Archive - February 2006
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February 28th, 2006
Woo hoo! It's Episode 50 of The Fred Hembeck Show! During this fiftieth anniversary celebration year of Disneyland, our own big five-oh episode examines the origins of my life-long obsession with theme parks fronted by inordinately friendly--and tall--mice.

I'm not entirely sure WHAT the 122nd edition of Peter Sanderson's Comics In Context is about, since it was posted over at the IGN Comics Site at pretty much the same time my latest offering was hoisted onto the World Wide Web, and I haven't even had a chance to read it yet, but trust me--odds are pretty good it'll be worth your time. And if it's NOT, hey, you can always ask for your money back, y'know?...

I'm sorry I never had the chance to tip my hat to Black History Month around these parts this year, but I'm hoping that maybe pointing you all towards Roger Green's continuing series spotlighting that satirical Black Comic from the seventies--this week's final installment is number 7--will suffice, dig? Okay, probably not, but that's all I got--sorry.

A quick salute to Neilalien, who celebrated his sixth year on the net only days ago! May the learned Vishantis never tie a knot in his panties!

Then there's this: Comic Book Urban Legends Revealed. I'd made a few fleeting visits to this site in the past, but when I wound up there the other night, I just couldn't stop reading! There are 38 installments to date--each featuring three Comic Book Urban Legends--and the whole thing is immensely fascinating! I think my initial reluctance to dip deeply into info posted here was a general distrust of the factual veracity of this sort of Internet journalism, but upon closer examination, I found myself very impressed by Brian Cronin's thorough research--everything I had some personal knowledge of seemed to be right on target, and in any event, all the tales told here are backed up by directly attributed quotes from an impressive variety of sources! The pieces are succinct and clearly written--AND reliable as well! What more could you want? If you haven't checked it out before, I highly recommend you take a peek next opportunity you get. Nice job, Brian!

Oh, and another nice aspect of the site--if you've heard tell of an unsubstantiated Urban Legend emanating from the comics sphere, you can write in, and maybe Brian will investigate things for you!

Which gets me thinking--say Brian, didja ever hear the one about how that Fred Hembeck Destroys The Marvel Universe book was delayed by the publisher for years--and ultimately truncated--when it was discovered that the TRUE villain of the piece was none other than a thinly veiled version of legendary Superman Family editor Mort Weisinger?...

Yeah, I know--preposterous. Can't POSSIBLY be true...
February 27th, 2006
Earlier today, I spent a little time pouring through a pile of old photo packets, looking for some pictures of our past visits to Disney World, which I'm going to use to illustrate an upcoming overview of earlier jaunts. During this personal Kodak retrospective I happened upon a sequence of four snapshots of daughter Julie that just absolutely stopped me dead in my tracks.


Simple--they were SO doggone cute, they practically took my breath away!

Yes, yes, I know--I'm partial, and in a big, BIG way.

Still, these pics--taken back in March of 1998, when she would've been approaching eight--so nicely capture my l'il darlin's general 24/7 ebullient attitude, that I somehow felt compelled to share them here. And no, I didn't take these photos; I'm pretty sure her grandmother did (that's her house in the background). Fact is, I have no memory of actually seeing these before I went trolling though the past earlier.

Yeah, she's fifteen now, a pretty young girl in her own right, but that shouldn't preclude dipping into the Hembeck history books for a glimpse of yesterday occasionally , right?

So, with your indulgence...
Adorable, huh?

(Gee, I wonder how I'D look in that hat? Or maybe it takes more than just the right chapeau, huh? Probably...)
February 26th, 2006
It was virtually impossible to grow up in the sixties and not absolutely adore Don Knotts. Only Art Carney's "Ed Norton" rivalled Don's "Barney Fife" in the category of beloved second bananas, and you've gotta give Jackie Gleason a lot of credit for knowing better than to ever attempt doing "The Honeymooners" without Carney. The erstwhile Kramden should've put a call into Mayberry's sheriff and shared that priceless bit of wisdom, because once Barney left, "The Andy Griffith Show" was never quite the same.

Not that I followed friend Knotts to the Big Screen. Most of the movies he made in the latter half of the sixties seemed aimed at a younger audience, nothing that would appeal to (or so I imagined) this newly-minted teen. To this day, I'll shamefacedly admit to never having seen any of Knotts' cinematic ouerve, much of which is now considered genuinely classic. But fear not--when Don came back to TV, I was there, front and center, watching each and every week!

No, I don't mean when he came in as Norman Fell's replacement on "Three's Company" (I, um, didn't watch those either...)--I'm talking about his hour-long eponymously titled NBC comedy variety show that ran on Tuesday nights during the 1970/1971 season (pictured above).

I didn't follow all that much TV during my later teens, but I made a special point of watching Don's show regularly. I'd always loved him on the many vintage "Steve Allen Show" clips I'd seen, so I figured this new venue would probably be right up his alley. Maybe it didn't win any Emmys, but in its own modest way, it won ME over. Of special note, besides the usual variety show schtick, was a regular feature that involved the behind the scenes funny business of mounting a weekly comedy program, involving the show's regulars and various guest stars, nicely echoing the wonderful "Jack Benny Program"..

Among the regulars: Elaine Joyce, Kenneth Mars, Frank Welker, John Dehner, Mickey Deems, Eddie Carroll, Gary Burgoff, and Bob Williams and his dog Louie (which especially amused me, since one of my best buddies at the time was also named Bob Williams, albeit sans any sort of Louie). While I haven't seen an episode since it left the air in July of 1971, I still have fond (if fuzzy) memories of "The Don Knotts Show".

The last time I saw Don was when he appeared as a guest with Conan O'Brien a few years back. I clearly recall the spontaneous outpouring of love both the audience and the host heaped on him during that all-too brief segment, and how Don seemed sincerely touched by it all . I know I was...

As you no doubt know by now, like all too many of his fellow small screen comedic legends, Don Knotts has left us. Barney, it seems, can finally take that lone bullet out of his shirt pocket--sadly, he won't be needing it anymore.

Thanks for all the laughs, Don.
February 25th, 2006
A quick note for those of you attending the big comics convention Sunday in NYC--should all go as planned, I'll be there as well (along with my buddy, Rocco). Not as a guest per se (though the folks in charge were nice enough to comp my admission), but I will be walking around, having all sort of non-Disney fun, so if you see me, and feel the urge to say "hi", by all means do so!


Literally minutes after posting the above, I received a call from a friend who attended today's "festivities", and listening to his description of events made me think twice about expending the time and energy to go in tomorrow.

Long story short: there's been a change of plans. We're not going, so I won't see any of you there after all. Sorry.

Good luck to those of you who do venture in --seems like you may need it...
February 24th, 2006
Back in 1968, I was hardly a fan of Chester Gould's aging Dick Tracy strip, partially due to the author's political stance, which was roughly 180 degrees away from mine, and partially because--let's face it--the razor-beaked detective's best days were long behind him.

In later decades, as various collections of top-notch material from the thirties, forties, and even the fifties were issued, I came around, and began to greatly appreciate Gould's body of work, but back the week just before The Beatles White Album was originally released--despite my general lack of interest in, and maybe even contempt for, the feature--I found the final two panels of the November 17th strip so blatantly peculiar that I grabbed a pair of scissors, clipped them out, and saved them to this very day.

Go ahead--take a look for yourselves...
Is that--omigosh!--a...TEAR Tracy sheds (along with his hair)?

Odd, just plain odd. I know ol' Chet harbored no love whatsoever for the longhairs of the era, but shaving Dick's head smooth as a cue ball, well, THAT'S a little extreme, don'tcha think? Where the story went after this, I have absolutely NO idea, though in those pre-Kojak times, I'm reasonably sure Tracy eventually grew his locks back...

I came across this item last night, at the same time I rediscovered that autographed FANTASTIC FOUR ROAST I told you about yesterday. I also found some really nifty clippings, the front sides of which I'll be sharing with you here in the not too distant future. But on the BACK of these late 1967 pieces of NEWSDAY pulp, I found several interesting ads featuring a few of this blog's very favorite showbiz personalities.

Broadway? Who NEEDS Broadway when you have the Mineola Theatre Society of Long Island, hmmm? Dig THIS cast:
Soupy Sales!

Jessica Walter!

Russell Nype!

(..."Russell Nype"?...)

And check out the stars of "Barefoot In The Park" and "The Subject Was Roses"--from the silver screen to the Nassau Country footlights must've been one...interesting career journey, huh?...

Even sans his trademark pies, Soupy--and the future Bluth matriarch--surely put on one heckuva show, especially under the watchful eye of game-show legend Henry Morgan!

Bill Cullen in "Man of La Mancha"? Can't say for sure if such a production was ever mounted, but if it was, it probably went straight to Off-Mineola...

Then there's (sigh) Hayley...
Not much of a photo, I'll admit, but I still felt the need to scan it in.

Y'know, somehow I never quite got around to catching this flick. The funny thing about this particular ad is how the blurb seems to emphasize the movie's writer and musical composer over the film's stars and story (although Frank DOES get a name-check in the opening line...).

Still, I've always sorta liked that McCartney fellow--I probably SHOULD seek this movie out, huh?

(Considering Hayley's dad John also has a significant role in the aptly titled "The Family Way", it occurs to me that maybe a better choice for providing the music might've been their distant American cousins, The Mills Brothers! Just so long as they kept crazy uncle Wilbur Mills out of camera range!...)
February 23rd, 2006
And now, due to popular demand (okay, okay--pretty much mainly from Sleestak, though I'm sure good ol' BookSteve won't object overly...), that photo I alluded to back on the 8th of this month, the one found in the 1964/65 WHO'S WHO IN TELEVISION magazine featuring a demure Hayley Mills sitting next to comedian Danny Kaye...
Pardon the blurb--it's meant to usher in the two page section focusing on various variety programs (of which, Mr. Kaye's is designated best. Don't know that I'd agree with that--I never much cared for the guy, but hey, that's just me. For the record, Jack Paar, Johnny Carson, and Candid Camera are the three other shows spotlighted. But enough of that--back to our golden-tressed goddess..)


Seen here with Danny is a young Hayley Mills, who made a very auspicious appearance on his show. On this particular show, Hayley's father, John, was also a guest. Hayley will soon be seen in Universal-International's forthcoming picture, "The Truth About Spring".

So it seems that when one outgrows Disney, the next logical step is Universal.

Hmm, that reminds me--did I mention that I was just down in Florida visiting both of those media monolith's latter day theme park complexes? Yup, it's true...

Funny thing about Disney and their current corporate catch phrase--talk with anybody associated with the company, and they'll invariably end every single conversation by wishing you a magical day. It happened to Lynn when she ordered our tickets on the phone, it happened to us each time we drove into one of their four parks and coughed up nine dollars a day for parking--but probably the example that took the whole three tiered cake was when I couldn't find the ice machine our first night at the hotel, so I called down to the front desk seeking help locating it. After politely informing me there were dispensers on each of the even numbered floors (we were, you see, on the third), the clerk wound up the call by wishing me a magical evening!

All I could think was, man oh man, that sure must be SOME ice machine!...

But earlier today I discovered that, somehow, someway, a little of that Disney magic followed us all the way back home up the coast! Y'see, I was looking around downstairs for some Disney related memorabilia for my next episode of The Fred Hembeck Show over at IGN, and finally found it after digging through a box of miscellaneous ephemera, one untouched since we moved here just about a decade ago. While rooting through this pile of odds and ends, I came upon a small pile of my old books. Besides several of my Fantaco publications, and two long missing issues of MARVEL TALES featuring the first two installments of the Sylvia Sowmeister Trilogy (and you thought the Galactus Trilogy was something! Hah! Give a little time--I'll post this whole amazing Spider-Ham saga hereabouts soon enough!), I also came across five copies of the FANTASTIC FOUR ROAST.

You might recall, back in episode 39 of The Fred Hembeck Show, in detailing the creation of that quasi-legendary one-shot, I made mention of a very special copy autographed by many of the artists who worked over my layouts, a copy I had long-ago misplaced, and in fact feared accidentally sold at some past convention appearance. Could one of these five be that book, I wondered?

I hastily opened the first one. Nothing. I quickly paged through the second. Uh uh--blank. The third? Nope--came up empty again. The fourth offered me no solace either. So, taking a deep breath, I cracked the cover of the fifth--



And I AIN'T talking vacuum cleaners, friends! (I prefer me a Kirby, anyway...)

There they all were: John Byrne, Terry Austin, Mike Golden, John Romita, John Romita Junior, Joe Rubenstein, Al Milgrom, Mike Zeck, John Beatty, Bob Layton, Alan Weiss, Frank Miller, Denys Cowan, Marshall Rogers, Don Perlin, Walt Simonson, Steve Leialoha, Dave Simons, Bill Sienkiewicz, and Brent Anderson!! Some signed more than one page (like Terry and Joe), some just wrote their names, while others personalized things up a bit (Don Perlin wrote, "To Fred, Love--Don Perlin"--right under a drawing of a guy with a flaming skull riding a motorcycle! Aw--the old softie!...), but the great thing was, something irreplaceable, feared lost forever, turned up, and ONLY because I was searching out some obscure items that--were it not for our recent visit to the (really and truly) Magic Kingdom--I NEVER would've looked for in the first place!!


And to think, I wasn't even wishing upon a star!

(Though I DO kinda wish I had this copy in hand all the times I've run into Joe Sinnott in the ensuing years, not to mention that time I sat next to Keith Pollard at a con. Guess I've still got a shot at those two, as well as Dave Cockrum, Bob Hall, Kerry Gammill, Mike Vosburg, and Sal Buscema--though sadly, John Buscema and Gene Day won't ever get the chance to be included...)

Ooo--bummer ending that, huh? Sorry. So go look at that picture of Hayley Mills again, okay? Wasn't she just the most adorable thing?

Say, how come there's no "Parent Trap Interactive Pillow Fight" attraction at Disney World, huh? Man, talk about being Fastpass worthy!...
February 22nd, 2006
Last week, while wandering through a half-dozen of Orlando's ever burgeoning roster of theme parks, I saw many a famous character strolling about: Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, Captain America, Popeye, Princess Jasmine, Wolverine, Goofy, even Betty Boop--and I have the photographic evidence to back it up, too!

But the one icon I never expected to see, the one I was unable the snap a shot of, was one that sidled up alongside us over at Universal, as we awaited the pre-show for the Terminator 3-D movie.

While passing the time, I happened to glance over to my right. Standing nearby was a party of three young people, two guys and a gal, all in their early twenties. The woman and one of the fellas wouldn't have caused me to give the group a second look, but it was the third member of the trio that practically caused my jaw to drop.

He was wearing a vintage forties hat, a brightly flowered shirt, and--oh yeah--had noticeably protruding ears. His head had a triangular shape, pointing down at the chin.

In short, he looked almost exactly like this...
That's right--here was a twentysomething doing his best to emulate Der Bingle! All he needed was a pipe and a golf club to complete the look!

I gotta tell ya, I was quietly stunned. I kept staring at this guy, and if I hadn't already exhausted the power in our digital camera a few hours earlier, I would've been sorely tempted to go over and ask for a photo! Not that he was an exact dead ringer--if this had been some sort of competition, I probably would've only rated him a "6" or "7" on the look-alike scale. His features were off, y'see, even if he possessed the all-important large ears and head shape. But to see a young guy purposely affect that look--whoa! Apparently, he'd heard plenty enough about his resemblance to the famous crooner growing up, and eventually decided to just give in and go with it, big time.

Because, after all, what circa 2006 hottie wouldn't instantly be turned on by the Bing Crosby look anyway, huh? Or did he maybe miscalculate the appeal, and make a boo boo boo?...

(Best I could tell, the female in their party was accompanying the OTHER gent. And no--I got a good enough look. Bob Hope and Dorothy Lamour they weren't...)

Speaking of being on The Road To Terminator 3-D, it's quite the impressive attraction--and this is coming from someone who's never seen either of the Terminator movies. The 3-D is top of the line, the scenario triples in size at key moments by utilizing a pair of screens on either wing of the main one, and--most uniquely--has several live on-stage stand-ins for Arnold and his two costars who occasionally appear seemingly from out of the screen itself to give the events being depicted an added sense of urgency. Low lighting, some all-important sunglasses, and expert lip-synching to the actor's pre-recorded dialog helps to preserve the illusion. If you go folks, don't miss this one.

When it was all over, Julie turned to me, smiled, and said, "Too bad they couldn't get Arnold for the stage show, huh?".

I looked her in the eye, straight-faced, and replied, "Well, y'know, before he became Governor of California, Schwartzenagger usually did the show on most weekends..."

Her eyes widened, as I saw that look I cherish so--total, if only passing belief, in one of my outrageous tall-tales.

"Really?" she said, incredulously. I was surprised she considered THAT whopper to be true for even a second, so my spontaneous laughter immediately gave me away! I've always been gullible myself--guess I've passed that unfortunate proclivity down to the next generation, huh?

Well, that's all for today, but in the words of the big A, worry not--"I'll be back!...".
February 21st, 2006
The Fred Hembeck Show: Episode 49 concerns itself with some personal recollections of the great price increase of 1961. Check it out--I promise you it won't cost you one red cent!

After our magical Disney excursion, it's time for me to make like Teresa Heinz Kerry and play catch-up, so quickly now:

As usual, Peter Sanderson's Comics In Context #120 makes for a fascinating read, though a quick glance at the sub-title serves as a spoiler for an upcoming (at least, for ME...) episode of "Smallville". (How far behind am I? Um, next to the last episode of the first season. Don't ask--I'll get to 'em, I'll get to 'em...) And King Kong stars in Comics In Context #121.

Roger Green posted a LOT of cool things while we were away, including his examination of parts 5 and 6 of that Sid Jacobson/Ernie Colon satirical Black Comic Book. As a bonus, Rog, also peers at "I Am Curious Black", Lois Lane's most infamous moment! All this plus Beatles AND Star Trek! You've been mighty busy, buddy!...

Chance Fiveash hasn't been sitting on his laurels, either! Hardy soul that he is, he's recently posted lots of great stuff over at his Last of The Spinner Rack Junkies site: The Barker and Lady Luck, both by Klaus Nordling; two Dick Briefer Frankenstein stories; CREEPY tales by John Severin and Berni Wrightson; and a Jack Cole Midnight entry! Whew! Lotsa good reading there, folks! Thanks Chance!

You probably already know this, but Craig Yoe now has a blog, and a spiffy one it is, too! Oboy, MORE competition for your time! I better crank things up here--and QUICK!

Lastly, some of the best news I've heard in quite awhile (via Mark Evanier, natch): a complete run of my all-time favorite newspaper strip, Mary Perkins On Stage is set to commence in the near future! More about me and my love affair with Mar some other time--just wanted to make a note here of the impending release, maybe get a few other people excited!

Guess that's all for today. Tomorrow, I spy a highly unlikely site at a Florida theme park--details to follow!
February 20th, 2006
I'm baaaaaack!

Yeah, I know--not very original. But it fits.

Been away on a little family vacation. Lynn, Julie and I flew down to Orlando last Tuesday, the 14th, ( I'll do my best to skip the "and boy, are our arms tired" crack--oops. Too late...), where we spent four swell days at Disney World, devoting a full day to each of their main parks.

And on Sunday, do you think we rested?

Uh uh, no way--that was the day we covered ground at the two Universal theme parks! More on all of this in the days to come, but I just wanted to stop by, wish everyone a marvelous President's Day, and explain my absence hereabouts. Wife Lynn felt it might not be the most prudent course of action to announce to the world that--BYE BYE!!--we were leaving our house for a week, even if Grandma was staying here to feed cats and bunny, so she suggested I keep things hush hush, dig? Not that YOU, dear friend, would do anything untoward, but hey, you never can tell about HIM--yeah, THAT guy. Always gotta watch him...

But we're back now. Bear in mind, I went an entire week without access to a computer (save for that round of "Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?" over in the Innoventions pavilion at Epcot--we won $32,000! (...but I'm still waiting to see the check...). As of Monday evening, I haven't gone through any of my accumulated email yet, so fear not if you haven't heard anything back from me--I wasn't being rude. Just being preoccupied by The Happiest Place on Earth!

And Universal Studios...

I'll be back soon!

(Oh, and did I mention that I'm thoroughly EXHAUSTED? Having non-stop fun sure can be hard work--who'da thot?...)
February 14th, 2006
The Fred Hembeck Show Episode 48 celebrates the day properly, and you can read all about it by going over to the IGN Comics site and check it out!

Have a swell day, friends, and see ya later!
February 12th, 2006
The above panels come from "Superman's Greatest Feats", the back-up story in SUPERMAN #146 (July, 1961), my very first regularly bought issue of a Superman Family title, and it's a good thing that the retelling of The Man of Steel's origin that led off the book dazzled me, because otherwise, after being confused by THIS little gem, I may've NEVER come back!!

The Grand Comic Book Database credits the scripting of this entry to Superman's co-creator, Jerry Siegel, with art provided by Al Plastino (in--as they used to say in those halcyon Weisinger comics of yore--an ironic twist of fate, the lead tale recounting the Kryptonian's beginnings was NOT assigned to the man who thought him up, but instead to the writer most associated with his one-time rival, Captain Marvel, Otto Binder! Oh, that Mort and his little jokes...)

Y'see, Supes old mermaid sweetheart, Lori Lemaris, beseeches her former beau to use his time-travelling abilities to go back into the past and somehow prevent Atlantis from sinking into the ocean. Well, having tried to change history a number of times previously, the Big Red S knows this mission is a fool's one, but hey, sometimes you just gotta humor an ol' gal pal, dig?

Only thing is, it WORKS! He actually prevents Atlantis from sinking! Stunned by his own handiwork, he flies ahead in time, and, just to test out his newfound good luck, he saves a colosseum full of Christians from some hungry lions! Realizing this isn't a fluke, our man rewrites the history books once again when he prevents the English army from executing Nathan Hale during the Revolutionary War, after which he accomplishes the little feat pictured above!

He flies off before the play is over (though at least Mrs.Lincoln FINALLY got to see how things turned out), with his best idea yet: SAVE KRYPTON! The very same Krypton that blew up so very dramatically in the issue's lead story!

Well, THAT works, too, but when he sees his parents disembark from one of the fleet of spaceships he cobbled together for his home world's population to escape in, holding a baby--HIM!!--he suddenly realizes, hey, something ain't right here!

And it wasn't, since when he zooms back to 1961 to check out the history books, nothing's been changed. Seems as if when Superman flew off into the familiar whirling vortex that represents the time barrier, he discovers, upon returning to said vortex, that there were TWO of them, side by side! He hadn't noticed it before, but apparently, he'd been whisked into a parallel time-barrier, and into a twin-universe, one whose laws of science differed enough from ours so that past events could indeed be changed!


Understand, I'm eight years old when I'm reading this--I don't even know what parallel LINES are!?! The whole thing made next to no sense (and believe me, it hasn't aged particularly well, either), but befuddled as I may've been, I still came back for the next issue anyway.

Good thing, too. Otherwise I would've missed Siegel's NEXT dramatic offering, "Krypto Battles Titano!"

Mort was a cruel, cruel man...
February 10th, 2006
The other night, after finally completing SHAZAM ARCHIVES Volume 3, I went downstairs and looked to pull a fresh tome off my ever-burgeoning shelf of DC ARCHIVE editions to read. After a moment's consideration, I decided to move directly from 1941 Fawcett Comics material right on up to some mostly unfamiliar (to me, anyway) National Comics Silver Age goodness from 1957, and grabbed the second volume of WORLD'S FINEST COMICS ARCHIVES.

I was surprised--and delighted--to find the book open up with an affectionate introduction written by none other than Tom (SUPERFRANKENSTEIN) Peyer! Not only was I impressed by Tom's insight into the era that spawned those halcyon Superman/Batman teamings, I was even MORE amazed that he could go the full two pages without mocking our nation's Chief Exec! Heck of a job, Tommie! (heh...)

But beyond that, I found myself enjoying these undeniably goofy stories far more than I expected to. I read the first volume several years ago, and liked it, but I've always had a bit of a prejudice against Jack Schiff edited material, at least stacked up against the contemporaneous Mort Weisinger controlled Superman titles. It's hard to deny the sheer iconic pencilling of artist Dick Sprang (generally inked by Stan Kaye), though, whose heroes exude pure undiluted goodness--and have mighty firm jaws, to boot!

The scripts--mostly by Edmond Hamilton and Bill Finger--are monuments to convoluted cleverness. Compared to Mort's later ouerve, they lack only the darkly themed psycho-sexual underpinnings that one can find in virtually every Weisinger helmed comic.

But sometimes something like the following does manage to sneak in. From "The Super-Batwoman" (WF #90, Oct., 1957), Batman's female doppelganger finds herself in possession of super-powers for a 24 hour period (How? Don't ask...), and decides to use the closing minutes of her unexpected good fortune to try and learn Superman's secret identity. Her plan? Stick by the Man of Steel's side like glue until he returns to his civilian guise.

Supes tries evey which way to shake this persistent pest, all to no avail...
He's pretty certain he's figured out a sure fire way to lose that nosy Batwoman, and so, he utilizes a ploy that clearly wouldn't work today, but easily succeeded back in 1957...
Gotta give Hamilton SOME credit--he DID restrain himself from using the term "Eek!" in that panel! What was he--some sorta proto-feminist, or what?

(I still have the last nine of the sixteen episodes included to read--wonder what OTHER sorta gems I'll uncover?...)
February 8th, 2006
Torn from the pages of this vintage magazine (okay, okay--scanned in), I offer you what could very well be the absolute final, totally definitive, case-closed word on the mystery surrounding the true age of the recently deceased Al "Schnauser" Lewis!

Or, maybe not...
Anyway, I bought the above publication back in 1964. It features capsule descriptions of every network program for the 1964/1965 television season, and does an amazing--if superficial--job of covering an AWFUL lot of ground in its 76 ad-free pages. The thing is chockful of some rare pics as well: Jack Benny in a kimono, Hayley Mills sitting demurely on a stool next to Danny Kaye, and several of the Beatles, including one with the boys surrounding the comedy duo, Allen and Rossi! But another time for THAT--today we're here to look into the conflicting reports of Al Lewis's age.

As you might recall, along with everyone else, I reported him to be 95 at the time of his passing when I fashioned my little tribute to the beloved comedic actor the other day. Well, subsequently, OTHER facts have emerged, and the consensus seems to be that he was actually 83 at the time of his death! If you're at all confused by this, Mark Evanier covers the situation succinctly, first here, then here, and most recently, here.

Okay, got that?

Well, when I was pondering what I would write the other night, I pulled out the mag above to see if I could find a good photo to use with my piece. Since "The Munsters" was debuting that season, it was allotted approximately a half page in the New Shows section, right across from the immortal "Gilligan's Island" and above the long-forgotten "Slattery's People".
A nice enough photo, but not really what I wanted, so I trolled around the Internet and found something elsewhere. I gave the blurb next to his name a quick read, but didn't really think anything more of it until this whole age controversy began to heat up, at which time I went back and took a second look.

This is what it says...

Al was 37 in '64?

And 1964 was 42 years ago?

Math was never my strong suit, but let's see--if you add 42 to 37, you get, um...


"This just in, Al Lewis was 79 at the time of his passing!"

At least, according to THIS evidence! (And incidentally,Yvonne DeCarlo's write-up has her born in 1925, making her 39 at the time "The Munsters" first aired--and thus, two whole years OLDER than her co-star, who was playing her father!?!...)

How reliable this source really is, I couldn't say, but it does make for a mildly interesting addition to the discussion, huh?

Poor Al--at the rate he's going, sooner or later his demise is gonna predate his graduation from high school!
February 7th, 2006
The Fred Hembeck Show Episode 47 follows up on last week's Reeves-a-thon with some comments, corrections, and links sent in by readers.

Peter Sanderson's Comics In Context #119 looks at Frank Miller and Jim Lee's controversial ALL-STAR BATMAN series. Since I'm saving up issues so as to read an entire story arc in one sitting, I'm also gonna hold off on Peter's prose this time around (at least, for now), but if you've read the book, hey, there's no reason YOU should! And thanks for agreeing to finish up "The Other" storyline in the SPIDER-MAN books for me, Peter! Much appreciated!

Jim Salicrup's Addicted to Comics #12 takes you behind the scenes of MARVEL PREMIERE #50, otherwise know as "the Alice Cooper comic"! Fascinating stuff, Jim--and next time, The Beatles?!? Whoa--I'm THERE!...

Roger Green has some more Ramblin's about that Ernie Colon/Sid Jacobson satiric black comic from the seventies he's been dissecting if you go here.

Last night's "24" capsule review: didn't they use nearly the exact same ending a few years back? Even I, who couldn't anticipate the twists and turns in the average "Brady Bunch" episode, saw THAT final "shock" coming! Not to mention the hardly unexpected demises of the body-shop guy and the misguided Presidential advisor. Still, can't fault 'em for a single predictable episode--it's been pretty darn thrilling up to this point.

I'm not a football fan, at all--but I AM a Rolling Stones fan, so I tuned into the half-time show the other night. Amazingly, so is my daughter. Six weeks ago, she had only a vague idea that someone named Mick Jagger had died of a drug overdose years ago--and then, two nights ago, she was screeching like a fifteen year old girl (which she is) at the opening strains of "Start Me Up"!?! I STILL haven't explained how all this happened, but for now, dig THIS crazy notion: the Stones Super Bowl performance was the very first one witnessed by both my teen-age daughter AND Mr. Showbiz himself, the seventy-year old plus Regis Philbin!

How do I know this? Well, the next morning on "Live With Regis and Kelly", Reege stunned his co-host and producer,Michael Gelman alike, by proceeding to mimic Mick's trademark rooster-on-acid moves--as if he was the very first one ever to bring Jagger's idiosyncratic dancing to the attention of the nation! Yup, in all these years, he'd NEVER seen the Stones perform live before, and apparently, was quite shocked by what he saw! Plus--and when was the last time you heard THIS canard, boomers?--he declared that he couldn't understand a single word of their first two numbers!

Look, I love the guy, but really, should I surprised? After all, this is the same fellow who came out onto his set on a dark morning back in November, 2001, and gravely announced to the audience the passing of ex-Beatle, George Hamilton...
February 5th, 2006
Although Al Lewis didn't appear as the perpetually beleaguered patrolman, Leo Schnauser, until the lucky 13th episode of "Car 54, Where Are You?"s first season (he had two unrelated supporting, non-uniformed, roles in episodes 5 and 7), he instantly became nearly as much a focal point of that show as Joe E. Ross and Fred Gwynne's Toody and Muldoon.
And why not? He was absolutely hilarious as the long-suffering Leo, ably supported by Charlotte Rae's wonderfully over the top performance as Sylvia Schnauser, his ever socially ambitious wife. At times, the entire show would be turned over to the outrageous escapades of the couple, with Toody and Muldoon relegated to mere supporting status. Nat Hiken's follow-up to his classic "Sgt. Bilko" has never really been given the credit it richly deserves, no doubt due in part to the very long shadow the Phil Silvers starrer would've cast over WHATEVER the comedy mastermind chose to do next, which is a true shame. It's as good a sitcom as you're likely to find, and--beyond the show's superior writing--a great deal of that success has to be attributed to Al Lewis's unforgettable portrayal.

As a kid, I eagerly watched each and every episode, and was delighted to discover, just a few years back, that they still hold up every bit as well as I recall. I loved ALL the characters, but I think I maybe found Leo a little bit funnier than the rest. EVERY line he spoke, it seemed, was a laugh line. Y'know, because of him, to this very day, I've never been able to hear someone make reference to a schnauser dog without inevitably thinking back to "Car 54" and smiling.

Yeah, I watched "The Munsters", too. Cute show. Considering it was based entirely on a one-note gag, they certainly got a lot of milage out of it. Having Al Lewis and Fred Gwynne leading the cast certainly didn't hurt matters any, but let's face it, the scripts weren't up to the standards of Hiken's show. That's okay--very few comedies, then or now, were or are. I was just happy to see Al Lewis again, even if it was in Drac drag as opposed to cop clothes.

I'm sorry to hear he passed away the other day. Considering he was 95, I suppose I shouldn't be surprised, but for awhile there, it almost seemed as if Al Lewis was forever. I remember listening to what I believe was the first of his many appearances on the Howard Stern Show back in the eighties. Howard affected a lisping persona when questioning celebrities in those days, dropping in as many gay-oriented innuendoes as humanly possible throughout the course of these conversations, very often confusing and ultimately offending his guests.

Not Al. Oh, he sounded momentarily taken aback, sure, but within minutes, he'd figured out the method to his inquisitor's madness and was soon enough giving back as good as he got! It was decidedly un-PC material, but somehow, filtered out through the non-dulcet tones of Grandpa Al, it was fall-down funny!

At the ripe old age of 88, Al went so far as to use his reinvigorated fame to get himself onto New York state's ballot as the Green Party's candidate for governor--though the courts prevented him from being registered as "Grandpa Al Lewis". According to news reports, he still received an impressive 52, 000 votes.

No, mine wasn't one of them, though I'll admit I was sorely tempted.

Now, Leo Schnauser, HIM I woulda voted for in a New York minute!

Rest easy, Al, and thanks for all the laughs...
February 4th. 2006
Been a while since I did one of The Comics Reporter's "Five For Friday" surveys--they haven't been showing up weekly of late, and when they have, the topics were ones I didn't feel I had anything to contribute to--but this one seemed right up my alley.

The topic for this 62nd edition was "Cover songs--Name Five Comics and the Cartoonists You'd Like to See "Cover" Them"

My first and last suggestions are purely fanciful, second and fourth pretty much serious, and the third, well, sort of a mixture of the two. So go, take a look at the ENTIRE list!

I always HAVE loved cover versions, the goofier the better. About the oddest one I've heard recently was "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Heart's Club Band" performed by Bill Cosby--yes, BILL COSBY! But don't just take my word for it--you can download it (and two full CDs worth of peculiar Beatles' covers) at Down In The Groove. (Big thanks to John Firehammer's This Is Pop! for pointing the way!).

Happy birthday, Scott Saavedra!!

And big time congrats to Will and Amy Pfiefer on their beautiful new daughter, Allison! Good times ahead, folks!

February 1st, 2006
The above photo showed up in my email the other day, with the accompanying text:

WASHINGTON, JAN 30 -- President Bush, First Lady Laura Bush, Vice President Cheney and his wife Lynne recite the Green Lantern oath at a White House ceremony honoring Fred Hembeck's birthday

Yup--Tom (SUPERFRANKENSTEIN) Peyer managed to both save on postage AND make me laugh at the same time! Thanks, fella! (And do take a look at this: Tom may well be the only journalist in the entire country--nay, the entire WORLD--who detected the TRUE intent behind President Bush's State of the Union speech last night: forget Al Queda, the U S of A going full throttle after Spider-Man's rogue gallery!(Or at least a substantial portion of it...) You go, W!

Speaking of my birthday--and I PROMISE, after today, we'll put THAT topic on ice 'til the NEXT go-round--I HAD planned on including a nicely drawn personalized birthday greeting from none other than Jughead Jones, sent my way LAST year from the wonderfully talented--and long-time Archie scribe--Craig Boldman, but a glitch in our email depository (I'll spare you the details) put the kibosh on that idea, though hope remains that I can retrieve said illo for NEXT January 30th. In the meantime, you might want to take a look at this page, in which Craig dons his Silver-Age sleuthing cap and proves, in stark black and white, when it came to their earliest recorded exploits, there was no denying it--J'onn J'onnz was clearly the Justice Leaguer who most obviously blew! Literally. Go look--it's an amazing compendium of images. Craig's careful research (dare I say it?) blew me away!

And then there's Sleestak.

The friendly (?) extraterrestrial who produces the highly entertaining Lady, That's My Skull blog took it upon himself to right a long-ago wrong done me by a nameless DC Comics colorist, all as a birthday gift of sorts. Seems as if a very young Sleestak was initially confused when he encountered one of my Daily Planet gags back in 1979, one in which Green Lantern is being felled by the power of wood (insert your own Paris Hilton quip here...). Noticing the inappropriate white cape that GL was wearing, Li'l Sleezy soon realized that it was Alan Scott, the Golden Age Green Lantern who'd been the intended butt of my joke, but someone in production had mistakenly decided otherwise, rendering the gag totally lame (as opposed to a correctly tinted, mostly lame version), and--after some suitable ranting--friend Sleestak has recolored the strip correctly, purely for my benefit! Thank you, sir!

And yet...

Y'see, odd thing is, I don't remember this coloring fubar AT ALL. Now, it's entirely possible, in the swift weekly turnover these strips had in those days, I simply failed to get overstressed at this unintentional error, and quickly moved on, knowing the very next edition of the Daily Planet page was immanent. And truthfully, it's a pretty mediocre gag--perhaps not making any clear sense actually HELPED it. And y'know, maybe I just forgot the entire matter in the intervening time...

Or maybe, just maybe, this whole egregious situation never took place at all! Maybe the whole story as reported is a SHAM! After all, you can see how Sleestak allegedly recolored the strip correctly, so who's to say he didn't take the strip as printed (Alan Scott hues), and then rigged up a FALSE incorrect version? Obviously, he has the tools necessary for such a move available to him!

But WHY, you ask?

Simple--he's "Gaslighting" me! That way, on the off-chance that someday, the two of us are left as the last two men on Earth (or man and alien--whatever...), Hayley Mills would clearly pick HIM to repopulate the planet with, passing over yours truly, as I'd've no doubt been declared delusional by then, no small thanks to HIM!! Sigh. Such is the power the ever lovely Hayley has over men (and aliens, apparently...)

Or maybe not. Maybe it was just a nice gesture meant to celebrate my birthday. In which case, THANK YOU! May our two planets co-exist in peace and harmony to eons to come. But sorry. Slees--I didn't save you any cake...

And just what did I DO on my birthday (besides eat some of the aforementioned bakery product)? Well, even though I just turned 53, I'll always look back fondly on it as my "24" birthday! Yup, I decided to treat myself to the first six hours of this season's Fox action-spectacular! I watched the four-hour mini debut in the morning, and then, after taping that evening's most recent episode, hours five and six just before bedtime! Man, it's a wonder I EVER got to sleep, my heart was beating so fast!...

I'm not inclined to conjure up a full scale review at this time, but I WILL share a few random observations. Firstly, I very much liked the way the initial four-hour block formed a small story in and of itself, one that nonetheless led naturally towards the events that followed. And this year, things got off and running even faster than before, as usually there was a longer build-up leading to the baddies master plan, but this time, we were off and running five minutes in, weren't we? I can't say I was surprised overmuch by the demises of the two characters in the show's opening quarter-hour--when the credits list once-regular actors as "Special Guest Star" and "Special Appearance By", well, on THIS show, that's pretty much the kiss of death! And, it was, wasn't it?

There's always at least ONE dangling plot thread left over from the previous season that'll have me barking at my TV screen though, and this year was no different. My question? What about the President who was on Air Force One when it was shot down, the one Logan had to take over for because he was "incapacitated"? It's year and a half later, Logan is walking around, talking to aides about HIS Presidency, with nary a mention of his unfortunate predecessor. Is he still incapacitated? Is he dead? Is he gonna surprise us all and pop in on Logan before the day is out? And how come I can't remember his name?

Gee, I'm sorry for doubting you Sleestak--guess my memory just ain't what it usta be, y'know? (Hey, wouldn't it be cool if Hayley Mills played twins--one good, one bad, natch--on "24"? Maybe the evil one could enlist the help of Donald Sutherland in aiding her capture of Jack Bauer--man, that'd be one Parent Trap I'd LOVE to see!! ...

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