Comic Books, Part One: Flash and Green Lantern, The Hulk
The creators of Lost have worn their geek passions and inspirations proudly on their sleeves. Early in season 1, a Spanish-language comic book entitled Green Lantern and Flash: Faster Friends — in which the DC Universe heroes grapple with aliens, killer computers, and a polar bear — inspired fans (especially fanboy theorists) to speculate that The Island was one big living polar bear-inhabited spaceship. After Desmond got doused by The Island’s unique electromagnetic energy and became precognitive, nerd-wise Hurley compared him to The Hulk, another victim of energy bombardment. Cool — but if Hurley had dubbed him Dr. Manhattan, the radioactive, time-toggling hero of Watchmen (an oft-cited Lost touchstone), that would have been even cooler.
Comic Books, Part Two: Mystery Tales, Superman vs. Flash, Y: The Last Man
When Richard Alpert visited Young Locke to determine his significance to The Island, the ageless steward presented him with an issue of Mystery Tales, whose cover featured a terrified man on a plane en route to ”The Hidden Land.” Charlie recalled the classic comic tales of Superman’s super-speed footraces against The Flash in season 3, while Hurley fulfilled his obligation to symmetry by bringing a comic book aboard Ajira 316: Y: The Last Man, written by Lost scribe Brian K. Vaughn, which chronicles the adventures of the only male survivor of a man-killing plague as he searches the world for the woman he loves. Do yourself a favor: Skip the rest of this gallery and buy the Y trade paperbacks ASAP. You’ll be better for it.
Boston Red Sox
In 1918, this storied Major League Baseball team stupidly sold Babe Ruth to the New York Yankees. Because they subsequently failed to win a World Series championship until 2004, many Sox fans convinced themselves that their team labored under ”The Curse of the Bambino.” Boston’s haplessness became a touchstone in Lost for themes of fate and fatalism. Of course, in 2004, a few months after the crash of Oceanic 815, the Red Sox reversed the curse. Cynical Jack — whose father was a big believer in ”the curse” — was blown away to learn the news when Ben showed him videotape evidence in season 3. However, if he were alive today, we’re pretty sure Jack would join the rest of the America existing outside of Boston that now totally loathes the Red Sox, who’ve gone from lovable scrappers to entitled whiners. I wish they sucked again.
Back to the Future
The ultimate time-travel movie. Naturally, it was referenced in Lost‘s time-travel season. This exchange sums it up:
MILES: What the hell are you doing, Tubby?
HURLEY: Checking to see if I’m disappearing.
HURLEY: ‘Back to the Future,’ man. We came back in time to the island and changed stuff. So if little Ben dies, he’ll never grow up to be big Ben, who’s the one who made us come back here in the first place. Which means we can’t be here. And therefore, dude? We don’t exist.
MILES: You’re an idiot.
By the gleaming helmet of Vader, where do we begin? Sawyer was particularly fond of Star Wars references, famously insulting Hurley by calling him Jabba and calling Ben ”Yoda,” though Sawyer’s geek cred seems pretty limited to the original trilogy; when Hurley dropped Darth Vader’s real name on him in season 6, Sawyer replied, ”Who the hell’s Anakin?” But the biggest Star Wars fanboy was Hurley. Or was he its biggest critic? During his Dharma daze, Hurley got the big idea to rewrite The Empire Strikes Back in hopes of improving it.
Translation: what Sawyer calls Frank Lapidus. We could do a whole gallery alone on the pop-culture-inspired nicknames Sawyer gave the castaways. Daniel Faraday: Dilbert, Dr. Wizard, Plato. We encourage you to use the message board to vote for your faves. Hurley: Babar, Rerun, Jumbotron. Jin and Sun: Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. The Man In Black (as John Locke): The Ghost of Christmas Past. Walt: Tattoo, Short Round. (Thanks to Lostpedia for the research assist!) We suspect Sawyer must be an Entertainment Weekly subscriber. My personal favorite — because I’m a Prince fan and because I was on set the day he said it — was when Sawyer referred to Ben Linus as The Artist Formerly Known as Henry Gale. Before the scene, Josh Holloway took a long walk through the jungle, rehearsing the wordy quip over and over so it could roll off his tongue while shooting. Mission accomplished.
Little House On The Prairie
During his melancholy Sideways story in season 6, supercop/undercover vigilante Sawyer showed his softer side by guzzling beer and watching an episode of Little House following a rough day. (Bad date with Charlotte; Detective Miles dropped him as a partner.) The moment was harks back to an earlier Lost episode in which Sawyer mentioned in passing that he used to watch Little as a kid when he was sick. During ”Recon,” Lost sampled a scene in which Laura and Pa discussed the afterlife — a pretty explicit clue, in retrospect, about the truth of the Sideways world. Says Pa: ”Now, that’s what life’s all about. Laughin’ and lovin’ each other. And knowin’ that people aren’t really gone when they die. We have all the good memories to sustain us until we see ’em again.”
Survivor, Cast Away, Gilligan’s Island
Apparently, Lost wasn’t the first Hollywood thingie to think it would be interesting to follow the adventures of people stuck on an island. When ABC brass hatched the idea for the show back in 2004, Cast Away (i.e., the Tom Hanks-and-a-volleyball flick) and Survivor (please tell me this needs no explanation, or my colleague Dalton Ross will be very sad) were among the inspirations. And then there was that old sitcom starring that Maynard G. Krebs guy from The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis and the voice of Mr. Magoo.
The classic sci-fi TV and movie franchise has fed some of Sawyer’s pop-culture-derived quips (Jin = Sulu) but also inspired Lost‘s use of the term ”red shirts” to describe all the other Oceanic 815 castaways that the show often totally ignored. The ”red shirts” thing was explained in Lost itself, during the episode ”All the Best Cowboys Have Daddy Issues.”
BOONE: Ever watch ‘Star Trek’?
LOCKE: Nah, not really.
BOONE: The crew guys that would go down to the planet with the main guys, the captain and the guy with the pointy ears, they always wore red shirts. And they always got killed.
LOCKE: Sounds like a piss-poor captain.
The Twilight Zone
Rod Serling’s classic anthology series was a huge inspiration for Lost creator J.J. Abrams, and indeed, many of the early episodes play like Twilight Zone episodes, i.e. character studies about ordinary people struggling through extraordinary circumstances. Indeed, in retrospect, the Hurley-centric episode ”Numbers” should be best appreciated as a Twilight Zone homage rather than a mythology-palooza. Of course, the ultimate Twilight Zone homage in Lost is the show’s stark and vertiginous title sequence.
The Wages of Fear
Arguably the most obscure and exotic of Lost‘s pop culture references. You know Montand? Part of The French Lady’s castaway science team? The guy who got his arm ripped off during a tug-of-war over his body between Smokey and the combined might of Jin and the Frenchies? Well, the producers of Lost decided to name Montand after the French actor Yves Montand; they were said to have been inspired by his turn in the 1953 flick The Wages of Fear. When you realize that Montand was first referenced during the season 1 trek to the Black Rock to fetch dynamite, and when you understand that The Wages of Fear involves hired hands trucking dangerous nitroglycerine through the jungle, you will appreciate just how totally obscure and exotic this reference really is.
The Wizard of Oz
Lost has long loved pulling from this fantasy, which was first a book (written by L. Frank Baum with W.W. Denslow and published as The Wonderful Wizard of Oz in 1900) before it became two movies, including the famed 1939 musical. Benjamin Linus often served as a locus of Oz references. He took the name of castaway balloonist Henry Gale—Dorothy’s uncle in Oz — when he first met the Oceanic 815ers, and the season 3 Ben-centric episode ”The Man Behind the Curtain” was inspired by Oz‘s wizard, a perfect fit for a character that was a con-man charlatan in an enchanted land. Season 4 ended with a three-part epic entitled ”There’s No Place Like Home,” and the whole season 6 Sideways-world twist hinged on a ”waking up” conceit reminiscent of Dorothy’s means for leaving Oz.