Remember this quote last time from Michael Eury in Hero-A-Go-Go!? “NBE’s requisite parodies were accompanied by so-so short features and advertising take-offs which felt like filler material.” Time for one of those short features, the three pages known as “Liltin’ Limericks.” Does it feel like filler material?
The writers are credited as “Roy Thomas and Phil Seuling, writers (?)” (With Tom Sutton as artist.) Is the question mark a self-disparaging comment on writing limericks or something more? Let’s see what Roy has to say in Alter Ego #95, July 2010. “If my memory serves me rightly, my Brooklyn buddy Phil Seuling presented me with one or two limericks, and that’s what birthed this feature. Phil, a comic book back-issue dealer and high school teacher, was then prepping the very first of what would become his big annual New York Comic Art Conventions…We’d been friends ever since he and his wife Carole had invited me to dinner at their Coney Island apartment on my second Friday in New York in ’65 – so I was happy to give him a chance to see his work published in the medium he loved, and in which he gave so much over the years. Phil was never seriously looking for a career in comics, but he would virtually invent the idea of no-return ‘direct sales’ of comic books, which transformed the industry in the 1970s.” So, no criticism of either Roy or Phil’s writing ability there. I guess the question mark is a comment on the literary quality of limericks, after all. The intro to the piece also denigrates the form as well as fessing up to the charge of filler material. “Give-it-to-‘em-Straight Dept.: Hey gang! We had a bunch’a left-over pages this ish, so rather than leave ‘em blank (which you’d probably prefer), we decided to sock it to you with a whole mess of nutty, names-unchanged…Liltin’ Limericks!”
There are nine limericks in all; two of which relate to Spider-Man.
A beautiful girl named Anita
Has the mind of an infant mosquita
But who needs a brain?
She looks like Mary Jane -
So she models for Johnny Romita!
Tom Sutton’s accompanying art shows a redhead who does indeed look like Mary Jane, wearing a mini-skirt (with the spider-signal logo on it) and red go-go boots, dancing in front of three blaring speakers as Johnny Romita (a cobweb running from the wall to his head) smiles as he draws. The Vulture looks lovingly at her through a skylight.
In the other, Spidey lies on the couch as the psychiatrist, scribbling away, is Stan Lee (or as the sign behind him reads, “Pyschiatrist and comical book writer ‘Smiley’.”) Stan and Johnny are both left-handed in these drawings. I know Stan actually was left-handed. Is Johnny? The limerick is:
Spider-Man was a hit that was bang-up;
Each issue, cash registers rang up.
Said Smilin’ Stan Lee
“The secret’s that he
In each issue acquires a new hang-up.”
That one does not do much for me. It reminds me too much of the lyrics from the 60s cartoon show.
There are three more that I particularly like.
While foolin’ with gamma rays, Bruce
Got all zapped by a bunch that got loose!
“’Twas nothing,” he said,
And went home to bed;
But he woke up next morning…chartreuse!”
A hippie named Orville del Franko
Had a bus that went klinkety-klanko
He painted the relic
In styles psychedelic
Till it looked like a page by Steranko!
And then this:
When Sue Storm creates her force field,
All the atoms of air are congealed
This invisible barrier
Dissolves if you marry ‘er--!
(That’s all that Reed Richards revealed!)
The feature ends with this invite: “Another beetle-brained Bullpen butt-in: Want to win one of our fabulous filter-tip No-Prizes? Send in a liltin’ limerick to Brechh - - we’ll print some of the nuttier ones in a few issues! G’wan, try it - - you have nothing to lose but your sanity!” But there were no more issues. As Roy puts it in A/E #95, “…we probably received at least a few, though they were destined not to see print.”
Phil Seuling, sadly, died at the age of 50 in 1984. His wife, Carole, whom Roy references, did a little comics work of her own, co-creating Shanna the She-Devil.
All right. They’re silly. They’re groaners. (I skipped over the one that ends, “please don’t get Thor!”) But I like them. Not so much the Spider-Man ones but the thought of Bruce Banner waking up chartreuse and the way Reed keeps his and Sue’s limerick from getting too ribald. And I love that one of our writers, whether Roy or Phil, dared to write a limerick with the punchline “Steranko.” I’m adding one web just for that.
So does it feel like filler material? Of course. It even admits that it’s filler material. But it’s fun, it’s creative, and it’s nice to see Phil Seuling’s name in the credits. Three webs.
On to our next three pages in Not Brand Echh #13 (Story 3).