1. “The Statue” (1991)
During the run of his hugely popular TV show (1989-1998), Jerry Seinfeld made it pretty clear he was a huge Superman fan, through either visual cues (Look! A Superman magnet on his apartment fridge! He’s reading a Superman comic!) or references to Superman and his supporting cast (he once compared Kramer to Lex Luthor, in that both men could accomplish so many great things if they only put their minds towards something worthwhile). But every once in a while, another superhero would get a shout-out, too. In “The Statue,” for instance, Jerry is telling Elaine how incredible his new maid is, which leads to a mention of DC’s Plastic Man (Elastic Man is probably a mistaken reference to Jimmy Olsen’s Elastic Lad persona or the always-underappreciated Elongated Man):
Jerry: He really did an amazing job. Look! He uncoagulated the top of the dishwashing liquid. He cleaned out the bottom of the little egg cups. Come here, look at this. He cleaned the little one-inch area between the refrigerator and the counter. How did he get in there? He must be like Rubber Man!
Elaine: There’s no Rubber Man.
Jerry: Why did I think there was a Rubber Man? There’s Elastic Man and Plastic Man.
2. “The Strong Box” (1998)
“The Statue” offered a rare moment in that it was Elaine who seemed to possess the greater superhero knowledge than Jerry. This wasn’t the case in “The Strong Box,” an episode in which Jerry suggests Elaine’s mysterious new boyfriend might be a superhero:
Jerry: So, what’s this guy about?
Elaine: I don’t know. He wouldn’t tell me his phone number, where he worked. I’ll be he’s in a relationship.
Jerry: Or he’s a crimefighter safeguarding his secret identity. Elaine, you could be dating the Green Lantern!
Elaine: Which one is he?
Jerry: Green suit, power ring.
Elaine: I don’t care for jewelry on men.
When it turns out her boyfriend’s big secret is just that he’s really poor, Jerry can’t resist rubbing it in:
Elaine: If only he could have been cheating on his wife, you know, things would have been so much simpler.
George: Who’s this, Blue Arrow?
Elaine: Green Lantern.
Jerry: We found out his super power was lack of money.
Elaine: All right.
Jerry: He’s invulnerable to creditors.
Elaine: We get it.”
Jerry: He’s the ‘Got-no-Green’ Lantern.
Elaine: Thank you.
Jerry: Hey, Elaine. Maybe his girlfriend is Lois Loan.
Elaine: Well crafted.
3. “The Cafe” (1991)
In Jerry’s closing monologue, he talks about one of the less obvious reasons why superheroes like Batman and Spider-Man tend to wear masks and disguises while performing good deeds, and again he talks about an “Elastic Man” as if there’s an actual character out there with that name. One more time, Jerry — it’s Plastic Man, Elastic Lad and Elongated Man. No Elastic Man. Get it straight:
It’s tough to do a good deed. Just look at your professional good deed doers. Your Lone Rangers, your Superman, your Batman, your Spider-Man, your Elastic Man. They are all wearing disguises, masks over their faces. Secret identities. Don’t want people to know who they are. It’s too much aggravation. “Superman, thanks for saving my life, but did you have to come through my wall? I’m renting here, I’ve got a security deposit. What am I supposed to do?”
4. “The Deal” (1991)
The plot of this episode involves Jerry and Elaine setting up rules for sexual intimacy with the understanding they can expect no more from one another as lovers than they did as friends, and George arguing from the sidelines that it can’t be done… but like every other Seinfeld episode, there are plenty of random bits of conversation that come out of nowhere and have nothing to do with the plot. For instance, while sitting in their favorite diner, George asks Jerry a very random question about DC’s resident King of the Seven Seas:
George: What’s the deal with Aquaman? Could he go on land or was he just restricted to water?
Jerry: No, I think I saw him on land a couple times. So how’s the job situation going?
5. “The Chinese Restaurant” (1991)
In this classic episode that entirely takes place in just one location (a Chinese restaurant, duh), George is frustrated because he needs to use a payphone that someone else is using. He explains to Jerry and Elaine that it took three days of calls to get his then-current girlfriend to agree to see him again after he left her apartment in the middle of the two of them having sex because of his urgent need to use the bathroom (and he deemed hers insufficient to meet his needs):
George: So I’m dressing and she’s staring up at me, struggling to compute this unprecedented turn of events. I don’t know what to say to reassure this woman, and worst of all, I don’t have the time to say it. The only excuse she might possibly have accepted is if I told her I am in reality Batman, and I’m very sorry, I just saw the Bat-Signal. It took me three days of phone calls to get her to agree to see me again. Now she’s waiting for me to call her, and she’s [gestures towards woman on phone] still on the phone!
6. “The Stand-In” (1994)
Who doesn’t love a good laugh when they’re in the hospital? Jerry goes to visit his laid-up friend, Fulton, to cheer him up with some jokes, but he doesn’t have much luck; in fact, the guy’s wife later says it’s Jerry’s fault that Fulton took a turn for the worse after his visit. Now Jerry’s only goal is to make the guy laugh with some all-new material, including a line about the Justice League… only it worked a little too well at making Fulton crack up:
Fulton: (dying of laughter and coughing) Stop.
Jerry: …and this whole Justice League, Batman, Green Lantern, Wonder Woman. You mean to tell me Superman can’t cover everything?
Fulton: (still laughing and coughing) Stop.
Jerry: For crying out loud, he’s Superman. (Fulton stops laughing, Jerry’s face is stunned) Fulton? (looks at him) Fulton?
7. “The Mango” (1993)
In Jerry’s opening monologue, he compares the female orgasm to a certain other place that’s a source of wonder and amazement to a lot of comic fans:
A female orgasm is kind of like the Batcave. Very few people know where it is and if you’re lucky enough to see it, you probably don’t know how you got there and you can’t find your way back after you left.
8. “The Glasses” (1993)
Hey, did you know that Aquaman used to be Aquaboy? Not officially, but there’s an old Superboy comic featuring an “imaginary story” in which a younger Superman meets a younger Aquaman. So even if there isn’t an “official” Aquaboy on the books, I’m calling this one another shout-out:
(George enters the apartment wearing goggles)
George: I gotta get out of this city.
Jerry: So you’re tunneling to the center of the Earth?
George: I’m at the health club and while I’m in the pool, some guy walks off with my glasses. Who steals prescription glasses?
Elaine: You don’t have an old pair?
George: I broke ’em playing basketball.
Jerry: He was running from a bee.
George: Now if I wanna see anything I gotta wear these.
Elaine: George, those are prescription goggles? What is there to see in a health club pool?
Jerry: There’s a lot of change down there.
George: When I find that guy, this much I vow: those glasses will be returned to their rightful owner.
Jerry: We’re behind you, Aquaboy. Godspeed!
9. “The Fire” (1994)
A lot of stuff happens in this episode, but all you need to know is this: the title comes from the subplot that sees a panicking George knocking over children and old people to escape a fire, and Kramer is on a mission to save a woman’s pinky toe (long story), leading him to commandeer a city bus and take it to the hospital:
Kramer: Then after the ambulance left, I found the toe! So I put it in a Cracker Jack box, filled it with ice, and took off for the hospital.
George: You ran?
Kramer: No, I jumped on the bus. I told the driver, “I got a toe here, buddy — step on it.”
George: Holy cow!
Kramer: Yeah, yeah, then all of a sudden, this guy pulls out a gun. Well, I knew any delay is gonna cost her her pinky toe, so I got out of the seat and I started walking towards him. He says, “Where do you think you’re going, Cracker Jack?” I said, “Well, I got a little prize for ya, buddy.” (Kramer throws two quick punches and a massive uppercut) Knocked him out cold!
George: How could you do that?!
Kramer: Then everybody is screamin,’ because the driver, he’s passed out from all the commotion… the bus is out of control! So, I grab him by the collar, I take him out of the seat, I get behind the wheel and now I’m drivin’ the bus.
George: You’re Batman.
Kramer: Yeah, yeah, I’m Batman. Then the mugger, he comes to and he starts choking me. So I’m fighting him off with one hand and I kept drivin’ the bus with the other, ya know. Then I managed to open up the door and I kicked him out the door, ya know, with my foot, ya know, at the next stop.
Jerry: You kept making all the stops?
Kramer: Well, people kept ringing the bell!
10. “The Voice” (1997)
George has never had much luck holding down a job, but it’s usually his own fault. At one office, for instance, he pretended to be handicapped just so he could get his own private bathroom. But the jig is up when his boss witnesses a very non-handicapped George flee from angry scooter-riding senior citizens:
Thomassoulo: George, you’re not really handicapped, are you?
George: I’ve had my difficulties.
Thomassoulo: I saw you running down Amsterdam Avenue lifting that 200-pound motorized cart with one hand.
George: Mr. Thomassoulo, during times of great stress, people are capable of superhuman strength. Have you ever seen the Incredible Hulk, sir?
George: How about the old Spider-Man live-action show?
Thomassoulo: George, I’ve realized we’ve signed a one-year contract with you, but at this point I think it’s best that we both go our separate ways.
George: I don’t understand.
Thomassoulo: We don’t like you. We want you to leave.
11. “The Strike” (1997)
One of the running gags in the show was how the cast members routinely dumped romantic partners over the most trivial reasons, like a guy who gets too close when he talks to you or a gal with some insignificant physical feature. In this episode, Jerry hooks up with a woman whose face changes dramatically depending on the lighting she’s in, though probably not to the extent his comic-book reference suggests:
George: So attractive one day, not attractive the next?
Jerry: Have you come across this?
George: Yes, I am familiar with this syndrome: she’s a two-face.
Jerry: Like the Batman villain?
George: (Annoyed) If that helps you.
Jerry: So, if I ask her out again I don’t know who’s showing up: the good, the bad or the ugly.
George: Clint Eastwood!
12. “The Robbery” (1990)
Getting robbed is never fun, and it happened to Jerry in this first-season episode. After the police arrive and don’t offer much hope that anything will get done, the scene shifts to a comedy club where Jerry is doing a set about robbers in the real world and the inherent challenge in catching them:
I got ripped off for about the… 18th time? And now, the first couple a times you go through it, it’s very upsetting and your first reaction or one of your friends will say: “Call the police. You really should call the police.” So you think to yourself, ya know, you watch TV, you think: “Yeah, I’m calling the police. Stakeouts, manhunts… I’m gonna see some real action.” Right, you think that. So, the police come over to your house. They fill out… the report. Then they give you… your copy. Now, unless they give the crook his copy, I don’t really think we’re gonna crack this case, do you? It’s not like Batman, where there’s three crooks in the city and everybody pretty much knows who they are. Very few crooks even go to the trouble to come up with a theme for their careers anymore. It makes them a lot tougher to spot. “Did you lose a Sony? It could be the Penguin. I think we can round him up, he’s dressed like a PENGUIN!”
+1. Batman: Gotham Adventures #4 (DC, 09/98)
Borrowing celebrity images to create comic-book characters isn’t a new idea — some of the most famous superheroes you can think of were based on some pretty famous faces, in fact — and quite a few comedians have made the leap into the four-color funnies. But as far as I can tell, aside from his team-up with an animated Superman in a series of 2003 American Express commercials, Seinfeld hasn’t co-starred in any medium with any superheroes, and I can’t find any examples of comic artists using his likeness for their characters. With one possible exception: the opening pages of this story (in which the Batman and Catwoman from the DC Animated Universe track down an illegal animal testing lab) find our hero confronting a quartet of carjackers that bear a very striking resemblance to the cast of a certain TV show. As Seinfeld might say during a set, “What’s the deal with that?”