THE INFERIOR FIVEMedium: Comic books
Published by: DC Comics
First Appeared: 1966
Creators: E. Nelson Bridwell (writer), Joe Orlando and Mike Esposito (artists)
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superhero parodies — their Red Tornado was on the stands as early as 1940, just a couple of years after Superman himself.
DC also led the way in the 1960s superhero revival. This time, tho, they weren't quite so fast on the draw with parodies. — by the time The Inferior Five came along, in the 62nd issue of Showcase (May-June, 1966), Wonder Warthog, The Fat Fury, Pureheart the Powerful and a others were well established, and the closest thing DC had to a superhero parody was "Tales of the Bizarro World". But this group was among the better received, commercially at least. They made a couple more appearances in Showcase (which DC used for trying out new concepts — Challengers of the Unknown, Rip Hunter, The Creeper, Bat Lash and many other characters started out there), and moved out into their own comic a few months later. The first of their own title's 12 issues was dated March-April, 1967.
The Inferior Five became superheroes because their parents had been superheroes, and like many young people entering the family business, they found caving in to pressure the line of least resistance. According to their back-story, The Freedom Brigade had flourished in the 1940s, but its members had long ago settled down to raise families. It didn't much matter whether or not the kids were suited to the task — they'd been destined from birth to be superheroes.
Merryman (who wore a jester outfit because superheroing made him feel like a fool) was the son of The Patriot (who dressed like Uncle Sam) and Liberty Lady (who dressed like the Statue of Liberty). The Blimp was the son of Captain Swift, who could fly and had super speed — but he didn't inherit the speed part, so he couldn't fly as fast as his teammates could walk. Awkwardman got super strength from his dad, Mr. Might, and the ability to live underwater from his mom, The Mermaid — but his super-clumsiness was all his own. The White Feather was as great an archer as his father, The Bowman (a Green Arrow/Hawkeye type), but wasn't much good in a fight because of his strong tendency to run away from it. Dumb Bunny was the daughter of Princess Power. She was as strong as an ox — and every bit as smart, too. The group's name was chosen from a field that included "Fantastic Farce" and "Doomed Patrol".
The writer behind The Inferior Five was E. Nelson Bridwell, who wrote for both DC and Mad magazine. The Showcase issues were pencilled by Joe Orlando, whose diverse career included drawing for EC Comics and editing House of Mystery for DC, and inked by Mike Esposito, whose credits include Wonder Woman, Spider-Man and practically every other "name" character in comic books. In their own book, they were drawn by Mike Sekowsky (Captain Flash, T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents and much, much more).
In their heyday, The Inferior Five lampooned Thor, The X-Men, The Sub-Mariner and a slew of other contemporary super guys. They actually met Plastic Man, since he belonged to DC and tended to have adventures similar to theirs. But like many parodies, they weren't equipped for the long haul. After the 10th issue (September-October, 1968), they drifted off into comic book limbo. #s 11 and 12 were reprints, and came out in 1972.
They were spotted a few years later, in "civilian" clothes, in DC's Super Friends comic book (based on a TV version of The Justice League of America). Their next appearance in costume was in a 1991 mini-series by cartoonist Phil Foglio, starring Angel & the Ape, in which Angel turned out to be Dumb Bunny's half-sister. (Also, it seems Ape is the grandson of The Flash's old enemy, Gorilla Grodd — small universe, eh?) Merryman made a cameo appearance with Animal Man during the 1990s. Since then, however — nothing.
Still, mentioning The Inferior Five can bring a smile to a 1960s comic book reader's face. They're certainly better remembered than Captain Sprocket (Archie Comics), Fruitman (Harvey Comics) and other not-very-serious costumed characters of that decade.