11 Cameo Appearances of Sugar and Spike Following the Cancellation of Their Long-Running DC Series
For the deprived: Sugar Plumm and Cecil “Spike” Wilson were the pint-sized stars of Sugar and Spike, a charming bi-monthly comic that ran from 1956 to 1971. It was a huge hit in the days when the big publishers put out a healthy variety of titles for all audiences. Long before the babies in Rugrats appeared on TV, Sugar and Spike communicated with each other through “baby talk” that sounded like gibberish to adult ears, and many of their adventures involved them trying to understand the strange ways of the grown-up world.
Writer/artist Sheldon Mayer had an agreement with DC that no one could write Sugar and Spike stories but him, which he continued to do for international markets until his death in 1991. Because of that agreement, and because Mayer showed little interest in merchandising his characters, Sugar and Spike aren’t as well-known among today’s comic fans as they ought to be… but that hasn’t stopped some writers and artists from slipping the occasional shout-out into their stories now and then:
1. “Are You Out of Your Minds?!,” Wonder Woman #113 (09/96)
At the end of this issue’s story, Cassie Sandsmark (a.k.a. Wonder Girl) shows up at a babysitting gig to find out she’s taking charge of two toddlers instead of one. Bonus shout-out points for the use of “baby talk” and the deliberate hiding of the mother’s face, two calling cards of the original Sugar and Spike stories.
2. “A Child’s Garden,” Swamp Thing #118 (09/92)
For those not in the know: Tefé is the child of the Swamp Thing and his human wife, Abigail, and as the first human elemental she had the ability to manipulate both animal and vegetable forms. Not the kind of power, in other words, you want a kid going through the Terrible Twos to possess, as her parents discover in this issue. This dream sequence featuring characters from The Wizard of Oz, The Wind in the Willows and Peter Pan also threw in Sugar and Spike for good measure. I’m not sure if it was Collins’s or Eaton’s idea to include them in this scene, but they were an apt choice if the idea was to include a mish-mash of figures from various children’s entertainments (and who do you suppose that happy fellow behind Sugar is supposed to be, hmm…?).
3. “There Shall Come a Gathering,” Showcase #100 (05/78)
Showcase was an anthology title that DC used to test-market new characters and concepts throughout the ’50s and ’60s; the Justice League of America and the Silver Age Flash and Atom are some of the title’s more famous alumni. For the book’s 100th issue, DC produced an anniversary issue featuring every “sensational super-star” who ever made an appearance in Showcase, including (as seen here) the aquatic adventurers known as Dolphin, Aquaman and the Sea Devils. Best as I can recall, Sugar and Spike never appeared in Showcase before this quick cameo as two children saved by the mysterious Dolphin. Nice grin on Sugar’s face; I’d be happy if Dolphin saved me, too.
4. “New Blood,” Legionnaires #43 (12/96)
Legion-Heads (what do you call obsessive Legion of Super-Heroes fans, by the way?) will tell you that the “Legion tryouts” stories are always good for some old-fashioned wackiness (four words: Arm-Fall-Off Boy), and this issue gets things started right away with a collection of old and new faces presumably waiting in line for their chance to audition. Note the decidedly non-superhero-looking redhead and blonde in the lower right corner; they may have gained a few years, but they’re still unmistakably Sugar and Spike. But Spike, seriously: the overalls look really only works on kids and farmers. Just sayin’.
5. “Strange Visitor,” Kingdom Come #1 (05/96)
Alex Ross and Mark Waid’s ode to wonder wasn’t just an obvious allegory for the then-current state of the comic business (DC’s classic heroes are set on a collision course with a new generation of amoral vigilantes that took their place and threaten to destroy everything they’ve built), it’s also densely packed with tributes, winks and shout-outs to just about everything fun and whimsical DC ever published. This one panel alone, in which we see the inside of a “Planet Krypton” theme restaurant, depicts the Adam West Batman costume, the original rocket that brought Superman to Earth, one of Green Arrow’s boxing-glove arrows… and a monitor showing a Sugar and Spike cartoon, which may or may not be a shout-out to the short-lived Video Comics show that so far represents the only attempt to translate the kids into another medium.
6. “Teamwork,” Justice League Spectacular #1 (03-04/92)
Ah, Ralph and Sue Dibny. It almost hurts to see them in this story, which came out long before someone at DC decided that no one in the DC universe is allowed to be happy. At least I’ll always have my back issues. Anyway, “Funny Stuff Park” and the giant statues of Sugar and Spike are both shout-outs to DC’s storied funny-book past, as is the amusement park employee on the next page dressed up in a Nutsy Squirrel costume (a character so obscure nowadays he doesn’t even warrant his own Wikipedia page).
7. “War Zone,” Crisis on Infinite Earths #9 (12/85)
Lauded (or bemoaned, depending on where you stand on crossovers) as the first major attempt by DC to create a company-wide event, the 12-issue Crisis on Infinite Earths featured damn near every single character that ever made an appearance in a DC book. And while a multiverse-shattering story featuring the deaths of billions and the ultimate struggle between good and evil doesn’t sound like the kind of place you’d expect to find two adorable toddlers…well, you might have a point there. Which is probably why artist George Perez opted to feature the kids in a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it cameo as two faces in photographs while a youngster watches Clark Kent read the news on TV. (Bonus shout-out: the young lad on the chair is none other than Bernie the Brain, a child genius whose inventions enlivened many a Sugar and Spike story.)
8. “The Siege of Starro!,” Batman: The Brave and the Bold (airdate 09/17/2010)
Aside from the short-lived Video Comics show mentioned above (which shouldn’t even count, given the limited animation style of the show), Sugar and Spike never made it into animation — and probably never will now that Rugrats has a lock on the whole “babies exploring the world and speaking their own secret language” thing. But they made one brief appearance in an episode of the lighthearted Batman: The Brave and the Bold series — specifically, they appeared as corporate mascots on the side of a diaper truck that Booster Gold slams into during a battle. Let’s just hope it was a truck that had already finished making its deliveries, if you know what I mean.
9. “Tales So Scary You’ll Break All Your Furniture,” Ambush Bug Stocking Stuffer #1 (1986)
No. No way. I am not going to describe or explain Ambush Bug and ruin the fun. You just have to see it for yourself to believe it. All I’ll say here is this page featuring a very confused Sugar and Spike was par for the course, insanity-wise.
10. “Trick Trap,” Blue Devil #8 (01/85)
It’s tough being a comic character without a regular series to call your own; some days, you’ll take just about any gig if it means paying the rent. In this issue, while Blue Devil and his traveling companion are in a restaurant discussing the third member of their party, a familiar red-haired tot in the background utters the question we’ve all asked ourselves at some point: “Gbj frxzl?” Gbj frxzl, indeed…
11. “Menace of the Time Thief!,” Batman: The Brave and the Bold #4 (06/2009)
And now for my favorite Sugar and Spike appearance. As mentioned above, Batman: TBATB was a light-hearted animated series that followed a fairly standard formula: cold open that teamed Batman up with an unlikely ally, then a main story in which Batman and another hero team up to hurl punches and quips at the forces of evil. The comic series based on the show used the same plot structure; these pages are the first two in the fourth issue, which features Batman and Aquaman (“Outrageous!!”) in tandem team-up action. I can’t decide which is funnier: that Felix Faust actually got defeated by a bunch of babies, or that Spike is shown munching on Batman’s “blanket.” Kid, for your own safety — Never. Ever. Touch. The. Man’s. Cape.