Showcase #71 (November-December, 1969)
“What Swings, Fiddle Strings?”
Writer – E. Nelson Bridwell
Pencils – Mike Sekowsky
Inks – Mike Esposito
Edits – Jack Miller
Cover Price: $0.12
See, toldja I’d get to the Woody issue before long! Even though, from the looks of it, not many people on these internets care all that much about the Maniaks, I’m gonna cover it here anyway!
This was actually the Maniaks story I wanted to cover all along… not so much for the story, but so I could share a (rather dumb and wildly self-indulgent) Woody Allen anecdote.
Ya see, back in the long ago… back before my spirit was crushed and I still had hopes that I could make something of myself… I fancied myself something of a writer. I wrote all the damn time… it was like I couldn’t get the words onto paper (or a screen) fast enough.
Now, anyone who has read this site for any amount of time, likely knows, a) any talent I had for writing was fleeting, and b) I’m not much of a “movie guy”. I’m not just talkin’ comics movies… but, movies in general. I have trouble sitting still long enough to watch movies… always have!
There are a few instances, however, where a movie will cause me to stop in my tracks! It doesn’t happen often… but, it does happen. One of those movies was… Annie Hall. I still consider AH to be among my favorites… and, seeing it actually inspired me to try writing a screenplay for the first time. But, what would it be about?
Ya see, I first saw Annie Hall right out of high school… and, a few months later, I started dating this girl. She was the first girl I saw after moving across country, and the first time I went over to her place, I noticed that she had a “Glamor Shot” on her wall. Y’all remember “Glamor Shots”?
Anyhoo, she went into her room to change clothes so we could head out, which left me all to my lonesome in the living room. I wandered over to the Glamor Shot to get a better look, and upon doing so… suddenly… Woody Allen’s voice was in my head. It said, “There must have been enough Vasoline on that lens to have been taken rectally.”
I cracked myself up for a minute (not that it’s all that humorous)… and from that single line, spun an idea for that screenplay. Fast-forward like… a week later, and I had over 200 pages of script written, for a feature I tentatively called “Fish Heads”. Naturally, nothing ever came of it… and, I’m sure it’s still sitting on a thumb-drive somewhere in my house.
So yeah, “Fish Heads” has been intrinsically linked to Woody Allen in my head ever since, and I can never think of one without the other.
I apologize for makin’ ya read the previous several paragraphs… but, if’n ya did… I appreciate it! Now, let’s rejoin the Maniaks!
As the Maniaks wrap up another rock show, a stage hand rushes in to inform them that they have a very special guest… Woody Allen! He’s here with a business proposition, ya see? He’s got a stage show he’s looking to put together, and he has need for some songs… and stars. It’s going to be a Civil War era story, and pretty much evvvvvverybody involved is going to have a punny name. For example, Flip is going to play “Rhett Buttons” (a play on Rhett Butler from Gone With the Wind), Jangle’s going to play General Molasses S. Granite (not Ulysses S. Grant), and so on. Often, puns and wordplay don’t feel “cheap”… this sadly isn’t one of those times.
We then meet the rest of the players involved in the production, Jeannette Punchinello (Annette Funicello), Rock Hutsut (Rock Hudson… though there’s not much of a resemblance), Marjorie Maim (Marjorie Main… that’s hardly a pun!), and Grubby Haynes (George “Gabby” Hayes). Finally, we’re introduced to the leading lady of this play… the “Mod Fashion Model”, Twiggly (another very lazy bit of name-play there). Naturally, Woody is going to play the leading man.
The Maniaks all start making fun of Twiggly’s pipe-cleaner limbs, and her thick accent. She’s supposed to be a Southern Belle… but is very, very British. First order of business is to bust the Brit out of her voicebox… and, it mostly works… unfortunately, her “accent coach” winds up speaking with an English accent after the session.
Woody’s mind turns to costume design… but, never fear they’ve got Carnaby Rudge to put the threads together. I’m guessing this is another very simple/lazy reference… but, I cannot figure out who they’re referring to here. Anyhoo, lickety-split, the costumes are created… and everyone looks right-proppa’ Southern.
We jump ahead to Boston, Massachusetts where the play is scheduled to open for some try-outs. Woody is greeted by a fella named Floyd, from the Tigers Motorcycle Club. This leads into a very… strange little story, that has absolutely nothing to do with anything. Flip asks how Woody knows Floyd, and we learn that Floyd was his childhood bully… who, one time killed his pet
The next day, the reviews are in on the try-out… annnnd, they stink! Woody assures the gang there’s nothing to worry about, ya see… he’s done called in a Play Doctor. Enter: Dr. Milo Hackencouph (based on Groucho Marx’s Dr. Hackenbush). Woody soon realizes he called the wrong kind of “Play Doctor”. We’re only seven pages in at this point, folks.
Part I of our story wraps up on opening night for this Woody Allen Broadway production… Confederate Yankees! The panel comes complete with our actual ticket… so, let’s punch that sucker and hop into the show!
Um, so yeah… the entire rest of this comic is… the play. And, it’s… a musical. There’s some fun bits here, but… lemme tell ya, the joke gets played out long before the story ends. The jist of the thing is, a Rhett Buttons is a Confederate Spy, who is in love with Annette Funicello…
… Twiggly is also a Confederate Spy, but is posing as a Schoolma’rm. They’re supposed to gather intel from a Union Fort. Thus ends, Act I.
Between Acts, Woody is nervously chatting up some of the cast members… he probably realizes this comic (and blog post) are rapidly running off the rails.
Act II fires up, and Twiggly reveals that she’s in love with Captain Jack Strongheart (Woody’s character, naturally). This is overheard by Silver Shannon’s Salome Rand… who, of course, is also in love with Woody’s character. Here’s the rub though, it’s here that Silver/Salome finds out that Twiggly’s nothin’ more than a rotten Confederate spy! And so, she turns her (and Rhett) in to the authorities!
We jump ahead to the prison, where Rhett and Twiggly are being held. Woody visits, clicks his heels, and says that this story will either end with a wedding or an execution. Annette Funicello arrives to check in with Flip, and says she’s relieved that he’s just a treasonous Confederate, rather than a dirty cheater.
We jump ahead to the trial… and, holy smokes… there are like skatey-eight eleventy-hundred words on these pages. It’s all set to music… and, wow, is it a slog and a half. Rhett and Twiggly are both found guilty… but, here’s the thing. A Courier blows through town with some news… ya see, the Civil War’s over. Actually… it’s not just over, it’s been over for a year at this point… and word just never made it to this town! So, no harm, no foul! Rhett and Twiggly couldn’t have been spying for a government that no longer existed!
And so, everything ends… happily ever after.
We wrap up our visit with the Maniaks while they, and Woody wait for the reviews to start pouring in. Actually, the Maniaks are more worried about the reviews for their run in Showcase to start rollin’ in… ya see, they don’t know when (or if) they’ll ever grace the pages of a comic book again! Welp, I come from the future… and I’ve got some baaaaaaad news, gang.
If you’re trying to get your Showcase feature picked up and given it’s own ongoing series… do ya wrap up your “pitch” with a wildly experimental story that features your characters (who we still don’t know all that well) playing different roles? Do you fill two-thirds of the (silent) issue with musical numbers?
Well if you’re me… no, you don’t do any of that. I mean, what do I know, I’m just an idiot with a blog… but, this just doesn’t seem like the smartest “pitch”. What sort of expectation are you setting with a story like that? Would an ongoing Maniaks series be rife with pop-culture puns and be predicated on putting the cast into odd roles, rather than actually fleshing them out? Really, all we know about these kids is… the “inch-deep, mile-wide” that we get in the introductory captions. Why would we ever have a pressing desire to see ’em again?
Honestly, the “gag” of this story was played out about two pages in… unfortunately, the horse would continue to be flogged for an additional twenty. It’s too bad. I really enjoyed the previous Maniaks story… but this… uh-uh. The joke overstayed its welcome, and the “musical” portions were a real pain to get through. I feel like I had to read each balloon at least twice to keep up with the story. I may be denser than most, but it’s not often I’m this out of the loop.
All that having been said, however… I mean, you don’t buy the Maniaks/Woody Allen team-up for the story… this is 100% pure novelty value. If you happen across it for a few bucks, I’d definitely recommend nabbing it, just so you can add a little weird flavor to your personal library. This issue, unsurprisingly, doesn’t look like it’s been made available digitally at this time.
(Not the) Letters Page: