Archive - July 2005
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July 31st, 2005
Anybody who's followed this blog for any amount of time knows that I archive each whole page at the end of the month. Thus, I've learned not to put anything too substantial up during a month's last days--and especially on the very last one--as frankly, its shelf life for perusal isn't all that good.

So today, I give you...

More links!

Oh, I know I posted 80 just a few weeks ago, but now, with 20 more, that'll make it an even hundred for the month! I hadn't planned to, but several new ones popped up that just needed to be listed, and once I got into linking mode, well...

Just so you know, the newest of the new are marked **.

On to August!
July 30th, 2005
"I don't long for beans."

Now THERE'S a sentence you don't hear very often--but I did! It happened earlier this morning. Y'see, Lynn and I are part of this organic food co-op, the Poughkeepsie Farm Project. Each week, from March through November, we (okay, okay--mostly Lynn) stop by their distribution center in a small building located near the fields, on land owned by local Vassar College. Mostly, we pick up our designated allotments of the various veggies and fruits from tables full of already harvested organic delights. Still, there's always the occasional foodstuff ripe for the picking--which is just exactly what we're expected to do: pick. So, while Lynn was over picking herself a big ol' bag of cherry tomatoes, I was several hundred yards away, picking--yup, you guessed it--a gross of green beans...

As I bent over, slowly filling my bag, there was an older, married couple on either side of me, making their own attempt to amass a suitable amount of the emerald vegetable. The wife was enthusiastically chattering away about all the various foods available at the farm, and proceeded to happily extoll the many merits of the very vegetable we were all currently picking. Sensing her hubby's obvious disinterest with the topic, she eventually inquired as to just what was so wrong with beans? Nothing, he assured her. He liked them well enough, certainly, but...

Then he paused, as if he was looking for just the right turn of phrase..

"I don't long for beans."

I knew what he meant. Hey, much as Gomer Pyle said on more than one occasion about Sgt. Carter, regarding the munchable stringers, I like 'em, but I don't love 'em. Fact is, I like--or can at least tolerate--most ANY vegetable. There are, however, only a few I could legitimately say, I "long" for:

Corn on the cob. Asparagus. Cucumbers.

(No jokes, please--this ISN'T a lesbian sex blog, y'know!)

(Though considering how dull even I realize today's topic is, I think right about now, we're all kinda wishing it WAS!!...)
July 29th, 2005
In reviewing the recent BATMAN: DARK DETECTIVE limited series by the celebrated creative team of Steve Englehart, Marshall Rogers, and Terry Austin for The Fred Hembeck Show, I made a point of rereading their first go at the Caped Crusader, the seminal 1977 story arc that was gathered together to comprise the BATMAN: STRANGE APPARITIONS trade paperback of a few years back.

In the course of my piece, there was one small bit of business that I forgot to mention, something that actually startled me when I came across it.

While I surely hadn't forgotten the dramatic scene in which the crooked politico, Rupert Thorne, picks up Silver St. Cloud, giving her a ride in his car on a dreary, rainy night as they both attempt to flee Gotham City for their own very personal reasons, there WAS one small detail that caught me off guard:

How often do you see THAT in a comic book? I mean, did Lois Lane ever light up in sheer exasperation after her so-called boyfriend attempted to once again teach her a lesson? Not as far as I can recall, but if any one ever had reason to...

Actually, I never quite got the whole smoking thing, and found it a bit jarring to see this otherwise elegant character with a cigarette between her lips.
But here's the GOOD news--if DARK DETECTIVE is any indication, Silver's kicked the habit! Hey, if she can survive a night in the Joker's den of depravity without the craving returning, well, congrats, Silver--you're cured!!

(By the way, for another look at the STRANGE APPARITIONS collection, you might want to take a peek at Chris Allen's latest installment of Breakdowns. I pretty much agree with his assessment of the book, even if he--like me--also forgot to take the lady to task for her taste for tobacco! Maybe it's just me, but the only funny book fellow I care to see light up is the Human Torch, dig?...)
July 28th, 2005
In all the years I've been conjuring up my own peculiar brand of mock cartoon questionnaires, I've only ever once presided over an actual bona fide interview, and that was way back in 1982 when I had opportunity to quiz Roger Stern regarding his work on the AMAZING SPIDER-MAN book for FANTACO CHRONICLE'S SERIES #5 (Spider-Man edition, edited by Rambling Roger Green).

Oh sure, I managed to crank out a few spot illos for the piece--like the one above--but mostly it was me quizzing the talented, entertaining, and always pleasant Mr. Stern about the past twenty years of Webhead minutia! I've always been a big fan of Roger's work, and I remember our Q&A being a whole lotta fun. Maybe we should do it again sometime?...

But in the meantime, I'm here to pass along this Stern warning: Roger is going to be interviewed (albeit, not by me) over the airwaves on WUSB’s “Destinies – The Voice of Science Fiction” this Friday night at 11:30pm (Eastern Daylight Time), to discuss his new novel, "Superman: The Never-Ending Battle".

“Destinies” is a weekly radio program, hosted by Howard Margolin, that airs every Friday night -- 11:30 to Midnight -- on 90.1 FM, WUSB, Stony Brook, NY, with
netcasting at

There probably WON"T be any questions as to whether the wrestler Peter Parker fought soon after being bitten by that errant spider, Crusher Hogan, was any relation to Tony Stark's long-time associate, Happy Hogan, but hey, not EVERYBODY'S got what me and Geraldo's got, folks! But listen anyway--it's sure to be illuminating!

While I'm passing along specialty links, check out this video from Mike Catron: Bill Finger Award winner, Arnold Drake, singing a self-penned tune that brought the house down at the recent San Diego Comics Convention! Who knew that the creator of Super-Hip was so, well, HIP? See for yourself--and thanks Mike! It's a good thing you're doing, documenting these memorable little moments!

Just a friendly tip--be sure and bring your camera to the next Big Apple Con. It never takes all that much encouragement to get me break-dancing, y'know!...
July 27th, 2005
It was 97 degrees today, and 96 yesterday--surpassing the previous records for each of those particular dates in nearby Poughkeepsie by a mere single digit. But no matter how you looked at it, boy was it HOT!

So pardon me if today's entry is less than inspired. When in doubt, I figure it's always safe to fall back on some cheesecake featuring a costumed cutie!

Although THIS may not be exactly what you're expecting.

Hey, did I mention it was HOT? Geez, cut a guy a break, why don'tcha?

(And while you're at it, cut me a piece of that cake too! Mmmmm--cake...)
July 26th, 2005
A while back, I promised to read the Englehart/Rogers/Austin reunion series, BATMAN DARK DETECTIVE and get back to you on it. Well, consider it done, and you can find my thoughts about it over at the IGN Comics website, since that's the focus of this week's twentieth scintillating edition of The Fred Hembeck Show.

As always, whenever you're over there, I like to point you towards Peter Sanderson's latest Comics In Context piece. Well, I'd like you to take a bit of a closer look THIS time around. Peter begins a series of reports regarding the recent San Diego Comics Convention, with a particular emphasis on the freshly inaugurated Bill Finger Award, intended to recognize outstanding career contributions from deserving--but often overlooked--funny book wordsmiths.
It's a wonderful idea, and long overdue, but what managed to raise my ire was reading about how the award's late namesake, by all accounts worthy of at the very least being designated Batman's full fledged co-creator, is denied that measure of historical note even now, as Bob Kane apparently has as tight a grip on maintaining a sole credit line on the character several years after he himself lies in his grave as he did while he was alive! Look, when workers in Warner's Stores are contractually bound to refer to the artist--and the artist alone--as the sole creator of the Caped Crusader, well, I find that just appalling. Making it worse is the fact this isn't even one of those Lee and Kirby cases. Even Stan's harshest critics would admit Stan had SOMETHING to do with Marvel Comics early success, but, as Peter ruefully enumerates, Kane seems to have had less to do with Batman than practically anyone, save the National office's janitor (and who knows--maybe HE was the genius who came up with Dr. Double X?...), that his successful credit hogging can be seen in almost direct proportion to the actual amount of work he actually DID on the feature over the years!! Hey, I'm all for freelancers getting one up on their bosses in situations like this--it's far preferable to the sad situation the creators of Superman found themselves in for several long, miserable decades--but not if fellow collaborators are being callously ground under foot every step of the way!

Bob Kane. Feh. I never met the man, but based on the various stories I've heard over the years, well, let's just say my lack of respect for the guy is abundant...

Happily, that's not the case with my buddy, Roger Green--even if things didn't work out as well as he may've liked during his stint on the popular game show, Jeopardy. Read the ninth part of his reflections, as this saga slowly winds down (but not up--more next week!!).

(Incidentally, Roger wrote to me earlier today, not initially getting the point of the punch line I was going for in yesterday's blog entry. Eventually, he realized I was going for a soundalike word, but even as I posted it, I realized it wasn't all THAT strong. However, I DID think of a snappy addendum, so if you'll indulge me, let me run that last line past you again, followed by the NEW finish, okay? )

Here goes...

And let's not even get STARTED on the Caspian Sea, okay?...

("Isn't that where that little kid Casper drowned, dad?...)

...Do-overs NEVER seem to work, do they, Rog?...
July 25th, 2005
Here's a mildly unsettling observation:

The fifteen year old girls of my acquanintence--well, a half dozen of them, anyway--all know what a lesbian is, but NONE of them have any clue what a thespian is!

How, you might well ask, did I arrive at this curious conclusion?

Simple enough. Julie and her friends yammer on freely hereabouts, and one night they were discussing some other girl--I don't remember who, but it doesn't really matter--and, as I passed by within earshot, Julie turned to me and asked, "Dad, do YOU think (name withheld) is a lesbian?"

Well, it was a pretty ridiculous question to present me, so I paused briefly as if to sagely consider my answer, and then replied, straight-faced, "Y'know, I really couldn't say, but I'm pretty sure she IS a thespian."

Okay, not the funniest of quips, I'll freely admit. At best, it deserved a mild chuckle, but realistically, I figured a dismissive groan was far more likely.

Instead, all I got were blank stares.

They had NO idea what a thespian was! And these were smart kids, honor students mostly. I couldn't believe it. I mean, in some respects, thespian is a bit of a hoity-toity word, but it's also evolved into an oft used comedic term over time. Why, just the other day, flipping around the tube, I heard some pompous sitcom character proudly refer to himself as a thespian on some low-level laff-fest! How did the girls ever MISS that all too common usage while sitting in front of their sets growing up? It's a mystery...

Lessons of being a twenty-first century dad: no need to explain lesbians to the little ones--they'll find out on their own, worry not. Thespians, though--THAT'S where they'll need your help...

And let's not even get STARTED on the Caspian Sea, okay?...
July 24th, 2005
I watched the 1940 film "The Ghost Breakers" last night, that rare piece of cinema that featured both Bob Hope AND a zombie! And no, wise guys, they weren't one and the same. That would come many, many years later...

Big fan of Hope's early career that I am, I've always wanted to see both this movie and the one that preceded it by a year, "The Cat And Canary", also co-starring the lovely Paulette Goddard, and also mixing in a macabre sub-text beneath the hilarious hi-jinx.
Well, despite what this fellow may think ("This is probably Hope's best film"), I found this to be tepid entertainment at best. The comedy wasn't up to Bob's usual level, and, although nicely atmospheric at times, "The Ghost Breakers" hardly sent shivers down this spine. And yet, according to TCM's Robert Osborne's introduction, Paramount filmed this story four separate times! Based on a play they must've gotten for bargain prices back in the early days of moving pictures, it was filmed twice during the silent era, and then again in 1953, retitled "Scared Stiff" and turned into a vehicle for Martin and Lewis. I've never seen that movie either, but after slogging through this version, I'm not too sure I want to.

Oh, its not awful, don't get me wrong--just neither as funny or scary as I'd've liked. For the curious, you can find the plot nicely encapsulated at the link above, even if I'd vehemently argue his assessment of the picture's intrinsic worth.

One little thing that bothered me about the proceedings was the unbilled appearance of a short, pudgy actor who I'd bet my bottom dollar was a regular on the initial incarnation of the "Lassie" TV show in the early fifties. As the leads take a cruise down to Cuba from New York City, this little fellow literally bumps into Ms. Goddard on three separate occasions, always acting the apologetic gentleman each time. Finally, once on the island, he steps between Anthony Quinn and Richard Carlson during a heated discussion the duo are having at Paulette's table at a swanky nightclub, pulling the future Zorba over to HIS table to say hello to his wife, as the couple are apparently old friends of Tonys. A few scenes later, Quinn gets up to leave, after which the wife rises to follow him, but, no longer evincing his jolly attitude, the fellow wordlessly--and somewhat menacingly--stops her from going any further.

And that's the LAST we ever see of him!! Bear in mind, there's a pivotal mystery swirling around a small island Goddard has inherited, and it isn't until the very end that we discover exactly who's behind the dire doings being done in efforts to scare her off. But folks, it ain't THIS guy! He doesn't even merit an acknowledgement on the end titles cast roll call, even though he had far more lines than, say, Mother Zombie!

Well, despite all this, I STILL want to see "The Cat And The Canary"--especially if the Lassie guy isn't planted in it somewhere as a Macguffin! Next time, let him spend his time trapped in a well, for all the good he did THIS movie. Don't worry, though--the celebrated collie'll get him out afterwards.

It's what she/he does, after all...
July 23rd, 2005
Yes, Virginia, these IS a Blue Floyd!

(Wait a sec--isn't my daughter's name "Julie"? ...)

My old buddy, Roger Green, was the first to deliver the news, and then later, correspondent Sean Atkins provided even more details:

Blue Floyd is a name used by an evolving line-up of musicians (including musicians from the Allman Brothers and Government Mule) that play "jam band" versions of Pink Floyd tunes. These versions often draw heavily on the blues and jazz traditions of improvisation that have been embraced by the jam band movement - hence "Blue Floyd."

Sorta reminds me of a group called Dread Zeppelin, who cover those Page and Plant classics utilizing a reggae beat--AND an Elvis impersonator as lead singer! Anyway, for more info on Blue Floyd, Roger sent a link to this concert review. Thanks, fellas! Sounds interesting, I must admit--although absolutely NOTHING like what was described to little Virginia--er, I mean. Julie!...

And while we're dipping into the mailbag...
Another old friend, Tom Hegeman (WHY so many old friends, you ask? Simple enough reason--because I'm OLD!!...) dropped me a line following my salute to Bastille Day (and, incidentally, my wife's birthday), that the Classics Illustrated adaptation of "A Tale Of Two Cities" that I credited as the work of Joe Orlando also featured heavy involvement from Orlando's old EC Comics compadre, George Evans. Mr. E told Tom as much several years ago while appearing at the annual Ithacon in upstate New York. Looking over the job again, I can definitely spot Evans' influence on the layouts, and maybe even the pencils themselves in a lot of places. Thanks for the info, Tom--I think if there's anything we've learned here in recent months, it's that if you think you detect Orlando art, look just a little bit deeper. Jerry Grandenetti, Steve Ditko, George Evans, and who knows WHO else may well've been along for the ride as well!...

Charles Lee wrote in after reading my review of the "Fantastic Four" movie, and had some intriguing ideas of his own to offer of what MIGHT'VE been. His scenario would've had two movies filmed at one time, starting both with the pivotal lab accident that scarred Victor Von Doom, much the way it happened in the comics, but to then focus the initial flick on Reed and crew, leading up to a big fight with Dr. Doom, ending the movie on a cliffhanger. Part Two would start much the same way as the first one, only it would follow Doom instead of Richards after the fateful explosion, eventually coming full circle mid-way through, then picking up where episode one ended for a truly slam-bang finale!

It's a neat idea, but, inasmuch as there was no guarantee that there'd ever even BE a "Fantastic Four 2', one I can certainly understand the studios not risking. Anyway, look what happened with the pair of dual "Superman" movies that were filmed (sorta) at the same time--I know I'm in a minority here, but as much as I absolutely LOVE the first one, I also very much dislike the second. Admittedly, I haven't seen it since a second viewing in the theaters back during its initial run (simply because I so couldn't believe I actually didn't like it, I HAD to go back!)--maybe I've mellowed over the years (and yes, I had EXTREMELY high expectations for that one going in, which couldn't have helped any) so perhaps it wouldn't seem so bad to me now.

Still, among the many things that bothered me, there was one, seemingly insignificant detail that's bugged me to this day: there's this scene, y'see, one ostensibly taking place in Texas, where several young children are being menaced by the escaped Phantom Zone criminals. Not unexpectedly, they run away, screaming for their parents. What immediately took me out of the movie, though, was the fact that these little urchins--Texans, remember--called out "Daddy! Daddy!" in British accents thicker than the ones found in any "Harry Potter" flick!! I mean, I knew full well a lot of the movie had been filmed in England on a soundstage, but I didn't need to be so blatantly--and sloppily--reminded of that fact!! Richard Lester plus Beatles equals "good"! Richard Lester plus Superman equals "bad, very bad"...

Which has nothing to do with the FF movie, I know, but sometimes you just gotta vent, y'know? Thanks for the opportunity, Charles...

Speaking of fanciful scenarios for the Four on film, well, you can always read Noah Smith's screenplay treatment...

Lastly, Tim Davis, a man with far better eyes than I, writes to inform me that the tattoo that I scrawled on the arm of illustrator Albert Dorne (AND the back cover of my no longer mint copy of FANTASTIC FOUR #20) reads, er, "burp".

THAT level of humor sounds about right, considering I was ten years old at the time.

The only question remaining is, what's my excuse NOW?

Feel free to write if you have the answer, ANY answer...
July 22nd, 2005
Over the years, I've heard plenty of dubious information spread about popular recording artists--sometimes by people who really should know better, but usually by folks who SHOULDN'T, if you follow me...

Back in 1971, Olivia Newton-John had her first modest Top Forty success with a version of Bob Dylan's "If Not For You", a tune found on Dylan's then-recent "New Morning" LP (and also covered by George Harrison on his epic "All Things Must Pass" collection). The record only made it to number 25, and it would in fact be over two years before her long string of blockbuster hits would begin in earnest, so it was understandable if a lot of people didn't know just WHO exactly this young Australian singer was.

Well, MOST people--there was one disc jockey who apparently knew EXACTLY who she was:

Mrs. Bob Dylan.
...the happy couple?...
Hey, that's what he told his listening audience after spinning her pleasant if innocuous little take on one of the Zim's most pleasant if innocuous little tunes! If one piddly cover version somehow wins you a wedding ring from the inscrutable Dylan, what then of Joan Baez or Judy Collins? They got gypped!! It sounded bogus to me right from the get go--as it turned out to be, natch-- but it disturbed me to realize that I, lowly teen-aged music fan that I was, somehow knew more about what was going on in the biz than the professionals mindlessly blathering misinformation over the airwaves!

Conversely, it didn't disturb me overmuch--merely wryly amused me--when I heard wacky uniformed theories sprouting from misguided acquaintances. Like that time back during the late seventies when I was working at a small gas station, sitting in a booth, taking customer's money. My manager was a guy named Terry, who was a few years younger than I was. Nice enough guy (except for maybe the way the whole thing ended between us, but that's, as they say, ANOTHER story...), but we really didn't have much in common. Still and all, that didn't stop him from coming in the booth and chatting away on numerous occasions. I'll never forget one such time when the topic turned to Disco Diva, Donna Summer, then at the very height of her popularity with hits like "Hot Stuff" and "Bad Girls". According to Terry, he'd recently seen the singer sitting on the couch of "The Merv Griffin Show" (or maybe it was "The Mike Douglas Program"...), and easily the most startling confession she'd made to the host that day was this:

She'd once been a HE!
Love to love you...MISTER?...
That's right--Donna Summer had had a sex-change operation! At least, that's the story my erstwhile boss was selling, and as much as I tried to gently point out how ridiculous it sounded, he held on tight, and insisted that that was indeed what "she" had old Merv (or Mike).

Never heard anything more about the issue in the decades since. Maybe we should consult an expert--like Eddie Murphy?...

This all came to mind the other night when I was talking to my daughter, Julie. Still deep into her Pink Floyd phrase, she asked me if I'd ever heard of BLUE Floyd?

Blue Cheer, sure, Blue Oyster Cult, uh huh, even the Blues Magoos, but no Blue Floyd--sorry. WHO, I dared to ask, was Blue Floyd?

Well, according to a fellow Floyd enthusiast she'd met during her two week tenure at the art camp she's currently involved with, Blue Floyd was what Pink Floyd called themselves after Roger Waters left the other three members to go out on his own in the early eighties! WHY Blue Floyd? Because the abandoned trio, carrying on bereft of Waters, were so SAD to lose him!! (Plus, Waters is/are blue, to stretch a point)

Now, I'm no expert on the Floyd (though, not surprisingly, I'm listening to them far more than ever these days--AND enjoying it more than I would've expected, too), but from what little I've read, NOBODY shed any tears to see Waters go! If he hadn't left, as best I understand it, things might well have come to the shedding not of tears but of BLOOD!

Blue Floyd?

Gee, maybe they'll go out on a package tour with Mrs. Dylan and Mr. Summer...
July 21st, 2005
I may not've been at the recent San Diego Comics Convention in body, but I WAS there in spirit...
Much thanks to Jim Salicrup for sending along these photos of unquestionably the Best Dressed Fan at the entire, sprawling event!

Now, Jim, if you happen to know this fashion trendsetter's name, please clue me in. I have scads of "Fred Hembeck Destroys The Marvel Universe" Underoos I've been saving for just the right occasion. And I ask you--what better to go with a "Fantastic Four Roast" sweatshirt, hmm?

(Um, besides a bulky jacket, zipped all the way up to the collar, I mean?...)
July 20th, 2005
Today at IGN Comics, episode 19 of The Fred Hembeck Show. While you'll find no pictures here at the blog, look over there for several new illos by yours truly in our latest installment! It's a wacky makeover segment! Go!

Peter Sanderson's 93rd edition of Comics In Context takes on the new Fantastic Four movie, and turns out he didn't care for it nearly as much as I did. In the time since I posted my own take last week, I've had the opportunity to go back and read quite a few other reviews, and can certainly understand many of the points made by folks (like Peter) who weren't as enamored of the flick as I was. Yes, maybe I made it out to be a far better film than it actually is, but the two keys to my enjoyment are simple enough: I expected it to be just plain awful, and it wasn't; and it made me laugh out loud--and more than once. Up until the day before we went to see it, I wasn't certain I even wanted to. It was noticing several bloggers boldly declare, "Relax, it's not a disaster" that peaked my interest and made me change my plans of attending a showing of "Batman Begins" instead. I'm glad I did. As for the laughing part, how can you NOT have a good feeling towards something that elicits that sort of reaction ? Yeah, Dr. Doom was all wrong, Reed was bit more ineffectual than people may've been prepared to handle, Sue was crankier than expected, and there was no real story--but I LIKED it!! Low expectations and some solid laughs--that was the key to MY enjoyment of the FF movie!!

Jeopardy Part 8 by Roger Green--good luck, fella!

I know I just posted 80 (!) new links the other day, but now I discover blogs by Mark Burbey, Ethan Van Sciver, and Rags Morales--plus the debut of Millarworld: The Magazine. Sigh. A link-lister's work is never done, apparently...

Lastly, Mark Evanier recounts the horrifying tale of George Caragonne. George (who I never met) was a fellow who made the unlikely transition of writing for Marvel's kid-friendly Star Comics line to creating, editing, and writing the definitely more adult oriented Penthouse Comics. It didn't turn out to be a positive move. I've never encountered the story Mark tells in print before, but I'd heard pretty much the very same version of it from friends in the business back when it happened ten years ago. It's not a pretty story by any means, but it is a sobering one...
July 19th, 2005
I recieved some sad news earlier this morning--Jim Aparo passed away last evening.

Terry Austin called me not long after Spencer Beck (art representative for many artists, including both Terry and Jim) had informed him of the situation. A month short of 73, the cartoonist died peacefully at home amongst his family after an illness, but I really don't know any other details.

I DO know I became an instant fan of the man after seeing his work appear in many Charlton publications in the late sixties. He was the master of the back-up feature, producing "Thane of Bagarth" for HERCULES, "Wander" for CHEYENNE KID, "Nightshade" for CAPTAIN ATOM, "The Prankster " for THUNDERBOLT, "Miss Bikini Luv" for GO-GO, "Tiffany Sin" for SARGE STEEL, and dozens of wonderful short stories for GHOSTLY TALES, THE MANY GHOSTS OF DR. GRAVES, and STRANGE SUSPENSE STORIES.

When Charlton editor Dick Giordano went over to DC Comics not long after, he very wisely brought Mr. Aparo along with him, and the artist provided the pages of BRAVE AND THE BOLD, BATMAN, THE OUTSIDERS, The Spectre in ADVENTURE COMICS, AQUAMAN, and THE PHANTOM STRANGER (ESPECIALLY THE PHANTOM STRANGER!!...) with reliably magnificent artwork, month in and month out. And unlike the norm in this assembly line designed business, up until the last few years of his distinguished career, he not only inked his own work, but lettered it all as well. I'm not going out on a limb here by saying his calligraphy easily matched that of the specialists, having the added advantage of being designed to work hand in hand with his illustrations.

I never met Jim Aparo, but odds are pretty good that I own just about every comic book he ever had any work published in. While his work for DC was always a joy, the fan-boy in me always regrets that he never handled a book like the JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA (or ever got a shot at ANY of the Marvel characters), as he was one of those rare artists who, whenever they drew a character, it immediately looked to be THE definitive version, and it sure would've been nice to have seen his take on DC's "A" listers, all gathered around together, battling some improbable menace. Ah well...

That said, I'll have to reserve the warmest spot in my heart for Aparo's Charlton work. Someday soon, I hope to take a closer look at these mostly neglected gems, but for now, just take a peek at this splash from the pages of STRANGE SUSPENSE STORIES #2 (July 1968)...
"A man walks into an office"--and as dull as that may sound in my terse description, I've LOVED that splash page ever since I first saw it, and have never gotten the image out of my mind! Maybe it was the dramatic title logo (I TOLD you he was good), or maybe it was the way the protagonist stands in the doorway, against an indeterminate background, with a flurry of shading techniques accentuating his pose. Or maybe it just the magic that Jim Aparo regularly put down on paper...

Jim Aparo was a tremendous talent, and I miss him already.
July 18th, 2005
Big Anvil.



Long Rifle.

Do these names mean ANYTHING to anybody out there?

Doubtful. I'D even forgotten them until, out of idle curiosity, I paged through my modest collection of mid-sixties issues of TOMAHAWK.

Yes, friends, the gents with the colorful nicknames listed above were several of the more noteworthy members of Tomahawk's Rangers, a group introduced in the December 1962 issue of TOMAHAWK (#83) as "The G.I.s of 1775!". I hadn't cracked open a copy of DC's Frontier Fighter's mag in decades, and it had been just that long--if not longer--since the name "Big Anvil" had found its way into my thoughts.But now that it's firmly stuck there once again, I thought I'd share with you the following special pin-up artist Fred Ray included in the 100th anniversary issue of TOMAHAWK (October 1965)...
(The cover story for that issue featured the enduring star of the series being turned into a giant water creature! Hey, Spider-Man gained some extra arms for HIS hundredth issue, so why not, huh?...)

Murray Boltinoff was the editor who initiated the Rangers, and he used them so regularly afterward that even the occasional solo story featuring Tomahawk was rare as the book wound its way toward inevitable late-sixties cancellation. Murray maintained an interesting editorial voice in his book's letters pages. Sounding neither as condescending as Mort Weisinger, as egotistical as Bob Kanigher, or as serious as Julie Schwartz--but with a lot more personality than either Jack Schiff or George Kashdan--one almost gets the impression that Boltinoff is trying his level best to relate to his readers in much the same manner Stan Lee made seem so effortless in the many Marvel books of the day. But try as he might to give the comics readers what he thought they wanted, there WERE times when he betrayed just a little bit of testiness with the more demanding fans of the era. To wit, a letter from Gary Skinner appearing in TOMAHAWK #121 (April 1968) asking politely--and not unreasonably--if scribes Bill Finger and France Herron would care to share the actual first names of the Rangers, the majority of whom, even six years after their debuts, had nary but their nicknames to their, um, names. Gary figured such details might increase reader identification.

Murray didn't quite see it that way:

"Sometimes we've deliberately omitted names when they're unnecessary in order to avoid crowding our readers minds. Frankly, would it make any difference if you knew Long Rifle's or Kaintuck's fist names? But we're making a note of it and will try to include their full names some time in the future.-Ed."

Insert a big sigh just before that last sentence.

Clearly, Murray would've been the WRONG guy to oversee the WHO'S WHO OF THE DC UNIVERSE a few decades on, don'tcha think?...

Didn't much matter. Issue 140 was the last, and the previous ten had been renamed SON OF TOMAHAWK, accelerating the series by a score of years, with the buck-skinned star suitably winding down his time in the title comfortably in his golden years. Far as I know, we never DID discover what Kaintuck's first name actually was..

(Rumor has it there WAS a story concerning how Long Rifle got HIS colorfully descriptive appellation, but since it had nothing to do with firearms and everything to do with the ladies, well, DC wisely chose NOT to publish it! The sixties weren't THAT swinging, after all...)

I'd tell you more, but I'd prefer to avoid crowding your minds!
July 17th, 2005
80 new links added, all designated with an **. You know how to get there--go look.

That's all for now.
July 16th, 2005
Yet further evidence that I'll never, ever get top dollar for the now-pricey Silver Age classics I bought off the newsstand...
"He's looking for people who like to draw"--but he probably WASN'T looking for people who like to draw ON him!!...

That's the once omnipresent Albert Dorne ("probably the greatest money-maker in the history of commercial art", or so the accompanying text would have us believe), whose Abe Vigoda-like visage graced ads for Famous Artists Schools on the back covers of countless comics back in the sixties. When I pulled out my copy of FANTASTIC FOUR #20 (November, 1963, nestled back to back in a cheap plastic bag with issue number 19) in need of a scan yesterday, I was bemused to see my childish--and misguided--handiwork.

I don't have any illusions that my status as a cartoonist of meager renown doodling on this ad would increase the price of the book any. Now, had it been Frazetta who'd taken a ballpoint to Dorne, that'd be a WHOLE different story! Although I sure bet Albert would look pretty doggone peculiar with a pair of voluptuous breasts appended to his mildly slumped torso!...

(And no, I can't figure out what it says on ol' Al's forearm either. I suppose I could've enlarged the scan, but maybe it's best some things remain a mystery. Y'know--like the appeal of watching people play cards on TV...)
July 15th, 2005
Earlier, over in Robby Reed's graphically scrumptious Dial B For Blog, we were treated to a series of alternate FANTASTIC FOUR covers done by the amazing Jack Kirby that were, for one reason or another, never used, only turning up years later as historical footnotes.

As always, nice job, Robby--but you missed one...
Okay, okay--so that's not the REAL alternate version of FF#20. The only time I ever saw what was apparently the King's initial attempt at dramatizing the Molecule Man's debut appeared in an early issue of TwoMorrows fine JACK KIRBY COLLECTOR magazine--and since it was printed as the centerfold and was only in pencil to boot, it's size alone rendered it beyond the capabilities of my scanner, so I'm afraid I won't be able to share it with you here .

(Obviously, you can see the final printed product over to the side there.)
Intrigued by the rare find, I took it upon myself to cobble up a piece of finished art based on Kirby's pencils (and adorable Artie Simek's lettering, natch) and used it as part of a "Dateline:@#$!" that ran in the CBG several years ago. While not a true alternate--can we call it a hysterical footnote? No? Okay--I present it merely to augment Robby's good work. (To be totally honest, I never much cared for the FF#20 cover as published--for one thing, I don't really want to see the the backsides of our cosmic quartet (well, except for maybe Sue...) (...sorry...)--and sorta prefer the rejected version instead. And hey--how often did Alicia get cover time, anyway?...)

On a totally unrelated topic, I realize the latest Harry Potter novel is being released today. While I haven't been one to follow the series--save for lazily watching each of the films on DVD--Lynn has been happily reading them, and fully intends to crack open the latest one right quick. Suppose I should ask her about this interesting rumor I'd heard, that each book is somehow analogous to a different Beatles album: "Sorcerer’s Stone" is based on "Sgt. Pepper" and "Goblet of Fire" is based on "Magical Mystery Tour", and so on and so forth.

Folks, if they ever get to a "Harry Potter--Naked", well, maybe THEN I'll start reading, too!...
July 14th, 2005
Big day for our French friends today--and it was certainly a big day back in my high school days when I dug this long neglected issue of CLASSICS ILLUSTRATED out of mothballs to help me score a good grade on a book report! That was the one and only time I tried that trick--honest--and this Dickens of an adaptation (drawn by Joe Orlando, renowned EC Comics, METAMORPHO, and Giant-Man artist) ensured that my clueless English teacher would have to mark my paper, "Viva Hembeck!!"

Or something like that...
Today is also the 92nd birthday of Gerald Ford, last surviving member of the Warren Commission, one-time Presidential temp, and, as the photo about might indicate, nowhere near front of the line to become the ever mythical fifth Beatle!

Oh, and one other thing...

Today is Lynn's birthday, too.

Happy birthday, sweetie! It's been my extreme pleasure to spend another year by your side, and here's to many more! Smooches!

(That low key enough for you, hon? You DID say I shouldn't make a big deal about things and like, y'know, lose my head, right? Hope I did good?...)

And now, LET US EAT CAKE!!
July 13th, 2005
Several weeks ago, I wrote up a little something about Marvel's Pussycat for the 14th Episode of The Fred Hembeck Show. Much to my surprise, this brief overview of the intrepid agent of S.C.O.R.E., um, aroused a lot of interest from you folks out there.

Amongst those calling to, ah, see more of Pussycat was cartoonist Ronn Sutton. Ronn's a Canadian artist who's had a long career putting pictures in panels, most recently--and currently--pencilling many stories for Claypool's ELVIRA series, but who I'll always fondly recall for his nifty illo on the cover of the very first of the legendary Olshevsky Marvel Indexes, way back in 1976.
It's not like his action-packed tableau pitting the Webhead against two of his greatest foes is a mere memory either, as I ALWAYS have the complete set of these indispensable reference works nearby. After all, you think I can call up the issue number of the TALES TO ASTONISH featuring Leon Lazarus's sole contribution to the Marvel Universe merely from memory? Hah! Having these books around sure saves me the time and effort of continually going downstairs and rooting through box upon box of old, yellowing comics, people! So when Ronn asked me, as a favor, to please send him scans of the first story in the 1968 B&W PUSSYCAT compilation, the sole episode drawn by the celebrated Wally Wood, how could I turn him down?...

But then I got to thinking--why should Ronn be the only one to have any fun? No offense, pal, I'm thinking, but why not share the fruits of my labors with the whole world wide web--or at least, the two dozen or so of you who stop by on an irregular basis when you really should be doing something else? Huh? Why not indeed?

Happily enough, we even have the proper little corner of the site in which to house this rare story: at the bottom of our catch-all "More" contents page, you'll find a section called "Stuff I Had NOTHING To Do With". While the title is pretty self-explanatory, let me additionally point out that the material I post there that ISN'T in the public domain (like this Pussycat strip) is presented, first off, for historical purposes only, and with no financial incentive in mind. Plus, I try to be judicious in my selections, picking stuff that, in my semi-expert opinion, has little if any likelyhood of EVER being reprinted. But, oh mighty masters who currently hold the reins to the vast Marvel Comics Empire, should you for some reason object--perhaps that ESSENTIAL PUSSYCAT collection is soon to become a reality after all?--just let me know, and I'll gladly remove the episode, okay?

In the meantime, enjoy, Ronn! And you other 23 as well...

( And check out Ronn Sutton's website when you're done--the REST of you, I mean. I think Ronn's already seen it...)
July 12th, 2005
I saw it!

I REALLY saw it! Me--a guy who almost never goes to the movies! I saw the "Fantastic Four" movie Sunday afternoon! And I'm gonna tell you ALL about it--

--over at the FANTASTIC 18th episode of The Fred Hembeck Show at the IGN Comics website!

(Hey, what can I tell you--it's that time of the week, y'know?...)
Peter Sanderson's 92nd Comics In Context continues my IGN colleague's exhaustive analysis of "Sin City" (which, incidentally, was the LAST movie that got me out of the house). Friend Pete is, even now, luxuriating out in the sunny climes of San Diego, awaiting the onset of this year's big con. I can't help but admit to feeling a bit of mischievous glee at the notion that, on THIS film at least, I scooped him!! Of course, since my feature is regularly posted on Tuesday evening's, and his on Friday's, I could--barring the odd sneak preview screened for the metropolitan cognoscenti--beat him to the punch on nearly EVERY key cinematic release!

But don't worry, Mr. S--I only ever make it out to about three movies a year anyway, so you're relatively safe. But I gotcha on THIS one! Hee hee...


Do you know who Pat Brady was? Roger Green does. Ask Alex Trebek--he'll verify it. Or just read Jeopardy part 7...

A lot of other people went to see "Fantastic Four" besides me: Mike Sterling, Nik Dirga, Joanna Draper Carlson, Gary Sassaman, Laura Gjovaag, Noah Smith (scroll down), Roger Ebert, Joel Siegel (via Christopher Priest), Dorian Wright, Tom Peyer, Rick Jones, Peter David, Mike Chary, Mike Norton, Tony Collett, Heidi MacDonald, and of course, Robby Reed!! My apologies to anyone I may've missed. There's a wide range of opinion to be found in these reviews, but if you'd be so kind, go read mine first--it's the one that's right!! (Just kidding--about the last part, anyway. DO go read mine first. Then come back and have fun with all the rest, okay?)

And since I'm getting real tired of linking about now, thank heavens for Greg Burgas!

Flame off!
July 11th, 2005
Quiet day.

Julie began two weeks of an art oriented day camp earlier today. Since we signed up a bit too late to get her into the class concentrating on drawing and painting, she had to settle for a photography major. Happily, she's nearly as interested in that as she is in drawing, so she's content. She attended a week's worth of this camp last year and really enjoyed it. Of course, she had been getting mighty used to sleeping in late on these lazy summer days, and now that's sudedenly come to a screeching halt, at least for the next couple of weeks, but you gotta take the good with bad, don'tcha?...

Me? Well, I'm using my time wisely--despite the sweltering temps--working on some stuff you'll see as soon as tomorrow, and some I hope to share with you in the months ahead.

Now, shhh--Starman and Larry Lance don't want anybody but James Robinson to know it was actually the two of THEM who were clandestinely having an affair between the panels of those mid-sixties BRAVE AND THE BOLD team-ups, not, as falsely revealed decades later, Starman and the Black Canary!

Hey, even straight guys have a hard time resisting a fella with a fin on his head, y'know? Not to mention a cosmic rod ever at the ready...
July 10th, 2005
Like a lot of other people associated with the comics community, I was shocked and saddened earlier today to learn of the tragic and untimely passing of Byron Preiss.

In all the years he was putting together one graphically exciting project after another--whether it be about dinosaurs, outer space topics, classic movie monsters, or even The Beach Boys--I always knew that when I saw the name Byron Preiss on the cover, the interior product would invariably be one of the highest quality.
I'll never forget his series of WEIRD HEROES anthologies that commenced back in 1975. I'd never been near as excited about a line of paperbacks as I was of this wonderfully appealing combination of comic book wordsmiths and established sf vets, each of whom had their original short stories beautifully illustrated by some of the most talented cartoonists of the era. Among those artists--and aligned with Preiss many a time thereafter as well--was the justly celebrated Jim Steranko.

I never met Byron Preiss. Somehow, we never quite managed to cross paths during the past three decades. But despite that, I've been well aware of the man's good work for so long a time, I almost feel I did know him. And I guess that's reason enough to feel such a loss upon hearing of his unfortunate death in a car accident at the all too early age of 52.

For a far more detailed listing of the man's accomplishment's--as well as some heart felt reflections--I direct you towards this piece by the aforementioned Jim Steranko. Let me just add my sincere condolences to what is certain to be an ever growing chorus, and wish his wife and children the best in the trying days ahead. Byron Preiss will be missed.
July 9th, 2005
So there was Julie, talking very excitedly about a book she had just started reading. "Sophie's World" by Jostein Gaarder is one of a pair of novels assigned to her as summer reading, and as she went on and on about it, she kept referring to someone called "Sew-crats". It took us a few seconds, but Lynn and I soon realized that she was talking about Socrates! Considering it says "A Novel About The History Of Philosophy" directly under the book's title, this shouldn't have come as much of a surprise.

I'll get back to you when she reaches the chapter on Nietzsche...

(I suppose, in fairness, I should share MY own most embarrassing moment with mispronunciation. It occurred in my ninth grade English class, when it came my turn to read out loud from some forgettable story or another included in our text. I considered myself fairly well read and possessing a relatively decent vocabulary by that point, but as I was verbalizing this cold--and not really listening to what I was saying very closely anyway--I suddenly encountered a word that looked totally unfamiliar. I didn't hesitate, though--I just plunged ahead and gave it my best shot, phonetically.

What I said was "man-your"...

What the word actually was was "manure"!

Hey, pardon me, but back in those days, I read a LOT of comics, but somehow, circa 1968, the word "manure" had failed to turn up in a single one of them!

Of course, in the years since, I've read a bunch of Vertigo books, most of which featured the word "manure"--or at least, a, um, variation thereof...

(No, no one corrected me during the actual reading of the piece back there in high school, though I did notice a mild smirk from my teacher and some muffled snickering from nearby desks. Afterwards, several of my buddies were more than happy to inform me of my faux pas, and in fact, one fellow in particular brought up "man-your" at every possible opportunity over the following three years. Which is--thank you, Greg--one reason why I remember it all so clearly to this very day...)

So, Julie sweetie, in that spirit, expect to hear a bit more about friend Sew-crats in the days, months, even years ahead, okay? But don't let it bother you none--after all, you know full well that, more times than I'd care to admit, your dad's full of man-your--WAY full!!...
July 8th, 2005
Here at this blog, we talk about comics, we talk about pop music, we talk about movies and TV. Sometimes, we even indulge in some self-absorbed chatter about the Hembeck family. We can make a decent case for possessing a certain amount of expertise regarding each of these less than earth shattering topics.

But terrorism? What can we possibly say about THAT?

Those poor, poor people in London--one day, they're celebrating becoming the surprise choice for the 2012 Olympics, and the next day, they're suffering from an infinitely less pleasant series of surprises. My heart goes out to all the innocent victims, their families, and their countrymen.

People killing other people. It's been going on since the beginning of what we laughingly call civilization, and there's surely no indication that it's going stop anytime soon. And given the evidence of events that have already occurred in this bright, shiny new century of ours, there apparently needn't be any true rhyme nor reason for such wanton acts of inhumane destruction--

--except maybe to get our attention.

Well, they've got it. Again.

What to do about it? Hey, look, I know about the comics, the music, the video, my daughter--I DON'T, however, have any solutions regarding the problem of global terrorism. Would that I did. I just know that, like any sane person, I don't like it. I don't like it at all. But not liking it doesn't mean there's any choice of dealing with it, because there isn't. It's here. We can only hope that, statistically speaking, future attacks are few and far between, with, as in London, minimal casualties.

Not that that's any solace to the loved ones of the English citizens who lost their lives yesterday, of course.


Look, tomorrow, we'll go back to talking about the topics we know best. Trivial stuff to be sure, but, silly as it may sound, we NEED trivial stuff in times like this--at least, upon occasion.

Otherwise, we all might just as well surrender to the fear right now, and I really don't think we want to do that, do we?..
July 7th, 2005
Happy 65th Birthday, Ringo Starr!
July 6th, 2005
I don't know about you, but when I see a panel like the one above, drawn by the criminally unheralded Harry Lucey for a 1972 ARCHIE comic (#222), it inspires me to only one thing:


And that's just what you'll find in the 17th cultured episode of The Fred Hembeck Show over at the IGN Comics website. And if you're not overly fond of rhymes, a reason to visit might be the accompanying illos!

While in attendance, visit Peter Sanderson's latest Comics In Context, the subject of which this time out is Japanese animator Hayao Miyazaki's recently released "Howl's Moving Castle" film.

Jeopardy, installment 6 from Roger Green. Five seconds to air!...

More delightful DUNC AND LOO comics posted by Chance Fiveash over at his Last Of The Spinner Rack Junkies site. This largely forgotten John Stanley series packs more bona fide laughs per page than most ostensibly humorous comics managed in a years worth of issues! I absolutely LOVE this stuff!

Another week, another new comics blog--or six. I really must update my links soon--it's been awhile, I know, I know--but in the meantime, take a look at Nobody Laughs At Mr. Fish. Written by a fellow with the rather unlikely moniker of Disintegrating Clone (Mr and Mrs. Clone must be SO proud of their little boy's blog...), I nonetheless found some nicely written reviews of several recent comics, particularly his take on the recent Spider-Man/Gwen Stacy/Green Goblin revisionistic epic that--sorry, Jim Salicrup--just sounds totally unappealing to me, even though I've never actually read it. But now I don't HAVE to--D.C. did it for me!! (By the way, nice initials, fella...)

Links, links, LINKS!! You say you want MORE links? Greg Burgas will GIVE you more links! Trust me--there's something in there for everyone! So go look, okay?

We're finished here!
July 5th, 2005
I watched "Scarface" the other night, carrying on a long family tradition...

When I was growing up, my dad seemed to be inordinately fascinated with the then popular "Untouchables" TV program, as well as any and all classic gangster films from (primarily) the thirties, then getting ample late-night television exposure. He never cared much for horror films, even the seminal Universal series, and he assiduously avoided war movies entirely, but crime scenarios were a whole 'nother deal.

(Born in 1902, he immigrated to this country from his native Germany in the early 1920s, landing in one of the larger New Jersey burgs. A quiet man who kept his feelings to himself, it never even occurred to me until after his passing in 1987 that maybe--just maybe--he somehow got himself mixed up in the ever prevalent bootlegging business that helped make the twenties roar! Given my dad's placid personality, I'm doubting highly that he ever wielded a tommy gun, but driving some delivery truck from speakeasy to speakeasy? Maybe. After all, he was a young guy just off the boat (literally) during America's dry decade--just the sorta lower echelon help these booze bosses could easily exploit for their own purposes. Or maybe dad just got a kick out of watching Bogart, Cagney, Raft and the rest simply because it reminded him of his younger days--it's a little late to get any definitive answers now, I'm afraid. Never too late to speculate, though...)

Naturally, as a kid, I'd watch these movies right along with him. Many decades would then pass before I'd bother to revisit most of them, but unfailingly, upon these latter day screenings, I'd suddenly recognize several moments of abject cinematic fear that had been long buried deep in the nether regions of my subconscious, the palpable sense of dread I felt watching them when my age was still registering in the single digits instantly flooding back. It happened last year when I viewed Jimmy Cagney's "Public Enemy", and it happened again when I ran "Scarface" through the VCR...

Let's make this clear--I'm talking about the original version, the one filmed by director Howard Hawks in 1930 (before both "Little Caesar" and "Public Enemy") but due to battling with censors over its hitherto unprecedented violent content, not released until a full two years later. Fact is, according to more than one source on the web, I discovered that, after the film's initial release, eccentric producer, Howard Hughes, withdrew the picture from release entirely until 1979, but I still insist that I must've seen this SOMEHOW as a child back in the early sixties, as certain moments resonated with a chilling familiarity. I've never seen the latter day Al Pacino/Brian De Palma version, nor, frankly, do I have any interest in doing so--my tolerance for the over the top mayhem found in contemporary films is exceedingly low--but the self-same subject matter, couched in the historical context of an early talkie, well, THAT gets my attention, plain and simple! And it doesn't hurt that this Paul Muni starrer is widely considered a classic--and justifiably so.

"Scarface" is the story of Tony Camonte, a small time thug with big ideas, who goes from bodyguard to an old-time mob boss (one he casually rubs out in a darkly effective opening sequence, told almost entirely through shadows, eerily foreboding whistling, and, finally, the punctuating sound of gunshots), to personal enforcer and de facto second in command to the gang's new leader, before, ultimately, graduating to the top-spot himself. Not that he gets to enjoy the position himself all that long, mind you...

Muni, a highly celebrated actor of his day, but one whose work I'm generally unfamiliar with, was every bit as good as I've been led to believe. Playing Tony with a simian like gait, his multitude of hand gestures and quick--and occasionally threatening--smile makes it hard to take your eyes off him. Truly, there's nothing to admire here, but still, the viewer can't help but be fascinated by his performance a this loosely based Al Capone analog.

What happens? Well, there's a whole lotta shooting, there's Tony's creepy quasi-incestuous obsession with his younger sister (Ann Dvorak), there's coin-flipping sidekick George Raft, and--did I somehow fail to mention it?--there's a whole LOTTA shooting, but hey, I'm not gonna recount the whole plot for you, just those few moments of quiet brutality that left such an impression on me, the ones that I alluded to earlier.

One concerns a rival mob boss played by Boris Karloff. In a plot turn brazenly swiped from the real-life infamous St.Valentine's Day Massacre (criminal big-wigs lined up against a wall on February 14th by what they believe to be legitimate policeman, only to be mercilessly gunned by their rivals, who are playing a very, very deadly game of dress-up), Karloff, having missed being included in the mass execution merely by chance, is shortly thereafter taken to the scene of the crime by some bona fide cops, and the look of utter horror and helplessness playing across the face of the man who would be The Monster was as terrifying a moment as Karloff would have, under layers of brilliantly dehumanizing make-up, in "Frankenstein". Gee--who knew the guy could get so spooked?...

The other moment comes later in the film. Having all but usurped the rule of head man Johnny Lovo (played by Osgood Perkins, father of Tony--the trivia you can learn on the Internet! Just plain amazing!), Tony's about to take Poppy, his alleged bosses' high class mistress, away from him too, which is apparently the final straw for the beaten down Lovo. He orders a hit on his erstwhile associate, but when Tony survives the attempt, he sets up a trap to find out whether or not Johnny was responsible. Disheveled, he shows up with buddy Raft in Lovo's office in the middle of the night. His employer acts--key word, "acts"--convincingly concerned for Tony's welfare, everyone agreeing a rival mob must've been behind the attempt to rub out Camonte.

And then the phone rings...

Watching closely as Lovo reacts to the message that Tony had one of his own associates call in at just that precise time--"This is one of the guys you hired to knock off Camonte. He got away..."--the gangster correctly gauges the truth of the situation as his would-be executioner attempts to brush off the call as a wrong number, coolly pretending not to hear the damning words Tony clearly knows are being spoken on the other end of the line. When Johnny hangs up, and looks over at Tony, Camonte's entire demeanor has changed, and he soon begins to whistle the funereal tune we heard in the film's opening moments. Slowly, agonizingly, the unavoidable realization that TONY KNOWS WHAT HE DID comes over the jittery, simpering crime boss, and soon, he's begging for his life, even though he's no doubt well aware his words are wasted on someone like Tony Camonte.

(There's a strikingly similar scene in "Public Enemy" in which Jimmy Cagney and his boyhood pal confront the man who'd gotten them started in their lives of crime, only to later betray them--and it ends pretty much the same way, too...)

There's something about these confrontations that I find excruciatingly emotional, as these men, doomed by their own actions, are toyed with by the instruments of their destructions as we viewers watch, sharing with them their visible fear as they cower in the shadow of their demise, however righteous though it may be. If anything, I learned early on, NEVER be a rat! Especially if you hang around with any guys nicknamed "Scarface"!...

75 years after it wrapped, the film still maintains its power. Bear in mind, a preachy scene inserted midway through, set in a publisher's office and amounting to the general public airing their concerns about mob violence, WASN'T directed by Hawks, but jammed in after the fact as a sop to the censors' concerns. There's even an alternate ending (which I haven't seen), which has Tony captured, tried, and hanged--all under a hood, presumably worn by someone other than Mr. Muni--rather than meeting his end in an explosive torrent of bullets, as the filmmakers clearly intended.

Even the comic relief--Vince Barnett as a funny looking, mentally deficient, illiterate gun-toting thug who serves as Tony's secretary, and has trouble merely answering the phone--is memorably creepy. Then there's this whole cool thing going on with "X" symbology foretelling each death that I didn't even pick up on originally--I have trouble with the obvious at times--that would've made it even more interesting, had I but known. Maybe next time...

So, if you ever get the chance, I'd recommend you take in a showing of "Scarface". It's a true classic of its genre, and highly entertaining in its own right.

(And if my dad were still around, I'm sure he'd agree...)
JULY 4th, 2005!!
It's the nation's birthday--have a happy and safe Independence Day everyone!

(But never, EVER try and throw a surprise party for Captain America--as you can plainly see, the poor guy just doesn't know how to handle all that fun, y'know?...)
July 3rd, 2005
Yesterday, daughter Julie finally did something she'd been promising to do since vacation started--clean her room. That may not seem like such a big deal, but considering that I'm talking about CHRISTMAS vacation, it's quite the relief, lemme tell ya!...

(The breaking point may've come in the middle of last week, when a friend she hadn't seen in a long time came over for the day. There was a clearly audible gasp from Chelsea when she first entered Julie's room, doing her level best to maneuver through the amassed debris to get to that new-fangled shrine of teenagers everywhere, the laptop.)

During the course of her room's much needed overhaul (by no means completely done, but a vast improvement nonetheless), an era finally came to an end with a whimper, not a "Wooo": ALL the many Michael Jackson posters came down, once and for all. Carefully rolled up and tucked away with an even older--and larger--Beanie Babies poster, her now bare walls await some suitable visual depictions of the recipients of her latest obsession, Pink Floyd.

It appears her time spent with the Jefferson Airplane and their seminal "Surrealistic Pillow" recording was a mere melodic dalliance, but my nearly 15 year old's fascination with the British prog-rockers is the real thing. For weeks now, a constant repetition of "Dark Side Of The Moon" (whose iconic cover, she just last week bought a tee-shirt of),"Wish You Were Here","Meddle", the greatest hits "Echoes", and "Animals" (her favorite) have been heard wafting down the hallway--and she still hasn't even gotten to "The Wall" yet, much less such lesser-known oddities as "Atom Heart Mother", "Umma Gumma", and the "Zabriskie Point" soundtrack. So, when I casually mentioned that the group was reuniting for the first time since 1981 to play Live 8 that very afternoon, she suddenly got very excited, and literally demanded I pop a tape in so as to capture the magic moment forever.

Well, I did--but mostly I captured the "magic" of commercials, vee-jays starting up their spiels mid-tune, and a dizzying set of clips from several international locations, mostly shown out of sequence on tape, with the occasional live broadcast tossed in for acts deemed most important. Like, as it turned out, the Floyd.

I'd planned on ignoring the whole affair due to rightly suspecting the network would employ such tactics as cutting to commercial during the climactic synthesizer solo of The Who's "Won't Get Fooled Again" and the like being the dreary order of the day, but apparently, given he significance of the gig, VH1 actually allowed viewers to enjoy most of the reunited groups four song set, waiting only until near the end of "Comfortably Numb" to switch back to mindless host chatter, and then yet another commercial, thus never quite letting viewers in on the heart warming communal bow pictured above.

Regardless, it was interesting to see my daughter get a glimpse, for the very first time, of what has been, throughout their long history, a mostly faceless group. I wasn't sure if this was gonna kill it for her--after all, these guys are OLDER than even her father!! And lead singer David Gilmour in particular looked it. But no--she grooved on the familiar loping rhythms, the long, studied build-up to their timelessly downbeat lyrics, and went away impressed, if hardly smitten in the same mysterious manner Jacko held her under his sway for nearly two years. (Ultimately, she DID stop, when she got enough...)

Myself, I continued to watch on and off, waiting for the big finale with my main man Macca. After seeing a tape of the opening "Sgt. Pepper" number from earlier in the day (accompanied by Bono and U2, in a compromise of egos, as I understand it--feeling himself to be far more the activist than Sir Paul, Bono apparently felt he should've kicked off the festivities. But, since he was the only Beatle there, McCartney was of the opposing opinion that it should be he who opened AND closed the show! Which he did--and all modesty aside, rightfully so. For a group that's been around for over a quarter of a century now, U2 's still no Fab Four, folks. Sorry, fans...), I watched as he plowed through "Get Back", "Drive My Car" (with surprise guest star George Michael! GEORGE MICHAEL? Yeah, I don't get it, either, but at least the two were smiling at each other. Didn't see much of that between Bono and Paul. And besides, the ex-Whamster's mike seemed to be mixed way, WAY down, so you could hardly hear him anyway! Nice trick, Sir!), and later, on the ABC highlights rebroadcast, I caught "The Long And Winding Road", as well as the all-star gala finale of "Hey Jude", which, unless the editing was really clever, amounted to the anthemic latter half of the tune only. David Gilmour, Mariah Carey, Pete Townshend, Annie Lennox, George Michael, Bob Geldorf (of course) but again, no Bono that I could see. Hmm. Paul didn't seem to be in the best of voice, true, but any McCartney performance is well worth watching--THAT'S my life-long credo.

Will Live 8 do any good? Who knows? You gotta tip your hat to 'em for even trying, given the level of apathy in this media obsessed world of ours. Good luck, I say--and at the very least, there should be one way cool DVD coming out this fall!

In the meantime, like all too many folks, guess I'll remain well fed and comfortably dumb...
July 2nd, 2005
In the "Great Minds Think Alike" category, allow me to direct you to Mark Evanier, who--like yours truly--was moved by the recent NASCAR TV GUIDE covers to recoil in horror at the seeming reappearance of the long hoped dormant Go-Go Checks up along the top of said publication's cover, choosing to expound at moderate length (to no doubt help shake off the jarring experience) about the circumstances that led the staid DC comics of the mid-sixties to embrace this design folly in the first place!

(And Mark isn't the only AARP-eligible Silver Age fan to notice the stark resemblance this checkerboard pattern had to our collective twelve cent nightmare, as I also heard of similar reactions from Dave ("Elmo's Junction") Puckett and Terry ("I'm NOT getting a computer--you can just call me up if you want to talk to me!") Austin. Draggin'? Complainin'? Sure--with Dopey Crap like Go-Go Checks, how could you possibly avoid doing so?...)

And for more Silver Age goodness, take a peek at Mark's mini-essay on Marvel's No-Prizes, Scott Saavedra's illustrated look at Jack Kirby's cameo in the pages of a vintage MILLIE THE MODEL comic, and virtually every episode of the picto-liciuos Dial B for Blog!
July 1st, 2005
I am SO excited!

And it's not just because of the recent announcement that the complete first season of the seminal George Reeves led "Adventures of Superman" series will be released as a five DVD set this October 18th (full details--including a picture of the product's packaging --can be found over at John Firehammer's delightful This Is Pop! site)--although that's part of it, sure...
Like so many others of my generation, I absolutely LOVED that show! I watched it repeatedly as a kid, back before there were VCRs, or even many other choices. Didn't matter--I would've watched it incessantly anyway. In recent years, I've managed to videotape all the episodes off the tube, but that won't keep me from shelling out shekels for this much desired DVD set, no sirree! Because it'll mean more than just having the initial--and arguably best--season of the Reeves' starrer in my grubby little hands, it'll mean I can FINALLY tell the world a story I've been aching to share for a decade and a half with anyone who'd listen!

Oh, I am so EXCITED!!

It happened in the wee small hours of January 31st, 1991, and I remember it like it was yesterday! Ever since then, I've been wanting to tell folks about what transpired that night. But how? My first thought was to write a long, detailed letter to COMICS BUYERS GUIDE to get my story out, but that just didn't seem like it would be near effective enough. Perhaps turning the event into a comic strip would work, I went on to think, as the years passed--but without stills from the actual program, it still would've been lacking something, something crucial. Recently, when we bought our digital camera, I'm thinking, hey, I could write it up here on the site, and toss in a few well-timed snaps to illustrate my point. But, that all seemed iffy, quality-wise, so I never quite got past the vague concept stage.

Soon, however, EVERYTHING I need to tell my tale will be out on DVD! Those of you who got a gander at my review of the 1940's "Batman and Robin" movie serial over on The Fred Hembeck Show Episode Five might recall what a fine job my IGN Comics cohort, Ken Plume, did in extracting the precise scenes I asked for from the DVD. Well, with a combination of my deathless prose, goofy drawings, and Ken's technical expertise, I'm FINALLY gonna be able to tell you people a tale I've just been bursting to share for nearly fifteen years now!

So, look for that, will you, in either the October 25th or November 1st edition of The Fred Hembeck Show, okay?

(I know, I know--this post has been a horrible, horrible tease, and I apologize. It's not my intention to anger my readers, really it's not, but I'm just so honestly thrilled at the prospect of what lies ahead, I had to take a few minutes and let you know! And Ken? I'm still not sure what's going into NEXT WEEK'S episode, but I've sure got a doozy lined up for the Fall, lemme tell ya!...)

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