Archive - May 2004

May 31st, 2004
Today, on this Memorial Day, as our nation remembers the many men and women of our fighting forces who've sacrificed their precious lives to keep our country's democracy thriving--and mere days after the long-overdue memorial to the soldiers who fought valiantly against the menace of Hitler's Nazis during World War Two was dedicated in Washington, D.C.--I thought it might be the proper time to post this unique tale from, appropriately enough, the July, 1963 issue of DC Comic's OUR FIGHTING FORCES (#77).
There are several unusual aspects to "Double-Cross!", though Joe Kubert's exemplary art job isn't one of them, as that's long been standard operating procedure for this immensely talented illustrator. Even the taut scenario of (presumed) scripter Bob Kanigher isn't the big surprise here. Editor/writer Kanigher pumped out his share of generic material over the years, no denying it, but in this particular instance, true inspiration took over.

Fact is, he was so enamored of this job that he bumped it up to the very front of the book, knocking regulars Gunner and Sarge to the rear, a totally unprecedented--and possibly never repeated--move made on behalf of a story, the likes of which generally filled out the back pages of DC's war titles, falling in anonymously behind their line of vaunted Battle Stars.

But that's STILL not the most unique thing about "Double-Cross!" To find out just exactly what separates it from all of Kanigher's other combat tales, well, you merely have to go take a look at this short--3 and two-third pages--but powerful battlefield episode...

And though it had a certain corniness inherent to its blatantly plain-spoken message, I'm reminded of the altogether appropriate message appended to the end of each and every one of DC's combat tales as the sixties rapidly came to a close:

"Make War No More"

Still sounds like a good idea to me...
May 30, 2004

Over on "Jimmy Kimmel Live", they have a recurring segment called "This Week In Unnecessary Censorship" wherein, with the aid of cleverly chosen pixilations and a well-timed edit or two, they manage to make even the most innocuous of programming--game shows, faith healers, political speeches, and yes, even good ol' SpongeBob and friends--look like something filthy enough to give the high and mighty folks down at the FCC cold sweats! Which is, of course, the whole point...

It's a pretty funny bit, I've gotta say, and it's inspired me in turn to come up with my own twist. You've all heard of false modesty, right? Well, with the help of the magic of Photoshop and the Marvel Essentials series, I bring you, from the Silver Surfer volume,'s first--and perhaps LAST--installment of "Great Moments In False Nudity!"

Now remember, mom and dad, that lithesome lady isn't REALLY nekkid--she's just colored that way! Take a closer look and you can still see the outlines of her clothing, so worry not--little Junior and Jane are still safe.

As for that fellow on the surfboard, well, I suppose he always WAS nude, save for that silvery metallic coating that he somehow managed to convince the Comics Code was actually clothing all these years.

Tell you what--after that Superbowl, he ain't foolin' NO ONE!!...

May 27th, 2004
The guy in the funny mask there? Lynn, Julie, and I spent about an hour with him last evening--him, AND his son.

No, no, no--it WASN'T Darth and Luke, actually--more like James Earl and Flynn, the Jones boys, as it were. But seeing as how some folks might think there's not nearly enough "Star Wars" related material on his here web-site, well, this is for YOU! Enjoy.

Fact is, we were there to see James Earl Jones (and his son) give a reading of Scott Momaday's "The God/Bear Dialogues" in (...wait for it...) "The James Earl Jones Theater"!! This intimate little venue just happens to be located cozily within the academic institution Julie will be attending beginning in the fall, the Poughkeepsie Day School--the very SAME school, it just so happens, that the younger Jones graduated from back in 2001. Ah HAH! THAT'S how you get an auditorium named after you--that, and a healthy infusion of Lucas-inspired cash! So thanks, George--we enjoyed the show! (Especially seeing as how it was free to all us members of the, ahem, PDS Community)

It was all pretty basic. The pair merely sat behind a table up on an empty stage, reading aloud a fanciful discussion between the ever-wise Big Guy (Flynn) and an overly inquisitive Bear (James Earl), based, apparently, on some well established Native American legends. It was all very morally uplifting, full of Big Questions and Cogent Observations. But mostly, there was THAT voice. We got in a bit late, so we sat in the very last row, but that booming baritone STILL managed to wash over us, cascading across the aisles and making the choice of material practically moot. The guy could've been reading from the phone book, fer gosh sakes, and it still would've been an experience well worth having! (Hey, speaking of which, didn't he sorta do that once anyway?....)

After about forty minutes of much profundity--and several well-timed laughs, keyed to a repeated riff built around the Bear's overly-enthusiastic love of berries--the house lights dimmed, and after the obligatory standing O, came back up just in time for a casual little Q&A session.

Here's the kind of crowd we found ourselves in--20 minutes, and not a single mention of "Star Wars"!?! A few questions about "The Great White Hope" and "Field Of Dreams" from several of the adults in the audience, and then a few queries regarding the deeper meaning of the piece aimed at that evening's Deity-substitute, Flynn Jones, from his age group peers. I turned to Julie, and wondered if she could've come up with such penetrating questions. Heck, I wondered if I could! Wait, I know the answer to that latter one--no, I could not.

I DID have the perfect question all ready to ask the younger Jones, though--just not the nerve to stand up and actually ASK it!! (I'm a tad bit shy amongst large groups of strangers, I must confess...)

After a series of solemnly serious questions about the meaning of God, the craft of acting, and the dynamics of working with ones offspring, I REALLY wished I'd had the guts to have risen to my feet and posed this little query:

"Flynn, I know he must've shared his acting secrets with you, but has your dad ever clued you into any of his smokin' hot break-dancing moves?..."

Yeah, that would've been fun. I don't care if the house was filled with the learned class (present company excepted, natch), EVERYONE in that theater has surely seen that Verizon commercial featuring the elder Jones down on the floor, masterfully spinning around! If you haven't seen it--and I'm not entirely sure just how far across the country Verizon's influence--and its distinguished spokesman--reach, but it sure looks like the 73 year-old thespian is the one getting down and funky, as unlikely as I suppose that actually is!

But soon enough, the duo ambled offstage, and we were out the doors and on our way home as well. It got me thinking, though--soon, we'll be totally immersed in what they like to refer to as the PDS community, and who knows what'll happen? Maybe I'll take my place right alongside James Earl--it'll be me and Mr. Jones! Him with the James Earl Jones Theater, and me? Well, me with the Fred Hembeck Sketch Pad, of course! (...light-weight paper, spiral-bound...)

Hey, a guy can dream, can't he?...

May 26th, 2004

I still remember where I was when I heard that Richard Deacon had died.

I was in an outdoor phone booth in Cape Cod, getting ready to take a sightseeing cruise out of the harbor aboard a small commercial craft. It was August of 1984, a year and a half after my mom had passed away, and even off on vacation, I'd made a concerted effort to keep in continuous touch with my dad, who was now living alone. As noted on previous occasions, the two of us didn't have a whole lot in common to talk about, so we generally settled in for some meaningless chatter about the Mets and stuff we'd caught on the tube. That's when dad informed me of the demise of "that guy who was on "The Dick Van Dyke Show"...

After several stabs at exactly WHICH guy he meant, I finally hit upon the actor who so skillfully played the embattled producer, Mel Cooley.

Heart attack. Age 63.


I don't exactly know WHY I recall this so vividly (I also have an unusually clear memory of learning that Vivian Vance had died, sitting behind a table as one of Albany's Fantacons was just wrapping up...). Maybe the combination of losing a beloved character actor mere minutes before Lynn and I boarded a small seagoing vessel whose engine itself died shortly thereafter, just before we left the mouth of the harbor, eventually necessitating our return to shore via several even smaller launches, all without the benefit of a refund anywhere in sight--maybe THAT gave the sad news an added jolt of personal significance that, say, the expiration of Morey Amsterdam, wasn't similarly afforded (can't recall that dark day at all...). And, y'know, maybe just because he was a darn fine actor, one who was all too often overlooked.

And still is, unfortunately. After posting my review (of sorts) of the recent "Dick Van Dyke Show Revisited" the other day, I went blithely over to Mark Evanier's fun-filled site only to discover--lo and behold!--he too had just weighed in with his thoughts on that very self-same special! What, I ask you, are the odds? (Well, pretty good, I suppose, but it still gave me a bit of a start!). One of the points Mark made that I wholeheartedly agreed with--and would've mentioned myself, had I not, um, forgotten about it by the time I made it to the keyboard--was the inexplicable absence of Richard Deacon's name during the opening credits. Utilizing the now-familiar lettering style from forty years back, the new production billboarded not only the five regulars who've always been given initial recognition--Dick, Mary, Morey, Rose Marie, and the not-so-little Larry Mathews--but also intregal actors such as Ann Morgan Guilbert, Carl Reiner, Jerry Van Dyke, and the late Jerry Paris.

But NOT the man known to his colleagues as "Deac"!?! Huh? His character was certainly mentioned often enough throughout, and several of the clip-sequences relied heavily on his participation--why then the slight? Because folks, as Mark keenly observed, without Mel Cooley, the whole show loses a key ingredient. And as important as his portrayal of Alan Brady's brow-beaten in-law was to the success of the show, for MY money, it wasn't even his most memorable role!!...

That would be Fred Rutherford (ANOTHER sorry role-model for THIS young Fred growing up...), Ward Cleaver's fellow associate down at the "salt mines" and father to the unforgettably named Lumpy Rutherford, a recurring role on one of the few shows I like as much--if not just a teensy bit more than--the "The Dick Van Dyke Show", the ever-glorious "Leave It To Beaver". His run as the pompous, self-important office-mate to the Beav's dad stretched from the year 1958 right on through to the sitcom's final season, 1963.

Apparently, the "Beaver" people were surprisingly generous with the time of their multi-talented supporting players, because not only did Deacon perform double-duty for several years (as the DVD show's run (1961-1966) overlapped his tenure as Fred Rutherford), but the wonderful Doris Packer--Beaver's long-time authoritative but fair-minded principal, Mrs. Rayburn--also concurrently filled the flashy supporting role of Mrs. Chatsworth Osborne, Sr. on "The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis" from '60 to '63, comedically portraying a haughty society matron brilliantly and for all the many, many laughs it was worth.

Mel may well've been in a good ninety percent of the DVD episodes, while Fred would've been hard pressed to clock in at fifty per cent on the Beaver shows, but regardless of quantity, there was so much quality to Deacon's work that he was ALWAYS a welcome sight...

And who can forget his startling appearance in the all-important prologue and epilog of the intensely creepy original version of "Invasion of The Body Snatchers" (1956)? Fred Rutherford, up there on the big screen, one of our last hopes against the pod people--who'da thot?

Fred Rutherford. Mel Cooley. Richard Deacon. I won't forget ANY of them...

But regarding my mention of "Dick Van Dyke and the Other Woman", well, at least I got the TITLE right! My buddy, Craig Smith, sends along this link that offers a detailed review of that one-hour variety special. Seems it originated back in 1969, back BEFORE Mary Tyler Moore received her own sitcom, and in fact, may well have spurred on its production! This review further goes on to identify the Petrie portion of the show as an outtake from the original show. So, once again, apparently, I'm wrong...

But wait!

The reviewer mentions that CBS ran the special TWICE. Two times. Hey, who's to say they didn't repeat it again years and years later, say, AFTER Mary's own show went off the air? The thing is, I have a fairly clear memory of the environs wherein I viewed this show, and it's one of the first apartment's Lynn and I cohabitated in our post-college days, and folks, since I didn't graduate HIGH SCHOOL 'til 1971, it sure wasn't 1969!?!

And if you scroll further down the link to a second, shorter review, you'll find a comment regarding finally viewing the famous DVD living room set in full color! Now, THAT doesn't sound like a true outtake to me, people, since all those shows were filmed in black and white. My guess is that it was introduced as an "outtake" during the course of the show as part of the comedy piece's conceit, but was, in reality, filmed at the very same time as the rest of the program. All these years later, the faux intro managed to fool our first critic!

At least, that's my theory de jour. Maybe I should just shut up and leave this showbiz stuff to Mark Evanier....

(Hey, Mark--know anything about an unaired "Odd Couple" reunion teleflick? Cuz y'know, in my muddled mind at least, there was one--REALLY!?!...)

May 25th, 2004

Several days ago, during the course of a heart-felt tribute to the late Tony Randall, I apparently made an erroneous statement when I stated that the "Odd Couple" reunion teleflick that TV's Felix Unger was once, long ago, plugging on the Letterman show never actually aired. Well, a fair number of you out there have politely informed me that such a film was indeed broadcast in the fall of 1993. As best as can be discerned, the story dealt not only with the hijinks surrounding the marriage of Felix's daughter, but Oscar Madison's recovery from throat cancer as well, a plot point no doubt motivated by actor Jack Klugman's real-life struggle with the self-same malady.

Fine. I blew it, folks--apparently. I'm still hedging my bets, though, as no one yet can confirm the distinct New York Marathon aspect of the production that I remember being lensed for Letterman, making me cling, however misguidedly, to the belief that there was indeed a late eighties attempt at getting Felix and Oscar together again, an attempt that never saw the light of day save for that single clip Randell brought along with him to show Dave.

Unless anyone can say for sure that the runner's aspect was addressed in the '93 broadcast, I'm gonna continue to consider it an unsolved mystery--the only bigger one being, just HOW could I have missed the 1993 reunion in the first place??

I KNOW I didn't see it--I would've had at least some dim memory of the scenario--but WHY didn't I see it? The only reasonable excuse I can come up with is that, yes, I DID tape it when it was on a decade back, but upon sensing the tepid reviews it garnered (uh huh--I've since checked--it was no "Still The Beaver" or "Return To Mayberry", as best I can tell...), put the tape aside, and just plain forgot about it! Its' probably still downstairs somewhere, buried alongside other never viewed Special Presentations from years past, not unlike that highly publicized mini-series that had MTM playing MTL--that's right, Mary Tyler Moore WAS Mary Todd Lincoln! (DON'T tell me how it ends, okay? I still may want to see it someday...)

But speaking of good ol' Mary, I DID manage to watch the recent "Dick Van Dyke Show Revisited" special that brought back together the surviving cast members for a 159th episode after an incredible 38 year hiatus (that's GOTTA be a record!) (,,,although, my not-entirely-reliable memory also seems to recall a variety special from round abouts 1979 or so called "Dick Van Dyke and the Other Woman"--the other woman being MTM--and a good 20 minutes of the show was devoted to a skit that acted as a Petrie update, though Rob and Laura were the only characters seen on screen. The way the thing was played, though, it seemed more like a spoof than a canonical addition to the New Rochelle couple's history, but hey, maybe I'm just remembering it wrong. Wouldn't be the first time, apparently...)

It was no classic, true, but purely for the warm nostalgic glow it evoked in this viewer, it was certainly worth watching. The whole concept of Alan Brady hiring Rob and Sally to write his eulogy, pre-check out, primarily so as to afford their ex-boss the unique opportunity to edit their "sincere" sentiments, made for a decent jumping off point. It also made the strongest statement about mortality to be found on one of these sit-com retreads since Wally, June, and the Beav had to come to grips with their memories of patriarch Ward Cleaver in his absence in the aforementioned "Still The Beaver". Certainly, acknowledging Buddy, Jerry, and Mel's passing this way was far more honest than that rather tacky shot in the otherwise fine "Return to Mayberry" film wherein Andy, Barney, and some of the others wave across the street to an indistinguishable Floyd, perched in front of his barber shop in a wide long shot, the canny viewer well aware that the actor who'd portrayed the Mayberry clipper had actually expired years earlier. Nope, Carl Reiner's approach was to meet the subject head on, and let the laughs fall where they may...

Let's just call it a middling success, okay, and allow me to make these seemingly random observations:

Did Jerry Van Dyke think he was at a "Coach" reunion or something? Is that REALLY the way Rob's brother used to act? If so, it looked better on him when he was younger. And just why DIDN'T he have his banjo along, anyway?

Millie had always seemed like she was a bit older than Laura, but suddenly--WHOOSH!-- the gap looks to have widened immensely! Not that her performance was in any way decrepit--actually, she was quite funny--but the appearances of actresses Moore and Guilbert seemed in stark contrast--one looked her actual age, one didn't. YOU figure out which...

Poor Larry Mathews. He got the opening scene all to himself (albeit with Reiner on the phone), standing in the iconic Petrie living room--and then is NEVER seen (nor, I believe, referred to) again! No tete a tete's with good ol' mom and dad. Maybe that was a wise move, though--standing next to DVD and MTM, who'd ever believe that HE'D wind up their progeny?....

What's up with that whole "Rob Petrie Dances With His Computer Double" scene? My buddy, Jim Salicrup, suggested that perhaps this was a leftover bit from last year's CGI generated Alan Brady Show, and I'm inclined to agree with him, but I still think the sequence stuck out like a sore thumb...

Did we really need to have this whole affair introduced to us by Ray Romano? Contrary to popular opinion, not EVERYBODY loves Raymond, y'know? And did Dick and Mary have to break character for the final scene, the only one where they were reunited with their old living room set? It did provide for one of my favorite bits, though--when Mary prat-falls off the couch, causing her co-star to object on the grounds that, hey, that was HIS bit?...

"Yeah, but you're too old now", she casually replies.

Maybe we're ALL too old, but whether or not this reunion is tacked on the end of the forthcoming fifth--and final--season of "The Dick Van Dyke Show" DVD sets, we'll always have the FIRST 158 episodes, and for that we should all be grateful...

Two other fine programs aired their last episodes recently, "Angel" and "Frasier". Without going into matters too deeply, let me just say I thought they both went out on high notes. The Kelsey Grammer comedy was funnier this past season than it had been for several years, and the lead-up to the final episode seemed natural and not at all forced. The same could be said of David Boreanaz's crew--creator Joss Whedon didn't have the luxury of too much planning ahead, but it was apparently just enough to get the job done properly. Unlike last year's excessively drawn-out approach to the voluntarily retired "Buffy The Vampire Slayer"s finish-line, the network-sacked "Angel" wasn't afforded the luxury of elongating its goodbye, and it made for, I think, a crisper, more focused exit.

Not that there weren't quibbles. Why didn't we see a few more Buffy cast mates in the final weeks, if not in the grand finale itself? And over on "Frasier", I think Bulldog should've somehow been included, and, as obnoxious character as I always found her, I found it odd that Daphne's mom was totally ignored, whereas, instead her three brothers--two never before seen--showed up. But those were minor points. Both series ended leaving the viewer simultaneously satisfied AND wanting more as they faded to black one last time. If I wanted to get all hokey--and y'know, sometimes I DO--I would've plastered "The beginning?..." across the screen as Frasier got set to disembark that plane. And as for Angel, Spike, Gunn, and the former coolest Fred on TV, well, "Never the end..." would've described their situation to a tee...

Sad to see 'em go, but hey, you never know--there could easily be a reunion extravaganza in the future for either or both series, y'know?

Just keep checking the channel listings for, oh, I don't know?--the next 38 years? History shows that, if it's meant to happen, it's bound to happen by then, dig?....

May 24th, 2004

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Medusa Junior!

(Thing is, Julie and I were rooting around the file cabinet by the master computer earlier today, looking for some misplaced CD roms--with, of course, no luck--when we stumbled upon several packages of snapshots, including a healthy amount taken on our trip to Washington, D.C., back in August of 2001. This particular one, memorializing the Great Depression, caught both our eyes, and I'm posting it here with my darlin' daughter's complete blessing. You need someone to lead you outta the dumps? That'd be our Julie-girl, no denyin' it!!...)

(Oh, and in totally unrelated news, I posted me a new pair of old strips over at the Best of Dateline:@#$! section, so go take a look should you be so inclined, why don'tcha, hmmm?...)

May 22nd, 2004

A quick, mid-season look at how things stand with my daughter's soccer team--y'know, the one that I, ahem, coach?

I told you about the first game. We lost, 3-0. 14 of our 15 girls were in attendance, so we were actually able to put the standard 11 players out on the field, while resting a few others.

Game 2, 0-0 tie. We had 11 players to start, but one had to leave early, so we played the second half (35 minutes each) with 10.

Game 3, 3-0 loss. 10 players present.

Game 4, 3-2 loss. 9 players available for the first three quarters of the game, then one had to leave, so we finished up with 8. We never led in this one, but we kept it a seesaw battle throughout--they got one, we got one, they got a second goal, we got a second goal, they scored a third, we--oops! Time ran out--we lose! Of special note was the fact that we played this one WAY late in the afternoon (most games are scheduled for either early or late mornings), and it was, wouldn't you know it, unseasonably hot that day. Plus, our opponents had about 16 players available, meaning that, though they played us even at 8-8, they had essentially an entire team sitting on the sidelines, fresh, while my poor kids did their best to fight off heat exhaustion. Given the circumstances, I felt my girls played a valiant game. In fact, all 4 of our first slate of Spring contests were essentially competitive, despite what that pair of 3-0 finals might otherwise suggest.

And then there was today...

10-zip, we lose. Just when I thought we were done with these soul-sapping blowouts...

7 of our girls made it to the field by the scheduled 8:15 start time, though within 15 minutes, 2 more showed up, meaning it was 9 versus 9 for most of the morning (our adversaries sported but a single substitute this time around). They were a decent team, but hardly the colossus the final score might indicate. One problem for us was that we had some key players missing, including the one girl who not only plays the key goalie position exceptionally well, but actually relishes doing so. She was sick, so I had to install some untried--if game--troops between the posts, including our newest player. She actually didn't do all that badly--she only let 4 of the 10 goals in during the half she was goalkeeper--but she had to contend not only with a direct shot from 20 feet out given to the other team as the result of a hand-ball by one of our girls, which are pretty hard to defend against (though she almost did, to her extreme credit)--but 2 of the 3 kids I put back there to play defense for her were surprisingly reticent to actually run up to the ball when the oppositions forwards were bearing down on them, and well, no good came of THAT strategy, lemme tell ya!...

At the end of the mercifully truncated contest (due to a low turnout, it was agreed beforehand to play 30 minute halves--who knows WHAT the score would've been had we played those extra 10 minutes...), we did the standard "good game" high-fives between teams, and when the other coach and I shook hands, he looked at me sheepishly, saying not only "thanks", but also, "sorry..." I'd never met him before, as his team drove out from nearly a half-hour away to play us (the field's just 5 minutes from the Hembeck hacienda, by contrast), and I was initially concerned that he and his crew would've driven all the way out here at an ungodly early hour on a weekend for absolutely nothing had we been unable to muster enough players to get the game going officially. As it turned out, I doubt his squad minded the long drive in the wee hours overmuch. Me? Well, it wasn't the happiest Saturday morning of my life, but I'm convinced that our team is more than good enough to lose games closely, and not be consistently buried under an avalanche of goals! And folks, with an attitude like that, is it any wonder I'm getting out of the game?...

We're off next week--Memorial Day weekend--and then we're entered in a round-robin tournament the week following. 13 of our 15 girls have committed to it--and since I've managed to weasel the $10 entrance fee from 11 of them already, odds are good we'll have enough players showing up for this once a year event to field a proper team. No Communions, school trips, church activities, music lessons, visiting relatives, or, hopefully, cold bugs will get in the way.

And given the opportunity to play 4 short, 22 minute games against 4 different opponents, we might even win our first contest of the year!

That certainly would be nice.

I'll get back to you on that...

May 20th, 2004

Back in 1990, Greg Theakston wrote what at the time was a very eye-opening recounting of the early sixties transformation Martin Goodman's tiny Atlas line made as it blossomed into the blockbuster Marvel Comics Group. Having been spoon-fed Stan Lee's more fanciful version repeatedly for several decades up to that point, I can vividly recall being mildly startled by a fair amount of the fresh information Theakston included in his expansive historical analysis, the cover featured item for the second issue of his own PURE IMAGES magazine.

Well, I skimmed through it again recently, and was quietly surprised to discover that a lot of what had stunned me upon first reading--essentially, explaining the Marvel metamorphosis as a series of business decisions initiated by the publisher, with the impressive creative end result being essentially a happy accident--had subsequently become accepted lore, turning up in any number of places, not the least of which were several books about the iconic--but never laconic--Stan Lee. Yup, pretty much everything Greg dug up way back when has been repeated over and over again since. Except, that is, for one little thing...

The Fantastic Four's masks!

Bet you didn't know the Fantastic Four ever wore masks, did you? Well, in a series of panels that I've never seen printed anywhere save PURE IMAGES#2, Theakston offers up proof that, right up to the very last moment, editor Lee was tweaking the finer points of his firm's latest title. Now, you're all aware that Reed, Sue, Johnny, and Ben didn't wear uniforms during their first two adventures (yes, wise guys, they DID wear CLOTHES!...), but the outfits they adopted in FANTASTIC FOUR #3 (March 1962) not only originally included facial gear, but a chest emblem different from the simple yet effective "4" as well. Take a look at these series of panels, first from page 7, and then from page 10, with the published ones following the long-lost original versions....

How and why? Well, I've stolen enough from Greg already--what's a couple more paragraphs, hmm?...

"Throughout the years, the Marvel Mythology has insisted that the F.F. never wore masks, but for a few weeks, they did. In the original pencils for that issue, Jack (Kirby) had designed masks for Reed Richards and Sue Storm. It must have occurred to Stan that the Torch didn't need a mask, and that Ben couldn't hide under any mask, and the Invisible Girl needed a mask least of all. That left Reed, and if the other three didn't need masks, neither did he. Stan plays with this idea when he has the Thing tear off his new outfit halfway through the third issue. After all, he was far more interesting to look at than any uniform."

And what about that funny looking design on the group's shirts (look closely and you'll also see a vertical bar traveling down from the black neck collar and then under--but not through--the abandoned symbol)?...

"The original chest logo was an "F" overlapping another "F". Dissatisfied with the look, Lee doodled until he came up with a strong visual, Artie Simek altered all of the existing logos as he inked the story."

Presumably, he disposed of all the masks as well, if indeed Simek did ink the story, which is still a matter of dispute (he DID letter it, however, and could well have done the touch-ups during that phase of the job).

Ironically, the only mask to make it into print was the totally inappropriate one that Ben Grimm wore--and then angrily tore off midway through the issue, never to be seen again! Good call, Stan--and ditto on the classic looking numeral as opposed to the weakly designed double "F". I just wonder exactly how much of this story exists in this state--was it just these 6 panels that survived unchanged, or does a copy of the whole story remain hidden somewhere in this embryonic state? Okay, okay--so it's not exactly the Dead Sea Scrolls, but I for one would be tre' curious to witness Mr. Fantastic strolling about wearing a tiny little string mask for over 20 pages. Hey, we all get our jollies differently, y'know?

(And check out today's illo of the alternate F.F. over at my sketch blog, and see how Freddy Drewit--at least before anybody named Simek got ahold of the white-out!!...)

May 19th, 2004

Some memories of Tony Randall...

Besides the obvious--his indelibly marvelous performance as Felix Unger, which I enjoyed mightily during its initial run, and for years afterwards via reruns--the thing I remember most about the man was the cultured, sincere, and, yes, persnickety persona he brought along with him over the past several decades during numerous talk show appearances. Specifically, there are two turns on the Letterman show that leap immediately to mind...

Tony was consistently an engaging guest, and always managed to bring out the very best in Dave (or in any host whose couch he graced). One night--late eighties, early nineties, I'd guess--he came on and proudly announced a two-hour "Odd Couple" TV reunion movie. Not only did he talk about it, but he also brought along a clip of the finished product!

As I can best recall it, the scene was a location shot, set out on the streets of NYC, and having to do with one of the pair (Oscar? Maybe...) participating in the celebrated New York Marathon. When the snippet ended, the audience applauded enthusiastically, and just like everyone in that theater that evening, I myself looked forward eagerly to eventually viewing the entire telefilm.

It never happened.

To the best of my knowledge, that project never made it onto the network schedule--ANY network--and was summarily forgotten by all, a topic never again to be broached by Randall. But I remembered, and, trivial as it may sound, it haunts me to this very day. Somewhere, I'm well aware, in the back of someone's storage closet, is a completed "Odd Couple" reunion show that's never been screened for the public. Okay, sure--it's probably not all that good--how many of these things ever are?--but I for one would like to see it nonetheless...

The other appearance that stands out in my mind wasn't even a scheduled guest-shot--at least, the audience at home wasn't appraised of it beforehand. It was back in the early nineties, and having just returned from commercial break mid-show, Letterman began to go into his next comedy bit, but before he could get very deep into it, he--and the studio audience--suddenly became aware of a commotion emanating from over near the side door entrance. Rushing in from the street (or so we're led to believe) are Tony Randall and Mandy Patinkin. In a bit they would reprise maybe a half-dozen times over the next few years, Tony played the serious, single-minded mentor to Patinkin, as he hastily gave Paul Schaeffer some sheet music, overriding the host's feigned surprise and confusion by coolly but firmly informing Letterman that they'll only need the hall for a few minutes, as that's all it'll take for Patinkin to rehearse his song for "the big show".

Now, while the singer was, at the time, quite the Broadway sensation and cult-movie star, this was before his role on TV's "Chicago Hope" gave him more mainstream exposure. In fact, it was only several months since he'd appeared as a guest himself, singing a decidedly elongated version of "Somewhere Over The Rainbow" from his first solo album, the length of which Dave mocked repeatedly for the rest of the night. But there'd be no mocking this night--Tony Randall saw to that. Curtly putting an end to the faux protestations of the host, he implored his charge--suitably dressed in casual rehearsal togs--to get on with his number.

By now, the audience didn't quite know what to think. Sure, they'd expected to hear some music that night, but from one of those all too interchangeable rock groups that traditionally bring up the rear of the program. THIS was a surprise. Patinkin started off slowly, softly, a martial-like beat backing him up. Soon enough, the identity of the composition became obvious--it was that immortal anthem of the Great Depression, "Brother, Can You Spare A Dime?". Combining his thespian chops with an extensive vocal range, Mandy milked the tune for every last ounce of drama, pathos, and, finally, rage, all as Tony stood next to the piano, looking on, no doubt critiquing the performance in his mind. A performance that began with a whisper and exploded with a scream, as the plight of the disenfranchised Al is viscerally brought home to everyone lucky enough to witness Patinkin's bravura, um, "rehearsal".

As the last note faded away, the audience was already going wild! Staying true to the conceit, however, Randall simply thanked Dave, grabbed Patinkin, and the pair rushed out the door again, taking no bows. It was, after all, just a run-through. Such niceties would come later, at the "actual" gig. (Of which, natch, there really wasn't one...) Didn't matter. The spell had been cast. As someone who owns a whole boatload of CDs by those aforementioned interchangeable rock groups--one of which had the unenviable task of following THAT stunning number--I was suddenly inspired to go out and buy me a Mandy Patinkin CD.

That I did. And I played it. And I played it. And, yes, I played it again! Fact is, it represented the first crack in my "rock only" ethos, and in the coming years, I would learn to appreciate the many and varied musical styles that dominated the pop landscape during the thirties, forties, and fifties. But, ultimately, my enjoyment of the song stylings of Bing Crosby, Benny Goodman, Johnny Mercer, Louis Jordan, and so many more, all grew out of Tony Randall's ushering Mandy Patinkin up onto the Letterman stage that memorable night. They ascended the footlights to laughs, but they left to sincerely earned huzzahs.

Which is why, after hearing of the actor's passing yesterday, I didn't immediately pull out my TV Theme Song CD and spin the "Odd Couple" ditty, but instead, chose to pipe Patinkin through the speakers. Proving that, in addition to superb comic timing and an enviable array of acting abilities, Tony Randall had the kind of impeccable taste even Felix Unger would envy...

May 18th, 2004

Over in my Beatles Blog, I just posted a quick review concerning the cover article found in the latest MOJO magazine, all about John Lennon's year as a political firebrand.

(Yeah, I know I said I wasn't usually gonna use this blog as a glorified way-station, but I never said never, did I? After all, without this link, imagine all the people who might miss the piece? I know you can if you try...)

May 17th, 2004

Those of you who were with us last November may remember a striking version of Jack Kirby's Orion that I used to accompany the "Fred Sez" entry for the 18th of that month. Although ultimately, I was announcing our friend Karen O' Neil's then-new website, I sneakily used this piece by her husband, Peter Clapper, in a baldfaced attempt to grab the attention of all those comics fans out there amongst you. If you haven't seen it, go take a peek--it's a beauty. I bring this all up today so as to better inform you that, yes, Peter now has his very own site as well. No, as of yet, there's nary a hint of Highfather, Lightray, or even Desaad to be found there abouts, but I think you'll find Peter's evocative paintings to be well worth your time nonetheless, even if they are more of THIS world than the Fourth World...

And continuing the pattern of brush-wielding, fine-art painting spouses, my pal, Paul Abrams, has also recently launched a site solely devoted to his own series of landscapes and the like, joining his talented wife, Jane Bloodgood-Abrams, on my ever growing list of accomplished artists. Of course, Paul's name was already there, as he additionally maintains a separate Internet presence that's devoted entirely to his slickly stylish comics art. TWO links on my rapidly expanding roll call of cybertastic thrills and fun for a single individual? Hey, what are friends for, anyway? I can certainly spare a dual listing or two for favored folks, dig?

Speaking of which, regular visitors well know that I've pointed you all towards Noah Smith's "Baggy Pants and Bravado" weblog on more than one occasion, and now--uh huh--Noah has a SECOND site, "Not Like A Fountain". I'm not sure I quite understand the title, but the purpose is made crystal clear by the sub-heading, "12 new jokes every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday". Three times a week, Noah gets into his "Weekend Update" mode and delivers gags such as this:

Mexican Air Force pilots filmed several unidentified flying objects last week, which resembled large luminous headlights. This is the first incidence of large luminous headlights in Mexico since Selma Hayek moved away.

Yup, lotsa topical humor, most of it pretty funny (hey, would I send you there if it wasn't?), but Noah? Lay off the Paul McCartney quips, okay? I was (ahem) NOT amused. Go after Rumsfeld all you want, and even good ol' Wacko Jacko, but reign in the attempts at Macca yocks, wouldja please? Some subjects should just NEVER be broached for humorous purpose, comprende? Otherwise, sweet site, you betcha!...

And then there's my old pal, Ron Marz. No, he doesn't have himself a website proper, but he does have a handy dandy message board, a fact I only stumbled across just yesterday. Having known Ron since way, way back--back in the years even before he joined other luminaries in the comics field--well, I could hardly resist the urge to immediately sign-up, mainly so I could make any number of wise-guy comments. My first volley included overpraising his short turn scripting of Marvel's justly forgotten "Secret Defenders" series, a job I well knew he wasn't at all fond of. With typical cool elan, my one-time Hudson Valley compadre answered my tongue in cheek query with an amusing yet telling little anecdote about how he had this unwanted assignment hoisted upon him, proof positive once again that to qualify as a professional comic book editor, one needn't possess the skills of a brain surgeon. Or even, frankly, a tree surgeon. Gee, wonder what kind of silly question I should ask him next?...

All in all, I've posted close to two dozen new links, including a hefty handful of comics blogs for your continued edification. And, as it turns out, as of yesterday, "Fred Sez" will be regularly included in the ever popular Comics Weblog Update service--or, as I like to call it, "Heidi MacDonald's Guiltiest Pleasure"--which I'm ever so happy to announce here. Of course, that still puts me in a bit of a quandary, as is a multi-tasker, with lotsa stuff showing up in various areas other than this rambling little weblog. Everything fresh is always noted over at "New On Site", so I strongly suggest that you loyal readers check there first each and every day. (Yes, I'm talking to YOU, Rocco...) While I don't want this blog to turn into "New On Site, Junior", I WILL try to note when anything of a fairly significant nature debuts elsewhere on the site here, okay?

But if you wanna see exactly what it was "Freddy Drewit", though, you're on your own...

May 16th, 2004

Bad enough that the weather can mess up a perfectly good weekend, but sometimes, a mere weather REPORT can irrevocably screw up an otherwise swell couple of days! Let me explain...

Every year in May, just about this time, Julie's school district holds their annual Festival of the Arts. For one glorious day, a representative selection of artistic creativity from each of the various local elementary, middle, and high schools are gathered together and proudly put on display in a nearby park. The whole thing is then buttressed by musical performances from several student choruses, orchestras, and bands. Plus, there's the ever popular ceramics demonstrations, with kids of all ages lining up for a chance to muddy their hands whilst eagerly kicking the wheel below with their feet!

Basically, it's the sort of event you only attend if you've got yourself a kid who's somehow involved; otherwise, it'd most likely make nary a blip on your leisure-time radar. Fine. But Julie's enthusiastically attended each year ever since we arrived here eight years ago, and while this time around was gonna be no different, it actually WAS gonna be different...

For one thing, our daughter is very enamored of her eighth-grade art teacher, and, along with her good pal, Lisa, wound up spending three days last week staying after school until 4:30 helping Miss Attlesey prepare for the festivities. Her plan ultimately was to go in at 8AM on Saturday morning and assist in setting up the plethora of mounted and matted artwork under the various verdant trees and bushes, making sure things were ready when the official 10AM kick-off point arrived.

The other thing was, with Julie moving on to another school next year, this would be her last real chance to be a part of this particular academic community, such as it is. But, because of an over reliance on several projected forecasts, well, the whole thing BECAME academic, I'm afraid...

Y'see, concerned with predictions of intermittent thunderstorms for Saturday, the school notified students on Friday to please inform their parents that the whole shebang had been pushed back until Sunday. Okay, that's understandable. Like I said, all the art is displayed right out there in the open, and trying to whisk it to safety in the event of the skies opening up on those masses of mats has, several times in past years, proven to be frantically problematic, to say the least. So who can blame them for being safe rather than sorry? Except, save for a few insignificant drops spit down on us round abouts 3 o'clock, it never actually rained on Saturday!?! And to compound the miscalculation, the forecast for Sunday did not look good, not good at all...

Rain, starting at midnight, and continuing on right through noon--that's what the folks at the Weather Channel were telling us. It certainly didn't look promising for today. Sure enough, the rain began near 1AM, and kept falling right on through the night. When Lynn got up at 7AM on the off chance that she'd need to rouse Julie--and then me, as I had volunteered to be the one to drive her and Lisa in early-- the news on the school's web-site was grim: Festival of Arts: CANCELLED. As big a shame as that was, here's the kicker--while it did indeed rain overnight, IT NEVER RAINED AGAIN TODAY AFTER SEVEN THIS MORNING! And because the park is committed to other activities next week, this year's carefully chosen objects de art will, as a consolation prize of sorts, be instead lined up in the various school hallways for students to hastily glance at as they make their way through the burgeoning crowds. In other words, mostly, they won't care.

I was actually pulling for it to rain today. At least that would've somehow justified their hasty decision to pull the rug out from underneath the festival, but no such luck. It was, essentially, a beautiful, sunny weekend. Just the sort that'd be perfect for, well, a Festival of the Arts...

But, between a Girl Scouts meeting, a soccer game, some aggressive gardening, and the seemingly constant but always welcome presence of Lisa, the Hembeck family did manage to have themselves a reasonably enjoyable couple of days. Still, traditionalist that I am, a little part of me will always be a bit sad that we missed out--unnecessarily--on participating in our final Festival of the Arts.

Sure, we can always attend next year--and we probably will--but it just won't be the same. Julie and Lisa, young as they are, pretty much expressed their disappointment when the word came down, and then quickly moved on. Me, I'm getting just old enough to know that some things, once you miss 'em, don't often come round again.

(Which reminds me--better not miss that "Angel" series finale next Wednesday. Okay, it's not quite the same thing, sure, but hey, I get all misty eyed when ANYTHING ends, dig? I'm just an old softie, I guess...)

May 14th, 2004

Being a decade younger than yours truly, there are certain historical--and cultural--events that I've experienced first hand that my good buddy, Rocco Nigro, has just plain missed. Among them would be the boob tube's late-sixties variety show explosion, as well as all of our nation's pre-Bicentennial Chief Executives. But while he'd be the first to admit to you that he's far from a scholar when it comes to world history, Rocco's quite knowledgeable regarding the comics field, dating back to the early years of the forties, fifties, and sixties. Not long ago, the seemingly disparate nature of these varied subjects surprisingly came together to provide for a particularly curious conversation...

Speaking on the phone one evening, Rocco was telling me about an old TV show he'd seen while visiting a mutual friend. (Oh, what the heck--not that it'll actually add any further effectiveness to this slight anecdote, but that friend was none other than embellisher extraordinaire, Terry Austin! After all, a smidgen of name-dropping never hurts a tale, y'know?...) Seems Terry (unlike myself) gets something called "The Goodtime Network" over his cable system, a channel that unabashedly wallows in scarcely seen rebroadcasts of obscure fare from the medium's first three decades. Including--yes--lots and lots of glitzy variety programming, mostly unseen since the day they first aired. One such show was what had friend Rocco raving...

It may've been "The Leslie Uggams Show", though I'm not entirely certain at this late juncture (this discussion goes back a few months, y'see). That's not important, however, as the point of all this has more to do with a specific guest who was appearing on the show, rather than the show itself.

"There was this impressionist I'd never seen before, Fred, but Terry said he was very, very big at the time. He seemed to specialize in political material, and he was leaning heavily on an L.B. Johnson impression. "

Although only a matter of months separate Terry and I, his memory failed him when it came to identifying this performer, so he remained anonymous.

"Was it Rich Little?", I asked.


"John Byner, maybe?" (..did I ever mention that I went to college with a fella whose mother knew John Byner's mom? Oh, I did...)

"Uh uh."

"Well, how about David Frye? Was it David Frye?"

"Yeah! That's it! That's the guy who was doing L.B. Johnson!"

For those of you who came in late, David Frye was a comedian who became renowned for his political satire during the sixties, particularly for his withering take on Richard Nixon. However, the telecast in question must've been taped before the 1968 election, while the Tricky One's Texan-born predecessor was still occupying the Oval Office, since, despite my assertions as to the popularity of his Nixon impression, Rocco maintained the Watergate Wonder's drooping jowls wasn't on Frye's bill of fare that evening.

"Nope, he mainly just did his L.B. Johnson. And then the funny thing was, after he did his solo stand-up segment, later on he wandered in towards the end of a comedy skit, still fully in character as L.B. Johnson! And when the host wrapped up things at show's end, there he was again, STILL doing his L.B. Johnson! Man, I half-expected him to pop out in the middle of one of the singer's numbers and join in, duetting as L.B. Johnson!?!..."

Now, initially, I'd gotten caught up in Rocco's excitement, as he related to me the circumstances whereby a performer he'd never even heard of somehow managed to effectively steal the spotlight during an entire hour of vintage variety show entertainment, but the more he went on and on about the subject, the more I began to get the nagging feeling something was, well, something

Did he say..."L.B. Johnson"?...

Bear in mind, unlike my younger friend, I'd been around when the erstwhile VP took over after JFK's assassination, and in all the time he was in office--and in all the years afterwards as well--I'd heard the man addressed any number of ways, with or without the appellation of "President":


Lyndon Johnson...

Lyndon B. Johnson...

Lyndon Baines Johnson...

...and, of course, LBJ...

But never, EVER did I hear him referred to as "L.B. Johnson"--at least not until that particular day.

Eventually, as Rocco repeated the oddly jarring phrase "L.B. Johnson" for what seemed to be the umpteenth time, I just started to laugh. Laugh, partially because of the term's uniqueness, and partially because it had suddenly dawned on me as to how Rocco may've come up with this skewed way of referring to Lone Star Lyndon: while he'll never be confused with Presidential historian, Doris Kearns Goodwin, Roc DOES know his comics' field backstory. Somehow--unconsciously, no doubt--I concluded that he was confusing Kennedy's (or, as I've since taken to calling him, "J.F. Kennedy") veep with a celebrated artist/ writer/publisher from the mondo oddball days of comics pre-code era.

Yup, he was saying "L.B. Johnson", but he was THINKING "L.B. Cole"!!

Hey, makes sense to ME!!...

When I eventually explained WHY I was laughing to him, and subsequently, my theory regarding his creative re-christening, well, he laughed, too. I'm not entirely sure he bought my reasoning, but he humored me and went along with it, probably mostly in an effort to get me off the topic and yes, ultimately, off the phone!

I bring all this up for the most obvious of purposes: to fulfill the necessary ingredients to properly commemorate's 2nd Annual "Tell A Mildly Embarrassing Anecdote About Rocco On His Birthday-Day"!

So, Happy Birthday, Rocco, and in lieu of an actual gift, I instead present to you the following handy dandy visual guide, meant to aid you at those times when a, um, certain specific confusion sets in! Enjoy--and remember, this gala celebration is all courtesy of your good ol' pal, F.G. Hembeck!

L.B. Johnson----L.B. Cole
May 9th, 2004

...Okay, okay, so it's a pretty obvious gag. Not exactly fresh, either. Gimme a break, willya? Between planting flowers, preparing breakfast, and getting ready for a swanky dinner with TWO mothers--yup, Granma's coming along--you think I really got the time to to come up with something ORIGINAL??

Well, okay, I DID consider running a picture of a gangsta rap group under the heading "Happy Mutha's Day", but decided, ultimately, it best not to go there...

In any event, have a great day, all my homies!...

May 7th, 2004

Hey, all you old people out there! (You KNOW who you are) Name two things that permeated your childhood, but that a majority of today's kids couldn't care less about...

That's right--comic books and baseball! Which somehow affords a certain irony to the recent announcement that Major League Baseball will be aggressively hopping aboard the "Spider-Man 2" bandwagon in the coming weeks in an effort--so they say--to lure back to the sport young kids, 6 to 14. Lure them away from basketball, football, and all the other games that have clearly superseded what was once considered the National Pastime, but which instead seems ever more and more to be past it's time...

And just HOW do they plan to entice all those unenthused kiddies out there? "Free Baseball Admission Day"? Yeah, right. Nope, instead, for the weekend of June 11-13, the 15 stadiums playing host to this year's round of Inter-league play will instead be festooned with tie-ins galore from the highly anticipated movie sequel: glitzy Spidey masks and brightly colored webbed foam fingers will be given out freely. Actors will prance around the edges of the field between innings in their finest ersatz Ditko outerwear. Trailers for the cinematic concoction will play incessantly on giant stadium scoreboard screens. And the "Spider-Man 2" logo will find itself plastered across not only the on-deck circle, but on first,

... second,

...AND third bases.

Home plate will remain unadorned.

Hey, even the marketing folks at MLB have limits, apparently. These erstwhile purists--who believe in pure green--also passed on a proposed giant wall of webbing to be situated behind home plate, so, y'see, they DO have lines they're not prepared to cross.

Those of you who don't follow baseball need to realize the significance of this move: while in a handful of earlier instances, the three base bags have carried a logo of some sort, it was either commemorative or charitable in nature. The bases have NEVER been used for commercial purposes before. Until now, that is. And of course, baseball, like comics, has it's share of dewy-eyed traditionalists, and believe me when I tell you, they don't like this move one bit. Not at all. Can't say I'm very happy about it either, even though I'm a longtime Spidey supporter (had it been, say, a "Scooby Doo 2" or "Passion Of The Christ" logo my Metsies would've had to trample under foot while trying to stretch a double into a triple, well sir, I'd find this whole affair even LESS appealing).

Word has it that the logo won't even be noticeable from the standard television angles, so that rules out free TV exposure as a motivation for this unusual advertising ploy. And if all they REALLY wanted to do was lure kids into the park, the giveaways would be more than enough to do the trick. A disinterested 12-year old may be induced into giving a trip to the ballpark a chance if only to score some exclusive Wallcrawler merchandise, but to think the notion of looking down onto the field of play and seeing some red webbing on each base is going to somehow convince an otherwise reluctant teen to pony up the price of a ticket to take in a Major League Baseball game is--let's face it--just plain laughable. So, why do it then?

Because it's guaranteed to get a certain portion of the population royally annoyed, and in the weeks to come, they'll spend endless column inches in daily newspapers, endless talking head segments on 24 hour news channels, and--yes--endless blogging on the Internet, endlessly debating the point. Almost everyone will be in agreement--it's a dirty rotten shame what commercialization is doing to our culture, even good ol' beloved baseball.

And every time the topic comes up, they'll invariably show a graphic of the offending bag, and they'll definitely mention the title, "Spider-Man 2", over and over, and then over again. What was once merely an action fantasy flick a lotta folks were kinda looking forward to seeing will become, instead, a part of the national landscape, at least for the month or so leading up to it's invasive appearance on the sacred base paths. And publicity like THAT, folks, is surely worth the $3.6 million Sony is paying MLB, and much, much more besides...

And when this is all over, the suits up at Sony will be all that much richer, Major League Baseball will come away looking like a desperately pathetic lap-dog, anxious to please at any cost, and kids aren't gonna go see any more baseball games--or buy any more comics, for that matter--than they did before this whole brouhaha erupted. With great marketing strategies, comes great profits--but only for the movie people, I'm afraid..

But it makes you stop and think--if MLB is willing to make these major concessions for the Web-slinger, what, I shudder to wonder, will they do when the next BATman flick finds itself heading for the nation's multiplexes?!?...

(...If only aging All-Star third baseman Robin Ventura can hold on until that time! Holy Cross Promotion, indeed!...)

LATE BREAKING UPDATE: Minutes after I posted this piece, I went to check and see if anyone else was discussing this topic on their blogs, only to find out that MLB has already rescinded their plans to paste the Spidey logo on the basepaths due to an overwhelmingly negative fan outcry!

Huh. Imagine that.

That's the good news. The BAD news is that this'll sure teach me to try commenting on current events again anytime soon!

Back to my stash of Mort Weisinger comics and Beatles albums, I guess...

May 5th, 2004

Why do they still insist on calling it "Jimmy Kimmel Live"?

For several weeks now, if not longer, the words "recorded tonight" have flashed unobtrusively on the screen just as Jimmy heads to his desk after the now-questionable appellation is announced with all of it's traditional gusto. Now, this isn't merely a case of "Nightline" running over it's allotted time slot, as it did regularly last year at the very outset of the Iraqi War, necessitating the Kimmel show to nonetheless commence at it's usual time of 12:05 AM eastern to fulfill it's legal obligations to a handful of ABC affiliate stations that--even before last week's controversial episode--didn't carry the Ted Koppel report on a nightly basis. Mark Evanier cleared THAT particular mystery up some months back, but even he's not sure what's going on now.

Nice enough to respond to my pesky--and mind-numbingly trivial--query, he opined WHY it may be happening: it's easier to book guests at an earlier hour, and it's probably cheaper to pay the crew as well. Certainly, those are understandable motivations, but the question still remains: WHY persist identifying the format falsely? Are the producers really all that concerned about Robert Goulet finding some time in his undoubtedly full schedule to re-record the opening theme song??...

(...Of course, the REAL question might be, "Why am I STILL watching "Jimmy Kimmel Live"??" The guests aren't all that great; the comedy bits, while hipper than Leno's, don't approach the quality of Conan's; Uncle Frank's ignorance is wearisome over time; and Cousin Sal's hidden camera bits are charmless and generally downright rude, so what's the appeal? Well, I still like Jimmy's opening segment, mixing gags in with clips from all over the video landscape, and plus, I'm a notorious creature of habit. Someday, I'll get my fill, and turn off Kimmel just as I eventually did with Dave and then Jay (but never, ever the hilarious Conan, that I assure you!), but that day hasn't come. Yet...)

Speaking of TV, did anyone else catch Captain America's appearance on last night's episode of "24"? Okay, okay--it wasn't the (..ahem..) REAL Sentinel of Liberty, just the actor who donned his iconic mask (complete with rubber ears) in a movie NOBODY saw, not even as big a Cap fan as myself, Matt Salinger. Yeah, that's right--the guy who opted out of the family business--his dad's a writer, goes by the initials J.D., maybe you heard of him?-- and instead entered into the always glamorous world of shoddily made, unreleased, cinematic comic-book adaptations. While I can't say for certain--but seeing as how he was listed next to last out of all this week's guest stars--I believe he essayed the role of press secretary to the political opponent of "24"s Chief Executive, David Palmer. It was a small part, coming towards hour's end. Our once-and-never Cap looks to be a bit older (natch), a bit heavier (oops), but still strong of chin and curly of forelock. And y'know, his ears--assuming they were his--weren't all that bad, either...

Did you hear? "Friends" is ending. Yeah, I know--it was a surprise to me, too. I won't be tuning in tomorrow night, though, since I never watched "Friends" (save for their annual Christmas episodes, but that's a whole 'nother post...). I WILL be present for the concluding telecasts of "Frasier" and "Angel", though, as I've been with them both loyally from the outset. But I'll still be MOST jazzed to see how this third season of the always improbable but nonetheless captivating "24" winds up. Y'know, some of the heart-stopping action on that show reminds me of my younger days...

What? I've never told you about my time as an Army Ranger? Thrilling stuff, you bet. Exciting, too. But now's not the time for those stories, I'm afraid.

(Mainly cuz I've gotta make 'em up first. Lemme get back to you on that, okay?...)

May 2nd, 2004

Yesterday would've been my mom's 91st birthday, and we might well have celebrated with cake and ice cream, save for the fact that she passed away a few month's shy of her 70th back in '83. For whatever reason, I just felt the need to mark the occasion.

So why'd I wait 'til TODAY, you ask? Well, I didn't, not really. I wrote up a short piece about ma--nothing elaborate, no quirky anecdotes I'm afraid, just some belated thanks from her one and only child regarding all the comics she let me read, Beatles records she let me listen to. and all the artwork I did totally unimpeded--only to somehow push the wrong key on my generally trustworthy laptop and WHOOOSSSH--


Just like ol' Humpty, all the King's men--and computer whiz-kid Lynn--couldn't put May 1st's "Fred Sez" back together again, and in the dark looming shadow of that royal dose of frustration, I just didn't have the strength and fortitude necessary left in me to attempt a rewrite, preferring instead to just abandon the whole thing. I suppose I've been lucky--of all the reams of blather I've pecked out on this keyboard, this is only the third time I've ever irreparably lost something (the previous two times, yes, I DID muster the nerve to sit down and try again, the last time being a piece on--of all things--the Kennedy assassination! How suspicious is THAT, huh?...)

But this time I just couldn't do it. Truth to tell, I'm currently in one of my burned out cycles, at least regarding the massive amounts of verbiage I regularly attempt to keep flowing out of You might've noticed a fair amount of art--NEW stuff--being posted these past few weeks. Combine that with several commissions being finished up and several other projects on ye oldde drawing board, resulting in the inkwell getting itself a welcome workout, and folks, I don't see things along those lines changing anytime soon in the days ahead. As for the writing, well, just bear with me. I'm sure the fire will return just when I least expect it to.

After all, there are several interesting things I'm hoping to post in the not-to-distant future, including a look at the Adam Strange Archives, a monumental listing of The Beatles comic book appearances (complied and graciously provided to me by a fella named Dave Puckett), and a VERY interesting revelation concerning the past of none other than Rob Liefeld!! (Well, interesting to ME, anyway...) Plus, more family vignettes, reactions to the passing of Joss Whedon's "Angel", the wild and woolly ongoing absurdity of "24", and--someday!--retro reviews of past Fab LPs, starting with the ever bountiful McCartney catalog, over on my Beatles page. And yes, new links. I'm gonna add some more comics ones real soon (maybe tomorrow?...), and then I'm gonna try and compose several of the OTHER promised page listings. Heaven knows, I wouldn't want you to stay HERE too long, y'know? Heh...

So that 's it--one of my periodic entries explaining why I haven't written something, all done in the time I could've used to have actually written something!?! Hey, get used to it--I'm sure it won't be the last time. In the meantime, go look at some of my purty pictures.

They say they're worth a thousand words' y'know--and with Photoshop, they're just so incredibly EASY to color!!...

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