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How Futurama's Zoidberg Connects To The DC Universe

One of the highlights of going to see a new Marvel film — whether it's part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe or not, whether it's live-action or animated — was always keeping an eye out for Stan Lee's inevitable cameo. Hugely important in making Marvel what it is today, most people would agree that Lee more than earned his fun little appearances. Even after his passing in 2018, the cameos have forever cemented him in our collective heart.

Movies starring superheroes from the pages of DC can't be said to have an equivalent, but when it comes to comics, anything's possible as long as an artist can conjure it (and editorial allows it). So, with Lee working for the competition, what popular person or character could DC possibly use for a cameo in Action Comics, one of the company's flagship titles? Zoidberg from Futuramaof course! Obviously!

Meet Dr. John A. Zoidberg

Brought to you by The Simpsons creator Matt Groening and writer David X. Cohen, Futurama is the story of Philip J. Fry, a regular guy cryogenically frozen until the 31st century, waking up to a world and a time he's completely unfamiliar with. Of course, he needs to make a living somehow now that he's stuck in the future, and so it is that he comes to work for Planet Express, a delivery service not bound to any one corner of the universe. A delivery boy traveling through the vacuum of space naturally needs a regular physical, courtesy of staff physician Dr. John A. Zoidberg.

It becomes immediately clear that Zoidberg isn't entirely familiar with human physiology — quite a problem considering that Fry is, well, human. "Quite a problem" is an apt phrase to sum up Zoidberg in general, actually: he has a tendency to eat the inedible (like t-shirts), sprays ink whenever he thinks he's in a tight spot (which often happens way more often than you might think), and tends to ditch whatever's happening with his signature Three Stooges-like cry of "Woop woop woop!"

On top of all that, he needs to shed his shell from time to time, he lives in a dumpster, and he's just about the poorest doctor you'll ever meet. Yet Futurama wouldn't be the same without the Decapodian's unique brand of comedy. And with his unique appearance, why not Zoidberg for a DC Comics cameo?

Superman rescues Zoidberg

To set the scene, Action Comics #863, written by Geoff Johns and illustrated by Gary Frank, is the conclusion of a six-part saga that sees Superman fighting alongside the Legion of Super-Heroes in the 30th century against Earth-Man, who's more threatening than his name would have you believe. With a red sun glaring from above, a powerless Superman must rely on a Legion Flight Ring to keep him in play until the Legion finds a way to turn the tables.

At one point, Superman comes across a squad of cops forcing innocent aliens into a large van — one of said extraterrestrials being Zoidberg himself. (The green alien might be Kif Kroker, but that's a bit less clear.) Between the Decapodian physiology, the bright white lab coat standing out in the darkness of the van, and most of all the sandals that Professor Farnsworth so disapproves of, it's unmistakably Planet Express' least favorite doctor. For those who require extra convincing, keep in mind that the 30th century isn't too far off from when Futurama takes place.

Not woop, woop, wooping his way out of there is almost surprising for Zoidberg, but that's why Superman is there. The cape-wearing Kryptonian doesn't tolerate this kind of behavior from anyone. A cop that accuses Superman of neglecting human rights in favor of these aliens is quickly reprimanded by the hero: "I'm for everyone. And you should know that, officer." Whether it was an alien like Zoidberg or a robot like Bender, Superman would've saved anyone from that van. Regardless, if Zoidberg is there, who knows what the other Futurama characters are up to?

Zoidberg has made a surprising number of cameos

Zoidberg's Action Comics cameo was hardly his first. With how popular Futurama is, the series has been referenced time and again across various forms of media, from video games to music to novels.

Both Futurama and The Simpsons are Matt Groening's creations, so Zoidberg had to show up in the latter at some point. Though he unfortunately never appeared in the main show (despite the slew of other Futurama references), Zoidberg and Bender both show up in The Simpsons Game.

Attack of the Drones, a Duck Dodgers Looney Tunes short, features one such cameo, with Zoidberg appearing on a council of space aliens. Billy West, who plays Zoidberg and multiple other characters on Futurama, even lends his voice talent to the Decapodian.

Even less official projects have shown plenty of love for Zoidberg, one of the most popular being Little Kuriboh's Yu-Gi-Oh: The Abridged Series on YouTube. In the opening sequence to the 44th episode, the alien hilariously pops up on a card where a Yu-Gi-Oh monster would otherwise be found.

And that's just the tip of the Zoidberg. We could spend all day picking out each and every reference, but the good doctor surely has a surgery to bungle. Best leave him to it.