Archive - April 2006
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April 30th, 2006
Remember back when Captain America and the Black Widow joined the X-Men?

Yeah, me neither, but there's no denying that that is still one way cool cover!

Here's my version of the Jim Lee and Scott Williams original for 1990's X-MEN #268.

And here's the link to the inevitable eBay auction for my redo.

As Thor (not pictured) might say, "I bid thee--BID!!!"
April 29th, 2006
Things I DIDN'T do last night:

I didn't go to see my daughter's school play.

Now hold on a minute--this isn't nearly as heartless an act as it sounds. First and foremost, bear in mind, Julie wasn't actually even IN the play. Only kids who took drama as their Central Studies course this semester were. (Julie took a course that related music to mathematics this half of the school year, after taking art during the first half.)

Secondly, Julie's only been going to this school for two years now, and since most of the students come from hither and yon--and fairly distant hither and yons, at that--we've met very few of them outside of school, and the few we have had over the house weren't even in the play, so our rooting interest along those lines was very, very low.

But y'know, beyond all that, we actually WERE prepared to attend "Back To Basics"--an original musical comedy written entirely by the play's young participants and loosely based upon Shakespeare's "The Tempest"--until Julie informed us of the running time of Thursday evening's opening performance:

Four hours and forty-five minutes.

(That's with an intermission, naturally...)

Four hours.

AND forty-five minutes!

Of a play, written performed and sung by amateurs--none of whom I was actually related to! For (say it with me) four hours and forty-five minutes!

Hey, it coulda been worse--I hear tell one show ran SIX hours not too many years back!

WHY so long? Well, unlike a more traditional high school production wherein folks try out for a predetermined--and limited--number of roles, this is a year-long class of sorts: during the fall semester, the play is written, and it's precisely tailored for the number of students who've signed up for the Spring semester portion, which naturally entails the mounting of the play. And when over fifty students sign up, well, I guess you've got to have fifty featured roles, don't you?...

We shoulda went--we woulda went, but, well, I plain chickened out, I'll admit it. I just couldn't face up to the potential endurance test aspect of this thing looming before me. It had been a pretty hectic day already--I'd taken Julie to her weekly horseback riding lesson in the afternoon, following some tiring yard work--and she still had to get ready for a Girl Scout trip scheduled for the very next morning! Plus, Pedro Martinez was going up against John Schmoltz! Sure, I coulda taped the game and watched it later--which is actually what I did wind up doing, but not nearly as much later as I would've had to if we'd attended the play! (Did I mention that it was four hours and forty five minutes long?...)

We'd missed the school's original musical last year, too, but that was because Julie was sick all week, preventing her from going. We have shown for the past two annual fall Shakespeare productions, and I've gotta say, these kids really DO know how to put on a show!(Which you might well expect to find in the James Earl Jones Theater, named for the dad of one of the school's recent alums) And having heard the CD of last year's show, I'm pretty sure this year's play was of a similar high quality, and not nearly as excruciating an experience as I may've led you to believe it might be earlier. But still--four hours and forty-five minutes?

I bailed. I'm not proud, but I did. Lynn wasn't feeling entirely up to snuff, so she at least had a legit excuse. Julie, of course, wanted to go, and we were happy to drop her off--we knew full well she wasn't gonna sit with us anyway. She never does, instead finding some rarely-seen-outside-of-class-buddies to hang with, which is fine with us. We knew at least she'd have a good time...

Well, hours after the 7:30 curtain, at 11:50, the phone rang (they shaved twenty minutes off after opening night--gee, had I but known...), and with the Mets two outs from beating the Braves (AND opening up a six game lead over their perennial nemesis's), I stopped the tape, hopped in the car, drove the ten or so minutes over to her school, pulled into the parking lot, got out, walked into the reception area to get Julie, and immediately spotted Herb Trimpe.

That's right: Herb Trimpe.

Now, it didn't come as a complete surprise that I would run into the Hulk's long-time pencil artist in these unusual environs, as I had, in recent months, become aware that he was good friends with one of the school's teachers. one whose daughter was a regular member of the institution's thespian ensemble. Fact is, he was in attendance last fall for the Shakespeare show, but I was in such a rush to leave after the show was over (a long, silly story that I'm not gonna bother going into--lucky you!...), that I breezed right past him talking to my wife on the way out and didn't even realize it until Lynn informed me of my faux pas in the car on the way home!

I was, to say the least, mortified!

Now, I don't know Herb all that well, but the few times we've found ourselves together--usually at some now long-ago party--he was always extremely nice to me, and I certainly didn't want him to think I was being rude on purpose! (I was actually being rude accidentally, which, y'know, makes all the difference, don'tcha think?...) So I looked up his website as soon as I got home, wrote to him with my shamefaced explanation, and--as I might've expected--he was just great about the whole thing. So, I figured, next time the footlights are switched on in the theater Darth Vader helped build, I'd keep my eyes peeled for a tall, thin Alan Alda lookalike with just the slightest suggestion of green in his complexion (it's hard shaking those gamma rays completely, lemme tell ya...

But of course, I didn't actually attend the play, so again, there I was with the shamefaced expression on I'm now on the cusp of perfecting, and there was Herb.

Great guy. And by all accounts--and I believe 'em, too--great play. We chatted about the comics biz for a bit--Herb doesn't seem to have much of a connection to that arena these days, but he IS doing commissions! You can contact him through his website if that notion catches your interest--and tell 'im Fred sent ya!! Now, I'm not sure what the going rate is, but I'm reasonably certain that it's a bit steeper than my prices. Which is totally understandable--Mr.T did what? Several decades of the Hulk and me, I did a five page back-up in the 1999 Hulk Annual? So, that's only fair, right? (However, anybody looking for a bargain-priced HULK 181, you know who to contact! Just so long as you don't mind a Wolverine with squiggles on his knees...)

Soon, though it was time to leave, so I said my farewell's to Herb, and Julie and I drove home. I'm a little sorry I missed the show, but I was happy that I had a few minutes to speak with Herb Trimpe. I was happy Julie enjoyed the evening without us, I was happy the Mets beat Atlanta, I was happy Lynn was feeling better, and I was happy Julie looked to have good weather for her impending trip.

I just wish the play had been a little bit shorter, y'know? Because I'm thinking, if he were still around, even the Grateful Dead's legendary Jerry Garcia would've had to say, "Dude, don'tcha think that's a little on the LONG side?..."
April 27th, 2006
I just posted my first blog over on MySpace!

And yes, this is my version of alerting the media.

Mostly, I'll be blogging here (and when appropriate, copying this material and posting it over there), but sometimes I'll do totally fresh stuff for that blog. Like today.

Phew. Enough yammering--gotta go draw something! See ya!
April 26th, 2006
Probably my favorite of all the George Tuska comics in my collection are the issues of IRON MAN that he pencilled (inked by Johnny Craig), but I thought I'd salute the cartoonist's landmark 90th birthday by sharing with you folks the very first image of Tuska's work that I--and a whole lot of other first generation Marvel fans--ever caught a glimpse of!

The above splash page (with Kirby breakdown's meant to ease the break-in of the returning comics vet) appeared in the October 1965 issue of TALES OF SUSPENSE, #70. As you can plainly read, editor Stan Lee was typically effusive in welcoming the veteran cartoonist back into the fold--but unlike similar trumpeted welcoming intros lavished upon the likes of Carl Burgos, Bill Everett, Syd Shores, Bob Powell and even Wally Wood, George Tuska had a long and substantial career toiling for Marvel Comics (and rival DC as well, not to mention some nifty work on Tower's THUNDER Agents).

So, best wishes to the man with all the candles! Mr. Tuska may well be 90 years of age today, but my guess is--if his drawings are any indication--his teeth probably look half that!!
April 26th, 2006
This sounds like the sort of story Seth would concoct, but it's all true--honest!

A little over two years ago, I wrote a stand-alone piece you can find elsewhere on this site about a book that's been in my possession for, well, ALWAYS! The book was a self-explanatory titled compilation published by Crown called "Best Cartoons of the Year 1947". The main focus of my piece was on a trio of cartoonists who are probably more well-known for their contributions to comic books or strips, rather than to the gag cartoon field the tome covered (and I'll let the curious amongst you discover just WHO I'm talking about by going here, since that point is only peripheral to what we're talking about here today.).

Today, y'see, we're talking about a gag merchant by the name of Dick Ericson...
What you see above is the artist's self portrait, as well as his accompanying text autobiographical blurb. Below is one of the two cartoons editor Lawrence Lariar chose to represent Ericson on the pair of pages allotted to his work...
The OTHER cartoon?

Well, here's where things start to get interesting.

Please understand I make no claims of being any sort of expert on the field of gag cartooning--not even close. But the book's second, full page Dick Ericson cartoon was nonetheless burned irrevocably into my tender little cerebellum at an early age!


Well, to quote myself,

The truth is, stuck somewhere midway through this otherwise sedate compendium of gag cartoons-- borrowed from the pages of the era's most prestigious publications, remember—is one blatantly featuring, well, a naked lady!! And at age six or so, it had to've been the very first naked lady I EVER saw, and friends, trust me--that's the sorta thing that tends to stick with you!

A full pager from a fellow by the name of Dick Ericson, it's rather tame in its nudity, at least by today's standards, but to a six year old in 1959? Woo hoo! That drawing alone probably turned me heterosexual, once and for all! (Hey, you always hear crackpot theories concerning stuff turning poor unsuspecting youths HOMOsexual—using that same sort of logic, why not then the opposite result, hmm?..)

And--uh huh--you can get a gander by going here (but DO come back for this tale's surprise ending, okay?...)

Like I said, I posted all this several years ago, and pretty much forgot about it. which is why when I saw the subject line "Dick Ericson and the naked lady" from someone named "Lisa" in my email box, I was momentarily puzzled.

When I opened it up, this is what I found...

Hi, Fred!

While checking out names of the familiar on the computer as I do now and then, I came across your tribute to my father, Dick Ericson. He'd absolutely love to see what you'd written and that, of course, he cemented you as a heterosexual!

Dad died on December 14, 1988. I still have some of the originals of his old cartoons, although most of them were thrown away - I won't go into all that. Anyway, although the odds are heavily against it, should I find the original of the cartoon you enjoyed so much as a youngster (and hopefully still do), I'll be more than happy to send it to you.

In the meantime, keep enjoying the gag cartoons along with the comic strips.

Lisa Ericson


The Internet never fails to stun me. What an absolute delight it was to hear from Lisa! The very notion that a relative of the man who drew a picture that made QUITE the impression on me during my formative years, a drawing that also never fails to bring back vivid memories of my long-departed Grandmother's creepy old two-story house (where I got my first furtive glimpse of it), would one day contact me after I'd shared the story of what that drawing meant to me on this thing we rightly call the World Wide Web, well, did I mention it absolutely stuns me at times? Who'da EVER thought? We never did get those flying cars we were promised, but sometimes the Internet is more than enough to convince me that, yup, we sure ARE living in the future!

So, thanks again for writing, Lisa! Your note made my day! And like I said, while I don't know all that much about your dad's work, maybe that one cartoon was enough!

(Lemme tell ya, at age 6, it was just about all I could HANDLE!!...)
April 25th, 2006
Let's start with a joke I just made up...

An aide walks into the Oval Office, and is surprised--and somewhat distressed--to find his boss reading the latest issue of ROLLING STONE, the one with a cartoon of George W. Bush in a dunce cap on the cover, under the headline, "The Worst President In History?".

Noticing that Bush was chuckling to himself, the relieved aide figured that the Chief Exec was simply laughing off the magazine's harsh assessment.

"Not even close, Mr.President", he offered amiably.

"Damn right, son. No way I'll EVER be considered worst after all the things Logan has done!..."

(Okay, so you have to pretty much be regular viewer of "24" to appreciate the punchline. So sue me.)
Moving on...

This week's edition of The Fred Hembeck Show (Episode 58) puts a couple of the Silver Age's most beloved diminutive do-gooders under the proverbial Classic Cover Switcheroo Redo microscope! What exactly does that mean? Sorry--you'll just have to zip on over your own selves and find out!

Anybody care to venture a guess as to what Peter Sanderson is focusing on in Comics In Context #130? Those of you who guessed "V For Vendetta" win a prize--although WHAT that is prize, I couldn't say! Y'know, up until now, I wasn't all that psyched about the impending release of "Superman Returns", but if it'll help nudge Mr. S into changing topics, I say bring it on--and FAST! (Just kidding, Peter! Well, sorta...)

Y'know, I don't think I've ever plugged Beaucoup Kevin here, but I've been meaning to for awhile now. His stuff can be snarkily hilarious, such as this entry regarding Weisinger's Jimmy Olsen. True, mocking Supe's pal is akin to shooting fish in a barrel (hey, I should know!..), but Kevin comes up with some genuinely funny bits here. My favorite is the last one, not so much for what's in the panel, but for the caption Kevin wrote to accompany it! I laughed out loud, honest to gosh! Check it out!

(And no, I didn't merely include the above semi-fawning link just cuz Beaucoup Kev is one of my happy little new MySpace buddies either--but I suppose it didn't hurt! Heh...)

Another old buddy who's become a newfound MySpace buddy is Roger Green, who still maintains his blog, Repudiations and Recriminations From Rog, here in regular OurSpace. You don't have to go look if you don't want to, but I ask you--would it kill you to just take a quick peek?

Lastly, it's time again for another auction! Get out your checkbooks, gang! Drawing from our sales gallery stockpile, today I'm offering up for grabs on eBay my take on Carmine Infantino's cover for BRAVE AND THE BOLD #70. That's the one where the pair of JLAers are tangling in midair, furiously ripping each others clothes off. Yeah--THAT one

(Hmm. Y'know, it just occurred to me that if I'd done a whole DIFFERENT sort of switcheroo with that cover, substituting Batgirl and Hawkgirl in for their male counterparts, well THEN we might have us a guaranteed seller! Too late for that now, I suppose, but trust me--the beefcake version ain't bad either. Give it a look...)

(Y'see, on "24", President Logan is this really, really bad guy, who's all mixed up with terrorists and assassination plots, and--apparently--even the ghost of "er"s Dr. Romano--PLUS he's a fictional character, and--oh, never mind....)
April 23rd, 2006

I'd never heard of MySpace until roundabouts last November. That's when daughter Julie came home with word of the networking site, tipped off by some friends at school. Before long, she'd clued in all her local buddies, and almost instantly, they all had their very own MySpace pages!

(Which is the way it's stayed, mostly, save for several of the teens whose parents made them delete their pages after hearing some of the sensationalistic--even paranoid--publicity that began coming out about this latest Internet sensation. Us? We weren't worried overmuch--Julie has too much sense to do something that would get herself into trouble. Besides, Lynn got her own account, and kept an eye on things!...)

Julie knew her mom was watching, and in fact, was always eager to show us the genially demented things she posted on her page! Forget about phones, forget about face to face visits--suddenly, THE way to socialize was through MySpace! Julie would spend hours and hours yammering back and forth with her pals, and just about the only thing I learned was that doing so allowed the youth of today to both create their own phonetically spelled lingo, and to gleefully swear to their @#$%ing little heart's content!

Kids today, huh?

But the way it was set up, I sorta saw MySpace as the gated community of the web. I thought the only way one could get access to it was for one to become a member one's own self.

I finally realized that was an erroneous assumption when my good buddy--and second generation Marvel Comic's Legend--Jim Salicrup sent me the link to his brand-new MySpace Blog! Lemme tell ya, Jim was blogging up a storm--and you could even determine what MOOD he was in while doing so!

At first, I still thought this was all hush hush, but Jim soon assured me it wasn't, and welcomed my proposal of giving his MySpace jottings a link here in Fred Sez (as well as enthusiastically recommending another comics oriented MySpace blog presided over by his friend Mike Lynch). However, due to recent bout of Internet ennui, I never quite got around to making good on my promise.

Until (as you may've already noticed) now...


Because (uh huh), as of last night, I too have my very own MySpace page! And no--not so I can spell creatively and curse a lot. I've joined up to get a little more publicity for this, my own little corner of the web. Mostly I'm hoping to use MySpace to garner some more readers for This is still where you'll find a majority of my efforts--though being on MySpace does allow for the posting of comments, which we can't do here. So, if any of you folks out there are already MySpacers, c'mon by and be--in MySpace parlance--my friend! (And don't forget to visit Jim and Mike as well!)

MySpace. One day, the news reports are pigeonholing them as a primary source for creepy old men who like to stalk under-age girls, and the next, as the heroic site that helped prevent a bloody shoot-out at a high school. Me, I just want to maybe get myself a few more followers, sell me a little more artwork, and make a few more friends. With modest goals like that, I suppose I'm unlikely to get my mug on MSNBC anytime soon--but y'know, that's okay with me!
April 22nd, 2006
Time for another auction!

THE DREAMING 1-45 and SPECIAL #1---PLUS my portrait (above) of that title's spiritual inspiration, The Sandman--check out eBay if you're interested in this collection of books at a fair and reasonable price.

(And no, I never did actually read any of these comics, sad to say. And gee, it only took me 45 months to figure out that it likely wasn't gonna happen anytime soon--and once someone takes 'em off my hands, I guess that ain't EVER gonna happen! But, well, I can live with that...)

(But don't hold your breath for any impending SANDMAN sale--THOSE I've read, and those I'm keeping! If you think you're prying THAT series away from me, what else can I say but, "dream on"?...)
April 21st, 2006
Last night, the Mets' Julio Franco, at age 47, became the oldest player in major league history to hit a home run.

All well and good--ESPECIALLY since his 8th inning pinch-hit shot against the San Diego Padres turned a New York 2-1 deficit into a 3-2 Mets lead (a game that would eventually be won by the Metropolitans by a score of 7-2), but I'm thinking, that's not all that impressive a feat. I mean, ANYTIME Julio hit a home run, he would've taken possession of the record. Not to diminish his accomplishment, but there was a far more impressive homer in the game last night--with a far smaller margin for error as well...
Y'see, in 2004, the Mets acquired the services of a highly touted veteran all-star Japanese shortstop by the name of Kaz Matsui. In his very first game outside of his home country, Kaz, batting lead-off, took the first pitch he saw as part of an American team and deposited it over the fence for a season opening home run.

Great start, huh?

Well, that may well've been the highlight of the year for the Asian import, as by the end of his first disappointing season with the Mets, he'd been converted to a second baseman, with the shortstop job being returned to budding--and home-grown--star, Jose Reyes.

Still, that didn't do anything to put a dent in Matsui's opening day mojo, because during his first at bat in 2005 (now hitting second behind Reyes), he once again cracked a homer. And again, it was probably the highlight of the season for Matsui (no relation to the bigger, steadier, and far more long-ball prolific Matsui that plays across town for the Yankees), and after an even more substandard season--mediocre hitting stats, poor fielding, and prone to injury--he was widely considered a goner once the 2005 campaign came to end.

The trouble was, no one wanted him. His salary was way too high for the sort of returns he'd been providing--why, Japan didn't even invite their former star to participate in this spring's inaugural World Baseball Classic as part of their team! So, he simply went off to spring training with the Mets, with no guarantees that he'd win the second base job over the several other candidates he was competing with.

But before the competition could narrow itself too far down, Kaz made everything moot by incurring an injury that put him on the shelf for over a month, and so the Mets awarded rookie Anderson Hernandez the job. Meanwhile, Matsui eventually healed well enough to begin a rehab assignment in the minors, but it was clear the Mets were in no rush to bring him back to the majors anytime soon.

Until Hernadez came down with a bad back and they had no choice.

So last night, Kaz made his 2006 debut in the Mets fifteenth game of the year, now hitting down 8th in the order. Coming up in the third inning with his team behind 1-0, the TV announcers had barely recapped his two previous remarkable season opening at bats when Matsui hit the ball, and hard!

Could it be? Could it be happening AGAIN? Was Matsui sending another ball out of the park during his initial at bat of the season?

Well, no. The ball caromed high off the wall, but instead of bouncing back nicely to either the left or center fielders, it went straight down, and skittered along the base of the wall towards center. What looked to be a sure triple only seconds earlier suddenly turned into that most rare of all hits in baseball, the inside-the-park home run!

Not that it was cinch. The ball was relayed in as swiftly as possible, but it got to home plate--and to catcher Mike Piazza, playing his first game against his former mates--a split second too late! Kaz was safe, the Mets had a 1-1 tie, and his record of opening every season with a four-bagger remained intact, however unorthodox his method this time around may've been!

Like I said, Julio was going to have his record whenever he hit his next homer, but Kaz had only a single opportunity to continue his singular steak, which makes it all the more amazing! And to top it off, the beleaguered second baseman made a nice turn on a pivotal double play in the seventh that potentially saved to game, allowing Franco some meaning to his heroics!

Who knows? Maybe the third time's--or season's--the charm. Maybe the Mets will wind up glad they didn't have the chance to say "sayonara" to Matsui over the winter?...
April 20th, 2006
"Drop An Inch!"

That's the title of perhaps the most unique World War Two story DC Comics ever published.

Well, wait a sec--let me correct that. It wasn't the story so much, but the CIRCUMSTANCES that surrounded this late fifties G.I. COMBAT tale that sets it apart. The story behind the story can be found over at Brian Cronin's infotaining Comic Book Urban Legends Revealed, and I gotta tell ya, without giving anything away, this anecdote (which I'd never heard before) would've been jaw-droppingly hilarious on its own, but then, at its end, when I came upon some hard evidence provided to cap the tale--said cover in question--I actually laughed out loud!

Since that's all I have for you here today, I suggest you hurray on over there, and marvel at the wacky way they did things in the buttoned down offices of National Comics during the Ike era!
April 19th, 2006
Hey Mike Sterling!


Yup, it's my very own version of Berni Wrightson's nifty cover for SWAMP THING #5!

And--double yup--it's up for sale over at that renowned world wide flea market known as eBay! Anybody out there who's interested in participating in the auction can simply go here.

And hey Sleestak! Hey BookSteve! You know what we all three failed to note yesterday?

Uh huh--Hayley Mills 60th birthday.

Cold that be because, to us, she'll always be that radiant golden-tressed teen who made her cinematic mark on our hearts back in the early sixties? And no matter what the calendar says, she'll NEVER seem that old to us?
(Could that ALSO mean we're a trio of creepy old guys? Nah, that couldn't be...)

Happy Birthday, Hayley, belated though it may be!

Y'see, luckily, even if we three loyal members of the Mills brotherhood missed it, keen-eyed Roger (Rog's Resolute Ramblings) Green didn't. Thanks, Rog--but NEXT time, try and let me know the day BEFORE, okay?

(Yeah, yeah, I know--SOME gratitude, huh? Guess I'm on my own with Lesley Gore then, huh? I'll try not to forget that HER 60th is coming up this May 2nd. I'd really hate to cuz it's, like, her party, and I'll, y'know, blog if I want too, dig?)
April 18th, 2006
Okay, so I cheated.

So this week's 57th episode of The Fred Hembeck Show was actually culled from elsewhere on this site--hey, unless you're Roger Green (he of the noted blog, Rambunctious Ramblings Re: Roger), you probably haven't read every single word posted here at, so why not go take a look. It may well be entirely new to you (and to Roger as well--I may be making him out to be crazier than he actually is! If so, sorry pal.)

And Peter Sanderson? Man oh man, he sure likes himself that V! More on such and other related topics can be found in his Comics In Context #128. Hey Peter--I'd like to see you devote that much analysis to "Scary Movie 4"!

(Why? Just to see him try! Heh...)

That's all. Back with some more fresh auction news (art AND comics) soon. See ya then!
April 16th, 2006
Here's hoping you're having a way better holiday than THAT poor guy!...
April 15th, 2006
The topic for this week's Five for Friday over at The Comics Reporter was Name Five Artists You Didn't Appreciate When You Were Young That You Appreciate Now. You can go on over and check out my personal nominations, as well as those of this weeks other participants. I was uncharacteristically terse, leaving only the five names with no further explanation. Well, I don't have a whole lot else to add, save that those (mis) judgements were all made between the years 1961 and 1965, when I was a whole lot younger. I was, for instance, EXTREMELY upset when Lee Elias was replaced by Alex Toth on "Eclipso" after only a few installments of that unique series! Look, Lee Elias was a darn good cartoonist, but still...

Been in a bit of a blogging malaise--or haven't you noticed? I owe several folks some detailed links--my apologies for not getting to 'em as yet. Hold on fellas--there's always hope!

Julie's Spring Break is rapidly coming to an end. Unlike her last vacation--when we went to Disney World (a travel report I STILL haven't written up--sigh...)--there were some big plans made hoping to accomplish several home-bound activities. Naturally, with the week almost gone, much has still been left undone. Double sigh--ain't that always the way?

The Mets have gotten off to an 8-1 start, which has been quite gratifying for this life-long fan. Keep it up, fellas!

I was saddened to hear of the passing of June Pointer, who, with her sisters, recorded one of my very favorite eighties albums, "Break Out", featuring what I still consider one of the most relentlessly upbeat--and sexy--hit singles of all time, "I'm So Excited".

Then there was Dr. Eugene Landy, the shrink who became a Svengali-like guru to head Beach Boy Brian Wilson back in the seventies and eighties. He's also left us after 71 years. There's no doubt he did the highly troubled Wilson some good--at least initially--but once he started "writing" songs with his patient, and attempting to manage his finances, well, that insured him a major chapter in the long, strange ongoing saga that is the history of the Beach Boys.

Today is Jackie Robinson Day at the nation's ballparks, Tax Day over at the IRS--AND my brother-in-law Bob's birthday in these here environs! I'd wish him all the best, but in keeping with the tradition maintained by nearly all my friends and family, if you actually know me and see me in person from time to time, you DON'T EVER read my blog! Why, some of my buddies have been known to buy a lap-top just so they could NOT visit my site! So, I guess I'll have to give Bob birthday greetings when I see him for Easter dinner over at his mom's tomorrow! (But Bob? If you ARE reading this, slip "Rosebud" into the conversation tomorrow. That way I'll know, but no one else will have to...)

The recent report that The Beatles CDs are finally going to be sonically overhauled was initially greeted by yours truly as welcome and long overdue news--and them it hit me: that means I'll have toy buy ALL those CDs all over again! And Beatles CDs are NEVER discounted! Crap. Well, I suppose if I want to keep Sir Paul up top of Forbes' richest celebrity list, I've gotta do my part, huh?...

We rented three DVD's earlier in the week: "The 40 Year Old Virgin", "Brokeback Mountain", and "Super-Size Me". The latter made the biggest impression on me--as someone who maybe eats franchised fast food less than a dozen times a year, I now realize even that's WAAAAYYY too much! Blecch.

I found "The 40 Year Old Virgin" not nearly as hilarious as I expected it to be. I get more laugh-out-loud moments in 23 minutes of "The Office"--my nominee for the funniest show currently on TV--than I did in the two hours plus running time of this flick. Ultimately, it was a sweet movie-- I really enjoyment the musical finale--but it was also maybe a lot more profane than really necessary. Love that Steve Carrell though...

"Brokeback Mountain"? A little slow-moving, but beautifully lensed and impeccably acted. Moving, true, but not on my list of the greatest films of all time. However, in the category of "Gay Cowboy Romances", it's absolutely tops!

(It did prompt me to turn to Lynn and comment, "Y'know, I went fishing once, but I soon realized it wasn't for me". No, that wasn't a euphemism--I really DID go fishing once, and I really DID realize it wasn't for me. I never did try the Jack and Ennis technique, but I think it's a little too late for me to try baiting my hook differently now...)

What about Julie, upon whose impetus we rented the flick in the first place? Well, while she was suitably saddened by the heart-rending manner in which events played out, there was still one nagging question on her lips after it was all over:

"WHY did they have random anal?..."

Hey, what could I tell her--put two guys in a tent overnight, and sometimes these things just happen, y'know?

(Meanwhile, I dutifully filed away THAT little query in the ever expanding file of Questions I Never Asked MY Parents! Little my darlin' daughter says surprises me anymore...)

Lastly, while there are several days left to my SHOWCASE #66 cover redo auction, I may well have overestimated the appeal of B'wana Beast. Guess that puts the kibosh on my plans for redrawing the glory that was BROTHER POWER THE GEEK, huh? But in an attempt to offer up something a bit more mainstream, be advised I've just posted my redo of Steve Ditko's splash page for AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #13 up for sale on eBay!

So please--go buy!

And on THAT note--good bye!
April 12th, 2006
A few weeks ago, I dug this comic out to use as the subject of The Fred Hembeck Show, Episode 55. I SHOULDA just put it away right after I was finished with it, but I didn't.

My mistake.

Soon after, this--one of the most mocked comics of the sixties--had me completely in its thrall!

Yes, I succumbed--I felt compelled to do up my own version of this memorable Mike Sekowsky/Joe Giella cover scene. You can see it if you go here.

And--heaven help us all--you can even make a bid on my original, if you go on over to my eBay auction.

Tell 'em Kenboya sent you!
April 11th, 2006
Please be advised that the 56th episode of The Fred Hembeck Show is now online. The topic this week? Well, let's just say that I drew my...inspiration...from another popular comics oriented website, and leave it at that. You'll see! (Who knows? Maybe this'll become a trend, and the NEXT episode will be chock full of shirtless photos of yours truly, a tip of the hat to The Beat's occasional foray into beefcake! Not that any of you ever really DID anything to deserve the nightmares that are sure to follow, though...)

A few notes about yesterday's entry. Roger Green--he of the fine blog, Roger's Riotous Ramblings--pointed out that April 9th was actually Hugh Hefner's 80th birthday, not the 10th as I mistakenly indicated. Well, that's the last time I trust a birthday shout out from Regis Philbin! I guess I shoulda known better--five minutes later, he called Tiger Woods "Tiger Jones"! Luckily, Kelly corrected him on THAT one, but no such luck on the Hef boner.

(Um, no pun intended--well, okay, not INITIALLY, but now that I've thought about it...)


Oh, and as far as my declaring Mickey, Shirley, and Cheetah the last remaining vestiges of Hollywood's Golden Era, no less than the esteemed Peter Sanderson himself wrote in, begging to differ (well, he didn't exactly beg, but you know what I mean...)...

There aren't many, but even including Cheetah, there are more survivors of the Golden Age than that just Mr. Rooney and Ms. Temple.

One of the champs for longevity is Olivia de Havilland, who turned up in person at the Oscars the last time Steve Martin hosted, and can be seen in a new (2005) interview in TCM's "The Adventures of Errol Flynn" documentary.

How about Lauren Bacall, who was at this year's Oscars?

There are also Jane Powell and her husband Dick (formerly child actor Dickie) Moore, whom I hope to see when they appear at NYC's Film Forum this summer. Also from MGM musicals are Cyd Charisse, Debbie Reynolds, and Esther Williams.

How about Kitty Carlisle, from "A Night at the Opera"?

I think that Stanley Donen, co-director of "Singin' in the Rain," is the last important director still surviving from the Golden Age of Hollywood. Oh, wait, should we count Sidney Lumet, though he seemed more New York than Hollywood in the 1950s?

And if we define the "Golden Age of Hollywood" as lasting through the end
of the 1950s, we can add Charlton Heston, Eva Marie Saint, Martin Landau, and even Clint Eastwood.

And this is all just off the top of my head. There are probably more. (I think some of the Munchkins from "Wizard of Oz" are still around, too!)

Thanks Peter, but truth to tell, when I was writing that, I was really just thinking of stars of the thirties. Guess I'd better define my parameters more clearly in the future! (But my gosh--Kitty Carlisle? Who'da thot? Hey, and howsabout 101 year old Charles Lane? And Karl Malden? And...)

But enough of that. This'll give me a chance to plug Comics In Context #127 AND #128, as I was a bit remiss in my linkage this past week (more coming soon, hopefully). Our Mr.Sanderson continues to analyze the "V For Vendetta" film in his past two columns, which is all well and good, except that in #127, he proudly ended it with a postscript declaring that here indeed was the short piece I'd earlier challenged him to do!

Nice try Peter, but I ain't buying. First off, it was three pages in length, and I asked for two maximum, but more importantly--and maybe I woulda let the extra page slide if not for this--by focusing on the "V" movie as you had done the previous week, the column in question was actually an EXTENSION of the earlier piece! That hardly qualifies it as a shortie, y'know! We want us a stand-alone topic, brief and tasty! Maybe you shoulda just turned the above into Ken instead of to me--now THAT'S a quickie!

Thanks for trying anyway--and thanks for writing!

Well, I'm done here--now I've gotta go what OTHER good ideas I can rip-off!
April 10th, 2006

For some reason, Hef always reminded me of his Marvel Comics' counterpart in that they both evinced a similar brand of enthusiasm--it could come out both defiantly boastful AND endearingly self-effacing, simultaneously! The PLAYBOY founder WAS Stan Lee--only with sex!

(Gives a whole new meaning to the catch-phrase "Hang loose!", though...)

More amazingly, I learned that today the publisher also shares his birthday with yet ANOTHER celebrity--Cheetah!!

That's right--today is the 74th birthday of Johnny Weismuller's simian sidekick! The world's oldest chimp--who retired after appearing in "Dr. Doolittle" (presumably the Rex Harrison version, not the Eddie Murphy remake)--was shown wearing a party hat and stuffing cake in his mouth on MSNBC earlier today. At least, I THINK that naked shriveled up individual blowing out the candles was Cheetah--I suppose it could've just as easily been a peek at Hef's party, huh?

Y'know, I had thought Mickey Rooney and Shirley Temple were the last stars from Hollywood's Golden Age still with us, but news of Cheetah's surprising longevity will probably induce many of Tinseltown's current denizens to embark on a banana heavy diet. Fine--just so long as they don't start throwing their poop at people!

(Although, if I'm not mistaken, wasn't that why wife number four divorced Mickey? It's so VERY hard to keep track...)
April 8th, 2006
Well, it's happened again--I sent along my nominations for Tom Spurgeon's latest Five For Friday survey over at The Comics Reporter, and apparently, it didn't make it through. Oh well--never one to let any of my keen observations go to waste, I instead share them here with you. (And you can hit the subject link to see what other folks had to say, natch).

So without further ado...

U Got The Look--Name Five Characters Whose Design You Like More Than Anything Else About Them

I've always had an inexplicable predisposition towards characters with overly garish color schemes, ones who'd easily look at home with a traveling circus. Apparently, I might be alone in feeling this way, as four of the five folks listed below never even got past their initial appearances...

1. Captain 3-D (Simon and Kirby--a victim of the fifties 3-D bust)

2. The Odd Man (Steve Ditko--a back-up feature arriving stillborn thanks the infamous DC Implosion)

3. The Prankster (Jim Aparo--lost after one episode published in Thunderbolt when the entire Charlton Action Heroes line was axed)

4. Mr. Polka Dot (Bob Kane--no, not really. More like ghost Sheldon Moldoff--after battling Batman in the pages of Detective Comics #300, this early sixties villain--AND his ridiculous outfit--vanished forever)

5. The Trickster (Carmine Infantino--this Flash foe is the only gaudily dressed fellow on this list lucky enough to return a whole buncha times. Why? Well, I'm guessing it must've been that tremendous blonde pompadour of his...)
April 7th, 2006
The cover of AVENGERS #100 featured every member extant of that august organization up to that time (1972), even Hawkeye in his short-lived Barry (pre-Windsor) Smith designed outfit.

You can see MY version of the original Smith cover by going here--and you can (uh huh) bid on my redo by going to this eBay page.

(Or you can bid on my JLA #9 redo--that's the Mike Sekowsky pencilled origin cover. You know--the one where all those powerful superheroes were somehow turned into trees?...)

(Well, at least I'm keeping these blatant commercials short--you've gotta give me THAT!...)
April 5th, 2006
Awhile back, for no particular reason--save maybe to post it here on this blog,--I attempted to compile a list of my ten favorite male vocalists, singers who, even if they were reduced to warbling the instructions for hooking up a VCR straight out an accompanying booklet, would nonetheless command my complete and devoted attention.

Well, I never did complete that fanciful task, but even without going over the whole exercise in my mind again, there was absolutely NO question that one very prominent name on that list would've been Gene Pitney.

I ask you, is there any more majestically dramatic a ditty that exemplifies confused teen angst better than "Town Without Pity", sung with the aching vulnerability that was Pitney's trademark? (And Gene made it sound just as explosive when he rerecorded it in both Italian and German as well!) "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance" showcased his more rollicking side, and the way he maneuvered his way through the lyrics of "It Hurts To Be In Love", where he clearly had more words than notes necessary to get his forlorn message comfortably out, was nonetheless both a chart and critical success. He not only wrote "Hello, Mary Lou", which Ricky Nelson immortalized, but was the first artist to chart with a Jagger-Richard composition in America, when "That Girl Belongs To Yesterday" hit number 49 in January of 1964, a full month before the Fab Four made their initial appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show! In fact, Pitney played piano on the Rolling Stones debut album! Though he's mostly thought of as a pre-Beatles pop crooner, his talent clearly--and vastly--surpassed the majority of a score of manufactured teen idols who shared the charts with him during his early sixties heyday.

I never heard much regarding his back story--nothing scandalous enough to make good copy, apparently. That's okay--I DO know I love his music. About a decade ago, after securing a superb two-disc, fifty-one cut overview of his career (including the aforementioned foreign language cuts), the opportunity came, through the mail-order Collector's Choice Music service, to purchase nine discs, each one pairing up two of his early sixties LPs, from an U.K. label, a chance I immediately jumped at!

You might say, my goodness, but that's sure a LOT of Gene Pitney! Yeah, maybe, but you know what I say? There's no such thing as TOO MUCH Gene Pitney! Well, okay, save for the sometimes maddening proclivity record companies had in those days to repeat popular selections willy nilly on album after album--which the British CD label faithfully maintained with its rereleases--I was absolutely glad I did! Like I said, this was a guy who could sing the phone book, and I'd listen happily. When he was crooning an amusing little novelty like "Aladdin's Lamp", or doing a heart-wrenching take of Randy Newman's "Just One Smile" (also ably covered by both Dusty Springfield and Al Kooper's Blood Sweat and Tears, among others), well, all the better.

It took far longer than it should've, but I'm glad he was finally inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame several years back. And I suppose it's comforting to know that the singer was constantly touring in recent years, particularly in Europe, where his star always seemed to shine brighter than it ever did in his native land. It's just a tremendous shame that, after giving what was to be his final performance last night, Gene Pitney passed away much too early at the age of 65.

Funny thing about music. Sometimes you just connect with a voice, one that never fails to elicit a visceral reaction when you hear it. For me, Gene Pitney had one of those voices. I'm gonna miss him, true enough, but in many ways, he'll always be with me because, y'know, I'm NEVER gonna stop playing those brilliant records of his.

Rest easy, Gene.
April 4th, 2006

Even if it DID take the umpire's field of vision being fortuitously blocked by catcher Paul LeDuca's body when the Met backstop momentarily dropped the ball after tagging out what would've been--had the ump noticed the brief fumble--the Nationals tying run at home plate late in the season opener, but hey, we Mets fans have suffered long enough--we'll take our luck enhanced 3-2 win and be happy about it!

And these thoughts of baseball take me back, as always, to the star of DC's 66th issue of SHOWCASE! But for more on THAT curious connection, you'll just have to zip on over and read the 55th episode of The Fred Hembeck Show!!

(And yeah, here's where I usually provide you with a laundry list of other links, but I'm a little pressed for time--and I have a few that bear more than one simple sentence--so cut me a little slack, okay? I'll have 'em for you real soon, promise!...)
April 3rd, 2006
Ah yes, Opening Day, 2006! (Never mind that White Sox/Indians gameon ESPN from last night...)

This is the day, when, every single year, someone somewhere sagely declares "The moves the Mets made over this past winter have improved the team immensely, and THIS is the year they have an excellent chance of contending!"

Yeah, well, maybe. It'd sure be nice, no doubt about it. I'm just hoping the game doesn't get rained out this afternoon...

In the meantime, enjoy taking a quick gander at a pair of special comics, joint publications between a decidedly diverse triumvirate of Sports Illustrated, Kelloggs, and DC Comics. Each features 16 page stories, with no ads (unless, of course, you consider the unavoidable presence of Tony the Tiger and those conspicuous boxes of Frosted Flakes lingering in the background to be commercially motivated...).

I'm not entirely sure who provided the art for the Nolan Ryan comic--my guess is Ernie Colon--but I know for a fact that the Ozzie Smith issue was drawn by none other than Joltin' Joe Staton! I know this because it was Joe himself who gave me copies of these two oddball items back when we lived mere blocks apart! Thanks Joe!

(And no, all you amateur wise guys out there in the audience, I am NOT selling these books! SOME things are sacred, y'know...)

Back in 1992, when these were published, both Ryan and Ozzie were still active players. Now, of course, the pair are both justifiably enshrined in baseball's Hall of Fame in Cooperstown.

And Tony?...
I believe he's doing some catching at the Triple A level--in the Detroit Tigers' system, natch!

And y'know, word is he's not bad at all . In fact, not only is he good, he's (uh huh...)---

April 2nd, 2006
In my entire life, I only ever played the game Dungeons and Dragons one time.

It was the late seventies, not long before Lynn and I got married. Lynn's younger brother (by two years) Bob was into playing the ol' D&D (and still is, as a matter of fact), and bowing to bit of mild curiosity on both our parts, Lynn and I decided to try playing a game under Dungeon Master Bob's supervision.

Now, you 'd think somebody who was as into the extravagant make-believe regularly found in colorfully costumed crimefighter comic-books as I was would likely be a prime candidate for the sort of fantasy that D&Der's embrace, but that's really never been the case. I've never read any Tolkien, for instance--and no, I STILL haven't seen the movies, either. While hardly a devotee of the genre, Lynn was more familiar with fantasy fiction than I ever was--I remember her reading plenty of Anne McCafferty novels back in those days. So, wondering what all the fuss the kids were making about this "D&D" was about, we sat down with Bob to play our first game.

I'm not sure exactly what the best way to break in newbies to D&D is, but in retrospect, playing a round with only three people--two of whom are completely inexperienced--probably ISN'T it. It's been a long, long time since that evening, and though I'm sure Bob did everything he could to familiarize the two of us with the proper procedures, mostly I recall that Lynn and I were continually confused by his seemingly random instructions after each toss of the six-sided die. It didn't take long to realize that this was a game pretty much without any clear cut rules, and as someone who never developed much of a taste for games anyway (possibly as a result of being an only child, with no ready opponent available to take on), this did little to stoke my enthusiasm.

Well, the game didn't last long. I think it pretty much just petered out. We thanked Bob for his time, but that was that--no more D&D for me (or Lynn either, for that matter).

Jump ahead a decade. DC Comics announces a deal with the TSR people, the folks who owned D&D (though I don't recall any of their game paraphernalia in our midst that earlier evening, unless they made the dice...). Under a combined TSR/DC logo, a regular line of books focusing on the properties ADVANCED DUNGEONS AND DRAGONS, DRAGONLANCE, FORGOTTEN REALMS, GAMMARUADERS, SPELLJAMMER, and AVATAR were released between the years of 1988 and 1991. In all, over one hundred issues were produced by the two firms in tandem, and since I was on the DC comp list back then, I got most of them (several early issues never showed, and somewhat inexplicably, the third and final issue of the 100 page AVATAR came with its cover torn clean off, the only time that ever happened with any of my freebies). As you might gather by now, these books weren't exactly my cup of tea, despite the best efforts of the likes of under appreciated talents such as Ron Randall and Jan Duursema--and there was even some early work by a young fellow named Joe Quesada towards the end of SPELLJAMMER'S run. The simple truth was that the subject matter just didn't grab me. But, collector that I was, I dutifully filed each and issue away in a long-box, and that's where they've stayed ever since.

Until now.

Yup, you guessed it--I'm selling my near entire collection of 98 issues (I'm holding onto only one issue, a SPELLJAMMER that was laid out by Quesada and finished by the legendary Don Heck--but I AM parting with all three issues of DRAGONLANCE, each boasting a mind-numbingly exquisite cover by Mike Kaluta, one of which is pictured above). And yeah, the by-now nearly obligatory free illo is included as well.

So, here it is--the link to my eBay auction for the lot of 98 TSR/DC comics, priced to move!

Take a look. Better yet, take a gamble and make a bid!

C'mon--roll the dice! ESPECIALLY if it's a six-sided one!...
April 1st, 2006
From today forward, this weblog will endeavor to present only the most well-thought out, deeply analytical and scholarly examination's of the most decidedly provocative facets of the most significant areas of today's current pop culture explosion



Nah, we're just gonna keep pumping out the same old self-involved crap we've been shoveling you folks for over three years now! And speaking of which...

Over at The Comics Reporter, Tom Spurgeon posted the results of his latest Five For Friday Survey--the topic being Name Five Convention Experiences That Don't Involve Meeting an Artist--which allowed me to wax nostalgic and offer up several marginally amusing anecdotes. Go take a look--other people shared some good stories as well.

And for those of you disappointed that my opening line was only a gag, remember--you can't be analytical without being anal!...

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