Not Brand Echh #9

Background

We're three stories into this issue and, so far, it's been pretty good. I gave four webs to the first part. Let's look at the next two stories; a four page takeoff on greeting cards, with a couple of Spidey appearances and the centerpiece of the issue, the "Bonnie and Clyde" parody with a sorta, kinda little blob of a Spidey appearance that is not substantial enough to warrant its own review page.

Story 'Super-Hero Greeting Cards'

  Not Brand Echh #9 (Story 4)
Summary: Spider-Man Appears
Editor: Stan Lee
Writer: Stan Lee
Artist: Marie Severin

In AE #95, Roy Thomas says, “Actually I’m not 100% certain about this one. The credits read: ‘STAN LEE said…Why not? MARIE SEVERIN said…Huh?’ I’m not sure if Stan’s listing was because he contributed something to the writing – or was it just his usual editorial credit, which preceded all other entries in the issue, as well? My suspicion is that Marie wrote this piece…but I’d bet dollars to Dragon-Man that Stan doesn’t remember, either way. It was a nice filler – and I’d like to think at least a few people actually cut up their copies of NBE #9 and sent those ‘cards’ to their friends.”

There are four pages that consist of nine cards. Seven of them have a “front” and an “inside,” labeled as such. There is even a convenient dotted line showing where you fold the card. The problem is that the front and inside sections are side by side so if you folded them, they would be back to back (or front to front) instead of outside and inside. Maybe this is part of the gag, I don’t know.

The first one is a Valentine’s card. The front says, “All My Friends Think You Should Be My…Valentine.” The inside shows Echh versions of the male Inhumans (Black Bolt, Triton, Karnak, Gorgan, and Lockjaw) and is labeled, “My Friends.”

Next up is Mother’s Day. The front says, “To My Super-Mom, Happy Mother’s Day” and the inside reads, “On this, your day, just…remain calm and don’t resist! Please keep me on the subscription list! ‘Nuff said!” The illustration is of a hand holding a cup that has a dollar sticking out of it. “For your super-child” is written on the cup.

“Happy Flag Day!” is on the front of the next one along with Captain America being pelted by fireworks. The verbose inside reads, “Did you hang out a clean flag today? Are you aware that 9 out of 10 people do not have flag-poles? Are you cheap? When traveling abroad, they always let you know where you are…be fair to our foreign visitors…let them know you know where you are…(And report any odd-looking spy types to your local super-hero!)” And, in small print at the bottom, are three words designed to spoof that entire body of text: “Made in Japan.” Off to the right, not part of the card, are two lists: “Who to send to” and “Who not to send to.” The first list is, “Your history teacher, J. Edgar Hoover [who was head of the FBI], your Uncle Sam, Bunky Barnes (wherever he is), Sgt. Knock Furious [both tied to the Captain America angle], Bill Buckley [the conservative creator of the National Review magazine].” The second list consists of “Charles De Gaulle [who was President of France], the Red Skulk, the Daily Worker [a Communist newspaper which had ceased publication in 1958], your local Vietcong fund raiser.” I’m not entirely sure why De Gaulle is on this list. There were widespread protests in France at the time of this issue and De Gaulle wasn’t all that popular in the USA but he still seems an odd addition to me.

Now, we come to one of our two Spidey appearances. “With Our Sincere Sympathy” says the front of the card, showing the Invisible Girl, Hawkeye, the Vulture, Dr. Doom, the Hulk, and the Thing either crying or looking down in the dumps. The inside finishes the gag with “…on your first day back at school.” A truant officer truck is netting wayward students. Spidey is one of those captured and he sits in the back of the truck.

Now for a different kind of card…a report card “on super-heroes and villains that you can rate and pass on to interested parties.” This one stars the Thing, Mr. Fantastic, and the Invisible Girl and the card features subjects such as “HISTORY of comics,” “MATH numbered (in order) collection of comics,” and so on. It’s not worth going into detail, to be honest.

Below that is a fill-in-the-blanks ‘Thank You’ card. Below “Thank You,” it says, “In anticipation of my birthday present! Date (fill in) Expectantly yours (sign here).” Inside is a raging Dr. Doom, yelling “Or else!”

A “Congratulations” card follows. Inside it reads, “You made the team!” and it shows Aunt May dribbling a basketball, heading toward the basket as she pastes Peter Parker in the snoot, knocking his glasses off. Doc Ock is waiting beneath the basket to guard her.

Our second Spidey appearance is in a Get Well Soon card. The outside reads, “Sorry to hear you are ill” and shows Spidey sitting on a rooftop, looking very down. Inside it reads, “Hope you’re back in action soon!” and shows Spidey leaping to join some other hero who is springing through the air.

Finally, there’s a postcard size “Wish You Were Here!” showing a bunch of heroes and villains jammed in together around a table. Clockwise from left are Daredevil, Hulk, Cyclops, Subby, Captain Marvel, Iron Man (holding his helmet and having no head), the Thing, “Wonderful Person” who, in place of a head, has a note to “Paste your photo here!” Doc Ock, Dr. Strange, Dum Dum Dugan (drunk on distilled water) and Thor. Below this card is a note: “If you are allowed sharp instruments, cut these cards out and enjoy, with cold milk! Nuff said!”

And that is the super-hero greeting cards, almost none of which works for me. I do like the “Paste Your Photo here” part of the “Wish You Were Here” card. I find that very cute and clever and I like to imagine some kids actually doing it. Otherwise, there’s not much here. Marie’s illustrations are fun but nothing is particularly funny and some things (like the Flag Day “Who to send” and “Who not to send” lists and the report card) are just odd and awkward. Oh well, maybe the kids liked it. I give it a half of a web.

Gary Friedrich takes over the scripting and John Verpoorten takes over the artwork as we get to the cover story; a takeoff of the popular 1967 film, “Bonnie and Clyde” which was based on the actual criminals of the Depression Era who were nowhere near as glamorous as Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty, the movie stars who portrayed them. Our story is called Boney and Claude.

For anyone interested in the real Bonnie and Clyde, here is their Wikipedia page. Of course, the parody is based on the movie so here’s a quick synopsis of that: Bonnie (Faye Dunaway) meets and hooks up with Clyde (Warren Beatty) when Clyde tries to steal her mother’s car. They eventually add gas station attendant C.W. Moss (Michael J. Pollard) to the group. Clyde’s brother Buck (Gene Hackman) and his wife Blanche (Estelle Parsons) also join up. The gang robs banks, their escapes accompanied to the bluegrass tune Foggy Mountain Breakdown by Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs. When C.W. Moss parks the getaway car, a bank manager has time to jump on the running board while the gang escapes and Clyde kills him by shooting him in the face. With the law on their trail, they capture Texas Ranger Frank Hamer and humiliate him by taking pictures with him. Later, in a police raid on their hideout, Buck is killed and Blanche blinded. Taking Blanche into custody, Hamer tricks her into revealing C.W.’s name, something no lawmen have previously known. Hamer makes a deal with C.W.’s father to set up Bonnie and Clyde in exchange for leniency for his son. The police set up an ambush, using C.W.’s father, pretending to fix a flat tire, as bait. When Bonnie and Clyde stop to help him, the police open fire, killing them in a hail of bullets.

Just like the movie, Boney and Claude begins with a series of photographs with a camera shutter sound (“Click!”) in between each one but where the film shows depression era shots of people, our parody shows the main characters and lists who plays them. In the Echh world, it’s Faye Doneaway, Warnin Beatty, Michael J. Dullard, Gene Heck, Man, and Estelle Preachers. But Humphrey Bogart is in there too, listed as “Humphrey Bo-Huh?” to which Bogie replies, “Waddaya mean, huh? This is a gangster movie, ain’t it, blue eyes?” to which the Clicker replies, “Uh – sure! Whatever you say, Bogie!”

Boney is taking a shower when she notices Claude stealing her mother’s car. She throws on a dress (with a “Miss Gun Moll” sash). She has a tiparillo in her mouth and carries a tommy gun. “You wait downstairs, boy – while I make my symbolic and also very profitable dash down the stairs!” The panel is drawn like an opened up Playboy centerfold. It says, “Miss May, Marble’s Maid of the Month” along the edge of the page and Hugh Hefner pops up below it to say, “Rampagin’ rabbits! Mighty Marble has scooped Playboy Magazine again.” (I wonder when the last time was. And it’s “rampagin’ rabbits” because there were Playboy bunnies, right?) I’m not sure what Gary is referring to with Boney’s “very profitable dash down the stairs.” Did a photo of Faye Dunaway running down the stairs appear in Playboy? Anyway, Boney adds, “Sheesh! And to think all I could manage before was Otto Primitive movies!” According to IMDB, Faye Dunaway only had four acting credits before “Bonnie and Clyde;” an episode of the TV show “Seaway,” an episode of “The Trials of O’Brien,” the film “Hurry Sundown,” and the film “The Happening.” Only “Hurry Sundown” was directed by Otto Preminger.

Claude stops the car and says, “Say hey…what’s shakin’, baby?” “Don’t play games with me, boy,” says Boney, “I know Murray the K when I see him.” Murray the K was a influential Rock and Roll DJ but I don’t know what the joke is here. Boney tells Claude that “car thieves just aren’t my style” and that she prefers “somethin’ really groovy” like a murderer. Claude says he’s a “tame” bank robber. “Who else’d be dumb enough to chop off two toes to get off the prison work detail?” he says, showing his foot. (There is a note on his sock, pointing to the missing toe area that says, “These little piggies went to market!”) Boney is repelled. Not by the missing toes but by the smell of his foot.

In the film, Bonnie walks with Clyde into town and goads him into robbing a store to prove he is really a criminal. The scene in the store is not shown. Here, Claude enters Pop’s Choc’lit Shoppe from Archie Comics. “Artsie” is in there, reading a comic called “Molly.” When Claude sticks his gun into Pop’s mouth, Pop says, “Don’t shoot, son! I’ll fix you up with Betsy and Harmonica…both at the same time!” But Claude is more interested in stealing “what’s really happening,” a big bag of Marble Comics. (In the bag are copies of “Sore,” “Scaredevil,” and “Spidey.” There is a little red blob on the “Spidey” cover which must be Spidey himself, making this an official Spidey appearance. But, yeah, really, it’s just a little red blob.

Outside, Boney’s mother’s car has turned into a “Stan Lee Steamer” (which is clever) as Claude leaps in. There is a rain barrel on the store’s porch that yells out, “Marble Comics?” but this is also lost on me. Only 3 pages in and I’ve already run into at least 4 gags that I do not get.

They try to make their getaway but they are thwarted by Splat Muddock and Smoggy Nelsum who carry off the car. “I kept tryin’ to warn you the repossessors were after Momma’s car, Claude!” say Boney. Either Splat or Smoggy says, “Just like we got the Mean Hornet’s car,” which is a nice cross-pollination between two stories in the issue.

Needing a car, Boney and Claude arrive at Wayne Manor. The caption reads, “Caption,” with a footnote from “Smarty-Pants Stan,” reading, “There are no captions in avant-garde, artsy-type movies and comic strips!” The Manor has a street number of “625.” You would think that would be the street number of DC Comics, seeing as the Manor belongs to Batman but, no, it’s actually the street number of Marvel Comics at the time…625 Madison Avenue. Boney says, “I think we’ve hiked far enough to win LBJ’s physical fitness medal by now.”

I don’t know if they still subject kids to the “Presidential Council on Physical Fitness” tests anymore but we all dreaded it back in the 60s. They put you through rope climbs and chin-ups and other things none of us could do very well and if you did them all well enough you got a little patch like this one. I don’t think I ever knew anyone who got one of those patches.

Claude points at a cave below the Manor. “Let’s hit that nutty garage and see if we can get a car!” he says. In case there’s any doubt where the cave leads, a bat is flying by and a sign points into the cave that reads, “Adam West Fan Club.” In the next panel, Boney and Claude come riding out in the Batmobile…or, in this case, the “Gnatmobile.” “It’s like somethin’ outta Gnatman and Rotten,” Boney says. “Haah! Cats like them’d never be stoopid enough to hide their car in a cave!” says Claude, “Just anybody could walk in and steal it!” As they drive along, the Mighty Sore flies above them. “What ith thith I thee,” he says, “thuper-villainth perhapth? Thurely not! Only thuper-heroeth would be tho conthpicuouth!”

The Gnatmobile doesn’t get them far and they push it to a service station where C.W. works. He is reading, “Echh-squire” as they push the car in. There are two gas pumps. One has an eight ball for its head, the other has a fishbowl with a fish inside. “Country Joe, where is you?” asks the fish, referring to County Joe McDonald who was the leader of the band “Country Joe and the Fish.” There is a note on the Gnatmobile’s fin that says, “Wanted by Parnelli Jones.” Parnelli Jones was a race car driver who had won the Indianapolis 500 in 1963.

When Boney tells C.W. that they are on their way to rob a bank, he gets right on the repairs. “I oughtta call Officer Obie…but he’s busy chasin’ litterbugs,” he says. This is another reference to Arlo Guthrie’s Alice’s Restaurant as we saw in “Bet There’ll Be Battle” in part one.

In the film, C.W. cleans dirt out of their fuel line and they talk him into joining them to rob banks. Here, he tells them that they’ve run out of gas and that it is “time for ya to steal another car. An’ it’s also time fer me to join up with yuh to add some comedy relief! An’ also to win me an Oscar nomination!” (He did indeed get an Oscar nomination, as did Gene Hackman, but they both lost to George Kennedy in “Cool Hand Luke.”)

They all pile into a new car, which happens to be Plastic Man (his face is on the front grille) as “Foggy Mountain Breakdown” plays (“Plunka Plunka Plunka Plunk.”) “Okay, okay, I know it’s in the script,” says Claude, “but that hillbilly hoedown every time we make a getaway has to go!”

The gang pulls up to a bank. (Edward G. Robinson is standing in the road, telling the reader, “So you think this is an original movie, eh, punk? Didja ever hear of Little Shmeaser ?”) Claude walks into the bank with a tommy gun. Boney has a bazooka and a cannon. “Are you sure this scene ain’t outta The Pride and the Passion?” she asks. (“The Pride and the Passion” is a 1957 film starring Cary Grant, Frank Sinatra and Sophia Loren. To quote IMDB, “During the Napoleonic wars, a British captain is sent to Spain to help prevent the French from stealing a powerful cannon.”)

In the bank, Claude declares a stick-up but the teller is too busy “Counting my Pleasant Valley money!” which riffs off of the Monkees hit Pleasant Valley Sunday with its scenes “in status symbol land.” The music riffing continues. Boney sings Just give us money, that what we want!. The teller says, “It’s good to touch the green, green grass of loans” and Get me to the vault on time. Claude lies down on the floor and has a tantrum. Boney sprays bullets all over the place. The teller ignores them until Boney lifts up her dress, showing off her legs. “Va va voom!” says the teller, holding a bag full of money.

As I mentioned, C.W. parks the car in the film, slowing things down enough that the bank manager leaps on the running board where Clyde kills him. Here, C.W. rides up with a motorcycle. He has traded the car for it. They all pile on (with C.W. turning into

Marlon Brando from “The Wild One” for one panel - it says “Marlon Brand-Echh” on the cycle’s gas tank). The teller hangs on too. Claude says, “The script says I gotta shoot ya,” which he does, then says, “Or, I think that’s what it said!” The “Plunka Plunka” begins again. “I’m tellin’ you that blasted hillbilly music’s gotta go!” says Claude.

The gang hooks up with Claude’s brother “Bug Borrow” and his wife “Blainche.” But then the law shows up. It is Dick Tracy and Fearless Fosdick (the “Lil Abner” take-off on Dick Tracy). “You go get ‘em, Foz,” says Dick, I’m gonna watch Ironside on my wrist-TV.” (“Ironside” starred Raymond Burr as a paraplegic police consultant.) The gang starts shooting and Blainche starts screaming. “This panel has won the 1968 Wally Woodchuck award!!” says a caption “taped” to the lower right and, yes, the panel is drawn to look like a Wally Wood panel from the early Mad comics.

They get away from the cops with Clyde using a gun that shoots ping-pong balls because “we ain’t allowed to kill nobody in a comical book.” (Of course, he killed the bank teller on the previous page.) They escape in C.W.’s latest stolen vehicle…a tank. They stick up a supermarket where the Fantastical Four, Knock Furious, and Dr. Deranged are shopping. “Who’s the Borrow gang?” asks the Inevitable Girl. “Search me,” says the Thung, “maybe they’re Scaredevil villains.” Claude stops to sign an autograph for Forbush-Man, who says, “Oh, thank you, sir! I never met anyone famous before!” Meanwhile, Bug is shooting it out, yelling, “You super-shoppers be sure an’ remember us, now! We’re the Borrows – as in Edgar Rice!” Boney is appalled at what C.W. has come up with now…a Sopwith Camel airplane, the kind that Snoopy flies. “Hey, man! He done got us a Jefferson Airplane!” says Bug. “Actually, it’s an Aurora model,” says C.W., “with a few spare parts from the Strawberry Alarm Clock.” A Jefferson Airplane and Strawberry Alarm Clock reference in the same panel. It’s 1968, all right.

As Boney and Claude play “Old Maid” and C.W. works on the car (using Thor’s hammer), a police officer sneaks up on them. In the film, it’s Texas Ranger Frank Hamer but here, the officer’s face is concealed (because he’s the gag at the end of the story). He gets the drop on Claude but is knocked out when C.W. tosses away a wrench that clonks the cop on the head. “Say, he might be famous some day! Take my picture with him,” says Boney. Boney kisses the cop and Claude snaps the picture. Then they leave him trussed up and sunk in a lake with his feet sticking up. A periscope rises up from the water, looks at him, and says, “Sheesh! These Voyages to the Bottom of the Sea get stranger every week!” (In the film, Bonnie kisses Hamer for a picture and he spits on her. Clyde, furious, drags him into the lake and puts him in a rowboat, shoving him out into the middle of the lake.

Suddenly, they’re robbing the Sands Hotel, carrying off their loot past Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor. A caption from “Sorry-Bout-That Stan” reads, “We know we said there wouldn’t be any footnotes but how else do you explain a one-panel switch from Swampeast Missouri to Las Vegas?” In AE #95, Roy says, “Proofing the story, I got a kick out of Gary’s footnote referring to our birthplace Southeast Missouri as “Swampeast Missouri” – a real phrase we’d often used for Cape Girardeau County.” Now, the gang escapes on the Silver Surfer’s surfboard. They fly past Frank Sinatra with Claude saying, “You reckon we oughtta give that poor ol’ feller without any teeth his money back.” Frank replies, “Forget it, pal! For what you just did, I’m makin’ you a member of the clan.” So what’s with Frank missing teeth and his beef with the Sands? You can read all about that right here.

Back in a hideout, Boney pens her “story.” She uses the exact lines from the movie except Clyde’s name is “Claude” here so it doesn’t rhyme. (“You’ve heard the story of Jesse James and how he lived and died. If you’re still in need of something to read, here’s the story of Boney and Claude.”) “Oh well,” she says, “Even Bog Dylan probably once had rhyming problems.” Claude looks out the window and yells, “Sheesh!” “Don’tcha know no other expression, Claude,” asks C.W. “I mean, Agents of SHEESH, stupid!” he says. And Knock Furious is outside with a whole bunch of SHEESH agents. They hit the hideout with everything from bombs to arrows to boots. (Beetle Bailey is one of the men out there.) Finally, there’s a nuclear detonation. (“Reproduced through the courtesy of the Truman Library!” says the caption.) Boney and Claude protect themselves by escaping inside garbage cans. Claude also has Captain America’s shield. But they don’t think they’re safe “cause the music ain’t started yet.” And they’re right. Bug gets literally shot full of holes. Blainche is left behind. But that music finally starts as Claude (in an FF outfit), Boney and the Thung (who turns into C.W. in the next panel) escape on a fantasti-cycle.

Claude decides to cut “out of this flick! Soon’s I catch up to that masked man!” (The masked man is the Mean Hornet on his horse Silverfish from the earlier story.) C.W. is in contact with “Mr. Warner” who assures him he will get the Oscar. “I’m gonna split now,” he says, “I’ve got a new career all lined up.” In the next panel, he joins the Beatles. “Say, what you fellers need is a jug blower!” he says. John Lennon agrees. “How does Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Jug Band grab you, mates?” he asks. Meanwhile, in the same panel, Boney and Claude have knocked out the Mean Hornet and Plato and taken Silverfish.

Boney and Claude think they’ve escaped but a Kirbyesque machine hovers over them as Claude takes a picture of Boney sitting on the horse. With a “Blam,” they are blown up. But it wasn’t the machine that did it. “Fellow should’a watched that theah flash powduh! Didn’t even give me a chance to finish ‘em. Oh well…at least ah got mah revenge foah what they done to me back on page eight,” says the cop whose face we didn’t see before. He turns out to be Bill Gillespie, the Southern police chief played by Rod Steiger in “In the Heat of the Night.” “Ah can still win the Oscah foah ‘In the Heat of the Right.’ Sorry, ‘bout that, Sidney – but you-all done won one,” he says, referring to his “Heat” co-star Sidney Poitier. (Sidney won in 1963 for “Lillies of the Field.” Rod Steiger did win for “In the Heat of the Night,” beating out Warren Beatty for “Bonnie and Clyde.”)

General Comments

For the 50th anniversary of the film, Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty appeared together as presenters at the 2017 Academy Awards where they famously and mistakenly announced “La La Land” as the Best Picture winner when it actually was “Moonlight.”

Overall Rating

“Boney and Claude” is very much a product of its time from the Country Joe, Jefferson Airplane and Strawberry Alarm Clock references to the now obscure Frank Sinatra and his missing teeth joke. Of course, the very fact that it is a parody of “Bonnie and Clyde” makes it a product of its time. I like the way it ties in with the “Mean Hornet” story. I also like gutsy, unsettling humor like the “Truman Library” bit. But there are some jokes so obscure, I couldn’t figure out what the joke was. In AE #95, Roy says, “This spoof came closer than most NBE efforts to being the kind of thing Gary and I’d had in mind when we’d suggested a parody comic to Stan.” It certainly works for me. But those too-obscure jokes drag it down a little bit. Four and a half webs.

We’re not quite done. There is the little matter of the “Super-Hero Greeting Cards” to be factored in. I gave it a half-web but it feels mostly like filler so I’m not going to add the two ratings together and divide by two. How about I subtract the “Greeting Card” score from the “Boney and Claude” score and give this section of the review four webs?

Footnote

There are two more stories to go but they get their own section. So, check out Not Brand Echh #9 (Story 6) next.