Showcase #62 featuring the Inferior Five
|First appearance||Showcase #62 June (1966)|
|Created by||Nelson Bridwell
The Inferior Five (or I5) are a parody superhero team that premiered in the DC Comics title Showcase #62 (1966). Created by E. Nelson Bridwell (writer) and Joe Orlando and Mike Esposito (artists), the group was intended as a parody not only of the Fantastic Four, but of all the superhero teams whose members had such great powers that they could have solved any of the crimes put before them singlehandedly. The Five had to work as a team; none of them could have fought crime on their own.
The premise is that the characters were sons or daughters of members of a superhero team called the Freedom Brigade, a parody of the Justice League of America, and most of the Inferior Five were takeoffs of other popular DC characters, though Merryman's appearance was specifically modeled on Woody Allen.
After appearing in Showcase #62, 63, and 65 (1966), they got their own title which lasted twelve issues. The first ten had new material and were published from 1967-68. In two memorable adventures (published in #7 and #10 respectively), they met a parody of Marvel' superheroes such Iron Man and Spider-Man (here called "Cobweb Kid") (#7), and then (#10) fought alongside the "Kookie Four" (the humorous version of the Fantastic Four) and Sub-Moron (an obvious look-alike to Namor) to repel an invasion of aliens with hypnotic eyes and garlic breath.
Issues #11 and 12 were published in 1972, and titled Inferior 5 (using the number 5 rather than spelling out the word) and were all reprints, except for new covers. Nothing changed with the alteration of the title. Afterwards they appeared sporadically after their own series was canceled, most notably in Showcase #100, one or two panels in Crisis on Infinite Earths, The Oz-Wonderland War #3 (March 1986), in a superhero Limbo in the Grant Morrison written Animal Man series. They appear in one panel in JLA: Another Nail as Flash and the Atom take a trip through many dimensions.
Although the Inferior Five's original stories made frequent references to other prominent DC heroes, The Oz-Wonderland War #3 revealed their adventures to have actually occurred on "Earth-Twelve," which thus had its own doppelgangers of the JLA, the Teen Titans, etc., meaning that any such references were out of continuity in relation to the heroes of DC's primary Earth-One.
Following the Crisis on Infinite Earths (where the Five were seen simply standing around in a few crowd scenes, with no point of reference to where they had come from originally), the Inferior Five's sole "continuity" appearance as a team was in the first Angel and the Ape miniseries, where it was revealed that Angel and Dumb Bunny are half-sisters. Members of the Justice League of America had cameos in the series, indicating that the Inferior Five now existed on the post-Crisis Earth.
Further appearances include:
- Dumb Bunny and Merryman appeared in a crowd scene in Superboy.
- Dumb Bunny later made a solo cameo appearance at a super-hero convention in Bulleteer, part of the Seven Soldiers of Victory series.
- The Blimp was a pallbearer at Michael Jon Carter's funeral (52 Week 18).
- Merryman appears as the "King of Limbo" in Final Crisis: Superman Beyond.
- Dumb Bunny figures prominently into the plot of the third issue of Ambush Bug: Year None (although where this fits into current continuity, if at all, is anyone's guess).
- The Inferior Five team up with the Legion of Substitute Heroes in The Brave and The Bold #35. Again, continuity is difficult to work out, although it is stated that the Substitutes took them from 1972 and accidentally returned them to 2010.
Steve Gerber proposed a Vertigo version of the Inferior Five as a send-up of the "dark 'n' gritty" comics of the period, but this was rejected. Gerber later claimed that DC refused to publish anything with the title on the grounds that it would make them look "inferior" for publishing it.
- Merryman Originally known as "98 Pound Weakling" (Myron Victor, occupation: comic strip artist), the son of The Patriot and Lady Liberty (parodying Uncle Sam and Quality Comics' Miss America). He is a descendant of Yellowjacket and the Crimson Chrysanthemum (obvious takeoffs on the Green Hornet and the Scarlet Pimpernel). The team's leader, he wears a jester outfit, having decided in the team's first appearance that if he was going to make a fool of himself, he might as well look the part. He is highly intelligent, making him the only team member who is thoroughly aware of the team's disadvantages. Although trained in martial arts, he is physically a weakling with little practical ability to use such skills. He returned in Final Crisis as leader of the residents of Limbo, leading them in assisting the Supermen of the multiverse to fend off an attack from Mandrakk the dark Monitor, Superman reflecting that anyone could be a hero.
- Awkwardman (Leander Brent, occupation: beachcomber), son of Mr. Might (parodying Superman) and the Mermaid (parodying Aquaman). He is super-strong and able to live underwater, having inherited powers from both parents, but is also very clumsy. In keeping with his half-undersea heritage, he requires periodic contact with water, which can consist of simply pouring it over himself with a gardening can. His codename is a pun on Aquaman; his surname "Brent" rhymes with Superman's surname of "Kent."
- The Blimp (Herman Cramer, occupation: diner owner), the obese son of Captain Swift (parodying the Flash) who could fly like his father but, as he lacked his father's speed powers, could only fly at super slow speeds — with a tail wind.
- White Feather (William King, occupation: photographer), son of The Bowman (parodying Green Arrow) and an unidentified woman. He was a superb archer when he didn't think anyone was watching; people made him nervous (as did just about everything else). His surname "King" parallels Green Arrow's surname "Queen", and his codename is a reference to the traditional symbol of cowardice.
- Dumb Bunny (Athena Tremor, occupation: model), the stupid but super-strong daughter of Princess Power (parodying Wonder Woman) and Steve Tremor (parodying Steve Trevor). In later continuity revealed in (Angel and the Ape Vol. II # 1), she is still the daughter of Princess Power; however, it is revealed that her father is actually Professor Theo O'Day. Shortly after Athena's birth, Professor O'Day left Princess Power and fell in love with a non-powered woman. Together, they had a daughter, Angel Beatrix O'Day (who is Athena's half-sister). After Angel's mother died, Professor O'Day reconciled with Princess Power and raised Athena and Angel together. As Dumb Bunny, Athena is described as "Strong as an ox and almost as intelligent." Ironically, she is named after the Greek goddess of wisdom, Athena. Although her surname "Tremor" is still given in current continuity, she is the daughter of Professor O'Day instead of Steve Tremor.
In the mini-series Villains United, the Inferior Five were paid homage as a group of supervillains who are tentatively known as the Superior Five. Each member has the abilities of an I5 member but, aside from being evil, are serious and modernly styled characters. They consist of:
- Tremor (Awkwardman)
- Hindenburg (The Blimp)
- Splitshot (White Feather)
- Lagomorph (Dumb Bunny)
- Jongleur (Merryman)
Little has been seen of these characters except for one panel in Villains United #4 and a few shots of them in the background in the same issue. They are among the imprisoned supervillains in Salvation Run. Jongleur is one of the villains sent to retrieve the Get Out of Hell Free card from the Secret Six.
In other media
- The words Inferior Five, Metal Men, The Trenchcoat Brigade, Monster Society of Evil, and Tornado Twins appear in the background in the Batman: The Brave and the Bold episode "Mayhem of the Music Meister." The Music Meister has Batman and Black Canary in a death trap in a music club. The names—and several others—appear in a fashion similar to music band banners.
- The Inferior Five appears in issue 17 of the Batman: The Brave and the Bold comics.
The series and characters have been recognized in the field, being awarded a 1966 Alley Award for Best Humor Title: Costumed.
- McAvennie, Michael; Dolan, Hannah, ed. (2010). "1960s". DC Comics Year By Year A Visual Chronicle. Dorling Kindersley. p. 117. ISBN 978-0-7566-6742-9. "Writer E. Nelson Bridwell and artist Joe Orlando knew what was in a name when they unleased the Inferior Five in Megalopolis."
- Nevada #1 text page
- January 23, 2005 post to the Howard the Duck Club (members only)
- "Final Crisis Superman Beyond 3D" #1-2 (October 2008)