Archive - March 2009
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March 30th, 2009

It's been awhile since I posted any of these, but I'd especially advise Batman and/or Dr. Strange fans to head on over to my Across The Page Gallery to get a look at two brand new commissioned pieces!!

And this just in from Jake Oster regarding a topic broached here earlier this month:

Ed Herron brought in Phil Kelsey. He's done some advertising drawing. So sez Arnold Drake in The Comic Reader # 192, July 1981.

Kelsey drew the Space Ranger strips for Tales of the Unexpected # 78–82, A-S 1963–A-M 1964) and Mystery in Space # 92–95 (Jun 1964–Nov 1964).

If he did any other comic book work it would probably fall within those those dates.

P.S. The Superman and the Cyclops illo sure looks like Curt Swan to me.

Thanks for the well-researched info, Jake--and the consensus re: the Cyclops illo seems to point to Swan.

In the category of recently viewed television emanating from long-ago stored--and previously unwatched--video-tapes, last night's feature presentation (from a free 1996 Cinemax weekend) was Albert Brooks' 1995 "Mother", co-starring Debbie Reynolds.
I've always found Brooks to be subtly hilarious, and while this may not have been his laugh out loud funniest film, I still enjoyed his story of a grown man moving back in with his mother in order to figure out the cause of recurring problems with the women in his life quite a bit. Reynolds--in her first big-screen starring role in over a quarter century, believe it or not--matches Brooks dry delivery beat for beat. Lisa Kudrow excels in her brief scene as a dinner date who insists Charlie Chaplin wasn't a comedian, but instead a writer--you know? "A Tale of Two Cities " by Charlie Chaplin? (Although maybe the single funniest thing in this flick is Rob Morrow's HAIRCUT!!...)

I also discovered a 1999 edition of "Inside the Actor's Studio" featuring Jerry Lewis. Amazingly, after witnessing likely over a hundred cameos by host James Lipton on "Late Night With Conan O'Brien" over the years, this was the very FIRST episode I'd ever actually seen of the show that put him on the map!! Jerry, at age 73, looked great, and was very spry, even doing a little soft shoe at one point. Kinda sad to consider the health problems that were waiting just around the corner for the funnyman. And while the interview was entirely upbeat and refreshingly ego-free (well, in Jerry terms, anyway), the final topic of the evening made for a rather depressing finish: in discussing his work with MDA, Lewis enthusiastically informed the audience that his scientists had assured him that they were close, VERY close, to finding a cure! It'll happen in his lifetime, probably in the next few years, he happily declared.

That was ten years ago.

And while Jerry's still with us, and they likely ARE getting closer, it hasn't happened yet. Hindsight ain't always happy, y'know. Wonder what ELSE I'll find on these mystery tapes?...
March 28th, 2009
Got Milk? (Uh oh...)

Time for a couple of quick movie reviews, recapping our last two Tuesday afternoon visits to the local budget one dollar theater.

First up was "Milk", featuring Sean Penn's Oscar winning performance as the (spoiler warning) slain gay politician, Harvey Milk. Amazingly, I'd never seen one of Penn's movies before--no, not "Dead Man Walking", "Fast Times At Ridgemont High", or even "Shanghai Surprise"--but what I had seen of the guy (mostly as himself) made him seem somewhat less than likable, bereft of a discernible sense of humor. That may well be true, but given the evidence on display in "Milk", the guy's a heckuva an actor!! As is Josh Brolin, Oscar nominated for his supporting role as Dan White, Milk's (spoiler warning) killer--this amazingly being the third flick I've seen him in in just this past year (along with "W" and "No Country For Old Men").

Overall, "Milk" was a good film, if a bit of a preachy one. The historical events were smoothly recounted by Dustin Lance Black' in his Academy Award winning screenplay, but I thought he made the protagonist come off a little bit too perfect. About the only fault he betrayed was a propensity for arriving home late for dinner without calling first. Though, considering how one of his boyfriends reacted to this seemingly minor oversight, maybe that WAS a pretty big fault after all!!...

You know what really irked me? During an early scene with James Franco on the occasion of his 40th birthday, Penn foreshadows his fate by remarking that he doubts he'll ever make it to his 50th birthday. Okay, subtle it wasn't, but had it been left at that, I wouldn't be complaining. However, late in the movie, at Harvey's 48th birthday party, the two meet up again, and one of them (I forget which) says, ""Guess you'll (I'll) make it to 50 after all", mere minutes before Milk's assassination occurs on-screen--irony alert!

But wait--there's more! Because as the slo-mo shooting plays out on screen, director Gus Van Sant feels the inexplicable need to actually INSERT THE ORIGINAL "WON'T MAKE IT TO 50" SCENE INTO IT, in case, I suppose, two whole hours later, we dunderheads in the cheap seats somehow forgot it!! And having Harvey attend an opera, watching the fat lady sing just before he meets his cinematic end (get it?) was nearly as heavy-handed. Geez, how STUPID does he assume the audience is?...

Worthwhile picture show otherwise.
Most recently, we took in "Revolutionary Road', the fifties' era drama reuniting the "Titanic'"trio of Leonardo DiCaprio, Kate Winslet, and the unsinkable Kathy Bates. The first man overboard in THIS story of a marriage gone bad was love--and hey Leo and Kate, you thought icebergs were trouble!! This is a great first-date movie--as long as you're not looking for a SECOND date!!

Yes, folks, this is one bleak story. But it's well made, absorbing, and blessed with several top-notch performances (the two leads, overlooked by the Academy, were clearly robbed). Michael Shannon, as an emotionally disturbed mathematician who's incapable of speaking anything but what's on his mind, was justly nominated for his supporting role, and his handful of scenes are among the most powerful in this hard-hitting scenario. I went into the theater with a mixture of curiosity (gee, how'd those two sweet "Titanic" lovers turn out?) and dread (was it gonna be a one-note downer all the way through?). Well, yup, things turned out badly, but happily, there was another note or two in play during the proceedings. I wound up liking the film far more than I expected to.

Funny side anecdote: on dollar days--especially afternoons--the theater is filled with, shall we say, an older crowd. Yes, older than even Lynn and I--and by several decades. Generally, the oldsters keep it down, but during one scene late in the movie--a bar-room dance that was clearly leading up to an on-screen infidelity--an elder lady over to the right of us very loudly blurted out an escalating series of more and more urgent "uh ohs!' that served as an improbably humorous counterpoint to the serious action taking place up on the screen!! Lynn and I couldn't help but giggle, and even now, an exaggerated round of "uh ohs!" is STILL good for a laugh round hereabouts!! Much as I enjoy the comfort of watching the tube, there IS something to be said for taking in a flick with an audience!!

Well, we're done here! More soon--bye!
March 26th, 2009
Who Watches The Watchmen?

Well, for one, my old buddy, Peter Sanderson--AND he served as co-curator of an exhibit of Watchmen art currently on display at MoCCA as well!!

If that wasn't enough, Mr.S was recently interviewed by New York's PBS station, WNET Channel Thirteen, about the show for their "Sunday Arts" program. Here's the link--the piece runs just shy of six minutes. Not only is it an informative overview of the celebrated Alan Moore/Dave Gibbons graphic novel, but it also serves nicely as an audition tape for Peter should PBS ever decide to replace that Charlie Rose guy!! Hey, you never know...

As for me, no, I haven't seen the movie yet. Once it hits the dollar theater--probably in about two months--I will. There was some consideration given initially to taking it in on the big ol' giant IMAX screen, but that's a two-hour round trip, and combined with the pricey tickets, the mixed reviews, and the very real chance that I'm not gonna exit it the theater in the cheeriest of moods--even if I LIKE the movie--well, it just seems like waiting for a more economical alternative makes better sense.

Yes, I read the original series when it first came out, in installments, but not since. I recall being very impressed, but feeling somewhat let down by the ending. I bought one of those collected paperback editions a decade or so ago, intending to someday read the whole thing, if not in one sitting, then over a short period of time. Hasn't happened yet, though I did contemplate giving it a reread before witnessing the cinematic version. Ultimately, I decided against that tack, figuring I'd get more out of the film experience if I wasn't quite as aware of what was coming 'round as each reel unspooled. The plan currently is to give it a second once over AFTER viewing the movie.

I HAVE paged through the thing upon occasion, though--most recently for garner reference for my Watchmen Across The Page portrait. Coincidentally, MoCCA requested I send a copy of said illo (I not longer own the original) for inclusion in their show! Pretty flattering--until you stop and consider--besides me and Dave Gibbons, who ELSE has drawn the Watchmen? I mean, it's not like there's a regular monthly series, or even a sequel. Twelve issues. That was it. That, and my goofy little drawing. No, the day I'm asked to contribute a piece to a Spider-Man art show, THAT'S the day I'll have the right to crow! There's plenty of other fine folks in competition to choose from there!!

But, in the spirit of today's subject (and inspired by the aforementioned ATP drawing), we offer up

Hembeck Stimulus, Phase Seven--Watchmen edition!!

Commencing with

Okay, so we ran out of Watchmen--it's always fun to take a gander at Webhead facing off with one of his Sinister Six playmates, right? A reminder--if you wanna see 'em bigger, click on the above images and, VOILA!!

Here's the link to all of our special Watchman oriented Ebay auctions (Spidey too!).

Well, gotta go now and catch the local news--who watches the weatherman? I do--especially when there's rain in the forecast!!
March 25th, 2009
The Girl Who DIDN'T Love Comics

A while back, i told you folks about a brand new blog spotlighting classic cover redos called Covered, Well, if you haven't checked in on it lately, you really should--it's going gangbusters, with a lot of very interesting and unique reinterpretations on display. The whole thing is the brainchild of a fellow named Robert Goodin, who, it turns out, is also an accomplished cartoonist, a fact I was blissfully unaware of when he originally contacted me, asking for a contribution or three for his new blog. No slight meant towards Robert--hey, I'm largely unfamiliar with most to the folks who are working on my old Marvel and DC favorites these days as well. Truth is, my once omnivorous knowledge of the comics field pretty much petered out about twenty years back. And after that? Well, spotty is about the best way to describe it. But as things turned out, since I DO get a copy of Diamond Previews each month, I was--against all odds--actually familiar with Mr. G's latest book from Top Shelf!

Hey, even just skimming through that thick catalog, looking for the latest volume of excavated Kurtzman art to order, it's hard not to notice a book called The Man Who Loved Breasts, y'know?

Anyway, after swapping several emails, Robert very generously offered to send me a copy of several of his books, including the aforementioned Top Shelf publication. I finally had a chance to sit down and read it a few days back, and I found it to be appealingly offbeat. It consists of three stories--the title piece, the shorter "George Olavaria: Amputee Fetishist", and the even shorter three page "A 21st Cartoonist In King Arthur's Court". The cover story is whimsical, yet bawdy; revealing without being explicit. The even more provocatively titled second selection plays like a demented vaudeville skit, while the third and shortest entry managed to hit the closest to home for me (inasmuch as I'm not an amputee fetishist, nor do I love breasts nearly as much as title protagonist does). But I AM a cartoonist, and if I were somehow thrown back into the past and given the task of trying to explain modern scientific miracles to the ancients, I'd likely have just as much luck as the poor fellow in this story--i.e., none!! The artwork--both the storytelling and the actual linework--is assured and individualistic, and while the subject matter may seem a bit off-kilter, the underlying humor is universal. All in all, a nice package.

So anyway, after reading the comic, I proceed to just leave it lying on the couch. The next day, I'm over at the board in the corner, drawing away. Julie, who's home on spring break, comes into the room, spys it lying there, and the title immediately catches her eye.

"The Man Who Loved Breasts"? What the @#$% is THIS?"

And she sits down, and begins reading it right then and there!!

Midway through, she lets out a small yelp of surprised delight--"Amputee Fetishist"? Holy @#$%--what IS this??..."

THIS is her sense of humor, she tells me (as if I didn't already know...)--well, all except the last strip. That one didn't strike her nearly as funny as it did me, mainly cuz, science geek that she is, she seemed pretty certain, given the chance to teach King Arthur about today's technology, SHE'D do a half-way decent job. And she probably would, too.

But please understand what happened here--for the past eighteen years, literally every single day since she's been alive, there have been comic books scattered throughout this house, always within easy reach, and never once did my darlin' daughter deign to grab one.

Until she saw a copy of "The Man Who Loved Breasts" beckoning to her from the couch cushion!!

Robert Goodin, that's quite the accomplishment!! Jack Kirby couldn't do it. Carl Barks couldn't do it. Alan Moore couldn't do it. Peter Bagge couldn't do it. Neal Adams couldn't do it. Even her dear old dad couldn't do it. But you sir, with the very first comic of yours to ever enter this house, YOU did it! YOU got my offspring to pick up, unbidden, a comic and actually READ it!! Congratulations, fella, from the man who loved comics!!

And friends, if I've peaked the curiosity in any of you, well, the links above'll hopefully do their best to satisfy!!
March 24th, 2009
Yesterday and Today

One thing I've been reluctant to burden you folks with over the years has been examples of my undistinguished career as a fanzine artist, circa 1967-1971. Those were the pre-squiggle years, and though I actually made it into zines edited by the likes of Bill G. Wilson and the team of Sinkovec and Teifenbacher, this was usually years before these guys got REALLY good at their game! So they had little recourse but to publish the crude scribblings of a neophyte like me.

The reason I bring this up at all is because, several months back, while appearing at NYC's Big Apple Con, I met Dennis F.Rogers, who declared himself, if not my biggest fan, then my very FIRST fan! He explained that way back in 1971, in a letter printed in the fourth issue of Van Hunt's Inter Comics Fanzine, in reviewing the previous issue he wrote, "Fred Hembeck is a fantastic artist! That picture of the Hawk on page 7 was g-r-e-a-t!" (Hey, who knew my first fan also did a mean Tony the Tiger impression?...).

I of course remembered none of this when Dennis approached me--I wasn't even sure if I still had the zines in question, as they were made up mostly of loose sheets of paper folded in half--so Dennis very generously offered to make copies of said zines and send 'em off to me sometime in the near future.

And eventually, he did. That was an awful lot of trouble for him to go to, so I had an idea--I'd share most to the illos with you folks, but with a difference--each drawing would then be joined by an updated contemporary Hembeck style version (with these new originals gratefully sent off to Mr. Rogers, natch).

So, without further ado, here I am at ages 17 and 18, deluded into thinking I was gonna be the next Neal Adams (ah, the follies of youth...), followed by the me I eventually became (heaven help us all...)
Sorry--I just couldn't resist reprinting that entire page devoted to yours truly from ICF Minizine #1. That was an awful decent gesture of publisher Van Hunt wishing me well in my upcoming college career--especially since it put the kibosh on my burgeoning spot illo career for the next four years! I don't think I contributed a single thing to ANY zine during that entire time period, and only made a few more tentative stabs at it in the years directly afterwards, just before switching over to the style we've all since become accustomed to.

As for whatever happened to Van Hunt, I have absolutely no idea.A lot of folks active in the comics fandom circles of the late sixties, early seventies, can still be easily tracked down all these decades later, but after my brief tenure on staff at Inter Comics Fanzine, I never again came across his name anywhere. I hope he's had a good life--and I sure hope someone somewhere showed him the proper way to hyphenate words!! But the award is sincerely appreciated in any event--thanks Van, WHEREVER you may be!!

And to first fan Dennis F. Rogers, whose mild but undiminished enthusiasm for my work over all this time, culminating here today, prompting me to foist these ill-suited illos on an unsuspecting public--I thank you!!

Everyone else?

THEY blame you--sorry fella, but hey, I appreciate your efforts, honest...
March 23rd, 2009
The Fab Five Adds A Fourth

The latest issue of Beatlefan magazine arrived in the mail the other day, and noted in their regular news roundup was a recent appearance by Sir Paul on "The View".

WHAT? McCartney was on "The View"? Why wasn't I informed?

In the past, I would've bemoaned the missed opportunity to witness the cute Beatle interacting with Barbara Walters' motley cabal, but no more. The solution came to me almost instantly:


And sure enough, in three parts--pretty much the whole show save for the standard opening "Hot Topics" segment--it was there for my convenience.

And now I offer it up for YOURS: part one (9:17), part two (7:06), and part three (5:51).

The old guy's still got it, as the easygoing Macca charm keeps the five ladies bewitched for the duration of the interview. There aren't too many lame queries, cuz they simply let Paul talk for the most part, and if an attempted audience sing-along in segment three comes across as shockingly inept, well, no one said this was "Charlie Rose", y'know? Well worth a look for Beatlefreaks, if only to see how that "Just For Men" hair coloring is working out for John Lennon's bass player...

During the course of the Q&A, the program ran about 10 seconds of a video of a tune off Paul's recent album recorded under the nom de beatle, The Fireman, Sing The Changes (3:52). As you can surmise from the preceding link, I took it upon myself to look it up and watch the thing in toto. It's clearly one of the best videos I've yet to see from the man--and as much as I generally like McCartney's music, I'm not usually as enchanted by his filmed pieces. This one IS good, though (aided by what's musically my favorite track on "Electric Arguments")--visually dazzling, very trippy, yet focused. Julie, YOU'D like this one--take a look between your classes and futzing around on Facebook, okay?

That in turn prompted me to seek out the video for My Ever Present Past (2:54), from Paul's previous CD, "Memory Almost Full". Completely different than The Fireman film, yet just as entertaining (and again, likely my fave tune from the album in question), Paul DANCES in this one! In fact, he leads a dozen or so similarly clad curly-locked ladies with his moves in what looks to be a museum!! The choreography is stunning, likely because the whole thing was achieved with trickery--I have grave doubts about Paul and the young women ever being in the same room at any time during the shoot!! And then there's those multiple Pauls. Hey, it's fun--check it out!!

(And worry not--Joy Behar ISN'T one of those curly-haired cuties cavorting through the hallowed halls of Paul's past!...)
March 22nd, 2009
Where IS you, Washu?

Well, Julie's back at school, with classes set to resume Monday morning. Spring break came and went awfully fast. A week'll do that.

There was some small smidgen of drama there at the end. Julie's boyfriend, Alec, brought his new kitten, Washu, along with him for the visit. Not a problem for us, but not exactly an action embraced by our two adult cats, brothers Mario and Luigi. The first couple of days, Washu was restricted to Julie's room, with only the occasional hissy fit--and swatting paws under the door--taking place between the furry intruder and our two curious feline siblings. But eventually, Washu was given free reign throughout the upstairs portion of our house (though not the basement, nor, naturally, the outdoors). The mellower Luigi tolerated the kitty's unwelcome encroachment on his territory far better than the ever hyper Mario did, but no blood was spilled, and in the end, I thought things went far better than I ever could've hoped for between the three pussycats.

Then, Thursday night, as Julie and Alec left to drive friend Cara home after dinner, Lynn saw Washu dash after them as they headed off to the garage. She asked me to check and make sure the kids had closed the door behind themselves, and i quickly assured her that they did. I thought nothing more of it until later, when Alec asked if I had seen his kitty recently. I told him I hadn't--neither had Lynn, not since they'd briefly left several hours earlier. So we looked all over the house for Washu, knowing full well that we were heading out on the road the very next morning. We looked everywhere with absolutely no luck. After awhile, I was pretty much convinced that the cat had indeed slipped outside, so, over the next couple of hours, I periodically roamed around in the dark out back calling to a cat that was nowhere to be found. Eventually, everyone gave up and went to bed. Probably just off in a nook somewhere, Alec figured.

And guess what? Happy ending--he was right! Washu had apparently made a sharp left at the garage door earlier, headed downstairs, snuck through the cracked door, and nestled herself next to several piles of comics and such stuck off in the corner of one of the closets, cuz that's where she was the next morning when Alec went looking for her! Which was a wonderful development on so many levels, not the least of which was lifting the potential pall the missing pet would've thrown over the long drive back upstate!! But for awhile there, I figured we'd all be trolling the neighborhood before setting out, ultimately leaving Lynn behind to keep a hopeful vigil. Glad THAT wasn't necessary!\

Cuz here's why--we drove five hours, dropped off Julie and Alec (and Washu, who's a good traveler I'm happy--and relieved--to report) after going out to dinner with 'em, and then turned right around and made the five hour trip back home!! And I needed Lynn along because frankly I just couldn't face doing the whole thing on my own in one day. Oh sure, I coulda stayed over--Alec very generously invited me to--but I had some work I felt i needed to get back to after neglecting things a bit too much over the past week, and didn't want to lose two days to an end of break trip. Besides, I find that I don't much care to drive on highways after dark where going seventy garners you a place toddling along in the slow lane, so I handled most of the driving during the sunlit hours, with Lynn behind the wheel after nightfall. Luckily, we were blessed with clear weather, so the whole thing took about twelve hours. By eleven PM, we were back home, and everybody was where they were supposed to be, even Washoo.

Y'know, I coulda sworn I saw a contented smile on catnapping Mario when we came in, but that was probably just my eyes playing tricks on me...
March 21st, 2009
Surprise, Surprise, Surprise!!

Some of you may recall how, a few days back here on the blog, I elaborated on my answers to one of the regular Five For Friday polls found over on The Comics Reporter, listing an additional fifteen suggestions to the question de jour. Since the lack of permalinks here at Fred Sez generally discourages Tom Spurgeon from linking to my otherwise pearl like morsels of wisdom, I copied over my extra answers, and, along with a short explanation, emailed them to Tom. I figured he would simply publish them in his letters section, available for anyone curious enough to seek them out in that semi-obscure section of his site.

Much to my surprise, while making my daily visit to the site Tuesday morning, I found them right smack dab in the middle of the main page--accompanied by a perfectly appropriate screen capture!! Check out the photo!

I wrote to Tom, thanking him for my brief turn in The Comics Reporter spotlight.

Days passed, and I didn't think much more about it. Until this morning.

For the uninitiated, on Saturdays, Tom regularly offers a quick review of the past seven days, with the big news stories, a winner of the week, a loser of the week,, and a quote of the week. No, I wasn't the winner of the week (and thankfully, not the loser either), but imagine how shocked--and absolutely delighted--I was to find one of my bonus answers chosen as The Quote of the Week!!

Which one was it? Go read it--I'm somehow more impressed seeing it at Tom's site than I am seeing it at mine, and maybe you will be too. But essentially, in answering the question as to which comics artist should draw which specific episode of a live-action TV show, I was able to cobble together a reasonably short (for me) recap of what I consider to be the single funniest episode of "Gomer Pyle USMC" ever!! Trust me, I have rarely ever laughed quite as hard and as uncontrollably as I did while rewatching this episode a few months back! Just thinking of tough Sgt. Carter tentatively--and awkwardly--brushing the hair of private Pyle--clearly confused, sitting in his bunk, clad only in his skivvies--while the whole platoon watches, stunned into an uneasy silence--well, it STILL makes me chuckle!!

And somehow, I got across my immense amusement succinctly enough to have my rehash chosen as (ta da!!) The Quote of the Week!! Maybe this'll tell you more about me than you need to know, but that seemingly trivial accomplishment truly made my day--maybe my entire WEEK! Enough for me to go on and on about it, bragging, you ask? Well, that's one way to look at it, sure, but the truth is, I feel the REAL winners here are Jim Nabors and the incomparable Frank Sutton! There have been few small-screen comedy duo's blessed with the sort of chemistry between them that these two possessed, and I'm thinking the "brushing in the bunk" scene was the absolute pinnacle of their partnership!! So yeah, I'm proud Tom gave me the nod--but if somehow, someway, I've managed to cause even one other person to seek out this unduly neglected comedy gem (it's on the first season "Gomer Pyle USMC" DVD set, folks), well, that'd make me even PROUDER!!

Got that? Okay! Well then, how else to end this, except to say.

March 19th, 2009
Hembeck Stimulus, Phase Six!!

Indisputable evidence the economy is in trouble: y'know those free ice cream cones Stewarts gives out on St. Patrick's Day? The ones I alluded to in my last blog?

Fifty cents apiece this year.

I still got two, but hey, I'm just sayin'...

So, with that in mind, here's some MORE Hembeck sketches up for sale (ice cream sold separately), beginning with--

As always, click on the above images to see larger versions.

Here's the list of my current Ebay auctions--bid early and bid often!!

On a personal note, Julie ends her spring break tomorrow (ironically on the first official day of spring) and heads back up to college. We had a swell week which flew by all too quickly--ain't that always the case? See you in May, kiddo!
March 17th, 2009
Hembeck's Hero Complex: The Hulk (part 3)

How utterly appropriate--just in time for St. Patrick's Day, here's the third (and final) part of my series of Jade Giant cover redos!! Follow this link!!

What say you folks head on over there, while I put on something green (like my Hulk tee shirt) and drive over to the local Stewart's (or three), sidle up to the counter and get my free ice cream cone!! The greatest holiday tradition EVER!!

Top o' the morning to you all!!
March 16th, 2009
Channeling Comics

Over on The Comics Reporter, their latest Five For Friday poll question was as follows:

Name Five Specific Favorite Live Action TV Show Episodes And What Cartoonist(s), In The Best Of All Possible Worlds, You'd Like To See Adapt Them.

You can see a variety of responses by going here, mine included.

But I'm also posting 'em here, because, after the initial five, turns out I have a few more I'd like to suggest...

1. The famous "I Love Lucy" episode with Lucy and Ethel wrapping candy, layouts by John Stanley, finishes by Irving Tripp.

2. "Leave It To Beaver" where Gilbert cons the Beav into climbing up into a display coffee cup on the front of an outdoor billboard, where he naturally gets stuck, drawn by Bob Bolling.

3. "Mary Tyler Moore Show" where Ted Baxter's modified contract allows him to do all sort of outside commercials, including one as "Farmer Ted", drawn by Kurt Schaffenberger.

4. The Christmas episode of "The Jack Benny Program" where Jack's constant indecision and repeated requests to wrap and unwrap a present bought for Don Wilson slowly but surely drives store clerk Mel Blanc to the point of suicide (albeit via an off-camera gunshot), drawn by Frank Miller, "Sin City" style.

5. The two hour "Twin Peaks" pilot, drawn by Dan Clowes (heck, he should probably just do the entire series!...).

6. The episode of "24" where Edgar Stiles meets his untimely demise thanks to some poison gas, drawn by Steve Ditko (mainly for the Mysterio-like clouds of killer fog that'd climax the scenario).

7. The time a monkey was mistakenly inducted into the army--Pvt. Harry Speakup--on "Sgt. Bilko", pencilled and inked by Carmine Infantino.

8. Sgt. Carter gets his wires crossed, erroneously believing "Gomer Pyle USMC" is on his deathbed, not merely suffering from the flu, and takes instructions meant for a dying horse, feeding the private lumps of sugar in his bunk and (funniest scene ever!) brushing his hair while the rest of the platoon watches in stunned silence, drawn by Jack Davis.

9. The pilot for "Happy Days" (originally broadcast on "Love American Style") illustrated by the quintessential fifties teen artist, Dan DeCarlo.

10. The infamous episode of "Happy Days" where Fonzie jumps the shark, drawn by Bill Vigoda (Why? Because he was the guy who always drew my least favorite "Archie" stories as well--though maybe I SHOULDA assigned him to brother Abe's "Fish" instead...)

11. The Christmas episode of "Dragnet" about the kid who is accidentally shot dead with the gun he was supposed to get as a gift, drawn by Johnny Craig.

12. The time when there was a buck naked stripper gyrating on the other side of the door when an unsuspecting "Soupy Sales" answered it, drawn by Bill Ward.

13. The final episode of "Dick Van Dyke", an elaborate western parody, drawn by Nick Cardy ala "Bat Lash".

14. The first episode of "Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In" drawn by Sergio Aragones, with Tiny Tim done by Basil Wolverton.

15. The episode of "Bob" (Newhart) that featured Jack Kirby, drawn by Jack Kirby.

16. The "Freaks and Geeks" Halloween episode (with Count Floyd!) drawn by Al Wiseman.

17. The debut "Batman" two-parter, illoed by Marshall Rogers and Terry Austin.

18. Crispin Glover almost kicking the host in the face on an eighties-era entry of "Late Night With David Letterman", drawn by Spain Rodriquez.

19. The "Seinfeld" Bizarro episode, drawn by John Forte.

20. The Beatles "Strawberry Fields Forever" and "Penny Lane" videos, as seen on an episode of "The Ed Sullivan Show", drawn by Jim Steranko (the rest of that variety hour illoed by Mort Drucker).

..and that should do it for now!! I should mention that I have yet to actually LOOK at the other entries over at The Comics Reporter, mainly because I didn't want be to influenced by what I read there. Meaning there may be some duplication, but if so, be assured I came up with these all on my very own. Once I get this posted, well, THEN I'm heading over!!

And now, if YOU'VE finished reading mine, hey, as Sgt. Carter might say, "MOVE IT! MOVE IT! MOVE IT!!" See you there!!..
March 15th, 2009
Hembeck Stimulus, Phase Five!!

Hey, what can I say? There seems to be some mild but ongoing interest in these, so, until that state of affairs eventually abates, you're in for plenty more of these!

And THIS time? Well, we've got (drum roll please...)

As always, click on the above illos to make 'em bigger!

And go here if you feel the urge to put a bid on any or all of the accompanying Ebay auctions!!

And come back tomorrow for, well, I don't know WHAT quite yet--join me and we'll find out together, okay? Okay!!
March 14th, 2009
A Whole Mess O' VHS

We bought our first VCR back in 1983. We've gone through maybe a dozen since, and still have two still currently operating (a week ago, we had three--they're dying off slowly...). Yes, we have a DVD player--two, actually--but no DVR or Tivo. We still use VHS tapes to time shift all our favorite programs. Guess we're sorta dinosaurs in that respect.

And we have literally hundreds--maybe thousands?--of VHS tapes accumulated over the years. Put a device like a VCR into the hands of someone with a collector's mentality and there's bound to be trouble, lemme tell ya...

At first, I simply amassed tapes of my favorite programs--"Leave It To Beaver", "Cheers", "The Simpsons", "The Adventures of Superman", etc.--all on a series of tapes, commercials edited out whenever possible, carefully annotating each tape on the outside box and preparing a custom label for the spine. I'd also tape and save various movies and specials, even (heaven help me) notable baseball games!! But somewhere around 1990--not so coincidentally, just when baby Julie was born--a whole lot of that care simply went out the window. Oh, I still taped stuff--did I ever!--I just didn't transcribe the various contents for posterity nearly as carefully.

Several years ago, I pretty much stopped taping things to keep, save for something out of the ordinary like when Larry King had as guests on his show Ringo and Paul (and naturally called Ringo "George" at one point!). But I still have plenty of tapes downstairs, and a whole lot of 'em have stuff I've never even watched!!

How'd that happen? Well, between keeping up with our regular prime time shows, a couple of late night talk fests, a daily dose of "All My Children", and (yup) Mets games, there wasn't always time to watch all the good stuff on the tube (especially with rambunctious Julie around). So if there was ever an interesting special, an intriguing movie, a highly touted network mini-series, or just a plain odd episode of something we didn't normally watch (I was always drawn to the final broadcast of a long-running series, even I'd never watched it previously), I'd tape it for later.

Well, it's taken a long, long, long time, but it looks like later has FINALLY come!!

Regular readers know that Lynn and I have been attending the cinema on a regular basis of late, which motivated me to root around and find a couple of eight hour tapes I made back in 1996 when Showtime was offering a free weekend of flicks, hoping to entice us to sign up full-time. We didn't, but hey, I still have those movies!! "Fargo" I told you about, and last weekend we checked out "Multiplicity", the one featuring Michael Keaton and his three clones. Quick review: mildly entertaining, could've done more with the premise, and man oh man, that's a whole LOTTA Michael Keaton for one movie!

But even more fun than watching 1996 era flicks is finding one of these old tapes without ANYTHING labeled on it--or at most, a single title--and fast forwarding through it to discover (hopefully) some forgotten treasure. THAT'S how I came to enjoy (or more truthfully, endure) "Ghosts On The Loose". It was paired with two other horror comedy's (via TCM, which our cable company took away from us about two years back), Bob Hope's "The Ghost Breakers" (which I actually watched shortly after taping it) and "Zombies On Broadway" (another Bela Lugosi curio I finally watched--and even enjoyed somewhat--the night before checking out that East Side Kids programmer).

I've gone through about a half dozen of these tapes so far--there are plenty more, trust me--and sometimes there's maybe only one or two interesting things on 'em, with the rest of the time filled out with snippets of old episodes of "All My Children" (my, Susan Lucci sure does look young!), "Conan O' Brien", or other shows that were watched and never meant to be saved, merely taped over. But sometimes you get lucky...

For instance, I found an eight hour tape, the only notation on it being "Joe Franklin Doc"--and no, the long-running NYC talk show host didn't suddenly switch over to headlining a medical show--"doc" stood for documentary. From 1997, on PBS no less!! Which I FINALLY watched, and mildly enjoyed. It was fairly amorphous--it was one of those things with no narration, just Joe and some friends and fans discussing his career, interspersed with some clips from his old shows (which was the REAL reason to watch this, as some of them were absolutely priceless!). After finishing my belated viewing of the Franklin feature, i scanned the rest of the tape to see what else I had hidden away here.

Here's what I found:

"Ray Combs: E True Hollywood Story "(He was the fellow who took over hosting "Family Feud" from Richard Dawson, was pretty successful for about six years, until he was replaced by...Richard Dawson. It was all downhill after that, ending with Combs hanging himself--while at a psychiatric hospital!! Pardon me, but I've always had a morbid fascination with unexpected celebrity demises--and yes, I actually watched this one last night. Cheesy in the standard E manner (another channel taken away from us by Cablevision recently), but riveting nonetheless.).

"Judge Judy" (A show I don't usually watch, but how could I pass up a chance to witness John Lydon--aka Johnny Rotten--present his case in her court?)

"Breaking the Magician's Code 3" (I think I actually watched this way back when--I know we caught the first two of these Fox "How-To' specials. Wonder how The Masked Magician is doing these days?...)

"Beavis and Butthead are Dead" (The last episode of a show I never watched, but I plan to soon.)

"Oprah" with guest Paul Simon (Oprah's THIN on this one, and Paul is pushing his ill-advised "Capeman" Broadway show CD during this vintage hour. I'm not likely to watch this one anytime soon, to be honest. For one thing, I find Oprah's gushing over celebrities really hard to take. For another, despite owning a lot of Simon's music, both solo and with Artie, he seems like a real downer most of the time--plus not long ago, I read some VERY unflattering details about the making of his "Graceland" CD from someone who was there that was more than enough to give me pause. So, not feelin' quite groovy enough to view THIS, sorry...)

"Spice Girls Special" (Not gonna watch this, either. Julie was big into the group at the time--I think she caught this show as it was actually being broadcast, and asked me to keep it on tape in case she wanted to see it again. As of earlier today, there have been no further requests for a screening...)

"SNL Christmas Compilation" (This two-hour clip fest begins with a salute to Chris Farley, who had died only days earlier--it was the bit where he was playing host to Paul McCartney on a fake talk show. I re-watched this skit--truthfully, more for Paul than Chris--but will save the rest for a future holiday season...)

And that was it--some nuggets and some curios.

Gee, I wonder what the NEXT tape holds? (Don't worry--if it's anything good, I'll be sure and tell you!!)
March 12th, 2009
Sibling Silliness

The other night, I was watching the 1943 East Side Kids/Bela Lugosi cheapie, "Ghosts On The Loose" (the how and why is a tale for another time, trust me...).

I'd never seen it before. If I had, I surely woulda recalled one of the most unbelievable plot twists in all of cinema history.

No, not that there aren't any REAL ghosts to be found lurking about, and not that Count Bela turned in his cape and took on the persona of Herr Bela, Nazi spy.

No, it was the wedding the plot revolves around early on. Y'see, East Side Kid Glimpy is assigned best man duties for groom Jack, specifically because he's bride Betty's sibling.

Yes friends, believe it or not, the folks at Monogram Pictures wanted us to accept the following:

At least they didn't have the young Ava getting hitched to Leo Gorcey in this thing! (though, since she was actually married to Mickey Rooney during the time this film was produced, that may not have been THAT big a stretch...).

But Glimpy and Ava? Related? Sorry, I ain't buying. (They actually only interact once during the whole movie, when they 're standing side by side, both smacking Nazi sympathizers over the heads with brooms. Don't ask--PLEASE don't ask!...)

On a totally unrelated note: for those of you who are Facebook members, be advised that the first annual Facebook Comic Convention is now up and running (and if you DON'T have Facebook membership, don't ask--PLEASE don't ask!...). Yours truly is presiding over a little virtual Q&A session, so if you're interested, toss me a Q, I'll toss back an A!!

And tomorrow, good ol' Julie comes home for a week's worth of spring break!! Woo hoo!!

More later!
March 11th, 2009
Hembeck Stimulus, Phase Four!!

You know the drill by now--more art for sale!!

Starting with...

The HULK vs. The THING!!
As always, click the above illos to magically produce a larger version!!

And here's easy access to my current Ebay auctions--step right up, friends!!

Be back soon!!
March 10th, 2009
While paging through my yellowing copies of vintage MYSTERY IN SPACE comics a few days back, I came across the above ad in number 94 (September 1964).

I always dug that illo of Superman, despite the fact (or maybe because of it?..) that I could never quite figure out just WHO drew it! There's a hint of Curt Swan, but not in the face--that's more Al Plastino, though the inking seems slicker than usual for Plas. I always assumed it was somebody else altogether, but that's probably wrong. What I DO know for sure is that Ira Schnapp provides a veritable lettering tour de force!! Man oh man, if there's one single ingredient that says DC Silver Age comics to me, more than any single artist employed by the company at the time, it's his distinctive, totally unique calligraphy!! To me, the Silver Age truly ended when he (and Artie Simek) stopped lettering the covers found on our nation's comics racks!...

By the way, back in '64, we lived about sixty miles from the World's Fair grounds, and in fact, over the two years it was in operation, went in at least a half dozen times. Never saw this exhibit, though. Probably because they expected you to pony up some cash for the privilege--I seem to recall most everything else was FREE at the Fair (well, not the food, but you know what I mean...). Maybe if it were Madame Trussuards, we'd've dug deep into our pockets, but "Walter's International Wax Museum"? Anybody ever hear of this outfit, then or now? Yeah, me neither. (I DO get a big kick of the "For Children Only" designation on the ad--now, THAT'S something you sure don't see everyday!!...)

If you'd like to get a closer look at the Giant Cyclops and his Kryptonian buddy, simply click the above illo with your mouse and ta da!! A larger version will appear!!

Now, about Phil Kelsey, the mystery artist we were discussing the other day. Gary Brown, who knows a thing or thirty about old comics, didn't know much about phantom Phil either, but he did send along the cartoonist's entry in Jerry Bails Who's Who of American Comics. Besides 1963/1964 Space Ranger tales, he's listed as providing pencils (and some inking) for Batman stories and mystery tales from 1960 up through 1963, with a 1962 inking credit for the Superman, Batman and Robin WORLD'S FINEST strip, and a 1964 science fantasy story credit--and that's about it!!

Fairly odd, as DC certainly wasn't hiring new people back in 1960--why let this guy into an otherwise closed shop? I mean, the NEXT brand new guy to debut in the pages on a DC comic was Neal Adams midway into the decade, and by all accounts, he had to fight his way in. Artwise, there's quite a, um, disparity between the two, so Kelsey is a curious choice as the early sixties' sole newcomer. Maybe it had something to do with working on Batman--perhaps he was a ghost hired by Bob Kane, one who eventually worked his way into Jack Schiff's good graces (or had a juicy piece of blackmail to hang over his head?...)? Wish I knew WHICH Batman stories this guy was supposedly responsible for, but the Bails' listing isn't nearly that detailed. Too bad.

Well, THAT minor mystery endures--now, help me figure out who drew the piece above, wouldja? Sure would appreciate it...
March 9th, 2009
Goodbye, Charlie

Earlier today, I received the totally unexpected--and totally devastating--news that Charlie Johnson, one of the best friends I've EVER had, passed away over the weekend.

I met Charlie during my second semester taking commercial art courses at SUNY Farmingdale. We became close almost immediately, but even more so when it came out, several weeks into our friendship, that we were both rabid comics fans. I wrote somewhat extensively about the rather amusing circumstances regarding how THAT key little revelation came about several years back, which you can find here. It also explains the odd situation whereby Charlie dreamt up a totally fictional Marvel character, The Flying Frog, and implanted him in my comics addled brain a full seven years before we ever even met face to face!

And then there's Charlie's co-starring role in The Saga of MARVEL TALES ANNUAL #1 and The Baby's Head, an all too true anecdote immortalized for all time in cartoon form for the 250th issue of MARVEL TALES and posted here.

Some of my other favorite Charlie Johnson stories--like the unforgettable time he took a running belly flop into a mall shop simply to get a laugh out of me and his girl friend--can be found in this piece about his Karazee Karaoke enterprise.

Go and read them. It won't even begin to scratch the surface in explaining why Charlie was such a wonderful guy, but it's a start.

Though we commuted to the same college, we lived 30 miles apart, so our off campus visits were few, but always memorable. Aside from the baby's head incident, I can clearly recall the two of us, pouring through my extensive collection nestled away in my parents basement, pausing to stop and read aloud--alternating the various parts on the fly--one of the most emotional comics of our mutual childhoods, the justly revered "Death of Superman" from 1961. Why? Just because!

And a few years later, I vividly remember driving to his folk's home in Levittown to catch a train into NYC for the first (and thus far, only) Marvel Comics sponsored Comics convention. And I'll never forget him looking at me like I'd FINALLY gone over the edge when, after the costume contest competition, I went over to one of the judges--a perfectly in character fellow wearing a Captain America outfit--asking for his autograph and telling him how much I admired him!! Actually, I just wanted to let him know I very much approved of his performance as my favorite super-hero, but from the look on Charlie's face, apparently I'd crossed a line. I assured him t'wasn't so, but considering what a big comics devotee HE was back in those days. if HE thought I was going off the deep end, well then, I KNEW I had better watch myself!! Did he pull me back from the precipice? I didn't THINK so at the time, but hey, who can say for sure?...

Then there was the time we were wandering around a Creation Convention together. We came upon a room, one full of chairs and a podium, microphone included, the sort panel discussions were held in. Only there was no one in it, so I decided to go up to the mic and give a little pretend speech, the sort I'd hoped to make someday as a big-time comics pro, with Charlie, sitting in the front row as my entire audience. I wasn't very far into my mock testimonial when one of the show's workers came in, and bluntly inquired as to just what the heck was I doing up there--was I trying to steal the valuable electronic equipment? Truthfully, THAT thought never even occurred to me, and as I stammered out an explanation, helped immeasurably by Charlie backing me up in a much smoother manner, we both managed to get out of there with only a few odd looks marking the embarrassing occasion. And of course, the irony of it all is, once asked to attend cons as a guest in subsequent years, the thing I like the very least about them is speaking in front of a large crowd up on a podium. Turns out I much preferred things when Charlie made up the whole audience...

I was best man at Charlie's wedding to his college sweetie (and my friend), Cathy. I consider being chosen for that exalted position one of the true honors of my life, and I sometimes regret, that, a few short years earlier, when Lynn and I got hitched, I chose ANOTHER buddy to be MY best man. Steve was a great guy--and I had lived in a house with him for several years after I'd transferred up to SUNY Buffalo my junior year--but looking back, Charlie shoulda been the guy. He WAS an usher--and like Avis, he tried harder. After all, he pretty much saved the day.

Y'see, at the very last possible minute--try, late the night before--my long-time friend from high school, Chris, bailed out on attending the wedding. We got married during the period of odd and even gas disbursement--odd numbered license plates were serviced on odd numbered days, evens on the next, and never the twain shall mix. Well, seems as if Chris blithely missed his turn, and his next shot at a fill-up would be the day AFTER the wedding! Bad enough my old pal was gonna miss the show, but the REAL kicker was that he was supposed to drive my mom up for the ceremony as well!! NOW what?

Now Charlie, that's what.

I was desperate, but when I asked, he didn't hesitate. He drove the nearly 30 miles out to my pick up my mom, then turned around, doubled back over those self-same 30 miles, as well as the additional two plus hours it took to get up to the Woodstock area for the wedding!! Charlie didn't know my mom very well, and confessed afterwards to being a bit nervous about sharing such a long trip with a near stranger, but told me it all went smoother than he ever could've hoped. Mom didn't know this comics obsessed college pal of mine very well either, but had nothing but good things to say about him following their little adventure together. You hear people use the expression "he saved the day" all the time, but friends, Charlie TRULY saved the day THAT time, and even if he wasn't the absolutely terrific guy he was, I'd be eternally grateful to him. But he was, and I am...

People--even wonderful, seemingly indispensable people--drift out of your life. It just happens. Charlie drifted out of ours. I don't remember the last time I actually saw him, just the last time I ALMOST saw him. Julie was just a few weeks from turning three, and Lynn and I took her down to the Yaphank house. My folks had passed away sometime earlier, so we were getting ready to sell it. We planned to go out to the beach during the day and sleep on some inflatable beds we brought along at night (there was no furniture in the place at this point), stay the weekend, stopping by to see several local friends (NOT Chris, trust me...), and then seeing Charlie and Cathy on our way home the following day. I even brought along the original art for that MARVEL TALES Baby Head strip which I was gonna surprise him with. But something unexpected happened--the inflatable beds wouldn't stay inflated!! So we cut our visit back by a day, and though disappointed, assured Charlie we'd catch him next time.

There was no next time. That was 1993, and that was the last time I was ever anywhere near my old home town. And I never got that strip to him either...

But through the miracle of the internet--and this very site--we got back in touch not long after I launched Of course, HE had to come to me--YOU try Googling "Charles Johnson" and finding the one YOU went to school with!! You'd have better luck finding the old Florida Marlins backstop...

We spoke on the phone on several--but not nearly enough--occasions, and it was like old times, even if Charlie had mostly left comics behind. He still loved music the way we both did back in the seventies--we shared an absolute passion for all things Beatles (and I discovered after the fact, we had both attended Paul's show at the Nassau Coliseum in the early 2000s without even knowing of each other's presence!). Additionally, it was Charlie who expanded my appreciation for the music of The Beach Boys and Brian Wilson from passing interest to being second only to that of the Fab Four--and he introduced me completely to my favorite band of the seventies, 10cc!! If he was always a wee bit more enthusiastic about the latest Rolling Stones LP than I was, hey, that was fine. Overall, our pop culture sensibilities were so much in sync, it was downright amazing--and it seemed that hadn't changed at all!! So what if he was a life-long Yankees booster, while I've been a Mets fan almost from the start? Simpatico is simpatico, and that was us.

Speaking of baseball, there were some tentative plans a few seasons back for us to meet at Shea Stadium to take in a game together, each driving in from opposite directions. I'd bring along daughter Julie, and he'd be accompanied by pal Sal, his partner in their popular Long Island based Karazee Karaoke endeavor. I often regaled Julie with hilarious tales of Charlie's antics back in our college days, and I was anxious for the two to meet, because I was absolutely certain they'd hit it off famously. But it never happened.

We mostly communicated via email in recent years, though we didn't have the most regular of correspondence. He assured me on more than one occasion that he kept a daily eye on this blog, so I always knew he was out there, somewhere, keeping up. I'm just sorry I didn't try to make the situation a bit more two-sided.

A pair of final ironies. We had a mutual friend back in Farmingdale by the name of Joe. Joe visited me for the weekend shortly after Lynn and I announced our plans to marry, and he promised to come to the wedding. That was 1979. That was also the last time ANY of us heard from him, and for thirty years, Charlie and I were convinced that Joe was dead. He was the real responsible type, y'see--for him to not even reply to our invitation, well, it was the ONLY explanation.

Only it wasn't--I stumbled across Joe on the Linked In site last December, and renewed our friendship (he took off for the Midwest right around the time of our nuptials, and doesn't really remember much else about how things went down). Naturally, the first person--the ONLY person--I contacted when Joe turned up alive was Charlie, forwarding all the info to him. Charlie's pair of return notes were my very last communications with him. And now I have to write Joe with THIS incredibly bit of sad news...

And Saturday, when Charlie actually passed away (a fact I didn't learn until Monday)? Purely on a whim, I dug out a tape of Billy Crystal's fine HBO movie, "61* ", dramatizing the 1961 home run race between two New York Yankees, Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris, attempting to break Babe Ruth's home run record of 60 in a single season, something that had been sitting in my house, unwatched for over eight years. Me, the archetypical Mets--watching a film celebrating the accomplishments of three Yankees! After not quite getting around to it for the past eight years!! Considering what I learned later, it seems only fitting somehow...

Y'know, like myself, I knew Charlie to be a big fan of the program "24". Last week, at the end of hour 12, they provided us with one of the most compelling cliffhangers of ALL the episodes they've ever produced! I know that I've been awaiting tonight's resolution eagerly all week. I can only imagine Charlie felt the same way. It's an incredibly silly, trivial point to focus on, granted, but somehow, knowing my good ol' buddy Charlie won't get to see how Jack Bauer manages to squeeze his way out of things THIS time around, well, I find that tremendously depressing. Truth is, suddenly, I'm not looking forward to hour 13 all that much...

Pardon my rambling. Trust me--when I got up this morning, I had absolutely NO idea that this would be what I'd be writing about today. I wish it was simply some more blather about old comics or a YouTube link, but unfortunately, that wasn't to be. Lynn and I would like to offer our heartfelt condolences to Charlie's mom, his brother, sister, nieces, nephews, Cathy, his business partner and good friend Sal, as well as all of his other relatives and many, many friends. Fifty five is way too early for most people to leave us, and doubly so for a guy like him.

Charlie Johnson was one of the most memorable individuals I've ever had the privilege of knowing. I'm proud he considered me a friend. I'll never forget you, old pal--may you rest in peace (and please know that I played Stones music the entire time I was writing this!...).
March 8th, 2009
A REAL Mystery In Space

If there's one thing I thought I knew, backwards and forwards, it was the names of all the artists working on the DC and Marvel comics of the sixties (save for maybe a few romance or humor specialists who never managed to cross over into the action adventure genre).

Well, I was wrong. Raise your hand if you're surprised. (Yeah, that's me--JUST me--with his hand up in the air...).

Y'see, I was over at the Grand Comics Database, checking out some covers for a commission, and reviewing some issues of MYSTERY IN SPACE in the process. I bought that book faithfully as a kid, but once Julie Schwartz was forced by the DC brass into swapping it (along with STRANGE ADVENTURES) for the two Batman books with fellow editor Jack Schiff, well, not so much. So out of belated curiosity, I was looking over the covers of the later issues--most of which I never bought--as well as reviewing the creative team data for the interior stories.

And that's when I stumbled across a name I'd NEVER heard before!

Phil Kelsey.

How'd I ever miss THIS guy?

I mean, who the heck was Phil Kelsey, and just what did his art look like, I wondered?

Well, turns out there's almost no mention of him on the 'net (though a record producer with the very same name seems to be pretty darn popular), but seeing as how he DID draw the Space Ranger strips in a couple of Schiff helmed issues of MIS that I DID buy, I quickly ran downstairs and dug 'em out. Cuz I just HADDA get a look-see, y'know?

Probably the most notable illo of his that I found was located on the opening page of The Space Ranger strip in the inaugural switchover issue of MYSTERY IN SPACE, number 92 (June 1964).

Talk about a splash page...
Yeah, I'M speechless too...

Two issues later, Schiff masterminded a book length three-parter, with Kelsey handling the art chores on the first and and last chapters (Lee Elias, who had the unenviable task of following Carmine Infantino, drew the middle Adam Strange sequence. Despite (what I assume was) a misguided editorial decree that separated Adam from his distinctive helmet--not to mention the less than captivating scripts that were the norm in a Schiff edited comic--I've always felt Elias provided admirably stylish art on the "New Look" Adam Strange strip. If only he had some decent stories to work with...).

Wanna see some scary alien creatures? Get ready...
All of a sudden, Googam, Son of Goom is looking a WHOLE lot more terrifying!!

Anyhow, that last chapter concerned a joint adventure shared by Space Ranger and the Adam Strange of the future.

Yes, I said "Adam Strange of the future"--witness the story's final panel (and here I thought OUR Adam married Alanna, NOT Leeja?...)
While Future Adam returned a few short issues later (#98, in a Howard Sherman illoed Space Ranger episode), it wasn't long before the unforgettable Ultra the Multi-Alien came along and supplanted Present Day Adam once and for all. And as for Phil Kelsey, aside from artistic credits on the last few Space Ranger episodes in TALES OF THE UNEXPECTED prior to the bubble helmeted battler's switch-over to MYSTERY IN SPACE, I haven't been able to find any other credits for the man.

Now, not to be one to cast aspersions, but truthfully, from what little I've seen, I find the guy's stuff, um, a bit lacking. But hey, I never liked Space Ranger anyway (back in the day, TALES OF THE UNEXPECTED was the ONLY DC comic I refused to buy, even on an occasional basis), even when Bob Brown was drawing the feature, so maybe I'm prejudiced. Then again, the truncated resume speaks for itself.

Who was he? What else did he do? Does anybody out there know? Drop me a line if you do--I'm clearly intrigued. Cuz, well, I'm just plain surprised that there was actually someone out there from my own personal golden age of comics whose name, at this late date, I'd never, EVER heard before!

Phil Kelsey.

Yup, that's a new one on me--imagine that...
March 7th, 2009
56 Candles

Today is my good buddy Roger Green's birthday.

Roger has a tradition wherein he always takes off from work on his birthday. All fine and good, but you know what?

Today's SATURDAY!!

And with "spring ahead" scheduled for tonight, I was gonna point out how Rog's big day was only gonna last 23 hours this time around, but then I realized the ol' clock switching technically happens after midnight--and thus, March 8th--so he DOES get the full 24. THIS year...

Have a happy one, Mr. Green--and everyone else, consider this your DST reminder!!
March 6th, 2009
Hembeck Stimulus, Phase Three!!


Well, have you heard anything about a "Hembeck Bailout"? No? Me neither, so let's get on with it, and see exactly what we've got for you bargain hunters today!...

(By the by, I based The Marvel Family piece on a cover illo I did for THE COMIC READER several, um, decades back--though it's not a line for line duplication, more an updated version.)

As always, a closer look is available to those who pass their mouse over the above illos. Don't be shy--looking is free!!

But if you're at all interested in purchasing one of these fine object de arts, here's the link to the Ebay auctions!!

More to come!!
March 5th, 2009
Hembeck's Hero Complex: The Hulk (part 2)

Like it says above--here's the link!!
March 4th, 2009
Frost Warning
(aka The Scatman Cometh?..)

Yesterday, Lynn and I went to see the film "Frost/Nixon". Early on the proceedings, there was a brief recounting of the two lead character's backstories. Passing mention was made of a daily syndicated New York City based talk show hosted by David Frost (pictured above with Maria Callas) from 1969 through 1972. I had reason to recall that show fondly, mainly because I actually attended several tapings!! Along with an episode of "The Dick Cavett Show" from around the same time period--the spring and summer of '71--those still remain the only television shows I've ever seen in person.

In those last months before we all went off on our separate ways to various colleges, me and several of my buddies would frequently make the fifty mile trek into Manhattan from our Long Island homes for some entertainment. Often, this took the form of watching old Humphrey Bogart or Marx Brothers films on the big screen's of the city's many revival houses, but we also made it in to catch a few episodes of the English host's then-popular chat fest, even though, truthfully, none of us were particularly big fans of the guy. It was just somewhere to go. (Usually via friend Tony's bright red Ford Pinto, no less! Yeah, I know-- I'm lucky to be alive!...)

It's been a long, long time, but there are still several things I distinctly recall about these youthful escapades:

Standing outside in line, waiting to get in, and seeing the noted black comedian Godfrey Cambridge drive slowly by in a limo, and assuming he'd be a guest on the show we were about to see. He wasn't.

Watching Sergio Franchi sing "The Impossible Dream', ending it in a very understated, almost muted manner, accepting the audience's warm applause, but just as the clapping had almost completely petered out, informing the audience that he wanted to test out a more dynamic ending for the song, and decide, based on our reaction, as to which version to record when in the studio the following week. Naturally, this overly dramatic approach to the tune's finale garnered even more frenzied applause, which sealed his decision--if it hadn't, as I suspected even then, already been predetermined. The guy essentially came out and sang one song on a TV show and managed to get TWO rousing ovations for it! Clever...

The stage manager coming over to me and my friends about ten minutes before taping commenced and giving us each some Hershey kisses in return for our promise to be enthusiastic. We were
But mostly, I remember the very first show we attended. David Frost came out, made a few mild topical quips, and then announced that this particular episode would deviate sharply from the standard variety show format they usually utilized, and instead the entire 90 minutes would be devoted to the cast and crew of a groundbreaking upcoming motion picture, one based right there The Big Apple, and dealing with the problem of drug addiction in a gritty and realistic manner.

Wow!! Weren't WE lucky? And all these years later, you probably figure we were there to witness the emergence of a young Al Pacino and his "Panic In Needle Park" associates, right?


Try "Born To Win".

I know--I never heard of it either, and I was there for the coming out party!

To be fair, the thing DID have several bona fide stars in the cast. George Segal was top billed, with this film coming between two successful turns, first with Barbara Streisand in 1970's "The Owl and the Pussycat", and afterwards with Robert Redford in 1972's "The Hot Rock". But in 1971, he put all cards on "Born To Win' and--yup--lost.

Costars Paula Prentiss and Karen Black were also in attendance that day--I'm not sure if sixth-billed Robert DeNiro was on stage as well, but it's doubtful. I vividly recall that both women wore the style of the day--extremely short hot pants. Hey, when you're eighteen years old, well, something like THAT makes an impression!!

And there was a lot of serious talk about addiction to hard drugs as well. A significant portion of the discussion centered around a young black man, an ex-addict who was not only a sort of technical advisor on the film, but was making his acting debut in it as well. Here's a funny thing about that guy--with no facial hair and a clean shaven head, and our seats pretty far up back, I never did get too close a look at him. Nor did I remember his name after leaving the taping (I'm pretty sure I didn't catch this episode when it was broadcast later--assuming it ever WAS broadcast...). But sometime later, I got it in my head that Scatman Crothers was the ex-junkie I'd seen on the "Frost" show that afternoon--which, without the internet to set me straight, was something I mistakenly believed for years, almost up to his 1986 death, when his age and other sundry facts just didn't jive with being a youthful heroin user during the sixties!! If only I'd had imdb back then...

While it's unsurprising that most folks, nearly forty years on, haven't heard of "Born To Win", bear in mind, we were avid moviegoers at the time, and would've been more than happy to finally check out this much ballyhooed (okay, singular ballyhooed) flick when it came to town. It never did. We scoured the theater listings and reviews, but it just never turned up. If it was released--and I guess it must've been--it was done so extremely quietly. To this day, I've never actually SEEN the film! But at least I became a fan of Scatman Crothers...

Bonus "Dick Cavett Show" memory: the only thing I recall is that he had, as one of his guests, an elderly scientist I'd never heard of, a Dr. Linus Pauling. He was pitching vitamin C as a bit of a cure-all, and had all the stage presence of Professor Pepperwinkle, causing the audience--especially me and my wise-guy pals--to frequently giggle at inappropriate times. I would later come to learn exactly how highly regarded the man was, but at the time, he just seemed like a slightly daffy, absent-minded professor, obviously less important than the next grand George Segal blockbuster. Just goes to show you, I guess...
March 3rd, 2009
Tricky Query

Question: What do you get when you cross Count Dracula with Perry White?


The first time I saw Frank Langella, he was playing the infamous bloodsucker. The last time I saw Frank Langella, he was playing the Daily Planet editor.

And then earlier today, for the price of one thin dollar, I caught his Oscar nominated performance as the disgraced ex-President in (you guessed it) Ron Howard's "Frost/Nixon". Simply amazing. Going in, I really didn't think he looked very much like Nixon at all, but up that screen, boyoboy, he literally BECAME the man! Did I mention "amazing"?...

But spare some kudos for Michael (no relation to Martin) Sheen as well. He doesn't actually LOOK anything like David Frost (the shape of his head and hair--if not his features--reminded me of a young Jack Nicholson), but he had Frost's voice and manner of speaking down pat! And why not? Both of these men originated the roles on stage long before author Peter Morgan transferred his own play to the big screen--Sheen and Langella had been living inside the skins of Frost and Nixon for a considerable amount of time before the first reel of film had even been shot.

Y'know, when I first heard that a play based on the 1977 series of interviews between David Frost and Richard Nixon was going to be mounted, well, to be truthful, I remember thinking that "Jerry Springer: The Opera" had a better chance of success! Shows you what I know. This is one terrifically entertaining film, even if--yet again--the final act is fairly common knowledge.

And even after reading Elizabeth Drew's "Frost/Nixon: A Dishonorable Distortion of History", I STILL liked it. Not that there weren't some liberties taken with the facts--WHEW, there sure were!! Some almost impossible to justify, honestly. I probably should feel more outraged with the blatant script manipulations, but hey, it was just such a gosh-darn enjoyable flick, I simply can't get myself all that worked up about things. Sorry. Look, I recommend you go see the movie, have a good time, and then come home and read the above article to get the straight facts--that way, EVERYBODY'S happy!!

And I'll tell you all about MY own long-ago trip into NYC to see a taping of "The David Frost Show" tomorrow! C'mon back for THAT!...
March 2nd, 2009
Coen Head

Just about a year ago, back when Lynn and I first started up our nearly weekly visits to the cinema--and back when I wasn't blogging anywhere near as much as I have been lately--we went to see the then newly minted Academy Award Best Picture winner, Joel and Ethan Coen's "No Country For Old Men". Somewhat astonishingly, the only other Coen brothers picture I'd seen previously was "Raising Arizona" many years earlier on the tube.

It was a Tuesday afternoon, and the theater was reasonably full, the audience made up mostly of folks senior even to us, likely lured in by the Oscar the film had garnered only a few short weeks earlier. Once the lights went down, and the brutal--and graphic, AND frequent--killings began, the crowd gasped audibly at every act of bloodletting. There was this older gent seated directly behind us, and to hear him moan, you'd've thought those bullets flying up there on the screen had somehow found as their target HIM!!

And then, when the movie suddenly came to a jarringly unexpected conclusion, he blurted out, "THAT'S the ending?".

Frankly, those were my thoughts as well.

I...appreciated the movie, but "Best Film Of The Year"? Not if I had a vote (which, as we all know, I didn't...).

Several months later, "Burn After Reading" was released, and this Coen brothers production was being sold via TV commercials as more of a wacky comedy. Well, that was certainly something I could get behind, so off we went. A very convoluted plot that follows several groups of seemingly disparate characters, ultimately bringing them all together for full comedic effect made for a fairly entertaining movie. Oh, and then there's that one unexpected burst of graphic violence about two thirds of the way through that serves to both move the story along and unsettle the audience. And, as with the previous flick, liberal usage of the so-called "F" word is gleefully employed. Overall, I enjoyed this film more than it's award-winning predecessor.

Last night, I dug out an old video tape made when the cable service Showtime was offering a free weekend of fare back in (don't laugh) 1997. First up on the eight hour tape was 1996's "Fargo", pegged by many as the Coen's best movie. So we popped it in our increasingly ancient VCR and watched it.

Quirky characters--check.

Complicated but involving plot--check.

Sudden bursts of brutal violence--check.

Repetitive usage of the "F" word--aside from the more genteel (but goofy) Minnesota based characters, check.

Yup, it's a Coen brothers pic alright!!

"Fargo" rates the highest of the three with me. The acting--particularly William H. Macy--is extraordinary, and the simple choice of emphasizing the regional accents of the characters to turn what reads, on paper, as a serious crime drama, into...well, something else--is inspired, dementedly so.

I need to catch up with the siblings other films, but I'm just curious--do they ALL feature outbursts of extreme mayhem? "O Brother, Where Art Thou?"? "The Hudsucker Proxy"? "The Big Lebowski"? Do they ALL contain scenes of splattered blood, or did I just stumble across the three exceptions to the rule?

Doubtful, I'm thinking, yaah?...
March 1st, 2009
Hembeck Stimulus, Phase Two!!

We're back with more art for sale, gang, with prices even Bobby Jindal would love!!

This time around we've got--

(That last one is based on Gene Colan's corner box art that ran on the covers of DD for a long, long time. And as always, click your mouse to see 'em larger!)

Here's the Ebay link for all our current bargain-priced offerings!!

More to come soon!! Cuz that's what Mr. Obama would want!!

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