There are nine more stories to go. But, don’t worry. We’ll cover three of them here in one go.
The first story is a three-pager called Not Brand Echh’s Puzzle Fun, written and illustrated by Marie Severin. This, like Comiclot [Not Brand Echh #12 (Story 1)] before it, is reminiscent of a Mad magazine parody, where the puzzle questions have absurd answers. I said last time that the similarity to Mad’s movie satires may have prompted “Comiclot’s” “You-Saw-the-Movie-Already-Now-Dig-the-Comic-Book Dept” opening but now I see that all of the stories start with one of these “Departments.” Has this always been the case with Brechh? I’m too lazy to look. This one begins with, “Extra-Bonus-Fun Pages Dept: (Which means we ran short of stuff so here’s a couple of space fillers!” Roy Thomas, in Alter Ego #95, July 2010 says of this feature, “The more I look at Marie’s solo contributions, the more I’m inclined to think that official ‘approval’ of them generally consisted of her telling me she’d like to do something-or-other and me saying ‘Great!’ – and it’s not unlikely that, on occasion, she just drew a feature and handed it in and we shoehorned it in.”
This one begins with a Count the Aliens puzzle in which red aliens with antennae and tails, dressed in yellow space suits, are stashed around the inside of a spaceship. It looks like there are six hidden aliens but let’s jump ahead to the answers which are on the third page. Answer: “They are not hiding - - they can’t find the escape hatch!”
The next puzzle is What’s Wrong with this Picture?: “(Count the number of things you find – then divide by three, and you’ll have the number of things we meant to draw wrong!)” Dr. Doom is sitting on a chair that is upside down and backwards in a room with a picture backwards on the wall, a doorknob and electric outlet and mouse hole up by the ceiling and a ‘Welcome” mat on the inside of the door that says “Beat It!” on it. Doom is wearing fuzzy slippers and is reading Look magazine upside down. There is a bare foot sticking up from a hole in the floor with a fish bowl on it. Inside the fish bowl is a can of tuna. Spider-Man is hanging upside-down outside the window (one of our two Spidey appearances in this story) but he has Aunt May’s head. The Silver Surfer, wearing a bathing cap, rides in through the front door on a beach float and carrying a birthday cake that is upside-down. And there’s more. So, how many did you count up? Let’s look at the answer. “What’s wrong with this picture? Aunt May would never eavesdrop!” It is true that, in spite of the “Count the number…” parenthetical, it only asked us, “What’s wrong with this Picture?” not “How many things are wrong with this picture?”
Read the Message in the Stars has the Silver Surfer fleeing from Galactus amidst 27 numbered stars. It seems to be a “connect-the-dots” puzzle but I’m not about to draw on my copy of this issue. So, I confess that I made a copy of the page and connected the stars on that. That gives you a very rough spelling of “help.” But our answer says, “The message in the stars spells pleh - - the Zenn-La word for Echh! (You read from right to left, clod!)”
Our second Spidey sighting occurs in Color This Page By Numbers! It is a coloring page with the Thing holding a bouquet of flowers, Quasimodo getting ready to hit the Thing with a club that has a spike in it, Captain America standing in the back and Spidey clinging to the top of the panel. There are little numbers in circles that correspond to colors….1 equals red, 2 equals blue and so on. Of course, the numbers are completely wrong on the panel so Spidey’s costume would be green and yellow. My favorite part of this bit is the arrow pointing to the circle “2” in the lower left corner that says, “No, don’t color this, Dum-Dum - - it’s a page no.!” The answer to this one? “Misprint! - - 7 is red, 3 is blue, and our letterer is fired!” (Need I add that this is still not right?)
The Maze depicts the new Fantastic Four baby lost in a series of underground tunnels. The FF fret on the surface as Mr. Fantastic stretches his arm into one hole only to have it emerge from another. Actually, though, any of these holes will work to reach the baby. It really isn’t much of a maze. And the answer? Are you ready? “All tunnels lead to little baby, but by the time they all crawl thru, little baby has crawled around and out, then is captured by a band of roving Yippies, who are the Revengers in disguise – They (The Revengers-Yippies) decide little baby is more trouble than he is worth, so they all bring him back to the maze, and fall in…just as Fantastical Four are coming out – and now you know the plot for the next Echhs-Men story!”
Match the Pair Most Similar is drawn by John Romita and shows six versions of Gwen Stacy (or is it Mary Jane?) with faces exactly alike but with blonde, red, blue, green, white, and orange hair. They each get names: Gwen Staysee, Sarey Jane Whatsit, Beatrice Smerk, Pamela Chic, Hilda Iceberg, and Virginia Pipeline. Answer? “We fooled ya! Actually, none of them are the least bit similar!”
The conceit of the next story, Unhumans to Get Own Comic Book!, is that the Unhumans are so popular that six creators of well-known newspaper strips want to helm the new comic and they call Stan Lee begging for the chance. (The Inhumans did get a backup feature, starting in Thor #146, November 1967, then shared Amazing Adventures with the Black Widow, starting in #1, August 1970, but didn’t get their own comic until October 1975.)
The subsequent 6 pages are laid out like six different famous Sunday comic strip features. (I’m not going to help you with these. If you don’t know these strips, look them up.)
First is Blechhman the Caped Crumb Fighter with Kar-Wak the Boy Blunder by Boob Krane (Bob Kane). (In AE #95, Roy reminds us that “Batman still had his own newspaper strip at that time.”) Blechhman (who is Black Bolt) and Kar-Wak (who is a pudgy Karnak) crash through the window at the office of Commissioner Gorgon (who is not Gorgon but, rather, Commissioner Dolan from Will Eisner’s Spirit strip; you can barely see the Spirit looking on in that first panel). “What’s the emergency?” asks Kar-Wak. “You are, dumbnamic duo,” says the Commissioner, “That’s the 14th window you broke this week!” The Commissioner tells them that the “Pinkwin is on the loose.” Blechhman, who is mute like Black Bolt (until he isn’t) holds up an abacus. “He’s saying you can count on us,” says Kar-Wak. They track the Pinkwin to a whaling museum where Kar-Wak says, “Something fishy about this,” Blechhman says, “Stop thinking, Kar-Wak! It’ll give you a haddock,” and Kar-Wak says, “Please repeat that! I’m hard of herring!” From there, they go to an exhibit of giant typewriters, then to a “giant toothpaste tube factory,” where they catch the Pinkwin (who is an actual penguin) by squirting toothpaste at him. Kar-Wak asks, “Why do all our villains always pull jobs around giant products?” (as happened repeatedly in Batman comics of the 50s and early 60s) and Blechhman says !! which is footnoted to a page he is holding as he also holds the Pinkwin captive with a giant toothbrush. The footnote says, “Because it makes good pictures, you dopey kid!”
The Unhuman Beans (Roy says, “based on the phrase ‘human beans’ which often popped up in that pun-laden strip) by Malt Belly (Walt Kelly) is a Pogo parody. In it, Howland Owl is the Psycho-Owl, carrying a panel that first says, “Argue, Fight, Punch,” like Psycho-Man’s “Fear, Doubt, Hate.” He confronts the turtle Churchy LaFemme, who is now Turtle-Wak (Karnak), Barnstable Bear, who is now Gorgonzola (Gorgon), Albert Alligator who gets no Brecch name but resembles Triton and Pogo Possum who is blue like Black Bolt’s costume. (There’s also a rabbit with ears that have the shading of Crystal’s hair.) As Psycho-Owl’s panel changes to “Hate, Hate, Hate,” Turtle-Wak declares, “Hold it, fellow beans! We ain’t got no political significance in this heah strip yet! An’ cornpone foolosophy is ouah whole shtick, right?” “Right, by jing,” says Psycho-Owl, “Lots of cautious, careful controversy!” So, they all come out with something, as Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, and Pluto peek out at them from behind a tree. Turtle-Wak says, “Support the 60-hour week!” Albert says, “Votes for Women!” Pogo says, “Repeal prohibition!” Gorgonzola says, “Remember the Maine!” The rabbit says, “To bean or not to bean!” Psycho-Owl, his panel now saying “? ? ?” leaves in a rowboat. “Ah said cautious!” he says, “Ah’m getting’ outta heah befo’ you wild, wild rebels gets us all run in!” A savage critique of Pogo’s “cautious” political commentary, done in a very friendly manner.
The Unhumans this time is a take-off on “Little Orphan Annie,” with Crystal as Annie and Lockjaw as her dog Sandy. (Harold Gray, the creator of Annie, gets no Brecch name.) “Leapin’ Lizards, Lumpjaw!” says Annie (who is “Awful Agony” here), “You an’ I are awful poor! So poor, I can’t afford pupils for my eyes! And you can’t get a whole bark for yourself – just a miserable ‘arf’!” (In “Little Orphan Annie,” Annie has no eye pupils, Sandy always says “Arf” and Annie’s favorite expression is “Leapin’ Lizards!”) Daddy Warbucks (as Daddy Warbread here) arrives with Punjab and the Asp. They are all carrying guns and Daddy tells Awful Agony, “You are the leader of the hippie conspiracy and must die!’ Agony says, “I, sir, an no mini-skirted hippie! Indeed, I have proudly worn this same Republican cloth dress since 1924!” Daddy, who has a book with him entitled, “The Virtue of Selfishness,” says, “There you go complaining and rebelling again.” Agony reminds him that she is “also your adopted baby daughter for 40 years now,” but Daddy replies, “That’s how deep you sneaky hippies planted yourselves.” Through all of this, Agony keeps saying “Leapin’ Lizards” until finally a horde of lizards leap at them. “Why didn’t you warn us, girl?” says Daddy. “Wha’dya think I’ve been yellin’ since 1924 – glory-oskies or somethin’ stupid like that?” Agony replies. Another nice critique of the artist’s political views.
On to Fuzz Frighten of the Unhumans by Chester Ghoul, a take-off of Dick Tracy by Chester Gould. It begins with a “Crime Boppers Techhbook,” like Tracy’s Sunday “Crime Stoppers Textbook.” This one is “Professional grave-robbers always use skeleton keys.” As in Tracy’s strip, objects are labeled, sometimes to excess. Here, we have “girl,” “sky,” “earth,” “dreadful pun” and other labels. Fuzz Frighten is Triton. (Frighten rhymes with Triton, get it?) He, with detective Gorgonzola capture the villainess 30 Lashes inside a “giant moon dog.” Fuzz uses pepper to get the dog to sneeze them out. They climb into their “nuclear flying garbage cans” but Gorgonzola gets left behind because his is “a real garbage can.” Fuzz watches “Spidey-Man” (but no actual Spidey appearance so no separate review) on his labeled “2-way wrist TV,” which is a full-size TV attached to his wrist. Cornering Lashes again, he prepares to search her until his girlfriend Gristle Trueheart (Crystal as Tracy’s Tess Trueheart) shows up and says she will “do all your girl searching.” She tries to take off Lashes phony eyelashes but they turn out to be real and Gristle pulls off Lashes’ entire face. Fuzz tells Gristle, “you’ve just captured the three most dangerous girl crooks in the U.S.! Nola No-Face, alias Beulah Black-Puss alias Madame Blankenstein.”
Unhumans featuring Gool Ol’ Charlie Blechh “by Schlitz” lampoons Peanuts by Charles Schultz. With a giant Snoopy/Lockjaw hybrid named Poopy sitting on his huge dog house, Charlie Blechh (green and finned like Triton) tells Crystal (who is Lucy) and Medusa (who is…also Lucy?) that he is going to fight “a batch of monsters.” He is looking for help. The girls turn him down. “It would destroy our delicate feminine image, you clod!” says Medusa. Black Bolt (who is Linus) would help except “his clean security blanket isn’t back from the laundry.” (He is using Superman’s cape as a blanket instead.) Karnak (who is Schroeder, busting his toy piano with a karate chop) tells Charlie, “I simply oppose all human violence.” So, Charlie is forced to face the monster alone. Holding up a sign reading, “Clancy Street Monsters,” they turn out to be the elementary students from the comic strip “Miss Peach.”
The Unhumans In the Days of Good King Stan by Hal Forester is based on “Prince Valiant in the Days of King Arthur” by Hal Foster. Like “Prince Valiant,” it has no word balloons; all words are in the captions. Valiant is “Good Prince Blechh Bolt.” He looks entirely like Valiant except for the tuning fork headpiece he has. A dragon accosts him but the “deadly beast doth flee in terror when Blechh Bolt doth open his mouth and say: !! (…or words to that effect).” But although the dragon “doth flee,” he is soon back with “his fearsome friends…which doth include such horrors as a three-headed demon, a twelve-toed ogre, and the guy who arranges for Lawrence Welk.” Which makes it time for Blechh Bolt to flee.
And so, we return to Stan’s office with the Unhumans standing around as Stan fields offers. (“I tell you, Stan, I’d put Little Awful Annie in an orphan asylum for a crack at the Unhumans!” “I’d let the Big Pumpkin get Charlie Blechh!” “I’d ditch Poogoo in a swamp!” “I’d make Rotten sell out Gnatman!”) But then Gnatman and Rotten smash in through the window, as Blechhman and Kar-Wak did in their story. Orphan Annie, Dick Tracy (still green as Fuzz Frighten), Prince Valiant, Punjab, Charlie Brown (still green as Charlie Blechh) and Pogo (still blue as whoever he was) burst through the door. “Trying to kill us all off, eh?” says Annie. Stan asks Blechh Bolt what to do. Bolt responds with a shaky-looking ! which Triton tells us means, “Scream!”
As a side note, the credits for this story say, “Wanna see how the forementioned funny-men [the comic strip creators] would’ve done the Unhumans? Well, so do Smiley, ol’ Arnie Drake, Rascally Roy, and Titanic Tommy Sutton…” and Roy says in AE #95, “Why the credit for Yours Truly in some vague capacity other than editor? My guess is that I did a spot of rewriting…a bit more than just editing a line or two. Naturally, Arnold got all the page-rate money, such as it was.”
Sgt. Fury’s Lonely Hearts Club Band is a parody of the album cover, front and back, for the Beatles’ “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band,” written by Gary Friedrich and drawn by John Verpoorten. As on the actual cover, our four leads stand behind a bass drum that has their band name on it. They are, left to right, Dum Dum Dugan (holding a tuba), Percival Pinkerton (with a trumpet), Nick Fury (holding a clarinet), and Rebel Ralston (holding a baton) just as the Beatles do on their cover. Below the band, arrayed in flowers is “Howlers” instead of “Beatles” with a flower machine gun rather than a guitar.
Down in the lower right are the actual Beatles, drawn as Peanuts characters. (Ringo is Charlie Brown.) But who else is packed into this double-page spread? Fortunately, it is all detailed on the letters page, so I don’t have to go through it myself. Well, except they use “Brand Echh” names for some of these figures so I’m going to translate as best as I can. Here goes: Gene Autry, Beetle Baily and Sarge, the Beatles, Blackhawk, Bugs Bunny, Steve Canyon, Captain America and Bucky, Winston Churchill, Albert Einstein, Dwight Eisenhower, Nick Fury, Dum Dum, Percy, Rebel, Gabe Jones (the only Howler who is actually a musician but not included in the “band”), Clark Gable, Pam Hawley (Nick Fury’s deceased love), Johnny Hazard, Adolf Hitler, Bob Hope, Junior Juniper (the deceased Howler), Miss Lace (from Milton Caniff’s “Male Call”), Douglas MacArthur, Audie Murphy, Edward R. Murrow, Benito Mussolini, the Phantom Eagle, the Red Skull, Sgt. Rock, FDR, Sad Sack, Captain Savage and his Leatherneck Raiders, Smilin’ Jack, Snoopy, Joseph Stalin, Baron Strucker, Terry (without the Pirates), Harry S. Truman, Bill Maudlin’s Willie and Joe, and John Wayne.
The succeeding double-page spread shows the four Howlers in the same position as the Beatles on their back cover. Nick, like Paul McCartney, is turned backward. Smoke from his cigar wafts up and over the others. The pages are filled with the lyrics from the band’s songs. Not all the Beatles’ songs are lampooned, only “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Heart Club Band” (plus the reprise), “With a Little Help From My Friends,” “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds,” “Fixing a Hole,” “She’s Leaving Home,” and “A Day in the Life.” Gary Friedrich’s parody lyrics are inspired. We get “Sgt. Fury’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” (“It was twenty years ago tonight, that Sgt. Fury taught the band to fight, They’ve been whipping Nazis just for fun and sinking Hirohito’s rising sun.”), “A Little Cash From Our Friends” (“Do you need any money, We need some cash for the war, Could it be any money, We just need cash for the war.”), “Adolf in the Sky with Buzz Bombs” (“Follow him down to a bridge blown to pieces, Where anti-aircraft guns light up winter skies, Everyone leers as you walk past the rubble, They’ve stacked so incredibly high.”), “Digging a Hole” (“And it really doesn’t matter if I’m here or there, They’ll find my hole I swear, They’ll find my hole. See the sergeant standing there, screaming out with a care. He knows they never shoot an officer.”), “He’s Leaving Home” (“Tuesday morning at six o’clock as the day begins, Silently leaving his room a mess, Reading the note that he hoped would say less, He goes downtown to the center, Clutching his teddy bear.”) and “A Day in the Fight” (“I read a mag today oh boy, The Nazi Army had just blown the war, The Rat Patrol could not believe, That no one cared to see, Their exploits on TV, I’d love to blow you up!”)
In AE #95, Roy says, “For a guy who (as editor of our hometown weekly newspaper) once wrote an early denunciation of the Beatles, Gary had come a long way, baby…to being, along with his buddy John V., the resident super-fan of the Fab Four, even beyond Yours Truly. Gary wrote two pages of spot-on parody lyrics…” Yes, he did, and Jumbo John did an amazing job with the art.
So how does it all stack up?
It’s cute, it’s clever, it’s only 3 pages but it’s nothing special. I like the punchlines for the hidden aliens (“They are not hiding - - they can’t find the escape hatch!”) and “What’s Wrong with this Picture?” (“Aunt May would never eavesdrop!”) but the rest of them don’t really work for me. Call it two and a half webs.
Arnold Drake’s script has its amusing moments and clever political commentary, but the real star here is Tom Sutton. His renditions of Batman, Pogo, Little Orphan Annie, Dick Tracy, Peanuts, and Prince Valiant both look like the originals and like exaggerated parodies of the originals. His bookends, that take place in Stan’s office, look like the original Inhumans but also an exaggerated parody of them. A tour-de-force artistic effort. This one gets five webs, all because of the art.
Sgt. Fury’s Lonely Hearts Club Band:
This may be my favorite item in the entire Not Brand Echh run. A rock-solid five webs.
Let’s average the three and call it four webs.
Next: More of the same. Not Brand Echh #12 (Story 5).