I’m a skeptic. That means if you want me to accept that someone has supernatural powers I will need some pretty darn good evidence. I need more than just someone’s word or the demonstration of a few parlor tricks. I will need to be convinced the person with special, super-human powers isn’t cheating.
This doesn’t mean I can’t suspend my disbelief and accept that there are such gifted (or cursed) characters in fiction. When I watch movies and television or read novels and comic books, I can accept that Mr. Fantastic can stretch, that Dorothy is in the Land of Oz, that Storm can control the weather, that Mr. Spock can mind-meld, and that Harry Potter is a wizard. It’s fiction. It’s fantasy. And in comic books, if it can be drawn, it can be done.
In the real world, though, it’s a different story.
Enter Uri Geller. In the 1970s, this young man from Israel caught the world’s attention by bending spoons. He claimed he did it with his mind. However, his hands always seemed to be involved. Hmm. I wonder if maybe he was physically bending those spoons in secret and then using sleight of hand to make it appear as though the utensils were being bent by his mind. Sleight of hand or superpowers? Which seems more likely?
In 1973, Geller appeared on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. Johnny had started his show biz career as a magician, so he had some insights that the average person who was convinced by Geller didn’t. (By the way, some of those convinced people included scientists.) Johnny had his doubts about young Geller and he enlisted James “The Amazing” Randi to help with an upcoming appearance by the spoon bender. Johnny wanted to put in some controls to prevent Geller from cheating. If that was what he was doing, he wouldn’t be able to do his tricks.
Neither Geller nor any of his people were allowed to bring props or to have any contact with those provided by the show. The “psychic” phenom would be presented with the items when he walked onto the set. Not a moment earlier.
Geller failed. In front of millions of viewers.
He excused his failure on not feeling strong and he suggested that Johnny was putting undue pressure on him. You can watch the infamous appearance with Johnny and get some more insights on Geller’s “abilities” from James Randi here.
One would think such a public failure would have ended Geller’s popularity, but no. His appearance on the Tonight Show only led to his getting more bookings. He was soon appearing on The Merv Griffin Show and he was definitely feeling strong. From what I’ve heard (I haven’t seen the appearance), no controls were put in place and his powers were in full force.
Huh. Imagine that.
Sadly, 27 years after Geller’s failure on the Tonight Show, the middle-aged “psychic” phenom returned as a guest of Carson’s replacement, Jay Leno. And, much like most of Geller’s other showcases of his abilities, no controls were in place. Geller reached into his old bag of tricks, the same half a dozen or so, and his powers were once again in full force.
Huh. Imagine that.
(Did you know Johnny wanted David Letterman for his replacement?)
Enter Marvel Comics. In 1976, Stan Lee knew a good gimmick when he saw one and he called in writer/editor Marv Wolfman. “Marv! I want you to write that amazing young man who bends things into one of our comic books!” Wolfman wrote Geller a guest appearance in Daredevil #133 (May, 1976). Not as a mildly interesting fellow who bends keys, reproduces drawings by others without having seen them, and restarts stopped watches, no, no, no, Geller has abilities in the story that put all those tricks to shame.
In the comic, Geller can communicate telepathically with Mind-Wave, the villain of the issue. He can psychically locate the evil-doer. And he can bend metal pipes. With his mind. And there’s none of that rubbing with a finger and repeating, “Bend! Bend! Bend!” theatricality.
I think I can safely say Uri Geller has never bent a metal pipe in his life. Certainly not with his mind.
In the section of the comic book normally set aside for letters to the editor, Marv Wolfman wrote the story behind the Geller appearance. Yeah, he was skeptical at first, people often are, but a couple bent keys and a reproduced drawing later and Marv was convinced. It’s disappointing, but most people don’t know what to look for when a trickster is at work.
In more recent years, Uri Geller has winkingly come clean about not really having super-powers. Besides, just how super of a power is bending spoons anyway?
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Warehouse Find is the official blog of NostalgiaZone.com, where you can find books, games, toys, cards, and a huge selection of Golden, Silver, Bronze, and Modern Age comic books. Jim also has a podcast called Dimland Radio. He’d love it if you checked it out. It’s available on Apple Podcasts.