Not Brand Echh #13 (Story 7)

 Title: Not Brand Echh
 Lookback: From The Beginning
 Posted: 9 Jan 2022
 Staff: Al Sjoerdsma (E-Mail)

Background

We’re combining three stories into this one review because only the first one has an appearance by Spider-Man.

Story 'Rent-a-Super-Hero'

  Not Brand Echh #13 (Story 7)
Summary: Spider-Man Parody (Spidey-Man) Appears

Stu Schwartzberg is back for his last parody for Not Brand Echh, but not his last parody for Marvel. As Roy Thomas says in Alter Ego #95, July 2010, “I recall that, later, several of us were sent into virtual paroxysms of laughter when we read his parody of the 1972 horror movie Frogs in Spoof #3 (Jan. ’73), as drawn by Marie and inked by Herb Trimpe; we considered that Schwartzberg/Severin/Trimpe entry one of the best parody-humor stories Marvel ever published.” That’s great but what about this parody?

Here’s the set-up for this piece: “Imagine a super-hero coming to your house to entertain you, do chores for you, to be entirely at your disposal!” We start at the “Marble Building” where fans are climbing in through the second story windows and Stan is selling out the super-heroes. A kid waves money at Stan and says, “My momma wantsa use Cap’s shield as a garbage can lid, izzat o.k?” Stan grabs Cap by the shirt and tells the kid, “Sure! That’s o.k. with you, isn’t it, Cap?” “Aaak! Choke!” says Cap.

Down below (where a sign on the building reads, “Marble Comics, Stan Lee Model Agency, Stan Lee Talent Agency, Stan Lee Writing Agency), Spidey, Bulk, and Sore are leaving with kids who have rented them. Spidey says, “For the last time, kid, that’s not cotton candy that comes out of my hands!” The kid with the Bulk says, “My daddy got a traffic ticket in New Jersey last week and he wants you should destroy Weehawken!”

The next three pages serve as a promo, an instruction manual and a cautionary tale for renting the heroes. One kid with green hair rides on Bulk’s shoulder and does the “nyah nyah” motion of putting his thumbs in his ears and wriggling his fingers at his terrified friends. “Just think of how you can lord it over the other kids with your super-hero!” says out helpful narrator. (Bulk thinks, “Rotten kid giving Bulk an ExSeverin headache, which is a wonderful riff off the Excedrin Headache. Here is a nice sexist example probably from around this time.) But the next panel warns us of “pitfalls and possible unforeseeable consequences” as the Bulk lifts the kid’s entire house in the air. “I just wanted you to crawl under the house to get the ball,” says the kid.

The Mighty Sore is tormented by another kid but that kid gets the warning, “Don’t let the rest of the family swipe your hero!” as his mom uses Sore as a dressmaker’s dummy while his dad uses Mjolnir to hammer a Mickey Mouse head trophy up on the wall.

“Try not to waste your super-hero,” the narrator warns as a kid has Spidey create a hammock out of his webs. Not only that but, “You had me flown all the way here to Ipswich, Mississippi, to weave you a hammock?” “Of course not, Spidey!” says the kid, stretched out in the hammock. “This is Masoula, Montana! Ya got on the wrong plane! But as long as yer here, stick around awhile! And put a little more feeling into that rocking motion!” Spidey is also shown web-slinging over Manhattan under a full moon with kids hanging on around his neck and on each of his legs. The narrator says, “Here is a super-hero put to good use as a sight-seeing tour!” Spidey thinks, “Count to ten, Spidey! Even Peter Pooper was a kid once!”

Other uses of other heroes are

Getting Sunk-Mariner to clean your pool.
Using the Human Scorch as an outdoor grill. (I love the egg frying on his head.)
Going surfing with the Simple Surfer (with eight kids hanging all over him).
Bringing in Ironed Man to fix your sink. (“He can make repairs for you with spare parts from his own body!”)
Getting Dr. Deranged to conjure up a football, an ice cream sundae, a baseball mitt, a bag of money and to turn your older sister into a frog.

But there’s a catch. As the kid hides in the dark below the stairs, his mother answers the door to find Sunky, Surfy, Ironed Man, and Sore, who says, “We’re from Marble Comics, lady! We’ve got a bill for $73,000 for services rendered to a Tommy Hoopla, Jr. at this Address!”

And so, this is the last we will see of Stu Schwartzberg. Sadly, Stu died this past year.

Now for those non-Spidey stories, beginning with Dr. Deranged vs. Deadpan!

Dr. Deranged floats on his “cloak of levity” through three super-hero battles. He has a full head mask because this is during the period in Dr. Strange #177-183, February-November 1969 when Dr. Strange wore a mask. “Another Saturday night with nothing to do,” he says but, nearby, Mr. Fantastic and Crystal (with her hair colored blonde because the colorist probably mistook her for Sue Richards) battle Dr. Doom, Daredevil fights the Plastoid from the then-current Daredevil #51, April 1969 and Loki pummels Thor with Mjolnir. “Scaredevil” calls out, “Howzabout givin’ me a helpin’ hand, Doc Deranged?” But Doc replies, “What? And lose my license? I’m a specialist, Scaredevil - - I fight mystical menaces only!” There’s this odd page where a crow pecks at Doc’s cloak of levity only for Doc to roast him and “eat crow.” This may be a play on whatever was going on in Doc’s mag at the time but I’m not going to bother to check.

Doc refers to “Sorcerers Supreme,” and then muses, “Sounds like some kinda fancy dessert like cherries jubilee” but his musings are interrupted by a call for help. “By the seven rings of Zsa Zsa Gabor!”

Doc calls out, instead of Strange’s “Seven rings of raggadorr.” In his commentary in A/E #95, Roy says, “My own enjoyment came from parodying Dr. Strange’s oaths: ‘By the vapors of Volkswagen’ – ‘By the Wand of Walt Dizzy’ – ‘In the name of Sinatra the Supreme’.” Yes, they’re all here, including “By the Seven Bands of Herb Alpert!”

(It’s where I get my enjoyment in this story, too.) The cry for help comes from “Deadpan,” who is down in the street, “passin’ by on my way home from Rational Comics,” trying to avoid speeding cars. “What’sa matter with the drivers in this mag?” he asks, “Didn’t they ever see an invisible ghost before?” Deadpan asks for Doc’s help so he can “laze around in super-hero heaven…but they won’t let me…not till I find out something.” And Deadpan tells his “tale of woe.” “My real name is Boston Banned,” says Deadpan, “and I usedta be a trapeze artist with the circus…till one night I got shot in the apex, by a guy with a hook, not to mention a gun…and so died Deadpan.” Two circus guys try to catch him with a safety net but Boston crashes right through. One says, “Just when I wuz gonna ask ‘im why his name was always written in big heavy letters,” and the other one says, “Mebbe he’s related to Mort Wienieburger!” “Anyway, I caught up with that Hook-Guy,” Deadpan continues, “But I found out he was just hired to rub me out by somebody else! With your powers, couldn’t you find out whodunnit?” and when Doc refuses, Deadpan clobbers him over the head with a mallet and decides, “Maybe I’ll just take over your mag! I feel kinda at home anyway with all these nutty slanted panels!”

Let’s unpack all of this. As I’m sure you all know, “Deadpan…from Rational Comics” is a parody of Deadman from National, alias DC, Comics. His origin is much as described for Deadpan. Here’s Wikipedia: “Deadman is a ghost, formerly a circus trapeze artist named Boston Brand who performed under the name Deadman, a stage persona including a red costume and white corpse makeup. When Brand is murdered during a trapeze performance by a mysterious assailant known only as the Hook, his spirit is given the power to possess any living being by a Hindu god named ‘Rama Kushna’ in order to search for his murderer and obtain justice.” And here’s Roy from A/E #95: “At that time, one of the best comics around was DC’s ‘Strange Adventures’ starring ‘Deadman’ as written by Jack Miller and drawn by Neal Adams. I felt a parody of Deadman – with Dr. Strange as a natural foil – would be fun to do…so I did it. Gene Colan was the perfect choice as artist, mostly because he, like Neal was given to wild, free-ranging page layouts.” That’s why Deadpan feels at home “with all these nutty slanted panels.” Back to Wikipedia: “At the end of the Neal Adams story line, Deadman seems to discover the truth behind his murder and the ultimate fate of Hook, who killed Deadman as part of an initiation into a society of contract killers who then kill him to silence him. However, the real Hook is one among many one-handed men who work for an organization known as ‘The Scavengers’.” In this story, Deadpan is going to find a very different mastermind behind his killing. As for the comments about Deadpan and “Mort Wienieburger” being in “big heavy letters,” I suppose that’s the way “Deadman” and DC editor Mort Weisinger’s names often appeared but I’m not going to go digging in old “Strange Adventures” and “Superman” comics to find out.

After hitting Dr. Deranged with his “ghostly gavel,” Deadpan is surprised that the blow didn’t polish the Doc off. “The weed of crime bears bitter fruit,” says Doc, “or is that somebody else’s line?” Yes, it is. It belongs to the Shadow; his closing tag line in his radio series. Dr. Deranged responds with a magical spell but Deadpan seems to change into “the Spookter,” who is a take-off on DC’s “The Spectre.” “Deadpan asked me to spell ‘im for a while!” he says, “And us Rational Comics heroes gotta stick together! There ain’t many of us left!” (I’m not sure what that means.) Announcing that, “Now, it’s getting near The Witching Hour,”

The Spookter knocks Doc flat with a punch in the nose. With Doc still on the ground, Deadpan returns. “Hey, I should’a thought of sluggin’ ya!” he says, “I’m the one in the second-hand Scaredevil suit!” Doc gives in and casts the spell, “By the images of Con-Ed - - by the flames of spuds French-fried - - show this jerk who’s stone cold dead just who had him take that ride.” The spell works and Deadpan seems to be ascending to heaven but as he says, “My astral self is actually going downward - - though, due to optical illusion and sneaky drawing, I look like I’m goin’ upward.” And Deadpan winds up in Hell, tormented by imps with pitchforks Why? Because he’s “found out that I wuz the guy hired ol’ Hooky to rub me out! Only, I wuz sleepwalkin’ at the time and didn’t know it!”

In Not Brand Echh #11 (Story 2), Marie Severin wrote and drew “Super-Hero Daydreams,” which, as I noted in my review of that feature is , “a four-page piece with a simple premise. What if you could yell ‘Sha-Marvey!’ whenever you are harassed and turn into a super-hero?” That premise is picked up again with Adult Super-Hero Daydreams! because, as the intro tells us, the previous story “showed what would happen if kids had the power to transform themselves…Realizing, however, that kids aren’t the only people who read our nutty mags, and that some adults have potential hero tendencies, Brechh proudly presents…” and so on. This time, the writer/artist is Bill Dubay with inks by Tom Sutton. In A/E #95, Roy says, “Though I’m credited with ‘a smidgin of scripting’ on this one, mostly this was another attempt to give a comics fan a chance to break into the field. I saw Bill, who’d soon move on to a long stint as writer and editor at Warren Publications’ Creepy and Eerie black-&-white horror comics, as working in the style of Dave Berg’s very popular ‘The Lighter Side of…’ feature in Mad. (A couple of years later, in fact, in our b&w Crazy mag, he would parody that series.) Sutton was brought in to ink and make sure that the art had a professional sheen.” In a caption for a 1972 photo of Bill, Roy writes that this was “his debut writing and penciling” and that “He’d been a prominent member of 1960s comics fandom, producing fanzines with his buddy Marty Arbunich and others.” So, what does Bill offer us in his debut? Let’s take a look.

Officer Smedley sees Andy the Apple Thief “half a block away, about to swipe an apple from Irving’s Fruit Stand” (apparently run by Irving Forbush since Forbush-Man peeks out at the scene in the last panel). Bill tells us that Smedley could “Of course….run the half block and apprehend the culprit” but this appears to be an attempt at humor since Smedley is gray-haired and portly. Instead of running, he yells “Sha-Marvey!” and becomes “Mr. Fantasticop” who can stretch his “long arm of the law” to nab Andy. The poster on the fence that reads “Keep the Bulk green! Buy Marble Comics!” in the first panel transforms into “John Galt Lives!” in the third panel, a reference to…yikes!...Ayn Rand’s “Atlas Shrugged.”

Out next hero is Dudley Deadletter, “Marbleville’s long-suffering mailman” who has “never missed a day’s worth of letter-carrying in 22 years.” Unfortunately, he has been pursued and bitten by a pack of dogs “each day during that selfsame 22 years.” But now he yells “Sha-Marvy!” and becomes ”the ever-invincible Iron-Can.” Now, Dudley can work his route while the dogs lose teeth trying to bite through his Iron Man armor.

Harriet Housewife is run ragged trying to keep her kids and dog out of trouble as she answers telephone calls and fends off salesman at the door. She yells, “Sha-Marvy” and becomes Medoozy. Now she can juggle her kids in her living hair while she watches “As the Stomach Turns” on TV. She has a boxing glove on one of her tresses to punch an invading salesman and her dog has turned into Lockjaw.

Our last super-hero wannabe is Jack “King” Kirby himself, frantically penciling pages to make deadline while Smilin’ Stan nags him throughout. ”Deadline’s in 15 minutes, Jolly Jack! Hurry up, old buddy! Good work there! Never seen Bim Grimm lookin’ more handsome! Eleven minutes to go! Ah! That’s it, Jackie-Baby! Put a little more bounce in Sore’s curls! Don’t know what we’d do without you! Eight minutes, Sweetie! Like I always say, if not for King Kirby, where would Marble be today?! ‘Course, there’s always Steranko, Colan, Romita, Heck, only four minutes left, Jackie-Boy! But, no one else has that old Kirby pizzazz, I always say! Only two minutes, Jolly one!” Kirby has had enough and calls out, “Sha-Marvy!” He becomes Dr. Deranged, using his magic powers to pencil four pages at once, while Stan becomes Blechh Bolt who, like Black Bolt, his Marvel counter-part, does not speak.

General Comments

So, how did all of these pan out? Rent-A-Super-Hero! works for me. Nearly every panel has a chuckle in it: Bulk lifting the whole house to get a ball, Mighty Sore as a dressmaker’s dummy, Spidey-Man with kids hanging all over him as he web-swings, Sunk-Mariner cleaning a pool, all leading up to the kid hiding under the stairs because he’s run up a $73,000 bill with Marble Comics. I give this one four webs.

I’m not as fond of Dr. Deranged vs. Deadpan!. The Colan art is great but the story doesn’t do much, taking too long trying to find humor in Deadman’s origin, and the ending is a real letdown even for a Brand Echh story. I do like Doc’s kooky incantations (“By the vapors of Volkswagen.”) That and Gene’s art is all that lifts it up to two webs.

In my review for the original “Super-Hero Daydreams,” I said “It’s a cute idea but that’s all it is” and that “It doesn’t go anywhere.” Now that the idea is no longer new and therefore no longer so cute, Adult Super-Hero Daydreams is a pedestrian snooze until it gets to that last page with Stan and Jack. Considering that Jack left Marvel just about a year later, it has a real feeling of truth to it. You have to wonder how obvious that rift was for a newcomer like Bill Dubay to pick up on it. Unless, this is the “smidgin of scripting” that Roy did. I’m giving this two webs for that last page alone.

Overall Rating

Eight webs total. Divided by three. Let’s round it down to two and a half webs.

Oh, and Stan doesn’t come across too well in the two stories he’s in, does he?

Footnote

Next: Yes, more more more of NBE #13. Not Brand Echh #13 (Story 10).

 Title: Not Brand Echh
 Lookback: From The Beginning
 Posted: 9 Jan 2022
 Staff: Al Sjoerdsma (E-Mail)