|Best of Dateline Listing|
|Sometime late in 1977, I came up with the
notion to produce the very first Dateline:@#$%
page. I'd spent the previous summer vainly
pursuing my long-time dream of attaining
a job drawing your standard, thrill-filled
super-hero comic for either Marvel or DC
Comics--hey, I wasn't choosy, but unfortunately,
THEY were. Now, THAT'S a whole 'nother story
for a whole 'nother time, but it does serve
as a telling prologue for what happened subsequently...
In an effort to keep drawing before I mounted a second offensive, y'see, I began scribbling cartoons everywhere--including in a series of letters sent off to various friends from college that I had just moved away from. To personalize these missives, I came up with a caricature of yours truly, one that my pals would easily recognize, but one that would cause some unexpected problems down the line when I choose to utilize it in my later strips (that line down the middle of my head was meant to indicate where my hair was parted, please understand, and NOT that I had a cleft in my skull, but that's nonetheless the way some puzzled readers interpreted it!...).
I'd only first attempted a humorous style a mere few months prior to leaving the Buffalo area and my college buddies. A close friend, Steve Zohler, needed a flyer drawn up to announce a year-end bash for his fellow engineering students, and he asked me to come up with it. Well, the straight adventure approach I was struggling to perfect sure wasn't going to work, especially on a primitive ditto master, so I quickly whipped off a cartoony sequence of panels in its stead. While the squiggles would come later, I kinda liked what I saw, and began to use this new style in my correspondence in the coming months...
I'd been reading comics close to twenty years at that point, and one night I just sat down and, as a lark, combined the seemingly endless minutia bouncing around my brain with my propensity to make with the yocks--all in a suitably illustrated form! I called it "Dateline:Spider-Man", as the Web-head was the very first costumed character to suffer one of my idiosyncratic interviews. Along with a congested congregation of characters doodled up for cover consideration, I sent the strip off, unsolicited, to Alan Light, then publisher and always founder of what was originally known as "The Buyers Guide For Comics Fandom" (a title since morphed into "Comics Buyers Guide"--CBG for short), hoping he might publish my cartoony contributions...
He did! Yay! And he wanted MORE, so soon came pages co-starring the Flash, Captain Mar-Vell, and even Howard the Duck--with the realization that the feature needed a standardized name following right behind. "@!!?#" seemed like an-all inclusive bit of onomatopoeia (as Mort Walker might say...) to cover not only whatever my subject matter might be, but to coyly clue the reader into the notion that everything depicted herein is being done so with more than a mere smidgen of the ol' tongue in the ol' cheek. Before I knew it, Alan was even PAYING me to produce these flights of fancies--starting with the princely sum of fifteen whole buckaroos, but eventually climbing closer and closer on up to actual poverty level wages!! I kid, I kid--Alan's decision to run my strips gave me the kind of exposure I could have only dreamt of months earlier, and eventually, things began to snowball for me, as both Marvel and DC wound up publishing my stuff! Of course, not in the way I'd originally planned, but hey, sometimes you gotta ride the tiger that's given to you!...
I continued with the Dateline:@#$% endeavor for several more years, and even had several long-out-print collections published by both Eclipse and Fantaco Enterprises of carefully selected strips, but I eventually stopped cranking them out on a regular basis around 1981. There was an attempt to revive the strip briefly during the mid-eighties, but my heart, mostly wasn't in those particular strips. Don't worry--those features WILL be posted here--when it comes time to change the heading to "The REST of Dateline:@#$%"!!...
Ten years later, I really did bring the feature back, and with a renewed enthusiasm. Initially showing up in my good pal Matt Poslusny's fine COMIC BOOK PROFILES publication under the guise of "Hembeck's Final Thoughts" (but like several pieces that'll show up here, these strips were Dateline:@#$%'s in every way but title...), the feature eventually began running on a regular basis in the nineties editions of CBG. The paper, however, had changed more than in name, as the very shape had become almost square, explaining the almost-block like structure of some of the later episodes for those of you who are paying far too close attention.
In all, I've produced close to two hundred new Dateline:@#$% pages this go-round for several different comics-oriented magazines. Unfortunately, however, CBG is no longer one of them. After thriving for several years, my contributions were unavoidably cut back as both their page count and their budgets shrunk. Having sent in a huge backlog before this change in policy was known to me--or even to the folks in charge, for that matter--there are still perhaps half a dozen pages left in the CBG vaults, pages that have slowly been seeing the light of day thanks to the editors making good on running what I sent them. But when they're done, there'll be no more Dateline:@#$%'s in CBG. It's the end of an era, folks (snif snif...)
NEW strips will continue to appear in Jon Cooke's fine COMIC BOOK ARTIST compendium, and we have enough OLD strips to hopefully keep you all interested here for a long, long time! Some of them may have not been originally published under that logo, but all were certainly created under that spirit! (And some are bereft of their logos, incidentally, because the art is being scanned in from the more manageable book-sized publications, wherein such niceties were stripped off, being seen as superfluous, just in case you're wondering--and even if you're NOT!!...) You'll find brief intros accompanying each one, including as close a date as possible, ascertaining each particular strip's genesis and hopefully providing it with a proper context, inasmuch as I decided not to post them in any semblance of a chronological order.
Now, go! Read! Enjoy! And remember, that's NOT a cleft in my skull! (But I AM, as always happy to see you...)
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