Marvel Mystery Monday: Obnoxio the Clown, send in the creeps

This week creator Alan Kupperberg talks about one of his most obnoxious creations, and an obscure Marvel character that appeared in dozens of issues before appearing in a single story,

Obnoxio the Clown is one of the strangest heroes to almost exist in the Marvel Universe. For years he was nothing more than the mascot for Marvel’s joke magazine Crazy , like Alfred E. Neuman of Mad or Sylvester P. Smythe of Cracked or ProJunior of Wild or Irving Forbush was for SNAFU.

Unlike all those other guys (well, except maybe Forbush-Man), Obnoxio fought the X-Men.

And won.

Background:

Comic book veteran Alan Kupperberg was Obnoxio’s first and most prolific artist and writer, but he doesn’t want to be known as his creator (Obnoxio’s got a face even a mother wouldn’t love). He passes that (dubious) honor off to fellow High School of Art & Design alumnus Larry Hama (known to many as the long time writer of G.I. Joe, Wolverine and creator of Dr. Deth).

[Crazy editor] Larry Hama created Obnoxio and drew the first pictures of him. I don’t know if these were ever printed, but I do not think so. As the Editor, the creation of an acceptable mascot was his prerogative. Obnoxio is an excellent example of Larry Hama’s sense of humor, which I dig. […] I suppose, part of why he chose me to be Obnoxio’s Godfather.”

Obnoxio wasn’t necessarily intended to be the mag’s mascot, but he was a hit with the kiddies, showing his ugly mug in 1980, seven year’s into Crazy’s run.

“Obnoxio’s first appearance was in a one panel illustration to accompany a subscription ad in CRAZY, written by Larry and called for likenesses of P.T. Barnum and Marcy Tweed among others. This was right up my alley, so I pulled the reference and really went to town, doing a very nice half-tone illo. I think the piece impressed Larry quite a bit, because if my memory is correct, Larry left me strictly alone on anything and everything Obnoxio the Clown-related. Once he realized that I knew what he wanted, he knew that here was x-number of pages that he did not have to worry about in every issue.”

Kupperberg worked with writer Michael Pellowski on a lot of the Obnoxio the Clown Fun Pages, but most of what the evil clown said and did came from Kupperberg’s twisted psyche, something he continued long after Crazy’s 1983 demise with the aptly named Evil Clown Comics from the National Lampoon. Despite the similarities between the titular Frenchy the Clown and the nearly-as-evil Obnoxio, Kupperberg said the two were not separated at birth.

“Given the number of clown characters extant in comics, I always felt that my involvement with the two characters was an incredible coincidence.”

The story:

With only a few black-and-white panels and some cover appearances, Obnoxio never got a proper origin, though Kupperberg has his theories…

“He was raised in Ed Gein’s basement, locked in a closet, with nothing to read but a complete run of EC Comics’ PANIC!”

Wherever he came from, the sick clown was not destined to go gentle into that good night. With Crazy ending, he jumped into the Marvel Universe proper by facing the company’s biggest sellers in a story called “Obnoxio the Clown vs. the X-men,” in a self-titled one-shot suggested by Hama and supported by editor Jim Salicrup.

In the main story, Obnoxio travels to the X-Mansion to perform at Kitty Pryde’s birthday party. Professor X explains in his inner monologue “I’ve even arranged for the services of her favorite clown from “Crazy” magazine!” (Clearly he never read an issue, or he’d know better!)

Unfortunately, the team-up becomes a spontaneous and misguided fight (as they always do) thanks to the appearance of a mutant so powerful he causes Cerebro to explode! That mutant? Eye Scream! A mutant who can… uh… turn to ice cream.

Whatever. Anyway, the X-men scramble to take on the mystery mutant, mistaking Obnoxio for the 31-flavored villain. The errant mascot proceeds to blow up the X-Mansion containment cell, electrify the armored Colossus, disable Nightcrawler with his own powers, break the Danger Room and annoy Wolverine. While the main group is distracted, the Prof takes out Eye Scream by convincing him he’s an ice cone. Pissed he was invited to such a crummy place, Obnoxio leaves Kitty Pryde to celebrate her birthday alone.

In the second half of the book, Obnoxio goes to jury duty and makes a mockery of the criminal justice system, even scaring the bejeezus out of Henry Mitchell.

Abilities:

“Well, OTC had to have SOME gimmick other than a wisecrack comeback. I admit that the gimmick is borrowed from the 1960 Felix the Cat television series. I limited the stuff he had in there to clown paraphernalia, but Felix could pull anything out of his bag o’ tricks.”

Basically, aside from being limber enough to evade the Danger Room’s defense systems and invulnerable enough to escape an explosion, Obnoxio could pull any humor-related object (seemingly from thin air).

Why hasn’t the character shown up again?

Crazy was cancelled the same year the one-shot came out, and most of Mad’s competitors have since (part of a sadly growing trend). Obnoxio’s time as a mascot as passed, and Marvel wasn’t yet ready for a sarcastic fourth-wall breaking sociopath.

How could the character be brought back?

Now time’s have changed and Obnoxio might just fit into the Marvel Universe.

“All that has to happen is for the top guy to say ‘go ahead.’ It would help if someone would make a presentation to MARVEL. I would love to be involved in a new iteration of OTC. I would certainly not like to see anyone else do it.”

Maybe he’s from the clown-dominated Dimension X (of course the place has other creatures), or maybe he’s one of the clown-aliens of the Interstel Church of Perpetual Annoyance. Either way, he doesn’t seem human.

Besides, Marvel has a planet of zombies and a planet of apes… why not send in the clowns?

As for Kupperberg’s clownishness, something else is in the works.

“We are about to publish a complete collection of Frenchy’s Evil Clown Comics, reprinting (in COLOR for the first time) the entire run from the National Lampoon. The book will contain over fifty pages of brand new material. It’s a lovely book. We just had an ashcan printed and it is a spectacular package.”

No date is set, but when killer clowns are involved, keep watching the skies!

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