Brand Echh – Fly Man #36

I promise, all of these entries aren’t going to be cribbed from Radio Comics/Mighty Comics. But this issue does give me the opportunity to present my two favorite Mighty heroes in a single two-part tale: The Shield and the Web.

That opening blurb is a pretty good evocation of Stan Lee’s bombastic rhetoric. They weren’t at all hiding what they were trying to do. As with the previous Fly Man story, this one (both chapters) was written by Jerry Siegel and drawn by Paul Reinman.

In trying to mimic the Marvel approach, Siegel missed the mark in a very basic manner: rather than giving characters personalities, he instead gave them shticks. In the case of the Shield, the running bit in all of his stories was that his super hero career prevented him from holding any sort of regular job.

“The only way for me to get out quickly is to be thrown out.” Really, Bill? Really?

“Nobody insults my costume and gets away with it!” It’s like a Marvel hero’s sentiment, but through a fun house mirror somehow.

One of the villains in this particular story is The Hangman, who for some reason Siegel decided to turn into a villain–maybe he was thinking of the manner in which Stan Lee handled the Sub-Mariner or something like that. Siegel also “improved” on the character–a hard-bitten Punisher type who violently hunted down criminals–by giving him an absurd magic rope.

“I’ll hurtle into my foe with the jarring impact of a crashing thunderbolt!’ What a dope!

And now, the story takes an unexpected swerve with the introduction of the Web. This guy isn’t the genuine Web, though–he’s an impostor who’s using the Web’s costume to make a rep for himself. Kind of the way that Lee and Kirby first brought back Captain America by having the Human Torch’s villain the Acrobat impersonate him.

And here, for really no reason, the Hangman decides to save the Shield’s life and break off their fight. So the whole story goes nowhere (except that Bill Higgins is out of a job again–poor guy!) Next Issue: the greatest Shield story of them all–wouldn’t be hard! But this whole thing does serve to set up the next bit, which is where my favorite Mighty Comics hero comes in.

Go, cons, go!

Okay, so the shtick on the Web is that, years ago, he retired and married his girlfriend, becoming just regular old Professor John Raymond. But the fact that there’s an impostor using his name and costume out there pulls him back into the fight–despite the fact that he’s woefully out of shape for it, and he’s promised his wife Rosie that he won’t risk his life any longer.

The whole series was like a situation comedy, where the Web would be hen-pecked by his well-meaning wife (and her mother) and would have to sneak out of the house to fight crime. Eventually, in order to help him and teach him a lesson, Rosie would adopt her own secret identity as Pow Girl, and she was immediately better at being a super hero than the Web was. The whole thing is delightfully daffy. “If it rains, don’t be too proud to buy an umbrella!” You can tell that Siegel was looking at Stan’s Aunt May dialogue here, but he doesn’t quite get the subtleties of it.

Because this is only a five-page story, the two Webs conveniently bump into one another almost immediately, so that we can get to the fighting.

“Mustn’t pant too loud! if she awakens and catches me at this, she’ll be furious!” That’s the series in a nutshell right there. It’s all awkward and awful, but I love it something fierce.

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