And this part is only 1 story for a total of 6 pages. So let’s finish this up!
Again borrowing the Mad magazine “department” concept, this story begins with “So-You-Wanna-Be-A-Superhero Dept.” and poses the question “Ever wonder what it’d really be like to be Merry Marble’s mightiest web-slinger?” I’ve got a pretty good idea that it isn’t all fun and games, especially with a title like Fame is a Cross-Eyed Blind Date with B-a-a-a-d Breath!
The story begins with Spidey posing for the “Awroara” model kit. The actual Aurora kit poses Spidey over a fallen Kraven the Hunter.
Like the model, Spidey is perched on a bannister and there is only a cutaway piece of the floor. As in the model, he has defeated Kraven, who in this case, is played by J. Jawbone Junkton and there is a sign on the bannister labeling him as “Spidey-Man.” An artist, Pierre Z. Artiste, is using his hands to craft the model in clay. Captain America and the Hulk wait their turns, since they were the other characters that had Aurora models.
Cap sticks his tongue out at Spidey while the Hulk thinks, “Hope artist get to Bulk soon – have heavy date with space monsters in own mag!” And he did too! Incredible Hulk #111, January 1969 featured Hulk in space battling the Galaxy Master.
Spurred on by his public relations men, Spidey runs from the Awroara session to his next gig. He complains that he hasn’t had a moment’s rest but one PR guy says, “rest is for common, cheap, low-class normal people.” Spidey is in black and white. The Green Goblin shows up and he is in color. “Perhaps he didn’t read the special 35¢ Spidey-Man in black and white,” says Spidey. (But perhaps he did read Spectacular Spider-Man Magazine #2 in which he appeared in color.) A mother accosts Spidey, saying “tell my boy not to jump off the Empire State Building again.” “Again?!” says Spidey. A PR guy tells him to “stop wasting time on losers” and he hustles him to “that film production.”
Now, apparently, the Goblin has not read Spec Mag #2 because the film production is Spec Mag #2. We see a cue card marked “Spidey-Man Spectacular #2” and Spidey is now in color. But he is overwhelmed. Even as he dukes it out with the Goblin, he forgets his line (It’s “Hello”) and reads the lunch order on the back of the cue card. The Goblin knocks him down to the ground. A cameraman cries out, “Spidey-Man just fell 60 stories! He might die!” But a bystander says, “Can we have your autograph first?” All Spidey wants is “ten seconds’ rest” but autograph hounds overwhelm him. His mask torn, a lollipop stuck on his head, a pencil stuck in in his head, the web-slinger has had enough. “I know it’s selfish of me,” he says, “but there are moments when I wonder if the whole thing is worth it.” He gets thrust back on the film set but decides “I gotta rest someplace for five minutes or I’ll flip out.” He goes to a stock room to try to catch some sleep amongst all the Spidey-Man merchandise. Pennants, pillows, gumballs, fly swatters, umbrellas, roof maps, propeller hats, flying kites, buttons, pin-ups, and bottle openers. But one of his PR men drags him back out again. “The world needs you! The children need you! America needs you! And we’re paying double time to the camera crew!” Dragged back to the set, he has to fight Mysterio and the Red Skull (two recent foes in ASM #67, December 1968 and Amazing Spider-Man Annual #5, November 1968 respectively) as well as Doc Ock, the Vulture, and the Rhino. He tries to crawl away and go home but is told “we need one shot of you as the other guy, the college kid.” He changes to Peter and must deal with a panel in which Gwen, Jonah, and Aunt May nag at him. (Gwen: “Peter! Where’ve you been all week! You stood me up three times! And we didn’t even have a date!” Jonah: “And you never got that photo I sent you out for - - a picture of Ronald Reagan selling hot dogs at a Berkeley teach-in.” Ronald Reagan was governor of California at the time and was definitely not attending any teach-ins. May: And you left me home all alone last night - - even though you knew there was no wrestling on TV!”) That does it. Yelling “Eeyaaa!” Peter bolts, saying, “I’m splittin’ and goin’ out in the world of real people! Someplace where they never heard of super-heroes or super-villains and especially some joker named Spidey-Man!” The only problem is, as J. Jawbone Junkton tells us, “He ran into the dressing room instead of out the studio door!” And, in the final, full-page panel, he has become real, only the men from the “Nutdale Funny Farm” aren’t buying it. They are Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis and they drag the “real” Spidey away. “But I’m not just a comic book character, I tell you! I’m for real! Real!” protests Spidey but Dean says, “Poor guy wantin’ to cut out on all his fellow comic heroes and start a new life! Doesn’t he realize he’d never make it on his own?” and Jerry replies, “Yeah, but if he doesn’t, can I have his costume, can I? I like it, I like it!!”
In A/E #95, Roy points out, “on the final page a caricatured Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis (who had actually split up as a comedy team nearly a decade and a half earlier!) dragging off the ‘real’ Spidey-Man. Actually, the latter was Ye Present Writer in a photo especially shot for NBE in the mid ‘60s professionally-made costume I’d worn in Marvel’s 1972 Carnegie Hall show, etc. Unfortunately, the reproduction on the photo part of the page was lousy, so two issues later I had the page reprinted. I wasn’t gonna have the efforts of the photographer and myself wasted – although I greatly regret that I didn’t squeeze the shutterbug’s name in anywhere at the time and now I’ve no recollection who it was!” And that is precisely the problem with the big finish. The reproduction is so bad that Roy in the Spidey costume is just a black hole in the shape of Spider-Man. The reprinted page will get its own review eventually, believe it or not, but if you want to check it out now, go to Not Brand Echh #13 (Story 11). You’ll see that the reproduction is not much better than the original but you can at least see that it is Spider-Man who is being dragged away.
Since we have a little time, how about a quick look at “This is a Letters Page?” which is the name of the NBE letters page. Gary Dahlberg of Minneapolis, Minnesota reviews the new King-Size Not Brand Echh #9, August 1968 with its takeoffs on ‘Bonnie and Clyde,” “The Green Hornet,” Tales to Astonish #100, February 1968, and the Captain Marvel stories, and asks, “Please don’t overdo such remakes. Go on to ‘greener fields’ by trying newer and untried ideas.” Alan Prendergast of Denver, Colorado “heartily agree[s] that you should expand your attack to things other than comics, but keep comic book satire the main point.” Future comics pro Peter Sanderson Jr. of Milton, Massachusetts goes after the “Bonnie and Clyde” parody. “You spent most of your time in ‘Boney and Claude’ making fun of comic book heroes and showing off your knowledge of pop songs. Now (ta-da), let us look at the spoof of ‘Bonnie and Clyde’ that, say Mad did. They threw out corny slapstick gags and set out to do a true satire, a parody with a purpose if you will. Their point was that movie companies should not put out sadistic films turning criminals into folk heroes. What was the point of your spoof? There was none. There should be. Marvel is great because it tries to please the intellectual comic reader. The intellectual comic reader wants an intelligent satire and not Red Skelton Revisited.” Robby Hansen, who called himself Skat, from Tucson, Arizona, was apparently a silkscreen artist, if you can go by his letter but I don’t know anything about him. Somewhere in the midst of all his gags about “Not only did I go into a double take of hysteria, but I also stabbed myself with an X-acto knife, cut through my now blood-stained drawing and scattered screens all over the place,” comes his view of the “Bonnie and Clyde” parody... “Yours was much better than Mad’s!” Finally, Sgt. Michael Kuhne of Scott AFB in Illinois wants, “More! More! More! Of Medusa, that is – and especially drawn by Gene Colan.”
I like what Arnold is trying to do, with his mocking of the overuse and influence of Spider-Man via the Aurora model kit, the other Spidey merchandise, and the expansion of the web-slinger into a second (temporarily) black and white magazine. The autograph hounds, the notion of kids hurting themselves by copying Spidey’s stunts, and the way Stan won’t even give Spidey a break in his Peter Parker identity also work well here. I like the idea that Peter is so put out by his grueling comic schedule that he decides that being real would be a great escape. But that last page doesn’t do it for me. It’s more than the badly reproduced photo image, though that doesn’t help. It’s also the use of Martin and Lewis as the Funny Farm workers. As Roy notes, they hadn’t been a team in years. Couldn’t Arnold find a more current comedy duo…Rowan and Martin, maybe? And it’s also the notion that, as Dean puts it, Spidey would “never make it on his own.” Why is that? Because he’s a comic book character who needs a writer and artist? Because he needs the other characters of the Marvel Universe around him? That point, which seems to be the point of the ending, is not clear to me. Far better to show him out in the real world, looking silly and out of place in his costume, than to have him carted off by a defunct comedy duo.
Still, I like it well enough to give it three webs.
And to give the entire issue a rating of three and a half webs.
That wraps up 1968…or does it? I’ve got a few items up my sleeve, starting with Kenner's Give-A-Show Projector!