Monday, August 27, 2007

Reprint This! 9. The Inferior Five

Reprint This! is a periodic feature where I talk about some out-of-print comic book gems that are not available in collected form for readers to enjoy. This is hoping to let rights owners know that, yes, readers are out here, and we'd like to buy the things we can't get at this time!

Despite such an enormous variety of books available these days, and genuine efforts to present the material in reasonably-priced, archival volumes, there are still countless fabulous series from the US, Britain and Japan which are overdue for new editions. I've selected two dozen titles which should be on bookshelves, but at this time are not.

One title that's been missing in action for years is a 1960s DC comedy book called INFERIOR FIVE, created by E. Nelson Bridwell and the late Joe Orlando, with additional art by Mike Esposito. It may be a little dated, and the more humorless members of the continuity crowd may not appreciate it, but it's a clever and very witty title that deserves to be seen again.

Inferior Five is basically a superhero parody strip, one of the first that DC tried. This came as the publisher was getting its market share hammered by the upstarts at Marvel Comics, who quickly labelled DC as "Brand Echh Comics," stuck in the past and writing books for little kids, as opposed to their own "Pop Art Productions" ostensibly geared towards teens. True enough, DC really did look like a bloated dinosaur. Lots of books were selling well, but it was apparent that some new blood was needed.

Bridwell and Orlando came to DC from Mad magazine and were among several new creators put to work on developing new ideas and a fresher, more contemporary style. As would be the case for years to come, the concept of "a fresh outlook" would crash into "protect viability of trademarks," and so Bridwell and Orlando, along with many other fresh faces like Bob Oskner or Nick Cardy or the recently-poached-from-Marvel Steve Ditko, weren't given assignments on the top-selling superhero trademark books, but they still created some fun and dynamic comics in the late 1960s.

The Inferior Five are ostensibly the bungling children of some mighty superheroes who were active in the 1940s, and who are so inept that they must work as a team as none of them can effectively fight crime on their own. I think you've heard that joke before, but that's just the setup. The parodies of DC's competitors are really silly, and done with the same sort of flair you'd expect from MAD veterans. Inferior Five was very well-received by the fan press of its day, and beat out the regular "best humor title" winner Herbie the Fat Fury at the old Alter-Ego Alley Awards in 1966.

So, how to handle a reprint? Since Inferior Five only lasted for three years, there is not a great deal of material to restore. It debuted in the anthology Showcase in 1966 and ran for three issues before earning its own title. That ran for ten bi-monthly issues before DC cancelled the book. That's maybe about 220 pages. A little color restoration and a short introduction by somebody familiar with the material, and I think you've got an excellent package spotlighting something many readers might enjoy. So how about it, DC?

(Originally posted August 27, 2007, 06:04 at hipsterdad's livejournal.)

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