Archive - November 2008
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November 29th, 2008
I hope you all had a nice Thanksgiving.

Turkey day around the Hembeck household was a mite different than in years past, mainly because it marked the first return visit home--after just about exactly three whole months--for our college freshman, Julie. Not that things went particularly smoothly in that department: Tuesday morning, Darcy, the girl who was giving our daughter a ride home, woke up to discover that, overnight, the wind had blown a large branch right through the back window of her car!! Geez, can you believe the timing on that? Luckily, her mom stepped into the breach and drove the four plus hours upstate, picked up the otherwise stranded kids, and then turned right around and brought 'em down here!! Whew! We couldn't possibly expect Darcy's mom to repeat that heroic feat, so Lynn is gonna drive the three (maybe four) girls back on Sunday (sorry, no room for me--plus, I get lost WAY too easily...).

After stopping off at a diner with the rather enticing name of The Daily Planet for a bite to eat, Julie finally arrived home and was excited to see Mario and Luigi, our cats, and Romeo the rabbit, for the first time in months (us she talks to on the phone several times a week; the cats, never...).

Wednesday, after taking care of some business in the morning, it was off to the mall to meet up with one of her old pals, eventually returning a bit later than expected (around 1am!!). But hey, I well remember the days when I made the trek down from college myself--it was always a few minutes of 'hi mom and dad" and then--bingo!--as much friend time as I could possibly fit in! Besides, we knew Thursday was gonna be an all family day...

After hosting the celebration the previous two Novembers while Lynn's mom was in her , ahem, temporary quarters between houses, Grandma got to cook the bird this time around for the first big shindig in her new digs (not that Julie ate any turkey, mind you, as she's been a vegetarian for five or six years now. Lynn and I are MOSTLY veggie, but after trying to choke down some Tofurkey a few years back, we've decided there are a few holidays exempt from our general meat avoidance, and Thanksgiving is definitely one of 'em...). We watched the Macy's parade before leaving on the hour long journey to G'ma's--I'm big on mindless traditions, please understand--the oddest moment coming when the parade was RickRolled. If you don't know what that means--and I wouldn't if Julie and boyfriend Alec hadn't demonstrated it for me this past summer--I'm not even gonna try and explain it to you! Just know this--if you remember singer Rick Astley from the eighties with any fondness whatsoever, well, be assured he languishes in obscurity no longer. At least, not currently.

Dinner--with just us three, Grandma, and Lynn's brother Bob--was pleasant enough (even after I started yammering about the program Julie and I had watched when she plopped in front of the tube Tuesday night, mindlessly flipping around until we came across a documentary on the WE network called "The World's Worst Sex Change Surgeon"! Hey, how could anyone turn THAT off??This guy practiced his wares in his garage and in hotel rooms, and the cheesiest part was when they showed a reenactment with an actor in light blue scrubs who somewhat resembled the actual culprit driving around San Diego in a convertible, ultimately tossing out a severed leg wrapped in a towel onto a deserted desert area!! Trust me--you DON'T wanna know. Grandma and Uncle Bob sure didn't...).

Julie spent the afternoon hours of Black Friday--where else?--at the mall, buying self-described yuppie outfits suitable for potential summer internship interviews. Afterwards, she had two of her younger friends from her old high school, Cara and Alyssa, come by for a good old fashioned sleep-over (and Chinese takeout, natch). It's been awful quiet around these parts for a quarter of a calendar year, so it was refreshing to hear the incessant giggling long associated with such get-togethers. Sure, in quite a few ways, our girl has grown up a lot in the last few months, but in certain other key ways--specifically, her silly, sometimes benignly shocking, sense of humor--she hasn't changed at all. And the fact is, I'm glad she hasn't (though I DIDN'T miss her occasional propensity for bossiness much, truth to tell...).

Well, visit home number one wraps up tomorrow, but in less than a month, she'll be back, for a far more extended period of time. Y'know, I can't wait to see what we'll stumble across on the WE network THEN!!..
November 28th, 2008
Some years back, I helped put together a little book called FANTASTIC FOUR ROAST for the fine folks up at Marvel. I wrote the thing, and (aside from the covers, both inside and out, which I myself drew), provided layouts for a star-studded roster of Bullpen pencil-pushers to follow. The idea was to enlist the then current artists handling the various characters to pretty up my breakdowns on the page devoted to their particular costumed crime fighter. Towards the end of the book, taking this jam concept to the max, there's a double-page spread featuring virtually ALL the Marvel Super-heroes of the day, each delineated by a different artist!!
You've got your Sal Buscema Hulk right alongside your Frank Miller Daredevil, hovering over your John Romita, Jr./Bob Layton Iron Man, not all that far from your John Byrne Fantastic Four, your Marshall Rogers Dr. Strange, your Dave Cockrum X-Men, and so on and so forth.

The reason I bring up this bit of ancient history?

Well, as you're likely aware of by now, we do commissions here at Most often, it's skewed redos of classic covers by funny book titans such as Kirby, Ditko, Swan, Infantino, Romita and the like--and even, once in a great while, I'm called upon to redo something I actually drew in the first place, like an old DC Daily Planet gag strip, a Dateline:@#!$ episode, my Assistant Editor Month's SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN cover, or even the FF ROAST cover itself--but when I was asked to redo THIS piece of art, well, THAT was a new one on me!

For the first time, y'see, I'd be drawing a fully finished version myself of the layout that heretofore had only been seen in completed form whilst gang-illoed by a bunch of comicdom's finest!!

Whew--got all that?

Well, whether you do or not, watch out folks, cuz here it comes! (And--uh huh--click on the image below to see it at an even larger size!)...
There ARE a pair of latecomers added to the cast, drawn in at the request of the fellow who commissioned the job, good ol' Gerry Turnbull--see if you can figure out WHO they are! (Don't worry--it ain't exactly rocket science. Or even political science...).

But wait! There's more!!

Gerry's been let loose again with the PhotoShop hues, so follow this very link to view a rainbow-iffic full-color version he sent me shortly after I shipped the art off to him!! Nice job as always, Ger!

But hey, I still gotta wonder--what's DAZZLER doing in there with all those heavyweights? Ah well, I guess that was the eighties for you...
November 21st, 2008
Tomorrow marks the fortieth anniversary of the release of "The Beatles" (aka "The White Album") in Britain (we here in the States had to wait an additional three days for it to hit the stores--though this particular Yank had yet another month of anticipation before dropping a needle on the opening groove of the legendary double disc, inasmuch as it was 1968's most anticipated Christmas gift in the Hembeck household...).

Two records, thirty tracks.

But---what if it were only a single disc?

Yeah, that's the popular internet parlor game these days--and thanks to a challenge by buddy Roger Green (whose own slimmed down track listing you can read here), I'm gonna have a go myself at shaving the thing down to a single stack of metaphorical wax.

My only self imposed rule would be to make sure tunes by both George and Ringo are represented. After that, though, I'm NOT gonna go half and half with John and Paul--if I had to list my all-time favorite Lennon numbers, NONE would be culled from "The White Album" (in fairness, this isn't Paul's brightest hour either--the set is really the sum of its many, many parts, and that's what makes it what it is. Cutting it in half is actually a fool's errand, but hey, blame Roger--it was his idea, not mine!...).

Well then, eliminating my single least favorite recording in The Beatles whole entire ouerve made the first cut by far the easiest. No, not Revolution 9 (tho that one ain't making the finals either)--Wild Honey Pie. Never quite understood the ultimate purpose of that one...

One I COULDN'T leave off--though most other folks would drop it in a Liverpool minute--was the track I declared as my very favorite in a ten page (never published and sadly long gone) review I wrote for a fanzine shortly after Santa left me my fresh package of Beatles goodness, Rocky Raccoon.


I don't know if I'd rate it that highly currently, but I still like it quite a bit, so I'm leaving it intact! So there.

Anyway, here's the track listing and sequencing...

Side 1

Back in The USSR
Yer Blues
Helter Skelter
While My Guitar Gently Weeps
Martha My Dear
Why Don't We Do It In the Road?
I Will

Side 2

Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da
Glass Onion
Rocky Raccoon
Dear Prudence
Don't Pass Me By
Cry Baby Cry

Okay, I cheated--that's sixteen tracks (how could I possibly get rid of either Blackbird or Martha My Dear? That woulda been the choice. Bad enough I had to leave off Honey Pie...).

While I tried to mix things up a bit, how could I NOT start things off with Back In The USSR, one of the all-time greatest album openers? Similarly, Julia--okay, the one truly bona fide Lennon classic on the set--remains the absolutely perfect way to end side one. And there's no way I could EVER break up the daffy duo of Why Don't We Do it In The Road? and I Will, two tunes both clocking in under two minutes in length sung by the same singer in two wildly divergent, shall we say, romantic moods? I ain't gonna mess with the wittiest song sequencing in Beatles history, that's for sure! (Plus, I Will was the ditty Lynn and I took to the floor for our first dance after being hitched, Why Don't We Do it In The Road having been unceremoniously passed over for THAT particular newlywed tradition. Mustn't scare the horses and all...).

On the double album, Paul has three opening cuts (and I've kept 'em all), but Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da wasn't one of 'em. Well, it is now--and no reason it shouldn't be. As for Ringo, I was always very fond of Don't Pass Me By, particularly the fiddle work. And Cry Baby Cry provides a quietly haunting way to bring things to a conclusion--even giving our man Paul the very last word with his addendum of a segment of an obviously unfinished ditty of his own glued seemingly randomly to John's song. Imagine THAT guiding the needle into the run-out groove!! Can we take you back indeed...

Revolver is their best LP, the American version of Rubber Soul is my own personal favorite, and very little compares to the second side of Abbey Road for sonic ecstasy, but The White Album, despite its flaws, remains a fascinating achievement for a band who wasn't always singing in harmony at the time of its making. And here it is--four decades later. Whew.

Well, you know what they say--ob-la-di, ob-la-da, life goes on!

November 13th, 2008
Twenty-five years ago today, the cartooning world lost a top-notch talent--and those who knew him, a first-rate friend--when Raoul Vezina passed away unexpectedly at much too young an age.

While I didn't know Raoul nearly as well as some of his other Fantaco co-workers (including Roger Green, who wrote an extensive--and heartfelt--tribute to Smilin' Ed Smiley's creator, which you can access by going here), I had more than enough contact with the guy to know what a truly decent fella he was. My strongest memory of Raoul is of the all-nighter he and I pulled in his Albany apartment, tediously cutting ruby-lith into the wee, wee hours of the morning, all in an effort to get the front and back covers for my first Fantaco book, HEMBECK 1980, ready for color printing. What could've easily been a soul-crushing bore of an evening instead flew right on by as we genially swapped stories about comics--and about ourselves--for hours on end as we happily toiled away.

He was a great guy and a very talented artist, and a quarter century later, those remain two darn good reasons why everyone lucky enough to have known him still misses him to this day.
November 11th, 2008
Editor Richard E. Hughes--who wrote the bulk of the scripts published by ACG Comics back in the early sixties under a wide variety of pen names--was a master of successfully mixing together elements of science fiction, the supernatural, the silly, and the sentimental.

One "s" he didn't have nearly as good a handle on, though, was "super-hero".

I came to this realization recently while reading the NEMESIS ARCHIVES, published by Dark Horse. This single volume collects all 17 episodes featuring the battling ghost with the striped shorts from out of the misty realm of the beyond, originally running in ADVENTURES INTO THE UNKNOWN from late 1964 through the waning days of 1966. I've long had a soft spot for these quirky tales, but aside from the first couple of escapades illustrated by Pete Costanza, I hadn't laid eyes on a majority of these yarns in literally decades. Turns out, once Chic Stone came on as the regular artist with the fourth entry, writer Hughes was already losing focus. As a kid, I recall my enthusiasm for the feature declining roundabouts this juncture, and I always blamed it on the artistic switch. While I still prefer the Costanza Nemesis to the Stone version (for one thing, Pete kept his hood on, while Chic preferred to show off Nemesis's ghostly coif), now I realize that the misguided "anything goes" approach to the scripting was the true reason for my dissatisfaction.

But hey, that's not what I wanted to talk about here today.

No, I wanted to share with you one of subtly oddest things I've ever seen in a comic, something I ran across while rereading " Warning! Plutonium Pirates!!" from AITU#167.

And it has nothing to do with Hughes script, either--I'm laying this quizzical curiosity totally at the feet (and brush) of Chic Stone!

To fully understand where I'm going with this, check out page three of the story in which our baddie de jour is introduced (and yes, his name really IS "Professor Ivan Watusi--AND he's suppose to be Russian!?!...").
Don't worry--I'm NOT going to go over any of the often nonsensical plot points to be found in this story, but stop for a moment and take a good look below at the sixth panel on that page, the wordless one. ..
You might wonder just WHY he's looking so smugly self-satisfied in that particular panel, as it hardly seems to fit the proper mood as established in the action coming directly before and after.

But whatever--artist Stone sure seemed to like it.

Because here's the sixth panel (of seven) found on page six...
Guess it was casual Friday by the time page six rolled around....

But it hardly ends there--

Here's the final panel on page seven...
Page thirteen, third of eight panels....
And for good measure--AND I guess to maximize the bang for his buck down at "Stats Are Us", Chic ends the seventeen page story with this now overly familiar image one last time...
No, Nemesis never did encounter this fellow (or, thank heavens, this drawing) ever again, as time was running out for the ACG do-gooder, with only three episodes left to launch out of his canon.

And in none of the other stories was a single illo repeated in such an obvious--and odd--manner as that of tobacco tainted Prof Watusi here! While i HAVE seen statted images in comics over the years, I've NEVER seen one used in this manic a manner!

Well, what do expect from a company whose greatest claim to fame was publishing HERBIE anyway?...
November 8th, 2008
Hey, con men (and women)! I'll be at the Big Apple Con--the call it The National--in NYC next Saturday November 15th. One day only, but if you're so disposed, please stop by to talk, get a sketch, buy a book, whatever! Should be fun!

(And what WAS fun was the con I attended in Albany two weeks back, which you can read about--as well as view two dozen photos of--that I just now FINALLY got around to posting here!...)
November 6th, 2008
Hey there, art lovers!

Because we well know that the more illos we stack up, the longer it may take some of your computers to load, we've added a whole second page to our Across The Page Gallery--


Wow--and you thought YESTERDAY was exciting!!

You'll see my quirky takes on the likes of the Star Wars gang, several iconic Ditko characters, Aquaman, Miller's Daredevil, Super-ghosts, the Wizard of Oz cast. the Beatles, Horror Hosts, and a whole lot more (including a little something I've dubbed the "Go-Go Chicks"--that's a Silver Age pun, ladies...), so go take a look!

Oh, and one other thing--they're ALL for sale (along with a single stray illo from days past), details of which you'll be able to ascertain, should you be so disposed, via a special page newly posted to serve that very purpose! But hey, I know most of you will just want to take a look--window shopping is not only tolerated but encouraged--so zip on over to the above link for a totally free peek!

Hope you like what you see, and if you wanna pony up some cash, all the better! But bear in mind, first come, first served! Friends, I LOVE doing these pieces, and intend to add to this roster on a regular basis--I've got plenty more ideas (some good even!) that I hope to get down on paper in the days ahead!! Stay tuned!!
November 5th, 2008
Pretty amazing when you stop and think about it, ain't it?...

Okay, sure, no one can predict the future, but y'know, I'm thinking this guy is gonna be one heckuva Chief Exec! Don't agree? Well, consider this: here's a young black guy of limited legislative experience--who had to make his way past far more seasoned politicians in both parties--with the highly unlikely name of Barack Obama (and that's not even mentioning the "Hussein"), and STILL he won the job of President comparatively easily!

Hey, he's already done the impossible--I can't wait to see what he does for an ENCORE!
November 4th, 2008
Lynn and I got back from voting around 11:30 this morning.

The whole process--from signing in right up until throwing the big ol' lever to pull back the curtain and exit the booth--took about fifteen minutes. Now, that may seem like nothing compared to the sorta lines they're showing on the TV--and in truth, it IS nothing--but consider this: in the now dozen years we've been assigned this particular polling location, it has never taken us more than five minutes (and rarely even that) to cast our votes! So, something IS happening out there...

As to WHAT--and as to exactly which way I'm leaning--well, let's just say that when I wake up Wednesday morning, I'm hoping I can happily exclaim "OBAMA!", and not whimper "oh, bummer...".

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