True, you can plunk down the full price for a box of Frosted Flakes or Twinkies, but for the same taste (sometimes even better!) and a whole lot less outta your wallet you can get the store brand version at the local supermarket! And not only that but you can feel satisfied that the illegal aliens who were shoveling this counterfeit Cap'n Crunch into boxes aren't making as much as some unionized oaf sitting on his butt all day, thus keeping the cost and prices down for many a penny pinching mongrel who can't give two whits about the poor 'n downtrodden! Yes, cheapness transcends all sorts of decency boundaries, but then again look at alla moolah you'll be able to spend on all of the important things in life...like even more cheapo imitations!
That's undoubtedly why I really got a huge sickoid laugh outta the entire 1969-70 run of Marvel's PETER THE LITTLE PEST comics that I scarfed up a good five or so months back. Y'see, I actually paid good moolah for these if only because they were a stinkoid copy of the rill thing! Always on the lookout for a good ripoff, I figure that I couldn't do better'n snatch these fifties Atlas-era DENNIS THE MENACE swipes (originally wrangling under the names DEXTER THE DEMON and MELVIN THE MONSTER*) that were birthed from the fevered if cribbing imagination of Stan Lee** along with onetime Atlas mainstay Joe Maneely doing the art, and once again I was right onna moolah happier'n that gal who sent away for a breast enlarger and got a photo of a man's hand.
Like a distant fuzzy UHF station airing that series you've wanted to see for years or a liquid Jello that just didn't make it, these comics really underscore the basis of a half-there, derailed suburban slob upbringing done on the cheap end of the stick, and as you would have guessed by now BOY CAN I RELATE TO THESE BLATANT IMITATIONS EVEN THOUGH MY BETTER SENSE SHOULD HAVE ME THROWIN' 'EM ALL INNA INCINERATOR!!!
Originally appearing during those late-fifties days when Atlas seemed to be pumping out more titles per month than even DC, PETER is everything DENNIS THE MENACE was, only less. And I like it that way. You get the same befuddled midclass parents who never ever*** wallop their kid even after he's caught sodomizing the automobile exhaust, and of course what DENNIS swipe would be complete without the dopey white dog and of course the nice fifties suburban setting! And although the Wilsons next door seem to be MIA (perhaps due to an episode that couldn't get past the Comics Code Authority because they got offed in a most gruesome if hilarious fashion) there are various demi-Joeys and Margarets to fill in the kiddie roster so desperately needed for quickie crankouts such as these.
But you certainly don't get the USDA meaty stuff and as you'd expect there's more'n a little paprika missing in the mix, just like BINKY was nothing but ARCHIE without the vermouth and you know it's true!
Of course that's the bee-you-tee of these cheap knockoffs which always came off as if the artists and writers just grabbed the superficial aspects of the item at hand and ran hog wild forgetting such things as the production, the dimension and the color that made the original such a boffo hit! 'n really, who needs stuff like that when you can just grab a whole load of bux with something that took half the time to create and'll fool just about any nutley out there who sees the Marvel logo onna front and thinks he's getting something of the same artistic and aesthetic quality as the latest X-MEN.
The jokes to be found in these sagas were obviously taken straight outta the same MINSTREL SHOW FAVORITES handbook that Lee probably got from some mid-fifties Johnson Smith ad that popped up in one of his own titles, while the art is clearly Hank Ketchum reduced a few notches keeping his basic SATURDAY EVENING POST style but looking more BETTER HOMES AND GARDENS in the long run.
Of course taking all of the bad things about PETER and cramming 'em together adds up to the over funzie joy which I gotta admit suited a kiddoid such as myself who could tell an original from the imitation, but it sure didn't matter because it was a corny copy of the real thing but that somehow seemed appealing to me!
But man is this Peter a jackoff par excellence! A downright 'tardo if you ask me...I mean, where at least Dennis the Menace had a kinda/sorta redeeming quality about him even when he was zinging rocks at Margaret's hiney with his slingshot Peter comes off like such a pustule you'd hope somebody would disembowel him and throw his remains in a ditch! In fact may I say that he'd even a little irritating? The kid's disregard for anything on a moral plane has me thinkin' he just might be a DENNIS for the Nietzsche crowd but still there's hardly anything here that'll warm you up to this cretin who makes your average Irish kid as depicted by Thomas Nast look human.
To push the DENNIS connection up your colon even further these titles are filled with imitation daily panels right down to the amorphous shapes and senseless if happy childhood violence. Like in the Archie Comics SHRIMPY series of blatant PEANUTS imitations, the look might be there (at least if you squint your eyes a bit) but the soul and the feeling were certainly left ruminating somewhere outside with the rest of the garbage! Ya kinda get the feeling that maybe Lee was taunting Hank Ketchum with a "just try t'come 'n get me!" razz, but then again would it be worth getting raked over the copyright coals for something as zilchoid as this???
If ya can't get enough PETER (or PETEY as his title was known by the final ish of this short-lived revival) there's also the presence of "Little Pixie". She's even more vile'n Peter and once again totally without any shard of decency or values for that matter. You'll most certainly wanna bash that li'l tart's mug in whenever these stories make their way to your eye, maybe because she comes way too close to comfort to alla 'em girls you went to grade school with and I ain't kidding!
So displeasing is she that I get the feeling that when/if she grew up Pixie woulda turned out to have been Andrea Dworkin or any one of those uppity women's libber types who you see blabbin' it up incoherently whenever a microphone is shoved into their roly-poly pusses yet cry sniffles and boo-hoos when men beat 'em up (hey dames, yez s'posed to be "equal")! Real displeasing is she, though somehow I get the feeling that the youth of this world would be much better served by reading the likes of Peter and Pixie 'stead of the goony get-along characters they're being inundated with these days. After all, wouldn't you rather have your kid set fire to the school or smash out his bedroom windows instead of take a bullet for a gay politician?
Of course the real life punchline to this sordid saga came a good decade after PETER's brief revival. Y'see, in the early eighties with Marvel riding the crest of comic book popularity and branching out into various media areas unheard of even a few years earlier, the rights to the original DENNIS THE MENACE deal were acquired by the company and Dennis was a bonafeed member of the noted stable for a little over a year! I'm sure that the comic fan base was hoping that maybe the famed comic character would have crossed over into the Marvel Universe, not as an Avenger or anything along those lines but maybe doing a cameo in one of the hero titles (the closest thing we got to Dennis acknowledging his Marvel ties was when he went to Margaret's costume party dressed as Spider-Man), but I would have been satisfied if he met up with Peter and the two slugged it out for comic strip brat supremacy. And speaking of brats, I gotta see just how much Archie's own Ketchum steal PAT THE BRAT figures into all this...
*Look closely and you'll see where all of the "Peter"s were written in by a letterer who was still aping the Hank Ketchum style yet not quite in the same way the original Ketchum imitator had!
**Lee of course was also noted for his boffo NANCY swipe LITTLE LIZZIE, the beyond-belief ARCHIE carbon copy GEORGIE as well as the too close for caga HOMER THE HAPPY GHOST way back before he finally hit comic paydirt with THE FANTASTIC FOUR.
***I gotta admit that I like it better THIS way!: