Archive - January 2005
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January 31st, 2005
There's no point fighting it.

Sometimes a wave of irresistible commercialism comes along, and the only sane thing to do is grab your metaphorical surfboard, hop aboard, and just enjoy the ride.

So yeah, I know one big hairy bandwagon when I see one, and friends, I'm jumping on!

In other words....
For those non-practicing Gorilla-Suit-Wearers out there who might find themselves a wee bit confused, the history of this very special holiday, founded by patron Saint, Don Martin, is summarized with great elan by the great Scott Shaw here--and of course, you can find scads of information on the festivities of the site of the man who is rumored to be the cousin of Fester Bestertester--three times removed and five times denied--Mark Evanier!

(And much thanks once again to Mark for pointing his vast readership towards our modest little enterprise, this time to peruse my pirated print pieces pertaining to past panelogical pursuits (the Herald Tribune articles on Will Eisner and Marvel Comics, circa 1966, in plain English). In fact, I noticed that an interesting thing happened when I ran the reprint, something that's happened at least once before--y'see, as an adjunct to the Marvel piece, I jumped in and offered my own speculation as to the effect the story had on the Stan Lee/Jack Kirby relationship, which in turn prompted Mark to expand upon and add actual factual material to my idle theories, making for a fascinating sort of comics history relay race, wherein I throw out the gauntlet in a very general, quasi-knowledgeable fashion, and the far better informed Evanier comes a-rushing in and favors us all with ALL sorts of exclusive elucidations!

Thanks, Mark--for everything! I guess if I ever want to get the REAL deal out of some old bit of comics biz business, all I have to do is write it up here--preferably, wrongly--and THEN just wait
for you to come along and correct me! Hah! It's the PERFECT plan!..

And remember, Mark (you too, Scott!)--keep some cold beverages nearby. These suits can get awfully, AWFULLY hot! Emergency rooms nationwide are overflowing with dehydrated patients every National Gorilla Suit day--DON'T let it happen to you!

Banana juice is the preferred drink of many, if not all, participants, remember.
January 30th, 2005
"January 30th, January 30th, January 30th"--we've all been hearing that date over and over on the news these past several months. Not surprisingly, inasmuch as it's the date when the historic, unprecedented--and rather dicey--elections in Iraq are scheduled to be held.

All well and good (or maybe not so good, depending how things turn out), but around THESE parts, THAT'S the Page Two story on this--or any other--January 30th. Why? Well, let me harken back, all the way back to January 30th of 1989, and share with you this delightful piece of original art my good buddy, Terry Austin, so generously gave me to mark the occasion...
Okay, okay--I know I'm not a kid anymore. I shouldn't be acting so giddy, it's true. And sure, part of me realizes my latest notch on the ol' cosmic calendar basically amounts to, "Uh oh--time's running out, buddy"--but then I realize there's gonna be CAKE, and, oh boy, I'm happy again!

And at least there's a pretty good chance I'm gonna survive the event unscathed, which is more than I can say for some of Iraq's newly empowered democratic citizens, y'know. Poor saps...

(That really IS a great drawing Terry did, isn't it? I scanned the front with a piece of red construction paper as backing, because, as you might be able to make out from the inside page, a portion was cut away. I've had it standing up, open, all these years, on my desk downstairs, and finally had the bright idea to share it with the rest of the world here today. I hope Terry doesn't mind me running it--but since he doesn't have a computer, even if he does, he'll never know, now will he? Hee hee...

The reference to "Ol' Blue Ears" harkens back to my once incessant, now mostly under control, ranting over Marvel's unfortunate gaffe of coloring Captain America's ears blue in the first volume of their pricey AVENGERS MASTERWORKS editions, a topic I covered in full excessive detail back on June 9th of 2004 (scroll down the June, 2004 "Fred Sez" archives if you're at all interested--but Jim Salicrup, PLEASE don't let Janet Jackson see this! That poor woman has been through enough, don't you think?...)

Terry and I are still great pals, but no, I don't have a pile of these wonderful cards stacked up from ensuing years. This was one of those deals when you're inspired to whip up something way out of the ordinary--it's happened to me, too--but then, the inspiration doesn't necessarily repeat itself. Hey, that's cool--I'm just happy to have this unique, one of a kind, card in my hot little hands! Now, if only someone could just tell me just WHICH country's flag my hairy little head is floating in front of, I'd be even happier. Unless it's Iraq--they're not gonna make me...choke...VOTE, are they?...)

(By the way, for more of Terry's terrific artwork, you might consider purchasing his own special sketchbook--check here for details! And tell him Ol'; Blue Ears sent you!...)

For today's bonus links, howabout peeking in on two of my favorite--as well as steadiest and most entertaining--bloggers out there--both of whom ALSO happen to've been blessed with January birthdays like moi! I'm talking about Laura "Queen Of The Sea" Gjovaag, born on January 20th, and the woman who put the blog in "Bloggity-Blog-Blog-Blog", as well as the esteemed David "No,I was never in The Monkees OR Tin Machine" Jones, a/k/a (and host of) "The Johnny Bacardi Show", his own personal candle-day falling on January 16th each year! My best belated birthday wishes to you both!

Now, if you'll all please excuse me--I have a very important appointment to keep.

With a cake! YUM!
January 29th, 2005
The dredging through the scraps of my misbegotten past continues! Today, I offer up “Super Heroes With Super Problems” by Nat Freedland, yet another article culled from the pages of an early 1966 “New York Herald Tribune” Sunday magazine section.

(Please excuse, as always, the rather ugly staining caused by the now removed tape that was no longer holding these clippings into my old scrapbook anyway. And, to maximize the readability of the scans, I had no choice but to sacrifice the visual design of the two pages, which is why various portions of the Fantastic Four members turn up in different places as you read down the columns. But if you're REALLY curious as to what the quartet looks like, please enjoy the original drawing—taken from the cover of FANTASTIC FOUR #49--that was the “Tribune's” source, directly below...)
Of the several comics-oriented articles that blissfully enraptured me on that long ago Sunday afternoon, THIS was clearly the one that I cherished most! I'd been there, y'see, watching Marvel grow almost exponentially from a tiny, shoddily printed, oddly colored perennial also-ran in 1962, to the toast of a whole new generation, getting some serious props from the establishment press a mere four short years later! Who then would've suspected at the time that this very article would inadvertently plant the seeds for the so-called “Marvel Age Of Comics” ultimate dissolution?...

Rumor has it that Jack Kirby was less than thrilled with the reporter's description of the brilliant cartoonist, especially in comparison with the way writer/editor Stan Lee was portrayed. Hey, I guess I'D be peeved too if I was likened to the assistant manager in a girdle factory, while the name—and chin--of Rex Harrison was invoked to describe my partner!! Plus, this article is, when you get right down to it, essentially ALL ABOUT Stan Lee! It ran for six columns across two pages, and the name of the co-architect of this whole revolutionary shebang doesn't come into play until the bottom of the fifth one—with the cringe-inducing girdle salesman allusion following soon after...

They say Jack took umbrage at Lee's seeming credit grab, feeling that perhaps it was a calculated move on the editor's part. Who's to say for sure—even “they” don't really know (whoever “they” happen to be)--but it appears to me it was just a case of Stan being Stan. Look, it was simply part of his job to represent the company, which, blessed with an effusive, enthusiastic charm, he did—and still does—just about better than anybody else in the history of the field. With a piece of paper in front of him on a drawing board, Jack “King” Kirby truly had no peer—but with a reporter's microphone in front of HIM, neither did Stan “The Man” Lee! If the supposition is true, it's a shame Jack mistook his collaborator's natural ability to charm the press as some sort of a veiled power play. (And one can only imagine what Steve Ditko made of Stan's comments about HIM in this piece! After all, it was only a few short months later that Ditko abandoned Spider-Man for good. Consider THAT when you read the article...)

If memory serves me correctly, this piece saw print just weeks before the FANTASTIC FOUR issue (number 50) whose internal machinations were described in its opening paragraphs actually hit the stands. Most readers were thrilled at yet another chapter in the legendary “Galactus Trilogy”--I was excited to finally see the carefully considered “Zik! Zik! Zik!” sound effect make it into print! Yup, that's the way I thought back then—heck, more often than not, it's the way I think NOW!--small pleasures are sometimes the best ones, yknow?
(And if Rodney Dangerfield were still alive, you can well imagine his rejoinder to THAT line!...)

Well, since today's classic reprint is—through no fault of his own, mind you—SO Stan-centric, why don't I try to belatedly balance the scales a wee bit by pointing you towards some Kirby links? There's the always fascinating Jack Kirby Comics Blog, Two Morrows' Jack Kirby Collector web page, and grandson Jeremy Kirby's Jack “King” Kirby Tribute Site! Cosmic thrills and unbridled imagination are guaranteed to be found at all three fine sites.

Girdles most definitely NOT included...
January 28th, 2005
As promised, I've scanned in and posted the Will Eisner profile from the legendary early 1966 "New York Herald Tribune" Sunday magazine section, "The Only Real Middle-Class Crimefighter" by Marilyn Mercer.

I hadn't read the piece in literally decades, not until earlier today, and I hadn't recalled the rather cogent fact that it wasn't written by just any journalist--oh, no--but by a woman who had actually worked with Eisner during the later "Spirit" years. This made for a more informed interview (even if Jerry Iger's last name wound up being misspelled...), and presumably for a more candid subject. While Mercer's admiration for the master cartoonist is obvious, there's also a fascinating element of "What's my old boss been up to all these years?" that separates this from the standard impersonal profile. That, and the fact that it captured Eisner at a rare juncture in his career.

Face it--virtually every article and/or interview comics fans have read focusing on the esteemed creator--and there have been many--they were all written AFTER Harvey Comics set the ball in motion of gloriously restarting Eisner's panel pencilling career by republishing some of The Spirit's greatest episodes later that same summer, but Will's remarks in THIS piece sound more like the utterance's of a man whose days as a comic book craftsman were behind him, no "ifs", "ands", or "buts".

But that wasn't the case, now was it? SOMETHING changed his mind-- for all we know, it might well've been the specially commissioned four page "Spirit" story spotlighting the New York Mayoral race done for this very newspaper section (a portion of which, extracted from the tale's final panel, you'll find hovering above)--but WHATEVER it was, lucky, lucky us...

Today's link: The Spirit Database. Seemed appropriate, don'tcha think?
January 27th, 2005
Today's "Dateline:@#$%!"...

"A Blonde, A Brunette, And The Guy In The Rocketeer Mask" (1998)

Fred interviews Dave Stevens' famous retro-creation, and manges to put in a few good words for a long forgotten blonde bombshell in the process! (Plus: Hembeck sure ain't no Eisner, but dig the tricky deal with the logo and credits--whoah!...)
Links? Well, how about the official Dave Stevens site? Sounds logical.

And here's the official Abbott and Costello page--and a fan site devoted to the comedy team as well.

(WHY Abbott and Costello? Trust me--read the strip. It'll all make sense. At least, as much as things usually do around these parts, anyway...)
January 26th, 2005
Yup, it's THAT guy! Anybody who ever watched ANY small amount of TV in the fifties or sixties knows who he is. Or maybe you've seen an obscure little thing called "It's A Wonderful Life"? Uh huh--the rent collector, the one who tears up his bill at the film's watery-eye inducing conclusion..He'll be dining on a cake festooned with one hundred blazing candles, today, and I think that's a nifty enough deal to um, borrow, this photo from friend Mark Evanier's site.
(And while we're at it, here's a link Mark provided to a piece from the Associated Press by long time Hollywood journalist Bob Thomas concerning this truly living legend's grand milestone--thanks, Mark, and if you ever need a cup of sugar, just shout!...)

Like everybody else, I've been thinking a lot about Johnny Carson lately. His family announced that there would be no Memorial Service for the late comedian, but it struck me the other day that that's simply not true. There certainly has a been a Memorial Service for the Late Night icon, one that's been practically ongoing ever since word of his death was released on Sunday, and appropriately enough, it's been on the TV--ALL OVER the TV!...

Johnny's closest friends and comedic peers have had there chance to stand up and eulogize their comrade over the CNN, MSNBC, and Fox Newschannel airwaves. The mourners--Johnny's vast viewing audience--have been able to sit and listen to these heartfelt remarks, and while they haven't been able to view the body, they've instead been privileged to view the man's body of work--and isn't that a better trade-off, really?

Jay hosted a wonderful hour in tribute to his predecessor on "The Tonight Show", but it's just a bit of unfortunate timing that Dave, Conan, and, yes, even Jimmy Kimmel, are all off on vacation and their shows in reruns this week. Even Regis was off on "assignment", though he did call in to offer some thoughts--and an old interview clip with Johnny--on Tuesday's "Live", as Kelly and co-host de jour, Ted McGinley, listened attentively. Even this new guy, Craig Ferguson, came out on Monday and offered his thoughts on Carson's passing.

He was quick to point out that here he was, with three weeks behind a talk show desk under his belt, commenting on someone who did the job for three DECADES--sorta like a rookie making it to the big leagues, and on his first day, hearing that Babe Ruth had died--but I found myself moved by the sincerity of the story he told about the effect watching "The Tonight Show" had on him when he first came to this country from Scotland over twenty years ago, somehow making this big, imposing country seem all that much friendlier and smaller to this young, admittedly overwhelmed newcomer. After watching Jay, I flipped over to Ferguson's show--one I don't ordinarily watch--purely out of curiosity, and while I don't plan to make a habit of tuning in, I left with a good impression of this neophyte host. Wouldn't you know it--Johnny's STILL making people look good!...

And beyond the tube, the print tributes continue to flow in. Mark has links to many of them, naturally, but another good source for access to articles written about the late Mr. Carson--as well as any and all other news of what's going on in the world of television--I'd recommend you check out a site called "tv tattle". They gather together links to (mostly) various print newspaper websites, rounding up all the latest in video news and commentary, on a fairly regular--if not quite daily--basis.

Well worth a look.

(I sure hope the Lane's have a fire extinguisher on hand...)
January 25th, 2005
Here's a swell drawing of the Dynamic Duo from 1966 that you might not've seen before
I believe this dramatic doodle appeared on the cover of a "Batmania" cash-in LP at the height of that TV spawned camp craze of '66, but it might well have originated as a piece of support art that ran in the Long Island Press earlier that year. That's where I clipped and saved it from, y'see. In fact, I had an entire scrapbook devoted to comics related material that I began just a few short months before the Adam West "Batman" program invaded the airwaves, and I saved and taped within its pages as much of the ballyhooed minutia surrounding that epochal event as I could. Which, as it turned out, was a LOT...

I got to thinking about my compendium of clippings with the passing of Will Eisner a few weeks back, as it also included my copy of the Herald Tribune article I referenced in my tribute. I thought, if only I could find it, then I'd be able to share it with all you folks--but (no surprise) wasn't sure exactly WHERE it was. Well, good news--it turned up! Sometime in the not too distant future I'll post several of the original articles included in that week's special Sunday magazine section, including the piece about Marvel Comics as well. In the meantime, this nifty illo fell into my lap--literally.

Yeah, all the carefully arranged items came tumbling helter skelter off the pages as I flipped through the scrapbook, looking on in a combination of shock and distress. That Scotch Magic tape wasn't so magical after all, apparently. Sigh...

Well, there was no fighting it--just about everything fell out. My long ago carefully considered layout--gone forever. But on a positive note, oh so much easier to get the goodies into my scanner this way! Of course, you'll have to bear with some pretty ugly looking brownish tape stains (I couldn't quite crop them out of this piece altogether, which will become obvious upon closer examination), but hey, who says history is gonna be easy? More in a few days, but don't worry--I'll try not to overdue the Caped Crusader stuff. After all, as Robin was wont to say, "Holy overexposure, Batman!"...

Changing the subject...

Back in 1986, I think it was, John Byrne was brought in by DC Comics to perform a major revamp on Superman, and I for one welcomed it, as the Man of Steel was overdue for a freshening. Only one thing bothered me--just the year before, editor Julie Schwartz began running these quirky little back-up stories written by someone named Craig Boldman, and I was taken with them from the outset. This Boldman guy, whoever he was, had the rare ability to craft scripts that echoed the entertaining absurdity of the Weisinger era, without any of its underlying condescension or outright misogyny. These stories were clever and fun, and I was hoping to see more of the Metropolis Marvel's exploits dreamed up by this fella, dreams that were forever dashed when Byrne took over( a decision I was otherwise behind).

Well, Craig most certainly didn't disappear. He's been writing for Archie Comics for years now, and his tenure on JUGHEAD (with artist Rex Lindsey) has to be one of the highlights of that companies output over the last decade or so. In addition to that, he writes the "Archie" daily strip, but, as you'll find out when you visit his web-site, Craig is also a very talented artist as well. Check out his web-strip, "Tailipoe", for all the evidence you'll need to prove that point. And TV fans, you might want to take a look at his meticulously documented encounter with the cast of "Gilligan's Island", candid photos of Mary Ann most definitely included!

Yeah, I've always been a big fan of Craig Boldman's, and if you're at all a fan of funny comics that are actually FUNNY, then you are too! So don't be shy--be bold, man, and visit Craig's site!..
January 24th, 2005
It's probably blasphemous to admit this, but I was never all that big a fan of Johnny Carson.

A lot of it had to do with timing. When I was growing up, I was enamored with one of Johnny's predecessors, Steve Allen, True, I'd never actually seen Steve host “The Tonight Show”, but throughout the sixties, I blindly followed Severino from game show to game show, and was in my total glory whenever he helmed one of several weeknight syndicated talk shows, usually broadcast early in the evening. That was the key—I could watch Allen easily enough at 8 o'clock, but Johnny's 11:30 time slot was way, WAY past my bedtime.
And by the time I was old enough to stay up to that near midnight hour, it was already the late sixties, and by then Johnny just wasn't considered hip by the various counter cultural arbiters of taste spawned by that era's tumultuous events, primarily the embryonic ROLLING STONE magazine. Sheep-like, impressionable young Fred pretty much adopted their “cooler than thou” attitude when it came to the late night host, I must shamefacedly admit.

Oh sure, I tuned in for the big events—how could I not be a part of the wedding of Tiny Tim and Miss Vicki, after all?--but I never quite developed the habit of watching on any sort of regular basis. By the time we'd all reached the late seventies, ROLLING STONE had become a bit more mainstream, and Johnny—not coincidentally—somehow quite a bit hipper, enough so to grace the cover of a 1979 edition, even granting the publication one of his rare print interviews. It didn't motivate me to watch any more frequently, however, as, at the time, I was instead caught up in the ground-breaking excitement of the early years of “Saturday Night Live”--and soon after, developed a nightly devotion to the more generational friendly David Letterman.

By the late eighties, I WAS tuning in to “The Tonight Show” on a regular basis—to see Jay Leno's weekly guest-host gig. When Johnny announced he was finally going to hang it up after three decades, I'll admit that, like a lot of other folks, I made a concerted effort to catch as much of his last few weeks as I could—you don't know what you got til it's gone, after all—but the truth is, despite the tear that ran down my cheek during his emotional last broadcast, I was more excited at the notion of Jay taking over than I was bummed at the idea of Johnny leaving. After all, I figured, it wasn't like we'd never see him again...

But we pretty much never did, did we? You could probably count the number of times he appeared on the tube after that final “Tonight Show” on one hand, and most of those cameos came in the first 18 months after his abdication. I recall him coming out as a guest on the Letterman show, bringing along a large folding cardboard replica of a desk to sit behind, much to the delight of Dave and the studio audience (and me), though it's entirely possible that was a pre-retirement booking. I DO distinctly recall him calling into Jay on the phone one night early on in Leno's tenure, offering some advice, and mildly chastising the new guy for a particularly lame bit on the previous evening's show (“Celebrity In A Sack”--audience members attempted to guess the identity of the celebrity wriggling around in a large sack sitting center stage. Jay tried this gimmick a few times, and the sack's occupant was never someone with the stature of a Tom Cruise, but most often, the likes of a Gilbert Gottfried. Johnny was right—it wasn't worth doing more than once, if that, and I'm pretty sure Jay never did it again. I'm also pretty sure that was the last time Johnny ever graced the “Tonight Show”s airwaves...).

Time went on, and still no Johnny. And then, just the other night, on MSNBC's “Countdown” program, host Keith Olbermann devoted an entire segment to a rare, recent—and distressing—photo of the Garbo-esque Carson. Snapped as Johnny was coming out of an afternoon movie matinee, his slightly bloated appearance was cause for genuine concern from the show's host, but the woman he had on to discuss the sighting—some entertainment publication editorial person, I believe—was all smiles, and reassured Keith that Johnny was fine, just fine. Sure, he wasn't in the trim, tip top shape he once was, but he was still sharp as a tack. Neil Simon, Carl Reiner, Chevy Chase, or any of the other members of a small card playing ensemble Johnny had regularly surrounded himself with in recent years would happily tell you that.

And then, the news today that he'd died. So much for HER reporting credentials...

The tributes have been playing practically non-stop on the three cable news networks. I may not have been among his greatest admirers, but it's obvious even to a casual viewer like me—and I watched my share of opening monologs, you bet, and certainly had my share of laughs, too, make no mistake about it—that the man was a true television legend, the likes of which will never be seen again. I think we all knew that when he initially stepped down from “The Tonight Show” in 1992, but I don't think any us figured that'd be the last time we'd ever see the once ubiquitous Carson.

But I guess, after hosting over 4500 episodes of the venerable NBC late night franchise, you might say it was greedy of us to expect more. Hey, who REALLY believes show-biz types when they “retire”? Johnny set an unreachable endurance record in front of the camera, and, in a strange way, he subsequently set one away from it as well.

Sadly, mocking the promise of those long-age bumper cards that took the host in and out of numerous commercial breaks, there IS no “More To Come”...
January 23rd, 2005
When I was downstairs the other day, looking for my childhood books on the Presidents, I came across a volume that's been in the hands of my family even longer than those biographical tomes focusing on Honest Abe and Gorgeous George--that one over there.

You may not be able to read the title very easily, but a few inches below the slowly deteriorating cloth cover, it says, "Best Cartoons Of The Year 1947" (Edited By Lawrence Lariar).

I paged though it later that evening, and while I found some things that I remembered, I also discovered some things that clearly surprised me. There were several items inside that, I supposed, might interest a comic book fan (we have any of those out there?....). So, an idea hatched--
I wound up putting together a short article that's found a permanent home over in the "More" section of the site, and you can get directly to my introductory essay by going here. Once there, you can access some long forgotten material by several artists long-time comic book fans will likely be familiar with. And if that's not enough to get your mouse a-movin', the whole magilla ends with a big--shocking even--surprise, if I may be so bold! C'mon--after that sales job, how can you NOT take a look?

And as for links, well, here's a very nice selection of one of the artists featured in my piece, so I suggest you eyeball it--but not until after you finish checking out MY 1947 retrospective first, natch!...
January 22nd, 2005
"Dateline:@#$%!" returns with

"The Secrets of JFK, Marilyn--and Bizarro?..." (1997)

Was editor Mort Weisinger onto to some nefarious clandestine plot when he paired doppelgangers of the young President and the beautiful Blonde Bombshell within the unlikely pages of one of his "Bizarro World" epics back in 1962? And, more importantly, why did he also include Jerry Lewis? Read on for pure idle speculation...
As for links, well, how about Avengers Forever? I thought that I'd had this fine site devoted to Marvel's Mightiest Heroes up all along, but apparently I was mistaken. Time to rectify my oversight. And if you're at all interested, here's a quick link to a page featuring a group of L'il Avengers, taken from a strip I did years back for MARVEL AGE magazine, all jazzed up with nifty computer effects that only makes my goofy stuff look all the better! Nice job, fellas!

Then there's Lee Seitz who, after reading the Godzilla-centric episode from the other day, offered up a Marvel/Godzilla timeline of his own making, and I'm passing along said info for all you Jimmy Woo fans out there!
January 21st, 2005
I found it!!
Yeah, the case of the missing Christmas present has been solved--that "Tales From The Crypt" documentary DVD that Lynn misplaced was on the bookshelf in the computer room all the time. It was just that the blank spine of the shipping box blended in with its surroundings so easily that it was overlooked several times, until I got up real, REAL close, and finally found it! Whew.

Now, as soon as I find some time to actually WATCH it, well then--review to follow. In the meantime, enjoy a glimpse of part of the snazzy mailing label (woohoo!).

Today we again post no new "Dateline:@#$%!" entries, but instead offer you seven upgraded, enlarged versions of already in evidence episodes: Patsy, Hedy, and the Rawhide Kid; The Riverdale Avengers; The Fab Four Meet Half of The Fantastic Four; Animan Had Me At My Witzend; Me, Conan, Red Sonja, and BWS; Tubman and Julie; and, fittingly, The EC Shrink. If you ever struggled with these strips in the past, take another look. Even Matt Murdock could read 'em now! (..heightened senses and all, don'tcha know?...)

Several folks sent me this article today. Seems some conservative group is getting all hot under the collar because they believe my ol' pal, SpongeBob, is getting a little too friendly with HIS ol' pal, Patrick, and the whole thing is gonna--what else?--corrupt the kiddies. Aw, c'mon--that's just stupid. And besides, aren't they picking the WRONG cartoon to target? After all, wasn't it the Flintstones who were rumored to be having "a gay old time", hmmm?

(Not that there's anything wrong with that, of course...)

As for other links, please note that I've just added seven new ones to the Comic Arts Page, making sure to asterisk each one as newies (and taking down all the old asterisks in the process). I'd like to turn your attention to a pair of them: Richard Marcej's "The Baboon Bellows" and Bill Doughty's "Trusty Plinko Stick". Besides both being fine, entertaining comics blogs, these two fellows, of their own free will and with absolutely NO prompting from me whatsoever, generously listed ye olde "Fred Sez" on their link rolls! Why, I wasn't even aware of their kind and noble gesture until mere days ago, but once I was, well sir, I felt the compelling need to go in and check out their goods! And it was just as I would've imagined--both of these stalwarts proved to be gentlemen of refined tastes! Hey, they're linked to ME--how could it be any otherwise? Anyhow, I thank you Bill, and I thank you Richard, and I suggest that the rest of you go take a look at their sites--odds are good that you'll find something that interests you, and right quick!

Remember friends, we're ALL just sausages here on the 'Net, so keep those links a-comin'!...
January 20th, 2005
My earliest heroes were the Presidents.

Yup, even before I discovered Superman and his band of gaudily clad brethren, I was dazzled by the great feats done by these powerful beings, all performed in the service of truth, justice, and--natch--the American way.

Predating even my earliest comic books are these two selections from the "Random House Books For Children" series, the ONLY two kiddie books from the late fifties that I managed to hold onto all these years...
Yup, the Father of Our Country and the Great Emancipator--with role models like these, how could a young boy NOT be smitten with the Office of President? Even after I made the life-altering acquaintance of the Justice League of America, I knew full well that the nation's Chief Executives were about as close to real life super-heroes as we were ever likely to get.

So, of course, I became obsessed with them. For the longest time, a jigsaw puzzle--completed, and glued to a piece of cardboard, three foot by maybe one and a half--hung in my room during the years when I was growing up. There was an iconic image of the White House smack in the middle of the piece, but all around the four sides were portraits of each and every President of the United States, arranged chronologically, name and dates of tenure included beneath their proud visages. Y'know, I used to be able to recite, in proper order and without so much as breaking a mild sweat, the succession of Oval Office occupants, right on up to the then current man sitting behind that imposing desk--John F. Kennedy.

We ALL know what happened to him (well,sorta...).

He instantly became the THIRD most famous top dog, as books like these quickly proved...
And that's only the tip of the iceberg--after the assassination, Kennedy was suddenly everywhere.

He wasn't invulnerable--that was made all too painfully clear--but he became an even bigger hero in death that he'd ever been in life. Why, my parents--life-long Republicans--even bought a small commemorative flat-backed bust of JFK, and hung it on our living room wall shortly after that dark day in November, where it stayed for the rest of their lives!

Yup, early on, I learned that the Presidency has a certain magic surrounding it, and even if living through the Nixon years served to wise me up more than a tad to the realities of the world, I still hold a certain amount of awe for the office, if not always for the man holding it.

So, today I chose to salute the history being made in Washington D.C., and put aside my less than charitable feelings toward the individual currently bearing the mantle of The Most Powerful Being In The Entire Known Universe (been reading maybe too many comics, do ya think?...), if only for a little while.

(Geez, I sure wish I still had that wall puzzle! I mean, did William Henry Harrison come before or after James K. Polk? I, um, forget...)

Ah, but wait--with the Internet, there's no need to fret over such details for long! This site features pretty much the basics about George W--the FIRST one--and all who followed humbly in his footsteps. Read all about the various men who led this country--a Zachary, Ulysses, Rutherford, Lyndon, Woodrow, Dwight, and yes, even Grover, counted amongst that exclusive group. But nary a Fred anywhere to be seen. Drat the luck...

But you folks are, for the most part, collectors, right? Forget all those bothersome book learnin' facts--you wanna hold onto to SOMETHING, don'tcha? Then try THIS site, where you can buy yourself portraits of the 12 most popular Presidents--painted on the sides of cottage thimbles!

Nice, but maybe not exciting enough for you? Okay--then you might want to order up your own set of Talking Presidential Action Figures (no joke)! Apparently, only the two George Bushes and the one Bill Clinton were available until recently, but good news--the Ronald Reagan model is now ready for immediate shipping! No word as to whether or not an accompanying Bonzo figure is included as part of the deal...

Me, I'm just waiting for the talking Richard Nixon figure: "Let me make this perfectly clear", "Sock it to ME?", "I am not a crook"--mmm MMM! So MUCH choice material to choose from!...
January 19th, 2005
Watching some of the Condoleezza Rice confirmation hearings the other day, I could only begin to ponder what the late Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King might've made of the fact that here was an African-American—and a woman, no less!!--up for the lofty position of this nation's all-important Secretary of State! And she wouldn't even be the first person of color to hold the job, as—in all likelihood—she'll be the one to succeed the country's first black Secretary of State, Colin Powell.

Dr. King might well've been extremely pleased, seeing this as clear cut evidence of the progress that has been made in the past several decades since his tragic assassination.

But then, after getting a CLOSER look at the Bush administration? Well, sometimes you've gotta take the good with the bad, I suppose. Like, y'know, it certainly is nice to have your birthday declared a national holiday and all, but it sure ain't worth getting shot over, now is it?...

Of course, who am I to speculate? All I know is that there's a big party coming up tomorrow. REAL big party. Most expensive inauguration ever, they say. Sure, why not—we've got the moolah, right? It's not like it could be put to any better purposes, ya think? Remember, what you save on armor can be spent on shrimp--the really big, juicy kind!

Into this politically charged atmosphere, I offer up the following “Dateline:@#$%!” entry...

“Cry Uncle? Naturally, Mister...” (1998)

Fred humbly interviews both Uncle Sam and Mr. Natural, a couple of true American heroes, each starring in a pair of then-recent socially relevant color comic books. And friends, it's funnier than it sounds--honest...

Yeah, and we're all in for four more years of big, BIG laughs, too, aren't we? Ha @#$%ing ha...
Now's the time when I usually point my loyal readers—and I do hope my Republican pals will stick with me, as well--toward the link of the day. Given the theme running through this post (i.e., I don't particularly care for George W. Bush, in case I've been a mite too subtle for some of you...), I'm going to send you off to The Daily Kos. This blog was recommended to me by my wife, Lynn. She's far more familiar with it that I am, as, ever since the election, she's been digging deeper into the political side of the Internet, while I mostly keep my head buried in the sand (it's oh so COMFY there!...), but if you're in need of an injection of partisan distaste for our current leadership, this might well be a good place to commiserate with like-minded individuals.

Don't worry—I'll shake this foul mood and get back to good ol' pop-culture foofahroo soon enough, but today, well, what can I say?

I'm in a Blue State of mind...
January 18th, 2005
Y'know, I've been on-line for what? Two years, seventeen days, twenty one hours and thirty one minutes now (...but hey, who's counting?...), and I've apparently violated one of the cardinal rules of blogging--
So then, somewhat belatedly and without further ado, allow me to introduce you to...
Mario... ...and Luigi
No, they're NOT Italian (at least, not to the best of our knowledge)--daughter Julie was heavily into the "Super Mario Brothers" video game when we got these two as kittens nearly eight years ago. While I initially found it difficult calling these two kitties by such distinctly ethnic, decidedly non-pet like names, it could've been worse, far worse--a year or so later and they would've had a pair of those gibberish "Pokeman" names, and had we waited til her still inexplicable Michael Jackson phase? Say hello to "Billie Jean" and "Thriller"--ALMOST. Phew--dodged THAT bullet!..

Like the game characters, these two are siblings, and they used to get along just fine...
(A great big collective "Aw" if you will.)

No, nowadays, as they've grown older, they keep their distance from each other a bit more than they did in earlier times, but it's mostly a peaceful coexistence. Mostly. They're good cats, real sweeties, the latest in a long line of felines Lynn and I have owned over the years (numbers six and seven to be exact). I've got pictures of them all, gang, and--along with a kitty I had when I was ten--I also harbor vivid memories of exactly which specific comic book/movie/record album/and/or baseball game I was reading/buying/watching/and/or listening to when the first five (plus my childhood pet) um, expired.

(Don't get me wrong--I DO love my kitties. I know that sounds a tad bit morbid, but if I wasn't so attached to each one of them, I wouldn't have such strong memories of their individual passings. Maybe I'll write it all up someday...)

Changing topics rather quickly now (Phew!), did any of you happen to watch the Golden Globes' ceremonies on the tube the other night? Nope, me neither--but I didn't HAVE to. I read Tom The Dog's hilarious minute-by-minute recap of the over-rated celebrity shmooze-fest on his sharply written blog, one of my favorite stops when I'm in need of the latest in keenly observed pop-culture criticism. They say every dog has his day, and so, Tom, this is IT--the link of the day!!

Cats, dogs--no time for strips, huh? Well, not exactly--check out the following "Dateline:@#$%!" entries and you'll notice that you can now read them at both the standard AND the new. improved larger size!

They are: The Thing's Monolog, Fred and the Three Cartoonists, I Mutilated My Comics, The Nasty Joke On Lois Lane, and--an oldie--Prez Is A Four Letter Word! And yes, MORE visual upgrades to come, folks.

After all, I want to make everything here at the site, well...purr-fect!...
January 17th, 2005
"Dateline:@#$%!" presents "Adventures In Lettering", otherwise known as...

"Big G and Double D--NOT A Love Story" (1998)

When Marvel found themselves in possession of comic book rights to the famous' fire-breathing Japanese monster, Godzilla,back in the seventies, they teamed him up with none other than Nick Fury's long-time sidekick, Dum Dum Dugan--and friends, THAT'S when the fun began!
(And for you many folks who may've had trouble making out all the words in one of my at times phenomenally copy-heavy strips, there's some good news. Starting with today's entry, we'll be offering up two versions of each strip more often than not, so those of you with your noses pressed right up to the screens of your laptops in an often vain effort to scrutinize one of my blurred bon mots, suffer no longer! As time permits, I'll go back and rescan some of the more troublesome episodes of recent days, allowing even those of you with the most declining eyesight to enjoy my trivial insights. A tip of the Hembeck hat goes out to my old pal (and former Fantaco Enterprises associate), Roger Green, for suggesting the move. In truth, I'd been thinking along the very same lines myself, but sometimes, a good solid kick in the butt is needed to get things finally done around here, and for that, we ALL thank you, Roger! Except, of course, the optometrists in the audience who are gonna see their business take a big, BIG dip...)

As for links, have you been checking out Tom Peyer's "SuperFrankenstein" page? Regularly awash in an impressive array of gaudy images garnered from the very width and breadth of the Internet, Tom features a mind-bending selection of links--some comics related, some not--from those very same shadowy nooks and crannies of the good ol' WorldWideWeb. Terse, oft-times darkly humorous commentary usually accompanies each peculiar posting, only adding to the surrealistic-like experience of suddenly finding yourself figuratively standing on the yawning edge of the Web abyss, staring straight down into a site that'll teach you--

--how to do the Batusi?!?

It's all so horrible--AND yet wonderful at the very same time! Sort of like an unholy combination of--you guessed it--Superman and Frankenstein!

Fire bad! Tom Peyer good!


This just in--long-time comics fan and historian, Gary Brown, has written a nice piece about the sorely missed Will Eisner for Florida's Palm Beach Post, and not unexpectedly--considering Gary's depth of knowledge about and clear love for his subject--it's an article well worth reading.
January 16th, 2005
No “Dateline:@#$%!” strip today, folks. Instead, I offer up to you another entry in my sadly neglected “Classic Cover Redos” section—and not just ANY cover either, but one featuring none other than Neil Gaiman's Sandman—but NOT an issue of THE SANDMAN!

Confused? Curious? Got time to kill? Then go take a look—and, as a bonus, you'll find a pair of links to two other Morpheus illos available to you lurking in the body of the text.
And for links? Well, I'm sure you all know about Neil Gaiman's Journal, but I feel it's only fair, given how I'm artistically abusing his renowned creation, that I should attempt to allay his considerable anguish by providing this link to hopefully pacify him somewhat (and THAT--plus five bucks and change--will get him a cup of coffee at Starbucks...).

Should you need any further information regarding The Sandman, there's always "The Wake", a more thorough webpage devoted to the series I doubt you'll find (dig those crazy annotations!). You might even go so far as to say that site is, well, dreamy! (Okay, YOU probably wouldn't say that, but apparently, I would. Look, some of us have poetry in our souls (see: Gaiman, Neil), and some of us just seem to have an endless supply of old jokes, y'know?...)

Speaking of which, supply your OWN Endless gag here, people—I'm ending things while I can, so go--look!
January 15th, 2005
For today's "Dateline:@#$%!" selection, we're dropping back--albeit, temporarily--a few decades, right back to almost the beginning. We're going back to the very first time yours truly dug out a copy of one of his beloved Superman Family titles from the sixties and redrew—and, yup, ridiculed—one of editor Mort Weisinger's wildly implausible tales.

Yes, funnybook fans, what you see below is the opening panel of the first Weisinger story I ever gleefully eviscerated, the first in what I've come to dub the "Mocking Mort" series—but surely not the LAST...
Nice art—as always—by Curt Swan and George Klein from the pages of the August, 1965 issue of SUPERMAN'S GIRL FRIEND, LOIS LANE #59.

And here's the official blurb...

"Mocking Mort: The World's Finest Joke—or the Meanest?" (1978)

Superman Family uber-editor Mort Weisnger's always peculiar take on the male-female dynamic fueled this particular mid-sixties "Lois Lane" episode, which encouraged me in turn to embark on an ever-after irregular series of "Dateline:@#$%" entries wherein I'd redraw selected panels of the existing artwork, ultimately boiling the whole absurd affair down into a single page retelling, delivered in the snarkiest manner possible—and brother, if ANY story deserves that sorta rude treatment, the gem known as "Superman and Batman's Joke On Lois Lane" sure does! (And please, pardon the myriad spelling errors--Spell Check didn't exist in those long ago, dark days, bear in mind...)

In some ways, making fun of a Weisinger overseen plot is not much different than shooting fish in a barrel, but it's so much darn fun, it's not always easy to resist! I know that, way back when, this particular strip of mine received far more comments—all positive—than just about anything else I did in those early days. So, obviously, I went back to that well stocked well time and again. I'd occasionally fantasize about affording this sort of treatment to EVERY "Jimmy Olsen" and "Lois Lane" story extant, because, Rao knows the source material was juicy enough! In the end, I utilized this gimmick maybe a dozen times or so, and since I'd like to start posting them here at the site, it only seemed proper to start with the very first one. (And by the way, I just reread the original story, and as entertainingly done as it was—and a key point I fail to make about Mort's material was that it was rarely, if ever, dull—it STILL seems to be as awful a primer on acceptable human interaction as I made it out to be! )

Which is not to suggest that I have any sort of monopoly on the mocking of Mort. Hardly. And I'll be among the first to tell you that Mike Sterling—he of the "Progressive Ruin"--does it as good as anyone. Don't believe me? Just check out his deconstruction of "Jimmy Olsen's D-Day Adventure" from January third of this year. Superman's pal in a Nazi uniform—good golly, how'd I ever miss THAT prime piece of bologna, I wonder? Not only does Mike elicit chuckles and guffaws alike with his risible retelling, please realize that, what with the reports of Prince Harry's recent rather...unorthodox wardrobe choices, the whole affair takes on an unexpected air of relevancy to boot! Check it out—but don't neglect the rest of the site while you're there. "Progressive Ruin" combines an affectionate look back at the comics of the past along with a critical and concise view of the present day four color field, delivered in a knowledgeable and good-natured manner. Plus, there are lots of cool pictures! Go!

Oh, and let's not forget Scott Saavedra, because in the "Goof on Weisinger Sweepstakes", he's milked Mort for plenty of laughs in the pages of his hilarious COMIC BOOK HEAVEN mag! But that's not the REAL reason I mentioned him. The truth is, he just posted a nifty drawing of Two-Face over at his blog, barely a day after I ran a vintage version of same by Gary Sassaman!?!...

Mere coincidence? I couldn't rightly say, but Scott? As I explained a few days back, don't get Gary mad. You wouldn't LIKE Gary when he's mad (...better to just be an, um, innocent bystander under THOSE circumstances, wouldn'tcha think?...).

(WHICH drawing of Two-Face do I like better? Tell you what--I'll flip a coin and get back to you on that, okay?...)
January 14th, 2005
Your "Dateline:@#$%!" de jour:

"Shazam: The CBS Years" (1997)

While interviewing Captain Marvel, Jr., Fred encounters a surprise guest--or perhaps, more specifically, a surprise, surprise, SURPRISE guest!...

And if you want more of Ol' Shazam's adopted brood, you could do far worse than spend a little time at The Marvel Family Web, today's complimentary link. provided to all you lucky readers at absolutely NO extra cost!
January 13th, 2005
Gary Sassaman wants to punch me out!

At least, he did back in 1979—and I have the threat in his own handwriting as unassailable evidence! But WHY would Gary, a talented cartoonist who produced a half dozen delightful issues of his INNOCENT BYSTANDER series a while back—including the world-renowned Marx Brothers tribute issue—want to sock yours truly in the noggin? Yeah, it mystified ME as well...

Maybe now'd be a good time to backtrack a little.

I've been reading Gary's newish blog—also called "Innocent Bystander"--for several weeks now, and I've been enjoying it immensely. Topic-wise, it's all over the pop-culture map, which to me is a good thing, cuz you know what they say about variety and all. It's well written, also a plus, and done in such a manner that it really gives the reader a good clear sense of the author's personality, which is maybe the best thing of all. So, I figured I'd plug it here, hopefully making more of you are aware of it, but instead of using some art cribbed from an issue of INNOCENT BYSTANDER, I'd use the following, since, for a number of reasons to be explained further on, it's the one single piece that sticks in my mind when I think "Sassaman"...
For one thing, I've always liked that illo--plus I once had a pleasant if tenuous connection with the group that issued this Con booklet (and held the 1979 event), the Pittsburgh Comics Club. One of their non-local members (and subsequent long-time pal), Tom Hegeman, contacted me early on in my career, and wound up writing possibly the first Hembeck-centric article ever to appear anywhere, the first of, oh, near a half-dozen or so by now. So, I was added to the club's mailing list, always receiving their nicely done little regular zines, one of which doubled as the above Con booklet.

After scanning the art in, I sat down and decided to take a few minutes to page through the thick, 5"x8" publication, and a few pages in, I found a handwritten note from Gary stuck inside. He'd been the one to put it all together, y'see, and after some small talk about future plans, and a few nice words about my work, he ended his otherwise cheery note thusly:

"...hope to meet you face to face, in the flesh, one day. (July Con?) And when that day comes, "I'm going to punch you out. Believe it man."

Take care, Gary

P.S.--Okay to use your name in ads for this issue?"

Well, THAT sure puzzled me—WHY did he want to smack me one, only to then politely ask if he could use me as a selling point for this 41st issue of the PITTSBURGH FAN FORUM (slash Con Program)? Perhaps he was somehow channelling the essence of Two-Face, magically taken over by spirit of Harvey Dent after producing that swell wraparound cover drawing, hmm?

Anyway, I kept on paging through the bulging 84 page issue, only to suddenly confront—me. Yup, turned out THIS was the issue of PFF that featured Tom's profile of moi, and no, I DIDN'T stop to read it. I'm not THAT much of an egomaniac, y'know! (Okay, maybe I AM, but I just didn't have the time to devote to reliving those erstwhile glory days now...) Still, something jumped out at me, mainly because it was indented, and appeared to be a letter I'd once gotten, quoted in full. Scanning the text, I discovered that I'd told Tom that of all the mail I'd gotten from tacking my address onto the bottom of my BUYER'S GUIDE strips back in those pre-email days, THIS was the sole crank letter that had found its way to me, and I was keeping it as an oddity. The letter in question:

"Dear Fred.

I think you're a jackass!

Why don't you, Mike Nasser, Mike Golden, and Richard Buckler, all sign a "hack" death pact and go off the World Trade Center together.

If I ever see you at a Con, I'm going to punch you out. Believe it man.

(a comic reader with "taste")

Okay, NOW I get it—most likely, Gary DIDN'T want to really punch me out, but was just making a joking reference to (name withheld, and now long forgotten)'s blustery threat. Putting aside for a moment the venue he chose for our demise, I recall being struck by the company he had me in—Nasser, Golden, Buckler AND Hembeck! THERE'S a group that doesn't come to mind as a natural foursome, now does it (now do they?)?

Well, I went to plenty Cons in the years after that, and no one EVER came close to punching me out, so I suppose I never did cross paths with my cranky critic, making that a good thing. A bad thing, though, was that I never met Gary, either. However, now that I can visit him on his "Innocent Bystander" blog whenever I want, I almost feel as if I do know him personally—and YOU can too!

Don't worry—I'm pretty sure he isn't gonna hit anyone.

Somehow, oddly enough, this all leads into a very special "Dateline:@#$%!"...
"Fred, Joe, Chester, and Seth" (1998)

In the mid-nineties, four cartoonists with pulp-paper alter egos—Misters Hembeck, Matt, Brown, and, er, Seth—met in the flesh. To immortalize that momentous event, I arranged for the four of us to get together again several years later, this time inside the confines of a series of panels as opposed to the environs of a local restaurant. Hilarity naturally ensues!

I have NO idea if any one of these talented Drawn & Quarterly stalwarts ever saw my little tribute to our one-time only summit, but if anybody out there has a way of contacting any or all of them, would you please send 'em over to the site? I've always been particularly fond of this little episode, and—especially after raking myself over the coals re: that Soupy strip the other day--I don't much mind saying so. Hopefully, the guys'll like it, too. And if they don't, hey, what's the worst that could happen?

Oh. Right. A punch in the nose.

(And after you read the strip, you'll see I'm not helping things out much with my "valuable" suggestions to the trio!...)
January 12th, 2005
Random observation: is it just me, or does the latest nominee for Director of Homeland Security look eerily like a bearded "Pink Flamingos" director John Waters?...
Anyway,the above ad—and ones very similar to it—ran for years and years in the pages of DC Comics during the late fifties and well into the sixties, but for awhile at least, they were hard to find within the pages of MY rapidly growing collection of funnybooks.


Don't be. All will be explained in the starkly confessional "Dateline:@#$%!" entry I've entitled...

"They Told Me Not To Run With Scissors, But They Never Said ANYTHING About Keeping Then Away From My Comic Books?!?..."

The first line of this one gives but the merest hint of the horror to come: "I mutilated my comic books!!" The graphic details will perplex, depress, and even sicken many of you—or maybe you'll just get a condescending chuckle from my stupidity. Your choice...

So there I was, over at Pop Culture Gadabout, deeply immersed in Bill Sherman's review of the documentary, "Frazetta: Painting With Fire", recently released on DVD—and yes, astute readers, that's your bonus link of the day—enjoying Bill's combination of detailed analysis of the film mixed seamlessly in with his own personal reminiscences of the acclaimed artist (my history with Frazetta mirrors his, with mucho enthusiasm for Frank's work early in my life, only to see it wane somewhat over the years, genius or not—which he most certainly IS, but still...), when suddenly, a light-bulb went off over my head...

I bolted from my seat, abandoned my laptop, and ran excitedly towards the computer room where Lynn sat, boisterously yelling all the way, "Christmas isn't over! Christmas isn't over!"

Once I arrived at her doorway, my poor wife turned to face me, and looked even more confounded than usual at my outburst, as I continued to repeat my gleeful mantra. When I eventually came to the conclusion she clearly had NO idea what I was babbling about, I finally deigned to explain myself:

Back in November, Mark Evanier had plugged a DVD documentary focusing on the old EC comics line called "Tales From The Crypt", and I had gotten so enthused about this product, I had asked my darlin' Lynn to order it for me as a Christmas gift. Which she dutifully did, with the package arriving in the mail even before the month of November was over. I know—I took it out of our mail box, handed it to her, and watched as she put it away, out of view until it was time to place it, festively wrapped, under the tree.

And then, we BOTH totally forgot about it, and it was only, in the midst of a review of another DVD--one for an artist once connected to EC--that it all came flooding back to me, prompting me to leave the commentary in mid-sentence (sorry, Bill—nothing personal), and seek out my long-overdue gift!

The punchline to this story? We can't find it.

Oh, we will, eventually—I hope. In the meantime, I DID finish Bill's nicely done review, and at least that's something we can ALL do!

(..did I hide it on myself downstairs, I wonder? Let me get back to you on that...)
January 11th, 2005

Today's featured “Dateline:@#$%!” episode is a little thing I like to call...
“The Thing's Lament” (or, “It's Whinin' Time!”) (1998)

The Fantastic Four were part of Marvel's grand—and misguided--mid-nineties experiment, “Heroes Reborn”, wherein certain key titles were turned over to an array of various Image Comic's superstar creators to pretty much do with as they pleased. Well, after THAT didn't work out (surprise!), the whole exiled gang—including the FF—were welcomed warmly back into the Marvel Universe proper with the subsequent “Heroes Returned” line-wide event. AND that's the time-frame when we encounter ol' Benjamin Grimm, as he ticks off one complaint after another in this long-winded monolog.
(Oh, and I should mention that one of his pet peeves—his group's puzzling dearth of crossover action with other company's icons—was alleviated slightly by a meeting with Superman that occurred not long after this strip was published. We'll ALL, no doubt, sleep better knowing that to be the case, eh, folks?...)

And speaking of the stars of “The World's Greatest Comic Magazine”, I recently heard from a young fellow named Richard Callaghan concerning a brand new site he'd just launched, “Fantastic Four Headquarters”. Now, I know he's a young fellow—at least, compared to ye olde Hembeck—because, in his capsule review of FANTASTIC FOUR ROAST #1, he confesses that he first read my Marvel sponsored tribute to the blue-Spandexed quartet back in his pre-teen years, and, in truth, didn't quite get all the various references I sprinkled throughout the festivities!

Better yet, though, is THIS admission:

Add to this some adult humour, a couple of Jewish gags and mild profanity ("Watch that 'caped crusader' crap, plastic guy!") and it was a mind-blowing experience for a young boy.

Hah! Sometimes I forget—working in the comics profession, part of the job description is, after all, to corrupt the nation's youth! And I was pleasantly relieved to discover that, yes, I WAS indeed living up to expectations! Of course, decades later, not-quite-so-young Richard isn't out there on the streets, holding up liquor stores. Uh uh—but he HAS posted a very thorough, splashy, and entertaining website devoted to the very characters I blew his mind with so long ago! Apparently, I didn't do my job well enough—or, depending how you look at it, maybe all TOO well.

Go. Look at the link of the day. And then, YOU decide.

And as I was wont to mutter back then, “Oy!”
January 10th, 2005
Faced with having to do a report on jazz for her music class, daughter Julie was looking for a pair of individuals important to the genre to write about.

“How about Louis Armstrong?”, I suggested.

Her actual response?

“Wasn't he that guy who walked on the moon?...”

Further proof that history was never her thing—and a clear explanation as to why she never responded to my “Hello, Dali” cracks back when she was working on her art essay last month! (Okay, that last bit was an embellishment, but the first part's true, I swear. Sadly...)
Picking up from yesterday, a decade and a half later, I came up with THIS “Dateline:@#$%!” strip...

“Apparently, Alvin Wasn't JUST A Chipmunk!“ (1998)

Revisiting my life-long obsession with the LITTLE LULU cast yet once again, I speculated herein what a marriage between a grown-up Lulu and Tubby might be like—one, that is, that came by way of “The Jerry Springer Show”!
So, there you have it—a few satirical jabs thrust towards those wonderful John Stanley LULU comics. But when it comes to skewering that particular feature—however lovingly—my feeble attempts pale against the absolute definitive deconstruction of the Moppet mythos, first published in black and white back in 1978, but now radiantly recolored by it's creator, and available merely by clicking on the title: Howard Cruse's classic, “The Nightmares of Little L*l*”!

Yup, today's recommended link deposits you right in the midst of one pretty darn impressive website—not altogether surprising, considering it's run by one pretty darn impressive cartoonist! Howard Cruse has long been a favorite of mine, possessing a crisply unique drawing style, one that, when combined with his intelligently nuanced approach to scripting both comedic and dramatic scenarios, makes for—you guessed it--some pretty darn impressive comic strips! And, for my money, some vastly underrated ones as well. So, go take a look ALL around the site—take a cruise around Cruse, if you will (like I could resist THAT one--hah!...)—as there's LOT'S of good stuff to take in, including some very helpful tips for any aspiring artists out there!

And if there's one thing consistent between Howard's vision and mine, it's that that Alvin was sure one dirty little puppy!...
January 9th, 2005
The adventure ends...

“The Spider Spins, Pop Moppet Pops His Cork!” (circa 1982, part five of five)

Poor Lynn—the things I put her through just for a laugh. And to think, it was all spawned by my deep appreciation for the classic—and personally beloved--LITTLE LULU comics of yore! Sick AND silly—now THERE'S one delightful reading combo!...

There's been word recently that a Wachowski Brothers-produced cinematic adaptation of Alan Moore's "V For Vendetta" is currently in the works, and Dorian Wright (of "") for one thinks it's a bad idea.

No, let me modify that—he seems to think that it's TERRIBLE idea, and if you read his well thought out January 8th post explaining his reasoning--the approved link of the day--you may well find yourself agreeing with him. I know I did. Look, I haven't seen "From Hell" or "League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen" yet, and there's every good chance that I never will. Add this ill-conceived project to that list, and I'm already saving myself a small fortune on movie tickets left blissfully unbought! (..though, admittedly, I might—MIGHT—break down and hand over cash to see the thankfully-as-yet-unrealized "Watchman" film (should I live so long...), though it's highly unlikely that I'll like it much. Or, odds are, that Dorian will, either...)

The writing over at "" is always lively, opinionated, and, at times—yes—cranky. But it's a GOOD kind of cranky, honest, and even if you're someone who mistakenly thinks I'm babbling on about an upcoming big-screen adaptation of the old tube schlock-fi fest, "V", I still wholeheartedly suggest you go check out Dorian's argument. Given the chance, believe me--Wright'll set you right.
January 8th, 2005

We briefly interrupt our ongoing series of Dateline:@#$%! strips to salute one of the few men who should NEVER be served a cake on his birthday, but instead--and far more fittingly--a PIE! Yup, somebody get a match--it's candle-time for the ever-wonderful Soupy Sales today!!
But worry not, cartoon-cravers, as we have a SPECIAL treat for you to mark this auspicious occasion—a four page strip originally intended to see print in the never-published second issue of the Fantaco Enterprises' GATES OF EDEN anthology title way back in 1982 (before ultimately appearing in DIAL H FOR HEMBECK later that same year). “I Remember Soupy”, a fond reminiscence of my childhood overriding admiration for and—yes—mildly disturbing obsession with every dry cleaner's favorite comedian.

A word or three of warning—most of my facts in the opening splash seem to be, um, wrong. Soupy was born in 1926, not 1931, and as for the whole name thing, well, don't trust what I say—Google Soupy instead if it's accuracy you crave.

(And peripherally speaking, I'm astounded that a popular individual like Soupy hasn't got himself a single fan site—much less an official one—devoted to his illustrious career! It's a crime! (Maybe not a capital one, but still...) Luckily, there's always this here swell piece by Mark Evanier that shows up whenever Sales-fans launch into frantic Google search mode...)

And quality-wise, well, it's one of those strips that makes me cringe just to look at it, frankly. Most of my swipes were cribbed from that valuable—if slightly scuffed—collector's edition pictured above, but that's the least of my concerns. I just reread the story for the first time in decades before posting it today, and, besides the boo-boos, good gosh, if only I could copy-edit it, reletter it, and redraw a whole buncha panels, well, THEN it'd sure be something!! As it is, a heart-felt trip down memory lane DOES remain lurking underneath all its obvious flaws, so I've decided to share it with you folks despite any qualms I may have about its quality. And if you DON'T like it, hey, it won't be the FIRST time ol' Soup's been associated with a dog, y'know!..

So, Happy 79th, Soupy, and congrats on the shamefully overdue Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame that you just received. I sure wish I could've been there, if only to have helped the proceedings along by announcing your arrival by loudly yelling,

“The Pieman cometh!!”...

Also sharing their birthdays with Soupy today would be the nigh-immortal—but nonetheless still dead—Elvis Presley, and man who fell to Earth (SPLAT!), David Bowie!

Elvis would've been 70 today, and as for Bowie, he's chalked up 58 Earth years (no data available as to how that translates on his home planet's calendar...), and if you click on their names, you'll be instantly transported away to their glitzy and glamorous home sites. Feel free to help celebrate the anniversary of their hatchings in whichever manner you so choose.

As for Soupy, well, web-wise, he's not so lucky. But at least he has Mark and me, and y'know, that's gotta count for SOMETHING!

Here's pie in your eye, partner—we love ya, and we always will, Soupy!!
January 7th, 2005
Some of you may recall me discussing the cover of FANTASY MASTERPIECES#4 here last month (December 10th--scroll down, you'll find it), which was notable as being one of the few instances of Jack Kirby inking his own pencils after the advent of the Marvel Universe back in 1961. Well, turns out I only provided you with PART of the story, and earlier today, Mark Evanier posted the behind-the-scenes machinations that led to this rare instance of King Kirby brandishing his brush, and it makes for one intriguing tale, lemme tell ya, so I suggest you go take a peek, pronto!

And on a related matter (read it, you'll understand), let me add my sincere sentiments to Mark's, congratulating proud parents, John and Pam,Morrow, on their brand new daughter, Hannah Rose!

(And allow me to add a secondary set of congrats to John--founder, editor, and publisher of the always awesome JACK KIRBY COLLECTOR magazine--for resisting the urge to name the child "Barda"!! I'm sure it must've been tempting, real, REAL tempting!...)
January 7th, 2005
And now, back to our story...

“Taken To Task By The Mysterious Man In The Atom's Mask” (circa 1982, part four of five)

Still holding the microphone, cartoon Lynn finds herself unprepared for the sheer intensity shown by the Justice Society's pint-sized powerhouse--but is that REALLY Al Pratt under the face-shrouding cowl, or someone else, someone even MORE important to the history of comics? Find out when cartoon Fred does, as he finally wanders back into the thick of things...

Your courtesy link for today:

I was surfing the web the other night when I happened upon another one of those nifty commissioned art galleries, this one with the intriguing title of "I Love Cartoons!". With over fifty images posted to date, I saw the likes of Jane Jetson desperately fending off the slithery advances of her hubby's boss, as depicted by Mitch O'Connell; a homicidal Charlie Brown, courtesy of Michael T. Gilbert; Top Cat in full mob boss guise, from the pen of Bill Sienkiewicz; a fat, complacent, unshaven Mickey Mouse, wandering around in his bathrobe, as drawn by William Stout; a Duck that truly IS Daffy, via Peter Bagge; and—uh huh—FrankenSponge from that OTHER Frank, Brunner! There are unique interpretations of plenty more iconic characters on view, too, mostly from the realm of TV animation—the Simpsons, Scooby Doo, Astro Boy, the Flintstones, and a really, REALLY Red Hot Riding Hood!—by a lot of other top-notch cartoonists, and I gotta tell ya, I had a ton of fun clicking my mouse around the premises. Proprietor Terry Maltos runs a swell site, and I heartily recommend you all go take a look!

Now, if only there were a Carmine Infantino Magilla Gorilla included, all would be right with the world...
January 6th, 2005
Before we link over to today's "Dateline:@#$%!" episode, will someone please alert Neilalien?...

“Strange Encounters” (circa 1982, part three of five)

With cartoon Fred temporarily out of the picture, cartoon spouse Lynn makes her first solo appearance, interviewing a group of guests who could only be called... Strange.

Whew—Christmas is FINALLY over!

Oh, YOU thought it ended, what, 13 days ago? Maybe for most of us it did, but not for Mag and H over at The Comic Treadmill, who commenced their clever comics oriented parody of that most tiresome of all holiday tunes, "The 12 Days Of Christmas", at their site on the 25th, and have just now FINALLY wrapped things up, as this link will show you! While everyone else—myself included—posted our seasonal offerings BEFORE old St. Nick descended from the skies for his annual orgy of chimney sweeping, this sneaky pair was just laying in wait to unleash their masterfully executed—if necessarily repetitive—reinterpetation on us all! And as someone who unknowingly contributed to their brainstorm—look for me on day 8—I'm really impressed with their imagination. Nice job!

So, what's next, guys--"100 Comic Books On the Wall"?...
January 5th, 2005
Will Eisner was an entrepreneur.
“Entrepreneur” was a word I'd never once encountered in my young life until I saw it used prominently to describe this unknown (to me) artist in a profile included in a special Sunday magazine edition of New York City's soon-to-be-defunct Herald Tribune, an issue that focused almost exclusively on comics—an editorial decision no doubt motivated by the then-current mind-boggling success of the camp Adam West “Batman” TV show (and ALSO found amongst that week's contents, incidentally, was the piece that, rumor has it, inadvertently sparked Jack Kirby's initial bad feelings towards collaborator Stan Lee...)
I didn't have any idea what an “entrepreneur” was, but that was okay—because, early in 1966, I sure didn't know who “Will Eisner” was, either!! I'd been reading comics for about six years at that point, a period during which Eisner's work had been completely unavailable on the nation's newsstands (there had been a couple of I.W. Reprints, true, but I had missed those entirely). After rather unenthusiastically finishing the article, my impression was that this former cartoonist got out of the comics field in order to become a successful businessman, and while that certainly may strike one as a worthy goal, to a 13 year old kid, it was hardly inspiring. I probably wouldn't have thought anything more about it, and quickly have moved onto the feature plugging Marvel--


There was this NEW “Spirit” story, y'see, a four-pager executed in black, white and grey tones, done exclusively for the Tribune, it's plot revolving around the recent 1965 NYC blackout and subsequent mayoral race. It was drawn in a far more cartoony fashion than I was accustomed to in my dead-serious costumed crimefighter tales, but still, I found the art to be seductive without being bombastic, and the story surprisingly involving considering its comparatively mundane subject matter. Maybe there WAS something to this old guy after all! (Hey, he HAD to be old—he'd retired from comics over a decade earlier, right?) Still, this strip was likely just one final hurrah for this Eisner fellow. He was quite busy, as was previously noted, being an entrepreneur (I wondered-- HOW does one pronounce that word, anyway?...)

Then, a few short months later, in July of that year, Harvey Comics, in a failed attempt to hop aboard the barreling “Batman” bandwagon, released a “Thriller” line of books, by far of which the most memorable were a pair of reprints: one giant issue of Simon and Kirby's FIGHTING AMERICAN, and two double-sized collections of (mostly) vintage Eisner SPIRIT stories.

Oboy--THAT did it! Those two issues instantly converted an entire generation of readers--all too young to experience Denny Colt's domino-masked alter ego in the pages of his original newspaper supplement home--into life-long fans! It was—no kidding--like a bolt of pure pulp powered lightning! I'd never seen anything—ANYTHING!--like these artfully constructed seven page vignettes before, so short, and yet, so amazingly complete. The famous episode known as “Ten Minutes”--in which the Spirit barely appears as the readers follow the last ten, pivotal minutes, in the life of a good boy gone shockingly bad—had, in its scant few pages, more emotional resonance than most anything I'd ever read in a comic book up to that point. And truth be told, maybe since...

I was stunned. Stupefied, even. I suddenly began to wish real, REAL hard that this guy would stop being an entrepreneur and go back to being a cartoonist—and fast!

Well, it took a while, but eventually, he did. I can say pretty confidently that I've bought just about everything Eisner has put out in all those years since I plucked that first Harvey issue of THE SPIRIT off the racks—even, for gosh sakes, a paperback billing itself as a “Gleeful Guide To Communicating With Plants”! Now, THAT'S a dedicated fan—and I sure wasn't alone!
The hunger to possess those elusive “Spirit” episodes resulted in purchasing them in half a dozen formats over the decades--in separate, badly Xeroxed, gray-toned, unstapled sections, all trundled up in a plastic bag to start. Then in a pair of underground comics, followed by a series of oversize black and white magazines from Warren Publishing (with the occasional bonus color section), which soon after morphed into a series of same from Kitchen Sink (the folks also responsible for the aforementioned undergrounds), THEN to comic-sized reprints, and finally, to the gloriously printed, chronologically complete set of hardcover editions emanating even still from DC Comics.
And the graphic novels!! Starting with the ground-breaking “A Contract With God”, I'm proud to say I own them all. No, they weren't “The Spirit”, but they had so much to offer on their own terms, they didn't need to be. Eisner, bless 'im, was that rare artist who actually grew and evolved as he got older. Believe me, that's not as easy as it sounds, and while the “Spirit” stories may be the ones that make a majority of people misty-eyed with nostalgia, the work he created in his later years is worthy of just as much attention.

I only ever met the man once, and it was just a brief, passing moment in both our lives. It was the early seventies, and I hadn't had anything published at that point, attending one of Phil Seuling's legendary New York Comicon's merely in the capacity of a fan. Will Eisner had just given a little talk, and afterwards, he was walking casually around the enormous dealer's room, stopping from time to time to sign some autographs, all the while continuing the conversation he was engaged in with a fellow pro (the identity of whom, it now escapes me). I was amongst a starry-eyed group of admirers who'd pestered him into signing our goodies, which he did more than gladly. I was thrilled to have the Master's signature on the cover of a copy of COMIC MEDIA, a British fanzine I had just picked up minutes earlier specifically because it sported a terrific Eisner Spirit illo on its cover.

Imagine my disappointment, when, later that afternoon, I looked down at my prize in horror—the signature, done with a non-waterproof black Flair pentel on the cover's slick finish, had, due to the unfortunate proximity of my hand's clammy warmth grasping it, run! You could sort of tell who had signed it, but it was now more smudge than signature. And it still is. Sigh...

But years later, one of the true highlights of my career was when I was asked to participate in the Denis Kitchen-instigated “Spirit Jam”! Now, critically, this whole endeavor was shaky at best, and it received some poor to middling reviews, no denying it, but, oh!--just to be included! Wow! I never actually interacted with the big guy, but I DID receive a very nice thank you note from him for being part of the fun! (Hey, lemme tell ya--I was the one who shoulda been doing the thanking!!...). It probably wasn't much different from letters he drafted and sent out to the rest of the cartoonists involved, but that was okay. The honor of being in his company, however peripherally, was more than enough for me.

Now of course the bad news comes that he's gone. I'll leave it to others with a more analytical approach to examine his work, and for still others with a more historical bent to recount his myriad accomplishments. I just wanted to write a little about what the man meant to me, and how he taught me so very much over the years--besides that particularly long word that began with the letter "e"! Because clearly, "e", stood not only for “entrepreneur” and “Eisner”, but “extraordinary” as well.

He'll be sorely missed.
January 4th, 2005
Random observation:

While watching some afternoon TV earlier today, I noticed a commercial featuring Wilma Flinstone hawking hair products--and it was followed not ten minutes later by George Jetson expounding on the particular virtues of some allegedly futuristic dishwashing detergent!

I waited patiently for over an hour, but the much anticipated ad featuring Yogi Bear scampering off into the woods with a roll of Charmin never quite seemed to come around! Maybe tomorrow...
And so, on to today's strip...

“Lois Lane's Wardrobe Was Never Like THIS!?!” (circa 1982, part two of five)

Cartoon Fred gets maybe a little bit TOO excited when interviewing Magnus, Robot Fighter's...unorthodoxically attired gal pal, Leeja Clane, so much so that cartoon wife Lynn has to step in and give the old boy a reprieve...

For our bonus link, rather immodestly, I direct you to this page on Joe Sinnott's fine Webpage, where you'll see some more photos from the store appearance yours truly covered back last December. While you're there, take a long, languorous look around, and by all means, order yourself a copy of Joe's delightful sketchbook! It ain't everyday you can purchase top-notch goodies from a living legend over the Internet, y'know!!

But Top Cat? He'll be selling Meow Mix before you know it, take my word!...

January 3rd, 2005
This was the first issue of MAD magazine that I ever bought.

By the time I started buying it regularly about a year later, Norman Mingo was the main cover artist (and he did a very fine job), but this unforgettable image was already burned into my mind's eye, never to leave.

The man responsible for painting Alfred's inadvertent upside-down cake, Kelly Freas, left us recently. Besides his MAD work, he had a long and successful career in the field of science fiction illustration. Not being much of a sf fan, I only had a cursory knowledge of this aspect of his career ( I DID, however, learn that he was known as Frank Kelly Freas in that particular sphere...).

That cover made quite the impression on me. And knowing that the artist who concocted it has passed away makes me more than a little sad...
January 3rd, 2005
Okay, here's the deal: I need a break.

I've been devoting way, WAY too much time to this site, neglecting other stuff that I really should've been doing instead. Not that I haven't been enjoying myself, because believe me, I HAVE! You betcha! As Stan might say, putting this together for you each day is a blast! Just take a look at the New On Site listings and you'll notice that we've posted something EVERY DAY since way back on October 21st—and we weren't exactly slackers BEFORE that, either, people! So, while I truly do need to turn my attentions elsewhere for awhile, I'm not prepared to abandon you folks altogether, either. Not at all.

A contradiction? Nope...

For the next month or so, I invite you to continue your daily visits here at Fred Sez. While you generally won't find any of my earnest little essays—though I reserve the right to cover breaking news as it happens or babble on as the whim moves me—what you WILL find is a short description of a newly posted Dateline:@#$! strip (the blurb for which will usually wind up doing double duty over at that feature's site-contents page proper), and a convenient link to the page in question. We'll be re-launching the Dateline:@#$! series with a five page sequence originally done somewhere around 1982, one that was reprinted in my seventh—and final—Fantaco compilation, DIAL H FOR HEMBECK. After that, we're going to concentrate on the more recent episodes I produced for my last tenure in the pages of COMICS BUYERS GUIDE, a period that began toward the latter end of the nineties, and which, unless you were a CBG subscriber, will feature work that's sure to be entirely new to you! That's GOTTA be a fair substitute for me rambling on yet again about the deep-sea charms of SpongeBob SquarePants, wouldn'tcha think?

Plus, we'll feature the bonus link of the day!

If there's one thing lacking here at, it's cogent commentary on manga, but worry not! Alan David Doane over at Comic Book Galaxy has tipped me off to this terrific essay about the works of Naoki Urasawa written by Abhay "AK" Khosla. Gang, I know next to nothing about manga (in fact, until recently, I thought it was Italian food...), but after reading this palpably enthusiastic piece on the apparently overlooked Urasawa, I have more of a craving for a closer look at his mammoth TWENTIETH CENTURY BOYS series than I do for a large plate of manicotti! (...if only barely—mmm, manicotti...) It really IS quite fascinating, and if you have a few extra minutes, I'd recommend you check it out.

Anyway, here's the blurb de jour...
“The Gamma Glamour Gal” (circa 1982, part one of five)

Bruce Banner's cousin, Jennifer Walters, had recently seen the 25th and final issue of her spin-off series published when cartoon Fred interviewed her in what was to become the opening salvo of a loosely connected five strip sequence. While the male Hulk seemed to get more and more angry when he turned green, the emerald transformation seemed to have...
...other effects on his female counterpart, a point I blatantly emphasize as the crux of my so-called gags here.

I should also shamefacedly cop to cranking out this series of strips during a (thankfully) fleeting period when I was under the delusion that inking my stuff with a brush was a darn fine idea, and that being careful to make sure all my lettering was both straight AND legible was, at most, a minor concern. So, if I may, “Oops...”)

Next page tomorrow!
January 2nd, 2005
A while back, over in my Beatles section, I put together a collection of 1964 Beatlemania satires culled from the likes of MAD, CRACKED, and SICK, and I thought I'd pretty much covered it all. I was wrong.

Purely by accident, while trolling my collection for Santa heads recently, I stumbled upon one further addendum to the subject, so if you're at all interested in vintage satire mags, the Fab Four, or Shakespeare--yes, I said Shakespeare!--you should go here.

January 1st, 2005
Yup, a few hours before the clock struck midnight one hundred and four weeks ago, we launched, making this our gala Second Anniversary! Meaning that now and for as long as we're able to maintain this site, you're due for some raw, unbridled self-congratulatory postings along with your hangovers first thing each and every year round abouts this little corner of the 'net!!

(Oh, and did I somehow neglect to mention “Happy New Year” to you all? Well, consider yourselves properly salutationed, okay? And please, DO have a good one!...)

No year end lists from THESE quarters, nosirree. I haven't read enough comics, seen enough movies, or watched enough television to give these respective fields of popular entertainment their just due. (Oh, I watch a LOT of TV, alrighty, but I pretty much stick to what I like and refrain from sampling much else—like the ENTIRE reality genre. So, I can't fairly assess the overall picture, dig?). As for music, well, quite a few CDs have managed to find their way into my disc player, but very few could REALLY be called current. That said, my favorite new CD of the year remains Nellie McKay's “Get Away From Me”. And there WAS that cartoon movie I sorta liked, whose name momentarily escapes me...

Haven't talked much about the family lately, but be assured things are just fine. Of particular interest might be recounting some anecdotes that transpired during Julie's first semester going from a large public high school to a small, liberal private school. The change has worked out well for all of us, and at some later date, I'll rundown some of the more memorable moments we've encountered thus far. (Do I know how to keep you comin' back for more, or what?...)

Thing is, I've got some specific plans to take this site in a bit of a new direction this coming year, but again, more about that in the days ahead. For now, let me just thank all of you for stopping by, and hope that you'll all continue to do so with great frequency in 2005! three starts NOW!!

(...And so, cue the triumphant strains of the kazoo orchestra, as our blog fades from view!...)

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