We only have 3 issues of Brechh left but they’re all King-Size which means they may each take a while. So let’s start off easy with just the cover, frontispiece, and first story.
In Alter Ego #95, July 2010, Roy Thomas recounts that he and Gary Friedrich pitched the idea to Stan Lee of a parody comic like the original Mad that would focus on “poking fun at rival companies’ heroes or putting out a general satire/spoof title.” Stan liked the parody idea but thought it “should be specifically devoted to burlesquing Marvel’s own characters.” And, for the most part, that is exactly what Not Brand Echh did for its first eight issues. But, with the ninth, Echh went King-Size, requiring more stories and the parameters widened. That issue featured “Casey at the Bat,” “The Mean Hornet,” “Arch and the Teen-stalk,” and cover-featured “Boney and Claude,” a takeoff of the film “Bonnie and Clyde.”
And with the ice broken, film, TV, and ad parodies crop up in the final three issues beginning with the first story in this one. It’s King Konk ‘68! But first that cover…
It shows a terrified King Konk standing on the observation tower of the “Umpire State Building.” He has the Inedible Bulk in his right hand, so smooshed it doesn’t look like he can even breathe. His left hand is filled with Brechh heroes, all jumbled together and sticking out between his fingers; the Mighty Sore raising his hammer, Scaredevil stuck under Sore’s cape, Knock Furious holding an electric mixer and gasping for breath, the Thung squeezed next to Sore’s armpit, Prince No-More biting King Konk’s thumb, Ironed Man biting No-More’s leg, and Charlie America stuck upside down at the bottom. Spidey-Man is there, too, but he’s not with the group. He’s dangling from a web that is attached to the “E” in the “Echh” logo. He holds a sign that reads, “King Konk the Greatest Monster Movie of all time!” And because we have to have at least one bi-plane attacking Konk, we have one flown by a character who may not be recognizable today but who was known to nearly everyone back in 1968. Saying his tagline, Verrrrry in-ter-esting! is Arte Johnson from Laugh-In doing his German soldier routine.
It’s another nutty, inspired Marie Severin cover spruced up by the Marvel Comics Group box showing Spidey, No-More and Charlie America looking up at Konk. No-More looks terrified, Charlie looks awed, and Spidey’s eyelets are tilted down in fear. Great stuff!
The frontispiece motif this time is a selection of salad fixings (and story panels) mixed above a salad bowl and two-pronged fork. “The Most Tintinnabulatin’ Tossed Salad of All!” crows the credit panel that lists Stan Lee as “Caesar of the Salad,” Sol Brodsky as “Viceroy of the Vinegar,” Roy Thomas as “Keeper of the Cucumbers,” Marie Severin as “Tsarina of the Tscallions,” and John Verpoorten as “Our Own Jolly Green Hot-Pepper!” In A/E #95, Roy notes that the substitution of Marie’s name for Gary Friedrich’s name indicates “Gary’s departure from the office.” Among the various salad fixings are a carrot, an onion, celery, a banana peel, a shoe, a toothbrush, a nut and bolt, chattering teeth, an old sock, a tuning fork, Sore’s hammer, an old Edison-era light bulb, a bottle, a broken pair of eyeglasses, Knock Furious’ gun, some money, a salami, a bottle, an egg with something hatching from it, and one of those stereotypical black, round bombs with a lit fuse. The scenes from the stories are from King Konk ’68! page 9 panel 5 (with Snoopy’s biplane from the splash on page 10 added), Superhero Day-Dreams! (actually called “Super-Hero Daydreams”) from page 4 panel 9 (the last panel of the story), Knock Furious, Agent of SHEESH! (actually called “Dark Moon Rise,
Hell Heck Hound Kill Hurt!”) from page 5 panel 5 (with “woozy” circles above Knock’s head drawn in), Puns of Will Bonnet! from page 2 panel 5 (with an odd-looking mesa drawn in), Ivanshmoe! from page 3 panel 4, Sunk-Mariner vs. Aqualung-Man! (actually called “Don’t Rock the Vote”) from page 3 panel 2, and Spidey-Man! (actually called “Fame is a Cross-Eyed Blind Date with B-a-a-a-d Breath!”) from page 2 panel 4 (with the Green Gobbler drawn in). The bowl itself has a message with a trio of bad puns. “Plus: If you carrot all, we’ve got plenty of bonus features to lettuce fill up the mag and earn our celery! ‘Nuff said!”
In A/E #95, Roy tells us that the opening story, King Konk ‘68 was a “spoof of the 1933 film classic…At the time, the mostly wretched Dino DeLaurentiis remake was still nearly a decade away…but of course the original Kong was forever playing on late-night TV and in revival movie theatres.” He also credits “the long shadow of Kurtzman’s Mad” that had featured “Ping Pong,” a King Kong parody in Mad #6 (August-September 1953). (The same issue that featured Mad’s version of “Casey at the Bat.” See the review of the Brechh version at Not Brand Echh #9 (Story 1).) But there was a King Kong on TV screens at that time; the ABC cartoon show, airing at 11:00AM on Saturday mornings and starring a docile, friendly Kong. A comic book story based on that Kong appeared in America's Best TV Comics #1 (Promoted Cartoon Show). In my review of that story I called Kong “a lovable hero” and I gave it two webs. So, even if kids reading “Echh” hadn’t seen the original movie, they still knew the character. (There was also the King Kong Aurora model kit
and the 1962 Japanese film King Kong vs. Godzilla with which the kids of the time were familiar.)
Roy co-plotted this story with artist Tom Sutton and the story is so chockfull of cameos and topical references that it may take a while to get through if we really want to do it justice. Let’s see how we do.
As our story begins, the U.S.S. Queen Mary, a ship with a wind-up key in the back of it, heads toward an island that looks like nothing but a lump of vegetation in the ocean, except for the huge pair of eyes peeking out from underneath. The island has signs all over it…”Holiday Inn, 2 miles ahead,” “Yanqui Go Home! Lessen you Got Money!” and others. A large Prince No-More peeks out from behind the island. (Need I add that no United States Ship is going to be called the “Queen Mary?”) A balloon off the port stern holds our credits (“Produced and palmed off on a pantin’ populace by Stan Lee, Editor; Roy Thomas, Writer; Tom Sutton, Artist.”) but a sailboat with a ragged sail follows the Queen Mary. In it are Marie Severin and Sam Rosen and their credit is on the sail. It says, “With an artful assist by Marie Severin; Lettered by Sam Rosen.” Down in the lower right of the splash page is a porthole shaped panel with our “stars,” Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor. So what’s up with using Liz and Dick? (I don’t have to explain whom Liz and Dick were, do I?) And what’s up with the “artful assist by Marie Severin?” Well, to quote Roy in A/E #95 again, “Since the super-star couple of the day were Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, Tom and I decided to make them the stars of our four-color ‘remake,’ and I was pleased with the way it turned out. Stan, however, must’ve had issues with some of Tom’s caricatures of the Burtons and others, because many (if not most) of the various celebrity faces in the story have been redrawn by Marie, the source of her ‘assist’ credit.”
In that porthole panel, Dick says, “You know, Elizabeth, I’m really quite thrilled that you and I were chosen to star in this modern-type remake! This will top even our other co-starring classics such as ‘The Shaming of the Shrew,’ ‘Cleo an’ Patrick,’ ‘Who’s Afraid of Virginia’s Wolf?’” “Dickie…have you forgotten ‘The Sand-Peeper’?” says Liz. “I’m trying, luv, believe me, I’m trying,” replies Dick. These are, of course, all Brechh references to actual Burton-Taylor films… “The Taming of the Shrew (1967),” “Cleopatra (1963),” “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966),” and “The Sandpiper (1965).”
They arrive on the island where Hugh Hefner is the “great and glorious guru.” He is sitting in a chair made out of a boulder watching the Flying Nun on a TV held up by two Playboy bunnies. (“And so ends this season’s scheduled programs of the Flying Nun,” says the TV announcer, “Next week, don’t miss the premiere of our new summer series, the Rockin’ Rabbi!”) Here, Hef’s magazine is called “Pay, Boy,” as in “We charge 75¢ and you better Pay, Boy.” And of course, the TV set has literal rabbit ears. In fact, there are rabbits everywhere. There is also Albert the Alligator from Pogo in a swimming pool right behind Hefner. A sign reads, “Do Not Feed the Allegory.” And, yes, there really was a show called “The Flying Nun” and it really starred Sally Field who, you’ll recall was also Aunt May to Andrew Garfield’s Peter Parker.
Hef’s assistant runs up to tell him that tourists have arrived. (The assistant is Shel Silverstein. Much of Shel’s work that was not written for children was published in Playboy.) Dickie comes up (with Alfred Hitchcock as his cameraman) and tells Hef that they want to make a “ruddy film on your forsaken island.” He offers to hire “all of you as extras.” Hef replies, “I came here to get away from the crass, craven commercialism of civilization…to escape the morbid materialism of the money-mad masses! But, I’ll rent you the whole island for a mere 50% of the gross!” Dickie hopes to get Hef to change his mind about the rent by presenting “our luscious leading lady.” (Liz has a note on her that says, “These slacks made of National Velvet, a reference to one of Elizabeth Taylor’s early films.) Hef replies, “Would you believe 49% of the gross?” (“Would you believe…?” is a continuing gag line from the Mel Brooks-Buck Henry TV comedy, Get Smart.)
Now, Liz has bunny ears and a bunny tail on as she tells Hef that they will make him famous. “Then, will people pay to read my philosophy?” he asks. Liz shows him a centerfold, from Famous Monsters of Filmland of King Konk. As Hef tells them “if he lived on Payboy Island, you’d think I’d have noticed him,” they end up standing in Konk’s giant shadow. There is a sign that reads, “H. Hurtzman wuz here,” with the “man” in “Hurtzman” depicted as a stick figure man, just like Harvey Kurtzman’s signature
as Roy and Tom honor their inspiration for this story.
After a “mind-curdling” roar that scares Liz and Dick into a tree and flattens nearby animals, the group reassembles and heads into the jungle. Liz complains that she can’t go any further. “I’m going to send for my stand-in…Phyllis Dilly,” which is supposed to be a joke because Liz once looked like this
while Phyllis Diller looked like this.
Hef tells “Miss Tailor-Made” that there’s no need to go much further which gets Dick to wondering how he knows they are near Konk’s residence. “Justa hunch, I suppose,” says Hef as they arrive at a huge door (with a giant kitty door built into it) with signs on it reading “Keep Out!” “Off Limits!” “This means you!!” and “Members Only!” Dick tries to entice Konk out by offering to make him famous, “just like your other furry friends, Cheetah, Lassie, Gabby Hayes”
When that doesn’t work, he offers “a lifetime supply of bananas” and “maybe even a shot at the White House.” Behind him, the crew holds up signs that read “An ape in ’68!” “Konk for President,” and “Give ‘em Heck, Hairy,” a play on the Harry Truman phrase, “Give ‘em hell, Harry!” None of this works, so Liz steps up and asks “Konky-Poo” to come out. “If you do, maybe you, too, can be my steady boyfriend some day!” A rumbling sound, “like some schlump clearing his throat,” rises behind the giant door, which gets blown apart revealing Konk and a tiny ape in a diaper who is doing all of the yelling. “Okay, so now we know who the big guy is,” says Dick, “but, who’s the little guy with the titanic tonsils?” “Oh, him? That’s his agent!” says Hef, “He’s only ten percent as big as King Konk! Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to get back to my philosophy!” And they all run for it, including Laurel and Hardy who are in there for some reason. This full-pager, by the way, is inspired by the splash page of the Mad story, “Ping Pong.”
As Dick runs, joined now by Tarzan, the Phantom and the Tortoise, carrying his shell and outrunning the Hare, he realizes that Liz is not with him. That’s because she’s standing in the palm of Konk’s hand. “It turns out King Konk’s my biggest fan,” she says, “He even sat thru all of ‘Reflections in a Gilded Eye’!” (A reference to Liz’ 1967 film, “Reflections in a Golden Eye.” 53% on Rotten Tomatoes.) “He says he’ll even go back with us to New York,” she adds. Dick wonders how he will fit on the boat but that isn’t a problem. Konk carries the boat (now called “Noah’s Orc”) leaving an octopus and Moby Dick washing up in his wake.
In A/E #95, Roy says that since Ping Pong “had ended with the giant ape’s arrival in New York…Tom and I devoted half of our entry’s pages to the big fella’s Manhattan mishaps.” And, yes, in the Mad story, the crew arrives in New York with Pong to find out that they are the size of mice while Pong is the size of a child so that no one is interested in looking at “this colossal monster.” Cecil BVD Mille, the filmmaker, tells the Captain, “See? It all goes to show you…In this high speed civilization, nothing surprises anyone any more” and that is the end of the parody. Here, Roy and Tom take us to the theatre with Konk onstage, waving a tiny (to him) American flag. Ed Sullivan introduces the “rreeeeeally big show” but all of the TV cameras are focused on Liz instead of Konk. In the audience, various movie monsters (the Creature from the Black Lagoon, the Phantom of the Opera, the Wolf Man, Dracula, the Mummy, the Frankenstein Monster, and the Bride of Frankenstein) complain that Konk is a has-been. “You know what people say, “says the Frankenstein Monster, “They never come back!” Also with the monsters, though, is Hubert Humphrey and he replies, “Oh, I dunno…” (Humphrey was Vice President of the United States under Lyndon Johnson who was derided for having disappeared in that role after having been a powerful figure in the Senate. Check out Tom Lehrer’s Whatever Became of Hubert?, for example. HHH’s “I dunno” here is a reference to Humphrey being the Democratic nominee for President in 1968, a campaign going on when this issue came out. However, Humphrey ended up losing to Richard Nixon.)
“Also in the crowd,” a caption tells us, “is one Peter Pooper.” Peter is excited to take “another sizzlin’ snapshot for J. Jawbone Junkton.” “Maybe this time he won’t pay me off in old ‘I Like Ike’ buttons,” he says. Cluck Kent is also there, his Stuporman costume showing beneath his suit coat. Konk reaches for Peter. “He says he wants the pix you took for his press clippings,” says Liz. But Peter runs for it out of the building, yelling, “Nuthin’ doin’! I gotta sell these pix to pay for Auntie May’s brain operation! Mainly, they gotta find out if she’s got one!” Konk smashes through the wall of the building to try to get to Peter who is nearly run over by a car driven by Mickey Mouse. Peter spots Stuporman who is flying away above him. “”Hey, Stuporman, gimme a hand, willya!” he calls but Stuporman is not stopping. “Sorry, web-spitter,” he says, demonstrating that he knows Spidey’s secret identity, “I gotta get back to Macropolis! What am I doin’ in a place with a nutty name like New York, anyhow?” By this time, Konk has smashed out of the theatre with Liz on his head. Peter keeps running, saying, of Stuporman, “He’s gone! Oh well, now maybe the panels won’t be so crowded. If only I could find a phone booth so I could switch to Spidey-Man.”
Their route takes Konk past the “Bopster Building,” attracting the attention of the Fantastical Four. (They have two signs in their living room. One labeled “Life Mag,” as in Life Magazine and the other labeled “Death Ray.”) They join the chase with Weed Wichards asking Liz, “Can we be of assistance, miss?” and Liz replying, “No, of course not, I always travel with a giant gorilla! It helps me get a seat on the subway!”
With the ensuing panel saying, “And, as the last few panels weren’t cluttered enough,” Konk goes past Revengers headquarters and they all join the chase. The Thung says, “We’ll show that ape he can’t walk all over New York! Who duz he think he is…Mayor Lindsay?” (John Lindsay, 1921-2000, was Major of New York from 1966 to 1973. Edward Rothstein notes in his 2010 New York Times article, “You Can Fight City Hall,” that during “demonstrations over civil rights and the Vietnam War, accompanied by mounting racial tensions that erupted into city riots in 1966 and 1967, Lindsay won much praise for his readiness to walk the streets and appeal for calm.”) Peter Pooper is still running ahead of Konk and he thinks, “Still wish I could find a phone booth! Not only could I change to Spidey-Man…but I could call Auntie May to tell ‘er I’ll be late for supper!”
The Human Scorch tells Liz he will save her “cause all living beings are afraid of fire! Fact is, I’m kinda scared of it myself!” but Liz chides him, saying, “Now you’ve frightened poor Konky! You’re awful…as bad as…as…as the reviews of ‘Booom’!” (Roger Ebert said, in 1968, of “Boom!” which starred Liz and Dick…and Noel Coward!... “There are different kinds of bad movies. Some are simply wretchedly bad, like well, you know. Others are bad but fascinating and ‘Boom!’ is one of these. It isn't successful, it doesn't work, but so much money and brute energy were lavished on the production that it's fun to sit there and watch. Being so awkward and hopeless on its most fundamental level, this is a film for voyeurs.”) This fright causes Konk to climb “the Umpire State Building,” which has “Aurora” written on it. That takes us to a wonderful full-pager with Konk on the top of the building. The panel reads, “In all the awesome annals of filmdom, there exist but a few truly historic moments! Clark Gable not giving a hydroelectric dam in ‘Gone with the Widow,’ the rent-a-chariot race in ‘Ben Hertz,’ Raquel Welch in anything and now…” The Human Scorch flies by and wipes out the plane of “the Phantom Beagle” (with Snoopy on his tunic) who says, “I’m not takin’ any risks till I get my own mag.” (He doesn’t. Nor does the Phantom Eagle.) The SHEESH secret HQ helicarrier approaches. So does Blackhawk (with Chop Chop) who thinks, “What am I doin’ here? My mag just folded!” (Blackhawk #243, his last issue, was cover-dated October-November 1968. The series was restarted at issue #244 with a January-February 1976 date.) Giant-Sam is climbing the Chrysler Building. “Ever since I lost my own series, I get nuthin’ but bum steers,” he says. (Giant-Man lost his series in Tales to Astonish after #69 dated July 1965.) Sore, Ironed Man (who tells Liz, she won’t win an Oscar for this unless they call the movie “Butterfield Ape,” a reference to “Butterfield 8,” one of two films for which Liz Taylor won an Oscar; the other being “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?”), the Silver Burper, Mr. Fantastical (in the shape of the Goodyear blimp), the Bulk, the Thung, and Angelface are also there, as is Snoopy as the World War I flying ace. There’s also a security guard standing at the observation level, looking up and talking on the phone, “I would chase him, Mr. Nelson, but my jurisdiction only extends to the 85th floor! Who d’ya think I am…Bob Newhart?” This was a mystery to me but Roy tells us, in A/E #95 that he and Tom referenced “a line or two from Bob Newhart’s famous ‘King Kong’ routine” which you can hear here.
The guard finishes his phone call by saying, “Okay, okay…like you said, I’ll throw the book at ‘im!” and he does so. Konk catches it and leaps off the building into the river, whereupon he swims away. Spidey-Man shows up after it’s all over, thinking, “Nuts! Just when I finally get into costume, it’s endsville! Maybe I’d better switch back to Listerine, after all.” (The implication being that he is scaring people away with his bad breath…I guess.)
Charlie America comes up to Liz and says, “That certainly is a surprise ending! ‘Specially since the artist drew the sun setting in the East River!” Then he asks the question we are all asking. “What fearsome mind-staggering sight made King Konk flee that way?” Liz replies, “The most sense-shattering sight of all, Charlie America! Namely, the guard threw a copy of ‘Origin of Species’ at him! When he saw he might be related to human beings, he decided to split before this happened to him!” Liz holds the book and it shows a “before and after” of ape and man with the man being a Not Brand Echh reader. Charlie America (and the other star struck super-heroes) doesn’t care about that. All he wants is Liz Tailor-Made’s autograph.
Chock full of bits and sight gags, King Konk delivers on all levels. Using Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton as the filmmakers gives rise to all sorts of digs at their movies (“He even sat thru all of ‘Reflections in a Gilded Eye’!”) and using Hugh Hefner as the island guru leads to all sorts of ribbing of his “philosophy.” There are some nice self-referential bits like Peter Pooper’s “He’s gone! Oh well, now maybe the panels won’t be so crowded.” Even the throwaways gags are gems. “The Rockin’ Rabbi” skewers “the Flying Nun,” pointing out the absurdity of such a series. Hubert Humphrey’s “Oh, I dunno,” says all you need to say about his approach to (and subsequent near-miss) of the Presidency. Roy and Tom do a nice job with their homages to Harvey Kurtzman and the “Ping Pong” splash page, then they are off to new territory in New York. By this time, the gags and riffs are all over the place, only carried through by the momentum of following the King Kong storyline, as Dickie and Hef are forgotten to be replaced by the Marble Super-Heroes. Foremost among them is Spidey-Man or, rather, Peter Pooper who provides the impetus for Konk’s escape from the theatre. As a Spider-Man fan, you’ve got to love that. The story ends in a rush of jabs at Liz Taylor’s Oscar, the Phantom Eagle’s shot at a series, the end of Blackhawk’s series, the end of Giant-Man’s series, Bob Newhart, the questionable superiority of man over ape, celebrity worship, and the Not Brand Echh reader. Who could ask for anything more?
King Konk ‘68 and Marie’s cover make a great start to this king-size issue. I even like the puns on the frontispiece salad bowl. Five webs, so far. But there’s plenty more to go.
We’re doing the reviews for this issue in four parts and we’ve got 6 more features to get through for part two. You’ll find them at Not Brand Echh #11 (Story 2).