Not Brand Echh: The Complete Collection (graphic novel review).

September 26, 2020 | By | Reply More

As I reviewed Alter Ego # 95, it only seemed about time that I finally got around to reading my copy of ‘Not Brand Echh: The Complete Collection’, containing not only its run of 13 issues from 1967-1969 but an assortment of skits from the likes of Jack Kirby, Gene Colan and Steve Ditko.

In many respects, you do have to wonder why ‘Not Brand Echh’ couldn’t be done today but the comicbook artists of the Golden Age really could draw everything and in any style. Seeing the attempt in the 2017 one-shot shows the real lack of talent for this kind of thing in modern day comicbook artists and writers through lack of detail and general funniness.

Back in the 1960s, to be let loose and winding up the characters they normally did reasonably straight must have seen as a relief. I suspect the only reason Kirby, Colan, et al did less was because of their normal schedules but they all contributed. The writers also had to not only understand the characters but provide the necessary with the scripts as well and ensure the art poked through. Of course, the key artists here are Marie Severin and Tom Sutton but I can understand Roy Thomas’ comment that the letterers had to do a lot more than usual for the same pay.

If you’re of a particular age, these issues will stir some memories or of others. Seeing Tom Sutton’s depiction of the Ecchs-Men and Marble Girl in a tutu is a far cry from the original but sweet. Although I agree her original costume lacked femininity, at least she was far less likely to scrape her knees in it like her green number.

Seeing Gene Colan doing cartooning instead of his usual soft pencil approach on his send-up of his ‘Captain Marvel’ as ‘Captain Marvin’ is really an eye-opener. I missed some of the later issues of ‘Not Brand Echh’ the first time around so the double-sized issues are more of a discovery here. Even so, there are signs of flagging and you can almost feel the creative staff wondering where they could go next once all the regular gags had been pulled.

We’re also seeing the stories out of context without seeing the competition, such as ‘Mad Magazine’ were doing at the time. Granted they were probably not spoofing super-heroes themselves but they were attracting a similar readership.

Haven’t reviewed Steranko’s run of ‘Nick Fury, Agent Of S.H.I.E.L.D.’ last year, his tale in Scotland is still pretty fresh in my head. The send-up here is still pretty funny and I’d have loved to have known his reaction at the time, especially to the high angle shots to give Furious vertigo.

Before ‘Not Brand Ecch’, several of the Marvel annuals had cartoon stories by Stan Lee and the artists on the various strips in how they worked together, winding themselves up rotten. The best still has to be ‘This Is A Plot?’ by Stan and Jack Kirby but would you buy Mother Fury’s hand grenades?

Oddly, the one I thought missing from the pack is one drawn by Don Heck until I came across it accredited to John Buscema as ‘Avenjerks Assemble!’. Considering much of it related to Don Heck, I do wonder if it’s been miscredited. I came across it a few years back and found it hilarious, especially the miniature X-Men doing a war dance on Heck’s carpet around him. I checked the original Avengers King-Size Annual # 2 that I own that it was originally printed in and it is credited the same way. I could well believe Heck sent himself up and John Buscema did the end part than all of it.

You really do have to read this book in small does to appreciate it properly and I ended up reading this book over a 6 week period. For much of it, sheer nostalgia and seeing some of the original pencilled pages at the end showed how much work was invested in each page compared to even the standard stories.

I suspect the older generations would appreciate this book than the current ones and having them all under one cover saves digging through them to look them over. As the saying goes, they don’t make them like this anymore and certainly not as funny when they don’t take themselves so seriously.

GF Willmetts

September 2020

(pub: Marvel. 450 page graphic novel softcover. Price: I pulled my copy for £ (UK). ISBN: 978-1-302-91882-8)

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Category: Comics, Superheroes

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About UncleGeoff

Geoff Willmetts has been editor at SFCrowsnest for some 21 plus years now, showing a versatility and knowledge in not only Science Fiction, but also the sciences and arts, all of which has been displayed here through editorials, reviews, articles and stories. With the latter, he has been running a short story series under the title of ‘Psi-Kicks’
If you want to contribute to SFCrowsnest, read the guidelines and show him what you can do. If it isn’t usable, he spends as much time telling you what the problems is as he would with material he accepts. This is largely how he got called an Uncle, as in Dutch Uncle. He’s not actually Dutch but hails from the west country in the UK.

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