Archive - January 2008
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January 31st, 2008
I had a very nice, reasonably low-key, birthday yesterday.

Lynn and I watched the most recent Harry Potter flick on DVD, which we hadn't yet seen. Y'know, the last couple of years, I celebrated my birthday by watching six episodes back to back of "24", ones I'd saved up each time from the show's early January season launch. But alas, that wasn't to be this year. Harry's no Jack Bauer, but the movie was diverting enough (even if, as one who hasn't read any of the novels, I preferred the last two installments and found myself more confused this go-round than I had in the past.). Later, we met Julie and Alec for dinner at Chili's, where I had the veggie fajita. Filling.

But beyond the mundane events of the day, I have to offer a few words of sincere thanks to the many, many (and I DO mean many!!!) folks who took a few minutes out of their busy days to send good wishes my way! So, all you folks who either emailed me directly, left comments on my MySpace page, or wrote on my wall over at Facebook (if you're not a member, don't ask--I'm not altogether sure I understand it myself!...),I've gotta tell ya, I was really touched by all of your positive messages! And just to show my appreciation, I'm gonna do my level best to live a whole 'nother year just so we can do it all over again NEXT January 30th!!

Oh, and some special mention should be made of all my good friends over on the Byrne board, not the least of whom is a fellow by the name of John whose last name you'd ALL recognize!

Check out this cake JB baked for me!
Thanks John!! Definitive evidence of what I've always known--you really ARE one sweet guy!

And lastly, you might recall an interview i did with my buddy Roger Green recently, the transcript of which had to be truncated due to some unexpected garbling on the flip side of Roger's tape. Well, since Roger still had a list of the questions he'd asked me, he summarized the second half of our Q&A from memory, and did a pretty good job of it. Oh, and there are photos, too, from the Green family's summer 2007 visit to our house. So, if you want to see me in shorts (it WAS August, y'know--just be grateful I put my shirt on before any pictures were snapped!...), zip on over to Roger's blog!

And if anybody out there starts calling me "thunder thighs" as a result, well, you're really gonna put a damper on my mood, dig?...
January 30th, 2008
"Laugh-In"s Dick Martin is 85 today.

"Peyton Place"s Dorothy Malone is 82.

Legendary Broadway producer and director Hal Prince is 79.

One time "Lex Luthor" Gene Hackman is 77.

Russian chess player Boris Spassky is 70.

Actress Vanessa Redgrave is 70 as well.

Vice-President Dick Cheney is 66.

Manager of the 1986 World Champion New York Mets Davey Johnson is 64.

Genesis frontman Phil Collins is 56.

TV's "Roc", Charles Dutton, is 56 too.

"Question" artist, Denys Cowan, is 47.

"Arak" co-writer (with husband Roy), Dann Thomas is--well, a lady never tells her age if she doesn't have to, right? And trust me--no one's under oath here..

Me? I'm 55 today.

Please email your celebratory cakes to the contact address found on our title page.

Thank you!!
January 29th, 2008
First off, a little bit of business:

The fine folks at Image have just informed me that the upcoming NEARLY COMPLETE ESSENTIAL HEMBECK ARCHIVES OMNIBUS, originally scheduled to be available the middle of February, will now instead hit the shops the first week of March. Not a major problem, I'm thinking. A small delay--and just that much more time for me to plug the bejeezus out of the doggone thing! And I've been told I'LL have a copy in my hot little hands in about two or three weeks from now, at which time, I'll be able the weigh it and determine just how much to charge for postage, so for you folks who've been waiting to find out how to get a hold of either simply a signed copy, or one with a commissioned drawing included, well, it looks like I'll finally have the answer for you in a few short weeks!!

Okay, enough shilling--howsabout we look at some art?

No, these pieces AREN'T for sale--they're a couple of recent commissioned illos that I thought you might enjoy seeing. First up we have the Terrific Trio: Batman, Robin, and Batgirl (with HER Dynamic Duo!!) (Sorry, honest--sometimes, it's just hard to resist...). Click the pics for a larger look...
Then there's Denny Colt, aka The Spirit.

This is a character that, frankly, I've always had a hard time getting ahold of. The little trick I do, y'see, is to take a dramatically drawn individual wearing a silly costume, and draw said character in a properly silly manner. The problem I've had with Will Eisner's legendary creation has always been two-fold: one, despite his dramatic staging, Eisner's style always leaned closer to cartoony than to straight; and two, basically, the Spirit was just a guy wearing a suit and a hat with a tiny little mask! No flowing cape, no improbably garish shorts, no chest icon, just a guy in a blue suit! Kinda tough to translate THAT into my style, but, well, that was the task given to me.

And while this ain't the greatest drawing I've ever done, of the half-dozen attempts I've made over the years to come up with a truly Hembeckized version of the Eisner icon (and not simply a slavish Eisner copy with some squiggles slapped on), this one's likely the best yet.

Don't worry--I'll keep working on it until I get it RIGHT!!...
Lastly, there's The Atom.

And no, you don't see him anywhere about because he's so small, it's because said illo resides over on Damian Maffei's Tiny Titan website. The Atom is a tough character for me to draw as well. Yeah, sure, he's got the requisite goofy uniform, but especially in black and white, there's really not much to it. A nondescript mask sporting a small atomic symbol, without even a chest symbol to distinguish him from his fellow adventurers. By comparison, Marvel's original Ant-Man had a far more distinctive costume. So the only real way to approach doing an Atom illo was to try and put the little fellow in context, i.e, PROPS!! And that's just what I did for Damian--go take a look!

(Oh, and on an absolutely totally unrelated note, apparently--and improbably--the Mets are the winners in the months-long Johan Santana sweepstakes! Yee--HAH! And you can quote me!....)
January 28th, 2008
Today, is proud to share with you a trio of, well, Hembeck-centric links! Hey, whaddaya expect--this ain't Byrne Robotics, y'know? (Although, look for a blog entry not too far down the line that may well confuse the issue. but that's for another time--back to ME...)

First up, we've got the most recent Five For Friday (#106) over at Tom Spurgeon's The Comics Reporter. The goal this time around was to name five pairs of famous brothers associated with comics, either real or fictional. Cleverly--or so I thought--I led off my contribution with Stanley and Larry Lieber. Cleverness seems to run in packs, though--a whole bunch of the other correspondents cited those oh-so-obvious siblings as well. Ah well--at least three of my five pairs went unmentioned on the other lists (even if one was totally fanciful).

Later, I thought of three more brotherly duos that went totally over looked, so why don't we just call this Five For Friday Plus Three More On Monday? Okay, here goes:

6. Dick and Dave Wood
7. Sam and Joe Rosen
8. Henry and Murray Boltinoff

There. I feel much better now...

Then there's this interview my old Fantaco era buddy, Roger Green, conducted over the phone with me a week ago last Sunday--at least, the portion recorded before he flipped over the tape and lost the rest to a garbled incoherence! At least, I THINK it was the tape's fault, and not my own more than occasional garbled incoherence! Go take a look, if you can stand it. Thanks, Rog! And always remember--Ethel Mertz is forever.

And lastly, over at the Quick Stop Entertainment site, we have the full-color, brand new, 23 panel comic strip that comprises the 103rd episode of The Fred Hembeck Show. This time around, we deal with a dark, dangerous--and hitherto unreported--moment buried deep in daughter Julie's past!

Venture forth and take a look-see--IF YOU DARE!!...
(Personal aside to Alec--after reading this, you may want to invest in some turtleneck sweaters. Hey, I'm just sayin'...)
January 26th, 2008
Thirty years ago, Lynn and I were (not counting college) living together for the first time. We had a small apartment upstairs from a nice, older couple who owned the house. I was just getting my cartooning career going, and also working irregular hours at a local self-service gas station, sitting in a glass booth for hours on end, taking customers cash. Because a lot of those hours were in the evening--and since our first VCR was still five years off in the future--I didn't watch much television on any sort of regular basis during that time period (which might account for why I never followed either "The Hulk" or "Wonder Woman" programs, aside from checking out their debut episodes).

But they WAS one show I desperately wanted to see one fall evening of '78...
"Ringo", a one hour prime time TV special broadcast by NBC, the first program of the sort ever headlined by any ex-Beatle! Wow! Was I ever excited (which, by the way, is THE definition of a TRUE Beatles fan--if you can get all a-tingle at the prospect of a full hour of network television devoted to Pete Best's replacement, well sir, then you truly ARE a Fabs fanatic!!)! I couldn't WAIT to see it!

Turns out I had to--I was scheduled to work the night the extravaganza aired, and try as I might, I couldn't get my way out of it (save for simply quitting--but hey, this wasn't PAUL after all. No need to go overboard...).

So, for the past three decades, this never-rerun, unavailable on DVD curiosity has haunted me like the specter of Stu Sutcliffe at a Plastic Ono Band concert. I thought I'd NEVER get a chance to see Ringo's moment of prime time glory.

Until yesterday.

That when I discovered, upon visiting John Firehammer's Pop Culture Safari website, a link for an uploaded web version John had found for the elusive program!!

THANK YOU JOHN!! You sure are one heckuva Safari tour guide!!

And so, yes, nearly thirty years later, I FINALLY watched "Ringo" last night...
How best to describe it? Howsabout, it was amiably goofy, sorta like Ringo himself.

There's a "Prince and The Pauper" type story line with Ringo switching places with an unhappy look-a-like named Ognir Rrats (Ringo Starr spelled backwards, for those remedial readers amongst us), and features a paunchy Art Carney as Ognir's abusive father, John Ritter as Ringo's overbearing manager, Carrie Fisher as Ognir's girlfriend (who even exchanges a few verses of "You're Sixteen" with Ringo when he's disguised as Ognir), Vincent Price (pre-"Thriller") as a hypnotist, Mike Douglas the TV talk show host as Mike Douglas the TV talk show host, and--my favorite, at least in theory--the tube's then "Policewoman", Angie Dickinson, cuffing the ersatz Ognir.

That's right, friends--midway through the proceedings, Sgt. Pepper arrests Ringo Starr!

Plus there's music, including a concert sequence at the end promoting one of the drummer's more unremarkable albums (unfortunately, Ringo's solo career had peaked several years before this show was filmed.).

Oh, and there's some narration and a brief on-camera appearance from George Harrison, sporting at the time the only known instance of a Beatle going out in public wearing a perm full of long curly locks. Happily, we didn't see THAT 'do again--apparently, it don't come Nice and Easy....

There's jokes, too--if you plan on watching the show, you might want to skip this paragraph since I'm gonna share my favorite with you now, and it may diminish your pleasure if I give away the best lines, okay? Okay. Here goes: at the outset of the show, Ognir is shown walking around the streets of Hollywood, hawking maps to the homes of the stars. A car pulls us with a couple of nuns in it. One asks, do you have maps to the homes of Jill St. John, Susan St. James, or Peter, Paul and Mary. No, Ognir replies, and the car begins to pull away, only to quickly return for one more query: "How about Joey Bishop?"...

Well, y'know, no one ever called Ringo the witty Beatle..

As far as visual and sound quality, well, if you're looking for perfection, look elsewhere. The sound is pretty decent (though in the second of the two portions the video is divided into, is noticeably out of sync with the picture a lot of the time), and while high-def it's not, it's clear enough. Recommended for hard-core Beatles fans and folks who fancy quirky television oddities.

And at least going in, I knew this was one TV show Ringo WASN'T gonna walk off of!!...
January 25th, 2008
Okay, see if you can follow me on this...

From the very first time I picked up a copy of THE FLASH back in 1961 at the tender age of eight I've loved Carmine Infantino's artwork.

When he stopped pencilling around 1967 to take on a series of editorial positions at DC Comics, I was devastated.

Several years later, having left his management position at DC, Infantino returned to his drawing board, initially for Warren Publishing, and shortly thereafter for Marvel.

I was delighted!

Among the series he took on at Marvel was SPIDERWOMAN. What could've been just a cheesy knock-off of the firm's most popular male star instead made for an ever increasingly entertaining read each month, due not only to Carmine's always stylish pencil work, but also because of the intriguing plot elements neophyte writer Mark Gruenwald invested in his scripts, as well as the fresh approach fresh-faced embellisher Al Gordon brought to Infantino's illustrations.

At the same time the Gruenwald/Infantino'Gordon team was working their magic on Jessica Drew's costumed alter ego, yours truly was just beginning the "Dateline:@#$!" strip in THE BUYERS GUIDE FOR COMICS FANDOM.

One week, I did a strip praising the trio's work on SPIDERWOMAN, and someone showed Al Gordon a copy of the strip. Al was in California and I was in New York, but he managed to get ahold of me, first by mail, and then by phone.

As a token of his appreciation, he sent me a very nice drawing of the character.

Over the years, although we've only met face to face but a single time, we've kept in touch, on and off.

A few years ago, Al--perhaps thinking back on that long ago strip--suggested the notion of collecting ALL my old "Dateline:@#$!" strips (including, naturally, the otherwise never reprinted Spiderwoman piece) into one big book.

I thought he was crazy.

But here we are, just a few short weeks away from the release of Image Comics' THE NEARLY COMPLETE ESSENTIAL HEMBECK ARCHIVES OMNIBUS!!

And to think, NONE of this would've come to pass if it hadn't been for my life-long devotion to Carmine Infantino!!


(Oh, and thanks to you too, Al. Guess you had a little SOMETHING to do with it, huh?...)

And now, blog buddies, a rare treat: the aforementioned, never before seen, delectable Spiderwoman illo done by Al Gordon back in the late seventies (click it to see a larger version)! Enjoy! And Al? No kidding--thanks for everything!...
January 24th, 2008
Y'know,over the past couple of decades, I've drawn nearly every gosh darn super duper group out there.

Naturally, I've doodled up both the American Justice League and the Justice Society countless times.

The Dynamic Duo, The Fantastic Four, and The Sinister Six--I count 'em ALL on my resume.

The Defenders, The X-Men--new, old, and in-between--as well as a literal Legion of Super-Heroes: all done. The New Gods, the Forever People, the Inhumans, Challengers of the Unknown, the Green Lantern Corps, the Invaders, Blackhawks, THUNDER Agents, the Suicide Squad--heck, I once even drew a motley little gang called Kickers, Inc.!!

But there's one group I'd never, EVER drawn before, not one single time.

Until, that is, now.

(A little overly amped up in the drama department, you say? Yeah, maybe, but hey, we're hawking the goods here--ol' P. T. Barnum wouldn't underplay things, trust me...)

Cuz, yup, the above illo is up for grabs on eBay--here's a list of my current offerings.

Which also includes the more familiar territory revisited in the one below as well (and click on either illo for the wide-screen version...)...
"Who watches the watchmen?"

More to the point, who PURCHASES the Watchmen? Guess I'll know sometime next week, huh?...
January 23rd, 2008
President Fred.

Well, apparently THAT'S not going to happen.

Fred Thompson dropped out of the race for the Republican nomination yesterday, thus ending whatever slim hopes there were of this life-long Democrat crossing party lines the first Tuesday of November. C'mon--how could I NOT'VE been tempted?

President Fred--it sure has a nice ring to it, don'tcha think?

Sigh. But now the pool's been slimmed down to Mike, Hillary, Mitt, Rudy, Barack, and a couple of Johns (oh, and Dennis and Ron too, I suppose...) No Fred.


Sure, I can see it now! Unable to agree on a suitable nominee at the convention, the GOP turns instead to one of their most celebrated alums--

(Oh, and for the record, my middle name is George. Looking back over the past two hundred years plus, I'd say the results there were, um, mixed at best...)
January 22nd, 2008
One of my all-time favorite sitcom supporting players, Allan Melvin, passed away recently. He was 84.

I was just a little kid when I first encountered Melvin in his role of Cpl. Steve Henshaw on the "Sgt. Bilko" program. Along with Harvey Lembeck's Cpl. Rocco Barbella, his role on the show was primarily to provide Phil Silvers' always scheming top-kick character with someone to talk to. Henshaw (and Rocco--curiously, they were almost always referred to as "Rocco and Henshaw", first name and last, respectively. Once in awhile, the name "Barbella" would be uttered, but if it weren't for the Internet, I don't think I'd've had a clue that Henshaw's first name was Steve...) rarely had the opportunity to say much more than "Okay, Sarge!" when following Bilko's orders, or moan "But, Sarge..." when he thought the bespeckled con man had maybe gone too far. Nonetheless, "Sgt. Bilko" was the show that put Allan Melvin on the map (and was , I've been led to believe, his personal favorite).

He never stopped working after that--take a look this list; it's pretty darn impressive. His extended tour of duty as Sgt. Charley Hacker on numerous mid-sixties episode of "Gomer Pyle, USMC" remains a personal favorite. Put him and Frank Sutton (as Sgt. Vince Carter) into khaki and you've struck comedy gold! And somehow, his hang-dog countenance as pal Barney Hefner sidling up alongside the ever abrasive Archie Bunker on "All In the Family" during the seventies brought a little bit of warmth to that always controversial series.

(Melvin's role as Sam the butcher on "The Brady Bunch" seems to be getting the most play in his obits, but ironically, that was one show I never watched when it was originally broadcast, and I only ever caught a handful of episodes several years back on Nick at Nite when daughter Julie was younger. I may've seen one with Sam in it; I'm not really sure...)

Most recently, while watching the balance of my "Dick Van Dyke Show" DVDs, I've enjoyed Allan Melvin's recurring performance as Sol (sometimes Sam) Pomerantz, a regular character in the flashback episodes set during Rob Petrie's military days. (Melvin was also the sole non-regular who popped with a significant speaking role in the final episode filmed, the western fantasy, "The Gunslinger".) Anybody assembling a list of the greatest sitcoms of all time would HAVE to include "The Dick Van Dyke Show" and "Sgt. Bilko", and "All In The Family" would have to merit consideration as well. (As much as I personally love it, I realize "Gomer Pyle" isn't QUITE a classic, but I'd still have to figure it trumps the comedy chops of "The Brady Bunch"...) To be a part--even a small part--of a roster of shows like that is downright amazing! And that's not even taking into account all the top-notch VOICE work the man did on the animated front!

On a purely personal note, I came to a bit of a surprising realization while watching those "DVD" DVDs--way back when, I may've been struck by the Rocco Barbella character mainly because actor Harvey Lembeck's name was the closest anyone of note in Hollywood had come to matching my own rather unusual surname (an achievement that still stands), but in watching Melvin in those old episodes, it suddenly hit me--more so than anyone else on the tube, past or present, Allan Melvin looks like my father!! I'd never really noticed it before--and I'm not saying they were near twins or anything, but still, there's a very marked resemblance. And wouldn't you know it--my dad passed away at age 84 as well.

Allan Melvin was always a joy to watch. To me, he was a much bigger star than a whole lot of folks with far more recognizable names. He'll be missed, no doubt about it, but given his sparkling resume, I don't think he's likely to be forgotten anytime soon.
January 20th, 2008
It's been a while since I've linked to one of The Comics Reporter's Five For Friday surveys, but given that the topic of the 105th installment was "Bliss: Name Five things In Comics That Make You Happy" (...only five?...), how could I not participate? I wasn't the only one--a lotta folks came out for this one! Some interesting choices, too--and you might be surprised to see just how often a certain carrot topped cub reporter for a great metropolitan newspaper turns up on people's lists! You might be, but I'M not...

Conversely, it hasn't been all that long since I shared some of my custom scrawled illos up for grabs on eBay with you, but seeing as how the e-folks had yet another one of their twenty cent listing days recently, I figured I should alert any interested parties that pretty much the entire current Hembeck inventory is up for auction over there: go here to see the complete roll call of attainable goodies.

And just below are a half dozen new pieces making their debut here on site. If the first one looks a little familiar, it's because last time around hawking these things, we had a very similar gathering of selected members of The Legion of Super-Heroes up for sale. They were all wearing their original outfits in that piece, whereas here, they've instead donned their updated seventies togs, many of which (most?) were redesigns created by the late, great Dave Cockrum. All except Ultra Boy, that is--he never seems to change...

As always, simply click on the drawing below to be magically transported off to an even larger version of the same pic...
Well, that's all for now! Thanks for stopping by!

(Sorry--between all this drawing and helping daughter Julie with her college applications (though, truth is, Lynn is handling most (all?) of THAT chore), I'm just too tuckered to come up with a funny exit line. Maybe next time...)
January 19th, 2008
From your old pal, Fred, as well as your many, many friends (pictured above)!

So go out ! Celebrate! And treat yourself to a fine meal! (Might I suggest the Primus Rib?...)
January 16th, 2008
A few days back, Lynn and I--along with three other patrons--took in a mid-afternoon showing of director Julie Taymor's "Across The Universe", a musical whose narrative was fashioned by building a story around thirty-one familiar (and a few not so familiar) Beatles tunes. This was a calculated risk on our part--back in our college days, the two us actually paid good money to sit in the dark and suffer through "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band", the ill-conceived Peter Frampton/Bee Gees starrer that immediately killed the film careers of Frampton and the Gibb brothers--and didn't do John, Paul, George and Ringo any favors, either!

This time around? Well, "Across The Universe" is no "Moulin Rouge", but happily, neither is it a "Sgt. Pepper". For one thing, there's dialog. Luckily, there were no foolish notions to tell the entire story through the notoriously quirky lyrics of the Fabs. The plot itself concerns a fairly standard love story set against the upheaval of the sixties, but it's effectively played. The romance between the Liverpudlian transplant Jude (Jim Sturgess, above) and the all-American girl next door, Lucy (Evan Rachel Wood) is convincing, and offers the opportunity for such tunes as "If I Fell" and "Something" to be seamlessly inserted into the storyline.

(The other major characters are named Sadie, Prudence, Maxwell and Jo-Jo. While Sadie IS referred to as sexy--though never using the specific phrase "sexy Sadie"--surprisingly, that ditty goes unwarbled. "Get Back" and "Maxwell's Silver Hammer" get passed over as well (though there is an off-hand gag about killing someone with a hammer), which was quite a relief to me, as the absolute nadir of that "Sgt. Pepper" flick was Steve Martin--an otherwise big favorite of mine--shrieking out the tune as a demented dentist named Maxwell in what, several months before the release of "The Jerk", was his otherwise mercifully forgotten actual big-screen debut!! Didn't see THAT clip at the Kennedy Center Honors ceremonies that saluted him last month, that''s for sure!)

"Hey Jude" is nicely used towards the film's emotional climax, while "Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds" plays over the end credits. To work "Dear Prudence" into the proceedings, the story makes Prudence a closeted lesbian--earlier, she sang "I Want To hold Your Hand" while looking longingly at a fellow cheerleader, with the lyric "I want to be your man" coyly left unchanged". While highly contrived from the get-go, the scene where her fellow cast members attempt to coax a dejected Prudence out of an actual closet does indeed somehow work!)

The musical numbers are mostly interesting, though uneven in both approach and execution. Some, like the love songs mentioned above, are fairly straight forward. Others are just wildly surrealistic, most especially "I Want You (She's So Heavy", the first half of which illustrates the organized chaos of Maxwell's induction into the military, while the "She's So Heavy" portion, well, best you see THAT for yourself! The post-war "Happiness Is A Warm Gun " set in an army hospital is nearly as odd (AND features a brief--thirty seconds, tops--cameo by Salma Hayek as a dancing nurse!). Using "Let It Be" as the backdrop to civil rights unrest and a subsequent funeral held in a black church is fairly jarring, even in context. But, it does set Jo-Jo off on his journey to NYC where the rest of the characters are already in place.

And that led into the one moment where I actually laughed out loud, though whether that was the director's desired reaction is debatable. Y'see, Jo-Jo arrives in the Big Apple to the strains of "Come Together", performed by Joe Cocker, one of the film's three big-name guest star vocalists. Only, the first glimpse we get of Joe, he's singing the opening line of that tune in the guise of a bedraggled homeless man, standing on the streets in his bathrobe--and doing the stereotypical Joe Cocker spastic hand movements!! Was that supposed to be funny, I have to wonder, or it just that Joe Cocker has ALWAYS looked the part so that to see him belt out the tune in that guise went way beyond fitting to absolutely perfect? Dunno, but it's an memorable scene (Joe also gets to play a pimp and a hippie during the same sequence).

At least that number moves the story along. Things stop dead in their tracks for back to back, rather pedestrian run-throughs of "I Am The Walrus" (by Bono as Dr. Robert--no, that particular tune goes unsung; the U2 frontman also lends his pipes to the "LSD" end-number) and "Being For The Benefit of Mr. Kite" by Eddie Izzard as--you guessed it--Mr. Kite. Bono is the only one who gets lines of actual dialog to deliver of our three cameo crooners, though Izzard injects his number with several humorous asides. Listening to the soundtrack CD, his quips come across better sans the horrid make-up and the ersatz Monty Python animation that drag the visuals down in the film. Eddie's okay, I guess, but he's no George Burns. (Y'know, all I could think about while watching this section of the film was that, way, WAY back in the nineteenth century, some poor anonymous sap sat down one otherwise unremarkable day to write up copy for a circus poster, and good golly gosh, if he could've only imagined how his words would live on across the centuries, wouldn't HE be amazed, no maybe about it!!...)

Using "With A Little Help From My Friends" as a frat housed anthem was clever, as was discovering new love in a bowling alley set to a countrified "I've Just Seen A Face". And "All you Need Is Love"--one song I've always personally felt was way overrated in the Beatles canon--works wonderfully as the big emotional roof-top finale! Musically, while I certainly couldn't say anyone in the cast was less than pretty darn good, only one voice truly stood out to my ears, that being the aforementioned Jim Sturgess as Jude. Unlike the decent--but generic--vocalists that surround him, Strugess offers an immediately distinctive sound and delivery, which elevates his numbers above most of the rest of those in the film. I only had a chance to listen to the soundtrack once before going to see the movie, and as a collection of Beatles covers, aside from Sturgess and a few other inspired moments (the early sixties girl group vibe applied to "Hold Me Tight" and "It Won't Be Long"), it's nothing special. But, now having seen the film, I find that the listening experience has been greatly enhanced.

So yeah, even if at 131 minutes it was a tad on the longish side, I liked the film well enough, and would recommend it to any curious fans of the Beatles who aren't anti-covers (hey, and check this--none other than Johnny Bacardi has called it his favorite film of 2007!). While it certainly wasn't a cinema classic, "Across The Universe" is a mostly satisfying attempt to turn the music of the Beatles into a coherent story--which frankly is never going to be entirely successful as long as filmmakers insist on trying to shoehorn that wacky "Mr. Kite" ditty into the mix!!...
January 10th, 2008
Recently, I was commissioned to draw up an illo of Batman and Captain America hanging out together, with the simple challenge being to have one of them saying something witty as they loitered.

This is what I came up with...
And friends, when you come up with a half-way decent gag, there's only one thing to do--exploit it for all it's worth! So I cobbled together this second variation with the intention of tossing it up on eBay for auction...
Then I realized that perhaps, as a courtesy, I should offer it first to the fellow responsible for the initial inspiration, and--zowie!--he gladly snapped it up!

But fear not--the following two pieces ARE currently available on eBay! (And you can see larger versions of any of these four drawings merely by clicking on them...)
What's that? You want witty sayings, too?

Sorry, that'll cost you extra...

(Non-witty ones are free--sorta like this blog, y'know? Hey, you don't suppose there's some sorta correlation there, do ya?...)
January 9th, 2008
Have you heard the news? Professor Trimpe (as I tend to think of Herb ever since twice sitting in as--ahem-- guest lecturer at his cartooning class last spring) is back at the drawing board!

Wanna see for yourself? Then go here--Herb's pencilling a John Arcudi-scripted Goon story over on the Dark Horse MySpace page (ably inked by amiable Al Milgrom no less)! I'm not overly familiar with the character, though good buddy Rocco Nigro has always spoken highly of the feature. What I CAN tell you is that Herb's art looks great, and I'm delighted that he's decided to sharpen up his pencils for pushing across panels again!! Nice job, Prof!

And while we're wandering about in the MySpace environs, think you can stand ANOTHER interview with yours truly?

Yeah, I know--uh uh.

But wait--this one's different! Honest!

Y'see, Darrick Patrick has a regular feature where he emails out ten questions to his prospective subjects to answer--seven fairly straight ones, and three from way out in left field--and I'd been sitting on his queries since just before my big ol' Image collection was announced, only recently (and belatedly) getting around to answering his questions. So that means--whew!-- there's NO plugola whatsoever for THE NEARLY COMPLETE ESSENTIAL HEMBECK ARCHIVES OMNIBUS (available soon!!) included in my answers--hey, we take care of that HERE!!

Thanks for asking me to participate, Darrick--and if any of you folks out there have ever wondered just what a Hembeck Presidency would be like, well, wonder no more. No Chuck Norris, though--sorry...
January 8th, 2008

David Bowie is celebrating one today.

And if Elvis were still with us, odds are pretty good that he'd be chowing down on a big ol' piece of fried peanut butter and banana cake right about now.

And then there's this guy...
That's right--today is Soupy Sales birthday!! And if you look closely at the cover of that vintage 1965 Wonder Books publication, you'll note the signature made out to none other than yours truly from the Soupster himself!! No, friends, I didn't actually get a chance to meet my long-time comedic idol. Instead, for my last birthday (again with the birthdays!...), the ever delightful Jim Salicrup secured me an autographed copy of this swell book while attending one of Soupy's then-recent NYC convention appearances! Thanks again, Jim--no pie in the face for you!!

This 48 page volume isn't a comic book--more of a young reader type thingie--but the artist providing the three dozen or so illustrations IS a name well known to most comics fans of a certain age...
That's right--Tony Tallarico! The oft maligned--even in these quarters--Tony Tallarico!

But y'know what?

As Soupy's official portrait artist, he ain't half bad!

And just to prove my point, check these out...
WHY is Soupy doing The Mouse with a ballerina? Don't ask...

There are actually three different text stories included in this book, the most pertinent of which for our purposes today might well be the following...
And so, in the end, all's well that ends well for Soupy and his happy little group! (By the by, that attractive young blonde is Peaches, Mr. Sales gal pal--played ever so sensuously on television by none other than Soupy himself in drag! RuPaul, eat yer heart out!!)

Thanks Tony! Thanks Jim! But mostly, thanks Senor Sales! And...
January 6th, 2008
One of my very favorite websites has been John Firehammer's This Is Pop Culture, so I was pretty bummed a few months back when John shut things down. But I was heartened by the brief note up top of his last posting--come January, he'd be back with a revamped blog, Pop Culture Safari!!

Well, it's January, and as promised, John is back, and I couldn't be more delighted!! After all, I'd come to depend on him to pass along the sort of comics news someone of my generation was REALLY interested in (such as, which classic series was Marvel or DC gonna issue in a pricey edition this month?...), and well as lots of TV, film, and music news. Oh sure, John was obviously obsessed with "Lost", a show I've never watched, but hey, I'M obsessed with "24", a show John doesn't indulge in, so we both sorta understand each other. If you're a "Lost" fan, then all the better. If not, trust me--there's plenty more goodies to keep the Jack Bauer enthusiasts in the audience entertained.

And based on early evidence, John's still got it. After all, HE'S the one that tipped me off to this upcoming DVD featuring the near unbeatable combination of three solo Beatles and none other than yak-fest legend, Tom Snyder!...
Keep up the good work, John--and I can't wait until the day Firehammer finally gets the opportunity to report the scheduling of a DC Archives edition of Joe Kubert's FIREHAIR! Now, THAT'D be hot!
January 1st, 2008

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