As you may recall, in reviewing the “Best Side Story” story in Not Brand Echh #6, we ran across this Roy Thomas quote in Alter Ego #95: “Interestingly, this was actually the second time Gary had written an all-out parody of Marvel-vs.-DC heroes. The first had been in Charlton’s humor comic Go-Go #6 (April 1967), where a bunch of “Marvelous heroes” had battled the “Bestest League of America”; the latter was composed of DC stand-ins I’d originated back in 1961’s Alter-Ego (Vol. 1) #1.” Roy then refers the reader to “The Alter Ego Collection, Vol. 1 which reprints the first two issues of A/E, Vol. 3.” That leads us to Bill Schelly’s article on “Da Frantic Four!” from Alter Ego (Vol. 3) #1, Summer 1999. In it, he talks about Richard “Grass” Green and his friendship with Ronn Foss who introduces Grass to comic fandom. Foss shares Alter Ego (Vol. 1) #2 & 3 with Green. “Those issues featured, among a number of groundbreaking articles on the history of comics, Roy Thomas’ Kurtzman-influenced parody of the JLA called ‘The Bestest League of America’.” This, likely, inspires Foss and Green to create “Da Frantic Four!” which was printed in the fanzine The Comicollector #8 (October 1962), reprinted in Alter Ego (Vol. 3) #1 and re-reprinted in the “The Alter Ego Collection, Vol. 1.
The popularity of “Da Frantic Four” led to Roy Thomas and Grass Green teaming up for “The Bestest League of America Meets Da Frantic Four” in Alter Ego (Vol. 1) #6, March 1964. In 1967, Dick Giordano hires Grass to draw his first professional assignments at Charlton. And according to Bill Schelly, “Also in 1967 came Go-Go #5, which featured the Charlton version of the Bestest League, scripted by Roy’s longtime friend Gary Friedrich and illustrated by Grass, yet nearly unchanged from the BLA’s origin in Alter Ego. This was the first character crossover from fandom to professional comics.” And that leads to the story featured here, which was, again according to Schelly, “the first professionally-published meeting ever of DC and Marvel heroes!”
Okay, now that we have the real world history straight, what about the lead-up to this story in Go-Go? Well, it all springs out of the “Blooperman” strip. In Go-Go #3, Blooperman is put in jail for various klutzy moves but Badman and Robber break him out. In Go-Go #4, Badman and Robber bend Blooperman to their will and head out to rob a bank but run into the Bestest League of America. In Go-Go #5, after capturing Badman and Robber, the BLA gets a call from their union president Julie Schmartz telling them they are on strike. “Stan Wee, president of the Marvelous super-hero union” has also agreed to a walkout. While BLA leader Green Trashcan (“In rundown shack or circus tent, no evil shall escape this gent! Let those who are on evil bent, beware my power, Green Trashcan’s scent!”) goes to meet with the Marvelous heroes, the other striking BLA members (Wondrous Woman, Lean Arrow, S’Amm S’Mmith the Martian Manhandler, the Cash “the fastest buck alive,” Aquariuman, Aukman, and the I.P.O.M “Infinitesimal Particle Of Matter”) ignore the rampant crime in the city. Blooperman, who did not attend the meeting, rushes to save a disabled airplane, threatening to nullify the strike agreement.
In this issue, Green Trashcan enters the headquarters of the Marvelous super-heroes to discover that they “feel nothing but contempt for their Brand Yicch counterpart.” The heroes are the Fumin’ Scorch, the Wisp, Great-Big Huge Man, Scrap-Iron Man, Captain Americuss, Mr. Fantabulous, Thore, the God Thenthathional, the Thang (“It’s slobberin’ time!”), and the Hunk. (I’m not sure if the Invisibubble Girl is there since she is invisibubble.) The heroes think “Brand Yicch is tryin’ to muscle in on our strike.” This gets the Thang so worked up he attacks Green Trashcan only to be restrained by Reed Righteous, Mr. Fantabulous. The Hunk steps in and attacks Reed. The Thang steps in and confronts the Hunk.
Now, in Alter Ego (Vol. 1) #1, Bill Schelly notes that “By design or more likely by accident, nearly all the parody-heroes were colored incorrectly in the story (Green Trashcan mostly in yellow, The Hunk’s skin pink, the Thang’s, green).” I don’t think there’s any doubt that it is accidental. After all, Green Trashcan calls the green Thang “that creep that looks like an over-fed orange peel” and Captain Americuss calls the Hunk “green-skin” while Thang refers to Hunk as “that vegetable eatin’ jerk.” Fortunately for him, the colorist is not credited but, to be fair, I think Green Trashcan’s costume is supposed to be yellow as it is in the previous issue. It is the trashcan logo on his chest that is green.
Meanwhile, Blooperman saves the crashing airplane. He searches out the BLA to brag that he finally did something right only to have the Cash yell at him, “We’re on strike, you nincompoop! And now you’ve probably spoiled the whole bit!” The BLA chases Blooperman away even as Green Trashcan runs up to tell them that “the Marvelous guys are coming – or rather we’re going to them!” because “They threw me out! They wouldn’t even talk to me!” The Besters charge Marvelous headquarters where the Marvelous heroes line up to meet them. “Did somebody send for a good-natured neighborhood Spider-Dan?” asks our newly-arriving Spidey parody character who joins the line-up.
The battle royale begins. A Plastic Man character has joined the Besters. Spidey-Dan takes on another added character that I don’t recognize. They only get to rumble for one panel before Julie Schmartz and Stan Wee run up to stop it. “Hold on, there Bestest Leaguers! You tryin’ to put us outta business?” says Julie. “Stop it – you know our ribs at Brand Yicch are all in fun!” says Stan.
The Besters circle around Julie who tells them “I’m ashamed of you all! You’re supposed to set a good example for our nation’s youth! Now what do you think fighting the Marvelous heroes is gonna do to your Image, awready? (Your Image! Accidental and now anachronistic pun!) And – what would the Code think if it saw super-heroes fighting amongst each other!” (This, I assume, is a poke at DC’s staid image since the Code didn’t care one bit about all the Marvel heroes fighting each other.)
The Marvelous heroes circle around Stan who says “”I spend all these years preaching fun to you – and you wind up fighting the competition!” When the Thang complains, “You might be my boss, but you ain’t big enough to push the Thang around!” Stan replies, “No – but I can sure as Hercules have Jack Curly erase you anytime I feel like it!” He finishes with “The strike’s off! The President and the Comics Code condemned it! They don’t think it’s ethical for super-heroes to strike! Transit workers and airline mechanics, maybe – but not super heroes! We won’t be getting a raise – so get back to the office and scare up some new villains to fight – and no more battles with the opposition, huh? They don’t give us any free plugs!”
And what of poor Blooperman? Well, he’s a step behind once again. Caught carrying a sign reading “Unfair to super-heroes! Strike on!” he is arrested by the police for “defying a presidential order.”
The closing caption promises “lots more in the next ish” but this is not the case. None of these characters appear in Go-Go again.
Okay, first off, you’ve got to give it points for being “the first professionally-published meeting ever of DC and Marvel heroes,” I suppose. And I enjoy Grass Green’s artwork with its strong Harvey Kurtzman Mad Comic Book influence. The story is brief and routine but I do like the way Julie and Stan admit that the rivalry is mostly there to build sales and I get a kick out of Blooperman being one step behind at the end. It’s not great but it isn’t any worse than a number of Not Brand Echh stories later on. And created by Roy Thomas and Gary Friedrich as it is, you could say it is the parent to those later Brechh episodes.
So, seeing as it’s the Brand Echh prototype, let’s be nice and give it two webs.