My Saturday At The 2008 NYCC Comics Convention, Told In Pictures
(posted April 20th, 2008)

Although I'd missed the first two, I'd long ago decided that this year, I wasn't going to miss the third annual New York Comic Convention, so early on a beautiful spring morning, accompanied by wife Lynn, daughter Julie, and her boyfriend, Alec, I boarded a train for the Big City--and less than two hours later, we were there!

Pretty much immediately, I realized all the rumors were true--this was BIG!

So, after Lynn and Julie got themselves some Starbucks, it was time to take the escalator upstairs into untold wonderment.

But not before paying a little photographic tribute to the guy, without whom, maybe there IS no NYCC...

Jul-el, Kal-el, Alec-el
(The two young 'uns make an El of a couple, don't they?...)

"Super Simon says, hands on hips!"
Good ol' Lynn--always willing to play along...

Look! Standing in front of a camera--it's a nerd! It's a geek!! IT"S A FAN BOY!!! Right each time--it's Fred Hembeck! (That'd be me, in case you just wandered over here from some random porn site...)

Joe and Hilarie Staton.
Joe is currently busy putting the "Jug" back in Jughead, whereas the missus maintains one of the highest approval ratings of anyone named "Hilarie" in this great country of ours!

Hilarie's probably wondering if Lynn and Joe shop at the same store...

"Smile, Joe!"

That's Jim Amash palling around with yours truly.
Duly famous for both his fine brushwork gracing various Archie Publications and conducting scores of illuminating interviews for Alter Ego magazine, he'll always be known to me as the guy who took the time out of his busy, busy schedule to dial my number and mock me mercilessly for admitting that I honest to gosh, no kidding around, actually dug those red and green Blackhawk uniforms DC Comics forced onto the gang back in 1964!
AND hey, I liked Joe Staton's shirt, too--wanna make something of it, buddy?...

Janice Chiang, long-time Marvel Comics calligrapher, perhaps most noted (coff coff...) for lettering FRED HEMBECK DESTROYS THE MARVEL UNIVERSE--and living to tell the tale!

Janice, another upstate denizen we've known for decades, admitted this was only her second ever comics convention after running into us while wending her way through the over-crowded aisles. Not only that, but as Lynn snapped these pair of pics, Janice noted that her Wikipedia page pointed out that "The only public photograph of her is of her hand on page 228 of Marvel: Five Fabulous Decades of the World’s Greatest Comics by Les Daniels."
Well, mystery solved, world--thanks for the exclusive, Janice!

Over at the Papercutz booth, Scott Lobdell and Jim Salicrup prepare for their "Dancing With The Stars" audition--good luck fellas, but first you've gotta agree just exactly who leads, dig?

Jim inscribed this in my Little Book O' Autographs, the tome I carry around with me to badger one and all with while attending conventions. He's referring to my OTHER book, in case you didn't know...

Scott looks a little unhappy with yours truly--perhaps he's upset that Lynn scooped up one of the last Lisa Simpson Fans being given away as a freebie at the Harper and Collins booth (though my FAVORITE giveaway was spotted at a table offering, with a mere ten dollar purchase, free insoles for your shoes! Gee, maybe THAT'S what Scott needed...)

Stefan Petrucha joins the fun (or in Scowling Scott's case, the non-fun...)!

Tom Filsinger, publisher of "Stan Lee's Election Daze", and I compare notes on The Man we'd MOST like to see run this country--and if I have to tell you who THAT is, you just haven't been paying attention, True Believer!

Gary Dunaier was waiting in a long, long line to meet Joe Simon and Mark Evanier when I spotted him. Gary enjoys his comics, no doubt about it, but I don't think I've ever come a cross a more devoted New York Mets fan than Mr. D--my allegiance pales before his!
Say "hi" to Mark for me, Gar!
Gee, I sure hope I get to finally meet Senor E...

Not wanting to be rude to Steve Rude, I chose not to distract the oh-so-talented artist overmuch, and simply snapped a quick pic after reminding him of our single, ever-so-brief previous meeting back a quarter century ago!
See you again in 2033, sir!

That's Paul Kupperberg and offspring, encountered in front of Steve Rude's table, scrawling his John Hanberg in my autograph book. We'd met once before, nearly twenty years back at a party held at John Byrne's old manse--part of the fun of attending these events is the chance to renew, however briefly, old acquaintances.

Speaking of which...
Here I am with my old pal, Ron Marz, standing alongside illustrator, Rafael Kayanan.
Ron I've know for many, many years--in fact, our friendship actually predates his entry into the comics field by several years, which is going back quite a ways!--but whom I haven't seen all that often since he moved back from the sunny Florida climes of CrossGen to the rolling hills of upstate New York. Rafael, known for his fine work on such sword and sorcery icons as Conan, Turok, and Michael Moorcock's "Hawkmoon"--and whom I'd never met before--surprised me with the info that, back during his teen years, he sent ME a fan letter!?!
"Um, did I answer you back?", I asked cautiously.
PHEW!! A hero, not a heel--nice to dodge that bullet!
AND nice to meet you, Rafael!

Midway during my conversation with Ron, a fellow sidled up alongside Mr. Marz and began chattering away at him. He seemed awfully familiar, but I couldn't quite place the guy, so I looked down to read his name tag ...
"CHRIS!! CHRIS ELIOPOULOS!", I exclaimed, "It's ME--Fred Hembeck!!"
Years back, along with Ron Marz and several other folks, I attended a few NY Mets games with Chris, and had a heckuva good time. But that was going back at least eight years now, and we hadn't seen each other at all during the intervening time.
I missed the guy, and truth to tell, I think he missed me too...

What'd I tell you?
Chris likes me--he REALLY likes me!
(Even if he enjoys repeatedly telling me that they took the word "gullible" out of the dictionary, simply because the first time he informed of that rather dubious fact, I replied "Really?" with wide-eyed amazement. Hey, it COULD happen, y'know...)

That's me standing in front of the Image booth with Perhapanauts perpetrators, Todd "Sherlock Holmes" Dezago and Craig Rousseau, as the boys put in their allotted hour. This was my intro to Craig; the ever genial Todd I've known for years (Lynn found it sort of amusing that we had to trek all the way down to The Big Apple to spend time hanging out with so many of our otherwise local friends, but they, that's just the way things go sometime, ain't it?...)

Let's take a short break from Hembeck's All-Star Smooze fest for a little visual quiz, shall we?
Now, what the heck do you think THIS is?

Or at least, a small portion of the highly unique detailing on one.
(Oh, and in case you don't see her, that''s Lynn standing there in front of it. With that shirt, she ALMOST blends in...)

Captain America chalk art--what more is there to say?

"HOW exactly do you spell "Hembeck" again?..."
Danny Fingeroth laments that the rumored 25th Anniversary of Assistant Editors Month panel never quite came to fruition, while Stage-Fright-Fred breathes a sigh of relief...

Dan Green compare notes on all the folks we both were unsuccessful in managing to track down during the day--I never did get a chance to share a few moments with Jon Bogdanove, John Romita Jr (who Dan hadn't seen in 22 years!) or even the ever elusive Simonsons!

But i did get a chance to stop by Bill Anderson's table for a quick visit--long enough for him to write "Where's the damn book?" in my NYCC diary!
I'll have to ask the folks at Image, Bill, if I see 'em...

I saw 'em!
It was 3 pm--time for my sixty minutes of sitting (which I REALLY needed by this point, trust me!...), signing, and sketching. Lynn went off to grab a snack and rest her own two feet, while Traci Hui got me settled in (and I'm sorry I neglected to get a photo of either her or the always helpful Joe Keatinge, but the missus had the camera)
The book--we're talking about THE NEARLY COMPLETE ESSENTIAL HEMBECK ARCHIVES OMNIBUS here--will be out soon, I've been assured--honest!

So I spent an all-too fast hour signing stuff, doing some quick (REAL quick!) sketches, and sitting alongside two other noted Image creators, Salgood Sam, a very talented cartoonist, and Joe Kelly, a celebrated scriptor with stand-out runs of both Spider-Man AND Superman on his impressive resume! Joe is one of those guys about whom I've heard nothing but good stuff, but whose career pretty much coincides with me abandoning the mainstream titles I grew up with! Which put in the position of not being able to properly compliment his work (same with Sam), but both these guys were nice as can be, even after I confessed my artistic ignorance.
But Joe--sitting next to me at a con may be, granted, a pleasant experience, but "an honor"? Methinks you exaggerate, sir--but don't worry, I forgive you!

The first person to approach the table after I sat down was none other than the ever-mysterious Neilalien.
A delightful individual, we spoke some, and then later, at the end of my hour, he came back for a photo-op.
However, using arcane spells learned from the aged Vishanti, Neilalien has somehow blocked all photographic images from appearing on the 'net, leaving us only his signature, pictured above.
Hey, we've already given you Janice Chiang--let's not get greedy, okay?....

Rick Parker and child with your now tiresome host. Rick, a very nifty cartoonist in his own right, like the aforementioned Ms. Chiang, also has the dubious distinction of lettering some of my rather effusively worded scripts (for the record, several short strips done in several Spider-Man-oriented Annuals back a couple of decades)--and STILL he speaks with me! What a guy!
(Rick also told me that he enjoyed a similar photo-feature I did about my visit to the 2006 MoCCA fest, so I hope you're digging this fun-filled feature as well, Mr. P!...)

And then there was Mark!
Finally, long after the lines had dissipated, I was able to go up and introduce myself to Mark Evanier, a man who had met virtually every single person in the comics field, with the quasi-notable exception of ME! Oh, we've communicated plenty over the years, but face to face? Uh uh--never happened. Until yesterday! So there's your proof--M.E. meets me!
For the next all-too-fleeting minutes, we spoke of many things--Vince Colletta, Bob Kane, Sol Brodsky, Steve Gerber--
AND of the man standing right behind us: Stan Goldberg!!
This also happened to be precisely the time when Julie and Alec--who'd gone off on their own back when we first came out onto the exhibition floor hours earlier--finally tracked us down. So while Lynn dealt with the logistics of meeting up with the kids back at Grand Central Station a few hours later, I chatted with both Mark and Stan (but because mom was momentarily preoccupied, we failed to get a photo of Mr, G--or old friends Jack Morelli, Bob Greenberger, or new friend Bob Sodaro--an unfortunate oversight (we also forgot to take Frank Brunner's pic earlier as well, and Richard Howell and Gary Friedrich ducked our lens too...))
But getting back to the man who made the Hulk green (and not with envy), I was absolutely delighted to discover that not only was Stan aware of my work, he likes it too! Y'know, it always stuns me when someone who was toiling away in the very books that so long ago inspired me says something along those lines--and it sorta humbles me, too.
I also learned that back when he signed his name "Stan G.", there were folks who mistakenly thought he was Asian, a notion that had never, ever occurred to me! And as for that piece of original art pencilled by Mr. Goldberg for the last issue of MILLIE THE MODEL that was being sold on eBay recently with the addendum that the inks were by Steve Ditko, soon as I brought up the topic, Mark and Stan both told me, nope, no way. I didn't think so either, from a casual examination, Sol Brodsky most likely, Mark told me, which was my conclusion as well.
And then Mark was off to a night on Broadway, watching Nathan Lane portray the President on the Great White Way.We'll have to do this again sometime soon, Big Guy.
Oh, and just to prove I spent a few moments with a Marvel legend...

And these days, he's an Archie legend as well! Thanks for the kind words, Stan G--from Fred H!

Me with another legend, the great Jay Lynch.
Turns out Jay lives way, way upstate in New York, not all that far from where daughter Julie plans to go to college--I've always loved his stuff, and it was an unexpected treat to finally meet him!
(And be sure to go out and get a copy of the Wacky Packages coffee table book!)!

I couldn't resist including this great illo he did for my book! Gracias, Jay!

That's Bryan Deemer, who was not only one of the folks who interviewed me for the Comic Geek Speak audio site, but who's also the editor of a brand new slick magazine called COMICS NOW! Thanks for having me on, Bryan, and good luck with the mag--it looks great!!

Kyle Baker, another old friend I hadn't seen in a few years. Kyle used to live in the Woodstock area and occasionally played--along with the likes of Jim Starlin and Terry Austin--in our once weekly volley ball games. Alas, the games came to an end nearly three years back, and the Baker family relocated to NYC not long after. Kyle continues to turn out inspired material at an alarming rate, putting the rest of us cartoonists to shame!

Bob Wiacek and me.
Bob I hadn't seen in an even longer time. We talked a little bit about our kids--his son, Ian, was born in November 1990, shortly after Julie joined the Hembeck clan in August of that same year. Interestingly though, that was just enough time for the two of them to start school a full year apart--while Julie is getting ready to pull the trigger on her final decision regarding the college of her choice, Ian, a high school junior, is only now enduring the flood of college junk mail that flowed non-stop into our own mail-box a year back. All this family talk brought to mind a lunch I shared with Bob, Terry Austin, and Erik Larsen during a break at a 1991 NYC con where Bob and I engaged in a spirited discussion regarding cloth versus disposable diapers as Erik and Terry both looked on, clearly bewildered! At least that's one thing we don't have to deal with anymore, huh Bob?
Mr. W. also had with him a DVD featuring a commercial he did several years back with 50 Cent (!) in the hopes of demonstrating his thespian talents to anyone who might be interested. I was totally unaware of this side of Bob, but c'mon, just take a look at that pic--if they ever do "The Jerry Seinfeld Story" Bob's a natural, don'tcha think!
"What's with those cloth diapers anyway, huh?..."

Mark Sinnott, and dad Joe.
Gee, I wonder WHAT'S Mark's drawing...

Hey, a LOT of people have themselves a Joe Sinnott original! Me, I'm mighty proud of my custom drawn Mark Sinnott illo! Thanks, Mark--and "Let's Go Mets!" right back atcha!

Actually, Joe was finishing up his very last piece after a long, long day, and I certainly didn't want to hassle him any more than necessary! Next time, good sir!
Big Show. Big Fun.
Not without a few disappointments, though.
There were a couple of people I had been hoping to meet, chief among them Quick Stop Entertainment's Ken Plume, and Tom Spurgeon of The Comics Reporter (I brought along the George Foster comic book Tom had long been curious to see--I guess should've at least shown it to Gary Dunaier, but just I didn't think of it at the time. Sorry Tom AND Gary...). Stan Lee was reportedly somewhere in the vicinity, but although I probably had about as much chance of bumping into NYC's other notable weekend visitor, The Pope, I still had my hopes. No such luck. And I never quite made it over to the TwoMorrows booth either, or past the Papercutz area one last time to say goodbye to Jim, Scott, and Stefan (Julie was also a little bummed that she missed out seeing her old pal Jim, as well as Scott), but after all that time on our feet, I was pooped, and Lynn's bad knee wasn't getting any better, so we cut out around six and headed for Grand Central to meet Julie and Alec (which we did without any problems--though oddly, for the second time in recent years, I ran into one of the parents whose daughter I coached while helming Julie's soccer team in the aptly named Crossroads of the World--what are the odds?...).

(We also saw Scott Adsit of "30 Rock" walking up and down the aisles, but we chose not to bother him--though when we returned home, Lynn specifically suggested we watch the episode of the show we'd taped a few days earlier due to our semi-close encounter with one of the stars. Irony alert: he didn't appear at all in that particular episode! Guess he was too busy getting ready for the con...)

Y'know, I didn't buy a single comic--didn't even rustle through one musty box--I didn't take in any of the many presentations or attend any of the panel discussions--I didn't do ANY of that stuff--but I still had me a great time nonetheless. Not that I wouldn't have liked to've done some of that stuff (especially take in a panel or two), but hey, there was only so much time, and so very, VERY much to do and to see.
But y'know, in the end, I think I saw my share, and then some!
I think I'll go back next year!!

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