Archive - March 2007
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March 29th, 2007
Today we have a pair of fairly interesting links for you.

The first is for 97th episode of The Fred Hembeck Show. After a short intro, the bulk of this week's entry is comprised of a never before seen (until NOW--oh, you lucky, lucky people!) 29 page story starring Cartoon Fred and Spider-Man, created circa 1985! Now, before you get TOO excited (as if THAT' S likely...), I should hastily add that these are merely the roughest of layouts, AND that the pages were done on index cards. But still, sorta interesting stuff--honest. Take a look.

And over at The Comic Zone, take a listen. Terry Austin sent me this link to an internet radio interview he participated in yesterday--along with Steve Englehart, Roger Stern, and Joe Rubenstein--remembering their friend and colleague, Marshall Rogers. As some of you know, I generally double-post these entries on both site and my MySpace page, and over on the latter, my modest tribute sparked an outpouring of testimonials from fans and pros alike regarding their deep-rooted affection for the art of Marshall Rogers, and for the man himself. But there are few who toiled as closely with the talented cartoonist as the quartet noted above. Tune in to hear what they have to say--you're certain to be enlightened.
March 27th, 2007
Although I crossed paths with Marshall Rogers several times in my life, I can't honestly say I ever really knew him.

Early on in my career, back in the late seventies, we were both guests at the same comics conventions on a number of occasions. He was always in demand to do sketches for a seemingly never-ending steam of fans, a demand he did his level best to fulfill. I'm sure I managed to speak to him at least long enough to tell him how much I admired his work--a compliment he no doubt graciously accepted with a great big smile--and then likely went right back to drawing yet another finely crafted illustration of the Caped Crusader for a grateful fan.

A couple of decades passed until, in the summer of 2005, I attended a convention in NYC that played host not only to Marshall, but to the other members of his storied creative partnership, Steve Englehart, John Workman, and my longtime pal, Terry Austin. A little grayer perhaps, but otherwise looking remarkably like the fellow I hadn't spoken with in nearly twenty years, I patiently waited for an opening to go up and reintroduce myself. Marshall greeted me warmly, flashing that big old smile of his, but just as in years past, the demand for his freshly produced originals hadn't diminished, so, after only a few brief words, I excused myself, and let him get back to work.

That was pretty much the extent of my personal relationship with Marshall Rogers, but it always seemed to me that I knew him far better than that. Partially because, over the years, his name came up frequently in my conversations with Terry. We'd talk about their original collaboration on those landmark DETECTIVE COMICS from the mid-seventies, about an often over-looked (but to my way of thinking, absolutely top-notch) run done in tandem with writer Roger Stern on DR. STRANGE not long afterwards, and always--always--the potential for the Englehart/Rogers/Austin/Workman team reuniting for another shot at Batman, a dream that finally came true a couple years back with the fine DARK DETECTIVE limited series. So it seems somehow grimly appropriate that I received the sad news about Marshall's passing yesterday afternoon via a phone call from Terry a few hours before the news had spread across the internet.

I was stunned. Frankly, I didn't know what to say. I still don't, not really. Terry was calling, hoping it was just a crazy rumor some ill-advised crackpot was spreading, but after a few follow-up calls to folks in the know, Terry rung me up again with the heart-breaking news: it was true.

Like i said, I only knew the guy in passing, but in many ways, there was some deeper, intangible connection between us. It's always a sad day when one of the field's founding fathers passes away, but as they enter their eighth and ninth decades, you steel yourself for such inevitable news. Marshall was only 57, a few scant years older than myself--that there is enough to shake you up a bit.

But it was more than that. Along with Steve and Terry, the guy pretty much re-invented Batman. Yes, it's true the very same thing could be said about the efforts of Neal Adams and Denny O'Neil only a few short years earlier, but by the time Neal took on the Gotham Guardian, he was already the consummate pro. When Marshall took on Batman, he was pretty much "Who?...". The fact that some young--I hate to say "nobody", but I think you know what I mean--could just burst onto the scene and leave a still indelible stamp on one of the most famous--and established--characters in the entire world, well, THAT made quite an impression on me!

It was, in the end, one of the most fortuitous combinations the field has ever seen--without Englehart's scripts and Austin's embellishing, I don't think it would've happened. But conversely, without Rogers pencils, those stories would likely largely have been forgotten as well--I always thought the JLA scripts Steve was concurrently writing easily matched his Batman output in quality, but as drawn by long established pro Dick Dillin, the artwork's seasoned polish is no match for the wild enthusiasm of two young guys figuring out whole new ways of drawing a DC icon as they went along.

And now, sadly, shockingly, and just plain unfortunately, one of those young guys is gone. Rest easy, Marshall--you'll be missed.
March 25th, 2007
A hearty happy 60th birthday to the former Reginald Dwight, better know to us all for nearly four decades now as Elton John!

There was a time, back at the outset of his career, when the British piano man was my favorite artist (the Beatles having just broken up, y'see). I started my obsession off slowly with "11-17-70", still one of the hottest live recordings ever to be issued on vinyl, then moved on to "Tumbleweed Connection" (which remains my single favorite song cycle from the John/Taupin team), and watched, over the next few years, as the increasingly flamboyant performer went from critically respected solo artist to becoming the biggest act in the entire world! After "Caribou", though, I bailed--it's a fairly mediocre album (at least compared to what came before), and after awhile, Elton's over-saturation on the airwaves was enough to turn off even as big an acolyte as myself.

Still, I've remained at least a moderate fan in the years since. About a year back, my interest was revived big-time when my teen-age daughter took a sudden liking to the keyboard whiz. On the heels of her obsessions with David Bowie, Mick Jagger (and roughly concurrently with one for Billy Joel), Julie began playing John's expansive back catalog 24/7. I gotta admit, it was quite a delight to hear such favorites as "Tiny Dancer", "Honky Cat", and "Funeral For A Friend/Loves Lie Bleeding" again.

And again.

...and then again AGAIN!...

And even if Julie chose my very least favorite EJ track as her very favorite--"Benny And The Jets"--it was still lotsa fun sharing one of my own long-ago musical obsessions with her.

Well, she's moved on again (Rod Stewart--"Do You Think I'm Sexy" was the tune that did it. Can an inevitable infatuation with Cat Stevens be far off, I'm wondering?...), but I'm sure she'd second me in wishing Sir Elton the very best salutations of this day!

Enjoy your cake, Rocket Man!
March 22nd, 2007
A week ago Wednesday, on March 14th, I spent the entire morning with Herb "Incredible Hulk" Trimpe as a sort of guest instructor in the cartooning class he presides over once a week at the school my daughter attends (though, of course, Julie is not actually IN said class...). Episode 96 of The Fred Hembeck Show details my time in (and out of) the classroom exhaustively. Some might even say tediously. Others might say, "exhaustively tedious", while still others may well opt for "tediously exhaustive". Why not not go take a gander and decide for yourself just which description fits best?

Or, as our ol' greenskinned buddy might put it, "Use link, puny web-surfers!!"
March 17th, 2007
If Irving Berlin and Bing Crosby were still alive today, I think they'd surely concur with me--while I may've dreamt of a white Christmas, I'd NEVER have expected a white St. Patty's Day! ESPECIALLY this year--who could've anticipated a full foot of snow falling around these parts less than 48 hours after we set a new record for the area, notching balmy 75 degree temps two days earlier on Wednesday?

Aye begorrah--y'know, I'm beginning to believe that Al O'Gore isn't full of blarney at all...
March 13th, 2007
Arnold Drake wrote some of my very favorite DC comics of the early sixties--DOOM PATROL, the TOMMY TOMORROW issues of SHOWCASE, the first "Deadman" story--but 1964's JERRY LEWIS #83 might well be the one I treasure the most. (I wrote a little piece about it awhile back, which you can read by going here.)

I was saddened to hear of Mr.Drake's recent passing. During a period of time when a vast majority of the characters found in DC's comic books were virtually indistinguishable, save for their gaudy outerwear, Arnold Drake's fictional charges--whether they be the so-called "freaks" in the Doom Patrol, the Planeteers enrolled alongside Tommy Tomorrow, Boston Brand's associate's under the big top, or the quirkily crazy crews surrounding the funny book versions of both Bob Hope and Jerry Lewis--they all had reasonably distinct personalities. Given the era, this was no small accomplishment.

Arnold Drake certainly left his mark on the field, and for that reason alone--at the very least--he will be missed.
March 11th, 2007
The other day, while I was putting the finishing touches on the 94th episode of The Fred Hembeck Show for Quick Stop Entertainment, the news of Captain America's shocking--and profitable--demise broke.

My first reaction was. "Hmm, I'll have to address that in the blog tomorrow alongside the link to my latest column", but before the day was over, I had me an entire cartoon sequence in mind, and in fact, had written it up. But the timing was off--I'd missed my opportunity by THAT much to get it out in the first blush of the overwhelming media frenzy surrounding the event.

Still, on Thursday, I got out my trusty Sharpie, and quickly drew the whole thing up. Thanks to the timely assistance of QS colleague, Ken Plume, we were able to post the entire eleven panel interview between Cartoon Fred and a ghostly Cap several days early--as much as the story of the Star Spangled Avenger's death is old news by now, by next Thursday, it'd be absolutely ancient!
So, to read the entire thing, here's yer handy dandy link to the 95th edition of The Fred Hembeck Show (and no, don't expect a new one this upcoming Thursday--consider this a way early posting, and that we'll be back on our regular schedule for number 96.)--go take a look.

As to what my more serious opinion on these events are, well, I don't really have any one way or another. Despite the fact that Cap has long been one of my very favorite characters, the news of Steve Rogers (apparent) expiration didn't cause me any overheated fanboy strife--or even misty eyed grief. Simply put, by in large, I don't follow the current escapades of any of my childhood heroes these days. I figure, do what you want with 'em, Powers That Currently Be, I'VE still got my old comics! Y'know, the ones where Bucky is still dead, and all the rest of the Marvel pantheon is still alive--AND acting heroic to boot?

Besides, current betting seems to be on the murdered Sentinel of Liberty being an LMD--and I'd sure like to hear THAT newscast when CNN tries to explain to its audience what exactly a Life Model Decoy is when Cap inevitably comes marching back!...
March 8th, 2007
Today I offer you nothing less than a visit to "The Best of All Possible Worlds" (via this link to The Fred Hembeck Show, episode 94).

"The Best of All Possible Worlds" is a wonderful eight page story by Steve Skeates and Jim Aparo that was published by Charlton Comics back in 1967, and this week's edition of The FH Show serves up not only my own (ahem) incisive commentary regarding same, not only the entire story in it's four-color full-blown glory, but a classic Dateline:@#$#% strip by yours truly as well concerning the tale, which easily ranks as one of a precious handful that I've found personally most influential on my own odd-ball work.

So go read it! And after you do, the name "Charlie Droople" will likely haunt you forever...
March 7th, 2007
Oo! Oo!

My good buddy, Roger Green, turns 54 today! (Or should that be, "Toody"?...)

Have a delightful day, oh ye who now has as many candles to his name as moi! And as always folks, I thoroughly recommend friend Green's never-skips-a-day-blog, Rog's Rhetorical Recriminations and Rugby Rulings!

Hey, who SAID it ain't easy being Green?...
March 1st, 2007
I blame Roger Green.

Over at his blog (Rants, Ruminations, and Recipes With Rog) offered up a list of all the movies that have won the Best Picture Oscar over the years, ticking off just exactly which ones he'd seen and which ones he hadn't. My first thought was to leave my old buddy a rather detailed comment regarding his list in his Comments section--my SECOND thought was do to up a list of my own. After all, how long could it take?...

Well, several days later, you'll find my survey of Hollywood classics over in the 93rd episode of The Fred Hembeck Show. I actually had a lot of fun putting it together, but it was a whole lot more work than I expected. Enjoy Mr. Green--and feel free to copy the whole thing and paste it into your comments section. Or not...

Speaking of the Oscars, the other day I wondered aloud why Larry David, of all people, was sitting in the audience the other night. Well, both Jim ("Tales From The Crypt") Salicrup and Peter ("Comics In Context") Sanderson pointed out to me that the "Curb Your Enthusiasm" star was there in support of his wife, Laurie--his REAL wife, not the delightful Cheryl Hines, his tele-spouse--who, I was surprised to learn, was one of the producers of the Al Gore anchored documentary, "An Inconvenient Truth"! So, when you see clips of Al accepting his little gold statue, the dark-haired lady in the black dress on stage with him, THAT'S Mrs. David! Who knew? Well, besides Peter and Jim, I mean (actually, Lynn did too when I "broke" the news to her--I really hate being the last one to get the memo...).

That reminds me--the other day when my wife returned home after getting one of her troublesome choppers extracted at the dentist's office, I couldn't help but ask her if she was relieved to finally be rid of an inconvenient TOOTH!

Yup, living with me truly is a laff-riot! Aren't you glad YOU don't have to?....

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