We now come to the Topps Krazy Little Comics, a series of 8 page (including front and back covers) mini-books on newsprint, parodying popular comic heroes, and so small they only fit one panel per page. There were 16 in all and, while they are hard to come by, you can read every single one of them at Ken Eriksen’s Comic Book Collection. Ken actually numbers the books, making this one #1, but there’s no numbers anywhere on them, so we won’t worry about that. You can find this out just by clicking the link but, for the record, the 16 books are the Amusing Spider-Guy, Badman with Ribbon the Boy Blunder, Blunder Woman, The Bantam, Captive America, Fantastic Fear, The Flush, The Incredible Hunk, Jester’s League of America, The Lone Rancher, Mandrain the Magician, The Meekly Thaw, Prince Violet, Stuporman, Sub-Marine Man, and Tarsam. I’m sure you can figure out who all of the parodied characters are. The comics are written by Roy Thomas and Len Brown who was an editor at Topps and the co-creator of the T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents (in which, you may recall, Dynamo’s real name was Leonard Brown). The pencils are, amazingly enough, by Gil Kane and the inks by Wally Wood, who was working with Len Brown at Topps and co-created the T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents with him.
The cover shows the Amusing Spider-Guy upside down and flung backwards by a spray of insect repellant shot at him by a guy in overalls and goggles. “Yipes! It’s my arch enemy –choke- the Exterminator!” he says, his eyes crossed and visible through the mask’s lenses. But that has nothing to do with the story inside.
A cop spots “Ravin’ the Hunter” running off with a sack with a big $ on it. He appears to have an accomplice, a blind mouse who has a tiny sack of loot. Behind him, Mr. Fantastic (or “Mr. Fearful” as he is called in Topps Krazy Little Comics: Fantastic Fear) is disguised as a mailbox marked “U.S. Male.” “Nothing you can do will stop me, copper!” But then he notices he is standing in the signal light of the Amusing Spider-Guy.
“You know it, Ravin! (Ain’t it cute the way I know all the ‘In’ expressions?)” says Spider-Guy as he webs Ravin’ up. “I think I’ll wrap this case up fast so I can get back to my ugly old bat of an Aunt,” he says. Ravin’ the Hunter’s leopard-skin leotards say, “This side washed with intensified Tide, Clyde!” on them.
The cop turns to the reader and speaks an aside (with his hand up to the side of his mouth so we know he’s speaking only to us). “They say Spider-Guy is a typical teen-ager who was bitten by a radio-active spider thus becoming a super-hero! (What else?) Look how he has the proportional strength of a spider!” says the cop. Spidey holds Ravin’ up with one hand (the Hulk, or “Hunk,” peeks around the corner of a building watching him) and says, “You just gonna stand there, or you gonna put this fink on ice? (Ain’t I hip, folks?)”
At gunpoint, the policeman starts to lead Ravin’ away but turns and watches Spider-Guy climb up the wall. “He even crawl on walls like a spider!” he says, “Ain’t he amazing?” Daredevil, sitting on a flagpole, calls out, “He sure is!” Meanwhile, Iron Man peeks out of a trashcan on which is written, “Throw dirty jokes here.” “Ho-hum! Some of us got it and some of us don’t,” says Spider-Guy as he wall-crawls away.
Spider-Guy returns to his typical teen-age room. We know it’s a typical teen-age room because there’s a sign on the closet door that reads, “Typical teenage secret closet for hiding costumes from prying Aunts,” and there’s a sign on the lamp that reads, “Typical teenage lamp (stolen from Bobbin the Boy Blunder)” (even though the actual Krazy Little Comics Batman parody calls him “Ribbon the Boy Blunder”), and there are two pieces of paper on the desk which read “Typical teenage math” and “Typical teenage crib sheet.” Spider-Guy starts to pull off his costume (Batman’s costume is on the floor, serving as a rug) saying, “After all, there’s really nothing very unusual about me, except for this nutty skintight uncomfortable costume! Oh well, it sure feels great to be back in my typical teenage room, so I can get out of this rig!”
He removes the costume to reveal that he is a giant spider underneath. Holding the costume up, he tells us, “You know things just haven’t been the same since I was bitten by that typical teenage boy!” On the windowsill behind him, a bug declares, “Don’t bug me!” while a silhouetted poster of a Lady Bug is hung on his wall (cheesecake for a spider?)
The back cover features an ad parody of Aurora monster models. (Don’t pay any attention to the parody of “100 Midget Soldiers” that Ken Eriksen has on his site. He has that one on three different comics and, as far as I can tell, it really only appears on “Badman.” Unless they put different ad parodies on different copies of all the books.) There is a drawing of a Frankenstein Monster model crushing a guy in his arms. “Aorta Monster Model,” it reads, “Lifelike. Put your own monster together. They look real. Complete with fangs that gleam in the dark and bloodstained hands. Hooboy do they look real. Like the one we just built here at the plant looks like its really moving. It looks like AADGff…” Heh.
Admittedly, it’s not very funny (some bits, like the “dirty jokes” into the trashcan are positively painful) but then none of these parodies really are. What do you expect in six panels of story? It’s impressive that there even is a story. You’ve also got to be impressed with the way Roy and Len manage to make fun of Spidey’s hip lingo, of his origin story, of Aunt May, of the proportional strength of a spider, and of his typical teenager-hood in such a small amount of space. The “Aorta” parody on the back cover is cute and clever. I love the way Spidey and the cop talk in parentheses. And, let’s face it, Spidey is a giant spider who was bitten by a radioactive typical teenager?! You didn’t see that coming! Or maybe you did.
The art is a bit rough, as if Gil Kane drew it in one quick sitting but it has that very-recognizable Wally Wood inking sheen to it that makes it look like something out of the old Mad comic book. Wally’s “Superduperman” from Mad #4, April-May, 1953 is still the quintessential super-hero parody and having Wally’s inks here can’t help but align this tiny book with that, which is all to the good.
It’s short and it’s silly but it’s such a cool little item (with that Kane-Wood art!) that it has to get the full five webs.
That was easy. How about we do another one next time?