Archive - May 2006
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May 28th, 2006
When I was just a kid, reading comics back in the early sixties, I had two glaring misconceptions about the legendary cartoonist, Alex Toth.

The first was that his last name rhymed with "moth", instead of the more correct "both". A simple mistake, one that I eventually corrected once I began attending comics conventions and heard numerous professionals speak his name--often in hushed, respectful tones--during an array of panel discussions.

My OTHER misunderstanding?

That Alex Toth was a bad artist!

Look, when I started buying DC Comics in 1961, Alex Toth's art appeared only in anthology titles like MY GREATEST ADVENTURE, HOUSE OF MYSTERY, and HOUSE OF SECRETS--and even then, sporadically at best. It seemed nice enough, I suppose, but it went almost unnoticed by yours truly, as I was entirely under the sway of the line's impressive stable of costumed characters, and thus paid minimal heed to their anthology titles. It wasn't until Mr.Toth finally took on one of those gaudily garbed guys as a regular assignment that he entered this ten-year old's radar, and friends, the results were NOT good.

Understand please that back in 1963, no radical changes were made in DC's comfortably controlled little universe, ever. Every single character was made to look as mechanically consistent from one issue to the next. Usually, this meant that a single artist stayed on a series for years and years and years, but even when the rare artistic switch-over occurred, every effort was made to make the change as smooth as possible for readers.

And then there was Eclipso...

Debuting in HOUSE OF SECRETS #61, this unique series featuring a powerless good guy who turned into a powerful bad guy every time there was a eclipse--which sounds pretty darn silly, when you stop and think about it, not to mention more than a tad bit limiting--nonetheless immediately caught my fancy, due in no small part to the accomplished Caniff-like art provided by cartoonist Lee Elias.

Elias was back for the second installment of the quirky series as well, but when HOUSE OF SECRETS #63 hit the stands, Eclipso was present, but his artistic originator was nowhere to be found. Instead, the illustration chores had been turned over to the largely-unfamiliar-to-me Alex Toth. Now, I don't suppose that it was the changeover of the pencillers that irked me so much--though I've always had a soft spot for the work of Elias--as it was the total revamping of Eclipso's noggin!

Y'see, in those first two stories, Eclipso was essentially pictured as a mirror image of alter-ego Bruce Gordon, only with the handsome Gordon outfitted with a maroon skull cap with a bluish tinge playing, eclipse-like, across a significant portion of his face. But when this Toth guy came along for the third episode, all of a sudden, Gordon's transformation took him from a Hollywood leading man likeness to, as Eclipso, a monster with Spock ears, fangs, a prominent hook-nose, piecing eyes, and a severely pointed head! In other words, while he may've been wearing the exact same outfit that he'd donned in his first two appearances, Eclipso looked totally different than he did just an issue earlier, and I for one didn't like it.

At all.

I missed Elias's good-bad Eclipso. This Toth guy had made him pure evil, and I guess I just wasn't ready to accept that. Turned out to be the right move, though--even after the artist left the series following an all too short tenure, every other artist who's drawn the character in all the decades since has used the Toth model to work from. To the best of my knowledge, the kinder, gentler Lee Elias look was never seen again.

(Y'know, I've always wondered--was the radical visage change done at the request of editor Murray Boltinoff, or was it something dreamt up wholly by artist Toth and just sprung on his unsuspecting boss? Given the reputation he's accrued over the years, it wouldn't surprise me overmuch if the latter was indeed the case...)

Next up was that pairing of The Flash and The Atom in an issue of BRAVE AND THE BOLD, and perhaps still resentful of his unwelcome Eclipso revamp, I found myself less than enchanted by Toth's work on what would become an oft-reprinted tale.

Yeah, no denying it--I sure could be a dumb kid at times.

But then along came the Warren magazines, CREEPY and EERIE. Those early issues featured some of the greatest cartoonists in comics history, and it wasn't long before Alex Toth joined the crew, and THAT, folks, is where my blinders FINALLY came off!

That stuff was utterly magnificent! Every story an artistic gem, beautifully designed, and always drawn in a manner deemed most suitable to each tale's setting by the artist. Perhaps my favorite was one that appeared in EERIE #3 (May, 1966) called "The Monument". This story of a nefarious architect and his plot to revitalize his sagging career at the expense of another--ably written, as most of the stories back then were, by editor Archie Goodwin--showcased Toth's modern design flair, as well his finally honed control of gray tones, not to mention his delightfully idiosyncratic lettering! I'll admit, it took me awhile, granted, but I had FINALLY hopped aboard the Toth Train, and I've been enjoying the ride ever since!

Simply put, the man was a genius--and I'm sure not the first to note that, not by a long shot. Y'know, I never met Alex Toth, never once saw him speak at a convention, never even received one of those famous little hand drawn postcards of his, and now, sadly with his passing, I guess I never will. But like his many, many other admirers, I DO have a large pile of comics and such featuring his transcendent art sitting here for me to greedily enjoy, so that's just gonna have to serve as some small consolation.

Why, I've even warmed up to his Eclipso entries!

Farewell. Mr. Toth--kudos for many a job well done. Have no doubt, you WILL be missed...
May 26th, 2006
With the holiday weekend upon us, I feel a sale coming on!

That's right, friends, today we're offering three previously unsold eBay items--our cover redos of B'wana Beast's debut, Batman and Hawkman clawing each other's clothes off, and my collection of THE DREAMING with the bonus Sandman illo--all at vastly reduced prices, ranging from the sum of over ten and right on up to twenty whole dollars!


With prices like THAT, well, gee whiz--I'm almost tempted to buy 'em myself! Except of course, I'M the one trying to get rid of 'em, so I'd kinda prefer if one of YOU bought 'em instead!

May 26th, 2006
Look, I know I promised no more baseball stories here for awhile, but this isn't a baseball story per se, honest. It's story with a twist ending more than anything, one that just happens to have a baseball setting. Lynn HATES when I blather on about the Mets, but even she laughed when I came to the end of this one. So, give it a try, non-sports fans...

The Mets signed Cuban pitcher--and defector--Alay Soler nearly two years ago. However, following one of those nigh legendary harrowing boat rides fleeing his homeland, a seeming unending succession of visa problems, agent problems, relocation problems, and who knows what else, kept Soler from actually pitching in the Mets organization until this past Spring Training. By that point, unfortunately, he wasn't in the best of shape, so he was assigned to the minor leagues to get himself ready should the big club need him.

Well, after seeing the back end of the pitching rotation decimated--and the first three auditions for the two available spots not work out--Soler was finally called up to get his turn in these desperate tryouts. The Mets had won a 16 inning thriller the night before (insert obligatory "yay!" here), a game that took nearly five and a half hours to complete, a game in which their regular catcher, Paul Lo Duca ("Mr Intangibles", ably taking over for the iconic Mike Piazza during this, his first season in New York) was behind the plate the entire evening (and early morning). That meant the Cuban emigre would be throwing to the Mets number two backstop when he made his debut.

Ramon Castro.

That's right--Soler fled Cuba, spent nearly two years in a hellish limbo, and when his dream of pitching in the Major Leagues finally becomes a reality, who does he find himself throwing the ball to?

A guy named Castro!

As Don King once put it, 'Only in America, only in America!"

(The game? Soler, known for his control, walked his first three batters in the first, gave up a run scoring single, and then watched a sure double-play ball go through his second-baseman's legs. It was 3-0 Phils before he had even recorded a single out. It did not look good, nosirree, not good at all. But then he shook of his nerves, and never gave up another run in six-otherwise impressive innings. Eventually the Mets went ahead, and won 5-4 (though Soler received a no-decision), putting a five game gap between them and second-place Philadelphia, a gap that narrowed to four when the Phillies won the next day.

But, um, that's not really part of the story I wanted to tell. Sorry. Guess I just couldn't resist...)
May 25th, 2006
Freddie Garrity passed away a few days back.

If that name seems unfamiliar to you, perhaps you'd be more likely remember him as the front man for the mid-sixties British Invasion group, Freddie and the Dreamers. Their biggest hits, both here and on their home turf, were a pair of pleasant tunes entitled "I'm Telling You Now" and "You Were Made For Me", but that's not the main reason this decidedly minor musical aggregation managed to make a life-long impression on yours truly.

It was that name.

And even more than the name, it was the dance that went along with it.

Y'see, growing up, whether I welcomed the comparison or not, both friends and enemies alike seemed to relish foisting the name and persona of any popular Fred of the day upon me. Fred Mertz, Fred Astaire, Fred Gywnne, Fred MacMurray, and perhaps most annoyingly, Fred Flintstone and Freddie the Freeloader--I heard them all, and often.

And then THIS guy came along in 1965.

The tunes were catchy, and I liked 'em--no problem there. But soon, Mr. Garrity and his associates became the darlings of the then thriving American variety show genre, appearing on any program that asked them. And why not? Not only was their rock music the sort that wouldn't chase parents from the room, they had real stage presence.

Unfortunately, that stage presence was less Mick Jagger than it was Soupy Sales. Lead singer Garrity would spastically wave his arms while marching stiffly in place, as the group performed some exaggerated choreography of their own behind him. Combine these antics with the nerdiest looking vocalist of that Beatles-led musical upheaval--Freddie looked like an uncool Buddy Holly, no easy task--and you had an act that, despite itself, was just plain hard to take your eyes off of.
And then someone decided to write a dance tune called "Do The Freddie"!

It gave the Dreamers their last hit, albeit a modest one--

--AND it made my 12 year-old existence a living hell!!

Okay, okay, I exaggerate, but not by much.

At first, it was sorta fun to do The Freddie--hey, I was just goofy enough to get into it. But after awhile, it got old, with everyone taunting me, "Do The Freddie, Go ahead, do it! Flap those arms Freddy boy--hah!"

And if I wouldn't do it, they would--but always in the most mocking manner possible (though, honestly, even the aforementioned Fred Astaire would have great difficulty making The Freddie resemble anything nearing elegance).

Luckily--at least for THIS Freddy--this dance craze vanished almost as swiftly as it appeared. But, people DO have long memories at times, and if you ever saw the exuberant Garrity bounding about on a stage to a drumbeat seemingly all his own, well, you're not likely to forget it.

Some mildly interesting trivia about that tune, by the by: sensing the sensation Freddie's gyration's were making in the U.S., Mercury Records commissioned several songwriters (including future Grass Roots producer, Dennis Lambert) to write a ditty to capitalize on the dance. Then they hired back-up singers and studio musicians to record the track in the U S. , after which they finally sent the number across the sea to Garrity, who had but merely to add only his vocal--and trademark cackle--to finish off the 45 rpm! It was Freddie all right, but no Dreamers. It was just an anomaly, though--the Dreamers were back for the next record, and all the rest after that. Too bad there were no more hits in the pipeline, however...

(Oh, and none other than Chubby Checker himself--always one to try and cash in on a dance craze--actually issued a single entitled "Let's Do The Freddie". Since there was no "Let's Freddie Like We Did Last Summer" following that one up, I guess it didn't sell all that many copies...)

Like a lot of aging rock and rollers, Freddie Garrity fronted a new band of Dreamers and happily took 'em on the road across his British Isles home base until his declining health curtailed touring a few years back. He was 69 when he died.

"The dream is over." John Lennon said that.

"Freddie's dead".. Curtis Mayfield said that.

But you know what The Drifters said, don't you?

"Save the last dance for me."

So Freddie, in your honor, I'm gonna get up, flap my arms around real stupid-like, and do that damn dance one last time. And who knows--maybe somehow, someway, somewhere, good ol' Chubby is doing it too...
May 24th, 2006
Yeah, yeah, yeah--I know I said I'd shut up about "24" after that last post, but thanks to my pal Roger Green (he of Relocating With Rog), who sent along a link anybody even half as enthralled with the show as I am should be aware of, I'm ladling on this addendum. Over at something called TV Week, there's a series of short audio interviews with producer Howard Gordon, one conducted the day after each episode. I've only had a chance to listen to the post-finale edition, but even from the brief discussion (less than five minutes I'm guessing) we learn that, no, next season will NOT be set in China, and Gordon agrees entirely with the widespread criticism that long-time favorite Tony's demise was lacking in many ways.

As for myself, I feel compelled to explain that I read absolutely no one else's writings regarding the finale until AFTER I had finished and posted mine. THAT'S when I discovered that--oops--I'm not nearly as clever as I'd like to believe, and just about every other piece I encountered made the same lame reference to "Slow Boat To China" that I did! To the lonely few who DIDN'T, my hat's off to you! Sometimes it's more clever NOT to be so blatantly obvious...

As to the whereabouts of Wayne Palmer, several folks logically surmised that he was still in hiding from Logan, which would make sense, since how would he know the rogue Prez's house of cards would come tumbling down just as his slain brother's body was loaded onto that aircraft? WE knew, sure, but odds are, Wayne wouldn't've had a clue.

And I was surprised to read where a lot of folks were overly concerned that Curtis was missing from the last two hours. People, he was SLEEPING, that's all! Not EVERYBODY pulls 24 hour shifts at CTU, especially when you're mostly used as muscle back-up, and you have no real emotional stake in the story's outcome. So don't worry about Curtis, he's fine. It's Evelyn and her little girl you should be fretting over...

Lastly, a couple of birthday shout-outs: Carmine Infantino, my favorite Silver Age DC artist turns 81 (thanks, Tom), and a fellow who probably wouldn't even make it anywhere near the finals of "American Idol" if he came along today, Bob Dylan, turns 65 (thanks, Rog).

Y'know, he doesn't sound a day over 75!...
May 24th, 2006
If ever a season-ending image called out for musical accompaniment, it was during last night's "24" finale.

The tune?

That old standard from way, way back in the thirties and forties, "On A Slow Boat To China", natch.

As endings go--and by endings, I mean the last two minutes or less of the show--this fifth season's final seconds of "24" were probably the least surprising in the show's history. After all, Jack Bauer faked his own death at the end of the fourth season in part to avoid having to deal with the Chinese, a fact that was mentioned several times during this particular "day". So when a bunch of masked thugs dragged Bauer away with only minutes left before the clock chimed seven, who else could it be? So, points lost for an underwhelming "twist", but points given for planning ahead, WAY ahead--and for a potentially fresh scenario come NEXT season.

(In rating the various past season's final minutes, my favorite remains the third in which, totally drained emotionally and physically, Jack gets in his car at the end of his day-long trials and simply begins to weep! When do you ever see an action hero do THAT? The death of Bauer's wife at the end of the first season is hailed by many as being a landmark event because it was so entirely unprecedented on TV for the good guy to lose someone so dear to him with victory so close at hand, but I always felt that that was the ONLY way things could possibly end, and wasn't particularly shocked when it did. Jack faking his own demise and taking off to establish a new identity at the end of the fourth season, on the other hand, truly caught me by surprise, and turned out to be both a satisfying resolution for that day and a well-conceived jumping off point for this one. The worst ending--which could've actually have been the best--was when recurring assassin Mandy dosed President Palmer with a deadly biological compound-laden handshake during the waning moments of day two, a shocking move that was ruined entirely when the show came back for the third season and this seemingly pivotal event--now months in the past--was given only a few vague and hasty references. Apparently, Palmer got better. HOW he got better I suppose we'll never know. Forget Kim and the mountain lion--to me, THAT was "24"s biggest plot blunder...)

Getting back to THIS finale...

It was relatively satisfying, a neat trick since the anticipated confrontation between the super-agent and the rogue President had far more juice to it than any of Jack's other previous season-ending showdowns. But of course, we had two hours, and other baddies to deal with...

First off, there was the fairly impersonal dispatching of Russian separatist Bierko about twenty minutes in. The action in the sub was workmanlike, hardly the stuff memorable finales are made of. Still, it was redeemed by the fresh-faced Petty Officer who had no choice but to make his first kill, and who--after the Russians were dispatched--got to watch with wide-eyed terror (looking strikingly like Jack Larson in "The Haunted Lighthouse") as Bauer confronted his one time mentor, Christopher Henderson (Peter Weller) atop the docked submarine.

Now THIS was good stuff! Weller gets the drop on Sutherland, only to discover that that the gun Jack reluctantly gave him earlier wasn't loaded. Weller's character has to be one of the most intriguing in series history, and the actor played him to perfection, always one step ahead of the man he'd once trained, never bothering to hide his contempt for Jack's missteps. Until the end, however--HIS end, when the student finally out foxed his teacher. After getting Weller safely in his sites, Jack coldly recounts his crimes--Henderson was responsible for the deaths of his friends, Palmer, Tony, Michelle, and so many others (Evelyn? Are you out there somewhere? And your little girl? I'm beginning to get really, really worried...)--and then summarily executes him as the bug-eyed Olsen doppelganger peeks out from the vessel's hatch, stunned. Long-time viewers of "24" weren't, though--Jack's pulled the ol' jury and jury act before, and odds are he will again. I couldn't help but smile at the uncomfortable glances between co-CTU heads, Bill and Karen (and didn't THEY make a cute couple in the show's final minutes, just before Jack went off on his unscheduled Chinese vacation?...) when they heard Jack report in that Henderson was dead--he'd drawn on Jack, after all, giving Bauer no choice but to shoot him. Well, true, sorta...

Then there was President Logan.

THIS was the main event! Of course, the producers put if off as long as they possibly could, but at least they devoted most of the final hour to it.

(And once again, the real time gimmick--the thing that got me hooked on this show in the first place, and the real reason I keep coming back year after year, as I'm hardly an action fan under normal circumstances--you could name all the top action flicks (not related to comics, that is) from the past twenty-five years, and odds are I haven't seen a good ninety-nine percent of them)--sometimes the elasticity of time is stretched to laughable extremes on this show. Take, for instance, the First Lady's desperate attempt to delay her hubby so Jack would have a chance to surreptitiously board Logan's helicopter. Somewhere around 5:55 AM she manages to seduce the Prez, and the clothes begin to shed as the scene fades. When the NEXT episode begins precisely at 6 AM, Logan is smugly straightening his tie! My, but THAT was quick, wasn't it? More suggested musical accompaniment: "Sixty Minute Man", only with a diminished change of lyrics to "Sixty SECOND Man"!....)

The look of surprised terror in Logan's eyes when Jack pulls off his helmet after hijacking the helicopter ride was priceless--Gregory Itzin did a marvelous job with his part, believable no matter HOW he was instructed to play the President any given week. He was even able to convincingly stand up to Bauer's badgering when the agent tried, in vain, to get a confession out of him--not to mention his threat to kill him, a threat Jack was--who'da thot?--unable to make good on. But who knows--maybe that was all part of the master plan?

When Bauer was taken into federal custody with forty minutes left to go, I'll admit I had NO idea how they were going to nail Logan. In retrospect, Jack must've informed Chief of Staff Mike Novick of a back-up plan--slipping a listening device onto the President himself. Novick no doubt passed this along to the First Lady, accounting for her outburst as Palmer's casket was unloaded onto the tarmac, precipitating Logan dragging her off in private and--besides slapping her aggressively--reading her the riot act and--oh, yeah--confessing his many crimes in the process! Nice! Simple but effective.

The best moment here came when the Marshalls approached the podium to take away Logan, and as he looks at his wife, momentarily confused, a small, smug but satisfied smile plays across her face! The camera then cuts back to Logan's mug, suddenly realizing what had happened, and then the camera goes back to Martha, widening just enough to include Mike Novick, whose stoney grin mirrors that of the First Lady. Just too bad Jack couldn't be there as well...

And speaking those on the MIA list, where exactly was Wayne Palmer, brother of the slain Chief Exec? There was at least a passing reference of his absence, but he'd earlier (weeks ago now) indicated that he wanted to be present when David's body was flown back to Washington. My best guess is that the powers that be figured his presence would complicate things overmuch, since realistically, he'd want to take part in having his revenge on the man responsible for his brother's murder, and THAT would've made for a whole different storyline than what we saw last night. Who knows--maybe he just plain overslept! Hey, eventually it's gotta happen to SOMEONE on "24", don'tcha think?...

Leaving the mysterious Paul McCrane character out of the final hour, though, was a good decision. Best he stay in the background to plot another day, and besides, we really don't want things tied up TOO neatly. In the world of "24" (and maybe in the real world too?..), there are always nefarious individuals like McCrane somewhere out there, pulling the strings...

Why, though, do we get Chloe's ex-husband thrust upon us? With his overly smooth manner contrasting her extremely high strung personality, the pair threaten to become comedic relief on a show that really needs no comedic relief. Here's hoping he's gone and forgotten by next season, but I suspect that's not in the cards. (Gotta admit, though, to choking up just a little when Bill Buchanan brought Chloe that smiling photo of her and Edgar that he found in the late computer analyst's desk. Snif...)

As the first lady, Jean Smart was terrific. Sadly, though, she was the only major character not to share a single scene with Kiefer Sutherland! I was hoping they'd get together to double team her scurvy hubby in the final hour, but 'twas not to be. At least she--and Aaron, Mike, and Charles Logan himself--survived the day.

I was disappointed that Karen's ex-second in command, Miles, wasn't around to get his, even though Jack declared "this isn't over!" when he went off to work for the President after destroying crucial evidence a few weeks (or hours) back. Of course, who's the little weasel gonna work for NOW? Hah!

(And that may explain the spare use of distinguished actor Ray Wise as the Vice-President. After serving initially as misdirection for the slower amongst the audience (hey, it was way too obvious to me that they wanted you to think he was masterminding things, so I KNEW he had to be a red herring), he quickly exited when Logan's true nature was revealed, probably so as to be free from unfolding events, and thus, maintaining a relatively clean slate before assuming the mantle of the next President of "24"! He should make a good one, too--just so long as he doesn't listen overmuch to "Bob"! (Obscure "Twin Peaks" reference, friends). I just wish once--ONCE--somebody would've mentioned (the apparently late) President Keeler. He was no Palmer, sure, but he was no Logan either...

Overall, I'd say this was the best sustained season of "24" yet. All too often in the past, whatever dire event happened early on was largely forgotten by season's end, but not this time, as every thing that occurred was precipitated by Palmer's assassination in the opening episode's first five minutes. The threats continued to build organically, one from another, and the twists and turns were largely logical, even Logan's severe right-turn two-thirds of the way in. My only true beef with the writers making it up as they went along was revealing that it was Evelyn, the First Lady's assistant, who had uncovered Logan's duplicity and informed David Palmer, meaning she knew what was going on all along in those early hours. Well, as she scurried about, helping Mrs. Logan with trivial matters, she certainly didn't ACT like someone shouldering the weight of the world! Too bad we'll probably never get to ask her about that (when IS check-out time in that motel she and her daughter were staying at anyway?...).

There seemed to be less torture this year (or maybe--shudder--I'm just getting used to it...), and nothing quite as apocalyptic as the poison pumped through the hotel air-vent from season three. The most gripping sequence came mid-season, when this year's poison gas was let loose in the CTU environs itself. Most other network shows are shooting and/or killing their main characters during their season finales, whereas "24" scooped 'em all, with that one big burst at the beginning and then again half-way through! Only the bad-guys--and that one poor schmoe who went aboard the sub as Jack's back-up--came up dead in the final broadcast.

It was a fine season, in many ways unique from the ones that preceded it (and in some other ways, just exactly like them). It's not the sorta thing I SHOULD like watching, but--as you can probably tell by now--I don't just like watching it, I LOVE watching it!

And y'know, picking it apart is half the fun!

Fellow "24" fanatics, see you back here in January! The rest of you, well, hopefully it'll be sooner than that!...
May 23rd, 2006
Due to my recent preoccupation with the local fruits of Abner Doubleday's (alleged) legacy, I left several key links dangling unposted, but I figured that now, before the inevitable Tuesday morning quarterbacking regarding the "24" finale again siphons away my wandering attention, I'd share them with you!

You might recall all the fuss I (quite justifiably) made over the just launched Al Wiseman Blog the other day. Well, in a small but still cosmic-like coincidence, I was alerted just hours after posting info about that virtual shine to Dennis The Menace's most beloved ghost artist that the current Dennis artist, Marcus Hamilton (a talented gent in his own right) has just started up an elaborate--and official--Dennis site himself! Go check it out--I'm sure Al wouldn't mind overmuch!...

(Said news relayed to yours truly from fellow MySpacer, cartoonist Mike Lynch, whose blog always has a tasty assortment of panelicious items! As I said to Mike, learning about TWO sites heavily devoted to that little Mitchell scamp meant that, forevermore--and all apologies to the immortal Jack Benny--May 19, 2006 would always be thought of in MY mind as Dennis Day!...)

Then there's Paul and Heather's recent break-up. Want the REAL story? Lynn found me this story from a British newspaper, The Daily Mail, that purports to shed a bit more revealing light on the situation. Now, ninety-nine per cent of the time, I have absolutely NO interest in why famous people get divorced, but hey, McCartney isn't just a famous people--he's a Beatle! And, as it turns out, reading the piece, someone I have more in common with than I would've thought. Well, aside from all that money, the world-wide fame, the musical talent, and...

No need to go on with that. Proceeding then..

After the game the other night, I took out a few moments to zip on over to The Comics Reporter and chime in with my candidates for this week's Five For Friday #76--From My Cold, Dead Hands: Name The Five Things From Your Comics And Comics-Related Stuff Collection You'd Get Rid of Last. Go take a look at my choices, and those of the other fine folks who participated.

Lastly, there'll be no episodes of The Fred Hembeck Show for the next several weeks, as we take a short holiday hiatus--yeah, that's it, a short holiday hiatus! Worry not, though--eventually we'll be back, and better than ever! Watch this space!

NOW it's time for me to go watch "24"! More on THAT later!

(And, Roger? No way to work in your regular link this time--sorry...)
May 22nd, 2006
Well, it wasn't easy, and it sure wasn't pretty, but the Mets held on last night to beat the Yankees, 4-3, taking two out of three from their cross-town rivals.

Tom Glavine started and pitched six shaky innings, followed by one shaky inning apiece from Aaron Heilman, Duaner Sanchez, and Saturday's goat, closer Billy Wagner.

In all, the Yankees got 21 men on base, but only managed to plate three of them. Understand please that they weren't exactly plastering the ball--there were an inordinate amount of infield hits, including a wind-blown pop-up that landed untouched mere feet from the pitcher's mound that the hustling Bernie Williams turned into an unlikely double--AND eventually the first run of the game--but it was more than enough to keep Mets pitchers--and fans--concerned for the duration.

Conversely, the Mets did very little with their lumber, save for when it counted the most--right after the Yankees scored their first two runs in the top of the fourth (their third crossed home in the eighth), the Mets answered immediately with singles from Lo Duca and Beltran, followed by a three run homer from Carlos Beltran and then an even more massive four-bagger from David Wright.


But then the bats went back to sleep, and the pitching corps had to sweat and struggle to stave of a seemingly endless array of Yankee baserunners. Happily, three well-timed double-plays factored into their multiple Houdini-like escapes.

Maybe most importantly, Wagner came in and did his job. Maybe not without letting two men reach base, true, but he did it, preserving Glavine's seventh victory of the year (and 282nd overall), and helped wash the bad taste of Saturday's demoralizing loss out of Mets fan's proverbial mouths. Well, at least MOST of it...

Two out of three. A sweep woulda been nice (AND entirely doable, though I'm trying my best not to dwell on such thoughts...), but I'll take it.

Well, the Mets have Monday night off, which is just as well, since I have something even MORE important to preoccupy my time: the two-hour season finale of "24"! The second place Phillies come into Shea Stadium Tuesday evening, but odds are, unless something really notable happens, you won't hear about it here. We'll get back to funny books and the like real soon, promise, though I suspect tomorrow we just might have a few words about the end of Jack Bauer's latest long day to share with you.

But no recipes any time soon, promise!
May 21st, 2006
What a game...


Game two of the this season's Subway Series was an almost Bizarro-like version of game one. In that opening contest, the Yankees pummeled the Met's starter for four runs in the first inning, and then were pretty much shut down by the relief corps from the third inning on, with the Mets beating the Yanks ace closer, Mariano Rivera, with a run in the bottom of the ninth.

Yesterday, starter Pedro Martinez was coasting towards improving his record to 6-0 after pitching seven shut-out innings and leading 4-0, when--after an effective eighth by set-up man Duaner Sanchez--Mets closer, Billy Wagner--who had struck out all three Yankees he faced in the ninth the previous evening--was brought in to secure the victory.

And that's when the dream of a potential sweep over the Bombers ended horrificallly.

Look, we beat the much vaunted Rivera the night before, but that was with a couple of well hit balls--that's gonna happen to even the best of pitchers at times--and with only one run. What happened to Wagner was jaw dropping--with a four run lead, the guy gave up a few hits, yeah, but also several walks and a hit batsman, the latter two with the bases loaded. Wagner had to be lifted with the tying run on third and only one out, and were Johnny Damon only a half-step slower, the Mets might've still gotten out of it.

But they didn't.

Damon's slowly hit infield grounder wasn't quite good enough for a much-needed double play, and as he arrived at first base a split second before the ball did, the Yankees suddenly, shockingly, had themselves a tie game.

The Mets went on to lose it in the 11th--Jorge Julio was the pitcher of record, but I think we all know whose fault THIS loss truly was--and, in the perfect ironic reversal, it was Rivera who slammed the door on the Mets' hopes in that final at bat, earning the victory by pitching two shut-out innings.

Like I said, what a game.

And like I said, arrgh.

And strictly from a personal viewpoint, an awful long one, too. Y'see, I tuned in at the game's 1:20 outset, and watched live for little over an hour, as the Mets took a 2-0 lead. Then, I popped a tape in, and took Julie off to one of her seemingly endless Art Honor Society obligations. After we got home at 6:30, we all had dinner, and then Lynn and I watched the second to last episode of "Las Vegas" on tape. Finally, about 8:30, I got back to the game, expecting it wouldn't take long to finish (Pedro is a reliably fast worker).

I sat there stunned as the afore-bemoaned ninth unfolded, and with the score tied 4-4 in the 11th, a Yankee standing on first, Lynn called for me to watch the season finale of "Las Vegas" (Jimmy Caan gets shot when he opens the door in the show's closing seconds--sorta reminded me of the finale of "ER" just days earlier where, suddenly, two-thirds of the way in, the long-running medical drama unexpectedly morphed into an episode of "24"...), so I put off watching the end of the Mets game for just a little while longer.

When I did get back to it, the inevitable soon occurred, and round abouts 11:30, I was finally fully aware of the awful results most real-time Mets fans had to cope with about six and a half hours earlier.

Did I mention "arrgh"?..

And so, tonight, the so-called rubber game, with Tom Glavine versus Aaron Small. Odds would heavily favor the rejuvenated Glavine, but then, odds would hardly have been with the Yankees coming up to face Wagner yesterday, would they? So, as we've learned, pretty much anything can happen.

May 20th, 2006
What a game!

Last night, the Mets hosted the New York Yankees in the first of their six inter-league meetings of the season, and folks, things did not look good at the outset for Mets fans. Due to some unfortunate injuries to their pitching staff, the Mets were going with a hurler who could realistically be termed their eighth starter.

And sure enough, before the legendary pinstriped leftie, Randy Johnson--aka The Big Unit-- even took the mound in the bottom of the first, he had four Yankee runs in his back pocket.

For us Flushing fans, it looked like it was going to be a very loooong night.
But wait--before the Mets had even recorded an out in that selfsame first, they almost immediately had three back courtesy of an explosive home run from center fielder Carlos Beltran! Randy may be a legend, but at age 43, that legend appears to be receding into the cloudy mists of time. There was, happily, hope in Metsville after all!

As for the home team's pitching, well, let me just quote the lead in Tyler Kepner's NY TIMES story, as it illuminates the situation perfectly..

Every Mets pitcher who faced the Yankees last night was better than the last. Jeremi Gonzalez was overmatched, Darren Oliver was adequate. Aaron Heilman was dazzling. Billy Wagner was untouchable.

Too true. The latter three retired the last 14 batters to face them, with Wagner striking out the side in the ninth. The Mets, meanwhile, fell behind 5-3, only to tie it on a two run homer smacked by (Professor) Xavier Nady off Johnson, trailed 6-5, only to again tie it off The Ever Diminishing Unit, and then, in the bottom of the ninth, two outs, two on, with super-closer Mariano Rivera on in relief, David Wright launched a ball over the head of center-fielder Johnny Damon, and for the first time all evening--and on the very last pitch of the game--the Mets' had the lead, 7-6! And that's the way it ended!

What a game!

And NOW the Mets have Pedro and Glavine, their thriving co-aces, going in the remainder of the series! Now, I well know that there's no sure thing in baseball--even the best players can have an off day--but y'know, given the situation, I'm liking our chances!

(Pardon the sports talk intrusion, comics fans, but those of you who have been around here for a while realize by now that we generally vear off topic round about now each time this year, as the two NY teams square off! Go Mets!)

Oh, and don't forget to visit that Al Wiseman site, okay?
May 19th, 2006
Way, way back when my dad first brought home that fateful box of comics passed along to him by a co-worker (as recorded panelogically here in the first installment of Little Freddy), there were certain books that clearly stood out. One of the most indelible images would have to have been a full-page scene of menacing Dennis Mitchell leading his father on over to an abandoned field where his pint-sized buddies were in the process of building their very own club-house!
For years afterward, that drawing (and the story that accompanied it, from DENNIS THE MENACE #23, July 1957) inspired me to repeatedly attempt to build my very own home away from home!

Well, I never came anywhere near close to succeeding, but hey, that was okay--when you're a kid, most of the fun is in the planning, not the doing. And anyway, having this comic book to gaze dreamily at, well, that was almost as good as actually having my own clubhouse (sure was a whole lot less work, that's for sure!...)!

The artist who so skillfully brought this childhood wish-fulfillment scenario to pulp-paper life?

Al Wiseman.

I've written about Al Wiseman on this site before (most notably here), expressing my intense admiration for Hank Ketcham's comic book ghost on numerous occasions. No doubt about it--the man is one of my absolute top favorites, right up there with the likes of Kirby, Ditko, and Infantino, but as big a fan as I am of the guy's work, my devotion to Wiseman pales next to that of my pal, cartoonist Bill Alger!

Y'see, Bill--whose fine work you may've seen in some of DC's Cartoon Network titles, NICKELODEON magazine, or right here on the web in his humorously skewed web-comic, June--has just launched The Al Wiseman Blog!

Now, please understand--Bill covers far more than just the artist's dozen plus years in the employ of Ketcham! Already, in the first two weeks of posting (Bill asked me to wait until a sufficient amount of material was posted before alerting you, my dear readers, to the site's existence, fearing you might not come back if I sent you there on day one, when Bill was simply saying "Hello, friends"), Wiseman art from a wide variety of sources has been lovingly showcased: the cover of SMILES magazine (an old-time men's digest type thingie), a forties' era gag cartoon from the SATURDAY EVENING POST, some selections from the artist's self-published seventies' collections, a rare painting, and maybe best of all, on the packaging for bottles of shoe polish! Besides all this, there's the first portion of the legendary story in which Dennis met Wiseman and scripter Fred Toole, as well as several newspaper articles about the man.

And that's just for starters!

Y'see, I KNOW what Bill has in reserve, and believe you me, these first ten posts over at The Al Wiseman Blog are just a mere scratching of the surface! Fact is, several years back, the intrepid Alger made a point of interviewing as many of the late artist's relatives and contemporaries as possible (a number of whom are, sadly, no longer with us), and in time, Bill promises that much of this precious, one-of-a-kind material will turn up on the site as well.

There's SO much to love about this blog, but you know what the icing on the cake is? Bill's own commentary, which is not only informative, but, when appropriate, exhibits the keen, dry sense of humor that Bill is famous for--or, at least, SHOULD be famous for! Maybe he will be, after enough folks sample his witticisms while taking in all that gorgeous artwork--I know I laughed out loud several times while perusing these initial postings! "The horrors of war" indeed...

So go. Take a look--and make a point of dipping into the Archives, so that you start properly with Day One. Bill has pledged to put up something new each Monday through Friday (weekends are for partying, don'tcha know?...), so whether you keep up with Mr. A on a daily basis, or just check in every fortnight or so to wallow blissfully in the accumulated goodies, you NEED to visit The Al Wiseman Blog! I sure will!

But not right now.

Right now, I think I'm gonna go out back and give that clubhouse thing one last try. Hmm--wonder where I put those nails?..
May 18th, 2006

Guess she DOESN'T need him (and definitely won't feed him) when he turns 64 next month, huh?

Gee, I wonder if Jane Asher is still available?...
May 16th, 2006
Now THERE'S one smashing cover!

And here's one smashing redo by yours truly!

And--inevitably--HERE'S one swell eBay auction of my version of Walt Simonson's indelible image!

(And a special thanks to all who made last week's ten cent posting frenzy over at eBay such a success! We managed to move a healthy percentage of pieces, AND pick up a half-dozen commissions in the process! Gotta love the Internet!...)
Lessee, what else?...

Oh yeah--howabout The Fred Hembeck Show Episode 61? This week's topic: why capes, cameras, and kleenex don't necessarily go together.

Then there's Comics In Context #133, in which Peter Sanderson treats himself to a Broadway show for his birthday (Happy Birthday, Peter!)--and NO, the Great White Way HASN'T mounted a musical production of "V For Vendetta", at least not yet! Peter went to see "Tarzan", and if you're wondering whether he went ape over it or not, well, you're just gonna have to go read his column and find out for yourself!

And Roger (Rasselin' With Rog) Green? He's busy with an office move this week, so let's try and not disturb him, okay? Shhh....

More anon!
May 14th, 2006
Ma Kent--or whoever that is--wishes every mother extant a wonderful day, one hopefully nestled in the bosom of their family, no matter WHICH planet they might hail from!

Besides its coincidental alignment with Mother's Day this year, longtime time readers may recall that there's ANOTHER significant occasion we celebrate here each May 14th, which is the birthday of my good pal, Rocco Nigro. And if you go back and peruse my last three blog entries dated May 14th, you'll notice that our annual tradition is to share with folks an amusing--and mildly embarrassing--anecdote spotlighting the birthday boy. Well, today we continue that tradition, but with a twist! Read on and you'll see what I mean...

Late last June, daughter Julie and wife Lynn went off on a week's vacation with relatives, leaving yours truly home alone for the duration. Towards the end of that week, on a Friday night, friend Rocco drove down the two hours from his home to mine. This was no mere day visit, however--the plan was for Rocco to sleep over, and then the two of us to get up bright and early Saturday morning , catch a train, and head down to the Big Apple Comic Convention in NYC. A fine time was guaranteed for all, but that didn't stop the two of us from staying up later than we should've, yakking away about a wide range of subjects, but with a heavy emphasis on--you guessed it--comics.

Eventually we went to bed. On past occasions when Rocco had stayed over, he'd catch his nightly winks on the living room couch, but with Julie away with her mom, he slumbered in her room, right adjacent to the master bedroom, where I was attempting my best Little Nemo impression.

The alarm rang earlier than either of us woulda liked--doesn't it always?--but we both hauled our groggy butts out of our respective beds, and each began to prepare ourselves for the big day ahead. Understand that I never have been and never will be a morning person. It takes a while for me to get going in the A.M., and that means my brain most especially...

All the above is by way of attempting to explain what happened next.

I was in the bathroom, washing up. Rocco was only a few feet away in Julie's room, getting his things together. Just as I was entering into the hallway, Rocco called out to me, an inquiring tone in his voice. Without thinking, and conditioned to expect queries directed at me from that area of the house for nearly a decade now, I automatically replied, "Yes, honey?..."

Pardon me? Did I just say, "Yes, honey?"?

"YES, HONEY?"?!?


Yes, I did.

And Rocco heard me say it too. Rats. Wouldn'tcha ya know it.

An innocent mistake, of course. We had us a big laugh about it, too. Guess things like that'll happen when the ladies are away for too long a time, y'know? Heh...

Well, we had a lot of fun at the con later that day, with no further, um, slips on my part--though Rocco DID seem to make a point of not sitting TOO close to me on the train ride!

So there you go, Rocco--Happy Birthday! Your present THIS year is that, for once, I'M the guy who looks silly! About time, huh?...
May 13th, 2006
Well, I contributed to one of those surveys over at The Comics Reporter again. This time the subject for the 75th Five for Friday was Numbers, Numbers, Numbers: Name Five Comics Or Comics-Related Publications You Know By Their Issue Numbers. The link will take you to my list, as well as those of other fine folks.

(After I had submitted mine, I had the notion that maybe I should've instead emailed in the following:

I. ACTION COMICS #1(first appearance of Superman)
2. SUPERMAN #1 (first comic entirely devoted to Superman)
3. DETECTIVE COMICS #1 (first issue of the comic that would eventually introduce Batman--couldn't quite recall that particular issue's number...)
4. FANTASTIC FOUR #1 (nuff said!)
5. X- MEN (first issue of the comic that Wolverine would eventually take over)

...but since I'm NOT a wiseguy--well, not ALWAYS--I didn't submit that list...)

Speaking of wiseguys, though..

It's one thing sharing my obsession with Hayley Mills with the guy, but hey, Sleestak, stop trying to muscle in on my territory! I'm not splitting my gajillions with the likes of you, pal!

Take Hayley--just gimme the cash!
May 11th, 2006
Daughter Julie, the tenth grade high school student, told me earlier today about a new club that's all the sensation in the middle school portion of her school, something called the Pen 15 club.

Seems as if this is THE club for all the cool people--or at least, that's the way it's being represented to those poor social outcasts who are overly eager to join the (as they used to say in my day) in-crowd. Now, I'm not entirely certain exactly what all the requirements to join this coveted organization are, but there IS one particular one that makes or breaks one's chance at membership: each potential enlistee must take out a ballpoint pen and, on the back of his or her hand, scrawl the name of this cabal, "Pen 15".

It's as simple as that! Apparently, that's all it takes nowadays to be considered cool, and I'm sure the sense of belonging that accompanies acceptance into the ranks of Pen 15 does wonders for these lucky student's self-confidence...

Until, of course, they go home after their induction, sit down for dinner with their families, and reach across the table for the mashed potatoes. That's when stunned mother's everywhere recoil in shock..

"Sally"--or Bobby, Joanne, Tom, Katie, or even Alphonse--"WHY did you write "penis" on the back of your hand???"

Why, indeed?

Careful what sorta clubs you join, folks.
May 10th, 2006
Okay, here we go:

The Fred Hembeck Show, Episode 60: I offer a few words about a Super book!

Comics In Context #132: Peter Sanderson examines some classic art.

Relocating With Rog: Roger Green covets music by old people (Hey, what about that new Lesley Gore disc?...)

And then there's eBay...

As I've mentioned in the past, I'm a fairly new eBay member (we used to sell stuff through Lynn's account, but now the responsibility for posting stuff has fallen entirely onto the shoulders of yours truly). Yesterday was the first time during my brief tenure that eBay has offered their special ten-cent listing day.

(For those of you who don't know, when you list something for sale between $50 and $200--as I often do--it costs you $2.40 each time. Doesn't seem like a lot, but after awhile it DOES add up.)

eBay only gives a heads up one day before they offer their irregular 24 hour special, and I was immediately sorry that I didn't have a bunch of small comics lots ready to go so as to take advantage of these reduced prices (I really do have to get back on the stick about thinning the herd...). Lynn, though, suggested I offer some of my covers from the Sales Gallery for auction, maybe even ALL of them!

Well, at first I thought she was a bit balmy--hard as it is for me to admit this, there IS such a thing as too much Hembeck, I'm afraid--but the more consideration I gave her proposal, the more appealing it became! No, I didn't wind up posting ALL those covers for sale, but I DID manage to get 20 listed! Hey, here's the thing--under normal circumstances, it'd cost me nearly fifty bucks to put that big batch up on eBay. Yesterday, however, it cost me a mere TWO bucks! Now HOW could I possibly pass up a bargain like that? (And if, ahem, any don't actually sell this week, more than likely I can relist them a second time at my leisure over the next several months--AND still on that one thin dime! Sweet!)

So, for those of you interested, here they are: Showcase #4, Flash Comics #1, Tales of Suspense #39, Strange Tales #108, Strange Tales #135, Fantastic Four #34, Superman #1, Rip Hunter, Time Master #21, Charlton Premiere #2, Sgt. Fury #25, Superboy #159, Captain Marvel #1, Amazing Spider-Man #12 splash page, Batman #170, Lois Lane #5, Jimmy Olsen #49, Jimmy Olsen #118, Detective Comics #327, Detective Comics #330, and Detective Comics #398.

Whew. That's a LOT of squiggles, friends! And hopefully, a few of 'em'll translate into some $$$s...
May 9th, 2006
A few observations about last night's episode of "24" (day 5, hour 21)...

My favorite moment? About three quarters of the way in, Jack and Audrey are reunited, they kiss, the schmaltzy music plays, and--confident the damning evidence against President Logan is safely in the hands of the good guys--the pair look into each others eyes with a satisfied sense of relief, and one of the them says, "It's finally over."


Take a peek at the clock, you two--there's over three full hours of Ka-Chunking (TM Gary Sassaman) left to go!

Well, at least we learned for certain what we ALL suspected--Audrey's dad survived his car's dive into the drink a few episodes back. I figured as much--no body, no question he was still out there somewhere--but I WAS a bit surprised that they didn't milk the suspense a bit longer regarding the Secretary of Defense's ultimate survival.

(And I sure hope I don't have to wade through hours and hours of the inevitable DVD release of Day 5, combing through deleted scenes, just to find out what exactly happened to Aaron the Secret Service guy, not to mention Evelyn and her daughter, last seen being threatened by our renegade Robocop in that motel room...)

At least they brought back Russian terrorist Bierko. It'd been weeks since he'd been captured and rendered unconscious, and I was afraid the producers had totally forgotten about him. Instead, it appears they actually planned things more than an hour or two ahead this year, and though his appearance was brief last night, the knowing look he gave the driver of the van that was supposedly transporting him to another facility, well, that sure don't bode well, do it? (And man oh man, for a top secret spy agency, it sure seems like anyone this side of David Blaine could infiltrate it! And without even holding their breath!...)

I thought Jack's misadventure on the airplane over the last two hours was among the most outlandish--and entertaining--set pieces in the ever expanding "24" canon. And it prompted me to make this ironic observation--when "24" debuted just weeks after 9/11 five years back, the mood was such that the initial hour's climactic mid-air plane explosion was toned down substantially, occurring mostly off camera. Last night, needing a pretext to shoot down the plane carrying Bauer and the evidence of his rampant wrongdoing, our evil Prez utilized a protocol that existed specifically BECAUSE of what happened on that dark day in September, as the military was given falsified reports that the plane was going to be used as a weapon! Sometimes, it's a strange world...

And if the plane's pilot was merely knocked out by the desperate co-pilot in the waning moments of hour 20 as I suspect, that means that for the past two hours, there hasn't been a single fatality!! (Unless some poor sap was driving down the freeway at just the wrong time last night...) That's simply amazing! I thought they already had their kill-free hour for the season a few weeks back, but I guess I was wrong. It's not gonna last, though. It just can't. Because there's one guy I'm just (you should pardon the expression) dying to see get his!

Bierko? Nope.

Logan? Uh uh.

Even creepy Dr. Romano and his space-age headset? No, not quite.

I wanna see that weaselly Miles pay for what he's done!

Well, actually, up until the final moments last night, he really hasn't done much of ANYTHING--at least not compared to the three aforementioned arch-villains--but geez, has there EVER been a more irritating, unlikable, and grating character in "24"s history? I'm thinking no, and after what he did last night, surreptitiously turning on the good guys in a bald-faced attempt to curry favor with a criminal Commander in Chief, well, I say, make it slow, painful and spectacular! No denying it--I got me the blood-thirst for Miles' hemoglobin!!

On the other hand...

ABC has been ballyhooing tonight's made for TV classic, "Fatal Contact: Bird Flu In America" for weeks now with commercials featuring panicking crowds and doctors issuing grave pronouncements of hopelessness, while the voice-over announcer gleefully informs us that this little drama is AHEAD of the headlines!

Oh, I get it. ABC network honchos figure that by the time the bird flu DOES hit, there won't be enough viewers left to get a decent rating, so why not broadcast it now while the audience is still breathing? It reminds of a telefilm that hit the airwaves during the final weeks of 1999, "Y2K: The Movie". I actually taped that one, but in an unusually--and clearly irrational--superstitious move, I refused to watch it until the predicted disasters expected at midnight, January 1st, 2000, either came to pass, or didn't. Well, when they didn't, I sorta lost all interest in watching the movie. At first, I figured I'd eventually get around to checking it out for laughs, but six and half years later, I apparently haven't gotten that desperate for chuckles, as it still sits downstairs, unspooled.

But while there's some camp-like fascination with viewing the unlikely scenario of the world's computer's shutting down en masse at zero hour, I don't see how the far more realistic fear of succumbing to a dangerous flu epidemic rates high as entertainment. If it were based totally on a fictional premise, well, I STILL wouldn't find it palatable, but it'd be easier to ignore. Exploiting a potentially deadly situation to fill two nerve-wracking hours during sweeps? The phrase "new low" comes to mind...

Y'know, instead of watching ABC tonight, I think I'll do something cheerier.

Like maybe go see "United 93"...
May 8th, 2006
"With a name like "Speedy", he'd HAVE to be on drugs!"

That was pretty much the initial reaction of anybody familiar with Green Arrow's junior partner back in 1971 when they got a gander at Neal Adams infamous cover for the 85th issue of GREEN LANTERN (also featuring friend Ollie, even if the indicia didn't bother to recognize that rather salient little fact.)

Here's my version of that memorable scene.

And here (say it with me, loyal and long-suffering readers) is the link to the eBay auction of my original GL/GA 85 redo.

So if you've got yourself a bad case of the Hembeck habit, well, this sure ain't the time to try and kick it! Heh heh heh...
May 7th, 2006
Well, on Friday I missed out on acknowledging both Cinco de Mayo (although at lunch, I DID ask Lynn to "Passa de Mayo"...) and National Cartoonist's Day (belated thanks to both Bob and Randall for taking the time to wish me a good one! Gee, if I say "gracias, amigos", would that confuse the issue overmuch, I wonder?...).

And then there was yesterday, Free Comic Book Day. Hope all you cheap funny-book fans out there had a good one! (Y'know, funny thing--despite my obvious fondness for the form--AND my tilt towards tight-fistedness--I've never actually visited a comics store on this now annual event!?! Fact is, I NEVER go to a comics store these days at all, as I've been ordering my books through the mail from a swell service called MEC Comics for decades now! Happily, owner Robert Pilk is nice enough to throw in a few freebies each year, so at least I get a little whiff of what all of you, my fellow miserly panelologists, experience on a yearly basis...)

In any event, I don't think I would've had time to stop by a comics store yesterday even if I'd WANTED to! Y'see, it was another one of those crazily jam-packed days that comes along every so often, and as usual--yup--it all pretty much revolved around daughter Julie.

Well, at least, I was able to weasel my way out of the early morning kick-off. Lynn and Julie headed out at 7:45 to meet up with several other members of her Girl Scout troop to plant flowers on the grounds of a nearby nursing home. They were back by 9:30, since we needed to be off to the opening game of Julie's spring soccer session by 10:00. I'm two seasons removed from my four-year tenure as her coach, but as the parent enlisted to man the out-of-bounds flag on one side of the field, I wound up running up and down the line a whole lot more than any of the coaches did--and frankly, after the ninety minute contest was over (which Julie's team lost, 6-2), I was completely pooped out! That, plus my occasional slip of the tongue and/or waving the flag in the wrong direction (shouting "Out on Green!" when I should've said "Red ball!", which is actually the same thing, but still came out somehow inconsistent and confusing...) made for a less than relaxing morning.

On our way home, we stopped at McDonald's for lunch, and with this being the first time we'd done so since we lensed the "Supersize Me!" documentary DVD, I for one was a little reluctant to eat any of their food. Not so much for the calories, but for what they put IN it! Ecch. Eventually, I surrendered my good sense for a dollar double cheeseburger and a vanilla shake (and yeah, they tasted pretty darn good--curse you, fast food giant!!) but perhaps the oddest thing about out visit was that the girl who served us at the register was someone who lives right down the street and who was once a friend (though a tenuous one even at best) of Julie's, but whom she'd fallen out with about seven years ago. At first, we didn't even recognize her (kids can REALLY change in a half dozen years), and she apparently didn't recognize us. When her true identity finally did sink in, I momentarily thought about saying something pleasant, but then quickly decided, "Nah..." If nothing else, we now have yet another good reason to avoid Mickey Dee's...

When we arrived home, I was happy to discover that my Lesley Gore CD, "Ever Since", had found its way into our mailbox in record time! (Yeah, I actually DID order it on her birthday, just a few days back!) Now, I just need to find some time to LISTEN to it! Hey, I couldn't very well play it then--the Mets/Braves game was just starting! After the previous evening's amazing 14 inning victory, I was anxious to see what happened in the second game of this three game series. (Ultimately, the Mets won this one too, though not without suffering the hefty price of starting pitcher Victor Zambrano, whose torn elbow has put him out of commission for the rest of the season. Oy...)

Before the game had reached it's mid-point, though, it was time for our NEXT activity (yes, I taped it and watched the remainder later in the evening--isn't that what a VCR is for after all?...): the annual Arts Festival in the park. All the local public schools (including the one Julie used to attend) set up displays of their student's work on make-shift easels, music is performed, and everybody basically prays that it doesn't rain (it sprinkled ever so briefly earlier during the soccer game, but luckily not nearly long enough to cause any harm to the weather vulnerable artwork).

On the way, we stopped and picked up Julie's long-time pal, Deanna, and her sister Jesse, and spent the last hour of the event nosing around the exhibits. During the course of our stay, I got to meet Julie's 8th grade art teacher, a women my daughter had always spoken glowingly of, and in fact seems to be the person who initially helped propel Julie on her current course towards an art career. (Me? Having any influence there cuz, I'm like, y'know, an artist? Nope--just a coincidence...) We three had a nice and fairly lengthy conversation. They say the best teachers inspire, and I can definitely see how this one managed to spark my kiddo's interest.

After which, we ran into two other friends of Julie's--and their parents as well--and we old people stood around, swapping stories while the girls ran about, giddily giggling and such as the artwork began to be dismantled around us. We finally left at 4:45, with the day's biggest event still ahead:

The Prom!

At the small school Julie goes to, the prom ISN'T the disturbingly extravagant evening it seems to have become in all too many places these days. Tickets are a mere twenty bucks (and that includes a dinner), and as for chauffeured limos, well, I really don't think our Accord qualifies (and I'm NOT in the chauffeur's union, though lord knows, there are times these days when I think I surely should be!!).

Julie's date? The aforementioned Deanna (we dropped her sister off at home, at which time she picked up her clothes for the evening). The prom is open to anyone from the ninth grade up, and plenty of the kids attend stag, or with neighborhood friends, y'see. So after some home-made pizza, the girls got themselves all prettified, and then--yup--I drove 'em to the school, dropping them off about ten minutes before the 7:30 start time.

Back home, Lynn and I watched a pretty funny episode of "The Office", followed by a fairly depressing hour of "er". Afterwards, I split my attention between the computer and the end of that Mets game (21-9, best record in baseball! Woo hoo!). Later, I was enjoying a tape of a recent Conan O'Brien show, with one eye on the clock, ready to leave at 11:20 so as to pick up the girls at the prom's announced conclusion of 11:30. Which would've been a fine plan, except...

The phone rang at 11:15.

It was Julie. She was surprised to hear my voice, because she figured I'd be well on my way by then. WHY, I wondered?


And what made this little brain freeze of mine even worse was the fact that I went over the pick-up time with Julie several times earlier, including on the way over--and then still proceeded to completely screw it up in my head!

Luckily, no real harm was done, but I sure did feel chagrined. The good news was that the girls--even Deanna, who really didn't know anyone in attendance outside of Julie--had a great time.

Well, after dropping her buddy off, we arrived home just before midnight, our busy, busy day finally over. THAT, friends, was my Free Comic Book Day--hope yours was half as memorable!
May 4th, 2006
Just a quick note to alert any amongst you who may care:

I'm auctioning my redo of Curt Swan's cover for ACTION COMICS #252 over on eBay, that being the issue that heralded the debut of Kal's cuz, Kara, better known to you all as Supergirl. So, should you be so inclined, this sentence will take you where you need to go.

That's all I got tonight--more later.
May 3rd, 2006
My mom woulda been 93 a few days back, on the first.

However, since she left us quite a while ago--a few months short of her seventieth birthday--I'd completely forgotten the significance of the date. Instead, I went about my normal business, which included devoting several hours to writing up the 59th episode of The Fred Hembeck Show. It wasn't until I sat down to prepare this week's regular plug for it that I fully realized what I'd done.

Y'see, my mom actually plays a fairly pivotal role in this week's piece. And it's not like I ever write all that much about her, cuz I don't. Weird, just plain weird. You might say it was a Freudian slip, but me, well, I'D call it a FREDian slip, mainly cuz that's the kind of guy I am!..

Speaking of birthdays, I was so caught up celebrating Lesley Gore's yesterday that I neglected to note that May 2nd was also pal Roger Green's first blogiversary! How time flies--it's hard to believe that Roger's Random Recollection's has been with us for a full year now! I'm sure Rog didn't mind getting bumped a day for this belated greeting, as he was the one who kept continually reminding me that Ms. Gore's landmark day was ever imminent, as he knew both how much I admired her AND how prone I was to forget even my most favorite celebrity's birthdays! Thanks, Rog--and may you have many, many more (you too Lesley!...)!

And then there's Comics In Context #131, wherein friend Peter Sanderson finishes up (or so the title would lead us to believe) his expansive examination of--uh huh--"V For Vendetta"! Good thing you're done, Peter--any more "V"s, and you might have to start worrying about some unwelcome "Z"s!?!

(I kid, Peter, I kid! I know you were just killing time until the "X"s took over the nation's multiplexes--it won't be long now! THEN you can move on to those Zorro flicks, okay?...)
May 2nd, 2006
Longtime readers of my various ramblings here at are well aware by now that, when it comes to the old Adam West "Batman" TV show, I seem to have a bit of a chip on my shoulder. That's all too true, but if there was one thing that I look back fondly on from that mostly misguided video venture, it was the one-time appearance of Lesley Gore as Catwoman's younger sidekick (though, to paraphrase her black vinyl contemporaries, the Shangi-las, she was good-bad, but not evil...). Most especially, it was her performance of "California Nights" that totally captivated me. I actually went right out and bought the 45 the very next day, and it's still one of my favorites!

If it seems like the music of Lesley Gore has always been there, well, for me, it always has. By the time I began avidly following the pop charts in 1964, she had already chiseled her signature tune, "It's My Party", into the Mount Rushmore of rock. "Judy's Turn To Cry"--the most successful sequel song in rock and roll history--as well as the prophetic anthem (and way, way cool recording), "You Don't Own Me", also received heavy airplay in the AM radio Golden Oldies rotation, still sounding fresh squeezed in between the latest from the Beatles and the Stones back In 1965. "Sunshine, Lollipops and Rainbows" made the Top Forty right alongside all those shaggy Brits that selfsame year, and in just under two minutes, infused transistor radios everywhere with a concentrated burst of aural happiness unlike any heard before or since!

Yeah, you might say I was a fan of Lesley Gore!

But, oddly enough, aside from that lone 1966 single, I never actually OWNED any of her records.
That all changed back in early 1990. CDs were a new toy to me then, and our collection barely numbered in the double digits at the time (its grown tremendously--and even exponentially--in the years since). Each purchase was carefully considered, and I well recall that fateful afternoon, rifling through the racks. I already had one of my favorite Paul McCartney albums--now in CD format!--in hand ("Red Rose Speedway"--you got a problem with that?...), when I spied "The Golden Hits of Lesley Gore"
I picked it up, looked over the song listing, and realized I really only knew the five numbers I've already mentioned above, and yet the collection totalled seventeen in all. I pondered the situation for a moment, and then, throwing caution entirely to the wind, walked up front to the register with BOTH CDs! (Hey, wife Lynn was away on a business trip at the time--can you blame a guy for going a little crazy?...)

Turned out to be one of the best purchasing decisions I've ever made! Songs like "She's A Fool", "Maybe I Know", and especially "I Don't Wanna Be A Loser" became fast favorites, indelibly stamped into my mind right alongside Ms. Gore's once more familiar material. Oh, sure, the song-writing was among the era's best, and the production--much of it by the justly celebrated Quincy Jones--was absolutely top-notch, but there's no discounting the appeal of young Lesley's warm singing voice. Certainly there are any number of performers whose vocal pyrotechnics easily outshine the abilities of Ms. Gore, but few of those folks imbue their work with half as much heart as America's Teen Sweetheart packed into any one of her deliriously infectious two-minute ditties. Simply put, hearing Lesley Gore sing is like hearing the sound of those deceptively carefree days of 1963 somehow magically pipe in through the ether from the ever fading past.

Well, I didn't stop there. Eventually, I tracked down an imported comprehensive five CD collection of the songstress's sixties material, and I even found a special 1998 rerecording of the musical "Grease" featuring the vocal talents of Lou Christie, Darlene Love, and Freddy Cannon alongside the beloved Ms.Gore, where she proved--where they ALL proved!--she's still got it!.

Fact is, she has a brand new CD out now, her first in quite awhile, called "Ever Since". I've been remiss in not picking it up, but I think that maybe today would be a great time to remedy that oversight. I'll buy it as sort of a birthday present, because, y'know, today is Lesley's birthday! They say that the ladies are generally reticent to reveal their age, and while I hate to let any cats out of any bags (that "Batman" show not withstanding), but remarkably enough, today is Ms. Gore's 60th birthday!

Consider this message best wishes from one of your biggest fans, Lesley, and when you take a little time later for some cake and ice cream, good golly gee whiz, I sure hope that nasty ol' Judy has enough sense not to crash the party!!...

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