Archive - August 2005
Contact Fred Links-a-Plenty!
Who Fred?
August 31st, 2005
Years before the folks at HBO even considered the notion of making mockery of Aquaman, I was right there at the very forefront of this trend--and why not? Goofing on the King of the Seven Seas is like, well, shooting fish in a barrel!! So, go dive on over to the 25th episode of The Fred Hembeck Show, and check out my encounter with the Aquadude, courtesy of a Dateline:@#$% strip from the year 2000, one that's never been seen on the web before!

(And remember, Laura, it's all in good fun! Mostly...)

While over at IGN, take a peek at Peter Sanderson's 99th (!!) installment of his Comics In Context feature. Peter starts off with a Barbara Feldon gag, ends with a fanciful scenario concerning yours truly, one that brought a smile to my face and nearly--but not quite--a tear to my eye, and in between, Mr. S FINALLY finishes his monumental SDCC report! What's coming up for number one hundred, you might well ask? I don't know, but hopefully something more creative than Aquaman-bashing...
And what did my ol' pal Roger Green have for us this week? Well, let's see--he contemplated buying Rolling Stones tickets, eulogized Emmett Till, talked about minor league, Little League AND Major League baseball, reviewed CDs compiled by and for zombies, and sang songs about cannibals to his infant daughter, among other things! That should be enough to make you curious for a look-see, eh?

Bill Sherman goes into exhaustive--and highly entertaining--detail about an excruciatingly awful movie I'd never heard of before, "Santa Claus And The Ice Cream Bunny", but thanks to his evocative write-up, it's most surely one I want to see NOW!!

On the other hand, Gary Sassaman makes a thoroughly convincing case for completely ignoring Fox's new "Prison Break" drama (no, wise guy--it's NOT a reality show) by methodically listing an impressive amount of egregious leaps of logic found in the two hour premiere episode alone. As Gary points out in merely the first of his many objections, "A beautiful prison doctor who just happens to be the Governor's daughter. Why don't they just paint HOSTAGE on her forehead?" Why not, indeed? Thanks Gary--I'll take a pass. Instead, I'll spend the next few months storing up all my suspension of disbelief like squirrels hoarding their nuts, awaiting the next wondrous season of "24", when the need will certainly avail itself yet again!

One of the cast members of the original motion picture version of "Little Shop Of Horrors" passed away earlier this week, which prompted Will Pfiefer to share what has to be one of the funniest (and maybe the ONLY funny story) about newspaper obituaries I've ever read! Almost as hilarious was Will's linking to the interview Jerry Lewis ALMOST gave to NEWSWEEK! Oboy--only four more days til the Telethon!! Hurray--America will get its annual dose of Norm Crosby real, real soon!

Greg Burgas--links, links, links! Do I REALLY need to say anything else?...

And a belated Happy Fiftieth Birthday to one of my very favorite comic book people, the always lovable Craig Boldman! Best wishes to you, Craig, and your little pal Tailipoe, too!

Lastly, seriously--skip a few comics/DVDs/CDs this week, and send the money instead to the charity of your choice to help with hurricane relief. Those people really need our assistance. Do what you can.
August 30th, 2005
Funnyman Soupy Sales, PLAYBOY founder Hugh Hefner, former LA Police Chief Daryl Gates, the late blonde bombshell Marilyn Monroe, humanitarian Jerry Lewis, and my lovely mother-in-law Terry Moss--WHAT do all these seemingly disparate individuals have in common?

Simple enough--each is a member of The New Arrivals of 1926, making them each 79 years of age right about now (except for poor Marilyn, of course...). Fact is, today is not only Chief Gates 79th, but Granma Moss's as well! Now, I know full well she'll never actually read is ONLY enjoyed by my loyal coterie of complete strangers, and friends who live too far away to drive on over, and is otherwise ignored by both relatives and any pals within the radius of an ever increasingly expensive tank of gas, but hey, that's okay--but I wanted to mark the date nonetheless.

That's quite the little group she finds herself associated with--and to make the '26 Baby's Club even prouder, this upcoming Sunday, when the family will formally be getting together in order to properly celebrate this mildly momentous occasion, only hours after the candles have been extinguished and the party favors put away, we'll return back to our home, and I'll flip on the tube, only to find the beginning of yet another awe-inspiring Jerry Lewis telethon before me!!

So, in the words of Dean's old partner, let me just say this to my truly beloved mom-in-law:

"Hey LAAAADY! Happy Birthday!!"

(Oh, and Happy Birthday to Robert Crumb, too--even if he is a tad bit younger than 79 today...)
August 29th, 2005
Back on August 15th, I chose to mock the near-anonymity of Gummo, the fifth--and clearly the most obscure--Marx Brother. While it's true that this sibling was a total non-entity when it came to such film classics as "Duck Soup", "A Night At The Opera", and even "Love Happy", perhaps I spoke to soon, especially if one were to take a closer look at the overall picture.

Well, one like Milo George, anyway, who provided me with the following information, and graciously agreed to allow me to share it with you here.

Gummo was reported to be a mediocre singer/comedian, but possibly the greatest agent Hollywood has ever seen. His reputation for dealmaking and ethical straight-shooting was so solid that he often worked with his clients--directors, writers, actors, even huge, name-over-the-title stars like Glenn Ford at his peak -- on a handshake basis. No contracts, no deal memos, just his word. That takes a lot of courage, and confidence on both sides -- especially in Hollywood. Gummo's supposed to have explained his method by saying that if he does his job and his client is happy, they'll stay together. If the client isn't happy, he should be able to find a more suitable agent. Gummo's also credited as being a big wheel in Groucho's reinvention as a radio/TV personality after the Brothers finally broke up their act for good.

Which Marx retired long before any of his brothers but passed on the largest estate to his children? Gummo. There's no business like show business.

Thanks, Milo--that was fascinating. No doubt in a culture that makes huge celebrities out of business moguls like Donald Trump, Gummo would be a far more famous personality operating in this day and age! I guess then we'd have to settle for making fun of Zeppo--though considering his Sinatra connections, maybe not...

Milo--who, despite the name, is NOT the long-lost sixth Marx Brother--runs a little website himself, as many of you know. It's called The Unofficial John Westmoreland Tribute Webring, and (as you may have suspected from the descriptive title) specializes in exploring all possible aspects of the scourge of Endemic Treponematosis.

Plus, monkey pictures!
August 28th, 2005
Kirby says, "Don't ASK--just CELEBRATE!!"
Today is the birthday of the immortal Jack Kirby. There's not much more I can say about The King that others haven't already said before and better--but I CAN supply you with this tidy little list of Kurtzberg connected links...

Mark Evanier's Kirby Section

The Jack Kirby Weblog

Monster Blog (complete Atlas Kirby creature features)

Dial B For Blog's Jack Kirby Rarities

The Jack Kirby Collector Magazine

Spiritual Symbolism In The Work Of Jack Kirby

Jack Kirby Bio

Jack Kirby Bio (another)

Jack Kirby Wikipedia Entry

Jack Kirby Video Interview

Street Code (entire 9 page story)

...and a bunch of links already rounded up to coincide with the Fantastic Four movie by Tom Spurgeon over at The Comics Reporter, proving that if you just keep Googling a subject long enough, sooner or later, someone else will have done your job for you! Thanks Tom!

And of course, thank YOU, Jack--The World's Greatest Comic Magazine Artist!
August 27th, 2005
Bob's back!

So are Paul and Keith!

These "Elder Statesmen" of rock--I remember when they were being called that back when they hit their late thirties, and now, in their mid-sixties, the sobriquet actually applies to the greying Dylan, McCartney, and Richards--each stared out at me yesterday from the Barnes and Nobles racks, festooned on the covers of the September issues of my two favorite British music magazines, MOJO and UNCUT.
The enigmatic Mr. Zimmerman, circa 1965, trumpeted MOJO's celebrity poll of "The 100 Greatest Dylan Songs", while ex-Beatle McCartney and life-long Stone Richards--in a unique dual portrait taken recently (and specifically) to help celebrate UNCUT's 100th issue--are amongst a similarly blue-ribbon panel of 100 Rock And Movie Icons sharing their thoughts "On The Music And Films That Changed The World".

And guess what?

Number One on BOTH lists turned out to be the exact same thing: Dylan's "Like A Rolling Stone"!

HOW does it feel? Pretty darn sweet, I'd imagine...

But y'know, these lists are all pretty silly and subjective--fun to skim through, sure, but fairly meaningless in the long run. The REAL reason I was so impressed with these almost mirror-like pair of issues was because of the specially compiled free CDs adhered to their covers.

Yup, more Dylan.

The folks at MOJO put together a fine compilation of already existing cover versions of a handful of Bob's songs, with the guest list spanning everyone from the Byrd's Roger McGuinn to ol' Blue Eyes' Nancy Sinatra! Still, the prize here has to go to UNCUT--they assembled an entirely NEW set of recordings to perfectly mimic the set list of one of Dylan's greatest LPs--and along with "Blonde On Blonde", my personal favorite--"Highway 61 Revisited", calling their new version "Highway 61 Revisited Revisited"!! (Maybe next time they'll do "Blonde On Blonde On Blonde"--or am I thinking of a movie I saw on The Spice Channel once?...)

Here's your track listings...
I can't claim to be the biggest of Dylan fans--I'm sure my fave choices gave me away as more of a dabbler than a devotee--but I've always been intrigued by the guy, if not particularly enamored of his voice. So, I always figure with Dylan, a good cover version is well worth a listen, and there are plenty to be found on these two bonus discs. After only a single spin--no, this won't be a proper review, just a heads up of sorts--I found myself struck by the performance of Dave Alvin on "Highway 61 Revisited Revisited "s title track. Over a jazzy backing, he delivers the lyrics in a near spoken word manner, and lemme tell ya, it's quite effective. The MOJO CD is a lot of fun, but the UNCUT one has all the makings of a true collector's item! Hard to believe all these artists went to the trouble of replicating such an iconic LP, and it's only available as a ride-along with an imported U.K. music mag, but whoop, there it is. If you have any interest in Bob, try and scare up a copy--don't think twice, it's MORE than alright!

Of course, you KNOW why these fellas are making the cover rounds, right? New product, natch--AND tours (Dylan never stops, seemingly, the Stones just started up again, with Macca soon to follow). The two CD soundtrack for the upcoming Martin Scorcese documentary, "No Direction Home" comes out next week, with the latest Rolling Stones extravaganza, "A Bigger Bang" to follow seven days later--and the one I'm REALLY looking forward to, the new Paul McCartney album, "Chaos And Creation In The Back Yard" is due to be released smack dab in the middle of September!

Rock on old men, rock on!

And as for this post, well, it's all over now, don'tcha know?...
August 26th, 2005
It's time again for Tom Spurgeon's Five For Friday feature over at The Comics Reporter, with this week's survey question being:

Name Five Cartoonists, Any Era, Around Whom You Would Build a Comics Company

Go here to see the Dream Bullpen that I came up with (along with the selections of a buncha other fine folks). Choosing but five was tough, though there was at least one no-brainer (Hint: he's on the top of the heap). Such fundamental worthies as Steve Ditko, Mort Walker, Wally Wood, and Gil Kane, for instance, didn't make my cut. And unlike several other participants, I DIDN'T utilize any writers, as I felt that wasn't true to the rules as stated. Otherwise, I would've had to include good ol' Stan Lee (and I didn't think to pick Dick Giordano, as Dave Carter did, which belatedly occurs to me as being a very savvy choice, given Giordano's legendary expertise as not only a fine cartoonist and cover artist, but as a highly respected editor as well! Is it too late to swap him for that OTHER Editorial Director on my list, Tom?...).

Of course, I couldn't help but come up with several different combinations, though I thankfully restrained myself from submitting THIS one:

1. Neal Adams
2. Jim Steranko
3. Dave Stevens
4. Brian Bolland
5. Vinnie Colletta

Why Vinnie? Hey, SOMEBODY would have to keep this little congregation's comics on deadline, and Colletta might be to only one capable of achieving that decidedly dubious task! But, I kid...

As does, apparently, Mr. Spugeon himself. He kindly linked to the recent episode of The Fred Hembeck Show that was inspired by last week's Five For Friday, and the headline he choose made me laugh out loud!

Thanks for the link, Tom--and THIS time, the tears came from laughter!...
August 25th, 2005
Attention citizens: be on the lookout for a young girl, recently escaped from the drudgery of simple household chores, and last seen avoiding vastly unappealing assigned reading. If you should encounter this furtive fugitive, speak to her in a calm, even voice, but do not--I repeat, DO NOT--confront her with a broom or a book, as your own personal safety could well be at risk...
Actually, that's my daughter Julie, but you probably already guessed that.

Today's her fifteenth birthday, but if you've been paying even a scant amount of attention to this blog in recent days, you most likely knew THAT, too.

The picture above was snapped by Julie herself as a self-portrait, back about a month or so ago while she was enrolled in a two-week summer photography course. A shot of her smiling--and in color--can be seen by scrolling down this page to the August 17th entry (and no, she did NOT make off with that baby!...).

Fifteen years. It's a little hard for me to digest. There's a reason that the notion of "it all goes so fast" is a cliche--it's TRUE! And as our only child, the mind boggles at the concept of her possibly being off and on her own in three short years--man, is it ever gonna be BORING around here after that!!

Y'know, she almost exhibits a certain glee in mocking my musical tastes (particularly with regard to the God-like Beatles), and she's showed almost total indifference to the whole comic book thing in her young life (save for sincerely enjoying having LITTLE LULU comics read to her way back when), but despite that--and the occasional stubbornness that leads to shouting from both sides when things don't get done the way her parents might prefer--the kid is just so much fun to hang around with! She laughs at most all of my jokes--even the ones no one else will--and she's always full of enthusiasm for whatever she's involved in (save for the aforementioned chores and selected tedious scholarly pursuits).

Julie's had more than her share of hurdles to leap, but she's done a fine job by all accounts--her grades have always been admirable at the very least, and even downright exceptional at times. Socially, she's generally well-liked, and she exhibits little inhibitions when dealing with new situations, happily getting herself right out, front and center, whenever the need presents itself.

Yeah, okay, sure, it's not all warm fuzzies--when is it ever? She can be annoying at times, demanding even, and she's been known to take a funny quip and beat it so far into the ground, you can't ever imagine how it was actually funny in the first place! Gee, where'd she ever learn THAT, y'think??...

Still, we're a lucky group, Lynn, Julie and I. This became particularly clear to me last summer when we were attending a Renegades game thanks to some tickets gifted to high achieving students by her old school. None of her close friends were there that night--not everybody eligible chose to take in the minor league baseball game, y'see--but there were several of her acquaintances in the bleachers near us. Julie exchanged polite hellos, mostly other girls accompanied by their dads. As the night wore on, I couldn't help but notice that most of these father-daughter combinations were pretty much just sitting quietly next to one another, going for long stretches of time without any words passing between them. By contrast, me and my kid were yukking it up the whole time, chattering away about most anything and everything--and not necessarily the game! Remember, she still didn't know what a shortstop was back then (and I'm still not convinced she does NOW!...).

That clued me in quite a bit about just what sort of relationship we have with our not-so-little one. I'm lucky. Lynn's lucky. Heck, badger her enough, and you might even get Julie to admit SHE'S lucky!

So, happy birthday, kiddo! Here's to fifteen more!

(Um, and another fifteen after that--and another fifteen, and then another, and another, and ANOTHER--and, well, 105's not bad, right? Don't be getting TOO greedy, now...)
August 24th, 2005
At the end of each week, Tom Spurgeon poses a question on his blog, The Comics Reporter, and invites his readers to contribute their own personal answers in this recurring feature, Five For Friday. Although I was a little late to catch onto it, in recent months, I've made an effort to forward my thoughts on each weeks subject.

Sometimes I don't, though, and there three main reasons:

1.) I forget to. Hey, it happens.

2.) I don't feel qualified to answer. That happens also, believe me....

3.) I COULD answer, but then I'd be depriving my ownself of prime blogging material. So, greedily I hold back. (Don't hate me, Tom
This past week's question--Name Five Moments From Comics That Made You Sad Enough to Cry, Even If You Didn't--immediately brought one such moment to mind, and I almost as immediately realized this qualified as a number three type keeper. In fact, forget about five--I had ONE that I felt strongly enough about to make it the subject of the twenty-fourth heart wrenching episode of The Fred Hembeck Show. So grab a clean hanky and head on over to read the sob-inducing saga of Hyper-Man!

While you're over at the IGN Comics website, check out Peter Sanderson's Comics In Context #98. Peter continues his epic recap of the no-longer-so-recent SDCC, focusing this time on the comedy stylings of Josh Whedon, and merrily mocking me whenever possible! Does this man know how to have fun or what?

Roger Green, having finished with his trials with Trebek, has added more than the occasional picture to his Ramblin' With Roger page, and is also diving into the blogging community with both feet, particularly with the folks involved with the Mixed Bag CD exchange project. Fact is, I believe MY own mix CD is up for review today--I haven't seen Rog's cogent capsule commentary yet, but I just KNOW he's gonna love the Mandy Patinkin cut! Hey, how could he NOT? It's got a heckuva big finish!!...

There's a new blog in town! Steven Thompson's Booksteve's Library features a lot of great and obscure graphics, accompanied by some nicely illuminating text. His two most recent entries focus on a recent meeting he had with underground comix legend Justin Green, and a unique and rarely seen piece of Steranko art--a terrific illo of nearly a dozen classic heroes long ago utilized on the mailing envelope for Steranko's two HISTORY OF COMICS volumes (along with the amusing anecdote that the teen-aged Steve shot off angry letters, demanding he either get his (as yet unpublished) volume, or his money back--otherwise, by Odin, he'd take legal action!! Hah!). Steven of course includes the art--which I believe I too have filed away somewhere, but since I'm not sure exactly WHERE, I'm glad Steve scanned it in. Go take a look--there's some pretty nifty stuff there already!

Lastly, Lynn found this one for me: Jahsonic, A Vocabulary of Culture. This has got to be one of the most categorized sites I've ever encountered. Get ready to man that mouse! Lotsa good stuff though--and if you look hard enough, yup, comics, too.

Nothing about Hyper-Man, though--I got THAT little corner of the net all to myself (...sniff...)...
August 23rd, 2005
Speaking of birthdays, how about a big cheery "Happy Birthday" for my friends, Terry Austin and Paul Abrams, who share this special day together (though they are, as best I can recall, NOT the same age).

I'm afraid I haven't been in touch with Paul for awhile, but--although he'll never see it HERE--I did manage to impart my best wishes to Terry personally today when we went out for a far too large lunch at the local Bug A Boo Creek eatery!

That it was his birthday was only coincidental to our getting together. The main reason was so that I could finally get a glimpse at an old friend who had come along for the ride, comics scripting superstar, Ron Marz!

I've known Ron for a long time--back even before he'd ever written a single comic book, in fact. But I hadn't seen him face to face since he left the upstate area for the wilds of Florida to work for CrossGen over five years ago. That was a good gig while it lasted--and it lasted far longer than a lot of people predicted--but as we all know, ultimately, it didn't last forever. So, he headed back New York way in June, stopping over temporarily at his in-laws--and not far from mutual buddy Terry--awaiting his next relocation. That one's about an hour further up the NY State Thruway (and even further away from me, unfortunately), a move that's gonna happen in early September, just in time for Ron and Kirsten's son, Killian, to start the fifth grade in his new school. So, busy as he was trying to find a new place, keep three kids, three horses, and two dogs happy--all the while writing plenty of funny books--we just hadn't had the chance to get together at all this summer.

Until today.

Sorry, no comics talk to speak of. Mainly, he regaled us with tales of preparations for moving into the new Marz digs, as well as some funny stories about the care and feeding of his wife's horses, but as they're not my anecdotes to repeat, that's about all I have to say about that. It was swell seeing Ron again, even at this eleventh hour--and I'm glad we also had the chance to pick up the birthday boy's tab!

So, even though you won't ever see this, Happy Birthday again, Terry! And even though the odds are you'll never have the time to read this, Good Luck, Ron!

And even though I'm not sure how best to end this entry, I'm just gonna!...
August 22nd, 2005
Here's a little something we learned the other day:

If you're throwing a party for your teenager, the LAST thing the guests want to hear come out of your mouth is, "Time to eat, gang! Now, who wants the egg salad?"

Well, it SEEMED like a good idea at the time. Julie's been a pretty strict vegetarian for nearly two years now (yeah, I'M surprised too!...), so she decreed no meat at her 15th birthday party. Fine by us, so besides putting out a swell array of fresh, cut veggies for munching--with dip nearby, natch--we prepared two trays of piping hot ziti and whipped two dozen eggs up into a salad to slather on sesame seeded rolls (lettuce and tomato optional), and then offered the twelve kids their choice of a main course.

It was eleven to one, ziti triumphant. I think Lisa just felt sorry for us--that, or the very real possibility that she gets more than enough Italian food at home, and she just needed a welcome respite from the red-tinged foodstuffs.

Truth is, it was a great egg salad--nice job, Lynn--but we've clearly learned our lesson. Like I told the kids, next year, liver! (Oh wait, that's meat. Darn...)

Otherwise it was a good party. No disasters to speak of. As per usual for our girl, it was a LONG party--commencing at one in the afternoon and going all the way until ten at night, although about half the attendees came late and left early. Still, staying five or six hours instead of nine--that's a good chunk of time no matter how you slice it...

Special mention goes out to friend Deanna--it was her ninth consecutive year attending Julie's annual wing-ding. Lisa's fourth, Courtney's third, and a lot of new folks besides..

What'd they do? Well, it was interesting what they DIDN'T do. No pinata (though according to Julie, that was mostly a matter of not enough time to properly get one together), no craft activity to occupy the kids for hours, and relatively little pool time. Of course, the weather had a lot to do with that last situation--it rained in the morning, but though the sun was out by mid-afternoon, a chilly evening the night before left the water far cooler than it had been just a week earlier.

So instead, inside they all took turns playing DDR--Dance Dance Revolution, the video game where you follow the steps that flash across the TV screen, dancing on a special pad as one of several popular tunes plays over and over (...and over and over AND over again!....).

Also new this year was the presence of boys. Only two, sure, but it's a start (several others were invited--and one other was seriously expected--but only two brave souls showed up). Fact is, Julie invited a whole lot of people from her new school, but inasmuch as most of them live really far away, we weren't all that surprised that only five of them made it out this way (several making a valiant forty-five minute trek to do so--only to be served egg salad?!? Hey, THAT'LL teach 'em!...).

I was pleasantly surprised when Nora, one of Julie's best buddies at her new school, spied the massive piles of books in the living room, and exclaimed, "Ooo--PALOMAR!! I need to get that!" Turns out she was a big fan of the Hernandez Brothers, Adrian Tomine, and Dan Clowes, nuggets of information that had somehow eluded my panelogically clueless kin folk. I recommended Peter Bagge and Roberta Gregory to her, and during some of the evening's quieter moments (okay, there WERE no quiet moments, but there were only three DDR pads, so there WAS some down time for various folks) noticed her paging through that new Robert Crumb tome put together by Pete Poplaski. Nice kid, good taste.

When it was all over, though, I must say I was glad. Not only did we spend nearly a full week getting the house and surrounding grounds into better shape (which probably STILL looked messy to the folks who'd never come by before, whereas to those who were making return visits probably thought, "Hmm, somewhat less messy--well, it's a start I guess..."), but with all the stuff of mine--CDs, books, art--that's right out there in the middle of the partying whirlwind, there's always a certain amount of worry on my part. Amazingly, nothing bad has ever happened to any of my goodies, and not this time either. Phew...

So on Sunday, I was totally exhausted. Happy that my daughter had a great time, sure, but totally spent nonetheless. The good news was that neither Lynn or I had much to do in the way of preparing dinner that evening.

Yup. All the egg salad we could eat! I'm telling ya, the kids just don't know what they're missing!...
August 21st, 2005
I'm just now beginning to recover from yesterday's birthday gala--details tomorrow--so let me merely offer up this pretty (and rarely seen) picture...
The artist is a young Berni Wrightson, but as beautiful as this illustration is--and c'mon, there's no denying THAT obvious fact--what REALLY makes this piece so memorable for me is the wonderfully creative use of color, added by Bill Spicer to the cover of this third (and, I believe, final) issue of Bob Schoenfeld's top-notch GOSH WOW! fanzine from 1969, sans logo.

Also in this issue is a three page letter column, featuring nine missives. Along with the likes of Marv Wolfman, Doug Moench, Vaughn Bode, Mike Barrier, Dwight Decker, Australia's John Ryan, and the aforementioned Bill Spicer, fans of comics minutia would also be mildly interested to find an epistle from yours truly! Nice company for a sixteen year-old to mingle with. I seem to recall being quite pleased to find my letter nestled in amongst a veritable Who's Who of Big-Name Guys Who Read Funny Books. Maybe I'll run my sarcastic remarks about the work of a then upcoming--and soon to be beloved--young cartoonist included in that letter here in the near future, which I--yup--still stand by! But another time...

Right now, I have balloons and streamers to take down, dig?...
August 20th, 2005
I'm on record as declaring Dennis the Menace and Spider-Man as being two of my all-time favorite comic book series.

Guess in my mind then that'd make THIS one of the greatest comics ever published, huh?...
Uh uh. Not even close. But an interesting curio nonetheless.

This 1982 tale revolves around Dennis attending a Valentine party thrown by Margaret, one in which the guests are encouraged to arrive dressed as the romantic hero of their choice. While the rest of the gang shows up decked out as the likes of Cinderella, Robin Hood, Sleeping Beauty, a cowboy and a sailor, Dennis swings into the proceedings in the guise of his favorite comic book character, Spider-Man! (Not surprisingly, no one shows up in either a Superman, Wonder Woman, or Batman outfits--you DID notice the Marvel banner across the top of that cover, didn't you?...)

It's a cute story, but it's not gonna make any one forget the work of Lee and Ditko on Spidey or the original run of Dennis comics produced by Fred Toole and Al Wiseman. It DID remind me of what's happening around here later today--Julie's fifteenth birthday party (though her actual birthday isn't until later in the week...)

We spent all of Friday--and in fact, most of the week--preparing for this now-yearly extravaganza. Cleaning the house, mowing the lawn (my mower is back! And I vow not to bust it ever again, honest...), preparing the refreshments--it happens at the end of every August. And by the end of every August, there's always something notable to slap in the ol' memory book. Look for a full report in the days to come--assuming, of course, that I recover by then!

In the meantime, ponder this--imagine the prices this issue of DENNIS THE MENACE would command if, towards the end of the story, Mr. Wilson would've shown up in a Green Goblin costume--and then threw Margaret off the roof of her house! Yup, proving you could do the Ketcham kid character the right way, the wrong way, and--in this fanciful instance--the Conway!

See ya after the party!
August 19th, 2005
Yesterday, I ran a vintage ad featuring a cartoon version of Bob ("Come see my movie--PLEASE!") Hope. I didn't even bother to venture a guess as to who the artist of the piece might've been, but that didn't mean there weren't some curious folks amongst you.

Like my pal Jim Salicrup, who sent me the following desperate message...

So who drew the Bob Hope ad? I'll guess and say Frank Bolle with Ben Oda lettering. Do you know, or do I have to ask Evanier?

Jim's guess sounded good to me, but I really couldn't say definitively, so I said yeah, sure, go ahead--bother Mark. If HE doesn't know, no one does.

Mark's answer was quick and terse:

Jack Sparling.

Yup, now that I know what to look for, I've gotta agree--he's absolutely right. While I admit to never having been all that big a Sparling fan, I think the REAL reason I find his portrayal of the iconic comedian in the promo less appealing than any of the versions supplied to the DC Comics series by either Owen Fitzgerald, Bob Oksner, Mort Drucker or Neal Adams, is that the "Bachelor In Paradise" star is drawn not as the thirtyish Hope perpetually found in his ongoing book, but rather as the nearly sixty-year old romantic lead he attempted to play in this film--and Sparling's drawings honestly betray just how dubious a concept THAT was!!

Thanks Mark--and I'm just happy that for once the mystery penciller wasn't Joe Orlando!!...

Additionally, yesterday's entry prompted this intriguing response from correspondent Rob Allen...

I would have been confused by seeing Bob Hope in an Archie comic too. I recently ran across something in Overstreet that I think is the ultimate in inter-company appearances by the same character. There was a time in the 1950s when you could buy comics starring the same title character from three different publishers!

I'll put in some spoiler space so you can think about who that might have been...

Okay, at his point, Rob seems to think I might have some vague clue as to what he's talking about. I do not. More hints please...

The character was based on a real person, like Bob Hope, but no longer living...

Well, neither is Bob Hope, Rob--or do you mean when the comics were originally published? Oh, I'm SO confused...

Which means that no publisher had a copyright on the character since he was real, and his estate had not maintained its claim on his name and image...

Abraham Lincoln? George Washington? Moses? I'm dyin' here, Rob--who was it? WHO?

It was...

Yes? YES?..

Wyatt Earp!

D'oh! I forgot all about those western guys! Tell me more, Mr. Allen...

In the mid-50s, Dell, Atlas (Marvel) and Charlton all simultaneously published comics about that intrepid frontier lawman.
Dell's version was actually licensed from the TV series starring Hugh O'Brian, but Atlas and Charlton just took advantage of Wyatt's public-domain status. Imagine two kids talking about comics back then--"Did you read the latest issue of Wyatt Earp?" "Which one?"

"The one where Wyatt disguises himself as a sinister clown! Now THAT'S western action!!"

Thanks for the information, Rob--though I'm not entirely certain all that teasing of my poor over burdened brain was really necessary!

Mucho gracias to Senors Evanier and Salicrup as well--who knew I could milk a forty-four year old Popsicle ad for not one, but TWO blog posts?

And to think I got through the whole thing without even once saying "Wyatt Burp"!

August 18th, 2005
From the Archie Adventure Series publication, ADVENTURES OF THE FLY #14, September 1961 issue...
Yup, that's Bob ("What the @#%$ am I doing in THIS comic?") Hope shilling for his latest film, aided by the fine folks who delight children of all ages with their deliciously cooling Popsicle! After all, what bachelor WOULDN'T be in paradise if he could win himself a water sports contest? Everyone into the pool!!

I came across this ad while digging out the image I used to illustrate my little fly fable a few days back, and almost instantly recalled the confusion it initially caused my young and unsophisticated mind. Y'see, I was brand new to comics when I picked up that issue of ADVENTURES OF THE FLY--my first, and more on the THAT in the near future--but by then, I'd already bought a couple of issues of DC Comics' ADVENTURES OF BOB HOPE, and I was somewhat baffled that the beloved comedian could somehow exist in the pages of funny books published by two separate comics companies! Was Bob Hope, I wondered, such a totally transcendent personage that he could easily cross between the radically different worlds of Riverdale and Metropolis?

Nah. Turns out he was just another publicity hungry showbiz type.

Y'know, I saw "Bachelor In Paradise" shortly after Bob passed away. Much as I loved the guy, this was clearly no classic. Subtitling it "The Road To Mediocrity" would've been kind. No wonder those kids ran off to enter the Popsicle contest--they sure weren't on the set of "Son Of Paleface"!

And even as a kid, I realized that THIS Bob was nowhere near as appealing a character as the Bob Oksner Hope then currently found in the pages of his ongoing DC title. But when you sign yourself out for commercial purposes, well, sometimes you just make the best of whatever your sponsor comes up with, I guess.

Or as Bob might've said, "I wanna sell ya..."
August 17th, 2005
The Fred Hembeck Show: Episode 23--Cartoon Fred interviews Jesse Custer, aka Preacher, in this exhumed Dateline:@#$% strip from 2001 (which isn't one already posted on this site, so go look!)

Comics In Context #97--Peter Sanderson attends the Eisner Award ceremonies at SDCC, offers some opinions on nomenclature, and revels in putting one over on me! More like misdirection, pal--I was looking for some subtle planted falsehoods, not items I assumed were gags! Geez, I AM dumb! Nice column otherwise, though...

Dial B For Blog--you've GOTTA see this one! And not only for the unbelievably swell mock cover of a DC Secret Origins Giant featuring the strangely--but logically--connected Captain Marvel Jr. and Elvis Presley, but a full color photo of Gomer Pyle, too!! (I once did a Dateline:@#$% strip with these very same principals, and you can read it by going here...)

Lady, That's My Skull--I don't know who this Sleestak is, but he knows his comics, knows how to use his scanner, and has the absolute quirkiest manner of combining the two! This is a relatively new blog, but it's already provided me with a lot of big time laughs! Hey, who WOULDN'T laugh at the notion of "Super-Love"--between Superboy and KRYPTO!?!...

Delenda Est Carthago--Greg Burgas is still linking!

Neat Mint Heroes--and so is Shane Bailey!!

..and finally,

Ramblin' With Roger--here's the story of Roger Green's big day visiting the Hembeck-Moss household, told from his own unique perspective. You've read my version back on August 9th--now go check out his!

(And that first time around, I offered up only several photos of Roger and me (Hmm--sounds like a movie title...), but having gotten permission to plaster the pictures of some of the ladies also present all across the Internet, allow me to belatedly share with you the following...)

Julie and Lydia--one only a few weeks over 15 months, the other only a few weeks short of 15 years! But both cute as can be!!

Roger, Carol, and Lydia, proving, once and for all, it IS easy being Green!!
August 16th, 2005
Let the record show: under certain circumstances, yes, I will VERY readily harm a fly!

Hey, flies are unavoidable during the summer months, and I'm enough of a softie to look the other way if there are just a few buzzing around the kitchen--it's when the little bugger's population expands upward towards triple digits that I start to become seriously concerned!

Here's what happened...

After coming home from the Renegades baseball game the other night, I noticed several flies relentlessly circling me as I tried to work on the computer (and yes, you countless wiseguys out there, I HAD bathed recently--just like I do EVERY month!...). Seemed a bit odd, but I didn't think much more about it.

Until a fly landed on my bare shoulder at 6:30 am the following morning, effectively waking me up for the day, several precious hours before I would've gotten myself going, given the choice. Very, very annoying.

In the kitchen, I noticed what was, by Friday, becoming a veritable swarm of the nasty little critters. Like I said, we've had flies in our house in past years, but never so many at one time. I honestly couldn't figure it out. We may not be the tidiest people extant, but the condition of our dining area has never been ample cause for attracting air borne vermin in years past. But as bad as it was fighting my way through the flies in order to get a bite to eat, it was even worse being given an unwelcome wake-up call each morning as they either crawled across my body, or--even if I managed to pull a sheet completely over myself in order to prevent such intimately icky contact--the relentless buzz as they swooped back and forth just inches away from my ear , which was enough to drive me completely to distraction! And here's a fun fact--flies apparently rise somewhere between 6:30 and 7:15 each day--and so do YOU, if they're anywhere nearby!!

Clearly, something HAD to be done! I value my Zzzzzs--NOT their Bu-Zzzzzs!

So we bought some fly paper. We're all very natural over here, don'tcha know--no pesticides or the like for Lynn and me. Besides, this fly paper stuff really seems to work. Just hang it, and the flies eventually land on it, never to leave again. It sounds cruel, I know, but c'mon--I NEED my beauty sleep!

Well, the four dangling sticky strips gathered themselves quite a few of our uninvited house guests, but it didn't seem to be keeping up with the putrid proliferation. Where the heck were all these things coming from anyway? I joked to daughter Julie that she must be bringing them home with her--y'see, along with several of her buddies, she works on a volunteer basis at a local horse farm, and there are certainly more than enough flies buzzing around those nags. lemme tell ya!

Sunday afternoon, we all discovered that maybe, just maybe, that WAS no joke...

Julie can be, please understand, a bit absentminded--specifically when it comes to something that could be in any way perceived as a chore. So when she arrives home each afternoon, she's more likely than not to just toss her backpack down on the floor, not bothering to give it a second thought again until the following morning when it's time to load it up with her lunch. And on the weekend?...

When she opened it up Sunday to take out her leftovers from Friday, guess what? A half dozen flies came swarming out! Now, whether or not they were really imported from the horse farm, who's to say for sure, but it certainly does make a certain amount of sense--horse sense, naturally...

Standing in the kitchen last night, seeing up to eight different flies casually landing on any and all the surfaces right there in front of me, my patience had finally reached its limit. Enough with the passive-aggressive fly paper--time to smack these intrusive insects down--and HARD! Only, we didn't own a fly swatter. So I grabbed the Land's End catalog that had come in the mail only hours earlier, and I battered it against every wall, cabinet, and table top in the kitchen area. And after more than ten minutes of flailing about like this, I'd killed myself one fly. One.

So I went out today and bought some more fly paper, and--what the heck--a fly swatter, too. Didn't think it would do much good, but for ninety seven cents (plus tax), why not give it a try? Sure enough, when I got it home, it didn't seem to be any more effective than last night's paper based alternative, but then something happened--I changed my approach. Rather than swinging wildly at my prey, I found that if I carefully lined 'em up in my sights, drew back my weapon slowly, and then swung forward with as much speed as I could muster, I'd get much better results. Like, after a few warm-up tries, closer to one hundred per cent than I'd ever imagined possible!

I counted my first twenty-five kills, and after that, just estimated the carnage produced by my lethal swatter--and though the total isn't official, I'm reasonably certain I've taken out eighty flies in little over two hours.

The good news? There doesn't seem to be all that many more around for me to exterminate.

The bad news? I find I suddenly have a heretofore latent blood lust, and now I'm prowling the house, fly swatter in hand, looking for my next helpless victim!

Say, maybe I should go to the horse farm with Julie tomorrow, y'know? They could probably use a guy with my expertise.

The way I'm feeling right now, even Jeff Goldblum isn't safe!
August 15th, 2005
Now HERE'S something you don't see every day--a book about the Marx Brothers that actually includes a picture of Gummo on the cover!

That's right--Gummo. And you younger folks probably always thought ZEPPO was the obscure Marx sibling, didn't you? Not even close. I went through a BIG Marx Brothers phase in my late teens, and despite that, I STILL know virtually nothing about the elusive Gummo. I suppose if I'd actually bothered to READ the above paperback, rather than just picking it up for a quarter at a library sale back during the nineties just cuz I liked the cover, well, maybe THEN I would've learned something...

I have trouble going back and reading celebrity tomes written round abouts the mid-sixties and earlier, though. (This one is copyrighted in all five brother's names for 1950, with this Popular Library edition--"Books of Proven Merit" being their somewhat desperate sounding back cover slogan--published three years later.) What with the ongoing trend of sensationalistic warts-and-all-biographies that have been issued regularly since the Nixon administration, I find it somewhat difficult to go back in time and read these fanciful yarns, since there's no way I can easily accept the undeniable whitewashing that was the modus operandi of the times.

Still, there's that ever tempting mystery of Gummo awaiting me in these pages--and the Providence Journal DID call it "Lusty and lively", while the New York Times declared it "Gaily amusing from start to finish", so who knows? Maybe it IS worth cracking open (only being as old as it is, I'm seriously afraid that if I do, I really WILL crack it--specifically the spine!..).

Ah well, I judged THIS book by its cover, so why don't we ALL just enjoy that aspect of it? Unfortunately, their are no art credits inside, but I really like the way the artist managed to catch the likenesses of the four Marx Brothers--AND Gummo. Though for all I know, he just pulled HIS likeness out of thin air.

Because, like, who would EVER know, y'know?...
August 14th, 2005
Speaking of Dr. Graves--as we were just the other day--there were the rare times when the man who lent his name to the title of Charlton's THE MANY GHOSTS OF DR.GRAVES series performed a function other than just introducing the book's tales as a sort of ersatz Rod Serling.

Like when he became instead a sort of ersatz Dr. Strange...

It happened in the 12th issue of the clumsily initialled TMGODG (February, 1969), and the artist who transformed the nattily attired Dr. Graves into a suspiciously familiar looking Master of the Mystic Arts was none other than Steve Ditko, the legendary cartoonist who had left his own celebrated sorcerous creation, Dr. Strange, a mere three years earlier. Reading this issue's twelve page cover story, "The Ultimate Evil", well, it's like Ditko had never even left the Dark Dimension, y'know?...
Wraith-like astral bodies, bolts of mystic energy emanating from various hands, fingers akimbo, multi-colored realms festooned with strips of magical streamers, and a cloistered headquarters that looks a whole lot like a certain Strange's sublet. All that's missing, in fact, is a hair bereft Asian manservant, but it's probably just as well that the folks at Charlton didn't offer readers an appropriate analog. After all, two Wongs never make it right...

The story? It's an intriguing (albeit uncredited) one, dealing with dire events of both space and time. The plot is a moebius strip that comes full circle--as opposed to a Moebius strip that was fully printed in HEAVY METAL--but I'm not gonna tell you any more than that. Haunt those bargain bins, find a copy, and read it for yourself. But just so you know I'm not exaggerating, I'm gonna share the following images with you.

Hey, don't curse ME for a novice--check THIS stuff out!...
Yeah, if you ever wondered how Dr. Strange would've looked saving the world from arcane menaces in a suit and tie--with a goatee, no less--well, now you know!

Of course, none of us would've known if weren't for Dave Puckett directing my attention towards this story. Though I actually did have this book in my collection, I had mostly forgotten about it. While I have the warmest of memories of the golden Giordano edited era, the sharp down turn in overall quality that occurred when Dick went over to the more prestigious DC Comics (taking along most of his best freelancers in the process) was tremendously dismaying. Certainly new editor Sal Gentile tried his best. He still had Ditko, after all. But something was clearly lost. Instead of the elegant covers--designed by Giordano, and expertly executed by the unsung Rocke Mastroserio (who had only recently passed away)--most of these latter day Charlton covers were, like the one seen above, a patchwork of statted interior panels, made all the less attractive with ugly display lettering and garishly poor color choices.

I pretty much stopped buying Charlton's after a few months of this, even if they did still feature a lot of Ditko artwork across the line (which in retrospect seems to be a bit of a dubious decision, considering how highly I value the man's work. But hey, the pennies only went so far in those days, and there was no denying that both Marvel and DC were producing far more consistent books.)

So, thanks for the tip Dave! Hey, I'm surprised you had the time to drop me a line--after all, any man with not one, not two, but THREE webpages has got to be one busy individual! The least I can do is point people your way, eh Dave? "ELMO'S JUNCTION" is Mr. P's all-purpose--and always entertaining--blog; Beatles&Bizarros is a thorough listing of comic books featuring either those backward craggy faced folks, Ringo, or both; and A Puck's Tale is Dave's latest project, featuring his very own story and art. Check 'em out, friends.

And Dave, if you know of any issues of TMGODG where the good Doctor dresses up in a skin-tight outfit and climbs up the sides of buildings utilizing really, really sticky fingertips, you be sure and let me know, okay? I must've stopped buying 'em before THAT issue came out...
August 13th, 2005
Yesterday, Tom Spurgeon posted his weekly Five For Friday question over at his fine The Comics Reporter site. The information requested this time around was:

In Celebration of CR Reader Marc Mason's 100th Column at Movie Poop Shoot, Name Five Comics Works You'd Take With You Onto a Desert Island

I was among the folks contributing their personal lists, and you can read them all by going here.

(Not much of a posting today, I know--sorry. The temperatures are aiming towards the upper nineties, so you'll excuse me if we keep this brief, won't you? More tomorrow--assuming I don't melt in the meantime!...)
August 12th, 2005
I pity The K Man...

In baseball parlance, a K is used to denote a strikeout on a scorecard. Pitchers want Ks next to their names--batters do not. Keep that little nugget in mind as I recount the following...

A few nights ago, Julie and I went to see the local Hudson Valley Renegades--the single A minor league affiliate of the American League's lowly Tampa Bay Devil Rays--play the Lowell Spinners--and no, they DIDN'T pipe "Rubberband Man" over the loudspeakers between every inning! Things weren't looking all that good for the 'Gades--as they've taken to being called recently--as the home team's hurler walked the first three men--on 13 pitches, no less, only one of which was a strike--to load the bases with nobody out to open the festivities.

And then The K Man came to the plate.

Who or what is The K Man, you might well ask?

As long as we've been coming to these games--usually taking in one or two contests a year since the park opened less than a decade ago--there's been a K Man. Each night, one opposing player--usually a fairly decent hitter somewhere in the middle of the lineup--is burdened with the designation of "The K Man". As the stadium announcer gleefully informs the home crowd, should The K Man--WHOEVER he happens to be that evening--strike out three times in a regulation nine inning game, everybody in the stadium gets free pizza from Pizza Hut! That's right--EVERYBODY!! Whether it's a whole pie or just a slice--and whether you had to pick it up the very next day, or you had a bit more of time to redeem your prize-winning ticket--I never knew, as it hadn't ever even come close to being an issue in any of our past visits to Duchess Stadium. And the way our guy was pitching, it didn't look like it would be this time around either...

But guess what? The K Man struck out! Oh, he managed to work the count to three balls, two strikes, but finally, he swung and missed.

The Renegades weren't out of the woods, though--the next batter singled, and suddenly the locals were in a two zip hole. An inning later it was three-oh, but by mid-game, our pitcher had settled in and found his rhythm, and the 'Gades put their hitting shoes on--they leapt to a 7-3 lead, and it looked all the world like a comfortable coasting to game's end.

The K Man? He grounded out his second time up, but then, during his third turn at the dish (Mmm--deep dish...), he tantalized the crowd by striking out again!! The excitement was palpable--or maybe that was just the sound of a stadium's worth of people having their stomach's rumble in unison--when he came up to bat for what was likely to be his last chance in the top of the eighth inning.

Understand that when the poor sap who's been picked to suffer this indignity steps into the batter's box, the stadium announcer instructs the crowd to make as much noise as possible, and having the slavering masses stamping their feet lustily against the mostly metallic bleachers makes quite the racket indeed! I'm surprised that even the hometown pitcher can concentrate!

The intensity level was, well, INTENSE. Ball one. Awww. A swing, fouled off--strike one!! Yeah!! Another ball. Another stadium wide deflation. Swing and a miss!! YAY!! Two balls, two strikes. Then another swing, fouled off--the count remains steady. Our collective heart rates--not to mention taste buds--do not. One more miss--that's all it will take, one more...

Crack--a solid single up the middle.

The massive booing that followed made a Derek Jeter hit grand slam at Fenway Park look tame by comparison. "Give 'im a break, folks", the park announcer, heretofore the leader of this pepperoni-thirsting mob, pleaded, "He's been a good sport..."

Yeah, but no free pizza for us. Oh well. Another inning and the game would be over.

But then a funny thing happened--in the top of the ninth, the Renegades pitcher, apparently tiring, allowed the first two men to reach base. Time for a fresh arm, as a reliever was brought in. He promptly walked the first man he faced, and soon, with a combination of bloops, close plays at first, an error, and who knows what else, the visitors managed to cut the lead to a mere 7-6, and even though they had two outs, the tying run was on third, with the go-ahead run poised at second.

And guess who was getting one more chance to bat? Uh huh--The K Man!

The game was on the line--but more importantly, so was our gratis goodies! The place was going wild, absolutely wild!

A swing and a miss! Omigosh, I can almost tas--

A hard hit liner to center, that DOESN'T drop in. The Renegades win, but we don't.

Ah well. It still made for a memorable evening, even given the bit of an anti-climactic ending. Sorry if you were expecting a bigger finish, friends. I just tell 'em like they happen--you don't want me to MAKE UP something, now do you?

Well, in any event, I gotta say it was a nice little father-daughter outing. Julie used to attend annually with several of her friends on Girl Scout night, and didn't pay much attention to the game playing down on the field, happy enough to cavort around the stadium with her buddies, but being older now, she wanted to actually watch the game (she fancies herself fairly knowledgeable about the sport, at least compared to some of her friends, but towards the latter portion of the evening when she asked me what a shortstop was, I realized she still had a bit of a ways to go...).

Which is not to say we couldn't have our own kind of fun. Julie possesses an unapologetically juvenile sense of humor--and two weeks before her fifteenth birthday, why not? Me? Well, it doesn't take much for me to summon up my inner juvenile (keeping it hidden away is, in fact, the tougher task), so when the home team would begin to mount a rally, prompting the ushers in the stands to lead the crowd in a rousing chant of "Let's go 'Gades!", Julie and I took to shouting out--just loud enough for each other to hear, but not noticeable enough to cause the folks beside us any concern, "Let's go gay!"

Yeah--juvenile, I know. No disrespect meant to anyone, but hey, that's what this new-fangled cheer sounded like to us anyway, so why not?

(I passed on any making quips about, ahem, pitching and catching, though. She doesn't have to know ALL this stuff, after all. Maybe for her Sweet Sixteenth?...)
August 11th, 2005
There are certain pluses and minuses to being a TV GUIDE subscriber, but--due to reasons that will become almost immediately apparent--I've explained my reasoning elsewhere on this very site.

Don't pass it by--go here.
August 10th, 2005
The Fred Hembeck Show: Episode 22--Steve Ditko's Hall Of Fame relief, or, The Three Faces of Roy.

Comics In Context #96--Peter Sanderson provides an animated recap of another portion of his recent visit to SDCC (and continues to perplex me by including a single falsehood in his texts, challenging me to root it out! Hey Peter--I just ain't that bright! But I'm enjoying these columns anyway...)

Jeopardy, Part 11--Roger Green finally ends his ongoing game show saga, but luckily, his charisma shines on! (I'll have to find ANOTHER way to work in a link for Rog next week. Don't worry, I'll think of something...)

Delenda Est Carthago--Greg Burgas' (maybe the last?) Sunday night links. Say it ain't so!

Neilalien--always swell links any day!

Innocent Bystander--Gary Sassaman's blog is always worth a look.

Buy some comics from Alan David Doane!

And as a big fan of MSNBC's "Countdown"--and having featured some dubious panels of superheroes puffing tobacco only days ago--I have to second Mark Evanier's strong feelings regarding Keith Olbermann's recent recounting of his own recent trials and tribulations caused by smoking, which you can read about here, here, and here. People, cigarettes are no damn good!

Remember where you heard that...
August 9th, 2005
Roger Green, his wife Carol, and their 15 month old daughter, Lydia, came to visit us this past Friday.

Those of you who pore over every single word here at with all the enthusiasm of archeologists examining the Dead Sea Scrolls, well, YOU'LL surely recall me talking about Roger in the past. But for the rest of you, a short recap:

Roger was employed by Fantaco Enterprises back in the early eighties, during a period when the Albany based combination comics store/publishing house issued a number of magazine collections of my cartoons. In addition, they also released the CHRONICLES series, each individual issue focusing on a different Marvel title (though only the FF, DD, Spidey, X-Men, and the Avengers were afforded the honor before the project came to either an abrupt end, or slowly petered out--I don't rightly recall which after all these years...). Roger edited several of these books, and he did a fine job. Yessirree, I always enjoyed working with him--and just plain hanging out with him as well. But, as time wore on, Lynn and I eventually moved away from the neighboring burg of Troy, and as always seems to happen inevitably, we drifted away from Roger as well--in fact, from EVERYONE we knew in the Capitol region, save for my buddy Rocco Nigro.

Well, sometimes that's all it takes--that one, last tenuous connection. Y'see, Rocco would occasionally run into Roger (who, unlike both myself and Rocco, had in the subsequent years, moved totally away from the comics field, even as a reader). When they happened to bump into one another not long back, in the course of their brief conversation, Rocco informed Roger that hey, guess what? Fred has a website!

Not long after, the email began flowing--and flowing generously--between the two of us! Eventually, Roger put all that creative energy to far better use than sending me a daily series of fun-filled notes, beginning his very own spiffy weblog, Ramblin' With Roger. While my email has decreased dramatically, that's just fine with me--I'm more than happy to share Rog's wisdom with the world at large!

I finally had a chance to speak with Roger at length on the phone in early June, our first non-electronic communication since, geez, the late eighties I'd guess. I'll admit to being mildly concerned about any awkwardness that might've cropped up due to the amount of time that had transpired since we last talked to one another, but I really shouldn't have worried. Roger's still the gregarious guy he always was, quick to laugh, and never at a loss for words! So when it turned out that his family was headed to a nearby town for some other matters this past weekend, I was glad that we were all able to coordinate things so that the Greens could stop over here first on Friday to spend a little time with us. Lynn and I had never met his wife and child before, and Roger had never met Julie, so we were all delighted to have this rare opportunity to get the two families together.

Man, when Roger walked in that door, it was as if I'd last seen him just a week or so ago! We pretty much picked right up where we left off, even if we didn't speak all that much--actually, hardly at all--about comics this time around. Didn't matter--there was plenty else to keep our gums a'flapping. We each had our own daughters to show off, after all, and both Lynn and I found little Lydia to be an adorable toddler. This tiny cutie was all smiles for the entirety of the near seven hours the all too short visit lasted. Julie, unfortunately, had a birthday party sleepover to get to, but she managed to make the best of the nearly two hours she had available to share with us old folks. It was probably just as well Julie had to leave--I could tell that, had she hung around much longer, in another hour or so, SHE would've been dominating the conversation! I've seen it happen before: a little quiet at first with new people, but slowly, almost imperceptibly, but irrevocably morphing into her normally more boisterous self!

After Julie vamoosed, we all went out into our pool--it's been pretty doggone hot here in the Northeast lately--and I do believe this was one of little Lydia's first such sea-worthy excursion's. She seemed to enjoy it immensely, as did we all (did I mention it was HOT?...).

We came in for a delicious dinner of Lasagna ala Moss (thanks Lynn!), giving us a chance for some pleasant dinner conversation. It was especially nice to have the opportunity to get to know Carol a little better. She's a sweet, intelligent woman, who, though quieter than hubby Roger, would occasionally flash a nicely dry sense of humor. As Lynn'll tell you, with guys like Roger and me around, well, you'd BETTER be ready to laugh at things now and again! The pair took turns keeping their little girl happy--and from falling down any unfamiliar steps, of which we have plenty hereabouts--and they look to be a very happy, comfortable couple! I know I missed the ceremony, but here's a belated Mazel Tov to you, Carol and Roger!

Not that the visit didn't have its own peculiarities. This was, after all, the first time I'd spent any amount of time in the presence of a fellow full fledged blogger, and since I've read just about everything he's posted--and, miraculously, Roger can say just about the same thing regarding my long-winded blatherings--there were just so many moments where one of us said, "Oh yes, I read that in your blog", or--especially in Rog's case, as he's so well organized, he either has several entries already pre-written, or he knows specifically what he plans to discuss on more than a few upcoming dates--"You'll soon read about THAT in my blog"!

Of course, since wives are not constitutionally obligated to actually READ their husband's blogs, there were more than a few occasions where Roger and I were yammering on and on about a topic in this new sort of shorthand, as Carol and Lynn looked on, bemused. Men and their blogs! Hey, we're a crazy bunch, ain't we?...

Yeah, it was a real kick seeing Roger again, and just as big a treat meeting Carol and Lydia for the first time. Here's hoping our next get together comes a lot sooner than the last one.

Oh, I almost forgot--Lynn also got out the handy dandy digital camera, which meant--uh huh--pictures.


Fred, Roger, and two of the books they both worked on for Fantaco Enterprises several decades ago, THE FANTASTIC FOUR CHRONICLES and FANTACO CHRONICLES #5 (aka THE SPIDER-MAN CHRONICLES). Not pictured: John Byrne, cover artist for both books. Regrettably, he couldn't make this impromptu reunion, but maybe next time, JB?...

Two not-so-recent graduates of the famed Charles Atlas Body-building Course, as found on the back of more than a few comics books in the days when these guys didn't have a single gray hair between them.

Wonder who would win in a face off?...


Happily, not long after, Roger let me get MY face off the table--thanks fella!
August 8th, 2005
That's Pat Boyette's unusually verbose cover for the first issue of Charlton Comics' THE MANY GHOSTS OF DR.GRAVES, sort of a macabre version of THE MANY LOVES OF DOBIE GILLIS, with a Vincent Price wannabe standing in for Dwayne Hickman--and a succession of unearthly spirits and moldering corpses likewise standing in for Tuesday Weld and a succession of curvaceous cuties!

Actually, the book was a spin-off of GHOSTLY TALES, in whose pages renowned ghost buster Dr. M.T. Graves initially appeared over a year earlier. Awarded his own series (commencing with a May, 1967 cover date), and even blessed with a substantial run--72 issues--the good doctor still never answered perhaps the premiere mystery surrounding his expansive exploits.

No, NOT where all those ghosts came from--what the @#$% the initials "M" and "T" stood for!?! Over in GHOSTLY TALES, we readers were similarly stonewalled by that book's host, the suspiciously named Mr. I. M. Dedd. It would seem a bet was sorely missed by not teaming these two up with John Stanley's O.G.Whiz!

Well, anyway...

Yesterday, I showed you a tale graced with a cover drawn by the incomparable Steve Ditko, but featuring instead the pleasantly peculiar art of Pat Boyette on the actual story printed inside. Well, today we have a cover illustration by Mr. B on display, but in a bit of turnabout being fair play, Mr. D is instead the one pencilling the episode between the covers.

But wait! There's a bit of a twist THIS time around. THIS time Ditko's pencils are inked by none other than...

That's right--Pat Boyette!
It's the fun little tale of a nephew of none other than Julius Ceasar himself. It was this young fella's responsibility to protect his Uncle Julie, but he was off using his Roman hands on a lady friend when Brutus and the gang did the old fellow in. Cursed to remain in an eternal clinch as stone-like statues until someone takes pity and forgives the lovers, freedom finally comes their way as an old associate of Dr. Graves sees that their fondest wish is...granite.

Yeah, I know. Sorry.
I couldn't really say if there ever was another pairing of these two highly individualistic talents, but for what it's worth, the combo made for a pretty decent team, as evidenced from this story. Boyette's mostly single weighted line approach to inking matched Ditko's simple yet clear pencilling very nicely.

And when your leading man looks like Maynard G. Krebbs in an ascot and snappy brimmed chapeau, HOW could you possibly go wrong anyhow, hmmm?...
August 7th, 2005
What a cover!!

That evocative title combined with that creepy logo combined with that otherworldly Ditko art combined with that moody coloring combined with that series of intriguing promises--with a combination like that, how could you NOT love it?

It's almost criminal to contemplate the fact that a book named SHADOWS FROM BEYOND only managed to muster a single issue out onto the stands, but this sole example--number 50 (formerly UNUSUAL TALES) October, 1966--was the only one Charlton Comics (masters of the convoluted numbering sequences) ever published. Too bad, too, since it came out at a time that the perennial pipsqueak of a company--under editor Dick Giordano--was just starting to get plenty interesting.

Obviously put together in reaction to the apparently decent sales the recently launched GHOSTLY TALES was garnering, SHADOWS FROM BEYOND had as its hostess a not particularly attractive gypsy woman, who nonetheless never seemed to stop smiling at any time throughout her multitude of cameo appearances in the book's three tales.

The first two stories were handled by several unknown, rather nondescript artists (though I think I detect the hand of inker Sal Trapani in the first entry, a surprisingly effective episode dealing with a concentration camp commandment who gets his well deserved comeuppance), but the cover story featured the always idiosyncratic--and always welcome--work of Pat Boyette...
Yup, Steve Ditko and Pat Boyette, with two of the most unique styles in the history of comics, on the very same story--almost.

What a team THEY would've made, huh?

More on THAT later in the week!
August 6th, 2005
More butt-wielding' Silver Age Super-smokers!

This just in from the estimable Dwight Decker...

Myself, I was always a little amazed by panel 1, page 4, of Avengers #5: Tony Stark with cigarette in hand, just as he's plugging in for a charge the chest plate that keeps his heart going, and whining about how close to death he perpetually is. Hey, Tony! That Chesterfield in your fingers isn't going to help much!

Right you are, Mr. D, though the above WAS the sole panel to show the armored Avenger taking a drag. Guess he thought best to put it out before he gave his injured heart its usual mechanical kick charge, huh? They don't call him a genius for NOTHIN', y'know!...

Still, this WAS 1964, after all--let's not be TOO hard on artist Jack Kirby. The Surgeon General had barely gotten his act together by then. As the equally estimable Jim Salicrup explains.,.

Jack, inspired by the great Hollywood studio films, simply did this to give his characters something to do with their hands as they stood around talking or began a flashback.

Jim hastens to add that he doesn't condone smoking, but is merely attempting to throw a glimmer of light on how this nasty little habit somehow wormed its way into the standard lexicon of storytelling devices utilized by those wonderful cartoonists of yesteryear! Still, I wonder if anyone can come up with a non-villainous, regular (or at least semi-regular) character whipping out a Winston in a sixties era DC Comic?

Me, I don't see it happening. But if it did, well, that'd sure be one real TALES OF THE UNEXPECTED, wouldn't it?...
August 5th, 2005
UPDATE: Here's a little something I wrote after cobbling together the stuff below. It's for Tom Spurgeon's weekly feature over at The Comic Reporter, Five for Friday, and the question today was, Name Five Comics Industry Events You Would Have Liked to Have Witnessed.

Not wanting to duplicate what went before me--and there are some REAL good choices I myself could easily get behind--I came up with three that could be termed mildly sadistic, and one that's just downright morbid! Hey, that's what the kids like these days, right?

Take a look.


Real busy today, so let's try some short, punchy sentences.

Took my lawnmower in for repairs today. Third time in the year we've had it. It's me, not the mower. Too sophisticated a machine for the likes of me. Pulled the cord to hard; broke the spring. Also tore off the little grass guard from the bottom. Guess this puts the kibosh on the lawn care business I'd planned to start...

Friends are stopping by later. More on that tomorrow. Julie's at her horse camp--I pick her up at 1, and then she goes to a sleepover birthday party at 4. That gives us a three hour window to meet our guests, who've never met her before. Hope it all works out.

I've been reading the wonderful FANTASTIC FOUR OMNIBUS. Made it through 13 issues so far. Full report when I finish.

This is a pretty lame posting, I'll admit. I had thought of writing about all the subjects I sincerely MEANT to write about, but never quite got to. I still might. Most especially, I should write up my Big Apple Con report, which I attended back in June. Bill Alger is waiting...

Gotta go play host. Better content tomorrow--at least comparatively...
August 4th, 2005
Hey kids! Wanna start up a priceless collection of original comics art by some of the most famous cartoonists in the field, but afraid you'll be unable to since you find yourself under an unavoidable set of financial constraints?

Well, as Roy Thomas relates to Jim Amash during an in-depth interview spanning his first decade and and a half at Marvel Comics in the 50th issue of ALTER EGO, the firm's late production manager, John Verpoorten, developed an interesting--AND decidedly cost-saving approach--as a child, garnering himself some highly desirable gems .


I'll let Roy explain...

"...a Charles Schulz "Peanuts" original, one he said he'd gotten when he was young by writing letters to cartoonists claiming he was dying and that his one dream before he died was to have an original strip of theirs."

After both Jim and Roy enjoy a hearty laugh at this twisted--yet effective--notion, Roy explains that his one-time associate (and friend) ultimately gave him that very piece of art, and later on, also distributed some of his other bogusly begotten bounty around because later on, well, he felt guilty about his methodology.


Or maybe he just felt the law was about to catch up with him, and the man they called "Big John" wanted to ditch the evidence before he could be fingered? Who can really say? All I know is that if I get an email requesting a freebie from some kid complaining about a fatal case of hangnail, well sir, the little punk BETTER be hanging on by a thread if he wants to get anything for nothing outta ME!! Hey, I ain't no Charlie Schulz, y'know!!

(In MORE ways than one--yes, I know, I know...)

(And folks--if you have ANY interest whatsoever in the history of Marvel comics, you MUST pick up ALTER EGO #50! Actually, you should pick up EVERY issue, but this one in particular, focusing as it does on Roy's fabulous first forty years in the biz, is an absolute treasure trove of facts, ruminations, and personal anecdotes! I learned some fascinating little bits of business, more than I could ever begin to relate here--but worry not, as I'll have more on Roy in the days ahead. In the meantime, I wish I could get rid of this nagging cough. Hope I still have the strength to write that special note to Alex Ross before
August 3rd, 2005
It's inordinately hot here in upstate New York, I'm tired from driving back and forth to the mall three times earlier (twice at the behest of my child), and I really, really want to get back to reading Jim Amash's fascinating Roy Thomas interview in ALTER EGO#50 (more on that later, promise), so let's make this short and as sweet as possible, okay?

The Fred Hembeck Show, Episode 21: attention all authors--yours truly has a request, and I ain't kidding!

Comics In Context #95: Peter Sanderson's focus this time around is on the annual Jack Kirby tribute panel at the recent SDCC.

Jeopardy, Part 10: well, Roger Green may not be a Ken Jennings, but I like 'im!

Greg Burgas: how does he find the time to amass all these links? With a new baby in the house?!? Beats me, but I'm glad he does.

And don't ever forget to regularily visit Mike Sterling's Progressive Ruin, Dorian Wright's Postmodern Barney, The Johnny Bacardi Show, Dial B For Blog, and, of course, the Garry Moore and Durward Kirby webpages (go over to my IGN piece--it'll all make sense later, trust me...)
August 2nd, 2005
Back in early 1965, when this issue of BLUE BEETLE came out (volume 2, number 5, for those of you keeping score at home), I was desperate enough to grab pretty much anything off the racks that even resembled a super hero, meaning yup, even this cheesy Charlton version of the long-running Beetle character--though his convoluted past history wasn't known to me at the time I plunked down my twelve cents for this issue.

A full year before the "Batman" TV show would induce every publisher with access to a printing press to come up with their own hokey costumed crusaders, beyond Marvel and DC, the pickings for gaudily garbed crimefighters was decidedly slim. Which is partially explains how I wound up buying a less than stellar Charlton Comic
Y'know, for a brief but shining period, the little firm located in Derby, Connecticut actually became my favorite comics company, but that improbable turn of events was at least a few years off when this issue of BLUE BEETLE hit the stands.

So why did I buy it? Hey, look at that cover--how could I NOT?

While I'm still unsure as to whether the book's interior penciller had anything to do with it (the pose of the woman on the chessboard makes me think "yes"), the always slick and attractive inking of the pre-Continuity Dick Giordano gives this illustration a whole heaping helping of class. And that logo! I always WAS a sucker for a "Superman" styled title logo, and this one's no exception. Yup, good cover.

And we ALL know what they say about judging a book by its cover, don't we?...
THIS is the sort of less-than-awe-inspiring poses the art team of Bill Fracchio and Tony Tallarico saddled the book's star with. Combine that with the notoriously clunky machine lettering Charlton was infamous for in the early sixties, and folks, it AIN'T a pretty picture!

But speaking of pretty pictures...

The issue also featured a two page letter column, "The Beetle's Nest", and while it was stocked with a handful of short missives from the few readers this series was able to muster, it was unusual in that it also included two drawings (fully colored by the Charlton production team) from a pair of Beetle-maniacs. One, by a Johnny Ryan of Federalsburg, Maryland, was a pleasantly competent illo of the Blue guy--no worse, really, than much of what appeared in the book's lead story--but the other one! Ah--THAT was even MORE ambitious...

Dear Editor:

I have designed a new costume for B.B.. Why not let readers see if they like it?

Why not indeed, say I ?...
Yup, that's the same Alan Weiss who later went on to become an accomplished cartoonist himself (though in terms of this particular issue, far, far too late...). Along with creating STEELGRIP STARKEY and being the first artist to introduce S&M fashions into mainstream comics (in a memorable issue of CAPTAIN AMERICA AND THE FALCON), this is what I most remember Alan for! I've always LOVED this drawing, and it was, along with that cover, the only reason I spared this book from a sole--and belatedly regretful--weeding of my collection, back during the late sixties.

WHAT a Blue Beetle this would've been! Too bad it never happened.

Ah well, it wouldn't be very long before Steve Ditko would have a go at the character, and his revamped version almost makes me forget this sadly unrealized one. Almost.

(But Alan-- tell me this :WHY does B.B. have what looks all the world to be an "M" on his chest? Been wondering about that for a LONG time now...)
August 1st, 2005
A few days ago, we were talking about a nasty little habit one of Batman's more prominent lady loves had (but has, thankfully, apparently shaken). I for one thought she was alone in the tobacco puffing department (save for a few stogie chomping tough guys), but it seems I was mistaken. Correspondent Rob Allen chimes in with this startling discovery...

Re: the shock of seeing Silver St. Cloud smoking a cigarette - there's a Marvel comic a dozen years older than that one that had a similar shock. We're accustomed to seeing Reed Richards with his pipe, and Nick Fury & Dum Dum Dugan liked cigars, but this is different. I recently picked up a copy of FF #53, the origin & second appearance of the Black Panther. In issue #52, the Panther had been the FF's antagonist, but in #53, he relaxes, takes off his mask, lights up a cigarette and tells them his life story.
That's right, T'Challa, the superbly-trained athlete and prince of Wakanda, is clearly shown with a burning coffin nail in his hand. I nearly fell off my chair when I saw that.
Guess nothing goes better with a good, relaxing origin story than a Lucky Strike--or since they were somewhere out in the African desert, maybe more likely the Panther's smoke of choice was a Camel? If anyone was in good enough shape to walk a mile for a Camel, it'd be friend T'Challa!

(Funny how, even though cigarette advertising on the tube has been banned for over three decades now,
I can STILL recall most of those insidiously catchy jingles they drove relentlessly into our easily manipulated minds. Luckily, though I can quote 'em all, they never quite worked their evil magic on me otherwise--and if you don't believe me, well know this: I'd rather fight than switch! Because, as Reed might well've said to the Panther off panel, you've come a long way, baby!!...)

Thanks for the info, Rob. Even if it amounted to all of a mere two panels (of which, a detail of the second you can see above), it was still startling to see the regal ruler of Wakanda lighting up! As I've said before, Johnny Storm is the only hero in a FANTASTIC FOUR comic that should EVER flame on!

It brings to mind several early episodes of "The Dick Van Dyke Show", ones that I saw again for the first time in years on DVD not long ago. All of a sudden, in the middle of one of these shows, first Rob and then Laura (!!), sitting on that oh so familiar couch of theirs, blithely proceed to ignite themselves some butts!! Now, I'd gotten used to the Ricardo's tobacco fixation, but somehow I hadn't expected the Petries to be puffers! As I later learned from one of the DVD's commentary tracks, the show was sponsored by Kent cigarettes during their early, struggling seasons, explaining somewhat the DVDs cast's early foray into the nascent field of product placement. But still, seeing the lovely Laura casually smoking--even in those nifty pants of hers--was a somewhat disturbing image!

(Of course, I think I've also read that back in those days, off camera at least, Mary Tyler Moore was a fiend of a chain smoker! And of course, we all learned later on that the star himself, the lovable Mr. Van Dyke, was heavily into booze during the show's very heyday!! What, I'm almost afraid to ask, are we gonna find out next? That Mel Cooley was a bigamist and had a whole 'nother family, including a son ignominiously nicknamed "Lumpy"? That it was Buddy Sorrell who wrote the first version of the joke that came to be known as "The Aristocrats"? That Sally Rogers had once been Sammy Rogers? That when little Richie got older, the cigarettes HE smoked weren't the kind you could buy at the local convenient mart? And that Herman Glimscher was actually an alias for a serial killer, because with a name like Herman Glimscher, you CAN'T be good?!?...

HOME | FredSez
January 2003 | February 2003 | March 2003 | April 2003 | May 2003 | June 2003
July 2003 | August 2003 |
September 2003 | October 2003 | November 2003 | December 2003
January 2004 | February 2004 | March 2004 | April 2004 | May 2004
| June 2004 | July 2004 | August 2004
September 2004 | October 2004 |
November 2004
December 2004
| January 2005
February 2005 | March 2005
April 2005 | May 2005 | June 2005
July 2005