Wednesday, May 21, 2014


Did he mention he shot a moose?

In the grand pantheon of DC Comics’ assorted teen-oriented humor mags and general laff rags, the Maniaks never seem to get much of a mention.  Invented by E.Nelson Bridwell and Mike Sekowsky, the mod rock-and-roll quartet debuted in Showcase, subsisted through three appearances in four subsequent issues (more-successful DC teen Binky shoehorned himself in between the second and third appearances), and even indulged a celebrity guest star in their last issue.

Yet, given DC’s copious supply of humor mags which populated their publishing schedule in the 1960s, the Maniaks tend to be overlooked in favor of the star-powered and Oksner-fueled hits like The Adventures of Bob Hope and The Adventures of Jerry Lewis, the Bilko books (my personal favorites), the stalwart comedy titles like Sugar & Spike or Fox & Crow, and the teen comedies like the aforementioned Binky or Date with Debbi.

The Maniaks ultimately are played in their first issue as a sort of crimefighting Monkees, taking the stage at Palisades Park (which was advertised, you might recall, in DC Comics with DC characters offering discount coupons) with a parody of “Last Train to Clarksville” - A parody of a mock band taking place at a sponsor’s site, headily meta stuff. Their adventures lose the crime-fighting edge promptly thereafter (which is a shame – the first issue introduces the best criminal mob I have ever seen in comics), with the quartet romping around celebrity, fame and fortune in equal aborted measures of daffy failure.

Enh, heard it.
The Maniaks are:

Jangle – real name, Gilbert Jeffries (I don’t know why we need to know that) who looks like Donovan and dresses like the late-season groovy cigarette-smoking version of Greg Brady and is a master of impressions, ventriloquism, and all sort of vocal trickery. He is not the singer, why would he be? No, the singer is…

Silver Shannon, the “Mod Miser” (they call her), a penny-pinching gold-digger whose lust for wealth is pretty much her only characteristic (not that any of the Maniaks get much in the way of character-building). The team’s leader, she also holds onto all the money and spurs the group’s second adventure solely by cynically finagling a wedding proposal out of the world’s wealthiest man, so I guess her thing is she’s fucking horrible.

Phillip Folger, aka Flip, is the band’s bassist and a boy acrobat, as comfortable climbing the outside of a building and doing backflips from a rooftop as he is not otherwise having much in the way of a personality, and lastly …

Pack Rat”, Byron Williams, and now looking at everyone’s names in a list I begin to realize how much they sound like the kind of characters who might be low-powered adolescent mutants in a third-tier X-Men book circa 1988. Anyway, Pack Rat is a habitual collector of trash, junk, errata and garbage ALL OF WHICH he is able to engineer into assorted gimmicks, devices, tools and utilities, and therefore he’s the only member of the team who’d be worth hauling out of the ocean if there were ever a Maniaks-related disaster at sea.

The third appearance of the Maniaks in the pages of Showcase presented them in the company of now-controversial celebrity comic and filmmaker Woody Allen, a more retroactively-scandalous guest shot there had never been in comics except for that time Roman Polanski had a cameo in Stanley and His Monster.

Woody’s guest shot is pretty much limited to the role of gimmick, acting as the producer of a Civil War-inspired Broadway musical-comedy starring the Maniaks and narrowly-satirical willow-hipped British sex symbol Twigg(l)y.
Every word of this is gold.

Excepting a few soundbites from Allen’s standup routines – the bit about his pet ant, as a matter of fact, and unfortunately not a Sekowsky-illustrated tour de force following “I shot … a moose!” – Woody’s role is primarily as set dressing, a few quips on occasional panels and then backing off so that the “stars” of the book can indulge in a shit-ton of song parodies conceivably scripted by Bridwell and set to the tune of popular ballads of the day. Personally, I’ve never much enjoyed the “* sung to the tune of…” gag in a comic book, even when Mad Magazine did the ol’ business, it used to be a real drag to sit there and mentally transcribe the word balloons along with the music. And never mind the lighting!

Still, it’s the closest The Maniaks managed to get to the celebrity and fame they were seeking, although for all I know there’s a chance that, right now in the DC Universe, they’re being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Maybe by Scare Tactics, if I may run the risk of getting too 90s for a second.

In the meantime, since I’m not gonna do it, here’s a blank space for you to write your own Soon-Yi and Dylan Farrow jokes:



They were never heard from again.

1 comment:

Wooly Rupert said...

Where's the Behind the Music on these guys?

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