Archive - March 2005
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March 31st, 2005
When is a Beatles cover not a cover?

When a young man with a horn takes a non-original number recorded for the group's first album and makes it over completely as his own, the result becoming one of the biggest hits of 1965--and, in the process, forever carving out a space for himself and his basically non-existent band on the musical map.

The tune was "A Taste Of Honey", the man with the trumpet was Herb Alpert, and a specially recruited collection of various and sundry studio musicians made up the "Tijuana Brass."

I mention all this because--thanks to a tip from the increasingly indispensable Roger Green--today is a VERY special day for the man who put the "A" in the "A&M" record company...
Yup, I was one of those people who helped propel that memorably peppy instrumental ditty all the way to the top of the charts by buying a copy of the 45rpm--and folks, I wasn't finished there! When Christmas 1965 rolled around, I asked for--and got--two specific record albums:

"Rubber Soul" by the Beatles...

...And "Whipped Cream And Other Delights" by Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass!

There was something magical about both of those discs. I played them each over and over, and there isn't a second of excess audio on either collection. Oh, I'd buy myself a few more of Herb's LPs not long afterward, but, nice as they were, none of them ever had quite the impact on me that that record did. I still love listening to it to this day, which is one of the reasons I'm happy to salute Herb on his milestone 70th.

Another is because--along with "Rubber Soul"--that record sported one of the most mesmerizing covers in the history of the twelve inch long player!

Which beggars the following question: if Herb's successfully maneuvered himself through seven decades, just how the heck old is SHE???...
Well, in any event, I'm betting that whipped cream comes in MIGHTY handy these days, covering up any tell-tale wrinkles!...
March 30th, 2005
World-wide reaction to the Andy Williams mix-CD piece continues to flood in (Thank you, Tom "SUPERFRANKENSTEIN" Peyer, for pointing me towards a Beatles/Claudine Longet mash of "Here, There, and Everywhere"--prompting me to exclaim, "What hath technology wrought?" Yeah, sometimes I just feel like lapsing into a Shakespearean dialect--hast thou a problem with that?...)

Additionally, a very intriguing missive came in from Kevin Greenlee. After the obligatory opening paragraph ("long-time fan, love your work, yada yada yada")--the likes of which I LOVE, make no mistake, friends--Kevin gets down to serious business...

I was reading your Andy Williams essay and I hate to nit pick but Sinatra actually recorded at least one Beatles song besides "Something." His version of "Yesterday" appears on the CD "My Way," among other places.

Though it's largely (and justifiably) forgotten now, Sinatra actually did a fair number of "top 40"- esque material--songs by folks like Jim Croce, Neil Diamond, Jimmie Webb and so on. More importantly he respected some of the so called new music enough to ask the contemporary composer Bob Gaudio (who wrote most of the Four Seasons best songs) to write an entire concept album for him. The end result- "Watertown"--is one of those things people either love or hate--and I love it!

Most of Sinatra's other flirtations with modern sounds were less fortunate. For some reason he got it into his head, for instance, that a great way to connect with younger audiences would be to re-record some of his classic songs with more hip arrangements. This brought us such travesties as a rock version of "Some Enchanted Evening" and disco versions of a couple of his other hits. Those are the sorts of things that don't show up on any of the popular Sinatra compilation CDs!

And hey--if you dig singers doing inappropriate material then why on earth do you cut off your Sammy Davis Jr interest with "The Candy Man"?
Sure--in terms of actual quality he had peaked years before but you're missing stuff like Sammy's versions of "MacArthur Park," "Theme From Shaft" and "In the Ghetto." You're also denying yourself condescending, talk to the kids material like "Don't Blame the Children" and "I Am Over 25--But You Can Trust Me." You are also completely depriving yourself of a Sammy sub genre--full blown versions of TV theme songs--I have Sammy doing the themes from the Jeffersons, All in the Family and The Mary Tyler Moore Show as well as a big band AND a rock version of the Alka Seltzer Theme (Plop, Plop Fizz Fizz). And--like Sinatra--Sammy even dabbled a bit in disco!

Come to think of it--maybe you're being smart to cut Sammy off in 1972!

Thanks, Kevin, but if anything, you've proved my instincts to be grievously misguided! Just READING about Sammy crooning a rock version of the Alka Seltzer Theme made me laugh out loud! Imagine the absolute fits I'd succumb to if I actually HEARD it?? Now that I've gotten the Andy monkey off my back, maybe it's time to invest some time in inappropriate Sammy?...

And thanks for the Sinatra/Beatles correction. Makes sense that Ol' Blue Eyes would have a go at "Yesterday". Speaking of the Lads, let me take this opportunity to mention that I've posted a brand new entry on my Beatles Blog earlier today, and you folks might want to take a peek--especially those of you interested in seeing a pic of the latest Dynamic Duo, Ringo and Stan the Man!

Verily! Get thee there! (Thus, mercifully ends my imitation Asgardian speech pattern, as I speaketh no more about the Fabs, forsooth...)
March 29th, 2005
The third installment of “The Fred Hembeck Show” is now posted over at the IGN Comics website, and continuing on down the path I began last week, this time around, I closely examine my FAVORITE JLA origin story, Steve Englehart's 1977 nostalgia-fest, “The Origin Of The Justice League—Minus One!”

You'll find a fully colored redo of the Dick Dillin/Frank McLaughlin mid-story show-stopping splash (the original is pictured nearby), and those of you with a few bucks to spare may consider purchasing from me MY black and white original—take a peek here for a more info, potential buyers!
I'd also heartily recommend you give Peter Sanderson's latest “Comics In Context” piece a closer look. Hey, it's the least you could do after the poor guy stood out on the streets of New York City for hour after hour, hoping for a slim chance of getting into an exclusive Joss Whedon/Stephen Sondheim panel event! An unlikely duo, you say? Perhaps, but Peter covers the story expertly, and as a major Whedon devotee myself from way, way back (and a long-time admirer of “West Side Story” as well), I found Peter's piece to be both typically entertaining AND illuminating! Just the picture I have of him in my mind, leaning up against a newspaper vending machine, conscientiously scribbling away in his note pad, all for the gratification of his audience, well, that alone was enough to bring a smile to MY face! Jimmy Olsen's got NOTHIN' on ol Pete!...

Switching gears, yesterday's posting re: Andy Williams-mania brought in a plethora of fascinating follow-up information from the estimable Roger Green, a man whose number Joel Whitburn himself undoubtedly keeps right at the top of his speed dial in case HE ever needs some facts--and quick! Rog?...

 Bridge Over Troubled Water” (Simon & Garfunkel. #1, 1970) note also Aretha #6 in '71, and Linda Clifford #41 in '79
“Spooky” (Classics IV, #3, 1968) also Atlanta Rhythm Section #17 in '79 and Mike Sharpe #57 in '67

“You've Got A Friend” (James Taylor, #1, 1971—also Carole King) also Roberta Flack/Donny Hathaway (#29 in '71)
“Reason To Believe” (Tim Hardin, Bobby Darin, Rod Stewart, didn't make Top 40) actually while Rod's version only went to #62 in '71, his remake with Ronnie Wood went to #19 in 1993!)
“A Song For You” (Leon Russell, late sixties album track) (this song went to #82 in 1971, recorded by ANDY WILLIAMS!)
“Windy” (The Association, #1, 1967) (also Wes Montgomery #44 in '67)
“Can't Take My Eyes Off You” (Frankie Valli, #2, 1967) also Lettermen (as part of a medley with “Goin' Out Of My Head”) #7 in '68, Lauryn Hill, #35 in '98, and Nancy Wilson #52 in ''69 (NOT the Nancy Wilson from the somewhat later Heart)
“Without You” (Nilsson, #1, 1972—also Badfinger) also Mariah Carey #3 in '94
“God Only Knows” (Beach Boys, #39, 1966) also Marilyn Scott i#61 in '78
BTW, Andy's last Top 100 song (unless he's charted since 2002) is “Tell It Like It Is” (#2 for Aaron Neville, 1967) in 1976 which got all the way to #72 (Heart, with that OTHER Nancy Wilson, also went to #8 in 1981.)

Thanks so very much, Mr. Green! Your dedication to minutia is inspiring, and coming from me, you KNOW I'm not being sarcastic! I'm especially heartened to discover Andy had himself a hit covering a Neville Brother tune, and eagerly await his sure to be forthcoming version of “Hey Ya!” any day now!

Let me also take a moment to plug an interesting little contest going on over at Nik Dirga's Spatula Forum site--something about writing up your most embarrassing moment and winning some nifty Jason Marcy comics! Sounds like fun (especially for you masochists out there!), but I'm afraid I'll be taking a pass. After all, having just confessed to all the time and trouble I'd gone to to make myself an Andy Williams CD mix--hey, how could I EVER come up with anything more embarrassing than THAT? But, that'll just make things all that much easier on the rest of you, as that's surely a hard one to top! So, good luck! That secret shame you've long been holding inside, just eating away at you? WOO HOO!! It could win you prizes! GO!

Finally, apropos of nothing in particular, I just thought that I'd mention that I've been taping reruns of fifties' quiz show, “The Name's The Same”, on the Game Show Network at 3AM, mainly because Mark Evanier helpfully pointed out that legendary comedic duo, Bob and Ray, put in a stint as the program's hosts. Well, I've long admired the team, so I decided to take a look. Sure enough, the pair doesn't disappoint. Not a surprise--but what I DIDN'T expect to learn from viewing these ancient broadcasts was just how absolutely adorable Audrey Meadows was!

I was never blind enough to truly swallow that she was nearly as dowdy as her Alice Kramden outfit would have you believe, but who figured her for the life of the party? On this silly, near-forgotten little game show, she was allowed to act far more spontaneously, and with effusive enthusiasm—she seems to relish the fact that she guesses the answers far more often than any of her fellow panelists—her more relaxed and engaging persona is a revelation! It's just SO nice to see her smile for some reason other than the relief she must've felt when it was finally Ralph's bowling night!!

All I know is I'm never going to be able to watch “The Honeymooners” quite the same way again! “To the moon, Alice”? Nope—more like mooning OVER Alice!...
March 28th, 2005
Recently, I mentioned my new found love of gleefully canvassing the very width and breadth of my considerable CD collection to compile my own eccentric home made mix CDs. Now, generally, these musical amalgamations consist of a wide variety of tunes all the way back to the swing bands of the thirties, on through the golden age of rock and roll, and right on up to cuts burned off of one of my daughter's latest “Now” collections, but along the way, I've made up a few SPECIALTY discs. And, melody mavens, today I'm going to take a few minutes to tell you about one in patic...

Despite my deep abiding love of both rock and roll, I've also got myself a soft spot for the classic crooners as well. How my tastes veered off in this unexpected direction about a decade back is a whole 'nother story, a digression much too long to go into here today, but suffice it to say, I've become quite the fan of all the biggies: der Bingle , Dino, Ol' Blue Eyes, and Nat King Cole especially. I've even come around to appreciating Tony Bennett and (who'da ever thot?) Sammy Davis Jr. (pre-'"Candy Man")!
But I've pretty much stayed away from the next level down of warblers: Perry Como, Jerry Vale, Robert Goulet, Al Martino—and Andy Williams. Until, that is, I saw Mr. Williams take on The Police's “Every Breath You Take" during the wee wee hours of the Jerry Lewis Labor Day Telethon several years back, and was stunned to see him come out not only unscathed, but downright triumphant!! It was such an unforgettable experience that I wrote about at greater length in one of the very, very earliest of “Fred Sez” entries (January 7th, 2003), back in the days before I learned about the subtle delights of paragraphs.
Ever since that watershed performance, I've been inordinately fascinated by the easy going Mr. Williams, and recently, courtesy of a price-slashing sale at a mail order oldies outlet, I put my money where my mind was and picked up a half dozen Williams CDs, each featuring two complete LPs on every disc! Oh, the pure unadulterated joy! I was just over the moon--river, that is...

Okay, I'll admit, the man still comes in no higher than number five on my own personal croon-o-meter (after Bing, Dean, Frank and Nat), but there's one thing that truly separates him from these other legends (well, two things, actually, since he's still ALIVE and they're not, but...)--HE didn't fear the Top 40 of his day!

Look, Sinatra recorded a grand total of one Beatles number—and he kept assigning credit for Harrison's “Something” to John and Paul whenever he sang it in concert, so obviously, the man WASN'T a charter subscriber to ROLLING STONE magazine! Bing took a go at “Hey Jude”, and, well, it's best heard to be buh-buh-buh-lieved! Dean never went anywhere NEAR the new tunes, save for maybe the sort you'd find on a movie soundtrack or hear on the Broadway stage. And of course, Nat King Cole tragically died far too early, not only in terms of his career and his life, but also in order to get a fair shot at all the new compositions coming out of the burgeoning mid-sixties rock era. But Andy? Ah, Andy...

He was considerably younger (he checks in currently at 78, making him a mere babe of 40 in 1967), had his own long-running weekly network TV show (NBC, 1963-1972), and probably realized early on, he could belt out the best of Cole Porter and Harold Arlen for only so long before audiences would get bored and switch channels in search of something hipper—y'know, like “The Perry Como Show”? So, while Andy may not've gone so far as to offer up his versions of “You Really Got Me”, “!9th Nervous Breakdown”, or “Pictures Of Lily”, he DID dip into the contemporary tune pool and reach a bit deeper than the latest Bararach composition or “Hair” cover (which he did more than his share of as well, make no mistake), and in that spirit, I felt the need to assemble my own specially chosen collection of what you might well call “Pop Goes The Williams!”

What follows is the carefully considered sequence of the tracks I selected from the dozen Williams LPs available to make up this 79 minutes and change disc, plus the names of the original artists associated with the songs, the records highest Billboard position, and the year it charted...

"Say, Elton, mind if I borrow that coat of yours for a photo shoot?..."
“Bridge Over Troubled Water” (Simon & Garfunkel. #1, 1970)
“Spooky” (Classics IV, #3, 1968)
“I Need You” (America, #9, 1972)
“Alone Again (Naturally)". (Gilbert O' Sullivan, #1, 1972)
“You've Got A Friend” (James Taylor, #1, 1971—also Carole King)
“Here Comes That Rainy Day Feeling Again” (Fortunes, #15, 1971)
“Reason To Believe” (Tim Hardin, Bobby Darin, Rod Stewart, didn't make Top 40)
“Sunny” (Bobby Hebb, #2, 1966)
“Everything I Own” (Bread, #5, 1972)
“A Song For You” (Leon Russell, late sixties album track)
“Windy” (The Association, #1, 1967)
“If” (Bread, #4, 1971)
“Pieces Of April” (Three Dog Night, #19, 1972)
“An Old Fashioned Love Song” (Three Dog Night, #4, 1971)
“Remember” (Nilsson, late sixties album track)
“It's Too Late” (Carole King, #1, 1971)
“Seasons In The Sun” (Terry Jacks, #1, 1974)
“Precious And Few” (Climax, #3, 1972)
“Can't Take My Eyes Off You” (Frankie Valli, #2, 1967)
“More Today Than Yesterday” (Spiral Staircase, #12, 1969)
“Touch Me In The Morning” (Diana Ross, #1, 1973)
“Without You” (Nilsson, #1, 1972—also Badfinger)
“God Only Knows” (Beach Boys, #39, 1966)

Admit it—you're horrified, aren't you?

Yeah, I get that reaction--a LOT. Which, in truth, only makes this all the MORE fun! Not that this compilation is anywhere near unlistenable—quite the contrary. Some of it is in fact surprisingly good. Some of it clearly isn't. But again, in putting this together, I wasn't necessarily looking for the BEST performances but for the most seemingly unusual covers. I left out the handful of Carpenters tunes, and stuff like “Honey”, “Both Sides Now”, “Get Together”, “Little Green Apples”, “The First Time Ever (I Saw Your Face)”, “Abraham, Martin and John”, a handful of Jimmy Webb songs, some Neil Diamond—songs ALL the lounge singers of the day had already worked into their acts--and seven Beatles compositions as well (all of which are slated to wind up on my ongoing series of Beatles cover tunes discs, worry not).

(Just for the record, Andy got all Fab on “Michelle”, “Here, There, and Everywhere”, “The Long And Winding Road”, “Imagine”, “My Love”--no surprises THERE—AND “Be Here Now”, a relatively obscure track from George's “Living In The Material World” LP, named as a personal favorite Harrison number by no less a personage than the wise and all-knowing Johnny Bacardi!! Bet you're just DYING to hear the Williams version, eh, Johnny boy?...)

"Look, mommy--daddy got me skis!"
I sent my buddy Roger Green a copy of the mix, without first telling him what was on it , but it soon became readily apparent what madness was piping out of his speakers. After overcoming his momentary shock, it turned out that his feelings basically echoed mine—Andy did a fine job on most of the ballads (of which there were plenty), stumbled a bit when trying to notch up the groove a bit on several of the mildly up-tempo numbers (“An Old Fashioned Love Song” comes to mind)--and then there were those songs that never should've been recorded ONE TIME, much less twice!(Do I hafta identify the primary culprit as “Seasons In The Sun”? Not to anyone who's ever HEARD the original, that's for sure!...)

All in all, though, Mr. W's smooth tones serve him well, particularly on the sparely orchestrated “A Song For You” and “Remember”. Still, he impressively exhibits the necessary fire to sell the the climactic chorus of “Without You” nearly as powerfully as Nilsson did when he took this Pete Ham/Tom Evans composition all the way to the top of the charts.
And I like the sly leer lurking in his otherwise squeaky clean delivery when he sings about a “Spooky little girl like you”. I'm even more willing to buy into the lyrical pathos of several of the more downbeat selections when sung by Andy as opposed to their originators. Look, I've long been a fan of Diana Ross, but more for the unique sound of her pipes as opposed to the emotional content of her performances, which, frankly, isn't generally very high.Call me crazy, but I find myself more easily swallowing Andy's alleged heartache as he croons “Touch Me In The Morning” than I did Ms. Ross's. And if there was ever one group who should've had ALL their hits covered by good ol' Andy Williams, it was the David Gates led schmaltz and roll ensemble, Bread! Now, THAT album wouldn't've been half-baked, lemme tell ya!

I bookended my CD with probably the two best cuts. Williams' version of “Bridge Over Troubled Water' sounds uncannily like the original, and while that may lose it crucial points on the imagination scale, anytime you can honestly measure up to Art Garfunkel's vocal of a lifetime, well, you ain't doing so bad! And his stately run-through of Brian Wilson's “God Only Knows”--no lesser person than Paul McCartney's favorite song—is performed essentially with the sole accompaniment of a Grand Piano, and quite honestly, his restrained performance borders on the magnificent! (This must've been a popular number in the Williams household, by the way, as his wife at the time, Claudine Longet, gave it a breathy—if not nearly as magnificent--reading, a vintage cut that turned up on the “Gilmore Girls” soundtrack CD anthology not long ago.)

A few fun facts about Andy Williams before we go, because who KNOWS when we'll be back on this topic? (You can all only hope and pray, I'm guessing...) Andy got his start as the youngest member of the Williams Brothers, a group that first charted while singing back-up on Bing Crosby's well-known Academy Award winning “Swinging On Star” disc in 1944: a year later, Andy dubbed Lauren Bacall's singing voice in “To Have And to Have Not”; he left his brothers in 1952 to go solo, gaining most of his success a decade later: his 1973 album, “Solitaire”, was overseen by Richard Perry, shortly after the famed--and HOT--producer had come off huge hit LPs with Ringo Starr, Harry Nilsson, and Carly Simon (YOWSAH!!!--street cred for seventies survivors!..), and his ex-wife, Ms. Longet, became infamous for "accidentally" shooting her lover, a world famous skier, spawning the unforgettable “Saturday Night Live” “Claudine Longet Skiing Invitational", a bit which consisted of stock footage of skiers tumbling, to which SNL added play by play and the requisite gun shot sound effects ("Oops--she's got another one!"), one of the few comedy pieces, if my memory serves me correctly, the show was ever forced to apologize for. Too late—sick puppy that I was, I'd already laughed!

And you may well be laughing at me now, or maybe you're just plain aghast--the mixed reaction my pal Rocco had when I tried to play my handiwork for him recently--,but come on now—what OTHER crooner had the gumption to tackle the greatest hit of Spiral Staircase, hmm? Chances are it WASN'T Johnny Mathis!...
March 27th, 2005
Easter bonnets most definitely NOT included!

For the purported history of these way humungous--and tres' mysterious--statues, allow me to point you towards "The Chilling Tale Of Easter Island, a succinct retelling of the saga of the world's biggest rockers! While those of you eagerly searching for evidence of the handiwork of visitors from another planet in their shrouded construction will be sadly disappointed, perhaps the unexpected inclusion of cannibalism into the mix will gleefully satisfy your need for a sensationalistic back-story for this imposing row of big-headed gents! Take a quick moment from chomping on that chocolate Easter bunny of yours, and go grab a peek!

And while we're delving deep into the past, the following note came in from a Michael Ryan the other night:

Steve Bissette, illustrator of SWAMP THING for DC Comics in the 1980’s and his own self-published work including the horror anthology TABOO and TYRANT (chronicling the life of T. rex) is posting a multi-part series on the history of dinosaur comic books over at The site is run by Dr. Michael Ryan, Head of Vertebrate Paleontology at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History. Part 2 goes up Friday, March 25th.

So, all of you dinosaur lovers out there, check it out. Best I can tell, Steve hasn't made it up to the "War That Time Forgot" feature that ran in early sixties issues of DC Comics STAR SPANGLED WAR STORIES, a certifiably insane series that regularly staged World War Two battles on an island inexplicably inhabited with those big ol' supposedly extinct lizards! Talk about your high concept! (Or, more likely, a concept developed WHILE high!...)

On an unrelated note, Dr. Michael goes on to thank me for recommending Robert Pilk's fine MEC Comics mail order service, as he's now yet another happily satisfied customer getting thirty percent off on his monthly tally of goodies--and if YOU'RE at all interested in saving money AND getting snappy, happy service, contact Robert for the details at You WON'T regret it!

So, go! Enjoy your day! Have fun with the (coff coff) relatives! And then, tune in later tonight for the first annual Easter "Holy Mother of God! "Desperate Housewives" is FINALLY back with a new episode!!" telecast!

And please--if you know what's good for you, go easy on the jelly beans, will ya?...
March 26th, 2005
People tend to believe that the great era of comic book in-jokes began in the mid-sixties, resulting mainly from the twin explosions of the burgeoning Marvel Comics revolution, and a steadily growing organized fan-base--which would soon develop into a fertile talent pool for all the major publishers--but then how do you explain THIS story from the July, 1962 issue of ARCHIE'S MAD HOUSE, number 20?

The inspiration for the space explorer's uniforms below should prove to be no mystery to long-time comics devotees, as their look isn't so strange that you wouldn't be able to recognize them from Adam...,
Ah, but you say the artist (a gentleman by the name of Bob White, I believe, though I confess to not being entirely certain) got the fin wrong, clearly reversing the standard Rannian direction of wearing it?

Well, maybe.

Sometimes, though, even Carmine Infantino made like Wrong-Way Corrigan...
I'll admit it--when I bought that issue of ARCHIE'S MAD HOUSE off the stands way back when, I was initially confused and then mildly angered at the folks at Archie Comics for having the sheer audacity to so blatantly "steal" Adam Strange's sleek sci-fi costume design for their silly little five page story in their silly little humor anthology--but I soon came to realize that what I was seeing wasn't so much a rip-off but a respectful homage.

And unlike a temporarily befuddled Carmine, my guess is that they switched fin directions on purpose! Tipping your fin to the competition is one thing--getting lawyers involved is a whole 'nother thing all together!...v
March 25th, 2005
I was watching "The West Wing" the other night--y'know, the episode in which Alan Alda, the most lovable and cuddly Republican this unabashed life-long Democrat has ever, EVER seen, secured his party's nomination in the horserace to see who takes over the (fictional) White House in the politically fanciful NBC series upcoming seventh (and some say, last) season--when I suddenly had a thought: this admittedly intriguing faux Presidential campaign has been barreling along headfirst in the wholly predictable direction of a showdown between The Man Who Was Hawkeye and the idealistic dark horse Democratic congressman played by Jimmy "Mr. Smits goes To Washington" Smits for the top spot, but why? Why does it HAVE to play out that way? Why give the audience the far-fetched scenario of the young Latino versus the Republican with the heart of gold? Hey "West Wing" bigwigs--it's not too late to inject a little dose of reality into the plot!

Give "Bingo Bob" Russell the Chief Executive gig!!

Look, that Gary Cole is one fine actor--anybody who caught him in "The Devil Goes Down to Mayberry" (aka "American Gothic") can vouch for THAT.
And as Martin Sheen's current VP (taking over from his predecessor, who had problems keeping his pants discreetly zipped), you'd think he'd have a leg up on his own party's nomination, and not have to worry about the Cinderella-like ascendence of Smits' Matt Santos' character. Nope--this IS TV, after all. Of course, the writers are doing their level best to portray Russell as a venal, self-involved, and slightly inept politician, one who'd say or do most anything to grab some votes. Thus, he makes BOTH alternatives seem vastly more appealing (hey, given the choice in real life, I'D cross the aisle to pull the lever for Alda's Vinick over Cole's Russell in a milli-second), but aren't audiences hungering for reality these days? Isn't that what the television landscape is littered with currently--reality shows? Well, what's more realistic than a pandering, mediocre politician like good ol' "Bingo Bob" pulling the wool over the populace's collective eyes, and nabbing the keys to the Oval Office, by hook or or by crook? Now, THAT I could believe!

But I wouldn't want to spoil ALL the fun for "The West Wing"s talented scripting staff. I figure, once they install Cole as Chief Executive, let 'em go back to writing fantasy--only this time around, make the switch over from "earnest" to "dark". Once Russell inherits the title of The World's Most Powerful Individual from lame-duck Sheen, why not embark on a season-long dark-humored "Dr. Strangelove" inspired scenario? I mean, they're saying it's gonna be the final season anyway, so why not go out with a bang--literally?

Show us a man who's clearly in over his head--way, WAY over. A man whose sheer stupidity inadvertently starts a series of events in the season's first episode, a series of events that spirals inexorably out of control over the coming months, with the last image we see as "The West Wing" concludes its run in May is the first--but surely not the last--mushroom cloud, a sure sign that the total destruction of all mankind is imminent, and all because the American public was duped into electing a wildly unqualified man as their President? Why not give that a try, hmmm?...

Or, well, maybe they could just give Jimmy Smits the gig, instead. That'd be cool, too, I suppose...
March 24th, 2005
Lately, I've taken to compiling a number of mix CDs, happily cherry-picking a wide range of music from my vast collection of discs, a subject I fully intend to enthusiastically bore you all with in the days ahead, so be advised. However, for today's relatively short-winded anecdote, all you really need to know is that I've managed to hook my old Fantaco Enterprises buddy, Roger Green, on this uniquely creative process as well, and the two of us have been swapping our hand-made musical amalgamations via the U.S. mail for the last few months now.

Roger, unlike myself, always provides a track listing with his CDs, but I find it more fun to listen to then "blind", and thus be surprised by each new tune as it comes freshly piping out of my stereo's speakers, both woofing and tweeting. Such was the case yesterday when, while sitting at the drawing board, inking merrily away, an oh-so-familiar sound filled the room, and it immediately brought a big smile to my face. No surprise there--it's virtually the same reaction I've had every time the Big Bopper's classic "Chantilly Lace" has been within earshot since one unforgettable day way back in 1976...

(Cue flashback dissolve)
I was still living with my college roomies in Buffalo, N Y, contentedly ensconced in typically--if only slightly--run-down off-campus housing, and more often than not, my gal pal--and future architect of this very site--Lynn was in attendance.

A few months earlier, we'd seen "That'll Be The Day", a film detailing the struggles of a working class British youth achieving rock and roll stardom in the fifties, starring David Essex and Ringo Starr. It was pretty decent movie--and it spawned an even better soundtrack LP.
"Runaway", "Let the Good Times Roll", "Wake Up Little Susie", "Great Balls Of Fire", the title tune--in all, there were close to twenty-five stone cold early rock classics tightly packed onto this slim slab of black vinyl, and in most every case--as someone who didn't hop on the pop train until 1964--this was the first time I'd owned any of these pre-Fabs 45s, so as a result, I played the record frequently, and--as is still often the case--loudly. VERY loudly....

Well, like I said, Lynn practically lived over at our place that Bicentennial year, so she often had her phone calls rerouted there, particularly those from some of her many local area relatives. One afternoon, while once again playing this wondrous collection of fifties youth anthems at a dangerously high volume, just as the momentary silence between tracks conveniently allowed me to hear the ringing of the nearby wall phone in the kitchen, I quickly picked up the receiver to answer it. But, as fate would have it, before I could utter a single word to Lynn's Aunt Bobbie on the other end of the line, the music from my nearby stereo instead blasted across the rooms, into the mouthpiece, and all the way to the outlying town of Tonawanda--and into the ears of a VERY confused woman.

Because, y'see, before I could say anything, Lynn's Aunt was greeted rudely with a very loud--and a very lascivious--"HelloooooOOO baby!", as The Big Bopper chose that precise inoppertune moment to speak from beyond the grave and make me look really, really foolish in the eye's of MY baby's kin!!

"I beg your pardon?" came the voice from the other end. I stammered out some sort of explanation--probably the truth, though who can recall for sure after all this time--but I mercifully changed the subject and hastily handed over the phone to Lynn, who'd been watching the entire accidental improvisational playlet proceed with undisguised amusement. The legacy of that afternoon is simple--to this very day, I can't help thinking of my wife's Aunt Bobbie every time I hear "Chantilly Lace".

Well, at least I managed to get off of the phone and quickly over to the volume control before she, in her confusion, may've mistakenly thought it was I who subsequently blurted out, "You KNOW what I like!"...
March 23rd, 2005
Like most everyone else who spends more than a small amount of time surfing the Net, I have a preferred browser--in my case, Mozilla Firefox--and like most everyone else, it's been set to bring up a favorite web-page when I first hop online each day, which in my case would be Mark Evanier's News From ME blog.

It's a wonderful site--I think I've plugged it often enough around here for my feelings to've come across clearly--but it also holds its share of surprises, not all of which are of the good sort. There's always that lingering fear lurking in the back of my mind that I'll click on over to Mark's site and learn of the untimely passing of yet another comics--or comedy--giant from my long-ago formative years.

But then, happily, there are OTHER days, days like today.

Directly below the paws of a Yogi Bear cartoon in today's top entry, Mark took the time to issue an aside to yours truly, relating a message from the gent(s) pictured below...
(Confidential to Fred Hembeck: Tom "Spongebob Squarepants" Kenny told me to tell the world that your review of the songs he co-authored for the Spongebob movie and/or CD -- the review is somewhere on this archived page -- was uncanny in that you nailed all the "in" references. Nice job, Hembeck.)


To say I was giddy with delight that The Man Who Speaks For The Sponge not only read my review, but heartily approved of it, well, that would've been a VAST understatement! THIS is why I love toiling endless hours over this blog! It's not for the vast riches and the glamorous lifestyle it's afforded me--uh uh, no way--but for the priceless knowledge that somewhere out there, a personal hero of mine is perusing my carefully worded heartfelt sentiments, and that the love is emanating electronically across the Earth's expanse towards its intended target!( And no, NOT the kind of love that misguided Reverend guy was spouting off about awhile back concerning good ol' SpongeBob!...)(...not that there's anything wrong with that...)

As to HOW I was able to pinpoint the myriad of influences Mr. Kenny and his collaborators--chief amongst them, Andy Paley--lovingly acknowledged musically in their expertly performed pastiches, well, the answer is simple enough: I've listened to a LOT of rock and roll in my time, and have just naturally, ahem, ABSORBED a lot of information--a concept our erstwhile sponge no doubt groks!

Big thanks, then, to Tom Kenny--and faithful messenger Mark, too--for making my day, maybe even making it "The Best Day Ever"!! (Okay, maybe not the absolute best, but certainly a better than average one, you betcha!...)

Now, if my browser had been set to open up at ANOTHER highly regarded and oft-visited site, The Comic Reporter, I would've been greeted by yet another surprise from yet another Tom (Spurgeon, this time), as I was intrigued to find that Mr. S. had just posted an entry entitled "1000 things To Like About Comics"!

Nope--that WASN'T a typo! The total, in cold hard type, is indeed one thousand!! Hey, Tom--nobody likes a show-off!! You trying to make the rest of us look like pikers, or what? At least you qualified matters, somewhat--you couldn't possibly LOVE all the things you listed, right? (Just MOST of them...)

Fact is, not having made a list myself since 1983, I'd briefly considered going the extra zero option, until I decided that that way led madness. I'm glad to see that someone with as impeccable taste as Tom Spurgeon took on the task instead. After all, I probably would've inadvertently left number 92 off MY list: "Andy Capp: Drunk, Wife-Beating Adulterer"! (Calm down, folks--that's meant ironically, dig?)

And thus end's the tale of two Tom's--see you Tomorrow!
March 22nd, 2005
The second installment of "The Fred Hembeck Show" has now been posted over at the IGN Comics website, and this week's all-new piece recounts the nigh indescribable trauma Little Freddy endured (...though others might describe it merely as a pesky inconvenience...) in his fruitless search for the 9th issue of JLA, the one that first told the team's previously secret origin--while somehow turning them into trees at the very same time! ,
You'll also find a full-sized version of my redo up there, in full glorious Photo-shop color--and remember, if you're at all liking my take on that Sekowsky/Anderson classic, it just so happens that it's currently on sale here at the site, you lucky, lucky people, and I'd be more than happy to sell it to any interested party! (Making a sale always makes ME feel like throwing a party, too, don'tcha know!..).

So, while you're all digging deep and considering your fragile finances, I invite you to at least take a few moments to check out this latest edition of "The FH Show". And while you're there, don't forget to give Peter Sanderson's "Comics In Context" column a close look! Peter shares his take on the upcoming Bugs Bunny extreme make-over, and as always, it's fascinating stuff!

March 21st, 2005
...and if you're at all like Reed, Sue, Johnny, and Ben, THIS is what you'll soon be doing....
Yup, who DOESN'T like a little Spring gardening? I believe this otherwise standard issue of ORGANIC GARDENING from 1993 was passed along to me by my mother-in-law, and I present it here by way of happily greeting the much-desired change of seasons.

The subject matter of this quirky cover is addressed on the contents page, no doubt in hopes of minimizing the understandable confusion of the magazine's regular readers...

"Uh oh--looks like our OG staff got the "April Fools" stuff right out of the way up front this year with a tribute to the now classic (and darned expensive) cover to FANTASTIC FOUR #1, the 1961 hit that began the "Marvel Age of Comics". Our cover was drawn by Ron Frenz (pencils) and Al Milgrom (inks) and lettered by Jim Novak (current Marvelites all), with colors by our own Tim Teahan. The honored original we pay tribute to was drawn by Jack (King) Kirby with wise and witty word balloons by Stan (the Man) Lee and inks by the late Sol Brodksy, in whose memory we dedicate our tribute."

Well, whoever wrote that blurb certainly knew their Marvel Comics, no denying it. A quick perusal of the publication's staff does, in fact, turn up at least one name familiar to long-time funnybook fans--Cat Yronwode, late of Eclipse Comics, is listed as a contributing editor. Whether or not this little tableau was her brainstorm or not, well, who can say, but it certainly makes a case for Lee and Kirby's wide ranging cultural influence.

And on a personal note, I just thought I'd take this opportunity to mention the curious fact that, having done nearly 400 Classic Cover Redos in my time--including quite a few FANTASTIC FOUR ones originally drawn by The King--I've nonetheless still NEVER actually done my version of FF#1!?! Hey, how unlikely is THAT?

But--that's right, friends--I'd be more than happy to take a shot at it for anyone who'd care to pony up the requisite scratch!

(Yup, it's plug season, too! Haven't you been checking your calendars?..)
March 20th, 2005
Speaking as were yesterday about the Caped Crusader's celluloid history, the thought occurs to me that most every aging fanboy is more than eager to offer their opinion as to WHICH cinematic Catwoman they prefer.

Julie Newmar? Lee Meriwether? Eartha Kitt? Michelle Pfeiffer? Or, script notwithstanding, Halle Berry?

Fine actresses, one and all, but allow me to inject ANOTHER name into the discussion:

Lesley Gore.
Okay, okay--so the singer never actually played Catwoman, but instead essayed the role of Pussycat, Selina Kyle's junior assistant in an early 1967, second season, two-part Bat-episode. Ms. Gore had herself a new single to promote at the time--"California Nights"--and the opportunity to sing it on what was still one of the hottest TV shows going was just too good a chance to pass up. Sometimes, it's decidedly advantageous to be related to a big-time television producer, and no doubt li'l Lesley made sure she got uncle Howie Horwitz a particularity swell birthday present THAT year!

The exposure worked, too, because "California Nights" was the songstress's last top twenty hit, topping out at number 16, her highest chart action since "Sunshine, Lollipops And Rainbows" made it to the thirteenth slot two years earlier. Hey, I went out and bought myself a copy of the tune soon after hearing its debut on the "Batman" show, making it my first-ever Lesley Gore disc--but definitely not my last.

Look, I realize she's not quite the bombshell the other actresses mentioned above are. And as a singer. though she possesses a distinctly recognizable voice, I'm not here to argue that Lesley Gore rates as a vocalist for the ages. Still, I have to confess that I've always found,her "girl next door" vibe highly appealing, whether it's on the small screen, vamping Burt Ward's Robin, or on vinyl, deftly defining the early sixties "girl group"sound (even sans group) with such classics as "It's My Party","Judy's Turn To Cry", "Maybe I Know", "I Don't Want To Be A Loser", and my favorite, the timeless "You Don't Own Me". Why this woman isn't already enshrined in The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame isn't just a mystery, it's a crime!

So, yeah, of all the ladies who've put on a catsuit over the years, my fondest memories are of Ms. Gore and her rather modest outfit. Admittedly, the few stills that are out there of producer Horwitz's niece in costume would hardly qualify as "hot'--here are a few more, in color--but y'know, sometimes, "hot" isn't everything. "Sweet" has its merits as well. Yeah, I know my musical tastes are all over the place, but to me there's nothing more enjoyable than yet another listen to a cherry-picked collection of her wonderful 1963-68 pop performances! Because, while I clearly don't own her, I DO own an impressive collection of her CDs!

For more information on the singer, here's the International Lesley Gore Fanclub Site, and theOfficial Lesley Gore site as well.

And for THOSE webpages, ultimately, she can thank her OTHER "uncle", Al, for inventing the Internet!.(He didn't want to be a loser, EITHER, but, ah well...)
March 19th, 2005
Not much to say today, except that we've added over 30 new destinations to the Comic Art Links page.

Maybe even more importantly, you can find a whole new category, "Comics On Screen, Both Big and Small", which is pretty much exactly what it sounds like. Initially, I left a listing of such cinematic endeavors off of the page because the plan was, it was going to wind up on the still forthcoming Video Links page. However, seeing as how I eventually wound up installing the sitcom sites (and such) that I'd originally envisioned for that very page on my Comedy Links page, I finally realized the other night that there's no real reason to be holding out on tallying sites devoted to the filmed versions of comics characters anymore, now is there? So, I offer up nearly 20 for starters. As I find more, I'll add them--this is, after all, just the beginning (and to differentiate them from the last round of still fairly fresh links, which continue to boast their
**, the newest arrivals are designated in this manner: ** --even if it IS a few days past St. Pattie's Day!...).

And thanks to anyone and everyone whom I lifted links from, especially Tom Peyer, who sure knows his Batman TV Show sites! If nothing else, check this Adam West starrer-site out! It's a doozy!

(...Or should that be, "it's a Dozier?"...)
March 18th, 2005
A few days ago, whilst trolling a handful of my earliest issues of DC's DETECTIVE COMICS for a suitable shot of our old friend, J'onn J'onzz, to run in the previous entry, I stumbled upon this once ubiquitous full page advertisement in the very first issue of that Batman-headlined publication that I'd ever purchased, the August, 1961 issue, number 294...
Granted, there's a lot going on there, but I really wasn't all that concerned about being tough (after all, I was reading comic books, wasn't I?...), learning to dance, or even forking over a buck for a book chock-full of fun for boys.
Nope, it was THIS portion of that ad that caught my attention--and not entirely because I liked to draw for fun, either!

Remember, folks, this was 1961. The Comics Code had been ruling with an iron fist for little over half a decade by that point, and they carefully scrutinized everything for objectionable content before a book made it anywhere near a newsstand--and I mean EVERYTHING! They probably even gave the staples the once over in that era of heavy-handed self-censorship!

So how, I've always wondered, did THIS ever get past them?
And not just once, but month after month--and not in some quasi-sleazy IW reprint sold in plastic bags in the nation's bargain outlets, either--uh uh--but in books issued by industry leader National Periodical Publications no less!

Not sure what I'm talking about yet? Well, here's an even CLOSER look...
That's right--she's NAKED!!

AND brazenly colored in warm pink hues, just so there'd be absolutely no mistake about our shapely young model's lack of attire!!

Geez, talk about your fun for boys!?!..

This ad has ALWAYS baffled me. Were the Comics Code people on some sort of mind-numbing flu medication the first time this thing slipped through, with its continued appearances just a matter of lucky ongoing neglect?

Whatever it was, let's face it--there were quite a few little boys out there aping the excitement of our overly animated cartoon friend pictured directly below the not-so-modest Miss back in that woefully flesh-deprived era.

Not ME, of course. I was SHOCKED, shocked I tell you!

(And I'm gonna KEEP telling you that until you believe me! However long it takes, I've got the time...)
March 17th, 2005

..from Bruce O' Banner...

...Brainiac O' Five...

...Mad Doctor O' Doom...

...and good ol' J'onn ("Kiss Me--I'm Irish") O' J'onzz! well as yours truly, Fred O' Hembeck!

(Oh, and by the way--did you hear? Someone took a sledgehammer to the Blarney Stone, and literally shattered it to bits! Yup, it's a sad situation all right. Now all that's left is Blarney rubble,,,)
March 16th, 2005
HAPPY 79th, JER!!!
That's right, friends, Jerry Lewis--the eternal Kid--turns 79 today! Despite my life-long fascination with the funnyman, I'm lousy with birthdays, and this momentous occasion would've most likely slipped right past me if it weren't for the ever alert Will Pfiefer, whose entry today over on his "X-Ray Spex" blog is devoted entirely to Mr. Lewis! Even if you have only a casual interest in the man, I recommend you take a look at Will's posting because, besides making some salient if seemingly controversial points (Jerry Lewis was a cinematic innovator who deserves some sort of long overdue recognition from the Academy! YES!), he offers enough Lewis links to keep even a disciple like myself busy for hours! Why,he even links over to THIS site! And, so, in the self-same spirit, I'M gonna link to this site, too--specifically, one page Will missed, my Classic Cover Redo of DC's ADVENTURES OF JERRY LEWIS #83--or, as I prefer to think of it, the first of 1964's "New Look" JERRY LEWIS comics.

Beyond that, I'd like to leave you with one of those priceless "Only Jerry Lewis" anecdotes, the sort that, once witnessed, are burned indelibly into your mind forever--or in this case, a mere 21 years thus far....

For one mindbending week back in June of 1984, Jerry hosted a "Tonight Show" styled gabfest, airing on (I believe) Fox at 11 PM, Monday through Friday. I'm guessing it was a syndicated venture, and I KNOW it was a trial run--one in which ol' Jer was ultimately overruled. Too bad--it was quite the viewing experience...

Please understand that when Jerry Lewis is funny, I find him highly entertaining--and when he's NOT funny, well, I find him even MORE entertaining! Now, normally, I'd have qualms about enjoying metaphorical train wrecks playing out across my TV screen, but I never feel any such guilt when I watch Jerry invariably insert foot deep into esophagus. Mainly, that's because I can't think of any other performer who has so brazenly worn his oversized ego on his sleeve for such a long period of time, effortlessly alternating from the big idiot who'd fall off his chair for no good reason save to get a laugh (the source of my childhood infatuation with the comic, if truth be told), to the unctuous show-biz phony mouthing lofty platitudes in a melodramatic effort to save mankind from itself, to the demanding diva who's so very easily enraged when he feels he's been ever so slightly slighted. On a good night, all THREE of these Jerry Lewis's are on display, but the fun thing is, you just never know WHICH one is most likely to show up when you tune in...

Boasting two guests per night, Jerry had the likes of Frank Sinatra, Suzanne Sommers, Norm Crosby, William Shatner, Mel Torme, Dabney Coleman, Maureen McGovern, Shecky Greene, Carol Burnett, and Joe Piscopo sitting on the couch alongside him (no, my memory isn't THAT good--said info can be found here). The thing I most recall about those segments was how the main subject of conversation WASN'T the guest, but usually the host! Even William Shatner--no small ego, himself--took the opportunity to defer to his better, and spent most of his couch time picking Jerry's brain vis a vis the comedian's very real directorial talents, Shatner himself hoping to someday helm an upcoming "Star Trek" flick--but c'mon, people, that DOESN'T mean we can blame "The Final Frontier" on Jerry! THAT rests entirely on The Shat's shoulders...

But besides that motley mix of guests, Jerry wasn't alone. Nope--Jerry had himself a sidekick, his very own Ed McMahon. Filling that thankless role was comedian Charlie Callas. You know, the emaciated fellow with the big beak who's main sthick was bobbing his head up and down like a flamingo on acid while simultaneously making funny noises with his mouth? Uh huh--THAT Charlie Callas.

Well, for the first three nights, Charlie was relegated to playing straight man to his boss at the program's outset, and then laughing mindlessly at the proceedings at the end of the couch from that point onward. Standard sidekick stuff. But then, after the opening segment of the fourth show, Jerry must've been feeling especially generous, and set out to reward Callas for ably filling his glamour-free subordinate role. Now, like I said, it's been over two decades since I saw the broadcast, so I can't vouch that this is EXACTLY what Jerry said by way of setting up Callas's moment to shine when they came back from commercial that long-ago night, but trust me, if the words are off slightly, the spirit is definitely on the mark...

"Ladies and gentlemen, I'd like you to stop what you're doing and pay very close attention to what we have up for you next. All week, my good friend Charlie Callas has served as my second banana, and he's done a marvelous, marvelous job in that capacity, no doubt about it. But there's a lot more to Charlie than just playing my stooge, which is why I want you to watch the following segment very closely. Because, ladies and gentlemen, what you're about to see is perhaps the funniest thing you'll EVER see! I know that I double over every time Charlie performs this absolutely hilarious bit, so sit back you lucky people, and prepare to laugh--and to laugh hard--you're in for a rare, rare treat!"

" Charlie?..."

At which point, the emaciated comic with the big beak comes out, bobs his head up and down like a flamingo on acid, all the while making funny noises with his mouth...

The poor sap. His one chance in the spotlight, and Jerry steals his thunder by grossly overselling his modest little act to the audience. Charlie Chaplin reading the best of P. G. Wodehouse while sitting on a whoopee cushion couldn't have lived up to THAT introduction!?!...

There's a postscript to this story. Sometime during the late nineties--before Jerry's health caused him to bloat up--there was a moment during one of his annual Labor Day telethons that I'll never forget. Jerry was talking via satellite to the folks anchoring the New York portion of the telecast, and after a few minutes of smoozing with head honcho Tony Orlando, the singer interrupted the flow of the conversation by saying, "Hey Jer, look who we have over here!..." The camera panned over to the folks diligently (if tediously) answering the phones, one of whom was none other than Charlie Callas!

Tony motioned for the now wizened--but still emaciated--comic to come over and join the group speaking electronically to Jerry. Lewis seemed genuinely surprised to find his former associate on the premises, paused for a second to look him over, and then observed--with a lilt in his voice--"You look like a corpse in a tux!" Everyone laughed, albeit uncomfortably, and then it was back to the tote board. And oddly enough, though he continues to bring on the aging master of the malaprop, Norm Crosby, year after year, Jerry's continued to neglect sharing what he once considered The Funniest Routine In The History Of Show Business with his audience come each September.

Ya think maybe he's saving it for his 80th birthday?...
March 15th, 2005
There's a new website in town: IGN Comics.

It's a spin-off of the IGN FilmForce site, which some of you may already be familiar with thanks to the 75 previous weekly editions of Peter Sanderson's always fascinating "Comics In Context" column. Well, Peter's getting himself a new home, and--here's yer newsflash, cub reporters--he ain't goin' it alone!

Ladies and gents, preeeee-senting the debut episode of "The Fred Hembeck Show"!!

That's right, gang--every Tuesday evening, you'll find a new column by yours truly over at the IGN Comics site! What exactly it'll turn into we'll all discover together, but I thought I'd use the old "Fred Hembeck Show" moniker that served me so well back in my MARVEL AGE days because, well, not only is it all-encompassing regarding the potential topics under discussion, but it also allows me to continue to exhibit my painfully obvious egocentric fixation! Yes, it's about comics, sure, but it's also about ME! Well, they always say, write what you know, y'know, so...

But semi-seriously, I'm delighted to be in such good company as to be rubbing virtual shoulders with the likes of Peter Sanderson. I've been astutely aware of his well-reasoned comics critiques ever since his lengthy missives virtually forced legendary DC editor, Julie Schwartz, to double the pages allotted for his books letter columns way back in the mid-sixties. In the ensuing years, I've had the pleasure of hanging out with Peter at any number of early eighties comic conventions, and even spending some quality time with him in the gloriously green environs of upstate New York whilst in the company of several mutual friends, this as recently as, oh, (gulp) a decade or so back! Okay, well, we're back together NOW, and hopefully it'll stay that way for a good long while. Truth is, I didn't know much of ANYTHING about these IGN folks when they approached me to join their team, but the mere fact that they'd corralled Peter Sanderson into writing his incisive pieces for them for as long as he had, well, THAT was endorsement enough for me. Plus, they promised me lots and lots of readers!

And by the way, if you happen to BE one of those new readers, zapping your way on over here from the links included in my opening column, WELCOME! (Geez, I'm beginning to feel like a traffic cop, and I'm not even entirely sure who's coming and who's going!?!...) So, if this is your first visit to, stick around for awhile--there's a LOT to see!

The rest of you--my hearty little band of regulars--YOU go check out my column! Despite fate's best efforts to screw things up for me by killing our main computer just days before I desperately needed it to scan and color some specially drawn illos for "The Show", we managed to hook things up to the laptop and persevere. (A new master computer is on its way--in the meantime, scans may be a little on the light side here abouts, though we DO have some just waiting for the proper text accompaniment...)

Our first installment is your basic introduction, with a piece pulled from the archives filling out the latter portion, brushed off, tinkered with, and repurposed for my new audience. Mostly, that was done to make the opening week deadline, as I plan to offer up all new stuff as often as possible in the future (I have a pretty solid idea for the next two episodes, for instance, and they're both totally fresh). My new responsibilities shouldn't put TOO much of a crimp in this site's schedule, aside from most of my Tuesday postings amounting to little more than "Today, on "The Fred Hembeck Show", we examine the impact characters of color have had on the medium as opposed to that characters WITH color in their names have had, so go look..."

Which reminds me--are you STILL here? C'mon--go look! And I'm sure that while you're there, my editor (Yes! I have an editor!), Ken Plume, and his IGN cohorts wouldn't mind one bit if you gave the whole site a thorough look-see!

Anyway, here's hoping "The Fred Hembeck Show" has itself a nice healthy run, and doesn't turn off enough of the audience and suddenly become another "Turn-On"!...
March 14th, 2005
Time for another old--um, I mean, "Classic"--Dateline:@#$%! strip...

"With Pals Like This..." (1984)

Cub reporter Jimmy Olsen clearly does his alleged friend, Superman, no favors on this montage of redrawn Weisinger-era cover situations, none of which scream "Friendship"...

Hope you like it, folks. Y'know, the LAST time I dug out an old strip from the eighties, it wasn't long before the entire comics-oriented province of the realm of Blogovia was following my lead! Hey, maybe after THIS, people will finally realize what a tremendous jerk Jimmy Olsen was at times.

Why, I bet you could easily devote a WHOLE site proving what a dysfunctional bunch the entire Superman Family was back in the sixties! You could call it "Superman Is a Doody Head"! Or SOMETHING like that...

Oh yeah, that's right--it's been done. I forgot.

Ahead of my time again. Sigh...

By the way, I just heard the news that Disney chief Michael Eisner has been replaced by Bob Iger. Hmm--Eisner and Iger. Sounds sorta familiar somehow...
March 13th, 2005
From artist Mike Grell's first published job in ADVENTURE COMICS #435 (October, 1974), I share with you the following dubious detail...
"One of my fondest memories was when I would really horribly screw up on the art (and) Joe Orlando would take me under his wing, call me aside, sit down, and give me a drawing lesson. I think it was the second "Aquaman" story I did, but I had him sitting a bit too low on the throne (laughs), a bit to the point where he looked like he was sitting on a toilet! (laughs) For quite a while, I was known as the guy who drew Aquaman on the toilet."

--Mike Grell, quoted in an interview for "The Legion Companion" (TwoMorrows Publishing 2003) by author and chief inquisitor Glen Cadigan.

I'm more than two-thirds through this highly entertaining collection of chats with several decades worth of the ever-changing creators on DC Comics' long-running and popular "Legion of Super-Heroes" feature, and though I'll have more to say on the subject in the days to come, I just wanted to quickly step in and pick Glen up in the one instance where he clearly dropped the ball by not including a reproduction of the Sea King sitting, um, heavily upon his throne...

Oh, and in case you're at all curious, Aquaman is talking with Vulco, NOT Mr. Whipple!...
March 12th, 2005
A vintage Bob Hope hand puppet...
...for all of you who've always longed to give ol' ski-nose the finger!

(Yeah, yeah, I know how lame that was. Beg your pardon--we've been having some computer troubles lately. Our main one just up and died a few days back, and thus, access to the scanner has been limited. Tomorrow we're gonna try hooking it up to my laptop, and then, hope (no relation) for the best. And wouldn't you know it--the timing couldn't have been more inconvenient, but the story behind THAT all ties into a mildly special announcement I'll be springing on you in a few short days, so stay tuned folks! I wanna tell ya, honest--just not yet...)
March 11th, 2005
Long time readers of "Fred Sez" might recall that my daughter Julie was once totally obsessed with the fellow pictured above in the stylish PJs. Well, here's the latest update: not anymore.

Oh, she pays lip service to how she still appreciates his music, but whereas it once was non-stop "Thriller", "Bad", "Dangerous", and then back around again, I can't honestly recall the last time I heard her spin one of MJ's discs. The reason for her slowly developing disinterest? She's decided that--uh huh--Michael Jackson is just TOO weird.

That girl is a true Hembeck, all right! Hey, it may take awhile for us to catch up with the rest of the crowd, but eventually we get it! You bet! Better late than never, y'know! (Hmmm--wonder what her FIRST clue was?...)

Actually, going to that new school of hers has influenced her musical tastes for the better, I'm thinking. I don't mean that as a put-down of Jackson's music so much as a majority of what I hear on the radio stations Julie and her pals generally tune into. She's drifted away from the current rulers of the airwaves, and spends most of here time listening to CDs by The Shins, Eliot Smith, Le Tigre, Rasputina, and The Blood Brothers. I found both The Shins and her pair of Eliot Smith discs to be excellent, stuff I would actually listen to even if she weren't around. Le Tigre and Rasputina weren't bad, either. The Blood Brothers, though--well, let's just say that the lead "singer" uses a non-stop shriek that makes Robert Plant sound like Perry Como by comparison! I'm hoping she tires of their CD by the time summer rolls around, because if she plays it out by the pool, we're gonna have one heckuva time keeping the neighborhood dogs away, lemme tell ya!...

Of course, since The King of Pop has somehow managed to maintain his sway over one of Julie's best buddies, Courtney, the Gloved One--or should that be, the Pajama-ed One?--still makes his presence known hereabouts, particularly when the pair indulge in one of their frequent marathon phone conversations. It's times like that when one can't help overhearing such key words and phrases as "Blanket", "Jesus juice", "Billie Jean", and the ever popular "pedophile"...

Ugh. Well, on THAT sour note, now might be a swell time to "Beat It", don't you think?
March 10th, 2005
The first time I ever saw Jack Kirby's art, it was in that short "Challengers of the Unknown" reprint included in SECRET ORIGINS #1.

My first encounter with Steve Ditko took place in the back pages of an issue of STRANGE TALES.

Carmine Infantino? THE FLASH. Gil Kane? GREEN LANTERN. Dan DeCarlo? BETTY AND VERONICA. Curt Swan? C'mon--whaddya think? SUPERMAN, of course.

But Jim Aparo? HIM I first saw in a little feature entitled, "The Wild Life And Adventures of Miss Bikini Luv"!
Specifically, it was within the pages of Charlton comics' GO-GO #5 (February 1967), and just by chance, it was also Aparo's very first foray into funnybooks! (And it was only a happy accident, as the REAL reason I'd picked up that particular issue of GO-GO--my first--was because of a four page "Bestest League of America" parody written by Gary Friedrich and drawn by famed fan artist Grass Green.)

Well, as you can imagine, I was immediately impressed by this newcomer, and continued to buy the next four--and last--issues of this odd combination of satire rag/teen mag just so I could see more of Aparo's Bikini Luv!

Not that there was all that much more to see. Surprisingly, for a feature that sounds like it was primarily created as an excuse to serve up a little (Code-approved) cheesecake, the title character is either primarliy absent--or seen in haircurlers, a bulky astronaut's uniform, or dressed as a brunette beatnik--in the five episodes illustrated by Aparo. Only in GO-GO #7 does the Miss appear throughout in a bikini (which, frankly, we Luv!...), and a portion of THAT splash panel is scanned in above for your viewing pleasure.

The panel below, sans the star, comes from the artist's debut, and is a fine indication of Aparo's otherwise sadly untapped humorous bent...
Written by the mysterious Norm Dipluhm--of whom, I must shamefacedly once again admit, I long ago wrote a missive praising his work that was later published in a GHOSTLY TALES lettercol, having TOTALLY missed the, um, double meaning of the man's name--these Miss Bikini Luv episodes allowed Jim Aparo to flex ALL his cartooning skills. I've been a life-long admirer of the artist from the very outset of his career, but still have a overriding fondness for the work he did those first few years at Charlton, back before he moved over to enjoy a long and fruitful association with DC Comics. Because, no matter whether dealing with western subject matter,("Wander"), super-heros, ("The Prankster"), or the various sci-fi or spook stories found in the various Charlton anthology titles, there was always a little of the above pure cartoony joy ala those GO-GO fillers to be found sneaking into the panels of otherwise deadly (or at least, semi) serious stories. While he certainly remains a tremendously talented illustrator (AND a great letterer, let's not forget that) over at DC, that endearing aspect of Aparo's approach seemed to all but vanish while toiling in the halls of the vastly larger firm, and I for one, miss it to this day.

Sigh. Well, let me leave you with THIS remarkable panel--one which took up fully two-thirds of the original printed page--from the title's sixth issue...
It sure makes you long for that never-quite-realized BRAVE AND THE BOLD teaming of Batman and Elvis Presley, doesn't it? Man, can you just imagine the Bob Haney dialog for THAT one? I'm all shook up just thinking about it!...
March 9th, 2005
Y'know sometimes, when the stars and planets find themselves in just the right alignment, life can play out pretty much exactly like an Abbott and Costello routine...

Because of an imminent afternoon snowstorm, the local schools sent kids home early today, around noon. With all that extra free time on her hands, daughter Julie came up to me at one point and asked if I'd take a break from what I was working on and play a few hands of Uno with her, and I readily agreed.

We sat down at the dining room table, shuffled the cards, and began to play. In the background, the music I'd earlier slipped into the CD deck continued to play. A vintage live show from back in 1972 courtesy of Burton Cummings and associates began to pipe into the room. Though rarely interested in my music, Julie atypically evinced curiosity in what was playing, most likely because, while she'd no doubt heard the songs before--"These Eyes", "No Time", "American Woman"--these more loosely performed concert versions had the intriguing element of sounding both familiar AND unfamiliar simultaneously.

"Which group is this?" she asked.

Pondering my cards, I answered, "Guess Who".

"The Beatles?"

I looked up. I paused for a second, and suddenly realized the direction this conversation was headed. I smiled, and calmly repeated, "Guess Who."

"Okay, then is it Paul McCartney after he left the Beatles?"

"Nope--Guess Who."

"John Lennon--is it John Lennon then?" she asked, getting exasperated.

"Uh uh. Guess Who."

"Jefferson Airplane? C'mon--which of your hippie bands is it?" (She calls ALL the groups from the sixties and seventies "hippie bands"...)

"Guess Who."

"I don't WANNA guess who--JUST TELL ME!!"

And so, I did.

For those of you out there whose knowledge of hippie bands from the past approximates that of my darlin' fourteen year old, be advised that WAS the name of the group--the Guess Who!

I'll just bet Bud and Lou would've been SO proud of me!..
March 8th, 2005
A couple of years back (okay, maybe more than a couple), there was a very funny feature that ran in THE COMIC READER magazine entitled "Fandom Confidential", a fumetti style strip starring the two gentlemen ("who came in?...") responsible for its chuckle-laden content, Jim Engel and Chuck Fiala. That's right, friends--whereas I was only willing to go so far as to offer up a cartoon caricature of myself while interacting foolishly with the funnybook icons of the day, these brave gents ("really--WHO came in?...") let themselves be shamelessly photographed while mercilessly mugging for the camera--and thanks to sharp writing, a keen eye (or four), and unbridled hamminess, these mostly single page vignettes were, more often than not, absolutely hilarious!
In 1982, Kitchen Sink released a collection of these classic TCR episodes, and , as you can see from the cover reproduced above, being lens-friendly glamour-pusses weren't the boys ONLY discernible talent! Both Chuck and Jim possessed admirable cartooning skills as well, which should be eminently evident from Mr. Engel's above illustration. For awhile there, their carefully coiffed coconuts AND their art graced nearly every issue of the prestigious TCR. But, as things sometimes seem to have a way of going, eventually both their cartooning and "Fandom Confidential" vanished from the scene. Why? Who's to say for sure--maybe that poor camera FINALLY broke, dig?--but time marched on, and I soon lost track of the duo.

You wanna know one of the very best things about the Internet? (BESIDES the high-paying gigs, I mean...) It's getting back in touch with old friends and colleagues after decades of silence. Now, I don't THINK I ever actually met Jim and Chuck in the flesh--although, during my whirlwind early eighties comics convention itinerary heyday, there's just no telling for certain--but we've been aware and admirers of each other's work pretty much from the outset of our respective careers. So, not long after staking out this cozy little corner of the World Wide Web, I was thrilled to hear from none other than good ol' Jim Engel himself! (Chuck? No word as of yet, but it's too soon to give up all hope....)

Periodically, Jim'll check in with his own recollection of some bit of comics minutia that I've covered to loving excess in my blog, and it's always enlightening to hear his take on something we both experienced at roughly the same time.

Yup, the email's from Jim the Critic were always great, but then recently, Jim the Cartoonist decided to very generously send me several of these..
That's right--sketchbooks.

But these AREN'T like what most cartoonists pawn off on their fans as sketchbooks these days. More often than not, in those cases, you'll get about thirty fully finished drawings printed on about thirty pages, making these publications more like mini-portfolios than books containing anything remotely resembling sketches. That's all well and good--don't misunderstand me here. But that's NOT what Mr. Engel assembles when HE compiles a sketchbook. Each of his hefty tomes weigh in at around 100 pages, with each page filled to every margin with random doodling goodness.
Which is not to say these compendiums are filled with half-finished notions from his noggin--far from it. While employing any number of approaches--single weight line illos all the way up to fully buttressed inked extravaganzas--the sheer weight and variety found in any of these books will invariably cause one to pause and admire the confident expertise invested in each and every one of these pictorial vignettes.

(Translation: Lotsa purty pictures, peeps!...)

Jim shows a marked facility for caricatures within these pages--and while Groucho and the rest of his brothers turn up in nearly every volume, and are hardly the most unique (nor difficult) of subjects to tackle, how many OTHER dead-on Joe Kubert likenesses have YOU seen lately, huh, pal? And there's far more than Joe on display--in the several books Jim so generously sent me, I spied the likes of Carmine Infantino, Dick Ayers, Jack Cole, Rube Goldberg. Lou Fine, Wally Wood, Osamu Tezuka, Bill Everett, Percy Crosby, and--of course--Stan Lee, among many, many others.
But it's not only the denizens of the comics world who get the Engel treatment--I saw plenty of other celebrities while whiling away the hours with these 100 Page Super-Spectaculars: Phil Spector, Woody Allen, Barry White, Buster Keaton, Ben Turpin, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Buddy Holly, Dennis Franz, Brain Wilson, Emo Phillips, and THIS fellow...
However, I don't want you to get the wrong idea--we're not peeking into Mort Drucker Junior's secret files here--celebrity illos only take up a small portion of Jim's wide-ranging attention. Most of his pages--a majority containing up to ten separate drawings apiece, though each volume does boast its share of lovingly rendered full page tableaus--are covered with cute cartoony animals, oddly structured humans, the occasional familiar beloved costumed icon (an always deftly drawn Captain Marvel leads all other contenders in THIS department), and good ol' Jim himself! (Apparently, that camera is on the fritz for good...)

There are short comic strips, experimental logos, personal printed asides, tributes to fallen pets, and just a taste of Jim's no-holds-barred opinions accompanying his drawings--while most of his famous faced subjects appear in loving tribute, several clearly don't, and the artist isn't shy with expressing his obvious contempt. So, yup, gossip included, too!...
But mostly, its art.

The most difficult decisions for me in assembling this post today was what exactly to include in my paltry efforts to get across to you fully the true nature of these jam-packed sketchbooks, and I settled on the following two pages. In some ways, since they both focus on a single theme, they're NOT truly representative, as most pages combine several subjects with just as many artistic approaches, but hey, I do what I can, y'know?...
And then we have Jim venturing into the world of costumed crusaders in an atypically unfinished page, one which I nonetheless believe captures the joyous energy of his work--dare I say it?--marvelously! (And excuse the greyishness--that was the shadow caused by my scan, NOT the paper in Jim's book...)
Jim tells me that the one consistent thing he's heard from every single one of his cartoonist buddies, ones that have been lucky enough to receive one or more of these fabulous books, is that, after paging through them, you can't help but be inspired and anxious to draw your ownself--and I'm no exception! Just viewing the myriad of techniques Mr. E utilizes on his expansive array of subjects is certainly enough to get my own creative juices percolating!
Just look at THAT drawing! I came across several other illustrations of the Beatles, including a few "finished" ones--and they were all just swell, believe me--but I'm just totally enchanted by this obviously hastily drawn doodle of the Lads. With only a few quick lines, he's completely nailed the visages of Paul, John, Ringo, and George--all the while, keeping them in an entirely cartoony realm and away from the land of the overly-rendered! Fab, gear, AND groovy!
Y'know, these sketchbooks remind me of nothing if not that series of Robert Crumb's casual cartooning collections that Fantagraphics has been issuing over the past several years. They're both brimming with material, occasionally utilizing styles harkening back to the earliest days of animation, and the ubiquitous Groucho Marx--as well as a virtual parade of grizzled bluesmen--flow from the talented pens of both artists. True, you'll only be subjected to incessant illos of ampled bottomed babes within the pages of ONE of theses gent's books, but hey, you can't have EVERYTHING, y'know?...
Obviously, I was very much impressed with the Jim Engel Sketchbook Series, but wondered if they were for sale to the general public, as opposed to serving merely as gifts to his fellow scribblers. So, I asked Jim, and this is what he had to say...

Yeah, I sell 'em if anyone's interested...(mostly I circulate 'em to my handful of cartoonist friends, just so SOMEBODY sees 'em. I'm still tryinna figure out a way to get 'em PUBLISHED)...but I have sold them by mail over the years (less a profitable venture than a way to "share" my stuff...).

What I do is, for $35.00 postpaid, I send an autographed sketchbook with an extra 8 1/2X 11" page bound in that has an original drawing (my choice of subject) drawn & inscribed by me to the buyer as the "frontispiece". So that's like a hundred pages (I think)+ original art for 35 bucks. ($20.00 postpaid WITHOUT the original drawing, should someone like my stuff, but not THAT much). A fair deal, I think (as you said--usually you get 30 pages/30 drawings).

Vols.# 6 (1991) through #17 (last year) are available...

I'm at

LOMBARD, IL. 60148

Thanks, Jim! Hopefully, I've convinced more than a few of my readers out there to give your sketchbooks a try (trust me, folks, you can safely pick any volume number at random--they're ALL great!), and maybe even find yourself a publisher proper as well! This is good stuff people--I wouldn't go on and on like this if it weren't--and I give it my highest recommendation! So buy one already--or two, or three, or even more!

Hey, ANYTHING to keep Mr. Engel back behind a drawing board instead of out in front of a camera, y'know?!!

(Cheap gag, I know--sorry Jim, but I wanted to wrap this up with some sort of joke, even a tepid one...)
March 7th, 2005
I had this idea earlier today--why not try Googling the phrase, "100 Things I Love About Comics"?

Well, I did, and as a result, I've added 11 new lists since the one contributed the other day by our German friend, Bjorn. The roll call remains mid-way down our February, 2005 Archive page (on the 15th)--you might want to go take a look. As always, new arrivals are listed beneath Gary Sassaman's "Innocent Bystander". Y'know, I really should find a separate home for the list listing, which now totals 75 or so (depending on how you look at the folks who contributed multiple tallies).

Any others out there I missed?...
March 6th, 2005
Over at Scott Saavedra's fun-filled "Comic Book Heaven" site, you'll find his twisted take on Curt Swan's iconic cover for SUPERMAN ANNUAL #7 (1963), and as he cited me as an influence in his decision to humorously desecrate this classic illustration, I thought I'd offer up my OWN take on said drawing...
Of course, Scott's take adds some entirely new (and pretty funny) jokes into the mix, while mine is a pretty straight ahead redo--that is, if you can consider anything with squiggly knees included on it to be "straight"--and his is for sale, and mine isn't, having been sold long ago (but we DO have several other fine reinterpretations available for purchase, I'd like to hastily remind you!)

Someday, I'll get around to writing this great comic up properly and post it over in my Classic Cover Redo section, but just in case we all don't live that long, I wanted to get this up on site today so you folks could compare and contrast--AND because its give's me a swell opportunity to plug Scott's nifty site!

(And just for the record, I DID do another version of this cover for a "Dateline:@#$%!" strip focusing on the 25th Anniversary of Wolverine, with the cranky X-Man standing on the pedestal, surrounded by gags a'plenty! Someday I'll post that one too--honest...)
March 6th, 2005
Today, my head feels like it's stuffed with cotton balls. And my nose, well, as you might well imagine, THAT'S stuffed as well.

And when a cold throws me into a mostly useless state like this, I can't help but think back warmly on those Marvel Annuals pictured above.

The year was 1976. I was 23, living in an old two story house on Stockbridge Avenue in Buffalo, NY, with five other roommates. True, I wasn't a kid any more--we were all going to college--but I still had a wide-eyed enthusiasm for comics, particularly Marvel ones. Each Saturday I'd drive over to Grant Books--about 20 minutes downtown--and eagerly scoop up the newest releases. But one Saturday in late spring, it was becoming increasingly obvious that that just wasn't going to be possible, as I was saddled with a nasty, nasty cold.

I panicked. I didn't want to chance anything selling out before I could get free of my sick bed, and I was especially concerned with the whole upcoming slate of Marvel Annuals the company was just beginning to dole out slowly over a several month period. I knew all this because, back in those pre-Internet days, there was ONE reliable source of on sale dates for all the major publishers, a small but literally indispensable magazine called THE COMIC READER. So I was well aware that the 11th FANTASTIC FOUR ANNUAL and the 3rd IRON MAN ANNUAL were slated to hit the stands that very day.

I also knew the FF story was gonna be a way-cool time-travel epic, one wherein Marvel's flagship characters were destined to encounter The Invaders--Captain America, Sub-Mariner, and the original Human Torch (plus sidekicks)--in a wild World War Two-based adventure penned by Roy Thomas, drawn by John Buscema, and sporting a Jack Kirby cover! Man--just in describing the book for you folks, it STILL sounds good to me! There was no way I'm missing THAT!!

As for the Iron Man book, well, the excitement there had to do with the fact that it was a special story being written by Steve Gerber and would feature Man-Thing, on whose book he was then building a well-deserved scripting reputation. Plus, the enigmatic FF villain, The Molecule Man (actually, his son), was the baddie de jour, but I'd read enough Gerber by '76 to know he wasn't ever likely to feed us the same old standard super-duper slugfest that usually found its way into a second tier title like IRON MAN. So yeah, I wanted THIS one, too--and badly. But what to do?

Then my OWN Fabulous Flo--a cross between the Ms's Nightingale and Steinberg--came to my aid in my time of dire need: Lynn.

Lynn Moss and I had been dating for nearly two years at that point, and when she saw just how pitifully perturbed I was at the prospect of missing my weekly dose of funny books, she up and volunteered to drive down to Grant Avenue and pick them up for me herself, regardless of just how silly she might have thought the whole situation was!

Well, I quickly took her up on her generous offer, and, handing her the keys to my car--and specific instructions as to which books to look for--thanked her profusely, and sent her on her Marvelous mission of mercy. Not long after, she returned with my pair of prizes in hand, and I grabbed them happily, and soon had devoured both of them. They WERE quite good, as it turned out, and I remember especially liking the meeting between the FF and Marvel's Golden Age heroes, but the thing I'll always remember most about those two comics is the kindness Lynn showed me by trudging out to get them. That might very well've been the point where I realized, once and for all, THIS was the woman I wanted to spend the rest of my life with!

Poor Lynn--what's that they say about no good deed ever goes unpunished?...

And speaking of good intentions, just to switch gears here--yesterday, I introduced you to our new-found German correspondent, Bjorn Wederhake. Turns out I was so concerned about running his first name sans umlaut, I went and misspelled his LAST name as "WedeShake"!! Well, I've since gone back and corrected my error, and wanted to make note of it here. Sorry, Bjorn--relations between our two countries are strained enough as it is thanks to a certain Texan, I certainly didn't want to contribute any more ill will!...
March 5th, 2005
I've got a cold today. First one I've had all season, but considering Julie inaugurated things about two weeks ago, and it spread to Lynn last weekend, well, what makes ME so special that I should miss taking my turn at the sniffling, the sneezing and the general lethargy that the rest of the family suffered from these past few weeks, huh?

So, no big entry today.

But if I didn't feel like doing any thinking, it sure didn't stop me from linking! Yup, forty new additions today, all identified, as usual, with a scarlet
** .

Lotta bloggers. Over thirty, I believe. Anybody who contributed to the "100 Things I Love About Comics" frenzy from last month gets, as a reward of sorts, enshrinement on ye oldde Links Page (let the sarcastic shouts of "Woo-hoo!" now commence...). And by the way, the book on that little experiment is in no way closed. Why, in just the last couple of days, I've discovered four new lists, and have dutifully added them to my round-up included on the February 15th posting, which you can access by going to the February, 2005 Archives.(Since I didn't plan ahead for adding new additions to the roll call, I've just taken to putting the new arrivals under the Gary Sassaman entry, mainly cuz there's a line of non-linked type after his blog's name, and thus I don't have to be concerned about the occasional wandering linkage that sometimes happens when I try putting two links up against one another. So if you're looking for fresh ones in the future, that's where they'll be. And say "hi" to Gary while you're there!...)

Which leads me to a very special listing that I want to call your attention to. A few days back, I received a very nice email from a young man over in Germany (and no, I'm NOT going to run it here. We've had so many letters in "Fred Sez" lately that, y'know, it's in REAL danger of turning into "Let's Yap With Cap"!...)

Suffice to say Bjorn Wederhake (with an umlaut over the "o", but not on THIS keyboard, I'm afraid--my apologies) was kind enough to say lotsa swell things about this site--which I found especially gratifying since, up until stumbling across "" not long ago, he pretty much knew nothing whatsoever about yours truly. While I certainly appreciate all of you out there who are long-time fans, it's nice to know that I'm still capable of making some brand new ones--and ones on the other side of the ocean, at that!

Well, after making with the compliments, all sincere like, Bjorn got down to brass tacks--his true motivation at writing was to implore me to add permalinks to my blog entries! Not wanting to cause an international incident, Lynn looked into the situation, and thought she had it figured. Thought. It didn't work, but we're gonna try again, and soon. No guarantees, but hopefully, we won't be the last remaining weblog sans permalinks.

In the course of writing back to Herr Wederhake, I noticed he contributed to a German comics site, Comicgate (please, no Nixon jokes), and I suggested maybe he'd like to get in on the fun of making up a list of his own. Not too long after, he had it all ready and posted up on site, and you can see it by going here.
It's quite illuminating. While there are quite a few names we folks on this side of the world are familiar with, Bjorn includes a healthy dose of homegrown talent, as well as some other European masters. and not only does he annotate them in both his native tongue AND in very good English, he's provided links to ALL of them!

His anecdote regarding the first Superman/Spider-Man team-up just proves kids will be kids, no matter WHICH side of the Atlantic they're on!

And, oh yeah, THAT guy made the cut, too. What--you're surprised?...
Thanks for playing along, Bjorn, and making this a global phenomenon! Your work was exemplary, and some of your choices are sure to open curious eyes over here! And I'll see what we can do about those long over-due permalinks, mach schnell!!

In fact, I've even added a new category on the Links page: "Linked To Me From Around the World", and have put the site our German friend works for at the very top of the list. So far, it's a list of one, granted, but if anybody else out there from foreign shores links to us, let me know, and I'll happily add you in turn to my mini-United Nations of Blogovia, okay? As Bjorn might say, danke!

A last few notes on links. Check out "This Is Pop!", John Firehammer's blog (say,wasn't he a Joe Kubert character?...), brightly and generously illustrated with tons of great, garish pop culture images. I was especially taken with his pictorial history of BATMAN's ever evolving logo. (Boy, if THAT sentence doesn't succinctly sum up just the kinda guy I really am, I don't know what does--heaven help me...)

And it was GREAT to see Steve Wintle's "Flat Earth" back in operation yesterday for the first time since last summer. Let's hope it wasn't only to mark the Third Annual "International Read A Comic Book Naked Day", because I think we all miss Steve's swell site a lot ! That panel he included of the Archie gang spying on a group of nudists shows the boy's still got it!

(Did I celebrate the holiday, you ask? Hey, how do you THINK I got this cold?...)
March 4th, 2005
I've said more than once in the past that Fox's "24" is my favorite current television program. Oh, I have no illusions about it being the BEST, but it certainly was the one I most eagerly looked forward to watching each week. As soon as one hour of the so-called real time thriller was over, I was already anxious to find out what happened next. But so far, nearly half-way into the series fourth season, I've said nary a word about the latest scenario hereabouts, and you might well be wondering why.

Simple--I haven't watched it. Yet.

Blame the scheduling geniuses at Fox. Instead of the typical September relaunch of the show, they decided to hold it back until January. The theory was, then there wouldn't have to be any skipped weeks in presenting the usual 24 episodes that make up each year's single story. This seemed like a GREAT idea to me, because in previous years, there'd invariably be a three week "24"-less gap around Christmas, and, even worse, ill-advised situations like last March when, at a particularly crucial point in the plot, Fox yanked it off the schedule for five consecutive weeks! FIVE WEEKS!! Man, was the suspense ever killing me THAT month! So, having it broadcast week in and week out, with no silly interruptions for holidays or extra "American Idol" piffle, THAT'D be well worth the extra wait, I figured. And just to get things going like gangbusters out of the gate, Fox generously debuted with two hours on a Sunday night, and then two more the very next day, in "24"s new regular Monday night slot. THIS, however, is where I got into trouble...

Look, I'd always devoured each episode as they were aired--I'd never been able to get even a hint of how the real time gimmick would play out over several hours, though I'd long wondered about it. Suddenly, here was my chance--and all I had to do was restrain myself from watching for a little over--yup--24 hours! But then I thought, why not wait a few MORE days and I'd have FIVE exciting hours at my disposal (PLUS the ten minute prequel available only on the Season 3 DVD, which I bought, however grudgingly). A few more days went by, and it was six episodes, then seven, then--well, we're up to eleven now. That's a LOT of TV watching, folks, even for me!

The thing is, I DON'T want to just dole 'em out on a nightly basis for a week or so--I wanna saddle up in front of the tube, and take in as many as I possibly can in a single sitting! But, unfortunately, that's not the easiest thing to arrange. There's a little thing called life that keeps getting in the way of such fanciful plans. Luckily, it's among the handful of shows I watch alone, so there's no one else involved, a situation which can, at times, became a scheduling nightmare (there are shows I watch with wife Lynn, shows I watch with daughter Julie, and shows I watch with both of them--though currently, that amounts to only "Gilmore Girls", as "Lizzie McGuire" and "Sabrina" are both off the air, and Lynn bailed on the Sunday Fox comedies last year, pleading burnout...). Someday soon, though, I think I'm gonna drink a LOT of tea, get caffeined up, and then stay up real, REAL late, and find out just what Jack Bauer and associates (I hesitate to call them "friends"...) have been up to this time around! (I've been especially good at avoiding any and all information about the current goings on, but my luck can't hold out forever on that front, I'm afraid...)

But I DID hear a quaint little story about "24" the other day--NOT plot related, please understand--one that I wanted to share with you good people, thus my little preamble above. (Yeah, that was just the WARM-UP!...) Y'see, I was watching "Live With Regis and Kelly" the morning after the Oscar telecast, and--

"Wait a minute, wait a minute, WAIT A MINUTE--you're complaining that you've got no time to check out "24", but you've got time to watch REGIS PHILBIN?!?", you ask (and somewhat rudely, at that...)

Well, yes. Apples and oranges. It's part of my weekday morning routine. Get up while Julie prepares for school, watch the previous evening's "Late Night With Conan O'Brien" on tape, and just as that ends around nine, turn on "Live" and eat my standard breakfast--toasted bagel, cream cheese, Lipton tea, two sugars, no milk--and enjoy the spontaneous repartee between the mock gruff Regis and the fast and funny Kelly. Honestly, it's a swell way to start the day, and always brings a smile to my face. True, most everything after that 20 minute opening segment is usually forgettable--though I leave the set on, I'm usually either on the computer, at the drawing board, or doing some other small chore at the time--but I derive a lot of enjoyment out of what's dubbed "Host chat". Like, just the other day...
Regis was telling Kelly how he'd gone to an Oscar party at the famous NYC eatery, "Elaine's", the previous evening, and among the people seated at his table was Tony Danza. Now, as it turns out, Danza presides over another live talk show--one I've only watched once, though I'd seen him sub for Regis often enough to know his act--and Regis was mock complaining that, not only had he spent all Sunday evening with him, not only had he been called by Tony's producers to fill in for a guest who'd dropped out at the eleventh hour on the episode of that very Monday morning's Danza extravaganza--LIVE, remember--
--not only that, but the two of them were supposed to have dinner together that very evening! Plans had been made for the pair to dine together weeks earlier, without any inkling of the very close--and seemingly unrelenting--proximity the duo would share over that single (uh huh) 24 hour period!

Exasperated, as only Regis can be, the befuddled host looked directly into the camera and pleaded, "How much Tony Danza can a man TAKE??" Good question, but there were actually TWO other screws grinding up the gears--New York was bracing for a late season snow storm to arrive later that self-same day, giving Regis further concerns regarding his reluctance to dine with Danza and perhaps reason enough to cancel the get-together altogether.

But that wasn't the MOST eye-opening reason. It seemed Liza Minelli was mad at him...

Because, y'see, the singer had a standing date with Regis's erstwhile dinner companion to come over to her apartment every Monday evening and watch each new episode of "24" with her!

That's right, you heard me--these two show biz titans hook up each Monday for the express purpose of watching "24" together--and Liza was upset that Regis was going to--however inadvertently--ruin their routine!
Well, this befuddled Regis even further, and he quizzed Danza about the situation later that morning when he trudged on down the street to the rookie host's nearby studio. Turns out Minelli and Danza are just good friends--friends who are nonetheless totally hooked on "24", as it it were some deadly habit-forming drug!

Ultimately, Regis ducked his dinner date, we got the snow--though not nearly as much as predicted, naturally--and one can only assume, Tony and Liza spent the evening curled up on her couch, watching this season's eleventh hour of "24" (Yeah, THEY'RE ahead of me, too...)..

So, those of you out there who follow the pulse-pounding thriller with great loyalty and intensity--like me, soon, honest--I just want you to pause for a moment the next time you pull up a chair and prepare to enjoy the very latest episode of the Kiefer Sutherland action-fest and consider this:

Somewhere, at that very same moment, in an undeniably ritzy apartment building lodged amongst the world's greatest city's legion of legendary skyscrapers, Tony Danza and Liza Minelli are perched on the edge of her pricey couch, their hearts racing with the very same anticipation YOU feel whenever Jack Bauer finds himself in one of his myriad of outlandish but nonetheless deadly predicaments!

Liza Minelli! Tony Danza! Jack Bauer! And YOU!

Got that? I want you to have that image lodged solidly in your head the next time you watch "24", okay? Because, Lord knows, I'M never gonna be able to shake it...

(Or, you could always tape the show, and sup with Regis. Just so long as he promises to keep his voice down in the restaurant, you'll be fine...)
March 3rd, 2005
In reaction to my March 1st posting, regular correspondent and bon vivant, Craig Smith, emailed me the following...

Your wondering aloud if Herbie really had superhero adventures or just dreamed them up to escape his unpleasant reality got me to thinking about a theory that I've had for years. That's that Mr. Ed never really talked and all we were observing was the product of Wilbur's disturbed imagination. And why would that be? I dunno, but it seemed odd that most of the time Mr. Ed interfered was when Wilbur's sexy wife Carol was trying to get amorous with the (for some reason) very nervous Mr. Post.
Yes, I know I'm reading all kinds of things in there that I'd like to hope The Producers didn't intend but next time take a look and I think you'll see what I mean.

An interesting theory, Craig, and one I would've been more than willing to accept--IF a little further investigation hadn't turned up photographic evidence of what I believe to be the TRUE source of Wilbur Post's curious yet continuous consternation regarding the advances of the cute and cuddly Carol...
How the heck was a goof like Wilbur Post supposed to EVER compete with THAT?

Face it--after your wife does the Twist with Clint Eastwood, YOU come up looking every which way but good!! And don't think Mr. Ed--the third party in this mangy menage a mare--didn't make hay of the incident and let poor Wilbur in on what he witnessed! Man, talk about your unforgiven.

So if Wilbur seemed a little less than assertive with the missus, can you really blame him? After all, Clint--the REAL horse whisperer--had some mighty big boots to fill.

And it certainly didn't help much that every time Carol approached Wilbur, that unmistakable look of l'amour in her eyes, she invariably intoned, breathily, "Make my day!..."

(Ed's commanding of Wilbur to "Make my hay" wasn't much better...)
March 2nd, 2005
Long-time readers know that I hold the artwork Al Wiseman produced for the fifties' and sixties' DENNIS THE MENACE comics in the very highest of esteem. And, almost every month, I receive an interesting email concerning the subject, and February was no exception.

A fellow by the name of Mark Drummond wrote the following missive a short while back, and he's graciously agreed to let me share it with you. I think it's important because it adds some new information to the mix, and while I can't personally vouch for the accuracy of said info one hundred percent, I still wanted to get it out there (oh, and by the way, the opinions expressed are solely those of Mr. D, okay?).

Hi! I've been a fan of your work since I saw those little strips of yours in DC Comics in the late 1970s, and a Dennis The Menace fan since I read my first Pocket Full of Fun issue in late 1974. I finally got around to reading your essay on Dennis, and although you may have been contacted about this before, there is one misconception in the piece that I should address.

Owen Fitzgerald was not the artist that replaced Al Wiseman on the main Dennis title in the early 1960s. Owen did do some work on the Dennis books then(including, I think, the 1965 California vacation giant), but he didn't take over full art on the book(and the "bonus" series) until the mid-1970s. I have a complete collection of the main Dennis title from 1953 till about mid-1963, and all the non-reprint Giant/Special/oddball issues until mid-1966( mostly bought over the internet and Ebay, for surprisingly cheap prices) and when I read them I found the replacement artist announced in a Cookie Jar page around 1960.

His name was Bruce Ariss. I think he was an associate of Al Wiseman, and may have come from the same advertising background. I definitely think his work suffers in comparison with Wiseman, and he certainly could look sloppy and rushed with backgrounds and incidental characters. He also took Sally, an occasional friend of Margaret and Gina in the Wiseman stories, and inexplicably transformed her from a short redhead to a tall brunette. However, his work did retain expressive lettering and quite a bit of dynamism, so I didn't mind his presence in the books that much.


...not Wiseman...
However, later there would come an indeed "terrible" artist, succeeding Ariss in the late 1960s.

I don't know his name, but he drew those stories where Dennis visited England, France, Ireland, and Marriott's Great America. His work was incredibly flat, depthless, stiff, conventionally lettered, and almost completely absent any movement or humor. I couldn't stand seeing reprints of his stuff as a kid, and I still don't care for it now. I'm not even sure if Fred Toole was still writing the books at that point.

My first Exposure to Dennis comics was a Pocket Full of Fun Xmas reprint of all-Wiseman stories in late 1974. I treasured that book and read it till it fell apart, and any later issues that specialized in Wiseman were keepers. My memories of those are what spurred me to collect the original issues 30 years later. Any PFOF digest with all-Ariss stories were OK too; they could be counted on to have at least one story to make me laugh.

But the all-3rd artist PFOFs that began popping up in the late 1970s? BLECCHHH! They were so horrible I rarely reread them. Plus, the fact that they looked positively anorexic compared to the earlier, fatter issues...

Thanks a lot, Mark! My collection of DENNIS THE MENACE comics, though fairly substantial, starts becoming spotty as Wiseman relinquished his role as the regular artist on the monthly title, going over to handle instead most of those wonderful special giant editions. So, it turns out I don't actually possess the issue in which the changeover to Bruce Ariss was announced on the text page (but I DO have the one where the editors proudly trumpet a "Dennis" fan in Korea!...). And I only have a few stray issues from the late sixties and early seventies, so I'm not entirely sure exactly which artist that Mark's, um, less than happy with, so I've prudently decided NOT to venture any visual aids in an effort to prove his point. Hey, I'm staying out of THAT one, folks!

Instead, I offer you a few side by side pictorial comparisons between Wiseman and his successor...


...not Wiseman...
Y'know, looking at the art supplied by Ariss for the feature, I see only one over-riding flaw: it's NOT Al Wiseman.

That was the problem then, and that remains the problem now. But as Mark contends, it's really not all that bad, judged solely on its own merits. In fact, it's actually quite good, and more in line with the style employed by creator Ketcham than the magnificently precise approach Wiseman's work evolved into over the bountiful decade he handled the chores on the comic book "Dennis" (compare the earliest Wiseman ghosting with his drawing ten years later--both are clearly recognizable as his work, but the differences are substantial).

Ariss's work exhibits great energy, and generally manage to do scripter Fred Toole's inventive story-line's justice, but when I was a kid, that wasn't quite enough--he wasn't Al Wiseman, much the same way John Romita wasn't Steve Ditko on AMAZING SPIDER-MAN, and Ross Andru wasn't Carmine Infantino on THE FLASH. Good--even great--artists all, but each saddled with the unenviable job of following the definitive vision on each character. And as time went on, in an effort to build up the accomplishments of the woefully overlooked Wiseman, denigrating those who followed him somehow seemed a way to buttress the man's growing legend. Not particularly kosher, but it happens...

Y'know, I guess I wasn't TOO down on the new guy, cuz going through my old books to put this entry together, I noticed that I stuck with the book on up until number 78, issued in early 1965, several years after I'd abandoned all other so-called "kiddie" comics. I suppose if things were really all THAT bad, I would've bailed out a whole lot earlier, that's for sure

And speaking of "kiddie" comics, back on February 27th, I wrote about blog-brother Noah Smith's appearance in a letter-column of an old issue of PETER PORKER, THE SPECTACULAR SPIDER-HAM (several, actually), and reproduced said communication. Well, now Noah has taken the opportunity over in his "Baggy Pants And Bravado" blog to explain his letter, line by line, and I must say, it makes for keenly illuminating reading. Not since Richard Harris explained, steely-eyed, the seemingly preposterous lyrics of "MacArthur Park" to a smirking, doubting Bob Costas on a memorable episode of "Later" years back has the nonsensical suddenly become so very, very crystal clear!

AND Noah throws in a real groaner of a visual pun as well to start things off, so go--look!

(NOW will you call off your lawyers, Mr. Smith? It was all in, heh, GOOD FUN, y'know?...)
March 1st, 2005
Years ago, the colorful fun-filled world of comics was home to a monosyllabic, morbidly obese pre-teen, one whose outlandish antics were chronicled by the morbidly small ACG comics company. In the course of these imaginative escapades, the young star was generally admired by great men, feared by powerful enemies, or desired by beautiful women. The fact was, he was thought of highly by everyone he came into contact with—except his very own parents, whose unchanging opinion of their son was that he'd never amount to more than “a little fat nothing”.

Such was the life of Herbie Popnecker.

But was it REALLY? Did any of it—save for the derisive attitude of his mother and especially his father—actually happen, or were these “adventures” (recorded for posterity by Richard Hughes and Ogden Whitney) merely desperate flights of fancy dreamt up by the poor put-upon Herbie mainly as a way of sustaining his own precarious sanity?

You might well ask, was there ever REALLY a “Fat Fury”?
Who's to say for sure, as the Popnecker clan slipped away from the four-color scene decades ago. If Herbie's still out there, who's also to say he didn't grow up into an angry, profane adult? Someone who'd sit around, wearing a flashy but soiled outfit, slouched in front of his TV, beer in hand, and--
Okay, so there's no SOLID evidence that The Fat Fury grew up and morphed into The Flying (--word we don't use here at the site, but one that features many of the same letters as “Firetruck”--including the first--minus several key ones), but it wouldn't be the first time the resourceful Pete Von Sholly had mined the more obscure corners of the Silver Age for divine inspiration (check out his update on John Stanley's “Melvin The Monster”), so who's to say this new character isn't really an old one under that ill-fitting mask?

Look, it's only a theory, but if you want to check out this latest crusader with the initials “FF”, you can read a free preview over at Pete's site. After which, I'm sure Pete would love it if you actually BOUGHT a copy of the Annoyed Avenger's first issue. Be advised, though—the book's NOT for the faint of heart. There's enough profanity inside its 32 pages to make even those English guys who write for Vertigo blush—well, almost. The photographic fumetti format utilized for most of the book helps accentuate the book's outrageous humor—even if it definitely calls into question the lead character's dubious sanitary habits!

If nothing else, this should serve as a warning to parents everywhere—THIS is what constantly bad-mouthing your kids'll get you! If I'm right about the masked man's TRUE identity, well, I'm sure our Flying friend has a few choice words for the elder Popnecker these days, and “Firetruck” ISN'T gonna be one of 'em! (...though it's close!!...)

While we're on the subject of somewhat questionable lingo, gang, there's a new site out there that's suddenly become all the rage, “Superman Is A Dick”. The folks responsible have made the startling discovery that—I hope you're sitting down--old Superman comics are prime targets to mercilessly mock! Gee, now why didn't I ever think of that?...

But, seriously, the site is a lot of snarky fun, so you might want to go take a gander if you haven't already. My only real quibble is with that title. Clearly, Superman ISN'T a Dick—everyone knows ROBIN is a Dick. Dick Grayson. Superman, we all know, is a Kent...

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