Brand Echh: Modeling with Millie #54

Yes, that’s right, I’m actually doing an installment of Brand Echh about a book published by Marvel. Seems heretical somehow, right? But in looking at this entry, this seemed to be the best category for it. The story saw print in the very last issue of MODELING WITH MILLIE, which was the second ongoing series to feature Millie the Model running throughout most of the 1960s. Millie herself dates back to 1945 and was one of the most-successful characters launched by Timely/Marvel during the Golden Age. (Given her longevity, a case can be made that she was perhaps THE most successful character, at least until the advent of the Marvel Age that saw the revival of Captain America, the Human Torch and the Sub-Mariner.)

But by 1967, the bloom was off the rose for Millie a little bit. As mentioned previously, this would be the final issue of MODELING WITH MILLIE–and even the fashion queen’s main series would be mothballed for a while, eventually being retooled more in the image of the wildly-successful Archie line in the late 1960s/early 1970s in order for Marvel to compete in that arena once the Archie cartoon and its spin-off novelty band catapulted the series to the top of the sales charts. For a while now, the girl-romance-adventure books, like the few remaining western titles, had been somewhat second class citizens at Marvel, a place where promising newcomers could earn their spurs and old warhorses could be parked in order to assure them of steady assignments that wouldn’t be considered crucial to the bottom line.

This final story in MODELING WITH MILLIE was produced by Gary Friedrich and Ogden Whitney, a pair of creators who fit that paradigm to a T. And it’s difficult to say whether this tale was intended as a kind of back door pilot for a retooling of the Millie series or if it was just intended as a one-off goof–the sort of self-parody that creators in the comic book industry almost inevitably feel drawn towards when working on series outside of the super hero realms in which they’d prefer to be toiling. Either way, this story imagines Millie as a super hero–a role I can’t imagine that many of her regular readers particularly wanted to see her in.

The whole affair is set up as a dream, a reaction to Millie reading a current issue of FANTASTIC FOUR while she’s on a typical modeling shoot. (It’s already a stretch that a copy of FF is what somebody like Millie might be perusing in such an environment, but hey, roll with it.) That evening, Millie’s fantasy of becoming a super hero herself plays out during her slumber, giving Friedrich and Whitney a chance to cast her as a character very much in the vein of the contemporaneous Supergirl.

And of course, Millie’s rival Chili takes on the role of the villain–somewhat cleverly operating under the costumed identity of The Chill, and armed with a freeze gun that she must have purchased at the same arsenal that supplied DC’s Captain Cold and The Icicle.

The action in this sequence is framed rather ineptly. We never do truly get a good look at The Chill, and she and Millie the Marvel insist on being shown from behind for most of this sequence. If you like looking at the backs of heads, this is the Marvel adventure for you, True Believer!

This whole idea is pretty much a bust from stem to stern, and despite the entreaty to the readers to please ask for more, not only has Millie the Marvel never made a reappearance, but this title was discontinued in the wake of this outing. A fitting end for this disaster.

6 thoughts on “Brand Echh: Modeling with Millie #54

  1. Of course, Patsy and Hedy were expecting Millie at Reed and Sue’s wedding–and she DID make the cover! So she was in the Marvel universe proper at one point. Reminds me of the Great Gildersleeve on radio. Originally spun-off from Fibber McGee and Molly, in a later episode Fibber McGee and Molly was said to be nothing more than a radio show Gildy’s nephew listened to.

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  2. She’s still in the Marvel Universe and has appeared in Models Inc, 15 Love, and Patsy Walker Hellcat. The Fantastic Four having a comic book inside the Marvel Universe was established early in their series, so it’s bizarre having Millie not know that superheroes exist in her world.

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  3. I knew Patsy Walker making the genre jump was an unlikely (if qualified) success — but this perspective really sheds a light on how much of a feat that really was.

    Probably due to Steve Englehart’s commitment to pay off his Beast story once he got the Avengers gig. And once she’s a guest-star in an Avengers comic, in the middle of an ongoing Serpent Crown arc, guest-starring the recurring Justice League analogs Squadron Supreme, featuring this promising newcomer named George Perez, that was enough to give her a sporting chance.

    I’ve always thought Patsy has had such a fascinating pedigree and history — a little part of me is tickled that she has a fan in Christopher Cantwell and is giving her a spotlight in Iron Man in all places.

    And that’s all I have to say about Millie the Model 😉.

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  4. This strikes me as a knock-off of “Archie as Pureheart the Powerful”.

    As a one-shot, it might’ve worked as a story if it was filled with tongue-in-cheek jokes, more like “Inferior Five”. For example, I think there was a missed opportunity in the setup for Millie’s boyfriend to have brought in the comic and been a fanboy, with her then reading it and making winking deprecating comments (something like “Gee, the writers of this comic sure seem to be melodramatic.”).

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  5. It’s interesting to see that unlike the regular Marvel characters at the time, Millie had no trouble integrating her crime-fighting activities with her everyday modelling gigs. No “character with problems” here!

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  6. I guess this is Ogden Whitney drawing in a Marvel style?? SO different from his precise, realistic artwork on Herbie and other ACG titles!

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