Monday, October 29, 2018

Retro Review: The New Inferior 5 #7 (1968)

Written By: E. Nelson Bridwell
Art By: Winslow Mortimer
Price: 12 cents
Pub Date: April 1968

*Spoilers ahead, score at the bottom*

It's come to my attention that not everyone knows who the Inferior Five are! Why that’s almost as crazy as if he said he didn’t know about the Maniaks or Binky and His Buddies! Is it worth the review? Probably not, but read on!

First, allow me to introduce the Inferior Five with the help of this opening splash page, which is the best-drawn in the book.

From right to left, we’ve got The Blimp aka Herman Cramer, son of Flash parody Captain Swift but possessing none of his power; Dumb Bunny aka Athena Tremor, daughter of knock-off versions of Wonder Woman and Steve Trevor; leader of the group Merryman aka Myron Victor, a comic strip artist and son of two Golden Age heroes—he’s modeled after a late 1960s Woody Allen; White Feather aka William King, ever-fearful son of a Green Arrow parody; and Awkwardman aka Leander Brent, son of Mr. Might and Mermaid, who are supposed to be like Superman and Aquaman. If Aquaman was a woman. And a mermaid. Got all that? Good! Now forget it because none of this is important for the rest of the issue!

Our tale begins when the Inferior Five happen upon a robbery: a brawny man in a brown suit is menacing a sweet little old lady. The Five jump in to assist, but the old lady beats the crap out of them and the mugger gets away. Our bumbling heroes give chase and follow him down a manhole that Awkwardman discovers using his Clumsy Asshole powers.

And just who do you think is in those sewers, but none other than Ed Norton himself! You remember Ed Norton, don’t you? No, not the actor from Fight Club. The other one. The guy from the Honeymooners. No, the other one. The guy that worked in the sewers. You remember him now, right? No? What are they teaching kids in public school these days, anyway? The Inferior Five continue searching the sewers for their criminal, when they bump into their old buddy Thor! They actually hung out with him and other Norse Gods in issue #4 of the comic, a bizarre story that provided a lot of information about Viking mythology. Thor is crying because his employer Stanley…now where have I heard that name before? His employer Stanley wants Thor to get his hair cut and dye it blond, but Thor wants to be a basketball player. Dumb Bunny suggests that Thor fulfill his contract, and luckily Ed Norton shows up with a full barber’s rig because the artist really liked drawing Art Carney, I guess.

Suddenly, the sewer starts filling with water and alligators, but that’s no problem for Awkwardman because he has a fake Aquaman’s DNA. Then an ugly mermaid shows up and tries to kiss Awkwardman, so a Sub-Mariner parody named Sub-Moron shows up and pulls a drain plug, flushing the alligators and ugly mermaid down the drain. Sub-Moron makes a little cameo and dives down the drain himself.

Then the team bumps into Allergy Queen, a take-off of fictional detective Ellery Queen, star of radio and television. I don’t know thing one about Ellery Queen and I’m betting you don’t either, but suffice to say that Allergy Queen sneezes a lot. He’s questioning a shackled prisoner about the identity of a criminal mastermind, when a ray gun pops out of nowhere and reduces the prisoner to dust. Why there is a prisoner chained to the wall of this sewer, we don’t know, but his vaporous dust makes Allergy Queen sneeze. Then we see some brown-suited goon that looks just like the brown-suited goon that was mugging the old lady in the beginning of the story jump into the sewers. We learn his name is “Crusher” Bones, which I don’t think comes up again in the comic. “Crusher” is immediately electrocuted upon entering the sewer. 

Except he’s not electrocuted because he has super powers for some reason? He throws a bolt of electricity at Ed Norton and runs into the sewers, grabbing a costume from Norton’s tourist stand on the way and announcing he will call himself “The Blast.” Because “Crusher” isn’t a suitable villain nickname, of course. Back to the Inferior Five, they are drowning or something, some kind of trap is sprung and metal rods protrude from the walls and start to close in on them. Never fear, however, because Iron Pants, the silly Iron Man parody is here!

He says a couple of stupid things and then fucks off, saying he’s got to find Thor for Stanley…gosh but that name really rings a bell! The Inferior Five spend a few panels bumping into a few recognizable characters while traipsing around the sewers: Mickey Mouse, Groucho Marx, the characters from MAD Magazine’s Spy vs. Spy, and then eventually bump into a fake Spider-Man named the Cobweb Kid because why the fuck not, it’s not like this comic is going to start making sense all of a sudden. Cobweb Kid sort of does nothing and then scurries off, mumbling something about finding Thor for Stanley…now I could swear I know that name from somewhere! The Inferior folks wander around the sewers some more and even come upon a giant banquet hall that is vacant except for a bunch of skeletons that turn to dust when touched. This dust makes Allergy Queen, who shows up again out of no-fucking-where, sneeze. Queen convenes every character we’ve seen in the book thus far—except, strangely, for Iron Pants and the Cobweb Kid—and announces he is going to reveal the criminal mastermind. Remember, we don’t even know what crime this mastermind has committed, the Inferior Five only came down into the sewers to catch a mugger.

Who, incidentally, is sitting right there on the couch next to the old lady he was trying to rob, and the Blast is leaning on a table to Ed Norton’s right. Before Queen can reveal his name, a ray gun pops out of the wall and reduces him to dust, which makes Allergy Queen sneeze, even in dust form. This is when we learn that the real culprit is the little old lady, who is actually Dr. Diabolical in disguise! Who is Dr. Diabolical? Who cares?!

He captures the Inferior Five in jars and intends to rob their powers to infuse into his lackey, but accidentally steals all of their weaknesses! This leaves our moronic superheroes in a state that is unusually heroic.

So I guess Inferior Five…saves the…day? Dr. Diabolical actually gets away in a jet escape chair, and the team takes Ed Norton’s scenic sewer tour ride to get back to the surface. Once there, they see the little old lady that they assume is Dr. Diabolical, but turns out it’s Cobweb Kid’s Aunt Meg! Hoo boy it’s the end!

That concludes one of the most befuddling comics about one of the stupidest superhero teams ever created. DC wanted to capture a MAD Magazine vibe here—and made a good effort, being that they employed MAD writer E. Nelson Bridwell to script it. If you look at the panels I posted in the body of this review, you can see there are lots of gags and goofs that would be right at home in an issue of MAD, with the difference being that one periodical was funny, one was not. I will leave it up to you to decide which is which. Winslow Mortimer does okay on art duties, given the style of the time, though his fake Spider-Man is a little chunkier than he should be. Overall, this comic is for idiots, and if you’ve read this much of my review then it’s probably right up your alley!

Bits and Pieces:

I actually love this comic book, but it’s because it is so terrible and self-deprecating. It’s obvious that DC was trying to catch that MAD Magazine lightning in a bottle, and though the effort is not horrible, it falls pretty flat because it’s just not that funny. It’s tough to recommend a book like this to the casual comic book reader, so if you’re interested in the more weird and arcane side of comic books then you might want to give it a look. I know one thing for sure: Eric Shea would absolutely hate this book! From continuity issues, to cornball characterizations, to the entire story being completely pointless and redundant, this is the kind of comic book that makes his blood boil. In good conscience, I can only elevate Eric’s heart rate (for health reasons, naturally) by inciting his rage when I give this absolutely ridiculous and moronic comic a

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