Saturday, July 12, 2008

Chameleon Boy vs. Spider-Man

While looking for the picture to accompany the recent trivia quiz answer about Chameleon Boy's breaking the fourth wall, I came across an entry on a huge Spider-Man site, SpiderFan.org. I had no idea that Cham's diss of Spidey would have been noticed by the competition.


The Diss


But sure enough, it was addressed in the letters page of "Amazing Spider-Man" #47, a couple months later. Stan Lee didn't take that lying down.
Gerard Addonizio of Medford, Massachusetts writes, "While thumbing thru a Brand Echh comic, I came across something that infuriated me. Some orange-faced character belonging to an (ugh) group of super-boobs had just finished tying up a monster with his web after turning into a spider! He then said, "In case a certain web-headed character thinks I'm stealing his thunder, I'd like to remind him that I was changing to all sorts of weird shapes long before he walked up his first wall." As you know, he was referring to our own Spidey! You fellas usually make your Brand Echh references in a good-natured half-kidding way; and you've never actually pin-pointed any competitive mag or character. But they're getting nasty. I think you should really let them have it. I've never written before, but when I saw that statement, I just had to. Your comics are the greatest!" Stan replies that, "Quite a few indignant Marvelites have commented upon that same reference to Spidey in a mag which we shall charitably not identity. We deeply appreciate the concern of all you True Believers – but don't worry about it, gang. Any knock is a boost... and our ill-advised competitors have been unintentionally boosting us all over the place!" However, in regards to Gerard's letter, Stan wonders why it "took a mention in another mag to get you to write to us? Why have you chosen to remain aloof so long? Why haven't you cared enough till now? What have we done wrong – where have we failed? Must we contact our competitors and beg them to mention us in order to hear from you again?" I, on the other hand, wonder, "In what comic did this Spidey-reference appear, anyway?"

Let's look at Gerard's letter again. He talks about a "Brand Echh comic" with "some orange-faced character" who belongs to a group ("of super-boobs"). The panel he refers to is shown in the gallery at the top of this review. From the character's quote, we know he's been around longer than Spidey. So where do we begin? At this time, "Brand Echh" specifically referred to DC Comics so we can forget about ACG, Harvey, Charlton, and so on. So which DC character has an orange face and belongs to a group? [deleted] Legion of Super-Heroes? Chameleon Boy is orange-faced and can turn into a spider. Plus he first appeared in Action Comics #267, August 1960, two years before Spidey first appeared. Now we're onto something! The LSH appeared monthly in Adventure Comics at the time. If Gerard read the latest issue around the same time he read ASM #43 then we're looking for an issue of Adventure cover-dated sometime in late 1966. So, let's pull out our set of 60s Adventure Comics (which we all have in our collections, I know) and thumb through some issues. Aha! There it is! Adventure Comics #350, November 1966 with "the tale that will stun the world! The Legionnaires kick our their buddies Superboy and Supergirl" in "The Outcast Super-Heroes!" But we don't care about any of that. Instead, turn to page 20 where Chameleon Boy has turned into a spider to defeat a monster just as Gerard says. On page 20, panel 4, he winks at the reader and says... well, exactly what Gerard says he says! So, there you have it. I know many of you would not have been able to sleep until you found the answer to this forty-year-old question. Always happy to help in any way I can!

Having read some of the Spider-Man issues from the mid-60's, it's Amazing (pun intended) how different the Silver Age Marvels were from the Silver Age DCs. And what made E. Nelson Bridwell (or Mort Weisinger) put that panel in there in the first place?

2 comments:

Rick said...

I wish someone would answer your question as to why why the editors inserted that remark. As I recall, it stopped the story dead.

And there I was, nine years old, trying to figure out what Chameleon Boy was talking about. (I never read Marvel comics, you see. They were all about fighting the same villains over and over agian, not exploring cool concepts like SuperHorse and the Burglar Kit from the Future.)

DanM said...

E. Nelson Bridwell wrote that particular Legion story. I read that issue when I was 10 and immediately knew who Cham was referring to. I also thought it was kind of cool. Stan had been taking jabs at DC in the lettercols and his "Bullpen Bulletins" gossip page. In fact in the March 1966 issues he flat out accuses Brand Ecchh of trying (and failing) to imitate the Marvel style. Bridwell doesn't beat around the bush and puts a rejoinder right in the story.