Archive - February 2008
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February 29th, 2008
February 28th, 2008
Today we're back with two brand new entries in our Across The Page series (so named because the artwork goes, um, all the way across the page, from one side to the other with no white space left for margins. But you knew that...).

The first offering in the latest of our little thematic gatherings is sure to be a crowd pleaser, if a bit on the predictable side.

Our SECOND piece, however--and I'm not one to boast, honest I'm not, but hey--it may well be THE MOST UNIQUE DRAWING IN THE HISTORY OF ALL MANKIND!!

Okay, okay--so maybe I'm overselling things a bit here (and I make no claims about it being the BEST, mind you...), but c'mon, I defy anyone anywhere to find a known drawing like it anywhere, anytime!! Like all my Across The Page extravaganzas, there's a logical reason for the grouping, yet I can assure you that these seven characters have NEVER before shared the same space on a single page, much less under the direction of a single artist.

And yet, today they do.

Ain't being a witness to history GRAND?..

Five of the seven I've personally NEVER drawn before, the other two but a single time, and I might well never draw any of them again, so be advised--truly, this is a one of a kind piece of art!

But first--ho hum--that oh-so-familiar bunch from Gotham City...

Batman: Buddies, Baddies, and Beauties!!
They're a swell bunch of costumed cut-ups, no denying it, but--let's face it--a little overexposed, don'tcha think? Still, it's ALWAYS fun to draw a man who has a question mark emblazoned on his crotch! "Riddle me this" indeed!

But not nearly as much fun as--

(TA DA!!)

Has there EVER been such a meetings of the minds (which, between all of 'em, might actually add up to one or two!! Minds, that is...)

From left to right, we have Harvey Kurtzman and Will Elder's Goodman Beaver (representing HELP! magazine), Forbush Man (from NOT BRAND ECCH!, and later, MARVEL AGE magazine), Huckleberry Fink (longtime front man for SICK magazine), Alfred E. Neuman (MAD--but you knew that, right?...), Sylvester P. Smythe (CRACKED cover boy), Kurtzman and Elder's Little Annie Fanny (PLAYBOY--or was it U.S. NEWS AND WORLD REPORT? I know it's one of those...), and The Nebbish (Marvel's' CRAZY magazine).

(Look, I realize that Goodman and Annie aren't REALLY mascots like the others, but hey, unless you wanted me to dredge up some TOTALLY unknowns from the likes of WILD or GET LOST, I figured it'd be better to go with that more recognizable pair instead. Besides, I figured that if I'd want to ever have ANY hope whatsoever of pawning off such an esoteric conglomeration of characters on one of you, it wouldn't hurt to to have Ms. Fanny in there amongst the group.)

And yup, here's the link to the eBay auctions--go forth and bid! (As always, merely click the pics above to see larger versions.) While I'm betting you Dark Knight devotees out there will be anxious to get your hands on my Batty illo, please remember, that OTHER drawing--seven characters never before gathered together on the very same page, and likely never to be ever again--is THE MOST UNIQUE DRAWING IN THE HISTORY OF ALL MANKIND, so you may want to consider ponying up some cash for the privilege of calling it your own, y'know?

Hey, I'm just sayin' is all. Cuz, hey, you KNOW what they say about worrying, right? Who--ME??...
February 26th, 2008
Roundabout these parts, it's been an annual tradition to write up some thoughts concerning the yearly Academy Awards broadcast, but truth to tell, this time around, I don't have all that much to say.

Still, I hate to break a streak, and two days after the fact, a couple of things still stick with me, so briefly...

Three songs from my new favorite film, "Enchanted", were up for Song of the Year. None won. I didn't feel like any sort of injustice was done, though. Look, Amy Adams came out on stage and sang "Happy Working Song " solo, and though she was in fine voice, without the Princess togs--and all the manic activity swirling around her like in the film--there was no disguising the number for what it was: a little ditty written simply to serve the comedic needs of a scene. On it's own, it didn't impress. The big sappy ballad--"So Far"--also suffered out of context, even though they tried to replicate the scene on the Oscar Show stage. It didn't work with stand-ins, though, and as a song, it was little more than a generic pining-for-love tune. Only "That's How You Know" struck me as Oscar worthy (and nicely choreographed to boot), but as is often the case with the Oscars, it was beaten out by an entry from a movie most people have never seen (and probably never will...).

Then there's the "In Memorium" segment, which always fascinates me. This past year apparently saw a surfeit of well-known stars take their final bows, as there seemed to be an over abundance of agents, writers, and other behind the scenes folks listed (not that they don't deserve inclusion, mind you). Heck, I was stunned to see that the great Dabbs Greer had made the cut! Dabbs Greer! The audience was obviously stunned as well, as he didn't receive a single measurable clap of bereavement applause. And hey, taking nothing away from the man George Reeves rescued in the very first episode of the "Superman" TV series, but where was Charles Lane for gosh sakes? "It's A Wonderful Life", remember--AND about 600 hundred other movies? The guy hung on for 102 years and STILL they overlook him? Tough business.

"Freaks and Geeks" remains one of my all-time favorite shows, but of that entire talented cast, I'd probably have pegged Seth Rogan as the least likely (well, aside from maybe the guy who played Bill) to be a presenter at the Academy Awards. Strange business.

Th-th-th-that's all folks!
February 24th, 2008
The other day, in preparing to do a cover redo commission (hi Arthur!), I dug out my copy of the June 1963 issue of SUPERMAN'S PAL, JIMMY OLSEN, number 69.

The image of Supes and his li'l buddy in their Kandorian guises of Flamebird and Nightwing on the cover was long ago burned permanently into my memory banks, but I hadn't had a gander at the book's interior art in years (probably decades, even), and thus was a little surprised when, right smack in the middle of the issue's back up, "Jimmy Olsen's Viking Sweetheart" (in which the cub reporter unwittingly romances a robot whose expert skiing abilities vault her into national prominence--in other words, don't ask...), I came across this John Forte drawn panel...
Gee, do you suppose Mort Weisinger could've kissed up to the Kennedys any more? I'm telling you--if DC compiled all the Superman Family stories featuring Camelot cameos, they'd practically have enough material for a SHOWCASE volume! "Ich bin ein Kryptonian" indeed...

Over at Tom Spurgeon's The Comics Reporter site, the latest edition of his Five For Friday (#110) survey called for folks to share five instances in which something in comics confused them, prompting me to exclaim, "ONLY five?".

But that's all I listed--you might want to go take a look. My response alone is longer than some of my recent blog entries, and other folks offered up some interesting bits of personal confusion as well.

Lastly, since I'm way overdue in updating my Links page, let me at least use this opportunity to point you towards a brand new, way fun pop culture and comics oriented blog, courtesy of Doc Lehman. Need a little incentive? Howsabout, among other things, you can spot a full color drawing of a near naked woman done by Paul Gulacy years and years ago? (And hey, imagine what HE could've done working Jackie O into MASTER OF KUNG FU? Fully dressed, I mean...)
February 23rd, 2008
As some of you know, several days ago I went to the movies, pretty much on the spur of the moment, and I challenged you, my loyal readers, to correctly guess which flick, out of a pool of eleven available, I'd chosen.

Well, right off the bat, the first two respondents got it right--but then nobody else did until the very last entrant offered up his guess (though several folks listed it as my second choice, so that's close, but no cigar. Actually, even the winners this time around don't get any cigars, but seeing as how they're bad for you, hey, I'm actually doing EVERYONE a favor!...)

So, a tip of the hat to Robert Pilk (who, as head honcho of Mountain Empire Comics, has been providing yours truly with swell funny books for years now), Todd Dezago (who's been providing us ALL with fine funny books for years now as well) and long-time correspondent Alan Plessinger for just plain knowing that THIS was the film I went to see...
My buddy Roger Green--as well as Jeff Kapalka and Nicofopolous--picked "Enchanted" as their runner up choices (and Jeff, along with good ol' Rocco Nigro, correctly named "The Dajeeling Express" as my third choice. Only Todd mentioned "Michael Clayton", my actual number two pick...).

Mostly, everyone thought i going off to see either "Bee Movie" or the "Veggie Tales" flick!! Truth is, "Bee Movie" was likely choice number four (with "Charlie Wilson's War" coming in a distant fifth, with no internal debate concerning the remaining films). True, there WAS a time when the animated Jerry Seinfeld adventure would've been in serious contention for my two smackeroos, but somehow, Jerry's incessant appearances on the tube promoting the thing--and most especially those peculiar (but not particularly funny) commercials made specifically to run during NBC's Thursday night comedy block--soured me on the project. Sorry, Jer--maybe I'll rent the DVD someday, but for now, I'll pass.

And as for the "Veggie Tales"--hey people, just cuz I owned up to going vegetarian in recent months doesn't mean that I long to see animated carrots and corn husks prancing across the big screen!! I wouldn't skip "Harold and Kumar Go To White Castle" simply because of my personal dietary philosophies either, y'know!

No, it was pretty much "Enchanted" all the way for me (and no, the fact that Lynn went along didn't influence my choice any whatsoever). The premise intrigued me, I'd seen a couple of the male stars promoting it on "Live With Regis and Kelly", and I knew that the critical reaction was generally favorable, so I figured, hey, why not?

And I sure am glad I did!

"Enchanted" had it all!

An opening sequence animated in the classic Disney style!

Several show-stopping musical production numbers!

Laugh out loud comedy!

Spectacular CGI effects!



But mostly, "Enchanted" had HER...
Amy Adams!

As Giselle, she plays the archetypical animated Disney heroine turned flesh and blood, thrust unceremoniously into the unwelcome reality of New York City by her Prince's evil step-mother!

Plot-wise, "Enchanted" has a lot in common with another of my all-time favorite films, "Elf"--and character-wise, with the leads of two other beloved cinematic triumphs as well, "Superman The Movie" and "Cat Ballou".
That 1965 comedy western came to mind as soon as Amy Adams first appeared on screen, as I was taken by just how much she looked like a young Jane Fonda. Playing a naively sweet school marm who ultimately finds herself in the position of having to deal out some Wild West justice to the men who did her wrong, Fonda's Cat Ballou adjusts to the unsavory situation while never loosing her inherent goodness.

That pretty describes Amy Adams's Giselle, Will Ferrell's Buddy the Elf, and Chis Reeve's Superman as well--almost laughably noble characters who deal with being thrust into harshly unfamiliar surroundings not by being dragged down to a lower level but instead by elevating everyone and everything around them--and all the while, doing it with good humor and cheer.

(And in Ms. Fonda's case, a firearm or two...)
Honest to gosh, I absolutely LOVED "Enchanted"! The apartment cleaning scene alone is worth the price of admission! The CGI chipmunk was a hoot as well. But mainly, it was the perfectly cast Adams who carried the day (and casting IS important--Fonda, Ferrell, and Reeve all made me thoroughly believe in them, whereas the fellow who put on the cape in "Superman Returns"--while not a bad actor by any means--just plain DIDN'T. For me, he had the wrong look, the wrong vibes, the wrong SOMETHING, and thus, I could never totally buy into his performance.).

Tomorrow night's the Oscars, and as best I can tell, Amy Adams isn't up for a statue, so yet again, a top-notch comedy performance gets the back of the hand from the Academy. Too bad, but typical.

Anyway, I'd eagerly recommend "Enchanted" to most anyone save the most crusty and cynical amongst you. I had expected to enjoy the movie, sure, but despite it's rather-by-the-numbers plotting, it far exceeded my expectations! Yeah, so I LIKE a happy ending--I'm a big ol' sap, okay? Robert, Todd, and Alan all knew that--now the rest of you do as well...

(Gee, but y'know, now I AM beginning to wonder about that "Veggie Tales" entry--was THAT really a movie where they didn't do anything? And wouldn't that more be up, say, Jerry Seinfeld's alley? Man, I just gotta get out the the movies more, huh?...)
February 22nd, 2008
It's been awhile now, hasn't it?

Since WHAT, you ask?

Since yours truly was cyber-grilled! Yup, gang--time for ANOTHER Fred Hembeck interview!

Follow the above link on over to Comic Collector Live and find out how I responded via email to Steve Boyd's lucky thirteen queries! Yeah, some of it may ring a tad bit familiar by now--but then again, no one's ever asked me what I'd do if if given the opportunity to guide the four-color fate of Aquaman before! Now, THAT'S worth the price of admission!

(Don't worry--it's free...)

Thanks, Steve!

I'll be back with the answer to my movie quiz from the other day next time folks--and hey, it's still not too late to email me your guess! No prizes, remember--just smug satisfaction if you guess correctly!
February 21st, 2008
A little over a week back, we asked WHO would be the subjects of the next installlmenst of my series of "Across The Page" illos (gee, we sure are asking a lotta questions around here these days, huh?...).

Well, speculate no more folks--here's your A to that Q:

T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents!!
There's pretty much the whole gang--though I AM a little surprised to see that the blue-skinned android agent is hanging out with all the rest.

Cuz hey, you know what they say--NoMan is an island!!

That horrible joke was free friends, but if you're at all interested in purchasing the original art pictured above, head on over to eBay and place your bid!

(And of course, just click the drawing to enlarge!)

And if my current plans pan out, my next "Across The Page" gathering will be even MORE obscure than this bunch, so stay tuned!!


The latest word on THE NEARLY COMPLETE ESSENTIAL HEMBECK ARCHIVES OMNIBUS has the book hitting the store shelves late in March, so patience everyone. Better, I'm thinking, it should be done right and not rushed! More info when I get it (hey, you can always read Mark Evanier's Kirby book while you're waiting--I know I will!!..).
February 20th, 2008
Y'know, I really don't get out to the movies all that much. Hardly ever, to tell the truth.

But earlier today, I had me a hankering for a big screen experience--and since I always enjoy a flick way more when I'm not shelling out ridiculous amounts for a ticket, I decided to patronize our local second run, two-bucks a seat, cinema.

These were the choices presented to me, none of which I'd already seen...

Bee Movie

Charlie Wilson's War
The Darjeeling Limited
The Game Plan
Gone Baby Gone
Michael Clayton
The Mist
P.S. I Love You
The Pirates Who Don't Do Anything: A VeggieTales Movie
The Water Horse: Legend of the Deep

Presumably, you've visited this site upon occasion in the past--just how well do you think you know ye olde blogger?

WHICH movie did I wind up going to see?

Yeah, I know--this is sorta silly, turning my afternoon in the dark into an audience participation stunt, but I had this silly notion that it might be fun to see how many of you could correctly predict my preferences, and so I'm gonna run with it..

Drop me a line here, or leave your guess in my MySpace comments section. Those who answer correctly will get their names published here in the blog sometime over the weekend (yes friends, there are no prizes up for grabs, only glory)! Extra props for those of you who can also name my potential second and third choices!

And hey, when I announce the winners, I'll also tell you a little bit about what I thought of the film as well!

Thanks for your indulgence!
February 17th, 2008
Several months back, I was contacted by a fellow by the name of Mark Innes, asking me to contribute my services to a project he was putting together called THE COMIC EYE.

What exactly is THE COMIC EYE, you ask?

Well, maybe this'll give you a better idea...
(And of course, you can check out Mark's website for more info.)

As for myself, I did up a brand new two page "Little Freddy" strip for the occasion, as well as lending out one of my older ones. Now, the latter you'll find on this site--it's been here since day one--as well as in the still upcoming NEARLY COMPLETE ESSENTIAL HEMBECK ARCHIVES OMNIBUS, but the freshly minted two pager can ONLY be found in THE COMIC EYE (save for the teaser panel below), so all you Hembeck completists out there (and I know you're both reading this), be advised!!
I'm gonna tell you a little more about THE COMIC EYE, but first I wanna tell you a sorta kinda funny story about HOW I actually got my own copy of the book.

A few weeks back, two favorite editors of mine that I've had the privilege to work with in times past (and hopefully again in the future), Jim Salicrup and Tom Brevoort, both separately zipped off emails to me regarding my "Little Freddy" episodes included in THE COMIC EYE. While I was naturally happy to get the positive feedback, I was also delighted to learn for certain that the book was out! I figured those two picked up their copies in some big NYC comics store, while my contributor's copy was wending its way a bit more slowly down from the wilds of Ontario, Canada, so I advised myself patience, and simply waited.

And waited.

Finally, after returning from our local polling place on Super Tuesday (not to be confused with the upcoming Super Friday, February 29th, aka Superman's birthday), there was a package from Canada waiting for me in our mailbox. I saw Mark's name on the return address and knew immediately what was inside! Only thing was, the envelope was wrapped entirely in clear plastic tape, and a closer inspection revealed that "Received in Damaged Condition" was stamped on both the front and back (what I DIDN'T notice until later was that the piece of paper that contained both my address and the return address was white, and the envelope was a typical manilla shade of yellow). I began to get a little bit worried, and opened up the envelope with some small amount of trepidation.

Finally open, I reached in, and pulled out...

"Doug Flutie: Never Say Never"!?!?...

It was a thin hardcover book for children focusing on the well known football star, part of the"Positively For Kids" series!


So I dashed off an email to Mark, explaining what had happened, and before you know it, he was on the phone with me--he was as baffled as I was! The best--the ONLY--explanation we could come up with came courtesy of Lynn. She theorized that, one day, down at some nameless branch of the Post Office, there was a table full of damaged packages and their contents,spread out on a big ol' table--and not necessarily together. Apparently, very little of Mark's white envelope survived the trip, so it was torn off and adhered to another envelope after someone looked at the piles of goodies lying before them, matching them up to their ultimate destinations using the old "eeny meeny minie moe" method!!

And just think--somewhere out there tonight is a little boy who had hoped to read an inspirational text ghost-written under the name of his favorite football hero who instead likely has in his confused possession nearly fifty cartoonists relating their real-life tales of funny book obsession!! Hey, kid, relax--you weren't gonna make it as quarterback for the Jets anyway. Better you should go read a comic book like the rest of us!!

Well, both Mark and I had a laugh about all this (though his was a bit on the rueful side, since sending out another comp to me was money out of his pocket the US Postal Service was never gonna reimburse him for--sorry, Mark. I KNOW this was an aberration..), and two days ago I finally--FINALLY!!--got my hot little hands on a copy of THE COMIC EYE, which I then proceeded to devour!

As you can imagine, reading about how other cartoonists viewed comics--both reading 'em and making 'em--well, that's a topic that couldn't help but intrigue me. With such an extensive roster of creators, a wide variety of approaches were employed, some more to my liking than others, But c'mon--with 43 different strips, you're not gonna love 'em all. Almost every one is of at least some interest, though, and there's enough first class material contained within to qualify THE COMIC EYE as a success.

I personally enjoyed the more autobiographical strips most, as well as several of the tribute pieces. A couple of the more satirical entries scored big with me as well. Mike Cherkas "Spring Cleaning"--the tale of the frustrations of a long-time collector haplessly attempting to winnow down his collection--really hit home, and I found Mark Askwith and R.G. Taylor's salute to Eisner's Spirit and how it affected people's lives to be a fitting tribute to a classic. Larry Johnson's "Not School Work" recounted how his high school era home made comics helped set him apart from the other students in his teacher's eyes. The satirical jabs in Ron Kasman's "Kalabogie Jake" rang all too true, and on a strictly personal note, i got a kick out of how editor Innes placed Rob Walton's very nicely done piece extolling the virtues of Classics Illustrated mere pages before Little Freddy is shown running behind a chair in fear as his grandmother brings him home yet another one of those creepy looking old Classic Illustrated comic books!! There's two sides to every story, eh, Rob?

And that's only a small portion of what's in THE COMIC EYE! I recommend you all grab yourselves a copy. 180 pages for $12.95--not a bad price, not a bad price at all. (Okay, maybe it's not 900 pages for $25, but they, he bargain of the century doesn't come along EVERY week, y'know!...).

Swell job, Mark--be sure and let me know if you're gonna do a sequel! After all, there's still that "Little Freddy" incident concerning an old issue of LOIS LANE that came dangerously close to turning the impressionable young lad into a cross-dresser that needs to be documented! Volume two for sure, okay?
February 15th, 2008
Lessee, why don't we try catching you up a little with what's going on here in the Hembeck household, hmm?

Tomorrow, daughter Julie embarks on a near week-long trip to Italy accompanied by her professor and several other of Art History classmates. A Hembeck going BACK to Europe--now, that's a first!

Last weekend, Lynn, Julie and I drove five hours upstate to Geneva so that junior could show off her portfolio for the folks at the Hobart and William Smith College, as she was deemed a finalist for one of their art scholarships. We all really like that school--too bad it's so far away. As for the results of her presentation, well, we don't know quite yet. A large--and rather creepy--painting Julie did of a doll's head went over big, though, so who knows?

Happily, our girl has already been accepted by a pair of SUNY's , Long Island's Stony Brook, and the local (forty minutes away!) New Paltz. Now we're simply waiting on word from the OTHER schools she's applied to, hoping to qualify for a scholarship and/or be eligible for some generous financial aid before we make our final decision!

Which sorta leads to today's OTHER topic of interest...

EBay had yet another of their bargain twenty cent listing days just the other day, prompting me to not only run out all my existing inventory of art yet again (someday, sometime, SOMEBODY'S gonna buy that CHARLTON PREMIERE redo, I just know it! I only hope to live so long...), but also to sit down and whip up five brand new pieces for your consideration!

Here's the entire list of my current eBay goodies (aka the "Send Julie Hembeck to College Fundraising Gallery").

As you'll see, I was in a bit of a mix and match mood when i did these particular illos (and as always, click the drawings to see 'em enlarged).

Let's kick things off with a couple of star-spangled fashion plates, shall we?...

And hey, did you ever wonder what woulda happened if Boston Brand and Jim Corrigan were gay, got hitched, and adopted a baby, then were all killled in a horrible car crash?

It might go

Y'know, they say opposites attract, and who's more opposite than the spider and the fly? Though in THIS case, it sure looks like the FLY is luring the spider into her trap!!...

Then there's these two, Adam and Steve! (No jokes, please--that's their real names, strange as it may seem.)

VERY strange, in fact--

And lastly, a pair of siblings that never were, but always have been--at least, in MY mind--together again for the very first time---

That concludes today's blog-a-thon! Hope you've all enjoyed the show!

Bon voyage, Julie girl! Bring me back a REAL Italian pizza, wouldja? Hold the pepperoni!

(That's what she said!...)
February 14th, 2008

More here about my all-time favorite comedian!
February 12th, 2008
Back when I was in college, I took to writing the occasional letter of comment to some of my favorite titles. Usually, my mini-reviews ran a page or two, three tops.

After reading the lead story in GIANT-SIZE MAN-THING #4 in late 1974, "The Kid's Night Out", I was so moved, I sat down and reeled off a nineteen page response! Nineteen pages! All these years later, save for the small excerpt that ran in the next issue, i have absolutely no idea what I went on and on about, but such was the sway the mysteriously magical writing of Steve Gerber held over me in my early twenties that I don't doubt for a minute that the bulk of it was quirkily life-affirming, not unlike Steve himself.

As you probably know by now, Steve passed away the other day, and like many, many other people, I find that tremendously sad. Others are better equipped to explain the strengths of his writing and the details of his not-nearly-long enough career in comics; let me instead share a few personal anecdotes.

Back in the early-to-mid-seventies, NYC seemed to host a half dozen comics' shows a year, and I did my best to attend as many as humanly possible. A lot of the city-based pros would show up as well, and one fellow who always seemed to be there was Steve Gerber. Although most all the Marvel and DC folks were friendly and easy enough to talk to, it didn't take long to determine that even in such an amiable group, Steve was special. We spoke often--and at length--and he was always gracious, pleasant, honest, and funny. He told you the truth--and he listened to what you had to say in turn. I can still recall the delight in his voice when he confided in me that Mike Ploog was scheduled to take over the art chores on the Man-Thing series. And then there was the time when, during a panel discussion, he announced from the stage that Howard the Duck was actually getting his very own back-up story in the pages of GIANT-SIZE MAN-THING, causing the crowd to begin hooting and hollering, bringing a wide grin to the face of the four-color fowl's creator.

My favorite moment? Late in the day during one convention, after having spoken to him at length earlier (I didn't ever want to be the sort to monopolize his time, so eventually I slipped away), I walked up to him with a freshly bought vintage copy of ADVENTURE COMICS, open to the splash page of a John Forte drawn "Tales of the Bizarro World" story, and asked him to sign it. He looked at me quizzically and asked why.

"Because these days, there's no one more qualified to write a Bizarro series than YOU!"

He smiled, obviously bemused, signed the book, and handed me back my comic.

Twenty some odd years later, he finally did write that Bizarro series--silly as it sounds, I was so proud of the both of us!

Funny thing, though--in all of my convention rendezvous' with Steve, I never bothered to tell him my name. I somehow felt that would be presumptuous. Hey, I was just another one of his fans. I always looked forward to our little chats, but I knew there were other folks who were anxious to speak with him as well, so I tried never to over-stay my welcome. He probably never even connected that epic nineteen pager with his frequent, if nameless, convention buddy.

And then, in the late seventies, I began to do my own cartooning, and soon enough, I was lucky enough to be included on the guest rosters of what seemed like dozens of conventions over the subsequent couple of years, but not once was Steve Gerber--once an East Coast fixture--included on the very same list. I believe he'd relocated to the West Coast by then, but whatever the reason, we never, ever crossed paths again. That's long been a personal disappointment--I was always curious to see if, given the opportunity to re-introduce myself to him face to face, he would've done a double take and said, " Fred Hembeck--you're THAT guy?...", but now sadly, I'll never get the chance to find out.

A few years ago, in order to write a Dateline:@#$! strip focusing on it, I reread "The Kid's Night Out". I found it still to be a remarkable story, one written by remarkable man. This is truly a sad day for the comics field, and especially for those who knew Steve Gerber far better than I did. The fact that I knew him even a little bit, though, was my good fortune. Rest in peace, Steve--you'll be missed.
February 10th, 2008
By now, you folks are well aware that I've been hawking illos on eBay in recent days. And while I've been trying to offer all sorts of different types of drawings, some of the sharper eyed amongst you may've noticed a pattern of sorts developing.

Y'know--those ones that run from one side of the page all the way to the other (and literally right off both), highlighting a specific group of characters, posed in front of a carefully hand-drawn patch of cross-hatching? Yeah, THOSE drawings!

What can I tell you--sure, they're formulaic, but I REALLY enjoy doing 'em, (even if all those @#$%ing razor thin lines in the background seem to take forever!!), and so today I'm delighted to share with you my two latest additions to the Across The Page series!

First off, ladies and gents, hailing from the misty yesteryear that is Earth-Two, allow me to re-present

And then there's this happy little group (featuring what's likely my first ever attempts at Abra Kadabra, The Top, and Weather Wizard--pretty sure I've done Mirror Master, Captain's Cold and Boomerang, and The Trickster (I've always REALLY dug The Trickster--what a GREAT outfit!!) sometime in the past),

As always, click on the above pics to view larger versions.

And here's the eBay link should you REALLY like what you see up above!

Who'll be next--The Defenders? The THUNDER Agents? The Charlton Action Heroes? The All-New X-Men? Little Lulu and her gang?

Stay tuned! All I can promise is that it WON'T be the cast of "There Will be Blood"! (But there WILL be cross-hatching--THAT'S a given!!...)
February 6th, 2008
Anyone who's been following this blog for awhile knows full well that yours truly is a long-time, devoted fan of the gentleman pictured below...

And while I've always known I certainly wasn't the ONLY fan the ol' Soupbone had, recently I've discovered that, back during his glory days, the rubber-faced comedian had another, rather unlikely acolyte...
That's right--

Nick Fury!

SHIELD''s head honcho made the above remark in the March 1966 issue of STRANGE TALES, number 142, and if that had been all there was to it, well, it could simply have been written off as an off the cuff quip.

But then, a mere two issues later...
Two references? Well, maybe that''s just a coincidence, right? Sure--could be.

But a few short months later, in STRANGE TALES #148, after taking a quick look-see at some new weaponry developed by the SHIELD scientists, HOW exactly does Nick choose to characterize their latest gizmo?....

Clearly, Nick Fury was OBSESSED with Soupy Sales!!

Don't believe me? Check this out--one issue later, broadcasting to the troops on the world's first large screen TV, the SHIELD leader specifically identifies himself with, well, you know...

Gee, if Hydra had only known, they coulda gone at him with a pie and--SPLATT!!--that's the END of Fury!!

I discovered this intriguing trend upon recently rereading those halcyon tales in the first--and thus far, only--volume of NICK FURY, AGENT OF S.H.I.E.L.D. MARVEL MASTERWORKS. And as much as I'd like to lay this all at Stan Lee's metaphorical feet, Stan was responsible for the words in only the first two instances reproduced here. The SHIELD episode in 149 was credited to Denny O'Neil, and most surprisingly--and maybe the true key--the tale in STRANGE TALES 148 was scripted by JACK KIRBY, offering us the only (save for a few Inhumans entries written while he had one foot out the door at the end of his sixties' Marvel tenure) sampling of his dialoguing skills, circa '66!

And Jack's the ONE constant over all four of those issues, as he provided layouts (and most likely, plot direction) for all of them (And just for the record, Jack did finished pencils for STRANGE TALES#142, inked by Mike Esposito; Howard Purcell--inked by Esposito--drew 144; Don Heck did full art on 148; and Ogden Whitney number 149).

So, was it Kirby who was the big Soupy booster, or was it editor Stan who came in and shoehorned a couple of Sales references into Jack and Denny's scripts? We'll probably never know...

(Oh, but dig this--as soon as Jim Steranko hit the scene, Soupy worship suddenly came to a screeching halt. Guess the Jaunty One was more of an Allen and Rossi fan, huh?...)
February b, 2008
Remember how, back on February 1st, I warned you all that the NEXT Hembeck interview would pop up in "two or three days"?

So I was off by a day--and you thought I was JOKING? Hah!

Today, I humbly offer up this link to John Firehammer's Pop Culture Safari Hembeck Q&A!
Unlike the last couple of interviews with moi that have gone online, this one was conducted via email as opposed to over the phone. The advantage? I sound marginally more intelligent writing rather than speaking!

But here's ANOTHER reason to take a look--John asked me to provide some illustrations to accompany the interview, which I was more than happy to do. Some you've seen here on site, and all of which will appear in my forthcoming book (you HAVE heard about my forthcoming book, haven't you? Oh, right--you have...), but here's the hook:

John has posted a strip of mine from an old issue of Starlog's COMICS SCENE magazine that's done in FULL COLOR! When it''s published in my upcoming book, it'll naturally be in black and white. It's never been seen here on, so, unless you have that decades old issue of COMICS SCENE, the ONLY place you'll be able to enjoy it in it's full multi-hued glory will be over on John's site!! How's THAT for a tease, huh?

Though there's plenty of good reasons to visit Pop Culture Safari EVERY DAY!! For one thing, Mr. F trolls the internet for all the goodies I just plain don't have the time or patience to find!

Like, for instance (hey, Terry, check THIS out!): a blooper reel from the legendary "Dick Van Dyke Show"!! Or howabout this, which'll get you to a video of Don Knotts' television debut on a 1951 episode of "Search For Tomorrow"--not to mention some cool Jack Davis art?

All that and more of my ramblings--wotta site!! Thanks John!
February 4th, 2008
By now, you've all seen the cover for the upcoming NEARLY COMPLETE ESSENTIAL HEMBECK ARCHIVES OMNIBUS--hard not to, considering it's hovering right above these very words, sitting atop this blog, just begging for your attention!

Well, today I'm gonna let you in on a little secret--design-wise, that WASN'T my first choice to front my big ol' massive collection of strips! Uh uh. Let me then tell you a bit about how I eventually did arrive with the present cover..

In putting this thing together, assembling and scanning were the first orders of business--at the time, the folks at Image referred to it as THE COMPLETE HEMBECK, but we all knew full well that wasn't gonna be the final title. Once I did come up with a permanent name to hang on my tome, the next thing to do was, logically enough, come up with a cover. But WHAT?

Three things I knew, though: unlike my Fantaco collections of several decades back, I wasn't going to blatantly slap the likes of Spider-Man and Superman on the cover. Times had changed, and I felt that discretion in regards to "borrowing" those and other trademarked icons would be the safest way to proceed.

Secondly, to keep the feel of the material inside, I decided that the title would be completely hand-lettered; and thirdly, that said lettering would be the main part of the composition. The name "Hembeck"--virtually unique in the United States, which is, I suppose, to my advantage--would in turn be the ultimate focal point. And of course, Cartoon Fred would figure in there somehow--he always does...

So, this past July, I took along a sketchbook when Lynn and I went off to pick up daughter Julie following a month spent taking part in a pre-college art course in Maryland. On the way home, we stopped off and spent a few days on the Jersey shore, and each day, along with sun-tan lotion, I took along my trusty notebook with me to the beach. Basking in the warm rays of Sol, I came up with several ideas for the book's cover, only two of which I genuinely liked.

In trying to figure out the best way of capturing the spirit of the material inside without actually relying on the Big Red S or on overabundance of webbing, it suddenly hit me--Jimmy Olsen!!

Or rather, the many weird transformations the red-headed cub reporter had been subjected to under the sixties' era stewardship of editor Mort Weisinger! My twist? Instead of Porcupine Jimmy, it'd be Porcupine Fred! Elastic Fred, Fat Fred, Bizarro Fred, Baby Fred. Fred of the Future, Blonde Hottie Fred! Yeah, THAT'D do it! That'd surely give off the proper vibes to potential customers.

Eventually, I sent off a rough mock-up of my initial idea for the folks at Image to take a look at at, which is what you see below (for a larger version, click your mouse on the art).
Well, I pretty much thought that was that as we drove back from New Jersey--problem solved.

I was wrong.

Y'see, a few short days after returning home, my monthly order of goodies arrived from the fine folks down south at Mountain Empire Comics, with THIS little gem waiting for me inside...
Okay, first of all, how was I supposed to compete at doing a similarly themed piece with the likes of BRIAN BOLLAND??

The answer was simple--I wasn't.

But beyond the matter of relative artistic quality was the fact that I was afraid folks would think I'd ripped the idea off from Brian, which I did NOT--honest!! True, I'd ordered a copy of the Olsen compilation, but that was months earlier, and it had completely slipped my mind when I was brainstorming (as opposed to "Brianstorming") my cover roughs.

So, even though I still turned in my Olsen-like concept to Image as a possibility, I knew, from the second I first glimpsed the DC volume that, in my heart of hearts, I WASN'T gonna use it.

But my second, alternative concept wasn't all that exciting--the title logo dominating the page with a checkerboard pattern of Cartoon Fred heads making up the background. Uh huh--so? Something clearly was missing.

Luckily for us all, Erik Larsen figured out just exactly what that was!

I was lamenting to the Image publisher how much I had REALLY wanted to go the mock-Olsen route, but didn't want to be seen as a rip-off artist (well, anymore than usual, I mean...). It was Erik who suggested that, rather than simply wallpapering a mass of Hembeck heads behind the title lettering whose only distinguishing characteristics would be slightly varying facial expressions, why not treat THEM as outlets for some Olsen-like transformations?


Of course, some of Jimmy's guises wouldn't translate in the noggin-only pattern I'd come up with--for instance, here's no Elastic Fred, or Fat-Head Fred (though some might argue that they're ALL Fat Head Freds....). And I'd need a whole lot more that the six variations seen on my previous rough--and even adding Fireman Fred and Cowboy Fred from Jimmy's bag o' tricks, still I needed more!

And THAT'S when the real fun began!

A helmet here, a hat there. Some webs, some flame. Santa's cap, Drac's teeth. Green and angry, orange and rocky--many were the (ahem) subtle guises taken on by Cartoon Fred! I only wish I had been able to have added one with a large green fin on top, but with all the faces staring straight ahead in unison, that visual didn't quite work, so I guess I'm gonna have to make THIS my salute to the creator of The Savage Dragon, without whom, the cover of THE NEARLY COMPLETE ESSENTIAL HEMBECK ARCHIVE OMNIBUS would be far less interesting than it is today! And make no mistake about it--though it may've sprung from the artistic loins of my second choice sketch, I'm very happy with it! I hope you folks are as well.

Still, I've had a lingering longing to doodle up the many faces of Jimmy Olsen, and so, I did! Click to enlarge, Olsenphiles!
And yup, it's available over on eBay!

(Thus ends today's double-barreled sales pitch, thinly disguised as an incisive behind the scenes look at the artistic process! Clever, huh? Well, shameless anyway...)
February 3rd, 2008
Daughter Julie came home after dining with some friends at the local IHOP yesterday with this little exciting nugget of news:

"Hey, dad--IHOP has a Senior Menu for anyone 55 and over! YOU can order from it now--isn't that great?"

Oh yeah, THAT'S just swell. Fact is, first chance I get, I'm gonna drive on down there and gum me a big ol' plate of pancakes...

Onto other matters.

I have a fan named Tony. Tony's only recently discovered my work but, much to my unabashed delight, seems to be very enthusiastic about it. So much so that he often emails me, requesting further updates as to the latest on where my quirky li'l doodles are appearing. Well, Tony, check this out--yours truly contributed the back cover illustration to the most recent (and 5th) issue of SUPERNATURAL LAW SECRETARY MAVIS.

Here's just a small portion of said illo...
And Tony, in case you're not aware, this is a spin-off of Batton Lash's long-running (and highly entertaining ) SUPERNATURAL LAW series. Even without the involvement of moi, this is a book well worth your attention (and if you go here, you'll be able to learn way more about the whole Exhibit A Press publishing empire!...). It was a thrill for me to be able to contribute to Mr. L's law-based monster opus--thanks for asking, Batton!! I STILL say--with all due apologies to such fine gentlemen as Mike Baron, Chuck Dixon, and Gerry Conway--that YOU are the guy who wrote my all-time favorite Punisher story! 'Course, none of those other fellas had the option of working the likes of Betty and Veronica into their tales, so I suppose you WERE at a decided advantage, huh?...

(Oh, and just coincidentally, like the subject of yesterday's blog entry, Danny Best, friend Tony resides in Australia. Gee, I wonder if they know each other? Yeah, sure they do--probably bump into each other all the time down at the Australian Dairy Mart, I'm thinking, eh?...)
February 1st, 2008
Frank Springer.

Bob Budiansky.

Larry Lieber.

And now. me.

All of us--in addition to an undeniably impressive roster of fellow subjects--have had the distinct pleasure of being interviewed from way down under in the wilds of Australia by Daniel Best! ("Wilds"? Okay, so maybe I can't say that for sure, but hey--for all I knew, Danny was snuggled up inside a kangaroo's pouch while pitching queries my way, y'know?...).

So, yup, time for yet ANOTHER Fred Hembeck interview!

Those of you haven't already run screaming from your laptop please note that this is the longest one yet. A few short weeks back, Danny and I spoke at length over the phone (though happily, he offered me a chance to tidy up my mush-mouthed ramblings a bit before the transcript hit the Internet), so if you have the stomach for it, go take a look. Cuz after all, it'll probably be at least another, oh, two or three days before the NEXT Hembeck chat-fest goes online!

(But check out some of of Mr. B's other Q&A's if you've had your fill of Fred--they're all worth a look, as is Danny's blog!)

So my sincere thanks, Danny, for your enthusiastic interest in my work--and for being a swell mate!!

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