Forbush Man

Forbush Man is the mascot of Marvel Comics’ satirical ‘Not Brand Echh’ (1967); he is the alter-ego of Irving Forbush, a fictional gofer at Marvel Comics. Forbush was dreamed up in 1955 by Marvel editor Stan Lee to refer to an imaginary low-grade colleague who was often the butt of Lee’s jokes.

Irving Forbush was originally introduced in 1955 in Marvel’s short-lived ‘Snafu’ magazine as a clone of the ‘Mad Magazine’ mascot Alfred E. Neuman (‘Snafu’ was itself a virtual clone of ‘Mad’). Forbush was given a line in the magazine’s content page where he was credited as Snafu’s founder (much as Benjamin Franklin was given the same credit in the ‘Saturday Evening Post’). (‘Snafu’ also listed another Forbush family member, as the other side of the magazine’s content column read ‘Losted [sic] by his cousin, Melvin Forbush’).

In ‘Snafu,’ Irving would often remove his helmet. When Lee began to use the character again the 1960s, however, part of the joke was that the reader never saw his face. Forbush’s name cropped up repeatedly in credit panels, ‘Marvel Bullpen Bulletins,’ and letter columns (in ‘The Fantastic Four.’ The ‘Bullpen Bulletins’ page often promised to answer the question ‘Is Irving Forbush a real person?,’ but the following month’s column would not mention him. Eventually, in Lee’s March 1979 ‘Stan’s Soapbox,’ he explained the true history of the Forbush phenomenon. Forbush-Man is a wannabe superhero (with no superpowers), dressed in red long johns with the letter F on the front and a cooking pot with eye-holes on his head. Forbush-Man’s appearance may be a tribute to All American Comic’s 1939 ‘Red Tornado’ character (one of the first superhero parodies).

Forbush-Man’s first major appearance was in the lead story of Not Brand Echh’s #5 (December 1967): ‘The Origin of Forbush-Man,’ which was ‘conceived, created and cluttered-up’ by Lee and Kirby. In this story, Forbush-Man’s secret identity is revealed as Irving Forbush, the fictitious office gofer at Marvel Comics (here referred to as ‘Marble Comics’). The character’s back story includes a shrewish maiden aunt (Auntie Mayhem) who is indirectly responsible for her nephew becoming a superhero. (In a fit of pique, she slams the fabled cooking pot over Irving’s head, inadvertently providing him with the disguise he’d been looking for.) Numerous in-jokes peppered throughout the dialogue suggest that Irving and his aunt are both Jewish (a schtick repeated in at least two subsequent storylines). In the fictional October 13, 1939, edition of the ‘Daily Bugle,’ it was claimed an ‘Irving Forbush’ was born on Friday the 13th, his parents Stan and Jacqueline wanting a daughter instead.

Like his better-known Marvel contemporaries, Forbush-Man goes on to triumph over a number of super powered adversaries (starting with The Juggernut). All of his victories are purely accidental; lacking superhuman powers, dumb luck necessarily plays a major role in all of the character’s adventures. Forbush-Man’s next ‘canon’ appearance came in ‘Not Brand Echh’ #8 (June 1968), when he applies for membership with ‘The Revengers’ (The Avengers), ‘S.H.E.E.S.H’ (SHIELD), and finally ‘The Echhs-Men’ (X-Men). After each attempt ends in disaster for the group concerned, Forbush is offered a position in ‘Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band,’ which he declines, believing it better to ‘quit while I’m still behind.’ Forbush-Man’s third major appearance came in ‘Not Brand Ecch’ #13 (May 1969, the comic’s final issue), where he fights ‘The Strangie’ in a loose parody of ‘Silver Surfer’ #5 (April 1969). The story, once again rife with Jewish references, features caricatures of various Marvel characters (including ‘Spidey-Man,’ ‘The Thung,’ ‘The Human Scorch,’ and ‘The Simple Surfer’). Writer Lee himself puts in an appearance as Marble Comics’ ‘Fearless Leader’ in the final two panels.

During the 1980s Forbush Man became a staple cast member in the satirical Marvel Comics title ‘What The–?!,’ an ensemble book that encompassed and poked fun at the entirety of the canon Marvel Universe and beyond. In 1993, ‘What The?!’– published a story chronicling the death of Forbush Man. The story was a parody of DC Comics’ ‘Death of Superman’ story arc, and featured Forbush Man dying in battle against the villain Dumsday. Forbush Man appeared again in the 2006 series ‘Nextwave: Agents of H.A.T.E.’ as a member of ‘The New Paramounts,’ a team consisting of ‘Not Brand Echh’ characters including ‘The Inedible Bulk.’ This Forbush Man was apparently killed by Tabitha Smith (aka ‘Boom-Boom’) after he failed to mind control her (she apparently had no mind).

While the original Forbush Man had no superpowers, the Forbush Man who appeared in ‘Nextwave’ (who may or may not have been a Broccoli Man) had the power to project utterly realistic visions into the minds of others when he removed the cast-iron pot on his head. The hallucinations typically depicted a reality that was hellish to each victim, slowly killing them as they struggled against it. It is also possible that he has powers far beyond this: he cites during his recruitment to the New Paramounts several occasions on which he claims to have saved the Earth from certain doom so quickly and efficiently that nobody realized he’d done anything. He also purports to be ‘mighty with women,’ though whether this is one of his many powers is debatable.


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