M*A*S*H Travels Through Time and Space with the Avengers

In their latest spotlight on comics showing up in outside media, CSBG shows how two Avengers issues traveled through time and space in a MASH episode.

In “The World Outside,” I examine comic books showing up in outside media, like TV shows, sports, novels and films.

Today, we look at an amusingly anachronistic appearance of an Avengers issue in an episode of M*A*S*H.

As I presume you know (but hey, who knows? The show has been off the air for over thirty years after all), M*A*S*H was a show about a group of Army doctors in a Mobile Army Surgical Hospital unit during the Korean War. What this simply means is that they would set up a field hospital during the war where Army doctors could perform surgeries on wounded soldiers right near the field of battle so that soldiers could be treated as quickly as possible. The doctors try to make the best out of a bad situation by entertaining themselves as best as they can. The show was essentially an ensemble, but the main star was clearly Alan Alda as “Hawkeye” Pierce. The series was based on a hit movie directed by Robert Altman. The TV series ran for 11 seasons, which is particularly impressive considering the Korean War didn’t even last four years.

Anyhow, in the 17th episode of the 4th season of M*A*S*H, titled “Der Tag,” which came out on January 6th, 1976 (it was the 89th episode of the series period). The concept of the episode is that Hawkeye and his good friend, BJ Hunnicutt,, are forced to befriend their annoying fellow surgeon, Frank Burns, while his girlfriend is away from the hospital. He’s so annoying that they end up putting a toe tag on him when he passed out and he accidentally ends up on the front lines and they have to rescue him and bring him back.

The episode opens with Radar O’Reilly (played by Gary Burghoff, who notably tried to hide his left hand throughout the series) sleeping. And sure enough, look at what he fell asleep reading! An Avengers comic book, #60….

Which came out in 1968, well over a decade after the episode was set!! Whoops!

Hilariously enough, though, the Avengers comics did not just travel through time, but through space, because while the above image is the most notable shot from this episode (especially since the cover features Hawkeye prominently – something that I can pretty much guarantee you was a coincidence), it is not the first shot of Radar sleeping. A couple of scenes earlier, when we first see him sleeping, he has Avengers #72 instead!!!

Almost certainly, whoever was in charge of the props did not care about the consistency between the two scenes, as, honestly, who was going to notice that the comic book changed between scenes back in 1976?

What I find interesting is that they even had 1968 and 1969 comic books in the 1976. I’d normally expect either A. a time accurate comic book or B. more commonly, just whatever comic book that they could find. Perhaps a prop master had a stack of “old” comic books and they just didn’t care what years they were from?

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