Was 'Not Brand Echh' Originally a Reference to EC Comics?

Comic Book Questions Answered – where I answer whatever questions you folks might have about comic books (feel free to e-mail questions to me at brianc@cbr.com).

Today's question comes from reader Andrew R., who asked, "Hi Brian, I got a comics question I think you'd be able to answer. Is the ECHH in Not Brand ECHH a reference to EC comics? Everything I can find says it's about DC Comics but a knock-off of MAD with EC in the name sure seems like Entertaining Comics to me."

Now, generally speaking, Marvel Comics was greatly influenced by EC Comics, specifically the way that EC interacted with their fans, from the letter columns...

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to their EC fan clubs...

However, a few important points about "Not Brand Echh."

First off, clearly it is a reference to the then-popular trend of using "Brand X" as the stand-in for rival products. Here is a Sesame Street parody commercial referencing the bit...

Secondly, Stan Lee seemed like he had a specific target in mind at the time for the rival product that irritated him.

Here are two of Lee's earliest Bullpen's Bullets where he talks about the other companies where he specifically mentions companies copying him...

It wasn't EC that Lee was talking about here, but nor was it actually DC, either. You see, There was a burst in comic sales in 1966 after Batman the TV series, but one company had already begun copying Marvel before that. Archie's superhero comics looked sort of like this before 1965, "Archie Adventure"...

But then they hired Jerry (co-creator of Superman!) Siegel and former Marvel artist, Paul Reinman, to create a new group of comic books called The Mighty Comics Group, which blatantly copied the cover styles of Marvel Comics of the era!

But look, they also even copied the CREATOR CREDITS OF MARVEL!

So I think that it is pretty clear who Lee was referencing with Not Brand Echh. Not only that, but, of course, there was the issue that Stan Lee did not even coin the term until the mid-1960s, by which point EC Comics had gotten down to just Mad Magazine for over a decade. So they would not have been on Lee's radar, even, in 1966, except, of course, for the success of Mad Magazine, which Marvel clearly did try to ape with their parody comics. However, the term pre-dated the comic book by well over a year and its usage seems clear - it is a shot at the comic book companies that Lee felt were ripping off Marvel, the "Brand X"s that his company was much better than.

Thanks for the question, Andrew!

If anyone else has a question about comics, feel free to drop me a line at brianc@cbr.com!

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