I’m going to rely a lot on Roy Thomas’ article in Alter Ego #95, July 2010 for this last Brechh entry, starting with this quote: “It’s fitting, perhaps, that the final story stars Forbush-Man, the one Marvel character created for the mag.” In fact, Forbush-Man appears on the cover of Not Brand Echh #1, August 1967 before he ever appears as an actual character in Not Brand Echh #5, December 1967, bookending the series nicely with that cover appearance and Irving Forbush looking at artwork of Forbush-Man in the last panel of this last story.
Yes, there’s a Spidey appearance in this story, in the very first panel. He and the Thing hold up the “Forbush-Man!” part of the title while Forbush-Man chases flies with a fly swatter in between them. Spidey says, “This we need at the tail-end of a mixed-up mag?” and the Thing replies, “Shaddup, wall-sprawler! At least it beats payin’ the little crumb a salary!”
It’s 5pm at the Marble Comics offices and everyone is leaving except for Irving Forbush. Stan is mostly out the door (we know it’s him because his briefcase says “Stan” on it). He tells Irv to lock up “as soon as you finish doing whatever it is you do around here.” He adds, “I’ll turn off the light! Gotta save electricity, y’know! G’night!” and leaves Irv in the dark. Irv is silhouetted in the background of two panels that show some Inhumans artwork on a drawing table in the foreground. In the first panel, Black Bolt is in a separate panel from Medusa but in the next panel, he has zipped over to give Medusa a kiss. Meanwhile, Irv is happy to be alone so he can become “a creature of the shrouded night.” There’s “only one thing wrong…[he’s] afraid of the dark!”
Irv has just finished reading the latest issue of “The Simple Surfer” and worries that the Surfer is “really in for it this time!” because “he’s up against the somewhat sinister Strangie and that guy makes Galacticus look like a falling star!” He goes to a vault labeled “Marble Back-Issues! Keep Out! This Means You, Irv!” It’s a combination safe with a heavy chain around it locked with a padlock. There is a bear trap (labeled “Welcome Smokey”) in front into which Irv is about to step. But it’s not dark because the Human Torch is there, all flamed-on, and providing some light. The following panel shows the outside of the Marble Comics building as Irv says, “There! I managed to make it thru the locked vault! It’s easy…when you can switch to a long shot…and then just have an artist draw you inside it!” Once inside, Irv heads for a battered school locker marked, “Sekret Locker” but much of this panel is obscured by a scene from the Silver Surfer’s actual mag. “Soft-Sell Stan” tells us “And meanwhile, just in case there breathes a Marvelite who doesn’t know what fearful Forbush is talking about (besides himself, that is), here is an appropriate scene or two from Surfy’s latest ish - - now on sale!” It’s page 32 from Silver Surfer #5, April 1969 in which the Surfer and the Stranger battle in the streets of Manhattan.
At the locker, Irv shouts “those magical, miracle-making words…Make Mine Marble!” but he doesn’t transform. He still has to spend four panels getting into his costume. Racing out of the offices, he steps into the cleaning lady’s water bucket. “Irving Forbush!” she yells, recognizing him, “Get outten mine bucket mit der foot!” “She must have confused me with some other Irving Forbush,” he thinks. Irv heads out to his “Uncle Frisby’s Airfield.” Uncle Frisby is dressed as a World War I flying ace and he has a biplane labeled “Trans-Forbush Airlines.” He, too, recognizes Irv right away. “Howdy Irv…how’s my fav’rite nephew? You look a bit peekid with that pot stuck on yore head!” “I must have left my name-tag on my long-johns,” thinks Irv.
He gets a lift from Uncle Frisby, hanging on to the wheel axle and telling his uncle to take him to “the nearest mountain range” where “the sinister Strangie was first seen by the Simple Surfer!” He encounters an Air Force jet “going the wrong way” except the pilot tells him “Since the Strangie is back there, we’re going the right way!” Mistaking the Strangie’s head for the mountain (there are a couple of flowers growing from the Strangie’s forehead), Forbush-Man leaps down “with the gazelle-like grace of the Simple Surfer himself,” only to miss the Strangie entirely and land in an adjacent lake. Forbush-Man emerges and a battle ensues. While Forbush-Man straightens his costume (“Above all, a true Marble superhero is neat!”), the Strangie tosses a “20-ton boulder…smashing down with bulldozer force upon the mortal’s hapless head! I can almost feel his pain…his torture…his exquisite agony!” Then, he realizes, “In fact…I can feel them! Yowwpp!! I missed the puny mortal…and squashed my own dainty little feet!” And, with that, the battle is over. The Strangie hops away holding his sore foot and declaring, “I’ve had it! You can have your stupid ol’ planet! I’m going back to Mars, and soak my poor footsies in the canal!!”
The battle won, Irv waits for his Uncle Seymour (except he previously was Uncle Frisby) to pick him up. The plane flies down and clonks him on the head as it goes past. “It’s 30th time lucky” and Forbush-Man finally get his lift as he hangs onto the axle, returning to New York. His uncle shoots at “enemy jets” as he flies along. “Funny, though, how they’ve all got our insignia,” Irv thinks. “Yahooo! Ain’t had so much fun since 19-aught-17!” says Uncle Seymour.
Left to hang onto the Statue of Liberty’s torch (the statue looks up at him queasily), Forbush-Man tries to maintain his secret identity. “Thanks for the lift, stranger!” he calls. “Tell your Auntie I’ll be late for supper, Irv,” says his uncle, “I got to go shoot an ape off some skyscraper!” And, yes, there’s King Kong, scratching his head, on the top of the Empire State Building.
Irv makes it back to Marble just before Stan arrives. (Stan’s face is obscured by his cigar smoke and his briefcase has a sticker on it that reads, “42 new stories written overnight.”) Irv hasn’t had a chance to hide his costume and Stan wonders, “What’s this junk lying on the floor?” “Search me, Fearless One,” says Irv, who is at his desk, eating a sandwich and looking at a page of artwork featuring Forbush-Man. Stan looks at him and thinks, “Gotta stay here some evening…see what Irving does here all night! Hmm…I see he got into the liverwurst! Oh well…at least it beats payin’ the little crumb a salary!” And completely unaware of the impending double meaning of it all, the story ends with “The Living, Ever-Lovin’ End!”
Just as Roy thought it was fitting that the last story featured Forbush-Man he also thought it fitting, “that Stan Lee, who had spearheaded the direction of Not Brand Echh even if he wrote nothing for its later super-size issues, appears in the tale’s closing panels. For this turned out to be the final issue of Not Brand Echh. I don’t recall much about the sales figures of the series as it went along…but it should be remembered that, only three months later, Marvel’s other extra-length 25¢ mag of that era, The Silver Surfer, would abruptly down-size to a 15-center in an attempt to remain viable. I suspect publisher Goodman would just as soon have cancelled Surfer outright, as well, but that Stan fought for cutting it back to a 32-page mag instead. Not Brand Echh, for its part, was simply cancelled. As so often happens, a couple of mysteries remain. There’s no notice in the letters page of the unlucky 13th issue of NBE that this was the final issue. Not that Stan usually felt obliged to inform readers in print that a comic had been discontinued – they mostly just vanished without a passing mention – but it could also be that this cancellation was a rather abrupt thing. If it was, though, you’d think that a few stories for issue #14 would’ve been in various stages of preparation…and I’ve no memory of there being any, nor have I run into any left-over art from or reference to such material anywhere. Not Brand Echh was just cancelled…and that was that. Well, not quite.” (American Comic Book Chronicles: The 1960s (1965-1969) by John Wells says that it was cancelled to make room for Mad About Millie and Chili.)
Hold it, though. Didn't Roy just finish with, “Well…not quite?” I’ve quoted more from Roy in the Footnote section.
In his assessment of this story, Roy says, “this was a minor effort” and I agree insofar as the Forbush-Man/Strangie battle goes but there are bits ensconced within that elevate it above the ho-hum battle. I particularly like the meta instances when Irv uses the switch to a long shot to get into the vault and when Stan intrudes with a page from the Silver Surfer. I’m fond of the four-panel sequence where Irv has to put on his costume in spite of yelling “Make Mine Marble!”, the fact that the cleaning lady and his uncle have no trouble recognizing him, the way the line “at least it beats payin’ the little crumb a salary” brackets the story, and little amusing blips like his uncle referring to “19-aught-17.” I even like that his uncle’s name changes halfway through the story, although I don’t know if that’s intentional. So, all in all, I think this little closing story earns four webs.
Making the web rating for the whole issue average out, more or less, to three webs.
Roy finishes his A/E #95 article with a section called Beyond Not Brand Echh in which he notes that “Only a year and a half later, with a cover date of Oct. 1970, Stan launched a new parody title, which he christened Spoof. In some ways it was closer to the color Mad-style comic Gary and I had envisioned three-plus years earlier, but minus super-heroes. If the latter weren’t expressly forbidden in Spoof, there was a sort of silent understanding that this was not a continuation of Not Brand Echh. For reasons I’ve forgotten, Spoof was discontinued after a single issue…only to return two years later, about the time Stan became publisher, for issue #2-4…Marie, Stu, and I were part of the mix in #1…but by then Tom Sutton had moved on to the Warren horror mags.”
Roy then tells us that “Overlapping Spoof were three issues of a new title with an old name and contents: Crazy…utilizing the moniker of Timely/Atlas’ first color Mad wannabe…and composed of reprints of Not Brand Echh with two new covers by Marie Severin…The color reprint Crazy expired with #3, just in time for Stan to decide to put out a third publication with that name. The 1973+ Crazy Magazine was a black-&-white title in the vein of Mad magazine…Once more, there were no super-heroes in evidence in this rendition…unless in conjunction with a movie or TV tie-in. This incarnation…lasted till 1983…a total of 94 issues, plus a few specials. In 1974, as a new color comic I could package after stepping down from the editor-in-chiefship, Stan approved my notion for a new horror-parody title called Arrgh! which I’d edit and partly write. But I was never really able to devote enough time to it to realize its potential…Arrgh! faded after a mere five issues. In 1988, Marvel debuted What the- - ?!, a color comic that was the spiritual heir to NBE and it’s enjoyed a goodly number of issues off and on since then.”
And then there’s the re-emergence of Brechh, appearing seven years after Roy’s article as part of the Marvel Legacy series. Not Brand Echh #14, January 2018 featured the Return of Forbush-Man in a story, I confess, I never read. Maybe someday!
And so, at last, we come to the end of Not Brand Echh #13 and to the original NBE series. It feels like more than time to get back to the flagship title only…Darn that Stan and his Bullpen Bulletins! If I hadn’t read the item in ASM #72, May 1969, I wouldn’t know it exists. But now that I’ve seen it, I can’t unsee it. So, mentioned by Stan, Exploring the Film is next.