We’re getting there, we’re getting there. Five more features to go from this issue. We’ll take care of three of them right now.
You want meta? We got meta! The Revengers is about as self-referential as it gets. The Revengers know they’re in a comic book and they know the comic book conventions. (Not the ones that fans attend.) By the end, their story is being read in this very issue by Hawkeye of the real Avengers, who complains about those nuts at Marvel. It’s a meta hall of mirrors.
It begins with the giant Golightly hanging up a sign with the story title on it. There are hooks hanging from the top of the panel to which Golightly is trying to hang the sign. “Ah, me!” he says, “Another ish…another action-epic edited by Smilin’ Stan Lee!” The Black Panter is hanging onto his back, digging in his claws. Golightly thanks him for helping hang the logo “but watch it with the claws.” The Panter, who doesn’t speak for the entire story, thinks, “Logo shmogo! I just wanna know why Titanic Tommy Sutton drew that mutt Lumpjaw in our strip!” And, sure enough, Lumpjaw is below, looking up at the Panter. Hogeye says, “Me, I just hope Rascally Roy Thomas gives me some decent lines this ish! I’m tired of usin’ leftovers from W.C. Fields!”
As the Wisp hangs a sign outside that reads, “Villains Wanted (Cheap),” Hogeye hands Golightly a giant hammer from his giant tool box. On its side, it says, “Property of Hunk Pym, alias Golightly alias Giant-Sam alias…oh, forget it!” When the Wisp announces that her sign is getting a response, Hogeye (I presume…he’s off-panel) says, “It’s about time we got into a good free-for-all! It’s page two already!” They all look out the window and decide that none of the villains waiting outside “could ever conquer a cream puff.” The villains are Adolf Hitler, Josef Stalin, Napoleon, and Julius Caesar.
But then the Revengers get a visit from Swirlwind (“Graduate of Arthur Murky Dance Studios” is written on his torso) which thrills Hogeye. “Now we got our super-villain for this ish!” But Swirlwind tells them that he is just passing through, “on my way to my new job as a White Tornado. “Why don’t you say something, Panter?” asks Golightly, “Cat got your tongue?” The Panter is busy pouncing on Mickey Mouse and says nothing. In the next panel, Golightly has a giant Mickey Mouse watch (the Panter has a bell around his neck). Hogeye says, “We won’t find crime, destruction, and violence sitting around in here!” “Yeah!” says Visage, “Let’s go out in the street, where it belongs!” The Panter, whom Golightly is now calling “T’Charlie” (which I love), points at something. “Why doesn’t he just speak up?” asks Golightly. (They run past a fire hydrant that has a sign on it that says, “John Galt is on relief,” a nice little dig at Ayn Rand.)
It turns out that T’Charlie is pointing at Magneat-o, who is now working as a wrecker. (He has a sign on his front that says, “Miracle Wrecking Company! If we wreck it, it’s a miracle!” and he is wrecking an elaborate machine that is labelled, “Return to Jack Kirby.”) He’s not interested in being a villain but Golightly tells him, “We’re over halfway thru this nutty story and we haven’t found a super-villain to clobber yet! Howzabout givin’ us a break and being stomped for a few pages?” But Maggy turns him down. “I’ve got a run-of-the-mag contract…with the Echhs-Men! Just want they should ring in the NLRB [that’s the National Labor Relations Board] on me?”
Golightly thinks they’ve blown it until he sees a “line dangling overhead…maybe from an alien spaceship!” They all grab it but it turns out to be a line from the Fantastical-Car, flown by Mr. Fantastical. “Then, why don’t we just fight him?” asks the Visage but Golightly says, “We must be trespassin’ on FF territory. We could lose our stuper-hero license for this!” Mr. Fantastical cuts the line with a pair of scissors and the Revengers crash through the roof of their “own meshugana mansion.” “We’re right back where we started,” says Hogeye and they end up sitting around a table, all bandaged up from the damage they received from the fall. (The Wisp has her right arm in a cast, signed “Love, Spidey” and there is a selection of Marble mags on the table, including “Spidey-Man,” the first of two tiny Spidey appearances in this story.) “This time, we’ll have enough sense to stay here!” says Golighty, “T’Charlie’s the smart one…he didn’t waste a single word on the lasts five pages!” but T’Charlie thinks, “Yeesh! That beetle-brain thinks I wanna play Silent Sam? I can’t help it if he can’t hear me talk thru this cotton-pickin’ mask!” The Wisp points out that “we just went thru a whole story and nothing happened.” “No villain, no fightin’ nuthin’…we’re disgraced for life,” says Hogeye. “This could never happen to the real Avengers!” says Visage and that appears to be the end. There’s even a “The Effervescent End!” in the lower right corner. But there’s also a hand holding the page at the bottom and a word balloon that belongs to that hand. Reacting to the Visage’s remark that it wouldn’t happen to the real Avengers, the owner of the hand says, “You better believe it, Clyde!”
A turn of the page shows us the real Hawkeye, now illustrated by the Avengers’ regular penciler and inker of the time…John Buscema and George Klein. He is reading this very issue of Brechh. In his hands, we see the Brechh #12 cover that shows Frankenstein entering the room full of Marble characters, including, of course, Spidey-Man, for his second tiny appearance in the story. Goliath, the Black Panther, the Wasp, and the Vision are hanging around and Goliath asks Hawkeye what’s up. “Aw, it’s this so-called humor mag those nuts at Marvel put out! They wouldn’t know a real superhero situation if it bit ‘em!” Hawkeye tosses the comic over his shoulder and wonders “what would-be world-beater do we fight today…?” But it turns out there are no villains on the horizon.
And so, in our final panel, the Avengers hang out around a table in the same places as their Revengers counterparts in their final panel. “Tennis, anyone?” asks the Wasp.
In Alter Ego #95, July 2010, Roy Thomas says, “It’s a minor effort – except that on its final two pages we juxtaposed Tom’s drawing of the heroes, beat-up and bandaged after the violence of the ensuing pages, with a final page starring the actual current Avengers…sitting around their mansion likewise with nothing to do ..I’m sure many readers were truly surprised when they turned that last page. I can only imagine that, when I sent Big John Buscema the synopsis for that final page – along with a copy of Tom’s pencils for the preceding one – he simply shook his head uncomprehendingly and gruffly muttered, ‘They’re all idiots!’ before he drew his absolutely perfect page.”
Marie Severin returns as writer/artist for the three-page Charlie America’s Family Album! It is designed like three pages of black construction paper from a photo album. The pages have holes punched in them, a couple of which are torn through. (Well, not real holes. They’re just drawn that way.) A paper clip holds the title onto the page. “Remember – only in ‘Not Brand Echh’ can you see and read about things hardly anybody is really interested in!”
The first photo seems to be shot through a window. It depicts an American bald eagle carrying arrows and an olive branch like the eagle on the Great Seal of the United States.
That eagle has a ribbon reading “E Pluribus Unum” in its beak. This one has a baby in a bundle, like storks in baby-delivery myths. Charlie’s parents have written beneath it, “That memorable day our Charlie arrived, sometime in July of nineteen-something.”
The second photo shows baby Charlie playing peek-a-boo with a stars-and-stripes party hat on. He has a birthday cake with a lit stick of dymanite in it. “Charlie’s first birthday, playing his favorite game of peek-a-boo!”
I thought it was Charlie sucking his thumb in the third photo, taken low enough to the ground that it cuts off the head of the man who is holding his hand. But after reading, “Charlie and friend - Charlie is holding his first school award, for turning in nine truants,” I think the headless man, wearing stars and stripes and holding a Perfect Attendance Award is Charlie. There are angry kids running up from behind, ready to jump him, clearly the “nine truants.” So, who is the friend; this little guy with glasses? Bucky?
On to “Poppa, Charlie, Momma, Cousin Benny and our pets. (Charlie is holding his first carrot from our Victory Garden.)” Poppa is Abraham Lincoln; Momma has George Washington’s head; Cousin Benny is Ben Franklin. The pets are a turkey wearing a Pilgrim hat and a buffalo. The liberty bell and Grant Wood’s “American Gothic” painting are hanging on the wall. The rug is the star field of the US flag. There is a small Plymouth Rock on the floor, about the size of a doorstop. Charlie is holding up his carrot with a big smile on his face. That’s all we can see of his face. The rest is covered up by Momma’s arm.
“Our Charlie’s All-Stars” is a photo of Charlie’s Little League team. Charlie has written ‘The day we beat Wotta Woman’s all-gorilla team” and he has labelled everyone in the photo. From left to right, “Adolph (Cheats),” Hitler sieg-heiling, “Nicky,” Nick Fury with his uniform mostly torn off him as Sgt. Fury’s uniform often was, “Some kids from out of neighborhood,” who are the Red Skull and…some guy wearing goggles (Anyone know who this is?), “Prince No-More,” “fiend,” some guy who looks like Igor from the Frankenstein films, “Me,” Charlie, who is tossing a ball in the air and obscuring his face, “Billy,” who is Fawcett’s Captain Marvel (as in Billy Batson), and “friend,” the same kid from the “Perfect Attendance Award” picture.
“Another memorable day…Charlie goes into the Army” as two MPs drag him to a US Army recruiting truck, with Momma looking on. (Charlie’s back is to us so we don’t see his face.)
“Charlie in the Army” shows Charlie (with his back again to us) peeling mountains of potatoes. The friend is in the foreground in an Army cap, sucking his thumb. I guess that cinches it. He’s Bucky.
Taped onto the page is a letter from Charlie, dated “Jan. 2, 1942” reading, “Dear Mom and Dad, I have devised a clever disguise that enables me to represent the entire camp as their living symbol, and also so that I may perform good deeds without fanfare, and also so that they can’t find me for those chicken pluckin’ jobs – Your loving son, Charlie. P.S. Don’t send any more peanut butter sandwiches – or shell the peanuts.”
The last photo shows Charlie in his disguise; his Charlie America uniform. He is hanging onto the top of a flagpole, as if wafting in the wind. Three confused soldiers look up at him.
We return to the Unhumans or, at least, one of the Unhumans as Medoozy stars in My Search For True Love or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love ‘Em All!; a story just filled with pop culture of the time (including that reference to “Dr. Strangelove” in the title) as well as a nice little lampoon of the 1960s Romance Comics. And, in keeping with those comics, this story is narrated by our heroine, who is searching for love. “My name is Medoozy - - and I remember it all as though it happened yesterday! In fact, it did happen yesterday!”
Medoozy, her long hair in curlers, sits amidst 45s (those are vinyl single records that play at 45 revolutions per minute, for those who don’t know), bonbons, princess phones, and the romance books “Really Secret Secrets,” “Muddling with Millie” (a take-off on Marvel’s “Modeling with Millie”), and “Pagan Place” (instead of “Peyton Place”). She holds a bottle of “Mountain Glue” (“Mountain Dew”) in her hair. (I probably don’t have to explain all of these Brechh versions of things but I will, just in case there’s someone out there who doesn’t get it.) Her dog Lumpjaw is burping next to her and she has a framed photo of her “boyfriend Blechh Bolt” that is saying, “?” She tells Lumpjaw that she hasn’t heard from Blecchy in months. “Of course, come to think of it, I haven’t ever actually heard from him!” (Because the Inhumans’ Black Bolt does not speak.) “I just can’t sit around waiting for him forever,” she decides, “A girl doesn’t learn any of the new dances that way!”
But then the doorbell rings. “Blechh Bolt has finally kept a date,” she says, “unless it’s the Avon Lady!” Instead it’s someone in a Sgt. Peppers uniform, carrying a bouquet and hefting a drum and tuba. Medoozy invites him in to listen to “my new Beetles album!” Her visitor says he’d rather “hear the new LP by the Rolling Scones,” which is strange because he turns out to be a member of the “Beetles,” Bingo Star (Ringo Starr). Seeing his outfit, Medoozy gushes, “I just loved your singing on Sgt. Fury’s Lonely Hearts Club Band!” (A reference to another spoof in this very same issue. I love it!) Bingo replies, “Oh, that was mostly me buddies John Linnen (John Lennon) and Paul McCarthy (Paul McCartney) who’s not related to Charlie or Gene, incidentally.”
“Well, he was so cute - - and his mustache was so groovy that I just knew we were destined to spend the rest of our lives together,” narrates Medoozy. She uses her hair to yank Bingo over to her couch. (A picture of Blechhy on the wall, swears at the goings-on.) She ends up in Bingo’s lap and tells him “I’ve fallen in love with you…Can’t you tell we could make beautiful music together?” She plays Bingo’s drum and tuba as well as a guitar, piano, and cello with her hair. The song? “I Get By With a Little Help From My Hair!” a takeoff, of course, of “With a Little Help From My Friends,” the song on “Sgt. Peppers’ Lonely Hearts Club Band” that Ringo sings.
This is too much for Bingo. He bolts out the door, saying, “I call it sound to wreck a home by! Now I gotta get home to me wife…Murine!” (Ringo’s wife was Maureen.) Medoozy wonders if he “just came by to plug his latest album…Magical Misery Tour.” (“Magical Mystery Tour”) Then, crying, she worries that he didn’t like her hair. “That’s it! I have so much hair…he thought I was a boy!” (And if that isn’t a cultural bit out of the 60s, I don’t know what is.) She adds, “And I thought Fran had solved all my problems!” So, who’s Fran? Well, Madoozy is holding a bottle of “Lavooris” with a note from Fran on it that says, “Try this! It may not work - - but I gotta eat!” This is possibly the most obscure reference in this story but it refers to this ad for Lavoris Mouthwash.
Madoozy turns on her TV and Bingo is on with the rest of the “Beetles.” “I’ll never forget you,” she says, “as if I could with all the radio stations playing your endless version of ‘Say Jude’ (‘Hey Jude’) twenty-four hours a day!”
She doesn’t have to sit around long until she hears the approach of a motorcycle. “That noise! Either it’s Marlon Brand-Echh (love that name, lampooning Marlon Brando and ‘The Wild One’), Peter Fondle (Peter Fonda and ‘Easy Rider’) or the Beautiful Downtown Burbank (Rowen and Martin’s satirical name for Burbank in ‘Laugh-In’) chapter of Hell’s Angels!” But it’s none of these. Instead it’s Bob Dilly (Bob Dylan) who comes crashing through the door on his cycle. (Dylan had been in a motorcycle accident in 1966 that has taken on, according to the Seattle Times,“near-mythic dimensions.” “I don’t want a pickle,” says Bob, “I just wanna ride my motorcycle! Darn, wish I’d of wrote that insteada Arlo!” (Bob is quoting lyrics from Arlo Guthrie’s The Motorcycle Song.) Bob crashes through the wall and Medoozy tells us, “Then, as I pulled his mangled, maimed, but otherwise unharmed body from the wreckage…I knew that this was truly love at first sight.” She yanks Bob out of the wall with her hair (he has a guitar in hand and a harmonica in his mouth) and tells him, “Come here, Bobby-Poo! In addition to your kookie curls, I also love all your records! Here, I’ll play my favorite for you - - the new one about President Harding!” (Dylan’s album is not President Warren G. Harding but “John Wesley Harding.”
Medoozy crushes Bob in a hair-grip (with a “Crunch!”) as she hefts his motorcycle behind her with her hair. (A note on the cycle says, “Joan Biased was here,” a play on folk singer and activist Joan Baez who had a relationship with Dylan.) Bob says, “Man, I gave up workin’ on Maggie’s Farm for this?” “Oooh, Bobby!” says Medoozy, “Just think! We can run away…get married…raise a family…and maybe, in time, we’ll even learn to dig each other!” But Bob backs off, claiming he is “due for a recording session up at Big Fink!” (Big Pink was a house where Dylan and the Band recorded after Dylan’s motorcycle accident. The Band named their first album, “Music From Big Pink.”) “Oh, you’re just Blowin’ in the Wind, Bobby! You know you love me too! That’s the way it works in these love mags!” “Love mags!” Bob replies, “This’s a regular Motor-Psycho Nightmare! I’m splittin’!”
In tears, Medoozy blows her nose but calls out, “There are plenty of other fish in the sea…or, who knows I might even latch onto Country Joe himself!” She holds up a picture of the rock group “Country Joe and the Fish.” She tells us, “Finally, after countless long, lonely, tear-filled moments of eating my heart out…I discovered him! (This was at least ten minutes after Bobby had left me, so you can get an idea of what I must’ve gone through!)” Watching TV with Lumpjaw (who has a Flea Circus, complete with Big Top on his back), she spots Slimy Slim (Tiny Tim) who is on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson (Tiny Tim was first on the Tonight Show on April 4, 1968). “And, Mr. Carson,” says Slimy, “I just want to say that I simply adore…I mean, I just love each and every one of my fans! Mainly because they’re making me rich…and all I have to do is run around making a fool of myself.” Medoozy only hears the middle part. “He loves me!” she says, “I am loved by Slimy Slim!” She knew right then that “he was my man” but how to get his attention? She decides to “make a record with a thirty-year-old recorder” which “should be just perfect to capture his sound!” (Does everyone know what Tiny Tim and his ukulele sounded like?) She uses an old-time microphone attached to a gramophone from which Nipper, the dog from His Master’s Voice, emerges.
“I gotta feeling I should’a listened to Momma and found a fire hydrant,” he thinks. Medoozy plays her recording back as Nipper thinks, “I knew I should’ve gone into the Air Force like my cousin Snoopity (Snoopy).”
(Lumpjaw looks at Nipper and thinks “If only I had some mustard!”)
Once Medoozy plays her recording, Slimy Slim “suddenly appeared at my doorstep.” He is singing Tiptoe Through the Tulips. Medoozy tells him, “we’ll be together from now till eternity…or at least till people wise up and stop buying Not Brand Echh.” (I guess people did “wise up,” seeing as there’s only one issue after this one.)
But, as usual, she overdoes it. She has two speakers sticking out of her hair that play, “It’s only Unhuman for anyone to want to be in love,” a takeoff on the first line of Sarah Vaughn’s In Love In Vain. This sends Slimy running. “Compared to us, Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau would seem like a normal couple!” he says. (Lemmon and Matthau starred in the film version of Neil Simon’s “The Odd Couple,” which came out in 1968.)
Her “heart once again shattered,” Medoozy goes to the movies to see “The Planet That Went Ape!” In the theatre, where no one behind her can see around her hair, she declares, “It’s Mister Right!” and “finally, really and truly, honest to Irving, actually fell in love.” Back at home, she sends Lumpjaw to teleport and pick up “the true man of my dreams, the one man who could really appreciate me and my titanically talented tresses.” And Lumpjaw soon returns with Dr. Say-Yes (Dr. Zaius, played by Maurice Evans in “Planet of the Apes,” released in 1968.)
As the Watcher peeks in her window, using binoculars, Medoozy puts her arms around Say-Yes and tells him, “You’re big and strong…you’re loving and kind…and best of all, you’ve got even more hair that [sic] I do!” Say-Yes looks at her and thinks, “This babe’s flipped her wig…but at least she’s cuter than Charlton Hasten.” (Charlton Heston)
Medoozy finishes her narration with, “And so, to give the story a different twist, my one true love and I lived happily ever after! Which just goes to prove that love at first sight is What’s Happening…if it happens often enough, that is…!
Now that we’ve read enough Echh, we probably all recognize Tom Sutton’s artwork, but who is the writer here? Roy, in AE #95 lists it as “Writer Uncertain” because there are no credits on the story but adds, “the fact that it’s chockfull of visual and verbal Beatles references (with a bit of Bob Dylan thrown in) suggests to me that it was scripted by Gary – that, and a reference to Gary’s rock-band buddies Country Joe and the Fish, plus the final-page parody of the lyrics to a pop tune called ‘In Love in Vain.’ That song…had been sung by Bobby Darin on a recent album – and Gary and I were great Darin fans……Hey, I just had a thought – I was a big Beatles and Dylan fan, too…and I had that Darin album. Is there any chance that I wrote this story? What? And forgot to give myself a scripting credit? No way!”
I can think of another reason why Gary Friedrich is the likely writer. The story references “Sgt. Fury’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” from earlier in the issue and that parody was written by Gary.
Roy may call it “a minor effort” but I think it’s a gem. All of the self-referential material, from the Revengers not only knowing they are in a comic story (with comic story rules) but in a five page comic story, leading to the Avengers knowing about Not Brand Echh and that the Revengers are in a comic story but not knowing they are in a comic story with the same ending as that comic story may make your head spin (it makes my head spin just trying to describe it) but it also does a terrific job of commenting on the whole Marvel method. It’s not a minor effort, Roy, it’s five webs!
Charlie America’s Family Album:
In AE #95, Roy calls it “Another first-class filler by Mirthful Marie” but I don’t think it’s one of her better efforts. It has a few cute moments, such as the family portrait but that’s about it. Oh, I do like that Marie snuck Captain Marvel in. As Roy says, “The Big Red Cheese undoubtedly made more appearances in the pages of ‘Not Brand Echh’ than anywhere else in the two decades between his Fawcett demise in 1953 and his DC revival in 1973.” It’s not enough, though, to raise this over two webs.
My Search For True Love:
What can I say? As a child of the 1960s, familiar with all of these references, I just love this one. It manages to lampoon Romance Comics, Medusa, the Beatles, Bob Dylan, Tiny Tim, and to a lesser extent, Planet of the Apes, The Odd Couple, Country Joe and the Fish and Lavoris mouthwash. I said of “Sgt. Fury’s Lonely Heart Club Band,” “This may be my favorite item in the entire Not Brand Echh run.” But, now that I think about it, this may actually be my favorite! Five webs!
Two fives and a two average out to four but “My Search For True Love” is more like a “five plus” so I’m giving the whole group a rating of five webs.
Only two more Echh #12 stories to go and we’ll do them one at a time. First, it’s Not Brand Echh #12 (Story 9).