The Big Bang Theory – Comic References
September 2, 2008

While rewatching The Big Bang Theory for my DVD review (the set is out today!), I started cataloging the various comic book references I noted.

Vintage DC comics decorate Sheldon’s bedroom walls, especially ones that feature the more scientific heroes of the Silver Age — Green Lantern and Strange Adventures. In later episodes, they’ve changed to Superman and Lois Lane, with Flash and Secret Origins also making appearances.

Big Bang Theory room

The longest sequence in his room takes place in episode 11, where we also see his reading comics, stored in magazine boxes, with Tempest, The Spectre, and Flash issues visible next to a shelf full of Showcase reprint volumes — Superman, Superman Family, Atom, Wonder Woman, Martian Manhunter, Flash, Metamorpho — as well as a House of Secrets poster. And I have never felt more geeky than freeze-framing that scene and comparing the books with our own shelf to be sure of the IDs. The odd selection of stapled-format comics is likely due to the set dresser heading down to the local quarter bins.

Sheldon also frequently wears DC character/logo t-shirts. Here’s the list:

  • Flash, episodes 1 and 14
  • Flash logo, episodes 3 and 8
  • Superman logo, episodes 2 and 12
  • Green Lantern logo, episodes 7 and 13
  • Different GL logo, episode 10
  • Aquaman, episode 8
  • Flash (maybe Captain Marvel?) lightning bolt, episode 15
  • Really interesting Justice League shirt featuring the Martian Manhunter, Firestorm, Red Tornado, Dr. Fate, and Green Arrow, episode 16

They’re often the distressed/older-looking versions, in keeping with the focus on the Silver Age characters. And you’ll notice that they wear the same clothes in different episodes, like real people do. Howard, meanwhile, shows his geek chic through his belt buckles, with a bat-logo in episode 9 and a Flash image in episode 15.

Big Bang Theory Flash costumes

The most visual reference comes from the Halloween episode, the sixth, where all four of them dress up as the Flash, with built-in muscles. They resolve to change to different costumes, but Rajesh suggests instead that the four of them walk behind each other all night and look like one person going really fast. (Shades of Infantino!)

In the second episode, there’s a lengthy conversation as the boys are just getting to know their new neighbor:

Leonard: “Would you like to join us for Thai food and a Superman movie marathon?”
Penny: “A marathon? Wow, how many Superman movies are there?”
Sheldon: “You’re kidding, right?”

He goes on to discuss the scientific inaccuracies of the films, even assuming a man could fly, and winds up talking about Lois Lane falling out of the helicopter and getting sliced into three pieces by Superman’s arms of steel. He concludes, “If he really loved her, he’d let her hit the pavement. It’d be a more merciful death.” That’s Sheldon, always practical.

In other episodes, there are small bits, like in episode 5, where the guys reenact their version of the Civil War at dinner with table condiments serving as army forces, superheroes, gods, and the characters from Lord of the Rings.

In episode 8, Sheldon has trouble fitting his honorary Justice League membership card into his new wallet.

Big Bang Theory Kandor bottle

Episode 9 has Penny trying to help Leonard select an outfit. He has a model of the Bottle City of Kandor in his closet that he has to explain. He ends up muttering to himself, “It’s a lot cooler when girls aren’t looking at it.”

In episode 13, Leonard gives Sheldon an impressive Batman cookie jar (it looks Jim Lee-designed) to make up for him being kicked off the quiz bowl team.

The next episode, Leonard decides to sell all his collectibles to “Larry at the comic book store”, including his Golden Age Flash figure, which Howard and Rajesh fight over to complete their Justice Society collections.

In episode 15, Leonard’s Superman logo boxer shorts are made fun of.

And the last reference I noted, in episode 16, Penny threatens Sheldon that she will draw a smiley face (in ink!) in one of his bagged mint comics in order to convince him to go along with her plans for a surprise party.

All of these add to the realism of the geeks’ interests being part of their daily lives.

23 Responses  
Richard Marcej writes:  

I wonder, if this series has a successful (ratings-wise) second season could a season three episode involve the San Diego Con?

You know how sit-coms in the past build “special” episodes around the characters traveling somewhere, so they could film them at this local (Hawaii, London, Paris, etc…) I could see an episode (perhaps a 2-parter) involve the group traveling to the con.

The show does take place in California, right?

Johanna writes:  

Yep, according to the Time Machine episode, they’re in Pasadena. Great idea!

Koalacaust: It's Not Funny, but it's updated M-W-F, so that's cool. writes:  

[…] on the Comics Worth Reading blog, they’ve done a collection of all the comic references in The Big Bang Theory sitcom, a show I love, and you should, too. Don’t be surprised to find me singing praises of […]

odessa steps writes:  

Is it just me or is there a distinct lack of marvel stuff in that list?

Is this a t/w production?

Ed Sizemore writes:  

Personally, I think it’s a list of only the highest quality comics. Thankfully, none of those second tier publishers and their huckster front men ;-). (Just kidding Stan, you know I love you. You made Saturday morning fun.)

Johanna writes:  

Odessa, yes, Big Bang comes from Warner. But I think it’s totally in character for the geeks to be DC guys.

odessa steps magazine writes:  

As “a DC guy,” I’m not complaining, but you’d think geeks would also love Reed Richards and Tony Stark and Hank Pym and so on. :>

Johanna writes:  

Oh, right! I forget about them. :)

David Oakes writes:  

I find it perfectly in character that any of the geeks would become exclusively obsessive about one particular style/brand of superhero. Though it is pushing it that out of a group of four not one has latched on to Marvel just to be different, or Comics Greatest World just to prove that they are even more not mainstream. (You have to work to be Alpha Male, even if you are a Geek.)

Peronally, given the Summer Box Office reciepts, I expect by the third new episode we will discover that Howard has a secret shrine dedicated to Tony Stark in his closet.

Craig writes:  

The Big Bang Theory is hilarious. It is the best new sitcom in years. It is my new favorite show. Try it or you do not know what you are missing. The second season premieres on Monday, September 22 at 8:00 ET/PT on CBS. It is really funny.

James Schee writes:  

I can understand them preferring DC to Marvel actually. Marvel characters strongest stories have been about real world issues and differences in people.

These geeks had pretty much isolated themselves from the outside world prior to Penny. I don’t know that they’d get stories like Spider-Man struggling with multiple girlfriends and job issues and the like.

While DC has characters who tended to inspire, and were perfect. Add in obssessive history minutia to pick at, and I can see the geeks lapping it up.

On the show it self, its weird. I hated Sheldon the first few episodes, as he just seemed cruel. Yet as the series progressed and I understood that he has no grasp as to how to interact with others because even among geniuses he’s a genius. I got him, and he became my favorite character.

I kind of wonder if he and Penny may eventually wind up together. The two characters just play off each other so wonderfully.

Richard J. Marcej writes:  

Hopefully, for the show’s sake, that Penny won’t wind up with either Sheldon or Leonard, as it will, I believe, ruin the frame of the show and it’s humor.

I just thought of another thing I really enjoy about the show. The broken elevator/stairwell. I really like this device, as it allows for a unique setting, giving a natural way for the characters to converse about the episode’s subject.

Adam writes:  

>I wonder, if this series has a successful (ratings-wise) second season could a season three episode involve the San Diego Con?<

I’m sure that whenever they do go to a con that it’ll be a zillion times better than that Comic-Con themed episode of “Yes, Dear.”

James Schee writes:  

True, I do hope the show breaks the pattern of having at least one romance between regular cast members happen.

Oh and yeah that broken elevator thing is a great plot device. Though I was watching it with a friend this year and she said “If they are so smart, why can’t they fix the elevator?”

I told her, “They probably were the ones that broke it. Trying to make it faster or something, and shooting it out of the building.”

Johanna writes:  

James, that’s the pairing KC guesses as well. It would certainly be interesting. And I love your explanation!

Dan Coyle writes:  

I find it weirdly apropos that Leonard is into DC, being a fan of Roseanne. Johnny Galecki and Sara Gilbert’s characters on that show were into comic books, and the producers must have struck a deal with DC, because one would often see posters of Sandman, Batman, Superman, and Starman in the backgrounds of either character’s rooms.

BB Fan writes:  

You gotta love this show. Funniest sitcom since the 80’s. There are some great video clips on the DVD site @: http://warnervideo.com/bigbangtheorydvd/

BANG! :)

Nir@ Belt Buckles writes:  

It’s amazing a few customers came to us the past few days and told us that all the buckles for the show were purchased from us at HotBuckles.com, we couldn’t believe it and are very happy to be a small part of the show history.

FCG writes:  

Of course, being a Time/Warner show, it’s much easier for the program to show DC images than Marvel. (Drew Carey, shot on the same lot, had Green Lantern and Batman stuff on the living room set). They sometimes mention non-DC characters, but I think they’ll rarely show them.

The House of Secrets posters (and the comics) in Sheldon’s room came from the closest comic store to the Warner lot:


The Big Bang Theory Season 2 – Comic References » DVDs Worth Watching writes:  

[…] Here’s a run-down of all of the comic book mentions in Season 2 of The Big Bang Theory. (I previously did the same thing for season one.) […]

Bob writes:  

Speaking as both a science AND Silver Age comics geek, it’s natural that these guys gravitate toward DC, like I did. The Julius Schwartz-edited comics (Flash, Green Lantern, Atom, Hawkman, Batman, and in the 1970s, Superman) often quoted genuine scientific principles (exaggerated to the Nth degree) in their stories. Over at Marvel, Stan Lee usually pulled ideas out of thin air, and tacked on technical-sounding terms to make them sound authentic. Barry Allen used science. Reed Richards just used big words.

Johanna writes:  

That’s a great point! I think they did consider the character profiles in picking this material, especially when they made the Flash Sheldon’s favorite hero.

Big Bang Theory on Discount From Amazon » DVDs Worth Watching writes:  

[…] since they have box sets as low as $15 a season. I like the show, and it’s got a ton of comic references, if you’re into that kind of thing. (All prices as of time of […]


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