Friday, January 06, 2017

A Month of... Celebrities in Comics, Day 6: Herbie, The Love God

Whenever those periodic questions about "who would beat whom?" come up in the superhero community, I always pick one of two possible champions: Bugs Bunny or Herbie Popnecker. They've never, ever been defeated, whether fighting Hitler or Yosemite Sam. But Herbie has a slight edge over the wabbit in at least one area. Bugs may have his attention diverted by a beautiful lady rabbit (or, indeed, a robot or witch dressed as a lady rabbit), but Herbie is the perfect asexual creature. We can only hope one day that he reproduces using mitosis.

That's why it's always surprising to see girls go gaga over the Uncanny Herbie. Why, even Jughead pretty much has only Ethel chasing after him. But it's what happens when the cruel, cruel Mr. Popnecker drags the reluctant Herbie to the movies just to see Frank and Dino. No, not Frank Flintstone and Dino the Dinosaur, as A Man Called Flintstone would not be released to the silver screen until 1966. Also: his name isn't Frank, no matter what Wilma says.

Panels from "Herbie, Boy 'Beetle!'" in Herbie #5 (American Comics Group, October-November 1964), script by Richard E. Hughes as Shane O'Shea, pencils and inks by Ogden Whitney, letters by Ed Hamilton

Okay, in between those panels and these next ones a whole lotta weird stuff happens (as it does in Herbie comics) involving a theatre saboteur with a big red clown nose doping up movie popcorn to make you whistle through your ears, and that's not just because of the size of a "large" popcorn being even to feed a family of four over a period of six days. No, let's just skip to Herbie trying to escape a rampaging mob by putting a mop on his head while meanwhile the "Beetles" play their hit song that has all the gals swooning in the aisles and peeing their 1960s capri pants.

Now, even though Ogden Whitney has delivered a near photo-perfect depiction of the actual Beatles, I'm not counting them as today's celebrity of the day as they are clearly a parody named "The Beetles." Over in England, Brian Epstein curses and waves his fist at American Comics Group because he cannot sue them, as they have cunningly disguised their target of tomfoolery so well by changing a vowel.

Oh, and teens come runnin' for the great taste of Herbie Popnecker.

Tracking down the Man with the Red Nose (oh yeah! I already forgot about him!) pop sensation Herbie, now calling himself Eibreh Rekcenpop, crashes (literally! look, it's right there in the sound effects) into the dressing room of Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra, who you can tell are today's guest celebrities because I've put their names in bold. I challenge the idea of Dino and Frankie sharing. a dressing room, as no one single dressing room could possibly contain Frank's mafia connections and Dean's drinks, but comics are sometimes forced to take a storytelling shortcut, so let's give it an official TV Tropes-style handwave and get on with the story.

Frank and Dean immediately snap into action and do what they do best: attacking Herbie. Ouch! That's gotta hurt...well, you know, it looks like invincible Herbie wasn't thrown off by that at all. As Robert Evans might say, the kid stays in the picture ARHGHHH (gets dragged off stage by giant hook)

Herbie has Martin and Sinatra (Marnatra?) lead him to the Man with the Red Nose (oh yeah! That guy!) but they're too intimidated to face off against him themselves. Chickens! Frank Sinatra is a big chicken! Dean Martin goes cluck-cluck-cluck-cluck! Buck buck buck buck buck! (is ushered offtage by a pair of burly goons telling me Mr. Sinatra would like to have a few words with me)

Then Herbie tosses the Man with the Red Nose (oh, don't tell me you've forgotten about him already) into a giant movie theater corn-popper, where he is then sold in giant buckets to the Alt-Right (aka Nazis) protesting Rogue One by buying tickets, entering the theater, buying popcorn, throwing away the popcorn, not going into the movie and going home. That'll show those precious snowflakes! (Precious Snowflakes Figurines™ is actually a registered copyright of Hallmark).

So all's well that ends with a guy being smothered to death in a popcorn popper, and without the moptop wig, Herbie's sexual attractiveness to the opposite sex is transferred back over to Dean and Frank, who spend the next six months in traction after being trampled by teens. Then, Herbie's dad adds yet another folder full of information to the case of Child Services v. Popnecker. Seriously, that guy is so emotionally abusive to his son, Bruce Banner's father looks up at him as a role model.

Look, Mr. Popnecker is just a jerk, that's what I'm saying.


Dave said...

Circa 1964-65, I was the Fat Fury for Halloween. I won third prize in a costume contest at the local movie theatre (the same one where I would later see the Three Stooges in person), mainly because I think they had no idea who I was supposed to be.

More importantly, where did Dad (I refuse to call him Pincus) get that purple suit?

Blam said...

Two questions:
(1) Why are the ladies screaming for David Bowie's son?
(2) What song did you dedicate to Ms. Wiedlin?