Naming high schools after actors isn’t anything new for animated series. Meg and Peter’s school in Family Guy has been named after both James Woods and Adam West over the course of the series’ run with both actors voicing themselves as characters as well. Where Prime Video’s Invincible differs, however, is by adding yet another layer to their version of this running joke.
The high school that Mark Grayson (Steven Yeun), William (Andrew Rannells), Eve (Gillian Jacobs), and Amber (Zazie Beetz) attend is named after the actor Reginald VelJohnson, who most people will likely recognize from Die Hard and the hit show Family Matters. VelJohnson also voices a character in Invincible, but instead of playing a direct version of himself, he voices the principal of the school named after him.
To add to this self-ception, the last name of VelJohnson’s principal is Winslow, which happens to match the last name of the character he played in Family Matters. In the popular 1990s sitcom, VelJohnson plays Carl Winslow, a father and police officer who does his best to be the “man of the house” he thinks he’s expected to be.
This is not only a subtle tribute to VelJohnson and his career, but it also serves as a hilarious Easter egg for eagle-eyed (and eared) Invincible fans. There’s no obvious reason why this world has a high school named after a popular actor from the 1980s and ’90s, but he clearly had enough of an impact on this society to warrant a public institution of learning being named after him. This world is full of superheroes, and yet VelJohnson beat them all out as the namesake of this Chicago public school.
Casting VelJohnson as Principal Winslow is just icing on the cake at this point. It elevates the joke beyond a name gag and lets us know that the actor himself is in on it.
Despite having a cast full of comedic actors like Jason Mantzoukas, Gillian Jacobs, and Seth Rogen, Invincible isn’t known for its humor. The overall series has a fairly serious tone, especially now that we know Omni-Man’s (J.K. Simmons) true intentions for Earth. There are a few jokes here and there, but Invincible doesn’t have many running gags aside from the Mauler twins’ constant fighting about who is and isn’t the clone.
Principal Winslow only appeared in one episode last season, but that doesn’t mean we’ve seen the last of him. As Mark struggles to return to his normal life and considers leaving his high school life behind as Eve did, as his namesake suggests, Principal Winslow could offer Mark an unexpected shoulder to lean on for advice on the educational, and more human, aspects of his future.
But even if VelJohnson and Principal Winslow just continue to be a fun little joke for fans, the actor’s layered inclusion in the series is a welcome addition and helps bring a bit of levity as the series deals with heavier storylines and character arcs. Invincible elevates Reginald VelJohnson to national treasure status, which he has rightfully earned.
Episodes of Invincible season 2 premiere Fridays on Prime Video, culminating with a midseason finale on Nov. 24.