, but he can’t go for a drive without terrorists launching missiles at him, or some such nonsense. Wonderfully good fun.
22. “The Wonder of You” (1970)
Song: Originally released as a single by Ray Peterson in 1959, the song was recorded by several musicians until Presley took a crack at it in 1970, releasing it as a single on April 20 of that year with “Mama Liked the Roses” on the B-side. Both songs charted at No. 9 in the U.S., with “The Wonder of You” topping the UK singles chart for six weeks that summer.
Story: Preacher #61 (DC, 05/2000)
From GCD: “Herr Starr murders the leaders of the Grail. Jesse comes to the aid of Hoover.” I’m sure that means something to people who’ve read the series. It’s on my to-do list, I swear.
23. “Way Down” (1977)
Song: Recorded in October 1976, “Way Down” was the last single released before Presley’s death on Aug. 16, 1977. It reached No. 1 in the U.S. country and British pop charts, just days after his death.
Story: Andrew Vachss’ Underground #1 (Dark Horse Comics, 11/93) Vachss is an American crime fiction writer who’s dabbled in comics (Batman: The Ultimate Evil, Predator: Race War); this bimonthly anthology based on his works explored the world after The Terror. It’s “a world of darkness, tunnels, and danger,” we’re told, “where the remnants of mankind hold on to what’s left of humanity.” So slightly different from Newark, then. A mix of illustrated fiction and comics, the series’ first issue featured a prose piece titled “Way Down” by Bill Crider.