And so, we come to the end of Not Brand Echh (except for that single issue almost 50 years later). Michael Eury, in his book Hero-A-Go-Go! says, “NBE started out with a bang, published eight times a year in the traditional comic-book format. But before long, its formula was altered. With issue #9 (Aug. 1968), the magazine went to a bimonthly frequency and its size was doubled, as was its price from twelve cents to twenty-five cents. According to Roy Thomas, ‘I don’t recall if the extra length was Stan’s idea or Goodman, but this is around the time the Silver Surfer solo book debuted at double size.’ This wreaked havoc with the production schedule, forcing issue #10 to become a reprint edition. In the three issues that followed, NBE’s requisite parodies were accompanied by so-so short features and advertising take-offs which felt like filler material.”
Here’s #13 with all those so-so short features and those ad take-offs that feel like filler material.
And here’s Michael Eury again: “Marie Severin’s cute ‘Stamp Out Trading Stamps!’ cover…brought the series to its end, although for the reader there was no indication that they were holding the final issue.”
In Alter Ego #95, July 2010, Roy Thomas says, “”I suspect Marie Severin wrote the basic copy on the cover, with Stan and/or myself at most polishing the wording here and there. As for whether it was her idea to do this ‘Stamp Out Trading Stamps!’ cover – or Stan’s – or mine – or Irving Forbush’s – I have absolutely no idea.”
I’m not going to detail Marie’s cover. If you want to read all the stamps, you can look at the cover image here. But my favorites are the Thing holding a hand-picked bouquet of flowers with the slogan, “Brotherhood Week: Stomp a Bigot Today,” Batty-Man declaring, “Abolish Marvel,” Dr. Deranged declaring “Fight Socialized Sorcery,” (a spoof of the opposition to Socialized Medicine that still resonates today, unfortunately), and “Be Kind to a Comic Book Fan,” with the Red Skull for the accompanying image (the non-comics fan’s view of the comic fan?). And there’s a couple of Spidey-related ones. Spidey himself is on “Arachnids Unite!” Aunt May is on “National Pest Week,” (which is also one of my favorites) and Spidey is also in the upper-left Marvel Comics Group box which is outlined to also look like a trading stamp. It’s a clever cover and certainly “cute” as Michael Eury puts it but it doesn’t stand out amongst the other NBE covers.
The first story in the issue (and the only one in this part of the review) is The Origin of the Simple Surfer!. This is the kind of spoof that would have been done by Stan and Jack earlier in the series (as they did in Not Brand Echh #1 (Story 1)) and it riffs off of Stan and John Buscema’s story in Silver Surfer #1, August 1968 but here it is done by Roy and Marie.
Now, you may remember that the Simple Surfer was called “the Silver Burper” in his early NBE appearances. If you don’t remember, Roy certainly does. He has the Simple Surfer say, “they used to call me the Silver Burper!...till I latched onto a bromo!” As he says this, he careens all over the sky, knocking the tail off an airplane, overturning the Fastasti-Car, smackiing into Iron Man, and causing Daredevil and the Sub-Mariner to collide. He barely misses the Hulk and Spider-Man, which is our Spidey appearance for this story. In A/E #95, Roy says, “Marie and I had a blast closely parodying the first issue of The Silver Surfer, then only a year or so old.” And “closely parodying” is exactly what this story does. Page two is a panel-by-panel parody of page six of the Surfer story.
In panel one of that tale, the Surfer soars, his back to us, hands behind his back, over the Himalayas. Stan writes, “But, neither missiles nor meaningless mouthings of petty pedagogues can halt the progress of the Silver Surfer, nor stifle the longing in his tortured soul…” and the Surfer says, “In all the galaxies…in all the endless reaches of space…I have found no planet more blessed than this…No world more lavishly endowed with natural beauty…with gentle climate…with every ingredient to create a virtual living paradise!” In our NBE parody, the Surfer flies through a clothesline strung between two buildings (Captain America’s shirt and cowl are on the line as well as a towel from the Asgard Hilton.) His back is to us and his hands are behind his back; the panel shape and design is the same as the original. Roy writes, “For neither blockbuster, brickbat, nor other alliterative armament can halt the Simple Surfer…nor unfortunately, can they stifle his high-flown harangue of homespun homilies…” and the Surfer says, “In all the tri-state area…in all the psyched-out suburbs from here to Hackensack…I have found no borough more blessed than this…no subdivision more richly endowed with concrete and clothesline…with wall-to-wall rodents…with inter-faith muggings…” Two guys hang out of windows. One throws a flower in a pot at him and says, “Yeah, sure! We got everythin’ but peace an’ quiet!” The other says, “G’wan, get outta here, ya bum!” In panel two of SS #1, he now faces us and surfs over the snow, sending up a spray. He says, “Possessed of rainfall in great abundance…soil fertile enough to feed a galaxy! And a sun…ever-warm, ever constant…ever symbolizing new life, new hope! It is as though the human race has been divinely favored over all who live!” In Echh, he skims over the City Reservoir, sending up a spray of water, banana peel, an old shoe, an apple core, a bottle, fish bones, and an open tin can. “Possessed of pollution in great abundance…” he says, “with garbage enough to suffocate South Dakota! And smog…ever-present…ever-asphyxiating…ever symbolizing a new day…and more smog!” Panel three is a close-up of the Surfer, as he says, “And yet…in their uncontrollable insanity…in their unforgivable blindness…they seek to destroy this shining jewel…this softly-spinning gem…this tiny blessed sphere…which men call Earth!” In the parody, the Simple Surfer, in close-up, pushes away a panhandler and says, “And yet, there are those who selfishly, callously refuse to share their blessings with their fellow men! (Beat it, Mac…you bother me.) Those who, here in Fun City, even resort to wanton violence!” In panel four of the original, the Surfer stands with his right arm upraised and his left arm held down. He says, “While trapped upon this world of madness…stand I! How much longer am I destined to endure a fate I cannot even comprehend!” Our NBE panel four has the Surfer in the same pose only he knocks a bird out of the sky with his right hand and smashes a brick wall with his left, saying, “And if there’s one thing I can’t stand…it’s violence! If anybody so much as mentions that nasty word to me…I’ll give him such a smack!”
Now, the original story is 38 pages and the parody is only 8 pages so it’s not going to follow the original panel by panel. Page three of the Echh version has four panels. The first is a parody of the original’s page seven panel one but the second panel mimicks page 18 panel one and the last two panels stem from a single panel from page 20 panel two.
In panel one, mimicking the Surfer’s head amidst the cosmos, our Echh hero finds himself amidst a cow jumping over the moon, an angel, a kite, a banana peel, a flying saucer, and a cup and saucer. He wants to go home “to the happy planet of Hoop-La! I remember my last day there, as if it were yesterday! Matter of fact, it was yesterday.”
In panel two’s original, Shalla Bal comforts Norrin Radd in a futuristic, metallic setting. “I seem to hear her voice…gentle as the mist at dawning…on that tragic, fateful day,” the Surfer says. Shalla puts her hand on his and asks what troubles him. “Too long have I sensed the hunger at your breast!” she says. Here, the Simple Surfer says, “I hear again the lovely faithful Shallo-Gal…hear once more her gentle soothing voice…” and Shallo bellows, “I wanna get married, Borin’ Kadd!” Behind them is the city with a Candy Hotel, an airship pulling a banner reading, “No school this year,” a sign advertising, “Free Movies 24 Hrs. Daily” and the Library of Comics with “every single ding dong back-issue!” It really IS a paradise!
On to our last two panels. In the original, a man fills a video screen and announces, “Free men of Zenn-La…attend you my words! A gigantic alien spacecraft has entered our galaxy, piercing all nuclear defenses as though they are nonexistent!” Here, the televised figure says, “Free men of Hoop-La….attend you my words! Also, listen a little! A gigantic alien spacecraft has entered our galaxy, piercing all nuclear defenses, and threatening to destroy all life on our planet! But, first, a word from our sponsor!”
The bottom 4 of 9 panels on page 4 take off from panel 3-6 on page 28 of the original, followed by a page 5 full page take-off of the page 29 full page in SS #1. In our first few panels, Shallo says, “We fear not the coming nuclear holocaust…the approaching cosmic catastrophe! Right, Borin’, baby? Borin’?!” But Borin’ has cut out. “Oh well, he was a lousy mah-jong player, anyway,” says Shallo, pulling a bound copy of “The Complete Marvel Footnotes!” off her book shelf. Borin’ heads for a rocket to escape the planet before its destruction (as opposed to Norrin in the Surfer story who bravely ventures out to confront the invader). “It’s just one of those nights,” he says, “so I’m takin’ one of those fabulous flights…a trip to the moon on gossamer wings,” lyrics from the Cole Porter song, “Just One of Those Things.” “I’ll start a new life…as a Coal Porter,” Borin’ says. He thinks he has escaped until the alien spaceship swallows him up. (“Urp!”) In the original, Norrin leaves his ship and is drawn toward some lights that grow brighter “unbearable… intolerable” until he is driven to the ground by an all-consuming force. In our story, Borin’ brags that he “bravely left my own tiny craft” but is actually thrown out by the ejector seat. (“I thought I was turning on the windshield wipers!”) He heads toward the bright lights because he decides to raid the kitchen but then is in “the grip of an alien, all-consuming force! And besides, I tripped!”
On to the full-page spread. In the original, Galactus looms over Norrin and says, “Rise, puny creature! Rise, and face the monumental majesty of…Galactus! Do not attempt to speak! It will serve no purpose, since I know why you have come! But your quest is in vain! You cannot save your world from being ravished by Galactus!” Norrin looks up and thinks, “Galactus! He whose name is legend thru-out a thousand star clusters! Galactus! He whose race was old before time…before our galaxy existed! Galactus!...the merciless planet destroyer!! Rather a hundred invading armadas than the menace of Galactus!” Galactus continues, “I seek no wealth – no personal gain – no petty, paltry treasure which Zenn-La may possess…Instead I crave the total energy of your hapless world…energy without which Galactus cannot survive!” and Norrin says, “No! If you drain our energy…you drain our lives! You dare not slay an entire race!” But, in our story, “Galacticus” smokes a stogie and has a costume composed of products with price tags. Those hockey sticks on his helmet are actual hockey sticks (“$1.25 going fast”) His epaulets are “Slightly flat snowtires $9.99” and his tunic is an apron “Perfect for a mother….all sizes $1.89.” He says, “Rise, puny one! Rise, and face the monumental majesty…the magniloquent merchandising of …Galacticus! Rise, because you are in the pulsating presence! Also, rise because you are squashing my big toe!” Borin’ thinks, “Galacticus! The star-to-star salesman whose hard-sell is legendary! Galacticus1 He whose foot is ever in the doorway of a zillion galaxies1 Galacticus! The no-money-down king of the used-comet game! Rather a flock of famished Forbushes than the salespitch of….uh…oh, yeah…Galacticus!” Galacticus continues, “But, do not seek to save your pitiful world from the planetary pitchman! Hoop-La is my sales territory now! I just bought the franchise from the Living Planetoid1” and Borin’ says, “No1 Hoop-La is still recovering from your last fire sale! Like, you sell real fires!”
And so we jump from page 30 panel 3 to all of page 32 to page 34 panels 3 to 5 put together page 6 of our parody. Galactus muses that he could spare worlds like Zenn-La if he had a herald. Norrin offers himself and is transformed. Galactus provides a surfboard. Here, Galacticus is “interviewing today for a new road man” and Borin’ says, “let me be your road man, Galacty ol’ boy! That way I’ll get out of marryin’ Shallo-Gal!” “Prepare to be re-packaged!” cries Galacticus and Borin’ finds himself “wrapped in Saran Wrap.” Borin’ then has to duck the surfboard coming right at him. (“Yours to control with but a single thought!” “Great! I’ll try to think of one!”) And, even as Galacticus pronounces him “the Simple Surfer,” Borin’ flies right into Galacticus’ forehead.
Norrin returns to Zenn-La and his heartfelt farewell to Shalla Bal takes up page 35 and part of 36. Here, it is reduced to four panels as Borin’ finds Shallo on a date with the Watcher. “I have made the supreme sacrifice…paid the ultimate mark-up…that a world might live!” he says. “Then amscray, and let me live!” Shallo replies. And the Simple Surfer soars…alone!
Page 37 panel 2 and page 38 panel 1 in the original become panels 5 and 6 of our page 7 as the Surfer defies Galactus and allies with the Fantastic Four only for Galactus to exile him on Earth. Or, “I dared defy Galacticus by giving the Fantastical Four the gift of Life itself!” “You gave each of ‘em what??” says Galacticus, “A free lifetime subscription to Life?” Galacticus banishes Simple to Earth where “as Time wore on…and Newsweek did the same…I felt again the prickly pangs of loneliness.”
The original ends with the Surfer alone, declaring, “Now, here I stand alone and forsaken upon this hostile world! I, who have crested the waves of infinity…exiled forever upon this lonely sphere…but, time is long and fate is fickle…my destiny still lies before me and where it beckons, there shall soar the Silver Surfer.” But, here, Simple finds his destiny and a home. He heads to California and goes surfing along with the Flying Nun who says, “You know it, Moondoggy!” (This is a mash-up of two Sally Field TV roles. At the time of this story, she was the Flying Nun but she had previously been Gidget who used to date and go surfing with Moondoggie.) Also surfing are Archie and Jughead, Little Orphan Annie with her dog Sandy (“Sandhog” here) and Frankie Avalon with Annette Funicello, stars of “Beach Blanket Bingo” and other American-International beach movies. Annette says, “With him on our side, Frankie…we’ll make beach party movies box office again!” “Truly,” the final caption says, “the American-International-Interplanetary End!”
I love this parody. It does have one little problem…you have to have read and remembered the details of Silver Surfer #1 in order to fully appreciate it. But even if you haven’t read the original, there’s plenty to like in the take-off. Galacticus’ outfit with all the price tags alone is worth the read. As is the Library of Comics, the Complete Marvel Footnotes, and the inspired names Borin’ Kadd and Shallo Gal. Also Shallo’s brushoff of Simple. (“I am him who was Borin’” “Boy, were you ever!”) And that final panel with the Flying Nun, Frankie, and Annette. Roy’s script is sharp and crisp but the real star here is Marie especially when you compare her panels to the originals. Great stuff!
Five webs. A good start. But, like it or not, plenty of other stories to go…
…Beginning with three pages of “Liltin’ Limericks” courtesy of Not Brand Echh #13 (Story 2).