We first met the Cobweb Kid in Inferior Five #7. He sang his song, “Cobweb Kid, Cobweb Kid, does whatever a spider did,” and we met his Aunt Meg. Now, he, the Sub-Moron (whom we also met in #7), the Kookie Quartet, and Superman join the I5 in what proves to be their last issue.
You may recall that Inferior Five #7 introduced a new logo and called the group “The New Inferior 5.” (“Five” used to be spelled out but now it’s just the number.) It had a nice multi-colored look that only lasts for two issues. On the Inferior Five #9 cover, the logo becomes all yellow (well, “The New” part is white) and two words have been added at the top so the logo now reads, “Ughh! Here’s the New Inferior Five.” There is also a large green banner behind the logo that reduces the cover illustration by a third. In our current issue, the banner is smaller, reducing the illustration by a fourth. It is red this time with the “Ughh! Here’s” in yellow, “the New” in black and “Inferior 5” in green. The illustration is overly-busy. Flying saucers come down in a line on the left leading to a row of green aliens that circle the border around the bottom and back up the right side. Our heroes are within that border with the Cobweb Kid, the Submoron, the Matchstick Kid, Mr. ManPlastic, and Watchamacallit all unconscious. (Watchamacallit, the take-off of the Thing, is called “Watchamacallit 4” on the splash page, which is indicative of the sloppiness of this final issue.) The I5 still stand but are looking very nervous. It’s a decent enough design at this point but it leaves us with a big swath of blue sky behind, only so that we can have Superman looming over all the other heroes and so that three word balloons can be inserted, none of which are worth quoting. If Superman looks different than the rest of the figures, it is because, according to the Grand Comics Database, Neal Adams drew him. If so, I think Neal drew him pretty fast.
So, what about the inside?
A flying saucer full of green aliens with long noses, fangs, and horns hovers over Washington DC. (A voice from the Capitol building sings Somebody Else is A-Takin’ Mah Place…a reference to the impending election? To LBJ?) The flying saucer has a bumper sticker that reads, “We’ve been to Cape Kennedy,” which is what Cape Canaveral was called from 1963 to 1973. An alien, using a telescope that ends in binoculars notes that “ugly creatures” inhabit Earth, adding, “her horns are cute tho.” The “creature” with horns turns out to be a cow. The aliens land in a pasture and march out of their ship. The cow digs a hole and hides, saying “Moo!” which in this case turns out to mean, “They got horns but they ain’t my people.”
At the same time, the Inferior 5 all try to subdue something that looks like a big white snake but turns out to be a fire hose. They finally flatten it when Awkwardman falls on it. Ed Norton from “The Honeymooners” (who we saw in #7) sticks his head up out of a manhole. (Don’t ask me what the deal is with the little man who says “Shlama-Cree.” I have no idea.) The firemen lie and tell the I5 “You did real nice,” then they drive away, yelling, “Don’t call us! We’ll call you!” Merryman chides his teammates, telling them that their efficiency is slipping.” “Do you realize,” he says, “people are even starting to call us the…choke…Inferior Five?” (I thought that was their name. If not, what do they call themselves?) To prove to those people that “we’re the greatest,” the Five undergo a training program. Awkwardman tries to learn ballet, White Feather reads a copy of House of Mystery to try to conquer his fear, the Blimp races a snail on a treadmill, Dumb Bunny learns to spell “cat,” and Merryman tries to lift a barbell shaft without the barbells. But then an announcement comes through on their “Inferior Wave Radio,” which looks like an old-time tube radio. (If they don’t want to be called “the Inferior Five,” maybe they shouldn’t call their radio the “Inferior Wave Radio.”) “Attention! Calling all super-heroes! An invasion from an alien planet is now taking place!” it says. The I5 decide that “this is our big break” but Superman, the Submoron (who is eating worms off of fishing hooks as the fish complain “Ever since this guy came around, we get nothing to eat!”), the Kookie Quartet, and the Cobweb Kid also plan to respond. (The Invisible Woman character, who I don’t think ever gets a name here, says of her teammates, “These creeps better stop following me around. My mother is beginning to complain.” The Cobweb Kid is sewing more webs and he says, “Tsk! With all these rotten interruptions I’ll never get to finish my knitting! And I promised nanny a new shawl.” Is “nanny” the same as Aunt Meg?)
The Five try to get to the scene of the invasion in their jalopy but Awkwardman destroys it so they tie the chassis to the Blimp and have Awkwardman push from behind. By the time they arrive, the other heroes are there. Because of his “cheap webs” breaking (“Sale! 25 cents per yard!”), the Cobweb Kid swings right into Manplastic’s “cheap plastic appendix.” (Sometimes he’s “Man Plastic.”) The I5 list the heroes who have beaten them to the punch: “It’s the Kookie Four! Also Submoron! The Cobweb Kid! And the Matchstick Kid!” So, first, I thought they were “the Kookie Quartet” and, second, isn’t the Matchstick Kid part of the Kookie Quartet? Why list him separately? More sloppiness.
Before the I5 can join the fight, Watchamacallit blocks their way, declaring, “This is my battle!” (“He has a bad complexion but he’s cute,” says Dumb Bunny.) He confronts an alien who shoots a ray from his eye into Watchamacallit’s eye. This causes Watchamacallit to sneeze, blowing himself apart. Merryman runs off to get some glue and he puts Watchamacallit back together…badly. He tries again, then a third time after which he has some pieces left over. (I love that bit.) Finally, the Matchstick Kid tells him he has to “put him together by the numbers.” Merryman tries to do that but Dumb Bunny is playing checkers with the pieces.
The fight continues. The Cobweb Kid kicks an alien in the head, saying “Ow!! My feet are killin’ me!” “Ow! His feet are killin’ me,” says the alien. Suddenly, the Submoron’s gills dry out and he needs a quick drink of water. Dumb Bunny points him to a building with tanks on the roof. “There must be water in that building,” she says and Submoron races in. But it’s a distillery and Submoron dives into a vat of whiskey. When he comes out, he sings “For he’sh sholly good fell-o” and tries to return to the “shea” because he has a date with a mermaid. But he misses when he tries to dive into a manhole and knocks himself out.
The Matchstick Kid is also having troubles. “He gave me the evil eye and my flames went out,” he says of an alien. Merryman, knocked across the panel by an alien says, “He gave me the evil hand and my teeth went out.” The Matchstick Kid tries to reignite but only gets sparks. As he hops around, he realizes he’s “learned the Frug. He ends up flying upside down. Even his word balloon is upside down. Merryman gets all meta and notices this. “I don’t read you, Match,” he says, “your balloon is upside down! You look weird!” Dumb Bunny and Awkwardman finally get ahold of Matchstick and carry him to a tobacconist who advertises “lighter fluid.” “Fill ‘im up!” calls out Bunny. “I take an onion in my Molotov Cocktail,” says Matchstick.
Now, the Cobweb Kid gets a few pages. He gets knocked over by the Blimp, then gets on top of him and tells him to “stay out of my way. We spiders work alone!” The Blimp starts to float away. “Please moor me to the nearest Carvel,” he says. The Kid uses his cobwebs to climb down from the Blimp. “This kind of hero should be outlawed by the comics code,” he says, “Teaches kids to be fat!” He springs away. While he is upside down, he says, “When I do like this, the blood rises to my head! I hope I’m all right!”
White Feather tries to get into the act. He reaches back for an arrow in his quiver but grabs an alien’s nose instead. The alien kicks Feather who falls into the Cobweb Kid, knocking him down. An alien takes advantage and gives the Kid the evil eye, causing him to revert “to his spidery habits.” He climbs a wall and starts eating flies, right through his mask. “If he weren’t so ugly, he’d be cute,” says Bunny.
It’s time for Mr. Manplastic to lend a hand. He gives the aliens “the old plastic bag trick” by stretching out and covering them with his body. The I5 rush up and start punching the aliens through Manplastic. “Now they beat up on them,” he says, through the pain. White Feather tries to shoot the aliens through Manplastic but only succeeds in implanting an arrow in Manplastic’s rear end. He leaps up in pain, releasing the aliens, one of whom gives Manplastic the evil eye. Bunny covers her eyes and says, “My forehead is itching!” Is this some result of, as Awkwardman puts it, “plastic burning?” Again, I don’t get it.
Responding to the evil eye command, Mr. Manplastic blows up like the Blimp and starts to float away. White Feather retrieves his arrow from Manplastic’s rear, which sends him flying about like a deflating balloon. The Invisible Woman (who still hasn’t gotten an I5 name) says, “There’s nothing left of him but Silly Putty! And it’s all because of you, Inferior 5!” Bunny’s response is “Nyahh! You’re knock-kneed!”
The Inferiors are the only heroes left. They circle the wagons and start duking it out with the aliens. (One of the aliens says, “Don’t hurt the one with the bow and arrow! I want to ask him something!” But he never does.) The I5 are holding their own but eventually they are all hit with the evil eye and stop in their tracks. “We have defeated the super-heroes!” says one alien, “The Earth is ours!” But there’s always Superman. When we saw him 15 pages back, it looked like he was fighting a space dragon but it turns out the dragon’s name is Stanley and Superman is trying to clip his fingernails for him. Stanley fights back, saying, “No! It tickles!” Using his telescopic vision, Supes sees that the I5 have been defeated. He punches Stanley, telling him to “wait here” and thinking, “Boy! Having a pet dragon is a drag! But at least he’s space-broken!” (I get this feeling that these panels are lifted from an earlier Superman comic and rewritten as comedy…the Superman on page 21 panel 5 looks a bit like Wayne Boring’s work…though Stanley the dragon looks a little too goofy to have been in a Superman comic, even one from the 60s.)
Superman flies at super-speed past a stork delivering a baby and Enemy Ace. (“Do you believe storks bring babies?” thinks the stork. “Yeah…baby storks!” thinks the baby.) He creates a super-vacuum and sucks up the aliens so fast that no one sees him do it. He doesn’t want the I5 to know that he helped them because “it would embarrass them.” He thinks, “Now my super-vacuum will propel them back into their spacecraft” as the aliens say, “Some super-vacuum seems to be propelling us back into our spacecraft!” Enemy Ace approaches in his biplane asking, “Anybody see King Kong?” In the bottom of the panel, Stanley (not the dragon but the star of the comic “Stanley and his Monster”) peels back the corner looking for his monster Spot.
Superman flings the aliens’ ship back into space, before returning to clip Stanley’s fingernails. Another biplane flies up and guns down Enemy Ace. A balloon with the sign “Support the pound” on it, goes up in flames. A man carrying a briefcase floats down holding an umbrella like a male Mary Poppins. I don’t know what this all means, either.
Back on Earth, the evil eye spells wear off and the I5 can move again. They are proud of their success against the aliens. “That hero-training course sure payed [sic] off,” says Merryman. “Yeah, we saved the world,” says Awkwardman, “Funny though…I thought at least there’d be some kind of welcome committee.” “Yeah, like to throw confetti and things,” says Merryman. And hiding around the corner are the Submoron, Watchamacallit, Mr. Manplastic, the Matchstick Kid, and the Cobweb Kid (no Invisible Woman) holding paint, tar, and feathers. The I5 are going to get their committee throwing things at them but not quite the way they expected.
Here is a list of jokes that I didn’t get:
And here are some sloppy slip-ups in this issue:
As I mentioned, this was the last issue of the Inferior Five and it shows. Either the series was cancelled because the creative team was running out of steam or the creative team ran out of steam because they’d been cancelled. They certainly didn’t seem to put much effort into this story. There’s not much to it. Aliens invade. The I5 and various Marvel take-offs challenge them but they need Superman to save the day. That’s about it. There are jokes I didn’t get and sloppy mistakes that shouldn’t have slipped through. But after reading it over again, I’ve decided it is funnier than I first realized. Dumb Bunny in particular gets some nice comeback lines. When a drunk Submoron tries to leave, saying “Count me out,” and banging his head, Bunny says, “Nine – ten – yer out!” When the Cobweb Kid climbs a wall and Awkwardman says, “What’s he doing up there?” Bunny replies, “What are we doing down here?” When the Kid starts eating flies, Bunny says, “Poor thing is hungry!” And when Bunny spots the arrow sticking in Manplastic’s rear end, she says, “I never knew Manplastic had a tail!” Okay, they’re not gems but they are clever enough to keep the story moving. Still, they’re not funny enough to give the rating a big boost. I was going to give it one web. Let’s call it one and a half.
We've got some cool stuff coming up. Spidey in prison! The return of Mysterio! The Green Goblin! The parents of Peter Parker! But first...some reprints! Marvel Tales #16.