Long-time ISB readers may have noticed that despite my intense, unwavering devotion to Herbie, I’ve never really bothered to review a full issue the way I have with a lot of my other favorites, like the Legion or Jimmy Olsen. This is because Herbie Popnecker is damn near incomprehensible.
Richard Hughes and Ogden Whitney’s stories don’t so much follow a linear narrative as the mad patterns of a fever dream and as a result, they make even Bob Haney’s craziest–which would be the one where Metamorpho defeats a two foot-tall galactic conqueror by using a guitar that shoots laser beams–seem completely logical by comparison.
Tonight, however, I’m going to make the attempt with what might just be the least-crazy Herbie story of all: Herbie #20’s “Pass a Piece of Pizza, Please,” handily reprinted in the new Herbie Archives v.3. And for those of you keeping score at home, yes:
…this is the one where Dracula throws Herbie into an oven.
The whole thing gets started, as pretty much every Herbie story does, with Herbie sleeping while his dad–who is completely unaware of Herbie’s lollipop-fueled exploits into psychedelia–hassles him about being a little fat nothing. This is quickly forgotten, though, as the scene shifts to The Unknown, a vaguely spooky realm that starred in ACG’s also vaguely spooky anthology of the same name. I’ve actually never read an issue of The Unknown, but if it’s anything like the horror anthologies of the Silver Age that I have read, I’ve got to imagine that its constant appearances in Herbie were Hughes’ way of taking the piss out of a book that took itself way too seriously.
Anyway, this time around, the allegedly supernatural powers that be have decided to send a goodwill ambassador to Earth, and thus: Dracula.
Initially reticent, Drac’s lured into the job by promises of blood banks, the Bloody Mary and “full-blooded” American Girls, but finds all his attempts at getting his suck on to be ill-fated at best. But in a shocking twist, while he fails to capture a morbidly obese man who makes a surprising dodge, Dracula does manage to sink his teeth into a delicious New York-style pie.
And so, Dracula’s reign of terror begins, as he lays siege to every pizza shop in America, hoarding pizza (and, one assumes, wings and crazy bread) and generally ruining everyone’s Monday Night Raw experience for the forseeable future. Obviously, this aggression cannot stand, and once Herbie learns about the crisis via a lollipop that broadcasts television signals directly into his brain (yes, really), he’s off to battle Dracula in his guise as the Fat Fury…
…with somewhat lackluster results.
That’s right: Dracula manages to Hansel-and-Gretel the Fat Fury, and makes his getaway, but not before leaving a critical clue in what is without question my favorite panel in the entire story:
I just love that Dracula not only writes himself a note, but addresses it formally and signs it at the bottom. Truly, the art of writing letters is undead.
Once the clue has been deciphered–Dracula and his crew of flunkies are hanging out at a wax museum–the chase continues in a sequence of events that involves Herbie dressing up like a horse and getting launched from a trebuchet to Dracula’s cloud castle.
Once he’s there, it’s time for Round Two, which in this case means that we get to see one of Dracula’s rarely seen mystical abilities–which is also shared by his flunkies, a witch and… I don’t know, a hunchback maybe? Some green dude–Lightning From His Hands!
Of course, this (much like the comet that Drac summons from space a few panels later) means virtuallly nothing to Herbie, who not only catches the lightning bolts, but straight up stabs Dracula in the ass with them, because that is just how Herbie Popnecker rolls.
And so, the day is once again saved, and while Dracula surrenders and begs to be sent back to the Unknown, Herbie instead forces him to make up for his crimes:
Because Herbie Popnecker. That’s why.