Friday, April 30, 2021

A Marvel Madhouse Gallery!

As the 1980's blossomed in the United Kingdom, at time when Margaret Thatcher was ascendant as Prime Minister and trading kisses with our own President Ronald "Ronnie" Reagan, unemployment mushroomed as British Steel cut jobs, and a Beatles reunion becomes an impossibility, Marvel UK decided the time was ripe to launch some parody magazines. Dez Skinn was in charge at the time and he launched the title Frantic which drew from material developed for Marvel's Crazy magazine.

And then he launched Marvel Madhouse which used both stories and artwork from the over a decade old Not Brand Echh. I for one like to see foreign versions of a cover to see how the colors might changed or the layouts might differ. In this case these Marie Severin covers are topped by a lively and memorable logo.

The chain of NBE cover reprints ends when an interior image of Forbush Man is used with new images to decorate issue eight. 

There are two more Marie Severin reprinted covers than the book shifts focus welcoming a certain misplaced duck into its fold. 

While the art says Howard the Duck, there are still blurbs that announce new "old" NBE material inside. These covers of course come from issue of Howard and are by Frank Brunner and John Buscema. 

Forbush Man makes a final appearance on issue fourteen's cover, with art by Gene Colan. 

Marvel Madhouse closes up shop after seventeen colorful issues. The Not Brand Echh brand simmering to life again a decade after its demise in these United States. 

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Thursday, April 29, 2021

Marvel Goes Mad Or Dies Trying!

Soon after the cancellation of Not Brand Echh, Marvel published a completely brand new satire comic dubbed Spoof in 1970. This one was much more like MAD magazine and not MAD the comic book, or at least that was the impression since this comic eschewed the use of superheroes in the parodies of current TV shows and movies. As you can tell from the debut infinite cover the debut issue took on Dark Shadows, The Mod Squad, and the movie Marooned. I picked this comic up on the stands, attracted by the exceedingly handsome Marie Severin cover and remembering enjoying it. For many years I wondered slightly why I didn't get anymore issues, but when I filled the blanks in my Marvel collection in the 80's I discovered that the reason that they didn't do any new Spoofs for a few years, the second issue being dated November 1972. 

Beneath what I'm confident is a Severin sibling cover (Marie inked by John) the second issue offers up spoofs of All in the Family, Tarzan of the Apes, and Tales from the Crypt. 

Under an outstanding satire cover loaded with timely celebrities (including the then current president and vice-president) by Marie Severin the third issue gave us parodies of the movie Frogs and the TV show The Partridge Family. In addition one feature speculated on the incredible possibility of celebrities becoming president. Yikes we are living that nightmare. 

The fourth issue lampooned Blacula (which is really hard to do) and Marcus Welby M.D. as well as giving a satiric take on celbrities as Santa. 

 The Spoof series came to an abrupt halt with issue five which took on Rod Serling's creepy Night Gallery and the movie 1776. Also more celebrity jokes speculating how said celebrities might endure the end of the world. 

The talent on Spoof was not unimpressive with the aforementioned Severins as well as Henry Scarpelli, Win Mortimer, Warren Satler, and Stu Schwartzburg. Inks on many of Marie's covers and stories were done often by Herb Trimpe and the likes of Frank Giacoia and Dave Hunt. Marv Wolfman and Len Wein did a great deal of the writing as well as Steve Gerber. 

At the same time that Spoof was coming out, Not Brand Echh stories were being reprinted in a comic called Crazy, a title from Marvel's Atlas past. We are treated to a few new Marie covers during this short run. 

Arrgh! was a 1974 attempt in color comic form with more great Marie Severin on covers and a story here and there and featuring the return of NBE stalwart Tom Sutton. The highlight of the run is a parody of Night Stalker with art by Jerry Grandenetti. These comics were a blend of old and new with repritns from the 1950's Crazy and the later Ross Andru and Mike Esposito effort Get Lost!

Marvel would make another stab at the MAD market with a another rag called Crazy, this time magazine sized and black white like its inspiration, and that would find some success for many years.

A few decades later Marvel revived Not Brand Echh under a fresh new title What The..?! which played off another title What If? I suppose. It was a dandy effort using some of the better talent of its time. 
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Wednesday, April 28, 2021

Not Brand Echh #13 - The Final Issue!

 Dear Marble Gang, 

    While not as strong an issue as last, this was still a pretty good entertainment for a quarter. It was nice to see some new talent in the ranks of the NBE squadron and hopefully we'll see more of them going forward. "Mirthful" Marie Severin's cover is not as stunning as many recent ones, but just as funny if not funnier. She never fails to deliver. 

    "Dr. Deranged vs. Deadpan" by "Rascally" Roy Thomas, "Genial" Gene Colan, and newcome "Slaming" Sammy Grainger" was the highlight of the issue for me. I love Gene's work on the new Dr. Strange and love the new costume. Nice to see that look get a parody this time out and just as awesome was Deadman by Neal Adams. That these two mystical types might meet is a supernatural must and I'm glad that NBE found a way. 

    "The Origin of the Simple Surfer" by Roy and Marie gets my nod as second best feature this issue. The blow by blow parody of Stan "The Man" Lee's and "Big' John Buscema's debut issue of The Silver Surfer showcasing his origin was totally on point. Great work to everyone involved in the original and the spoof. "Galacticus" never looked so cheesy. 

    "The Return of Forbush Man" gets the third-place showing in this run and Roy and "Terrific" Tom Sutton do great work capturing the nuttiness of Irving Forbush's existence as well as knocking off a pretty lean spoof of Silver Surfer #5. It was tragic in its own hilarous way. 

    The fourth spot is taken by "Guess What's Coming to Dinner!" by "Stunning" Stu Schwartzberg, a new name and one well represented this issue. The artwork was a bit tamer than usual but Tom Sutton's inks helped keep it focused. The last page is a gas, though it requires a strong understanding of Marvel lore. 

    "Cheap Shrills" in the "Golden Wreckord Dept" by "Groovy" Gary Friedrich and "Hapless" Herb Trimpe was dynamite and makes laugh every time if glance at it. 

    'Who Says A Carnival Has to Be Good?" by Arnold Drake and Marie was a two-page winner with a host of gags filling up the colorful pages. Nifty jokes all. Close on its heels and in a tie for the fifth spot overall was "Rent-a-Super-Hero" by Marie and Stu. 

    Great art by Ronn Foss on "Valentines" and some pretty good gags Roy. Likewise Bill DuBay supplied some tasty illustrations for "Adult Super-Hero Daydreams". Tom Sutton was on hand again I see to keep things tight. "Liltin' Limericks" by Roy and Phil Seuling tops the bottom rung but still made me laugh, so good overall gents and lady. 

    As for Sue Richard's sizzling pin-up, the less said the better. I don't want Reed coming looking for me. Va-va-voom though for sure. (What do you mean you can't see her? She's right there.)

    You've survived to unlucky thirteen and hopefully no bad luck will befall Not Brand Echh from here on out. Long live NBE!

                                                                                                                       Sincerely (Not)
                                                                                                                       Rip Jagger

Notes and Comments: Sadly this was the last issue of Not Brand Echh for forty years, until at long last a fourteenth issue was published only a few years ago. Happily that issue focused on Forbush Man but the Marvel Universe it mocked was one I'd long ago abandoned and the jokes fell flat. This thirteenth issue of NBE does point the way forward to what the comic might've become in its own time as Roy had solicited his fanzine friends and colleagues to work on the book. Ronn Foss is widely considered the best talent in the fan ranks never to successfully break into the pros and this effort here is just a taste of what he might've done. Bill DuBay did go onto a darn good career, mostly at Warren as an editor and sometimes artist. Phil Seuling is most famous now for his comic book conventions. Of the talents only Sam Grainger went on to be a regular at Marvel, doing some little penciling but mostly inking in a magnificent style for several years and becoming one of my favorites. It's a peculiarity that NBE has effectively two Silver Surfer spoofs in this one issue and I cannot imagine that was some grand plan. Silver Surfer was along with NBE the only other quarter book for Marvel at the time (apart from annuals) and while NBE was cancelled the Surfer book slipped down to normal pricing and normal size and survived for a few more measly months. NBE was a nifty experiment that started strong with top-flight talent but by its end was buttressed by the twin talents of Marie Severin and Tom Sutton with newbies being brought into the game to sustain it. I'd loved to have been able to see what it became. 

Here are some covers, comic and otherwise which inspired the features this issue. 

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Tuesday, April 27, 2021

Not Brand Echh #12 - The Frankenstein Issue!

 Dear Marble Gang, 

    This issues makes for an even dozen Not Brand Echhs, and it might well have been the most consistent and funniest issue yet. It all starts with that fabulous "Mirthful" Marie Severin cover starring a beaucoup of the Marble stars with Frankenstein giving them a scare, everyone but the oblivious Forbush Man of course. 

    It's a hard pick but my favorite might have been "Unhumans To Get Own Comic Book" by "Arduous" Arnie Drake, "Rascally" Roy Thomas and "Titanic" Tom Sutton. The way Tom mimicked the styles of so many great comic strips was fantastic and the creative way the crew fit in the Inhumans was a laugh riot. Well done indeed. 

    "The Revengers" comes in a strong second and this fun yarn about nothing by Roy and Tom, this day in the surprisingly dull day of team was a furious ramble and capped off by a stunning double whammy ending co-featuring the work of "Big" John Buscema. He and "Generous" George Klein are a fantastic team on the Avengers comic and it's delightful to see them make a guest-shot here. 

    Third place goes to Marie various gags in the book. "Puzzle Fun" was a hoot, and "Charlie America's Photo Album" was a scream. But her work on "This-Isn't-A-Comic-Mag-It's-A-Way-Of Life Dept." was exquisite. I want all those products as impossible as they are. And "Drawing Lessons" gave all true-blue Marvelites a glimpse into the way our favorite masterpieces are made...really. Outstanding!

    Fourth spot goes to "Groovy" Gary Friedrich's and "Jumbo" John Verpoorten's "Sgt.Fury's Lonely Hearts Club Band". The two-page spread is genius and the lyrics to some familiar tunes was amazing. Great work all. 

    "Frankenstein Sicksty-Nine!" comes in the fifth position this issue and Arnie's and Tom's work on this was top-notch. Good enough to win the overall honors in a typical issue it's just one more gem in this issue. 

    Love "My Search for True Love" and also loved all the attention the Inhumans are getting lately. "Medoozy's" search brought up a few famous faces and still she cannot find true love. Tom's artwork really hummed in this one. 

    "Comiclot" by Roy and Marie catches the final spot alas, though it was filled with many charms. It just wasn't as consistent throughout as some of the other features. Still excellent and loved the ending. 

    All in all an outstanding effort on the part of one and all who contributed. Looking forward to many more. 

                                                                                                                    Sincerely (Not)
                                                                                                                    Rip Jagger

Notes and Comments: This is pound for pound the best issue of Not Brand Echh, at least in this humble reviewer's opinion. There's not a weak element and some of the satire is exquisitely well done. NBE suffered from a too small staff with a few decent ideas burning up quickly. The expansion to "King-Size" didn't help matters and there was suddenly more fluff alongside the full-fledged parodies. That fluff, mostly due to Marie Severin's talent was some great material. She was clearly writing these small bits of business as well as drawing them though that is not totally clear in the credits. The Inhumans spoof by Tom Sutton is a masterpiece, as he evokes a half dozen different classic art styles in trying to get this joke across. Arnold Drake was a needed infusion as he brought a deft ability to simply write to the table and this is his strongest issue. Apparently according to Roy Thomas in Alter Ego #95  "Comiclot" was to be drawn by animator Bill Peckman who lived and worked close to the Bullpen offices. He even developed four pages which still survive for the story but was unable to finish it due to other primary work requirements. Always it's up to Severin to step in and fill the breach. Her craftsmanship on this title is amazing. And finally the John Buscema page is one of my favorite bits of his work ever. The heroes-with-time-on-their-hands page is a classic. 

Here is classic album cover and the NBE parody it inspired.  


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Monday, April 26, 2021

Not Brand Echh #11 - The King Kong Issue!

 Dear Marble Gang, 

    Despite an inspired cover by "Mirthful" Marie Severin I felt the eleventh issue of Not Brand Echh was not quite as chipper as most that had come before. There are lots of fine features and many broght a smile still. 
 My favorite in the comic had to be "King Konk '68" by "Rascally" Roy Thomas and "Terrific" Tom Sutton. While this was far from a top notch parody, just seeing any version of the mighty ape that once ruled the cinema was neat to see. Too many Liz and Dick jokes I felt choked some possibilities for this one but that splash page with Konk atop the "Umpire State Building" was the highlight of the comic. 

    Coming a close second was "Dark Moon Rise, Heck Hound Hurt" by "Fearless" Frank Springer and newcomer "Audacious" Arnold Drake. It's nice to see Mr. Drake's name in a Marvel comic and he sure makes his presence known in this issue. The spoof on "Jaunty" Jim Steranko's  SHIELD #3 was visually spectacular. 

    Third on my list this issue was "Fame is a Cross-Eyed Blind Date with B-a-a-a-d Breath!" by Arnie and Marie. Taking potshots at the wild merchandising that has mushroomed with the success of Marvel in general and Spider-Man in general was great to see. And that last page was a real humdinger. Who is in that suit?

    Marie's 'How to be a Comic Book Artist!" was a great two-pager with a laugh in every panel. She struck gold again with her four-page "Super-Hero Daydreams". I suspect though we've seen the last of "Wonderful Person" in the Marvel Universe though. "It's a Mad, Mad Ave!" by writer "Stunning" Stu Schwartzbeg featuring more great Marie art fell short though. Roy and "Giant" John Verpoorten hit a real winner with "Auntie Goose Rhymes". 

    "Don't Rock the Vote" starring "Sunk-Mariner" and "Aqualung-Man" in a race to lead "Atloontis" was a one-joke effort that dragged on too long despite some funny lines by Arnie and some antic art by Tom. 

    "Ivanshmoe!" by Stan "The Man" Lee, Roy and Tom was a confusing bit of fluff. I get that an old story was updated with modern Marvel references but that sadly didn't really make it make more sense or be more funny. A dud this was.

    Sadly I have to report that "The Puns of Will Bonnet" by Drake and Sutton was the low point of the issue, though mercifully only four pages. The joke was again repeated and repeated and you had to watch a lot of TV to get them all. 

    I like NBE's bigger size, but hopefully as the series moves forward we can get a higher consistent quality in the features. I'll be there though. 

                                                                                                                Sincerely (Not)
                                                                                                                Rip Jagger

Notes and Comments: Gary Friedrich is gone on to other pastures, and has been replaced by Arnold Drake, late of DC Comics and Doom Patrol fame. Drake had been summarily dismissed by "Brand Echh" when he and a few other longtime employees pushed for some benefits. As I recollect he and Gardner Fox, two of DC's most talented writers were given the shove after many years of reliable service. Such was the forward-thinking world of comics even in the late 60's.  Drake's contributions were significant to this issue with the SHIELD spoof being the hit. Using Snoopy as the "Hell Hound" was inspired and on  my list of top five NBE gags all time for sure. I love King Kong so any parody is welcome and this one has  flavor, especially thanks to Sutton's curious take on the big ape. The spoof of merchandizing Spidey was also quite good and I like better now than I did at the time. When NBE was good it was very good and when it was mediocre it was really bad. Too much of this issue is just mediocre and feels like it could've been in many a satire comic. The "Sons  of Will Bonnet" spoof doesn't actually have any Marvel characters in it at all and could show up in MAD, Cracked, or Sick or anywhere. Losing that distinctiveness while it might be desirable to broaden the market for the book also hurts its core identity in the end. Oh and before I forget to mention it, the way Marie has the heroes all squished into Konk's fist is hilarious and something very few artists could do with such clarity and still keep it lively. She was truly underrated in her own time for certain. 

Here is the classic Steranko comic which a they spoofed and a remarkable Aurora model as well. 

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