Inferior 5 #11 (August, 1972)
“The Coming of the Costumed Incompetents”
Writer – E. Nelson Bridwell
Art – Joe Orlando & Mike Esposito
Cover Price: $0.20
Was running quite behind today. I had forgotten that the wife and I had plans this evening across town. Once actually across town, I realized that I hadn’t given a whole lot of thought to today’s post. Decided to stop in at a used record store in Tempe, and as luck would have it some poor fool traded in a copy of the book we’re going to discuss today.
As the day turned to night, I actually got a bit antsy… afraid I’d miss my self-imposed “one-post per-day” mandate. Not sure why… it’s almost as though I have something of an inferiority complex, where I need to continually prove myself… to myself (?). Anyhoo… there’s my lame-o attempt at a segue… today’s discussion, welcome the Inferior 5.
We open with a brief introduction of our Inferior Friends… so we’ve got ourselves a roll call. This is promising to be a flashback story depicting the group’s origin story.
Our real open is some time ago (it’s never made clear) with stoolie Louis the Lip walking past a somewhat run-down property in Megalopolis. From the other side of the fence, he hears the plotting of a mad scientist. This scientist needs a ruby to finish his fantastic device of world domination. Louis, being a rat-fink does what he does best… runs off to tip off the local police.
At the station, Louis spills the beans to a big-bellied officer, who thinks long and hard about the situation before suggesting they enlist the aid of the vaunted (though retired) Freedom Brigade. After struggling a bit with some crossed radio wires, the call is made.
We shift to a young man named Myron’s bedroom in Cosmopolis. He is preparing to leave home for an exciting new job in Megalopolis when his parents call him to the living room. Here we learn that this boy is the son of two retired Freedom Brigade members, The Patriot and Lady Liberty (I would assume analogues of Uncle Sam and Liberty Belle). They tell him it’s time for him to join the family superheroing business. There’s a mad scientist in the big city who needs taken down.
The lad protests a bit, being the skinny wimp that he is. The Patriot ain’t hearing it… being a superhero is in his blood. Here we see the heroes that made up the original Freedom Brigade, including Captain Swift (Flash), The Bowman (Green Arrow), Princess Power (Wonder Woman), Mr. Might (Superman), and The Mermaid (Aquaman). Myron finally relents, and agrees to joining the next generation of the Freedom Brigade.
Upon arriving in Megalopolis, Myron checks in with a costume designer to gear-up for his new career in defying death. He chooses the costume of a jester, feeling as though if he’s going to be acting like a fool, he may as well look the part.
After gearing-up, Myron (now Merryman) walks across town to the Freedom Brigade meeting site. It’s crazy seeing this kid walking through the street dressed like a goofy court jester. So damn fun. When he arrives, we meet the remaining members of his new superhero team… The Blimp, who is Captain Swift’s son… Awkwardman, son of Mr. Might and the Mermaid (guess that’s more Aquawoman)… White Feather, son of the Bowman… and Dumb Bunny, daughter of Princess Power.
Once acquainted, the crew displays their “powers”. Awkwardman proves to live up to his name, stumbling all about… and putting his foot through the floorboard. The Blimp, despite being the son of a scarlet speedster just… kinda floats… like a blimp… realllll slow-like. Dumb Bunny is strong… but dumb… and White Feather is a coward who gives new meaning to an archer’s quiver.
The crew tries to decide what to call themselves, and suggest names such as the Jester’s League of America, the Fantastic Farce, and the Doomed Patrol. Merryman throws his arms in the air and suggests Inferior Five… so it is written, so it shall yadda yadda yadda.
We now finally meet the mad scientist, Dr. Gregor Gruesome. He laments the fact that most mad scientists are wealthy… while he lives in a run down shack with but one transient man servant. A man servant who is currently out on a mission to procure a ruby.
We shift scenes to the city streets, and meet chain-smoking man-servant Hermes. He’s resorted to some devious means to come up with funds to buy a ruby… he panhandles. After 59 turn-downs (in a row), he spies a ruby ring in a nearby gumball machine. He pops his penny in, and sadly only gets a gumball for his troubles. He finally realizes that he’s a bad guy, and smashes the gumball machine, and just takes the damn ring.
Now… if the gumball machine outside of your place of business was trashed, who would you call? The JLA? The Outsiders? The Ravag– hahaha, I can’t even say that with a straight face. The answer is… you’d call the Inferior Five. They appraise the devastation left in Hermes’ wake… and learn that the ruby is the thing.
Back at casa Gruesome… the Mad Doc is lambasting poor Hermes for… being a horse’s ass, and bringing him a toy from a gumball machine when what he really needs is an authentic ruby. Well, never mind all that… where there’s a will there’s a way. The Doc’s gonna… build himself a robot to steal the famed Shinboni Ruby. This robot is an amazing piece of comic book foolery. Couple’a bathtubs, maybe a vacuum or two, and a radio for a head. I love it!
It’s only a matter of time before our heroes encounter the evil robot… and what a confrontation it is! Dumb Bunny gives the robot directions to the local jewelry store… then complains that it was a rude robot. Ya can’t make this up… this is awesome.
Merryman gives the reader a look of “please kill me”, before siccing his team on the renegade robot. Awkwardman manages to trip over his own feet (which, for whatever reason are wearing flippers), and rolls right into the robot… knocking it’s body off the Radio Flyer wagon it was riding in.
With the distraction, Dumb Bunny and Merryman team up to… tie the robots fingers into a “lovely bow”… the ‘bot ain’t all that pleased, and begins threatening the team. Blimp floats into action… and neutralizes the threat by changing the station on the robot’s radio head (from K-EVIL to K-ROCK apparently). It’s all left to White Feather… he fires what he believes to be a TNT arrow into the villain. The arrow was actually of the shock variety, which not only takes the robot down… it results in some of the finest rock ‘n roll music to that point.
Back in the lab, Gruesome and Hermes are watching this all go down via their video screen/secret camera set-up… that is, until Awkwardman accidentally crushes the camera in his hand. Gruesome now knows it’s time to unleash his most diabolical device yet… the Crime Car!
Before ya know it, the Crime Car is barreling directly for our Inferior friends. The teammates all fumble about trying to engage in battle, resulting in both Dumb Bunny and Awkwardman being taken out by a concussion shell, and White Feather accidentally firing an arrow in Merryman’s direction due to his crippling quivering.
Luckily, our buddy the Blimp is still lumbering about. He manages to pluck the arrow out of the air, and redirects it into the Crime Car. All Gruesome can do is hit the ol’ eject button… which luckily lauches him all the way back to his lab… where he learns that man-servant Hermes snatched the ruby himself while the Doc and the Five tussled.
The Inferiors give chase to the ejected doctor, and manage to track him to his lab. In a great bit, Merryman is demonstrating his karate skills to Hermes, who responds with a simple bonk on the head.
Shortly, the Doc is back on the scene… with his ruby powered laser death ray! Luckily, Dumb Bunny decides this is the perfect time to check her makeup… Doc Gruesome fires a blast in her direction… which reflects off of her compact’s mirror… and fries the doc where he stands.
Gruesome gives up, and the Inferior Five are all given medals… which causes White Feather to faint… er, out of modesty of course!
Just what in the blue hell did I just read? This was a ton of fun… haven’t had this much fun with a “new to me” book in quite some time. The whole while I was reading this, I had a stupid grin on my face… which must have really clashed with my also furrowed eyebrows. This is just one of those books that defy explanation.
The characters, the story… even the setting, all nutty as hell. I know it’s supposed to be something of a superhero parody, but this is great in and of itself. I’m glad that this is the issue of this series I happened across, as it’s the team origin. Very well done by Bridwell, and Joe Orlando’s art is just as great as ever.
It’s interesting to learn that the Inferior ones are actually a second generation team… all children to some very familiar, yet different superheroes. This is really some goofy stuff that has to be experienced to appreciate it fully.
I wish there was a bit more to say, but there really isn’t. This was fun, and I’d certainly recommend checking out the Inferior Five if the opportunity should present itself.