Brand Echh – Sick #42

Joe Simon was the editor of SICK magazine, one of the assorted knock-offs of the extremely popular MAD that crowded the newsstands in the late 1950s and 1960s. Simon had largely moved away from his involvement in the comic book field, though around the time this issue was being worked on, he had been drafted back in by his old employer Harvey Comics to create a new line of super hero comics for the firm–the super hero craze of the 1960s was in full swing, and Harvey wanted to capture a portion of the action. Alongside his partner Jack Kirby, Simon had been one of the prime movers in the super hero gold rush of the 1940s, and his track record as a person who knew how to create saleable characters was still intact. The craze was public enough that Simon devoted a portion of this issue of SICK to parodying both it and the fans who were churning out their own homemade fanzines. Simon was a bit kinder to the latter, for all that he built the section around the concept–his scorn was aimed at the industry, not those readers who had followed and supported him all those years.

As a way of both attracting that super hero buying audience while at the same time sending them up, Simon recycled a key illustration for his and Kirby’s FIGHTING AMERICAN series of ten years earlier, substituting the character’s human iteration for SICK’s Alfred E. Neuman-esque mascot. This is the first look at Fighting American that most Silver Age readers ever got (though they’d soon get more, as Harvey released a giant-sized issue containing reprints and never-published stories in a couple of months.) On the inside, Simon did the illustration to the title page of the section on super heroes and fanzines himself.

Simon also contributed this send-up of comic book advertising focused on super heroes, which gave him an opportunity to drop in his own famous creation, Captain America, among others. It’s easy to see from this that Simon was keeping up at least broadly with what was going on with his old partner Kirby over at Marvel Comics.

There isn’t much to say about this four-page litany of made up super heroes other than to point out how apparent it makes Simon’s lack of understanding as to just what was going on to make the new generation of super heroes at both DC and Marvel popular. This same section could have been run twenty years earlier–and it probably would have been more on target then.

Writer Paul Laikin and artist Bob Powell put together a spoof on a cross between Marvel’s Bullpen Bulletins page and a news column from a fanzine of the era. Both Laikin and Powell worked briefly for Marvel in the 1960s–Laikin producing only a portion of the script for one issue of AVENGERS, and Powell working on Giant-Man and Daredevil before moving on to greener pastures.

The centerpiece of the section is this short comic strip by Calvin Castine and George Tuska that appears at first blush to be a take on the fannish desire for an inter-company crossover among all of the assorted super heroes, but which ends up with a very different final gag entirely.

Among the characters spoofed in this story are included versions of many of the stars of the line Joe Simon was then putting together for harvey. This represents their first published appearance. It’s anybody’s guess what readers made of a bunch of these guys showing up here without any context.

Ba-dump-bump!

The same creative team whipped up a pretty basic satire on the comic book reader.

In his editorial this issue, Joe Simon walks the whole thing back, letting the comic book readers know that he’s just funnin’ and no malice is meant.

There’s also a bio of Bob Powell that speaks about his time working in comic books as well as everything else.

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