Friday, March 30, 2018

Adventures in Comic-Boxing: The "Inferior" Donald Duck!

DC Comics' INFERIOR 5 is one of those little hidden gems of the period of the late 1960s, when DC first realized that it was in serious competition with an upstart competitor by the name of "Marvel", and tried various ways to break with the Silver Age style that DC more-or-less created whole-cloth.  

This trippy title about a band of misfit heroes, its very name riffing on Marvel's "Fantastic Four", though short-lived, was always full of that unique "sixties sort of silliness"!  

As you can see below, series writer E. Nelson Bridwell (one of the earliest "fans" to break into the "professional" ranks) pulled-out all the stops, lampooning DC-style superheroics and Marvel-style hype and character chatter, all the while infusing it with an overall Mad Magazine sense of humor - resulting in quite the romp for fans of the day!  ...And anyone collecting the title retroactively! 

The issue in question is  INFERIOR 5 # 8 (Cover Date: May-June, 1968), where a giant and ever-growing mountain of junk springs up from nowhere!  

At the top of the heap, the I-5 find a mad scientist (...weren't ALL scientists "Mad" in the '60s?) with a rather unique plan for his requisite play for World Domination.

But, before we delve into his plan, take a... er, gander at the figure on top of that roof!   

No, not the rooster!  Move in CLOSER... and more to the UPPER RIGHT!  

THAT'S IT!  Anyone recognize that guy?  He looks strangely familiar!  

Familiar fowl aside, back to the evil crackpot plot...



Now, I don't know what the relationship was at this time between the producers of the BATMAN '66 TV series (which, not long before, had broadcast its final original episode on March 14, 1968), but it seems to me - certainly from this perspective - that EGGHEAD would have been a perfect villain to use here!

The characters even have a SIMILAR LOOK to them!  And, even if DC was ready to shake the camp off of Batman - which, with Denny O' Neil and Neal Adams, it would soon do in "Bat-Spades" (Sorry) - Egghead's campiness would have been right at home in an issue of INFERIOR 5.  

But, back to... Donald (?)

Despite the TITLE of the series in which "The Duck" makes an unauthorized cameo (Could you imagine that happening TODAY?!), I'm not ready to call this 1968 version of Donald Duck "INFERIOR"!

...Not while THIS 1969 atrocity still exists!  

...Talk about INFERIOR!  

Yeah, yeah... I know!  I'll never let this one go... 

...But, why should I when an historically great character like Donald Duck looks far worse in HIS OWN PUBLISHER'S COMICS...

...Than as a PARODY IMAGE in ANOTHER PUBLISHER'S COMICS at the same basic time? 

Even the INFERIOR 5 would have to wrestle with such a question!  

...And they have SO LITTLE to "wrestle" with!  


TC said...

Dr. Gruesome had previously fought the I5 in their first adventure, in Showcase #63.

In 1966-67, the peak of the camp comedy fad, the time must have seemed right for the Inferior Five and Plastic Man. But the fad passed by 1968 or so, and those comics sort of passed along with it.

Also, most comic book fans back then were kids who wanted their superheroes played straight. And adults would watch campy action-adventure series in movies and TV (Batman, Man From UNCLE, Matt Helm, Our Man Flint), but they did not read comic books.

In the early 1980s, Don Simpson's Megaton Man, published by Kitchen Sink, was somewhat similar to the Inferior 5, but a little more esoteric. Its focus was mainly on comic book parodies. Inferior 5 spoofed comics, but also pop culture (movies, TV, music) in general.

Sérgio Gonçalves said...

I was going to make a joke about Donald (or really any Disney character) being the Terror of Time Warner, but then I realized that DC wasn't a Time Warner company when this comic book was published!

Oh, well.

I guess you could say it was an uncanny foreshadowing of things to come. Ironic that during the stormy sixties Donald would be, on two separate occasions, bird-bothered and himself a bothersome bird. Now there's a subject for a Mallard Hitchcock movie!

Interestingly, Donald is not the only Disney character to have made an unapproved cameo in a non-Disney comic. Mickey Mouse briefly appears in "Tintin and the Picaros" (1976). (For the record, so does the Franco-Belgian character Asterix). According to the official Tintin website, Donald Duck and Snoopy also appear in the same panel, but I don't see them there...

Joe Torcivia said...


I had a feeling you’d show up for a post on INFERIOR FIVE!

Oh, I’m not saying that bringing back Dr. Gruesome wasn’t the right thing to do. Every hero or hero team needs their own recurring nemeses, and this “first case” was even referenced in the dialogue of one of the panels I reproduced.

But, this particular evil plot seemed SO suited to Egghead (an egg-themed ultimate weapon, and having the smarts to breed it into existence) that it feels, certainly from this perspective, like an opportunity lost. Since, by 1968-onward, there would be no place for campy villains in the mainstream Batman titles, books like INFERIOR FIVE and PLASTIC MAN would seem to be the only place that a character like Eeghead could possibly appear – at least until the BATMAN ’66 title nearly five decades later.

I was aware of MEGATON MAN, and it looked like a funny-read! But, back then, my limited comics budget went primarily to the withered remains of the Whitman line (formerly Gold Key), a very few Marvel titles, and mostly to the great stuff DC was publishing line-wide at the time.

A singular exception to this was my uncharacteristic purchase of the first American issue of JUDGE DREDD, the character and dark humor aesthetic of which instantly made me an avid fan – and that I still enjoy today in its current IDW incarnation.

Joe Torcivia said...


“Bird-Bothered” as Donald may have regrettably been in 1969, Disney itself was not much of a “Terror” of anything in 1968. Neither, alas, was Warner Bros – which, at the time and if memory serves, was owned by (…would you believe) Kinney Parking Lots! Each had its own resurgence into a media mega-giant in the ‘80s/’90s period.

Disney parody characters or images were more common in the days before the massive lawyering-up, including even SUPER GOOF in THIS INDIE COMIC, as I’d noted waaay back in the fanzine THE DUCKBURG TIMES # 23!

HERE is Sergio’s Tintin link. You’ll find Mickey Mouse (or someone in a Mickey Mouse costume) in there if you keep looking!

TC said...

Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck also made cameo appearances in Inferior 5 #7, along with Iron Pants, Cobweb Kid, Prince Nabob the Sub-Moron, detective Allergy Queen, Dr. Hackenbush, and a sewer worker who was obviously Ed Norton. Presumably, it was legal, since they were all parodies.

Interestingly, normalman and Megaton Man first appeared and ran at about the same time time, 1983-84-85 or so. Each issue of normalman spoofed a different comic book character, company, or genre. The one pictured in the link was a satire of both Disney and Richie Rich. Other issues spoofed DC, Marvel, EC, Archie, Will Eisner, and several others.

And, yeah, it would have been nice if Egghead and some of the other really campy TV villains (Lola Lasagne, Louie the Lilac, King Tut) could have appeared in The Inferior Five or Plastic Man. But, since those characters were created specifically for the TV show (as opposed to Joker, Catwoman, Riddler, et al.), maybe it was not clear who owned the rights.

The last two issues of I5, #11 and #12, reprinted their first two appearances from Showcase #62 and #63. The story in Showcase #63 was a spoof of the Incredible Hulk, but the cover of I5 #12 reminds me more of an Archie comic.

Joe Torcivia said...


I rather liked the cover of INFERIOR FIVE # 12. Though, to me, it seemed more influenced by MAD MAGAZINE than ARCHIE. HERE is a link to that cover image.

Hope you saw last week’s SCOOBY-DOO TEAM-UP # 36. You’ll see why in our next post!