Ever needed a laugh but you want it delivered via superheroes? Ever try Not Brand Echh? It’s a series that ran for two years in the ’60s, had a special new issue written by current Marvel Comics writers in 2017, and is generally known for its silly humor and riffing off what we know about our favorite heroes. Marvel Comics has released a 474-page complete collection of the works for your funny bone enjoyment.
So what’s it about?
The official summary reads:
When Stan Lee set the tone for the Marvel Age of Comics, it came with a healthy dose of humor. And when fans demanded more Marvel mayhem, Stan — along with Jack Kirby, Gene Colan and the Bullpen’s mistress of mirth, Marie Severin — turned the dial to 11 and let loose! Presenting the masterpiece of Silver Age satire, packed with Marvel’s greatest talents taking a sideways look at the heroes they made famous (and even some they didn’t). Charlie America, Scaredevil, the Revengers, Sore: Son of Shmodin, the Sunk-Mariner and the one and only Forbush Man are coming at you. Duck!
Why does this matter?
I dare you to open this book and not get the feeling you’ve seen this before. There are famously reprinted stories, like “How Stan Lee and Steve Ditko Create Spider-Man,” and the ever-present Forbush Man who has a pan on his head and a homemade costume that’s prevalent in this series. It’s good timing for this book to come out since it’s Marvel’s 80th anniversary. Revel in their silliness!
Fine, you have my attention. What’s good about it?
After reading this collection, it’s quite clear everyone at the Marvel offices were big fans of superhero name puns. It’s one of the most reused jokes, where Thor is actually Sore, Captain America is Charlie America, and Hulk is the Inedible Bulk. It’s silly, fun-for-all-ages kind of humor. None of this is adult in any way, for better or worse, and the art does well to caricature the heroes and make them way over-the-top. I can’t say I laughed out loud while reading this, but I certainly see how silly it was. In fact, I bet it was hilarious writing and drawing this series.
The collection opens with a Fantastic Four story by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby so you know it’s going to align with the original series. Mr. Fantastic is attempting to put Human Torch’s fire out, Thing is blowing into a contraption Mr. Fantastic needs him to be sucking from, and Dr. Doom does a jig after stealing Silver Surfer’s powers. It’s all very reflective of the stories while being way over-the-top.
Possibly the biggest surprise when reading this is how the Marvel offices made fun of DC Comics’ superheroes. Batman is one of the first to show up and be lampooned, only in this book he’s known as Gnatman. Prior to his showing up, eagle-eyed readers will notice Mickey Mouse popping up. It makes me wonder if Stan Lee ever thought about this comic and how Disney eventually bought them out. Another clever take is a Green Lantern rendition of Guy Gardner complete with the temper. He has a ring on every finger, some of which are named “Phone Ring” and “Ring-a-Ding” which is a good example of how the detailed art tends to shove a ton of jokes into each panel.
It can’t be perfect, can it?
I can’t say the humor holds up over time. It’s amusing to see the caricatures and silly stories but it’s not necessarily laugh-out-loud funny. It is interesting Marvel history worth a look though and there are some creative moments that stand out, especially in the extras.
Is it good?
This is an interesting look at a very peculiar and unique series from Marvel Comics. It was silly, creative, and mostly irreverent. That said, it stands out as some of the most creative series thanks to how jam-packed and try-hard it was.