It's not really surprising that Katie Cook and Andy Price's My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic comic from IDW is a pretty great read. Not only does it have two great creators behind it, but it's managed to perfectly capture the feel of the show and the sense of humor that made it such a crossover hit. And with that sense of humor comes plenty of pop culture references.
That's why ComicsAlliance is taking a close look at the first arc of My Little Pony, digging in deep to highlight the references Cook and Price have dropped into their story, and explaining just what they might mean for everyone's favorite ponies.
My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic #1:
3.1: Cook and Price kick off their story with a big establishing shot of Ponyville, and in addition to featuring characters from the show, it's loaded with cameos. The easiest ones to spot are probably a pair of blue, black-suited ponies inspired by Jake and Elwood, The Blues Brothers, hanging out on a balcony in the upper left. Below them in the plaza, though, are these two:
The friendly (if squinty) moustache retailer on the right is inspired by Tom Selleck's character on Magnum P.I., complete with Hawaiian shirt, Detroit Tigers cap (not LA Dodgers as I'd originally thought, whoops!) and a Ferrari logo for his cutie mark -- which, interestingly enough, is a horse. On the left, as revealed in Price's own notes for the page, is a pony inspired by Jason Lee's Earl Hickey from My Name Is Earl, complete with a list of past sins to atone for.
At the bottom of the page, Price included himself (the blue pony with a bat-winged pencil cutie mark) and his wife, who apparently has the telekinetic ability to destroy planets. Nearby, you can spot the green pony based on Katie Cook:
6.3: The curly-maned pony pointing at Fluttershy is, of course, based on Donald Sutherland as he appears in 1978's Invasion of the Body Snatchers. Appropriate, considering what's happening in the rest of the issue:
7.6: As a follow-up, Twilight's library includes a book called Incident at Santa Mira, a reference to the town in which Body Snatchers takes place. Continuing the horror theme of the issue, there's also a copy of To Serve Ponies (a reference to the classic To Serve Man [spoiler: it's a cookbook]) and How I Did It (from Young Frankenstein).
8.6: Rainbow Dash shares a catchphrase with both former wrestler Benjamin J. Grimm and current wrestler CM Punk.
14.5: Rainbow Dash gives Fluttershy some sage advice:
The sage in question is, of course, Dalton, the lead character in Road House (1989). Dalton, played by Patrick Swayze, is a legendary "cooler" and philosopher who cleans up a small town in Missouri by establishing order in a local bar, ripping a man's throat out, throwing a polar bear at a fat man and then helping the town cover up a murder. It's a little surprising that this movie would've made it to Ponyvile, but not surprising at all that Rainbow Dash would be a fan.
21.1: The Secretariat Comet is named for Secretariat, a horse that won the Triple Crown in 1973. And honestly, Cook should be applauded for keeping the horse puns to a minimum.
My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic #2:
3.1: This issue focuses on the ponies exploring the mines of the Diamond Dogs, and since they were already a reference to David Bowie, it's no surprise that Bowie references are a recurring theme in this issue. It starts here, with the two statues labeled "Ziggy" and "Stardust," two perfectly appropriate pony names that are also one of Bowie's alter-egos. For those of you who may not be familiar, Ziggy played guitar.
4.6: The troll who wants to play with the Ponies (and the way Cook and Price pose Fluttershy here) is a pretty obvious reference to the toys on which the franchise is based and their brushable hair, but the shelf features another item of interest: A homemade Optimus Prime:
Thus, My Little Pony confirms what I already knew: Trolls love Transformers.
6.3: The Troll naming his pony "George" is likely a reference to Of Mice and Men, but more likely a reference to the Looney Tunes cartoon "Abominable Snow Rabbit," in which a yeti makes reference to Of Mice and Men.
8.1: Another Bowie reference, with the statue of the Diamond Dog decked out like Aladdin Sane:
10.3: The sign advising miners to sashay on the boardwalk and scurry to the ditch is a lyric from "Diamond Dogs," although it does raise the question of where one would place a boardwalk in an underground mine.
14.2: The line "I'm a cowboy, howdy howdy howdy!"...
...is from a classic installment of Gary Larson's The Far Side, where it was originally spoken by a cosplaying vulture. Judging by Applejack's reaction, she seems like more of a Pluggers fan.
15.1: "Thwip" has been the accepted comic book sound effect of spider-webs being shot out since 1962.
15.2: Rarity's first rule for combat is a nod to Anchorman (2004), and the sign for Red Gems gives us another Bowie reference. This time, it's "red like jungle burning bright" from "Cat People." I wonder what Rainbow Dash thinks of Inglourious Basterds?
19.1: No points for guessing what the inscription on the mine's exit is from. (Bowie's "Golden Years.")
22.1: The map of the Ponies' journey features our final Bowie reference of the issue with "they call them the Diamond Dogs," but there's also a whole lot else thrown in for good measure. Other than, you know, a bunch of horse puns I mean:
Dropping "Leota" into Wikipedia brings up a county in Minnesota, but the presence of the Old Mansion in there makes me pretty sure that The Forest of Leota is a reference to Madame Leota from Disney's Haunted Mansion attraction, who conjures up all sorts of spooky stuff.
The Silver & Scout Grove is named for the Lone Ranger and Tonto's horses.
The Froud Valley is likely named for fantasy illustrator Brian Froud, who worked on Labyrinth and The Dark Crystal.
My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic #3:
6.2: "The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few" is a common enough proverb that I can't really say whether Fluttershy is quoting Star Trek II, but, you know. Close enough.
9.1 - 9.4: Along the same lines, I am almost positive that Pinkie Pie having a giant Pinkie Pie costume is not a reference to a 2005 Achewood strip where Ray Smuckles dressed as Ray Smuckles for Halloween...
...but I want it to be so much that I'm counting it anyway.
12.2: "Bamf" is the accepted comic book sound effect for teleportation since 1975.
13.6: Rarity has the same feelings about snakes as Dr. Henry Jones Jr., known primarily for his hatred of Nazis and genuinely awful approach to archeology.
16.5: This is another one where I might be reaching, but it's hard to see a cute little rabbit with fangs and a vampire cape...
...and not think of Bunnicula, a series of kids' books written by James Howe about a rabbit that may or not be roaming the night, sucking the juice out of vegetables. Then again, these are actually described as vampiric jackalopes, so it's probably just me.
EDIT: Katie Cook confirmed over Twitter that it is indeed a Bunnicula reference.
My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic #4:
5.1: The layout of Queen Chrysalis's castle and its confusing arrangement of stairs is pretty obviously based on M.C. Escher's Relativity....
...but the bouncing crystal ball is likely another callback to a similar scene in Labyrinth (1986). There's David Bowie all over this dang book!
7.1 - 7.5: Each of the doors opened in Chrysalis's hall leads to another pop culture bad guy:
Clockwise from the top left: The pony with the flaming apple is a reference to Mola Ram, the heart-ripping high priest of Kali from Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984), the creepy clown is Pennywise from Stephen King's It, the dapper dresser with the organ is The Phantom of the Opera (specifically Lon Chaney's version from 1925), and the boring twins in room 237 are references to The Shining (1980). The inset's root cellar door and the promise to swallow your soul is a nod to Evil Dead II (1987).
8.1: The riddle asked to Twilight Sparkle is pretty similar to one asked to Alice in Lewis Carrol's Alice In Wonderland. Neither one has a proper answer, although it's interesting that only Pinkie Pie gets that. It's almost impossible to think that Twilight, who lives in a library, would not have read Equestria's equivalent of that story if it existed, which means that these ponies live in a world where Alice In Wonderland doesn't exist, but Road House does.
10.4: The sound effects in this panel are lifted, typography and all, directly from Batman '66:
21.1: Princess Celestia's reference to Canterlot being attacked by "a giant magical marshmallow pony" is a reference to the climax of 1984's Ghostbusters. It's difficult to imagine how that came about, considering that Celestia, a magical immortal who literally commands the sun to rise each morning, would likely respond to "are you a god?" with an unambiguous "yes."