Not Brand Echh #9 (August, 1968)

I gotta say, I sometimes have a hard time figuring out what was going through my younger self’s mind when I made certain choices at the spinner rack half a century ago.  The subject of today’s post is a case in point.  I mean — why would I put down 25 cents for a giant-size humor comic filled with satirical versions of Marvel characters I was only now getting to know in their “serious” incarnations?

I’m guessing that it was partly because Not Brand Echh, with its parodies of current movies and TV shows as well as comic books, reminded me of Mad magazine — which was one of my most regular comics purchases in the late Sixties, despite the fact that I haven’t yet devoted a blog post to it (probably because back in my younger days, I didn’t think of Mad as a bona fide “comic book”, due to its black-and-white magazine-size format).  And, hey, my inclination to go for the “bargain” of getting multiple heroes for the price of one (which, in contrast to Mad, I’ve often noted on the blog), may have figured into my purchasing decision as well — even if these were parody version of the heroes, there were still a lot of ’em. 

Still, it was kind of an odd purchase for my ten-year-old self, since — with the notable exception of Mad — I had largely eschewed the whole genre of humor comics*.  Outside of a few issues of The Fox and the Crow, I’d ignored funny animals completely.  Nor did I have any interest in teen humor — no Archie, Binky, or Scooter for me.  And not even the art of Neal Adams could tempt me into investigating the Adventures of Bob Hope or Jerry Lewis.  Yep — I’d even turned up my nose at DC Comics’ superhero spoof, The Inferior Five — which meant I’d missed seeing Marvel beaten to the draw of satirizing their heroes by their main competitor, also known (in the pages of Marvel’s comics, anyway) as “Brand Echh”.**

But this post is about the funny comic book I did pick up, Not Brand Echh — which, when I got it home and opened it up, greeted me with this contents page — which in its credits box included several names already familiar to me, as well as a couple I didn’t know as yet:

Not Brand Echh is something of an odd duck among Marvel comics of the era, being a de facto anthology title with stories or other features by different teams of writers and artists, but having its own editorial staff as well — although it’s also possible that the line-up presented in the credits box simply reflects the overall Marvel production setup of the time, and thus would be the same for all Marvel’s comics, not just Not Brand Echh.  (Anyone with more or better information about this, please feel free to weigh in in the comments.)

Of course, the “job titles” provided for the credited individuals aren’t much help in letting one know exactly what they did on the book — but by comparing this contents page to its equivalents in other issues of Not Brand Echh, as well as by consulting various reference sources for Marvel history, we can get a pretty good idea of how the responsibilities broke down.  They appear to have gone something like this

  • Stan Lee, “Caliph of Conusion”, editor
  • Sol Brodsky, “Hizzoner of Hysteria”, production manager
  • Roy Thomas, “Pundit of Pandemonium”, associate editor
  • Gary Friedrich, “Baron of Bedazzlement”, assistant editor
  • John Verpoorten, “Doctor of Delirium”, art associate

According to an article Roy Thomas would write many years later for the 95th issue of his comics history magazine, Alter Ego, Not Brand Echh was conceived by him and Friedrich primarily as a vehicle for parodying the comics of Marvel’s competitors   Their main inspiration was the original 23-issue run of Mad as a full-color comic book in the early 1950s, when the title had run such Harvey Kurtzman-written classics as “Starchie”, “Prince Violent!”, and, of course, “Superduperman!” (the first page of which, with art by Wally Wood, is shown at left).  Supposedly, Stan Lee loved the idea of a parody comic when Thomas and Friedrich pitched it to him over lunch, but stipulated that the focus should be on parodies of Marvel’s own heroes rather than of their competitors’ characters.  The two younger writers were originally disappointed by this change, according to Thomas, though he, at least, eventually came to see it as the correct call.  After all, they’d be able to use “Spidey-Man” in every issue of the new comic if they wanted to, while they might get in legal trouble if they attempted to do the same with, say, “Stuporman”.

Not Brand Echh (or Brand Echh, as the book was officially known for its first four issues, until the letters  started coming in and Marvel realized that the book’s readers assumed the “Not” in the title logo was, indeed, part of the title; presumably, it was originally included just for the sake of properly answering the cover’s question, “Who says a comic book has to be good?) debuted in May, 1967, with a cover by Jack Kirby that heralded not only the appearances within the issue of the “Fantastical Four”, “Doctor Bloom”, and the “Silver Burper” — but also the debut of “Marble” Comics’ latest and greatest hero — Forbush Man!

Forbush Man was the “secret” identity of Irving Forbush, a hapless (and fictitious) Marvel employee/mascot whom Stan Lee regularly cracked jokes about in Marvel’s letters pages and “Bullpen Bulletins” columns.  Few Marvel readers were probably aware, however (I certainly wasn’t) that Lee had originally created Irv a whole decade earlier, in the pages of Snafu — a very short-lived (three issues) humor comics magazine that seems to have been much more a direct knock-off of Mad (albeit the b&w version) than Not Brand Echh would ever be.  And while Irv’s face would never be seen in a “modern” (i.e., post-Fantastic Four #1) Marvel comic — not even “The Origin of Forbush-Man the Way-Out Wonder”, which appeared in Not Brand Echh #5 — his physiognomy had graced the pages of Snafu , as seen to the right.  (Hmm, maybe we Sixties Marvel readers were luckier than we knew.  For a fuller account of Mr. Forbush’s career at Snafu, see Kevin Garcia’s post at his blog,  Following the origin tale in #5, Forbush-Man’s next big outing was in #8 — an issue devoted to him. He then appeared on the cover of my first issue, #9, as the bound captive of “Boney and Claude” — though he didn’t appear in the story featuring the same, or anywhere else in the issue.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.  Returning to NBE #1 for a moment — its cover (as shown to the right a ways up above), didn’t include any subjects of parody other than Marvel’s own characters, thus sticking strictly to Lee’s expressed preferences.  But that status lasted only one issue, as #2 would feature a variety of “Marble” super-heroes going up against parodies of properties owned by DC (“Gnatman and Rotten”), Gold Key (“Magnut, Robot Biter”), and Tower (“BLUNDER Agents”).  Such parodies would continue to pop up through the run of the series, although — true to Lee’s intent — the focus would remain firmly on “Marble”.  Along the way, readers would be able to enjoy the closest thing to a “Marvel vs. DC” company-wide crossover that would appear prior to 1996. — namely, NBE #6’s “Best Side Story”, a parody of the Broadway musical “West Side Story” that chronicled the star-crossed love of “Dr. Deranged” and “Wotta Woman”, with the “Marble” and “Brand Echh” heroes subbing for the Jets and the Sharks.

The first issue of Not Brand Echh that I can recall my younger self being aware of was #7, which was featured in house ads in some of the earliest Marvel comics I bought.  As I recall, I quickly made the mental connection between the title and Mad, recognizing that the two publications shared an irreverent approach to humor that could be encapsulated as “making fun of everything and everyone, themselves included”.  It was appealing, but I was still too new to Marvel to give the book a shot right away.  So I passed on issue #7, and on #8, as well — but by the time issue #9 (the first double-sized 25-cent issue, by the way) came out, my ten-year-old self appears to have been ready to take a chance.  Even if I still didn’t know much about most of these characters.

Case in point:  the two characters parodied in the very first story in Not Brand Echh #9:  The Incredible Hulk and Prince Namor, the Sub-Mariner.  Or, as they’re known in the Marble Universe…

Oh, I knew who they were, more or less.  Earlier in 1968, they’d both been spun out of the “double-feature” title they’d shared for years, Tales to Astonish, into their own solo titles — part of the expansion of Marvel’s line that Stan Lee had trumpeted as the dawn of “the Second Age of Marvel Comics”.  Those two first issues (well, OK, yes, in Hulk’s case it was a 102nd issue) had been prominently featured in house ads and vigorously promoted in Lee’s “Bullpen Bulletins” columns, so it would have been hard for me not to at least recognize the characters.  Still — I didn’t know much about them.  And I for sure didn’t know that “Bet There’ll Be Battle!” — scripted by Roy Thomas and penciled by Marie Severin — was, from its title and splash page all the way through to the end, a direct parody of Tales to Astonish #100’s “Let There Be Battle!” — scripted by Stan Lee, and penciled by the very same Marie Severin.  Severin was spoofing her own recent work, in other words.  That was something you didn’t see every day — not even in the regularly self-deprecating pages of Mad.

Marie Severin was, in fact, one of the most direct links between Not Brand Echh and its early-Fifties antecedent, having colored all twenty-three issues of Mad‘s original four-color incarnation.  She’d been working at Marvel since 1959, originally in production, but had in 1967 begun penciling the “Doctor Strange” feature in Strange Tales.  Still more recently, she’d become the Hulk’s regular artist.  Nothing in that work, however, indicated just how great she’d turn out to be at humor.  Ultimately, she’d become, in Roy Thomas’ words from his Alter Ego article: “NBE’s stand-out artist… the one who gave it, most of us feel, its soul, its best moments, and its prime justification for existence!”

Among the qualities Severin brought to her humor work was a tremendous facility with what comics pros sometimes called “chicken fat” — the loading up of panels with background gags in the form of signs, labels, etc., which don’t really advance the story (such as there may be) but add to the humorous flavor (like chicken fat adds flavor to soup, get it?).  Chicken fat, as exemplified in the work of artists like Harvey Kurtzman, Wally Wood, and Will Elder, was one of the defining traits of the original Mad (see the “Superduperman” page reproduced above for some great examples)– and since, in May, 1968, I was still several years out from my first encounter with that classic material in reprint form, Marie Severin’s was the first full-out, go for broke chicken fat I saw.

Thomas’ and Severin’s parodic plot follows the basic outline of the Lee-Severin original, as the Sunk-Mariner decides to rescue the Inedible Bulk and make him an ally, but along the way runs afoul of the “Puppet Mister”.  The two creators opted to base this version of the Marvel supervillain the Puppet Master neither on Jack Kirby’s original visual conception (see left) nor on the somewhat better-fed model that Severin had drawn in Tales to Astonish #100 (see right), but rather on famous children’s TV show puppet chraracter Howdy Doody — famous, that is, if you were a kid (or older) in the Fifties.  But I was only three years old when Howdy went off the air in 1960, and didn’t know Buffalo Bob from Buckaroo Banzai, so the visual and verbal references went right over my head.

Anyhoo, the dastardly villain decides to make the Bulk the instrument of his vengeance, and thus manipulates him into attacking Prince No-More — starting with the latter’s elaborate sand castle:

And there in that last panel is another reference my ten-year-old self either didn’t get, or understood only vaguely, as Star Trek didn’t air in my local TV market during its original 1966-69 run.  If I’d ever seen a pic of Leonard Nimoy as Mr. Spock, it would have been on a magazine cover, or perhaps on the packaging of whatever licensed merchandise might have trickled into Jackson, MS by the spring of ’68.

The Sunk-Mariner and the Bulk battle for a couple of pages, until the Bulk flings him far, far away, “in the general direction of the Miami Hilton!”  The Bulk figures he can now “relax for a few pages” — but the little voice in his head isn’t going to let him off that easy:

“And awaaay we go — !” was a television reference I did understand, since my family watched The Jackie Gleason Show “live from Miami Beach!” every week, and so had heard “the Great One” deliver that catchphrase innumerable times.

No-More, hoping to end his involuntary flight with a dive into the Atlantic Ocean, lands in the Miami Hilton’s swimming pool instead.  That makes no difference to the Bulk, who carries the battle to him there.  And hey, here comes that “Mr. Spook” gag again:

Seeking to continue the fight on his home turf (so to speak), he Sunk-Mariner departs the pool for the ocean — and when he realizes the growing throng of prepubescent autograph hounds aren’t going to follow him there (’cause the water’s too cold), decides not to come back:

The Woody Allen reference was another one that sailed over my head back in 1968, as my ten-year-old self had never heard of the comedian-filmmaker (as opposed to today, when my sixty-year-old self merely wishes he had never heard of him).  Oh, well — at least I recognized Dennis the Menace.

The second feature of the issue was a riff on Ernest L. Thayer’s famous baseball poem, “Casey at the Bat” — perhaps the first (though I can’t swear to that fact) in a very long line of adaptations-from-other-media that Roy Thomas would script over the course of his comics-writing career:

The art was by Tom Sutton, who’d also inked Severin’s pencils on “Bet There’ll Be Battle!”  Sutton was probably the most prolific artist on Not Brand Echh after Severin; in later years, he’d be best known for his work in horror and related genres, but this is how I (and a lot of other readers) first made his acquaintance.

One thing that has struck me in revisiting this comic book after many years is just how many celebrities, TV shows, and even comics characters I first learned about, or at least saw for the first time, via its pages — such as, in the panel above, Will Eisner‘s Spirit and Commissioner Dolan — some six years or so before I’d see them on the stands in Warren Publishing’s reprint magazines.

The conclusion of “Casey”, with Bulk striking out when he transforms back into Brucie Banter, obviously echoes the ending of the previous story, but I doubt my ten-year-old self docked it any points for unoriginality; I would have been too jazzed to see the cameos by versions of the casts of Pogo and Peanuts — my two favorite newspaper comic strips, both of which I was collecting in paperback reprints by this time.

The third story, also by Thomas and Sutton, was “The Mean Hornet”, a satirical take on another TV series I’d never seen — probably because it, like Star Trek, didn’t air in my area, though I’m not 100% sure of that fact.  And speaking of Star Trek

… based on the hues applied to the crew’s uniforms, hair, and (in one case) skin tone, I’m guessing the colorist hadn’t seen Star Trek, either.

As you can probably glean from the panel above, the concept of the story finds the Mean Hornet and Plato, out of work due to their TV series having recently been cancelled, looking for jobs on other programs.  Along the way, they stop by the set of “Hi Spy” (where we have a Bill Cosby moment to make us wince every bit as much as the issue’s earlier Woody Allen one did) and “The Lonesome Ranger” (allowing Roy the Fanboy to insert a footnote about how the Hornet and the Ranger are sorta-kinda versions of the same character) before deciding to retire to a “retirement community” for washed-up TV heroes, on the beach in Miami (thereby recycling the ending of the issue’s first story yet again).

(And yes, I agree — that buck-toothed representation of Plato [based on the Kato character Bruce Lee played on the TV show] is pretty embarrassing.)

Next up was a short feature that feels a bit like filler material:

This four-pager, with different Marble heroes appearing on cards for different holidays, is probably the weakest thing in the book, at least to my way of thinking (though, since humor is subjective, your mileage of course may vary).  I’ll note that this first card was probably my first look at any version of the Inhumans, with the exception of Medusa, whom I’d met the previous month in Amazing Spider-Man #62 (and who’s oddly absent from this family Valentine –but don’t worry, she’ll turn up a little later on in the issue).

With the issue’s fifth feature, we come at last to the primary subject of Marie Severin’s cover:

This Gary Friedrich-scripted satire of the acclaimed 1967 film Bonnie and Clyde is probably the most Mad magazine-like item in the issue.  John Verpoorten’s caricatures of Warren Beatty, Faye Dunaway, et al, may not have been quite as on point as Mort Drucker‘s in Mad‘s own take (“Balmy and Clod”), but they got the job done.  Still, even if you somehow came across the story separated from the rest of the issue and with the color stripped out, you’d still know it for Not Brand Echh‘s take, and not that of any other contemporaneous Mad-like satire magazine (Cracked, Sick, etc.) — just because of sequences like this one:

The sixth feature was a free-wheeling take on the familiar fairy tale “Jack and the Beanstalk”.  Another tale written by Thomas, it’s notable for featuring some of the first Marvel comics artwork done in many years by Jim Mooney — a veteran illustrator who’d spent most of his three-decade career at DC, where he’d been the regular artist on “Supergirl” since 1959.  According to an interview published in Comic Book Artist #7, Mooney felt compelled to return to Marvel when Carmine Infantino started moving DC in the direction of a more dynamic, illustrative (i.e., Neal Adams-esque) style of art.  He’d soon be established as the regular “finisher” over John Romita’s layouts for Amazing Spider-Man, but this NBE story was one of his first assignments:

As I noted earlier in this post, I didn’t read Archie comics, but I had, of course, seen them in the spinner racks, and thus had no trouble recognizing Arch E. Android.  Most of the other “actors” filling the roles of the fairy tale’s characters — which, in addition to Medoozy as Jack’s mom and Dr. Deranged as the magic beans peddler, included Donald Duck as the goose that lays the golden eggs, Elvis Presley as the enchanted singing harp, and Frankenstein’s Monster as the giant — were also easily identifiable.  However, there was a trio that turned up on page 3 that I’m sure must have left my ten-year-old self scratching his head:

Yep, it’s the Old Witchthe Crypt-Keeper, and the Vault-Keeper, also known as the three GhoulLunatics —  the hosts of EC Comics’ classic horror titles.  But since those comics hadn’t been seen on the stands in thirteen years, I think it’s a fair bet that I was far from the only young reader who didn’t have a clue who these Limbo-dwellers were.  No, this was one for the comic book cognoscenti.

The story wraps up with a couple of neat twists on the traditional fairy tale plot, one of which is probably the first reference I ever saw to the Comics Code Authority within the pages of a comic:

The final feature of the issue was another parody of a relatively recent “straight” Marvel superhero story, although one that was, of necessity, somewhat looser in adapting its source material than had been the Bulk/Sunk-Mariner tale that opened the book.  Whereas that story had condensed its 22-page inspiration from Tales to Astonish #100 into 9 pages, scripter Roy Thomas and penciler Gene Colan had only 10 pages for their satirical riff on the first three episodes of Marvel’s new Captain Marvel series — which together totaled 55 pages of comics.  But since Thomas had written the second two thirds of that storyline (Stan Lee having written the Captain’s debut adventure), and Colan had drawn all three, they were as well-suited for the job as anyone could be.

Captain Marvel, as most of this blog’s readers probably already know, was created and published by Marvel for the sake of keeping/establishing a trademark in the hero’s name.  But Roy Thomas, who wrote for and edited a comics fanzine well in advance of his becoming a comics pro, was a big fan of the original Captain Marvel, as published by Fawcett in the Forties and early Fifties.  Thomas couldn’t indulge his love for the Fawcett character in the regular Captain Marvel series — or, to put it a bit more accurately, he hadn’t yet figured out how to do so — but he could get away with it to a significant degree with Captain Marvin, starting with the appearance of Mr. Mind, the original Captain Marvel supervillain who’s a super-intelligent worm, on the splash page; an appearance which, Thomas tells us in his Alter Ego reminiscence, he penciled himself!

On the next page, Captain Mar-Vinn — who, like his non-parodic original, is an extraterrestrial spy destined to become an “accidental” superhero — contacts his superior officer, which allows for yet another (and final) appearance by Mr, Spook (aka the Sunk-Mariner):

And that was Thomas plugging his fanzine Alter Ego, which he continued to produce throughout 1969, before it went on a nine-year hiatus (and then another twenty-year hiatus, after that).

The next panels two present the second and third of the story’s callbacks to the Fawcett Captain Marvel:

First, there’s the relatively subtle rock carving of the “Seven Deadly Enemies of Man”, which references both the Whiz Comics #2 original and Walt Disney’s Seven Dwarfs; then, in the following panel, the rather more obvious use of “Shazam!” — the magic word that young newsboy Billy Batson said to turn himself into the superheroic Captain Marvel.  (Well, maybe not so obvious to young readers such as my ten-year-old self, who only knew the word as an exclamation uttered by the title character on TV’s Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C.)

On the very next page, Thomas and Colan interject the “Big Red Cheese” — the original Captain Marvel — himself:

The Golden Age references keep coming as the tale continues, with cameos by both the original Cap’s nemesis Dr. Sivana and his alter ego, Billy Batson.  But in the end, it’s back to Marble basics, as Mar-Vinn defeats his enemy — the rogue Kreep robot called the Scent-ry — by the expedient of boring him into a stupor with home movies…

… leaving Rascally Roy to close out the story — and the issue — with an allusion to T.S. Eliot’s 1925 poem, “The Hollow Men”.  (He used to do that kind of thing a lot, and not just in Not Brand Echh.)

And so, our brisk (?) march through the pages of this comic book comes to an end, as well — not with a bang, but with a… never mind.

I enjoyed Not Brand Echh #9, when I first read it back in May, 1968..  It amused me, even if it didn’t make me laugh out loud.  (And maybe it did — after fifty years, who’s to say?)  But I didn’t buy the next issue, for reasons I no longer recall; or the one after that, or the one after that, or… well, you get the picture.  And after NBE #13 (May, 1969), I wouldn’t have another chance.  The book had been cancelled.

Of course, it wasn’t the end for satirical comics at Marvel.  About a year and a half later, the company published the first issue of Spoof, a title that tracked a little bit closer to the model of Mad in that it didn’t focus on parodies of Marvel characters (or even include them), but still “felt” like an heir to Not Brand Echh, mainly because of the prominent presence of NBE alumni like Roy Thomas and, of course, Marie Severin — who together produced, for that first issue, “Darn Shadows” — a parody of my then-favorite television show that delighted me to no end.

Spoof lasted only a few issues, the last of which overlapped with the publication of Crazy — a comic reprinting old NBE stories, and thus a boon to fans like me who regretted not buying the originals when we had the chance.  (This Crazy, by the way, shouldn’t be confused with the 1953 Crazy — another one of Marvel’s attempts to compete with Mad that the publisher produced in that decade — or with the later, black-and-white Crazy Magazineanother one of Marvel’s attempts to compete with Mad in the Seventies.)  It was followed by Arrgh! (1974-75), another short-lived humor series, which like, Spoof, largely eschewed Marvel properties, but had its own focus — namely, the horror genre.  Edited by Thomas, it featured occasional contributions by other NBE mainstays such as Severin and Tom Sutton.

Still later (1988, to be precise) Marvel gave us What The–?! — which, despite a title riffing on Marvel’s “straight” alternate-reality title What If?, was the definite heir to Not Brand Echh, bringing back the Fantastical Four, Scaredevil, and other old favorites, while also introducing such new characters as Woof R’ Ream, the Pulverizer and Goon Knight. The series ran for a respectable 26 issues (double the number that NBE attained) before ending in 1993.  Over a decade later, the title and concept metamorphosed into the Marvel Superheroes: What The–?! web series (2009), which used action figures of Marvel characters in comedic stop-motion animated shorts.  The beat, as they say, goes on…

…though, even now, we’re still not quite done.  There’s still the later career of Forbush Man to consider — and, not so incidentally, the return of Not Brand Echh as a comic book with all new material (if only for one issue) in 2017.

Along with appearing in What The–?!, Irv Forbush’s alter ego served as the mascot for the Marvel Age comics-format newszine for much of its 1983 – 1994 run.  But that’s hardly worth talking about, compared to what writer Warren Ellis and artist Stuart Immonen did with (or maybe that should be to) him in 2006, in the ninth and tenth issues of their brilliant and still-missed Nextwave: Agents of H.A.T.E..  There, Forbush Man appears as a sinister villain with formidable mental powers, leading a squad of equally-evil superfolks called the New Paramounts, comprised of — wait for it — the Inedible Bulk, Charlie America, and Giant-Sam — all of whom, of course, first appeared in the pages of Not Brand Echh.

Both Forbush Man and the rest of the New Paramounts are revealed to be creations of the Beyond Corporation, who have based them on the characters from Not Brand Echh , which exists on Marvel-Earth (or Earth-616, if you prefer) as a parody comic book, just like it does on ours.  The Nextwave team ultimately defeats the team of villains, with Forbush Man himself apparently blown up and killed.

But that’s still not the end.  Forbush Man — well, a Forbush Man — returned in 2010 for Captain America: Who Won’t Wield the Shield?, a satirical one-shot tying in to the then-current Captain America: Reborn miniseries.  This is a grim and gritty Forbush Man, distraught at the current state of superhero comics.  He’s killed in this one as well, though he’s then immediately reanimated as a zombie.

Next up is Deadpool: Too Soon?, a 2016 8-issue “Infinite Comic” in which Forbush Man joins an assembly of what’s described as “Marvel’s funniest heroes”, including the titular star, Ant-Man, Squirrel Girl, Spider-Ham, Rocket Raccoon, Groot, Howard the Duck, and the Punisher (heh).  He gets killed in this one too (that makes three times, if you’re counting) — right at the end of issue #1, in fact — but gets better before the story concludes in #8.

And that brings us all the way up to Forbush Man’s most recent appearance, as of this writing:  Not Brand Echh #14 — released by Marvel in November, 2017, a mere forty-eight-plus years since the publication of #13.  Our boy in red longjohns appears in three linked shorts, where we see him pitching comeback ideas to some faceless Marvel execs.  In a welcome breaking with precedent, Forbush Man doesn’t die in the issue.

Oh, you’re wondering how well the new issue of Not Brand Echh upholds the traditions of the title?  Well, to be honest, it doesn’t really feel much like NBE to me.  Not that it’s bad — writer Nick Spencer’s lampooning of his own Secret Empire saga is especially funny — but it doesn’t seem to truly belong to the same tradition as those earlier, Fifties Mad-evoking issues.  Where’s the chicken fat, fergoshsakes?  It’s a nice gesture towards Marvel’s past, I suppose, but they might have done just as well to call the book something else.

But let’s get back to Forbush Man, just for another moment or so, before wrapping this up.  If you’re a continuity-minded comics fan (as I tend to be), what are you to make of all these obviously contradictory Irv-versions?  Believe it or not, Marvel actually established Forbush Man and the rest of the NBE stable of characters (including the “Brand Echh” heroes like Gnatman, Magnut, etc., in addition to the “Marble” folks) as belonging to the one true Marvel Universe — where they live on a world designated Earth-665 — in The Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe: Alternate Universes 2005.  So that’s got the Forbush Man appearances in Marvel Age, What The–?!, and NBE itself taken care of.  And the one appearing (and dying) in Nextwave was presumably native to the “main” Marvel Earth, Earth-616.  The others?  Um… well…. I may have to get back to you on that.

Yes, I know —  it’s enough to make your head canon hurt.  But hey, it’s probably best not to worry about it.  After all — who says a comic book has to be in continuity?

*As I also had Western, war, science fiction, horror/mystery and romance comics.  I was a capes ‘n’ tights guy, pretty much straight down the line.

**Technically, “Brand Echh” — Stan Lee’s variation on the phrase “Brand X”, frequently used in the Sixties by businesses when referring to their competitors in ads — referred to all other comics publishers; by 1968, however, it’s likely most fans would think primarily of DC when they saw the words.


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  12. Pat Conolly · January 17, 2020

    So you read Mad magazine, and bought the Pogo and Peanuts paperback books, but you didn’t get the Mad paperback books? I loved the reprints from the early days (not that I had any idea when they were originally published). I loved them even more years later when I got full sized, color reprints. But I also loved 60’s Mad, particularly Don Martin, Spy vs Spy and Mort Drucker. Inferior Five and Not Brand Ecch I tried out, but thought they were just OK. Actually I liked these stories now more than I would have at the time, probably because of getting more references.

    I agree with you about avoiding the typical “humorous” comics of the time – with the exception of Herbie.

    And a couple of typos:

    “released by Marvel n November, 2017”
    “released by Marvel in November, 2017”


    Liked by 1 person

    • Alan Stewart · January 17, 2020

      Pat, actually, I was buying Mad paperbacks back around this time — at least, I was buying most of the “originals”, the ones that featured new material from Antonio Prohias (Spy vs. Spy), Don Martin (Captain Klutz), and Al Jaffee (Snappy Answers to Stupid Questions). The reprints of early Mad comics material (The Mad Reader, et al) may have been around, but I don’t think I picked up any until 1971 or so.

      Plus, thanks, as always, for catching the typos. 🙂


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