A Tribute to the of

Tough times in the senior creator department just lately as we’ve recently lost both Gary Friedrich and Marie Severin. While I never got acquainted with either of them, their contributions are well known, what with Gary’s Ghost Rider and Marie’s vast catalogue of coloring and other production work, and of course her “Not Brand Echh” satire series run beginning back in 1967.

Well, DC was no stranger to satire either and as luck would have it, I stumbled across a book at the local comic shop a few weeks ago in the long boxes and picked it up as I simply couldn’t ignore something from the Showcase series. In an ironic twist, it has the word “Ecch!” at the top of the Go-Go Checks, too. With a publication date of November/December 1966, issue #65 marks the third appearance of the Inferior Five. This group of screw-ups were the brain child of writer E. Nelson Bridwell, a contributor to Mad Magazine prior to his work at DC Comics. Art for this issue, both cover and interiors is provided by Mike Sekowsky’s pencil and Mike Esposito on inks, all under the editorial guidance of Jack Miller. The title of our story is “Agony at the Academy or A Scrap’ll Floor the Teacher!

First up, on the splash page, meet our Inferior Five, starting with Merryman, as powerful as an H-bomb! (Would you believe a wet firecracker?) Dumb Bunny, Wise as an owl. (Would you believe a cuckoo?) The Blimp, faster than a speeding bullet! (Would you believe an arthritic tortoise?) Awkwardman, agile as an eel! (Would you believe a beached whale?) Finally, White Feather, brave as a tiger! (Would you believe a fraidy cat?)

The setting is a school called Dean Egghead’s Academy for Super Heroes and the good Dean’s faculty is walking out on him. He muses that he should have got real super-heroes as instructors and sends out a call, but the telegrams he receives in reply are less than encouraging.

It wouldn’t be a fair match. WE only outnumber your students 2 to 1.” - The Justice League of America

This is one disaster we want no part of.” – The Doom Patrol

Sorry, but I’d be out of my element.” - Metamorpho

Even lead isn’t dumb enough to take on this job.” – The Metal Men

Compared to your academy, Benedict Arnold High is a rest home.” – Super-Hip

Realizing he has little choice; the Dean decides to enlist the Inferior Five. Upon the team’s arrival, Dean Egghead gives them a tour and introductions. First up is their star pupil, Harry McElhinney, aka The Ape. Next is Irish Autumns, known as The Basilisk. Described as a throwback to the gorgons, his gaze can turn things to stone once he lifts his visor.

As we turn the page, there’s a winged student in flight named Melvin Murgatroyd XIV, alias Icarus.

And this, dear readers, is when it dawned on me that Bridwell and company were taking a shot at the X-Men. Mind you, as a tried and true fan of DC, I have never read a single X-Men comic book, but I do watch the movies, so…

The “Throwbacks” continue to show up, this time with Billy Gander or Winter Wonderland, who can encase himself in a chunk of ice, followed closely by Penelope Pink, or Levitation Lass. Finally, the Dean states that he has telepathic abilities, a throwback to the time before men communicated via speech. By way of demonstration he says he’ll read Dumb Bunny’s mind and, naturally, he draws a blank.

Dumb Bunny takes the opportunity to do a little girl bonding with Penelope Pink, helping her to come up with a more feminine outfit and Pink says, being the only female at the school, that the pickings are slim for interesting companionship considering the Ape and Icarus and others who “…aren’t exactly Rock Hudson.”

Meanwhile, as class is to begin, Winter Wonderland ambushes both the Blimp and Awkwardman with a sheet of ice in the classroom, sending them flying and fumbling. Not to be outdone with the shenanigans, the Basilisk uses his power to turn White Feather to stone and despite their time together talking men and fashion, Levitation Lass puts Dumb Bunny into a floating helplessness.

Just then, Merryman and the Dean stroll in and Dean Egghead is thrilled to say that his students have been recognized with a letter from a fan club: “Dear Dean Egghead and your students—whom I might call the Egg’s Men—we of the Throwback’s Fan Club have heard of you super-heroes and would like to call on you and meet you all very soon!

Segue to an unknown locale and the writers of the letter are plotting. They are described as Frog Man, Angel Fish, Mr. Amoeba and Pterano Don Juan, or, colloquially, the “Fraternity of Atavistic No-Gooders.”

Part II is titled, “Two Brains are Better than One!” and proceeds to explain the abilities of the leader of the Fraternity, who is himself a throwback to the giant dinosaurs that had hip ganglions to control the movements of the rear ends of their bodies. Writer Bridwell pulls a Julie Schwartz and captions in that ganglions are a collection of nerve cells acting as a center of nerve activity. The creature further explains that his developed into a complete brain, therefore he has a brain at both ends of his spine.

Back at the school, Merryman announces a field trip to Megalopolis, which is apparently where The Ape hails from. As they march forward, they sing the school song, to the tune of the Notre Dame fight song: “Dean Egghead’s Academy—It’s delightful, we all agree! This is where we crack our books—and learn to capture dirty crooks! Our faculty, they tell us is great, and on the day we graduate, we will all be super-heroes—if they don’t kill us first!

Soon the Ape mentions the Clancy Street Gang used to give him trouble and when the Blimp queries him about it, he explains that they’d call the cops when he’d beat them up. The Ape then comments that Mr. Might was said to have leapt the tall buildings at a single bound, but retired before he was born. Awkwardman states that Mr. Might was his pop and when asked, he says that he can absolutely perform the same feat. Over the loud protests of Merryman, the cowled member of the Inferior Five goes into action…and right into a skyscraper’s window.

During their absence the No-Gooders have arrived at the school and, finding a note telling them the key is under the mat, help themselves in and prepare for an ambush.

The faculty and students are soon back from the field trip to Megalopolis and the battle is on, but Awkwardman takes a powder, ending Part II.

Speaking of Part III, it is titled, “Some throwbacks should be thrown back!” or “But some shouldn’t!” We follow Awkwardman who is making a beeline for the pool. It seems his mother is The Mermaid and like her, he needs a little water pick-me-up from time to time. And who happens to be there but Angel Fish, who surely resembles a mermaid and Awkwardman is immediately smitten.

Elsewhere, in the main hall, the battle is heating up. The Amoeba is splitting with every sustained blow until White Feather uses a barrage arrow to incapacitate all the little amoebas, allowing Dumb Bunny to simply vacuum them up.

Pterano Don Juan, a character with top hat, tails and bat wings, is taken down by Winter Wonderland putting the ice to his wings. Meanwhile, Dr. Dinosaur, he of the dual brains, is being struck by Dumb Bunny and the Ape, to no avail until Dean Egghead tells them about the dual nature of the creature’s brains and by simultaneously striking both regions, he is taken down.

Finally, Dumb Bunny finds Angel Fish and Awkwardman floating in the pool and she hauls the mermaid out of the water over Awkardman’s protests.

The next day, Merryman announces that they’ve released the No-Goodniks, since all they did was start a fight and ultimately lost, but also acknowledges they may not be the right fit for teaching at the academy, so they’ve brought in replacements in the form of their parents—The Freedom Brigade! And here come The Patriot, Lady Liberty, Capt. Swift, The Bowman, Princess Power, Mr. Might and The Mermaid.

Now, since Mike Sekowsky rendered these characters, a few of them look oddly familiar. The Patriot vaguely resembles a caped Uncle Sam, Lady Liberty is self-explanatory, Capt. Swift is nearly a dead ringer for the Flash and of course The Bowman is simply Green Arrow, right down to the buccaneer boots, but with a cape. Princess Power is a portly Wonder Woman. Mr. Might is a stocky Superman with a different color scheme and a chest emblem resembling the Flash’s lightning bolt and The Mermaid? A female Aquaman with flippers.

The final panels on the last page show the Freedom Brigade cracking the whip on the students and Awkwardman wondering if he’ll ever see Angel Fish again. The end caption says, “We wouldn’t be a bit surprised, Awkwardman!” (If the Inferior-5 gets its own mag, that is!)

Well, they did go on to get their own title, with a roll-out in March/April of 1967 which ran for ten issues, including the previously reviewed issue #6 with a hilarious look inside the DC offices that barely involved the Five at all.

For a change of pace and some light-hearted fare, the Inferior Five could be a lot of fun and I like to think Sekowsky and Esposito, along with E. Nelson Bridwell, were having a good time of it. Once again, this one is outside the typical rating area, so I’ll just suggest you check it out if you get the chance.

Come October 1st, a new review will be in this space and as per usual, your input is solicited. If you’ve got a suggestion, a comment or any other feedback, just give an electronic shout to my handy e-mail address: professor_the@hotmail.com and I’ll be glad to give it a gander.

We’re all about the Silver Age of DC comics here at the dear ol’ Silver Lantern, so get your fix, either with the voluminous information here at the site, the interviews of some of our most respected creators, etc. Something for everyone.

Until next time…

Long live the Silver Age!

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