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Nostalgia November Day 09 — What The–?! #16

Each day in November, I will read and review/discuss/whatever one comic taken from a box of some of my childhood comics. Today, it’s What The–?! #16.

The Nostalgia November archive can be found here.

whatthe16What The–?! #16 is the Christmas/Halloween issue of this parody/satire/humour comic that I’ve never found to be all that funny. But, hey, I’m older, wiser, my sense of humour has changed over the years and…

Yeah, still not funny.

That doesn’t mean that there aren’t parts of this comic that aren’t enjoyable, though. There are four stories here, each of them with at least one moment that’s entertaining.

The first is a Christmas story meant to mimic “Twas the Night Before Christmas” and involves Doctor Octopus taking over Santa’s workshop and Ant-Man (Scott Lang) having to stop him. The story has some nice gags and wordplay, but really doesn’t rise above the level of mediocre. I do like when Ant-Man tries to summon ants to help him and we get a panel of the arctic tundra as he remembers that, yeah, no ants at the North Pole. Or, when he shrinks Doctor Octopus as if that will make it easier to beat him only to realise that it doesn’t help. It’s an entertaining story that’s more about the craft than the content.

The second stars… Cookies? A giant muscle-bound hero who’s made out of cookie. It centres around Hanukkah and someone stealing it. The culprit turns out to be a little boy named Myron whose parents only ever give him socks for Hanukkah and it’s driven him crazy. The strip ends with his parents giving him a toy, which makes him realise that none of it matters… and we see that the ‘toy’ is actually the Sockmaster 2000. Oh, and Cookies’s sidekick? A woman named Milk. Oh ho ho.

The third strip has Uatu babysitting another Watcher’s kid, Lavnic in a Calvin and Hobbes homage/tribute/rip-off. If you ever wanted to see a strip featuring a bald Calvin and a bald Calvin’s dad… It’s not too bad as we get a Spaceman Spiff, a panel where Calvin Lavnic is a giant god-like creature looking down on a metropolitan area, and he even rides a sabretooth tiger. Until Uatu has enough and gets the Inhumans to babysit instead.

The fourth strip is a part Halloween, part Christmas strip as Forbush Man goes to a haunted house for candy, but, to get it, he must spend the night there. During the night, he’s visited by three spirits: the Ghost of Deadlines Past (aka Tom DeFalco), the Specter of Cancellation, and the Spirit of the Comics Code Authority. Ultimately, he’s put on trial for having sexy women and such in his comic when the CCA looks down on such things. Inoffensive but not quite funny humour. I do like the bit where Forbush Man chooses Alan Moore and Art Adams as his comic’s creative team and he’s told that that’s a mistake because they won’t keep to the schedule. Gotta love those pre-Image days when Art Adams was the ‘artist who’s always late’ go-to guy.

There are also two one-page strips, one showing us what certain heroes got for Christmas (Medusa got a shower cap) and one that has one-panel gags with monsters… like the Alien from Aliens getting braces… on both sets of teeth!

Not bad, but not funny… so, yeah, actually, kinda bad.


Yeah, I think it’s a pretty rare thing for a company to produce effective satire of itself. The best example which comes to my mind, at the moment, is Mini Marvels…

…which, of course, Marvel pulled the plug on (admittedly, after a good run).

The existence of books like “What The…?!” and “What If…?” is amazing when you think about how robust the comic book industry was at the time to keep them afloat.

I wish I had some old issues of What If…? in this box since I loved that series. Ah, maybe next year, I guess.

I always thought What The–?! relied on too many “jokes” and and not enough visual humor. The pages were too cramped for good sight gags.

Jeremy A. Patteron

November 9, 2009 at 12:02 pm

I owned that issue! I bought it from Comics Are Us in Festus, Missouri, when it first came out!


I never read any of What The–? but I always wanted to. Maybe I don’t, anymore.

You’re really pulling some obscure stuff in. What’s next? The Fish Police comic? I’m excited.

No “What If…?” Bummer. The second series coughed up a lot of mediocrity, but it ran and ran; nearly 10 years iirc? There were quite a few noteworthy diamonds in the rough, certainly.

Three times I read that as “Comics Are Us in Fetuses” Jeremy.

Messed with my mind. Also, funnier than anything descirbed in What The?! I think the problem is that Tom DeFalco is one of those writers who really thinks he is funny and just isn’t. Not that he wrote the comic but it feels like his voice. That being said, I always liked the Bullpen Bits.

I think the problem is that middle-aged men aren’t usually very funny. Too punny and soft.

i remember the issue and how i found it nuts that any one in the mu. would actully let uatu baby sit their kid. not to mention dare to parody calivn and hobbes. also with the story of cookie had to wonder if the execs at marvel were spiking their eggnog when they okayed the character

What ifs and What The’s are fun, although I’ve only seen a couple of What The’s.

Sometimes you just have to put well known characters into ridiculous situations.

The early issues of What The–?! were better, but every so often a bit works. I was just breaking my legs looking for the issue where Son of Satan gets told by editorial his name has to change, but they can only use the letters they’ve got in the logo, so he becomes…Son of Santa. You can debate whether it’s a layered commentary on the nature of editorially driven properties, or a cheap gag.


November 9, 2009 at 5:08 pm

It’s got a nice cover though.

Shouldn’t Milk and Cookies have been in a Christmas story instead? I can see them fighting Santa Claus- to avoid getting eaten! :D

IIRC Milk and Cookies had appeared earlier as a parody of Cloak & Dagger. (I think it might have been a one-page joke rather than a full story, but I can’t remember at this point–at any rate, they pretty much exhausted the humor inherent in the concept in their first appearance.)

What The–?! was always hit or miss, but there were some great stories in earlier issues (the Phil Foglio-drawn Dr. Deranged and the origin of the Pulverizer are standouts for me). It eventually reached the point where I was only reading it because there was around one amusing story per issue, and when I hit one that didn’t have any good stories I dropped it. That came around this point–as the Milk and Cookies story shows, rather than parodying the Marvel Universe directly, they were starting to cannibalize earlier jokes that didn’t bear repeating. (Peter David has mentioned having been boggled when they started using a female version of Wolverine that he’d introduced as a throwaway punchline.)

I remember trying some early issues and preferring the earlier NOT BRAND ECHH!

By the way:
“Gotta love those pre-Image days when Art Adams was the ‘artist who’s always late’ go-to guy.”

These days when I see the name I think “Is it really him or that guy Rich Johnston is always writing about?”

What the had some truly hilarious issues.

This one wasn’t one of them. Not at all. I remember reading it and just thinking how could one issue of this book go so terribly wrong?

Ugh, I always hated this comic book. If the art wasn’t ugly, the stories were awful. Sometimes they were both at once (Wolfereem comes to mind as horribly unfunny AND ugly).

It’s one series that I wish could be erased from existance.

Oh yeah, I picked this series up back when I was the target age, and it wasn’t particularly funny.

Unlike the late, lamented Mini-Marvels, which was GOLD.

Jeremy A. Patteron

November 10, 2009 at 12:08 pm

The previous issue had Wolverina team up with… a white-haired chick named Ivory! Plus a TMNT spoof!

M&C debuted in a pin-up in issue #7, the first M&C story was in issue #10, anothe Xmas issue, this one with a Byrne cover!


The problem with What The is that it should never have been an ongoing series. It should have been an every once in a while because we got a funny idea special release.

Reading the series, you can almost see the funny drain out of it as time goes on.


Because I loved the old not brand echhh book greatly, I picked up every one of the what the books.What was needed, was at least one Marie Severin story in every issue, with her doing all the work every 5th issue or so.Very little Severin art in the series.She was the best cartoonest they had.

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