Not Brand Echh

Forbush Man

Not Brand Echh was a satiric comic book series published by Marvel Comics that parodied its own superhero stories as well as those of other comics publishers. Running for 13 issues from 1967 to 1969, it included among its contributors such notable writers and artists as Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, Gene Colan, Bill Everett, John and Marie Severin, and Roy Thomas.

With issue #9, it became a 68-page, 25¢ ‘giant,’ relative to the typical 12¢ comics of the times. Its mascot, ‘Forbush Man,’ introduced in the first issue, was a superhero wannabe with no superpowers and a costume of red long johns emblazoned with the letter ‘F’ and a cooking pot, with eye-holes, covering his never-revealed head. His secret identity was eventually revealed in issue #5 (Dec. 1967) as Irving Forbush, Marvel’s fictitious office gofer.

The series title was a play on an advertising convention of the time, in which a competitor’s product was not referred to by name, but simply as ‘Brand X’; DC was sometimes playfully called ‘Brand Echh’ in Marvel ‘Bullpen Bulletins’ and letters pages, hence this comic was ‘Not Brand Echh.’ Superhero satire had appeared previously in comic books, notably in occasional stories in EC’s 1950s ‘Mad’ comic book, prior to its becoming a black-and-white magazine. Later issues would parody films and TV shows (including ‘Bonnie and Clyde’ and ‘The Green Hornet’) as well as comics.

Typical stories and name transpositions included Ironed Man (Iron Man) vs. Magnut, Robot Biter (Gold Key Comics’ Magnus, Robot Fighter); ‘Best Side Story,’ with Dr. Deranged (Dr. Strange) in a ‘West Side Story’ pastiche; ‘The Origin of…Stuporman,’ a Superman takeoff recalling Wally Wood’s influential ‘Superduperman’ in ‘Mad’ #4 (1952); the Ecchs-Men in ‘If Magneat-O Should Clobber Us,’ parodying not only the X-Men and Magneto, but also the high melodrama of 1960s Marvel titles; and Marvel characters visually standing-in for the baseball-player protagonists of the otherwise faithfully rendered famous poem ‘Casey at the Bat.’ In a more topical reference of the time, Gary Friedrich, writer of ‘Sgt. Fury and His Howling Commandos,’ and cartoonist/Marvel production manager John Verpoorten contributed a Marvel-character version of the Beatles’ famed ‘Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band’ record album art. Events took place in the ‘Marble Universe,’ a play on the Marvel Universe.

‘Not Brand Echh’ gave free rein to creators not normally associated with humor, and offered rare teams of penciler and inker. Cartoony artist Tom Sutton — who along with Marie Severin was the series’ most ubiquitous illustrator — might ink the grand, polar-opposite pencils of Jack Kirby, or even Marie Severin pencils over Kirby layouts, a combination seen nowhere else. Writer Friedrich did layouts completed by artist Herb Trimpe. Warren Publishing editor Bill DuBay drew and co-wrote one story in his only Marvel appearance.

The spirit of ‘Not Brand Echh’ was revived with ‘What The–?!,’ a four-issue miniseries in 1988, followed by an additional 22 issues continuing the numbering (1989 – 1993). One story, for instance, featured ‘Superbman’ vs. ‘The Fantastical Four’ — the same name as in ‘Not Brand Echh’ for a parodistic Fantastic Four. ‘Not Brand Echh’ mascot Forbush Man made a cover-featured return appearance in issue #12 (1991). A 2005 one-shot titled ‘Wha…Huh?’ revisited the concept again.

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