Comics : Not Brand Echh #4

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This story is part of a Lookback Series: From The Beginning

This review was first published on: Jan 2015.

Background...

This issue’s theme is “The Bad Guys Win!” According to Roy Thomas in Alter Ego #95, July 2010, Stan came up with the theme but “he increasingly gave [Roy and Gary Friedrich] more leeway in the actual scripting. I suspect that, about this time, Gary and/or I began to write the contents page.” We’ll look at that in a moment but I want to quote Roy on one more thing: “If there was a weak note in #3 [sic, he means #4], it was that the featured heroes were three of Marvel’s weakest sellers: Daredevil, Sub-Mariner – and, oh yes, The X-Men.” Almost as if Stan couldn’t bear for the Bad Guys to Win over the popular heroes. Spidey is barely here but “barely” is all we need. Let’s get started.

In Detail...

"Defeated By the Evil Electrico"
Not Brand Echh #4 (Story 1)
Nov 1967 : SM Reference
Summary: Spider-Man Reference (Dartboard) & Cameo
Editor:  Stan Lee
Writer:  Stan Lee
Pencils:  Gene Colan
Inker:  John Tartaglione
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 Reprinted In: GeNeXt #5 (Story 2)

The cover is a Marie Severin-Tom Sutton work (pencils by Marie, inks by Tom) in what Roy says is “the mag’s two other most important artists together again for the first time.” (“Other” as in “other than Jack Kirby” whose art does not appear in this issue.) Sunk-Mariner and the Echhs-Men are running for their lives down an alley, heading right toward us! They all look stunned or terrified except for Marble Girl who looks surprised that Cyclomps has shoved her in the face to try to get ahead of everyone. We can see through Cyclomps’ visor and he is a real Cyclops with one eye right above his nose. He is trying to shove the Sunk-Mariner aside. Sunky has a fish in his mouth. The fish looks chagrined by the whole situation. To Sunky’s left (our right), the Beastly is posed on one hand as he uses his arms and legs to propel himself into the lead. His terrified face is hilarious. Finally, Icy-Man holds a hot water bottle to the top of his head, which is perhaps why he is melting. He has a package of frozen carrots and other foodstuffs (including a live fish) inside his icy torso and he is trailing ice cubes behind him. Meanwhile, Scaredevil dangles on the right side of the cover below the logo. He is entangled in his own billyclub cable. The villains, Electrico, Magneat-O, and Krank peer into the alley, overjoyed at their success. On the left, below the arrow-blurb, Professor Echhs shakes his fists in anger. He looks more like the Puppet Master here than his Marvel Universe self. Above the arrow-blurb, to the left of the “Bad Guys Win” blurb, Angel-Face flies away in the opposite direction. He is so easy to miss that you might think Marie forgot all about him. Discovering him makes the cover more delightful than it already was.

In the panel above the issue number, a disembodied fist is punching Scaredevil to the left, another is punching Sunk-Mariner to the right and a hand is pushing the Echhs-Men down toward the “Marvel Comics Group.” I don’t know about you but I’ve just seen this issue on the spinning rack and that cover has hooked me. I’ve got to buy it!

The contents page (now written by either Roy or Gary, remember) is a maze puzzle with stopovers in the Scaredevil and Sunk-Mariner panels before finishing at the Echhs-Men. These panels reproduce panels from the stories. Scaredevil crying and begging to Electrico is from page 6 panel 1 of his story, Sunk-Mariner being kicked in the rear by Krank is from the splash page of that story, Magneat-O dropping the Echhs-Men through a trap door is from page 4 panel 2 of their story. The maze pathways also lead to various gags. My favorites are when the 2D maze paths suddenly become 3D, such as the one that turns into a smelly sock and the one that suddenly looks like a tube with a note next to it that says, “Ha! This is a noodle!” The credits are composed of oxymoronic slogans. Stan is presented as “the world’s tallest Leprechaun,” Sol Brodsky as “the world’s sunniest grouch,” (makes you wonder what Sol was like), Roy as, “the world’s smallest giant,” Gary as “the world’s hippest square,” (love that one) and John Verpoorten as “the world’s biggest shrimp.” The indicia still list the comic’s title as “Brand Echh,” with no “Not.”

The first story, Defeated by the Evil Electrico, stars “Scaredevil, the Man Who’s Scared of Fear and is written by Stan with art by Gene Colan, who were the creators of the Daredevil comic at the time. Gene does an impressive job of lampooning his regular drawing style. It almost looks like his regular Daredevil work, just enough so that you may buy into it with just a glance. A longer look reveals the cartoonishness, which gets more and more pronounced as the story goes on. Stan takes us to the office of Hoggy Nelson and Splat Murdock and hits us with a Mad-type gag: “[T]he two greatest legal brains of our time are hard at work, slaving for the benefit of mankind! (Melvin Mankind, their boss!)” And we’re off to the races!

Literally, as Hoggy sprints after secretary Miss Rage, brandishing a flower bouquet. Miss Rage is well ahead of him (and both of them look like they’re really motoring thanks to Gene’s well-placed speed lines) but she is clearly loving it. Hoggy promises to take her away “from all this” if she marries him. “I like it here,” she replies, “The working conditions are great!” “But you don’t do anything!” says Hoggy. “That’s what I mean!” says Miss Rage. Sitting at his desk, his head in his hand, is Splat Murdock, wearing Mike Murdock sunglasses. He thinks about how he is also in love with Miss Rage. “But I must never let them find out,” he thinks, “because Hoggy would beat me up!” A small hand is sticking out of a filing cabinet drawer holding a sign that reads, “Help! – Ant Man.” On the wall, in one of the few glimpses we have of him this issue, is a picture of Spidey-Man. Three darts have been thrown at it but all have missed.

(Let’s pause a moment, for those of you unfamiliar with sixties Daredevil stories. Stan does a great job of summing things up on this splash page so that you don’t have to be a Daredevil reader to get it but, even so, here’s the skinny. Foggy Nelson and Matt Murdock are law partners. Matt is secretly Daredevil. Both Foggy and Matt are in love with their secretary Karen Page but Matt dare not reveal it because he is Daredevil and blah, blah, blah. Oh, and Foggy and Karen pretty much figure out that Matt is Daredevil so Matt invents an imaginary twin bother Mike who is sighted while Matt is blind. Matt can pull off playing the part of Mike because his radar senses allow him to appear sighted. The best way to tell them apart is that Mike wears these wrap-around aviator-type sunglasses while Matt does not. And, yes, that all really did happen back then, believe it or not.)

So, Splat acts nonchalant as Hoggy chases Miss Rage. “They mustn’t suspect that I’m really Scaredevil,” he thinks even as Hoggy asks, “Who do you think Scaredevil really is?” “Who cares?” Miss Rage replies. (The filing cabinet hand now holds a sign reading, “Hurry.”) Frustrated, Splat decides, “I’ll quit the super-hero bit and go legit! Then she’ll be mine at last! And also I’ll be able to get rid of these phony specs! I can never remember where I put them, anyway!” he says as he opens a closet with a sign hanging on the doorknob that says, “The Marauder Lives! (He’s editing Gnatman!)” (This appears to be a dig at Julius Schwartz who was editing Batman at the time but I’m not sure why.) Splat opens the closet and dozens of eyeglasses fall on him. “Now I remember where I put them!” he yells.

Splat decides the best way to “get out of the superhero business” is to “let one of my favorite enemies unmask me.” He looks up Electrico “in the classified under ‘Villains’!” We get a second glimpse of the Spidey picture with the darts, although the darts are in slightly different positions. The hand sticking out of the filing cabinet now hangs limply. It holds a sign that says, “Never mind – it’s too late!” Meanwhile, Hoggy has caught Miss Rage and holds her in his lap. “Look at the pansies I brought you,” he says, “Take a whiff!...Then I’ll take ‘em away so’s we can smooch!” “Take them away now!” demands Miss Rage. “You mean you can’t wait to kiss me??!” says Hoggy. “No! I can’t wait to sneeze!” says Miss Rage, “I’m allergic!” “But you’ve smelled flowers before!” replies Hoggy. “I know!” Miss Rage says, “I’m allergic to you!” “No wonder I’m neurotic,” thinks Hoggy. Behind them, Splat gets Electrico on the phone and tells him he’ll be right over. Miss Rage sneezes with such force, she blows herself right off of Hoggy’s lap. “Thanks to my famous super-sensitive hearing, I can tell that Miss Rage just sneezed,” says Splat. “You kiddin’??” says Electrico over the phone, “It knocked me outta my tree clear over here!” “Little does he dream,” thinks Splat, “that Scaredevil is really Splat Murdock, mild-mannered partner of Hoggy Nelson who is really Irving Clawbush mild-mannered rival of Berry Mason who is really…aww, forget it!” (A wonderful parody of the way super-hero characters sometimes think in order to get the reader up to date. “Berry Mason” refers to Perry Mason, the famous defense lawyer created by Erle Stanley Gardner but I’m not sure who “Irving Clawbush” is supposed to be. Just a variation on Irving Forbush? Anyone know?)

Miss Rage’s sneeze has blown a hole in the wall and blown her and Hoggy along with it, leaving only their shoes behind. Splat takes advantage of this to change into Scaredevil, “the idol of millions.” (“Sam Millions, who delivers the laundry,” adds Stan in a footnote, using the gag once again.) (Splat’s costume is in a secret compartment marked “Secret compartment. Do not touch!” and “This way to Secret Compartment.”) “I’d better hurry,” says Splat, “Miss Rage may start to sneeze again.”

He dons his costume, which has a little smiling devil for a chest insignia, and steps out of the window. “Now, I’ve just gotta hook my cable on that next roof,” he says, firing his billy club, before falling toward the street (with his devil insignia open-mouthed with astonishment). “Oops! I forgot one little thing,” he says, “there isn’t any roof over there!” He crashes right through the sidewalk, with a “Splyunk!” leaving the outline of his body in the concrete. He emerges from the hole, saying, “Well, nobody’s perfect!”

Meanwhile, Electrico decides he must be “all charged up” to face Scaredevil. He stands on top of a generator plugged into wall outlets marked “AC” and “DC.” The “DC” sign has an asterisk referring to Stan’s footnote reading, “Don’t sue us, Mort Wienieburger! We mean direct current!” As Roy notes in Alter Ego , “Mort Wienieburger” is “a spoof of the name of DC’s Superman line editor Mort Weisinger” but adds “I know I was surprised to see Stan toss that in…since the great majority or our readers wouldn’t recognize the source of the name and, to the best of my knowledge, Stan never parodied any other talent working for the competition. Maybe the “Wienieburger” name just came to him, and he couldn’t resist it.” But Roy neglects the earlier reference to the “Marauder editing Gnatman,” which doesn’t parody a specific name but does seem to be a dig at “talent working for the competition.” Maybe Stan just had his competitive juices flowing when he wrote this story.

Scaredevil crashes through the window, yelling, “Hi, Voltage!! That’s a pun, son!” which is actually something the Daredevil of the time might have said. With tears streaming down his mask, Scaredevil begs Electrico to unmask him. Electrico thinks Scaredevil is tricking him. “But I mean it! Honest! Pinky square!” says Scaredevil and, personally, I always thought the expression was “pinky swear” (and this page backs me up. Sorry, Stan!) “Get lost, ya bum!” Electrico replies.

Scaredevil gets down on his knees and begs. His crying continues with his tears flooding Electrico’s floor. “It’s for freedom and justice and Mom’s apple pie,” he says. “Yecchh!” says Electico, “You never tasted my Mom’s apple pie.” He tells Scaredevil to go away. “I wanna read my new Slayboy magazine!” he says. As Scaredevil persists in begging him to unmask him, Electrico jolts him with an electric burst. “I know your mask is probably booby-trapped,” he tells Scaredevil, “So you won’t catch me touching it! Besides, I don’t care who you really are!” “You’re not only a villain,” says Scaredevil, “you’re a rotten person!”

Scaredevil offers to unmask himself. “Forget it!” says Electrico, “I’ll sit up here with my eyes closed!” “Then I’ll tell you who I am!” says Scaredevil. “I won’t listen,” says Electrico. Finally, to prove his good intentions, Scaredevil ties himself up with his own billy club. “Now will you take off my furshlugginer mask??” he asks. Instead, Electrico picks him up and throws him out the window. “Naturally, I can save myself by some super-dooper muscle-flexing,” says Scaredevil, doing exactly that. “And there’s really no need for me to rush since I won’t reach the ground until the next panel.” He also has a word balloon, blank but for an asterix. The footnote reads, “Sorry! Forgot what I was gonna say! – Stan Baby.”

Swinging down to the ground, Scaredevil encounters a couple who may or may not be caricatures of celebrities of the time. “Nice lady, I’d like to get married! Would you help me!” he asks the woman. “But I already have a husband!” she replies. “No, no! You don’t get me!” says Scaredevil. “Indian giver!” she replies.

“Ten years later,” according to the caption in the next panel, Scaredevil finally figures out that he should unmask himself. “I shoulda thought of that five pages ago!!” he says. So, in front of President Lyndon B. Johnson, Vice President Hubert H. Humphrey, Hoggy, Miss Rage, and Spider-Man (our cameo appearance, folks!) he removes his mask. “He’s gonna reveal his true identity! And then he’ll marry Miss Rage!” says LBJ. Miss Rage asks if Hoggy is worried. Hoggy isn’t. “A lot can happen in ten years,” he says and, sure enough, Scaredevil reveals himself to now be completely bald.

If you don’t care for these kinds of stories, I don’t blame you but if you don’t care for these kinds of stories, you aren’t reading Not Brand Echh. If you do care for these kinds of stories, then you can’t get much better than this. Stan has mastered the concisely-written comic story; snappy and assured with smooth, dopey humor. I love the last three pages in particular with Electrico refusing to unmask Scaredevil, the exchange with the woman about marriage, the “Ten Years Later” caption (I can picture Scaredevil swinging around for ten years trying to figure out what to do without eating or sleeping and with Hoggy and Miss Rage not marrying in the meantime or aging at all so that the ten years are really no different than the next panel which is, of course, exactly what it is, except that Scaredevil has gone bald), and the other meta references to “not reaching the ground until the next panel” and “thinking of it five pages ago.” It all turns around on itself nicely, including the fact that Electrico doesn’t exactly win, even though it’s the “Bad Guys Win” issue. Nicely done, Stan, but why doesn’t Miss Rage get a first name? As mentioned above, Gene’s artwork finds the sweet spot between his serious Daredevil artwork and sheer goofiness. It all comes together just right. Five webs.

The next story is not so assured and tries to bowl us over with excessive wordplay.

Kayoed by Krank! stars Prince No-More, the Sunk-Mariner. In 1967, Prince Namor, the Sub-Mariner had his own feature in Tales to Astonish in which he ruled Atlantis with the assistance of Lady Dorma and Lord Vashti. Warlord Krang, leader of the Atlantean army was engaged to Lady Dorma until she decided to pursue Namor. This made Krang Namor’s enemy and he seized the Atlantean throne. (This all happened in Tales to Astonish #70, August 1965 to Tales to Astonish #76, February 1966.) These stories were well-done Lee-Colan works but they are not well-remembered, which makes this parody not much of a read these days. Actually, it wasn’t much of a read back then either.

Prince No-More loses a game of Monopoly to Warlord Krank which costs him the throne of Atloontis. Lost along with the throne are his trusted advisor Lord Nasty and girl-friend Lady Darnit. (“I never dug those pointy ears anyway,” she says.) Only a crab sitting on the throne, who nips Krank in the behind, remains loyal to No-More. (“Inferius Rex,” the crab says, reflecting Namor’s “Imperius Rex” cry.) No-More is just as glad to be deposed since he can “finally ditch that corny Shakespearean dialogue” and can get away from “Lady Darnit’s nagging.”

No-More leaves the city (passing a sign for “Imperius Wrecks Junk Yard!” with “Sam Imperius, Proprietor”) but runs into a bathysphere. “If I didn’t know better, I’d swear they were bringing back Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea for the four hundredth time!” he says. Inside the bathysphere is “Floyd Britches,” star of “Sea Runt.” (A take-off on Lloyd Bridges who starred in the TV series Sea Hunt which was on from 1958-1961. Even writer Gary Friedrich knew this was a dated, belabored reference. He has Floyd say, “Five years I’ve been off the air and I still can’t shake the autograph hounds!”) No-More rides the bathysphere back to Atloontis, crying, “We’re being invaded by Hollywood! And that means Liz and Dick can’t be far behind!” (A reference to Elizabeth Tayor and Richard Burton.) Floyd leaves for Italy. “Sophia and Gina, here I come!” he calls. (Referring to Sophia Loren and Gina Lollabrigida.) No-More finds himself back at the throneroom where Darnit is driving Krank crazy, wanting him to call Hugh Hefner “so I can be Play-Amphibian of the month.” No-More gets his giant lobster Cuddles to get friendly with Krank, crushing him. But he gets jealous and calls Cuddles off. “One more show of disloyalty like that and I won’t recommend you to Stan Lee as a replacement for the Bulk,” he says.

Had enough of this yet? There’s more. Darnit and Lord Nasty continue nagging Krank. No-More hangs around, observing. “I’ve put up with this for twenty-five years,” he says, “But now I’m splitting!” Just then the court page Al Blurt blows his trumpet. (Al Blurt. Get it? Like Al Hirt, the famous trumpeter? Yeah, it goes on like this.) Krank thinks “this can only mean our foreign aid has arrived from the U.S.!” Aqualung-Man (based on DC’s Aquaman) enters, shoving No-More aside. He tells Krank, “I’m sick an’ tired of you treadin’ on my turf! This ocean ain’t big enough for two sub-sea monarchs.” He punches Krank through his throne, giving him until “High Noon to cut out” and threatening him with “the Just’a League of Americans.” No-More scares him off with a “man-eating pearl,” calling Aqualung-Man a “Brand Echh Bugaboo.” Aqualung-Man replies, “They told me there were a bunch of madmen in the Marble Bullbin!” And then there’s a reference to Irving Forbush and, oh my God, it gets worse.

Fed up with all of it, Krank tries to give the throne back to No-More but he will have none of it. He leaves, packing a book entitled “How to Gain 90 Lbs. of Muscle by Changing Artists” in his possessions. Moving to the surface world, No-More gets a job as “Dripper” on the “Dripper” TV show. (Spoofing the show “Flipper.”) There’s a reference to “Jackie Gleapsome” (Jackie Gleason) performing in Miami (Jackie’s show was filmed in Miami), a reference to Esther Williams and a reference to the “Honey-Swooners” (the Honeymooners). There’s an appearance by Popeye and the Whiffle Hen for no particular reason. Then No-More gets the idea of replacing “Mr. Spook” on “Star Trick.” He clobbers Mr. Spook over the head and takes his place (because, you know, they both have pointed ears) until he’s told that their last adventure will be an exploration of an underwater kingdom. “Aaargh!” says No-More, “Kranky, I’m comin’ home,” and jumps out of the starship. “Oh well,” says the Captain, “maybe he can hitch up with Losted in Space.”

This is one of the most exhausting 7 page stories I’ve ever read. It is far too wordy, overly-filled with cultural references that serve no purpose and, the greatest sin for a story of this type, it isn’t one bit funny. One of the few things that made me laugh was the book title, “How to Gain 90 Lbs. of Muscle by Changing Artists;” a reference to the difference in Namor’s physique from creator Bill Everett’s artwork to the 60s work of John Buscema and others. But this amusing bit is an example of the incestuousness of so much of the humor from Forbush to Aqualung-Man to Marble Bullbin to Inferius Rex…enough! Marie Severin’s artwork is quirky and charming, filled with sight gags but Gary Friedrich’s story misses every step of the way. I’ll give it one-half web, solely for Marie’s artwork.

Sadly, if you thought this story was too wordy, wait till you see the next one.

If Magneat-O Should Clobber Us.. stars the Echhs-Men in an echhs-cruiating (sorry about that) story by Roy Thomas and Tom Sutton.

The story begins with the Echhs-Men kicking Magneat-O’s butt. (The Beastly does it literally.) “Some mornings I think I shoulda stood in bed!” says Maggy, “That is, if I didn’t keep attracting the metal bedposts so that they hit me in the noggin!” Maggy takes the subway after his beating. “Every day, it’s the same furshlugginer story,” he says, “I take the subway to the Bronx, then a train out to Chestwester County, then get mopped up by the Echhs-Men! Then, I make the long trip back again, just like all the other commuting super-villains!” And the train car is full of villains including Black Knight, the Mandarin, the Porcupine, the Plant Man, and, of all characters, Half-Face. (Everybody remembers Half-Face, right? Right?! Well, he’s a forgettable Iron Man villain but he was fairly new at the time.) But wait! Magneat-O has a plan.

And so, Magneat-O dons a Little Lord Fauntleroy outfit (without bothering to remove his helmet) and adopts a lisp to disguise himself as he attempts to “thign up” at Professor Echhsavier’s School for Gifted Guys an’ Gals. The Prof is a bit reluctant until Magneat-O tells him “My Daddy ownth Fort Knox.” “That’s gift enough!” he says.

The Prof takes Magneat-O to join the Echhs-Men in the Dangerous Room but first he warns his new pupil to stay out of a boarded up room with signs on it that read “Secret Room!” “Verboten!” “Keep Out!” and “In fact, don’t even read these signs!” “It’s even worse than Brand Echh!” says the Prof of the room. “Not Brand Echh!” says Maggy. “No, not Not Brand Echh! I said Brand Echh!” says the Prof.

In the Dangerous Room, Angelface asks Marble Girl “how come you’re just now bounding into the room?” “Into the room?” replies Marble Girl, “You’re out of your cloud, Clyde! I’m telekinetically hopping out of the room backwards! It’s dangerous in this Dangerous Room!” (This gag has the pace, feel, and cadence of an old Kurtzman Mad gag, which may just make it the best gag in this story.)

Taking advantage of the situation, Magneat-O pulls the lever labeled “Pull here to open trapdoor,” and drops the entire Echhs-team into a dungeon below. Also falling with them is a book: “Yes I Can! by Richard Nixon.” The real “Yes I Can!” is Sammy Davis Jr.’s autobiography. (I don’t have to explain who Sammy Davis Jr. was, I hope.) This gag, which makes fun of Nixon’s defeats for the Presidency and the Governorship of Califormia as well as his “You won’t have Nixon to kick around anymore” comment, was made before Nixon won the Presidency in 1968, which casts a new light on the “Yes I Can!” Also worth mentioning is that Sammy Davis Jr. supported Nixon’s re-election bid in 1972 and, at one point, hugged him from behind, which clearly pleased but discomfited an awkward Nixon as seen in a famous photo . Magneat-O thinks he has won. “Now I can thtop…er, stop talking like a refugee from the Red Skelton Show,” he says, referencing Red’s Mean Widdle Kid character who also lisped and wore a Little Lord Fauntleroy suit.

Then, he hears the Echhs-Men having a party in the dungeon. They are listening to the Monkees on a transistor radio. “Later, they’re going to play the new hit by the Blues Magoos!” says Marble Girl. (There really was a band called the Blues Magoos. Their biggest hit was “(We Ain’t Got) Nothin’ Yet.” I don’t get what the joke is here. Anybody?) “Phooey,” says Maggy, “What’s the fun in taking over this whole mag, if nobody cares?” He tries to get a workout in the Dangerous Room but his magnetic powers short out all the devices…except a boxing glove on a spring that knocks him through the wall. He thinks he sees the Echhs-Men outside but it is the Doom Patrol who were, as Roy puts it in Alter Ego #95 “the first team of costumed super-heroes to be led by a guy in a wheelchair.”

Feeling cheated by his victory, Maggy goes to the dungeon to take on the Echhs-Man as himself. The Prof is reading “1984 by John-John Kennedy,” a joke that implies that John Kennedy Jr. would run for President then (I guess, but he was only 24 years old in that year), with perhaps an Orwellian tinge to the gag as well. This one comes across as a bit sad these days what with John Jr.’s fate. Maggy confronts Beastly who nearly crowds him out of the panel with a very wordy word balloon. Beastly then takes the word balloon and clubs Maggy over the head with it. The other Echhs-Men follow suit, burying Maggy in word balloons. Maggy flees and tries to escape through the “Verboten!” door. (You knew that he would. What was it that Chekhov said? “If you say in the first chapter that there is a rifle hanging on the wall, in the second or third chapter it absolutely must go off.”) He opens the door and it is like Fibber McGee’s closet (look it up). He is buried in word balloons from all the Marble mags. “Magneat-O opened the door to the room we rent out as a storeroom for all the old Mighty Marble word balloons,” the Prof explains, “After all, even mutant college Profs gotta make a living, y’know!”

In AE #95, Roy talks about the end of this story. “But the real high point – or low, if you were [letterer] Sam Rosen – was the final two pages. In panel 3 of page 6, not only does The Beastly deliver himself of a 63-word dialogue balloon…but he then grabs it by the tail and slugs Magneat-O with it in the next panel – at which point Sam had to letter that balloon all over again! Marvel may have had a Photostat machine…by that point, though probably not a Xerox copier – but either such new devices were not for use for humble story purposes, or else I just didn’t think of it. In the page’s last panel, much of that balloon had to be lettered a third time – along with several others under which the Echhs-Men began to bury Magneat-O.” Then comes the last page with all those other word balloons. “I was just oblivious to anything but the needs of the tale,” Roy conjectures. “If it makes anybody feel any kindlier toward me, it usually took me twice as long to write a page of NBE as of any other series I scripted. In terms of hourly wages, the comic was a definite loser for me…but I loved doing it and never even considered bailing out.”

Roy also mentions “I was kinda proud of the story,” perhaps due to its sheer loquacity but, really, it’s not much of a humor piece. It makes clever use of its own verbosity but that doesn’t make it any more readable. Plus it fosters a pattern of explaining everything. When Magneat-O gets away with the Mean Widdle Kid disguise, Roy feels the need to explain in a caption, “Thus, with the aid of his fiendishly clever disguise, not to mention Professor Echh’s astigmatism, Magneat-O gains entrance to Echhs-Men HQ!” It is a bit amusing that no one recognizes Maggy in his cheap disguise until Roy’s explanation kills it. Similarly, Magneat-O reference to the Red Skelton Show neuters any humor from recognizing that Magneat-O is disguised as the Mean Widdle Kid. If you haven’t already figured that out, explaining the reference is not going to make any difference. And the Prof’s drawn-out explanation of the word balloons in the “Verboten!” room eliminates any of the humor that comes from the visual. At least Roy didn’t explain the Doom Patrol bit but by then it’s too late. Too much talk, too many explanations for a seven page comic story. It makes you want to say, “Roy, please shut up.” Still, it’s not the worst story in the issue. But it only gets one web.

Oh, and, before I forget, Spidey-Man is featured in the Merry Marvel Marching Society membership form above the Letter Page. But that doesn’t mean I’m going to review the Letter Page.

In General...

Time for some math. Five webs for the first story. One-half web for the second. One web for the third.

Overall Rating...

Eh. I’ll call it two webs. Oh, and a half -web for the cover. Make it two and a half webs.

Footnote...

Next: Back to Amazing. Where Doc Ock Wins!