I wish I could explain how my brain works because frankly it’s inner workings are a mystery to even me. Perhaps it’s just a symptom of my ADHD driven obsessive-compulsive nature but I tend to get “over fascinated” (which is probably the most polite thing you could call it) with certain things. For example, Henry Brewster, a short-lived teen comic from 1966 drawn (and presumably written) by Golden Age artist Bob Powell, a.k.a. Stanley Robert Pawlowski. Powell is know for his work on Sheena, Queen of the Jungle, Mr. Mystic and the Mars Attack cards and while those credits clearly show he was an incredibly versatile artist seeing him do teen comics is still a little strange, not to mention a bit unsettling. These comics are are drawn in a distinctive loose, scratchy style, which would make these comics oddball enough but Henry (no relation to Punky) Brewster is plenty peculiar in a lot of other ways.
First off there’s the format; a 25 cent, bimonthly comic of entirely original material (which they should have made much more of; for once a cover banner reading No Reprints wouldn’t have been out of place) just seems kind of ambitious for a neophyte publisher like Myron Frass’s M.F. Enterprises Especially seeing as how it’s only other title was much maligned (for good reason) even shorter-lived version of Captain Marvel – the android version who could dissect himself by yelling “Split!” .
Then there’s the fact Henry Brewster wasn’t yet another pressing from the well worn Archie Comics template. The cast consisted of standard All-American boy Henry, the super strong and literally soft spoken (his dialogue was always lettered at roughly half the size of everyone else’s) Animal, professional weirdo Weenie and “the girls”, who were sadly mostly easily defined by their hair color, prematurely silver haired rich girl Melody and dark haired girl next door Debbie, Though Melody did develop some depth over the course of the series; in #1 she coldly rejects the hapless, love struck Weenie so often”Go away!” threatens to become her catch phrase, but by #6 she actually appears to be going out with him (or at least willing to be seen holding his, ew, hand). Which is odd seeing as how along with being a hardcore goofball who sometimes seems like he’s stolen an middle schoolers clothes as drawn Weenie is grotesque he could easily be a background character in a Gilbert Herandez Love & Rockets story.
While the adults in Archie Comics were frequently spectacularly exasperated to the point of hair pulling by the Riverdale Gangs innocent antics grown ups in Henry Brewster instinctively get that Henry and company were basically good kids who just wanted to be helpful. But after more or less ignoring anything specifically 1960′s (except for a story in #1 where the gang gets into a Beatles analog band called “The Baldies” which leads them, including some of the girls, to shave their heads, placing them several decades ahead of their time) this issue gets hip deep into super secret agents and supervillains.
Admittedly this was what got me over fascinated in Henry Brewster – that and it’s cover. I mean, seriously, what the hell is that thing standing behind Henry supposed to be? Some kind of African cat god? An extraterrestrial bent on world domination? I had absolutely no clue and ached to know, though I knew in my heart that chances were I’d never get to read it. But then I didn’t reckon with the internet; almost all things are possible with the internet.
Before they get to the super spies and villains the gang has a positively Scooby Dooesque encounter in a haunted house. But here the mysterious figure isn’t trying to scare them off because he’s searching for hidden treasure or running a counterfeiting ring out of it’s basement but just some poor schlub testing amusement for a spook house. Though instead of wearing a creepy rubber mask for some reason he decides to dress like a minor league pre-1965 Marvel villain.
And here the gang gets involved in 60′s style super spy stuff…
And finally they face an actual supervillain, well, kind of a supervillain, a broad parody of a TV Batman villain anyway. One Tome B. Bukwurm.
He’s…well, I don’t properly know exactly what he’s supposed to be. Is he a mole man (one crossed with Professor Kelp from The Nutty Professor) or just a guy dressed up like a mole man? Albeit a mole man dressed in a Transylvanian space outfit for a showing of The Rocky Horror Show. And that goes double for his henches, who look like mole man members of The Rat Pack? Are they a crime gang or do they represent an incursion by a race of subterranean creatures bent on world domination? After all that anticipation I was frankly disappointed by Bukwurm’s unnecessarily exaggerated goofiness, making me wish even harder that the creature on the cover actually appeared in the comic. Which is only when it finally occurred to me…
is the creature on the cover! As the saying goes, if it had been a snake it would have bit me. But this raises even more questions. Is it suppose to be one of those ‘symbolic’ covers or did Powell forget what the character was originally supposed to look like, or did he change his mind about his appearance after the cover was drawn?
And finally, here’s a couple more stories without any fantastic elements that manage to be quite a bit of fun.