The Best of Dateline: @#$?!
Introductory Essay
NEW!"With Pals Like This..." (1984)
Cub reporter Jimmy Olsen clearly does his alleged friend, Superman, no favors on this montage of redrawn Weisinger-era cover situations, none of which scream "Friendship"...

NEW! "The Betty Brant Chronicles" (1982)
This three page feature from Fantaco Enterprises' SPIDER-MAN CHRONICLES tells the tale of the star-crossed love affair between Peter Parker and J. Jonah Jameson's secretary by distilling all the pertinent panels from the pages of classic issues of AMAZING SPIDER-MAN into one long sequence, redrawing the Steve Ditko (and John Romita) pictures in the Hembeck style, keeping the Stan Lee dialog intact, and adding my own narrative captions to tie the whole package together. To my way of thinking, it was the first believable romance to ever appear within the same pages as the antics of a guy wearing a funny outfit.

NEW! "Who REALLY Killed Gwen Stacy?" (1998)
Some say it was the beast that killed the beauty, but I have OTHER notions about who actually put the kibosh on Spider-Man's blonde-tressed ladylove. Odds are, the perp has an airtight alibi, but I still know who I blame!...

NEW! "100 Swell Things About Comics" (1983)
Dividing my blank page into a hundred tiny panels, I easily scribbled in that daunting number of reasons for my everlasting affection for the comics medium--and all pretty much off the top of my head, too. Though compiled back in 1983, I'd still stand by the majority of my picks to this very day (my enthusiasm for several of the independent companies named may've waned significantly over the years--the break they represented from the long-standing Marvel/DC monopoly was, ultimately, their REAL attraction) (and, yes, I STILL have fond memories of the Pasko/Yeates run on SWAMP THING--remember, at the time I put this together, I didn't know Alan Moore from BENJAMIN Moore!...). As I admit at the bottom of the page, I assembled this rather haphazardly, but that admission didn't prevent a surprising piece of mail from soon making its way to me...

NEW! "99 More Nifty Things About Comics" (1983)
Not long after the previous strip was published, a short if not particularly sweet letter arrived from a fairly tenured comics pro saying, in effect, "I've put in all these years in the field, and I don't even crack your top one hundred?". Oops. It was an inadvertent oversight on my part, though frankly, it was also probably due partially to the fact that I had stronger feelings for material he'd worked on earlier in his career than what he'd been doing currently. Well, to rectify this sorry situation, I sat down and threw together ANOTHER list, including a series of the affronted pro's greatest hits. Not to give it away, but you might be able to figure out just WHO I'm talking about by taking a close look at the wink-wink, nudge-nudge-like expressions on cartoon Fred's face. While this is indeed the first time I'm revealing my true motivation for doing this particular strip, I did explicitly try to make things interesting by throwing in a single ringer and challenging my readers to figure out the one thing listed on that page that I really DIDN'T like. The dare remains--can you guess?.

NEW!"Grey Matters--And So Does Money!" (1983)
This was an example of a series of projected potpourri strips I'd hoped to eventually use to assemble a nice little collection of miscellaneous funny-book factoids, but...never quite happened. Enjoy this one anyway...

NEW! "Pronouncing The Names of Comics Characters--A Hit Or Mxy Proposition" (1998)
Sure, EVERYONE had their own difficulties figuring out how to say the name of Superman's pint-sized mystical nemesis, but I didn't let MY ignorance stop there! Uh uh--here are just a few of my decidedly unique interpretations of some otherwise seemingly straight forward names. Yup, even Brainiac...

NEW!"A Blonde, A Brunette, And The Guy In The Rocketeer Mask" (1998)
Fred interviews Dave Stevens' famous retro-creation, and manges to put in a few good words for a long forgotten blonde bombshell in the process! (Plus: Hembeck sure ain't no Eisner, but dig the tricky deal with the logo and credits--whoah!...)

NEW "The Secrets of JFK, Marilyn--and Bizarro?..." (1997)
Was editor Mort Weisinger onto to some nefarious clandestine plot when he paired doppelgangers of the young President and the beautiful Blonde Bombshell within the unlikely pages of one of his "Bizarro World" epics back in 1962? And, more importantly, why did he also include Jerry Lewis? Read on for pure idle speculation...

NEW!“Cry Uncle? Naturally, Mister...” (1998)
Fred humbly interviews both Uncle Sam and Mr. Natural, a couple of true American heroes, each starring in a pair of then-recent socially relevant color comic books. And friends, it's funnier than it sounds--honest...

NEW! "Big G and Double D--NOT A Love Story" (1998)
When Marvel found themselves in possession of comic book rights to the famous' fire-breathing Japanese monster, Godzilla,back in the seventies, they teamed him up with none other than Nick Fury's long-time sidekick, Dum Dum Dugan--and friends, THAT'S when the fun began!

NEW!"Mocking Mort: The World's Finest Joke—or the Meanest?" (1978)
Superman Family uber-editor Mort Weisinger's always peculiar take on the male-female dynamic fueled this particular mid-sixties "Lois Lane" episode, which encouraged me in turn to embark on an ever-after irregular series of "Dateline:@#$%" entries wherein I'd redraw selected panels of the existing artwork, ultimately boiling the whole absurd affair down into a single page retelling, delivered in the snarkiest manner possible—and brother, if ANY story deserves that sorta rude treatment, the gem known as "Superman and Batman's Joke On Lois Lane" sure does! (And please, pardon the myriad spelling errors--Spell Check didn't exist in those long ago, dark days, bear in mind...)

NEW!"Shazam: The CBS Years" (1997)
While interviewing Captain Marvel, Jr., Fred encounters a surprise guest--or perhaps, more specifically, a surprise, surprise, SURPRISE guest!...

NEW! "Fred, Joe, Chester, and Seth" (1998)
In the mid-nineties, four cartoonists with pulp-paper alter egos—Misters Hembeck, Matt, Brown, and, er, Seth—met in the flesh. To immortalize that momentous event, I arranged for the four of us to get together again several years later, this time inside the confines of a series of panels as opposed to the environs of a local restaurant. Hilarity naturally ensues!

NEW! "They Told Me Not To Run With Scissors, But They Never Said ANYTHING About Keeping Then Away From My Comic Books?!?..."
The first line of this one gives but the merest hint of the horror to come: "I mutilated my comic books!!" The graphic details will perplex, depress, and even sicken many of you—or maybe you'll just get a condescending chuckle from my stupidity. Your choice...

NEW! “The Thing's Lament” (or, “It's Whinin' Time!”) (1998)
The Fantastic Four were part of Marvel's grand—and misguided--mid-nineties experiment, “Heroes Reborn”, wherein certain key titles were turned over to an array of various Image Comic's superstar creators to pretty much do with as they pleased. Well, after THAT didn't work out (surprise!), the whole exiled gang—including the FF—were welcomed warmly back into the Marvel Universe proper with the subsequent “Heroes Returned” line-wide event. AND that's the time-frame when we encounter ol' Benjamin Grimm, as he ticks off one complaint after another in this long-winded monolog.

(Oh, and I should mention that one of his pet peeves—his group's puzzling dearth of crossover action with other company's icons—was alleviated slightly by a meeting with Superman that occurred not long after this strip was published. We'll ALL, no doubt, sleep better knowing that to be the case, eh, folks?...)

NEW! “Apparently, Alvin Wasn't JUST A Chipmunk!“ (1998)
Revisiting my life-long obsession with the LITTLE LULU cast yet once again, I speculated herein what a marriage between a grown-up Lulu and Tubby might be like—one, that is, that came by way of “The Jerry Springer Show”!

NEW! “The Gamma Glamour Gal” (circa 1982, part one of five)
Bruce Banner's cousin, Jennifer Walters, had recently seen the 25th and final issue of her spin-off series published when cartoon Fred interviewed her in what was to become the opening salvo of a loosely connected five strip sequence. While the male Hulk seemed to get more and more angry when he turned green, the emerald transformation seemed to have...other effects on his female counterpart, a point I blatantly emphasize as the crux of my so-called gags here.

(I should also shamefacedly cop to cranking out this series of strips during a (thankfully) fleeting period when I was under the delusion that inking my stuff with a brush was a darn fine idea, and that being careful to make sure all my lettering was both straight AND legible was, at most, a minor concern. So, if I may, “Oops...”)

NEW! “Lois Lane's Wardrobe Was Never Like THIS!?!” (circa 1982, part two of five) Cartoon Fred gets maybe a little bit TOO excited when interviewing Magnus, Robot Fighter's...unorthodoxically attired gal pal, Leeja Clane, so much so that cartoon wife Lynn has to step in and give the old boy a reprieve...

NEW! “Strange Encounters”
(circa 1982, part three of five)

With cartoon Fred temporarily out of the picture, cartoon spouse Lynn makes her first solo appearance, interviewing a group of guests who could only be called... Strange.

NEW! “Taken To Task By The Mysterious Man In The Atom's Mask”
(circa 1982, part four of five)

Still holding the microphone, cartoon Lynn finds herself unprepared for the sheer intensity shown by the Justice Society's pint-sized powerhouse--but is that REALLY Al Pratt under the face-shrouding cowl, or someone else, someone even MORE important to the history of comics? Find out when cartoon Fred does, as he finally wanders back into the thick of things...

NEW! “The Spider Spins, Pop Moppet Pops His Cork!” (circa 1982, part five of five)
Poor Lynn—the things I put her through just for a laugh. And to think, it was all spawned by my deep appreciation for the classic—and personally beloved--LITTLE LULU comics of yore! Sick AND silly—now THERE'S one delightful reading combo!...

Interview With A Kree (1977)
Following Spider-Man and the Flash, my third interview subject wound up being the House of (nicked) Ideas own Captain Marvel (or, "Mar-Vell", like on his birth certificate). Sharp-eyed readers will notice that, inasmuch as I was in the earliest throes of developing my own peculiar style, I somehow neglected to add my world renowned knee-squiggles to both participants in the strip's last panel! Sloppy, sloppy, sloppy...

Captains Outrageous (2000)
Nearly a quarter century later, I was still mercilessly abusing characters christened Captain Marvel, particularly that loose limbed one! Still, a lot had happened in the ensuing decades, so consider this an update, if you will. Plus, I'm happy to note that all the squiggles are in their proper places! Hey, who SAYS I don't learn from my mistakes? (Besides Lynn, I mean...)

Getting Animated About Ani-Man! (2000)
Or, at my wits end for witzend! Or, a boob discovers boobs! Or, Wally manufactures some--well, you get the idea. Comics as an aid for puberty? Yeah, I guess you might say that...

I Pity The Fool Who Tells Steve Ditko About THIS Strip! (2001)
A one-note, cheap and cheesy gag. What? You're surprised? Hey, I'm a one-note, cheap and cheesy guy--thought you knew that by now?...

A.A. Talks to P.P. About B&V (1995)
Another unfinished piece rescued from a vintage sketchbook, this hastily rendered strip finds America's Typical Teenager turning to an unlikely source for romantic advice (...when all he REALLY needs is a copy of the Wall Street Journal...).

Comic Strip Cuties Hit The Beach! (1989)
For one of the once annual AMAZING HEROES SWIMSUIT SPECIALS, I prepared this fanciful illo as means of getting some of the funny papers most famous--and youngest--females into the otherwise unlikely realm of glamour gal modelling! Tubby, Dennis, Sluggo, and Charlie Brown--eat your hearts out, little boys!

Hollywood Kryptonite'll KILL Ya! (1994)
Even though I wasn't actively doing Dateline:@#$! strips at the time, after finishing a book concerning the mysterious death of TV's Superman, George Reeves, I was moved enough to jot down this reaction to the tome in one of my sketchbooks, as a sort of diary entry, I suppose. Never seen anywhere prior to this posting, I'd like to think the piece holds up despite the loose nature of both the art and the lettering. Hey, if nothing else, this'll prove I was prescient regarding the impending demise of that "Lois and Clark" program, y'know?...

Flash and Al--Pals 4ever!! (1995)
Done as one of several strips meant to tentatively test the waters for a full scale revival of the Dateline:@#$%! series, the focus here was on the recurring pairing of the iconic comic strip character, Flash Gordon, and the beloved cartoonist, Al Williamson. Most fans would probably agree, the two of them never quite spent enough time together, but when they did--HOOOO-BOY! Good stuff!

Aunt May. Uncle Ben, and the Great Beyond (1995)
Back when I still cared about such things, the demise of Peter Parker's doting aunt with the publication of AMAZING SPIDER-MAN's 400th issue was seemingly the least of the many problems nagging at that long-running franchise, and I wasn't the least bit shy about letting her ghost know my feelings! (Oh, and in case you hadn't heard, it wasn't REALLY her at all. Aunt May's just fine, thank you very much--even if the series isn't...)

Nova, the Human---Dancing Machine?...(1977)
Also known as the Human Rocket, this mid-seventies Marvel character was always a big favorite of mine, so when I sat down one day during the late seventies with the intentions of putting a costumed cut-up through his paces, Astaire-wise, who better to dance for me than ol' Mr. Blue Blazes himself, the erstwhile Richard Rider?

Love Finds A Man Called "Doiby" (2000)
When the Golden Age Green Lantern married his super-villainess sweetie, there was only one thing left to worry about--the romantic travails of Doiby Dickles, his once-upon-a-time sidekick. You MIGHT be surprised to discover just how things turned out...

Saluting Strange Schwartz Adventures (1977)
When the erroneous news came out that DC was reviving their grand old STRANGE ADVENTURES title in the late seventies (I believe it eventually morphed into TIME WARP not long after I completed this strip), I used the report as an excuse to celebrate editor Julie Schwartz's glorious run on the book. What I DIDN'T use was a dictionary--I even got Carmine's surname wrong!?! Thank heavens for spell check.

The Strangest EC Host of Them All! (2000)
Forget the Crypt Keeper, the Old Witch, and that Vault Dude--the legendary EC Comics Group never employed a more unusual master of ceremonies than PSYCHOANALYSIS' nameless psychiatrist character, as the couch time Cartoon Fred spent with him a few years back will most surely attest.

The Fury and the Fashion Faux Pas! (2003)
When Marvel's crack World War Two squad, Sgt. Fury and His Howling Commandos, went undercover in an attempt to capture none other than Adolf Hitler himself, it really would've been a smart idea if they'd just gotten themselves checked out by the Fashion Police first!...

The Brotherhood of Coincidentally Doomed Mutants! (2000)
Okay, so maybe I WASN'T the first one to point out all the eerie similarities between Marvel's X-Men and DC's Doom Patrol--heck, I probably wasn't even in the first ONE HUNDRED!--but I still enjoyed the chance to draw the two groups in a single large illustration, plus milking the situation for all the gags I possibly could--so sue me!

The Great Scorpion Sting-Off (2000)
Two characters uneasily sharing the same name--Lee and Ditko's Spider-Man antagonist, a young Howard Chaykin's Atlas Comics adventurer--and me! Herein lies the tail...

Swinging To The Kryptonian Crawl! (1977)
Wherein, Superman gyrates like a buffoon on a facsimile of what history will someday record as the very first of the Hembeck Classic Cover Redos! As a bonus, there's also a gag regarding iconic DC penciller Carmine Infantino, thunk up at a time when he just happened to be working for rival Marvel Comics!

Yeah Yeah Yeah?--No No No!! (1997)
Back in 1964, when I initially learned that my new-found musical idols, the Beatles, were scheduled to meet half of the Fantastic Four--the Human Torch and his buddy, the Thing--within the pages of STRANGE TALES #130, it was cause for much jubilation in this dually delighted fan's heart! Then, unfortunately, I had opportunity to actually READ the story in question...

Patsy, Hedy, and the Gabardine Kid! (2001)
When Stan Lee masterminded an unlikely summit between a prominent member of his wild west contingent and some top stars of his contemporary teen scene series back in 1962, could it have actually been the very first cross-over of the then emerging Marvel Age of Comics? Sure it could. Why not? Hey, read on if you don't believe me, bunky...

Ruffled Feathers Over Not Quite Matching Leathers (2000)
Take the noble Hawkman, his lovely bride, Shiera, and then toss in a specially contrived wacky mix-up, and folks, you've got yourself a strip even the legendary Benny Hill would be proud of!!

Surfin' Safari, Spaceways Style (2002)
This fun little visual gag, while far from being the last one ever published--there may even still be a couple yet left in the vaults--nonetheless has the dubious distinction of being the very last one I drew up for COMICS BUYERS GUIDE before I was gently informed services were no longer needed. Perhaps they were...board of me?...

The Adventures of Julie and Harriet (2001)
If you read our "Fred Sez" section at all, you've no doubt come across a plethora of anecdotes focusing on my daughter, Julie. Here, though, predating all that, is a notable tale of the one-time-tyke told comics-style--and WITH a comic book connection to boot! And yes, folks, its all true--trust me!...

The Many Faces of Jimmy Olsen, Part 1 (1982)
In which I attempted to prove that merely by showing pictures alone of the many guises Mort Weisinger saddled Superman's pal with would indeed be enough to get a laugh--AND that I could in fact ink with a brush! Well, one out of two ain't bad...

The Many, Many Faces of Jimmy Olsen, Part 2 (1982)
More of the same.

The...Riverdale Avengers?...(1999)
Well, after the East Coast, West Coast, and Great Lakes Avengers, why not? Except, of course, none of these characters were spawned by Marvel Comics, but instead by that lovable, yock-filled, teen-oriented gang over at Archie Publications--being neither members of the Mighty Crusaders nor the costumed identities of ol' Carrot-top and his pals, however!?! WHO are they then? Go take a look...

Der Inkle (1999)
When it came time to pay tribute to Marvel Comics' Greatest Inker, Joe Sinnott, who better to speak on his behalf than...Bing Crosby?? Whyfore Der Bingle and NOT der Thingle? Fret not--all is explained...

My Friendly Neighborhood Debut! (1977)
The very first Dateline:@#$% strip featured the ol' Web-head, Spider-Man himself, as cartoon Fred's initial guest--plus, the ungainly spectacle of our naively clueless host bad-mouthing several veteran cartoonists, all of whom most assuredly deserved considerably better treatment! (Particularly poor put-upon Don Heck, who I soon came to realize was a far better craftsman than I had ever given him credit for being!! Sorry, Don...)

A Flash In The Oven (...Is Worth Two In The Pan!) (1977)
My second Dateline:@#$% entry made my rep, folks! That's what happens when you're the very first one to tackle a hard-hitting topic like those Hostess Twinkie ads that were once the bane of every self-respecting super-hero's existence, exemplified here in the guise of a frantically flustered Flash! (Yes, its Barry Allen, friends--it WAS that long ago...)

The Spirit Of Batman Past (1980)
MY past, specifically, as I examine the effect Julie Schwartz' and Carmine Infantino's “New Look” Batman overhaul from back in 1964 had on me for the first--but not the last--time...

The Spirit of Batman Present (1978)
Well, it was pretty much the present state of affairs for the Caped Crusader when I did up this page, oh so long ago now (and take note of the odd style employed on ol' Bats head--now, THERE'S a little artistic trick that soon fell by the wayside!...).

The Spirit of Batman Future (1999)
The would be the star of “Batman Beyond”, folks. You know--the cartoon? That sure was one Dickens of a show, wasn't it?...

100 Panels? Unreal! (1979)
Fred takes an exhaustive look--yup, 100 panels worth--at the somewhat questionable concept of comic-book reality (essayed, I hasten to mention, back in the pre-CRISIS days, for all you sticklers out there).

That's Not A Bun In The Oven, That's A Baby! (1999)
Not long ago, DC Comics deemed a wildly slapstick story contributed by artist Kyle Baker to an ELSEWORLDS 80 PAGE GIANT so objectionable that they shredded the entire print run rather than suffer the overwhelming grief they anticipated upon it's publication--THAT'S the historical basis behind this particular strip. (Oh, and several years later, said story eventually turned up in a high-priced hardcover, actually going on to win all sorts of praise--AND awards!?! Ain't life funny?...)

Things Ain't What They COULDA Been, Ben... (early 1980s)
You and I would probably instantly realize that swilling down a magical potion offered up by a fellow by the name of Diablo is sure to come to absolutely no good whatsoever, but it took the hard way for our Fantastic friend, Ben Grimm, to learn this little life lesson!...

Dance With Me, Hal (1999)
When the Silver Age Green Lantern first burst upon the scene, one of his initial gimmicks was being known to readers far and wide as...The Dancing Super-Hero?!? Honest!...

The Prankster of Derby, Connecticut (1977)
This one-time only feature, buried in the back pages of the last issue of Charlton Comics THUNDERBOLT, still haunts me with it's unrealized potential. Plus, our hero had himself one way-cool outfit, lemme tell ya!...

The Ballad of Fred and Sonja (1999)
A fond reminiscence of perhaps the greatest of all CONAN THE BARBARIAN issues--and a not-quite as fond a reminiscence of a long-ago run-in with the talented pencil-pusher responsible for said story's glorious artwork!! (We love you, BWS, even if you DID lie to us, inadvertently or not...)

Hazel and Sabrina, the TV Witch (1999)
When cutie-pie sorceress Melissa Joan Hart bared a surprisingly large amount of flesh in a popular men's magazine, Archie Publications weren't the ONLY folks upset at this quasi-shocking development!...

The 12 Months of Marvel (1999)
Return with us now to a time when comics related merchandise was SO incredibly limited that one could actually get excited at the prospect of it's arrival in the stores! Geez, talk about turning the calendars back, huh?!?...

The Legion of Super-Heroes and John Forte Part 1 (2001)

The Legion of Super-Heroes and John Forte Part 2 (2001)
A thoughtful two-part discussion regarding the first--and most peculiar--artist to handle the LSH's regular feature within the pages of DC's ADVENTURE COMICS. And if you're at all curious to view the panel described towards the end of the pieces' second installment, just find your way over to the October 10th, 2003 entry of the "Fred Sez" section of to appreciate it in all it's blood-curdling glory...

Me Fred, You Tarzan ( ALSO cartoon...) (1999)

With the WB Network currently having yet another go at the celebrated Jungle Lord, we thought now might be a swell time to share with you Cartoon Fred's dialog with ERB's loin-clothed vine swinger at the outset of his LAST media incarnation, as an animated Disney cartoon crooner...

In The Zone (1979)
...but WHICH Zone exactly do our three Kryptonian criminals find themselves, in this gag that plays off the contrasting approach taken concerning that doomed planet by filmmakers versus comics creators. Plus, I get the rare opportunity to draw a more or less straight-ahead likeness!?! Mort Drucker, watch out!..

Drawing Miss Daisy (1999)
This interview with Al Capp's beautiful and buxom Daisy Mae Yokum elicits some peculiar childhood reminiscences from Cartoon Fred--as well as some fairly clumsy attempts at the well-known "Li'l Abner" style dialect...

In Search of Steve Ditko (1977
Fred searches out the mystery of the camera-shy cartoonist in this, one of his earliest appearances, mingling with the (usually) four-color folk.

More Cartoonists' Symbol Signatures (1979)
The legendary Harvey Kurtzman concocted a unique way of signing his work, and here, Fred offers other practitioners of the comics arts ideas for their own special scrawls!

JFK and the Three Ages of Superman (1982)
Back in 1982, Superman and the 36th president seemed to be involved in a sliding series of co-appearances, and this strip dared to predict doings way, way, in the future--all the way to the year 1989!!

Jughead, Pieface and Tubby: Blame the Name (1999)
Not every comics' character has a snappy--or appealing--name, as these three icons lament.

The Spirit of DC (Eisner, that is) (mid-eighties)
Famous for molding his logos into works of art, DC comics briefly took their cue from Will Eisner's Spirit splash pages as inspiration for some of their most striking covers.

Flash-Groans (mid-eighties)
A collection of gags dealing with Barry Allen and associates, mostly an excuse to draw speed lines and dole out creaky jokes.

Prez is a Four Letter Word (1999)
The original Prez had most fans swearing back during his short run in the early seventies. But his reappearance in a nineties Vertigo special managed to keep all the colorful cuss words right there on the page with him!?!...

Uncle Creepy's Lament (1978)
The host of Warren Publishing's ground-breaking Horror comic vents regarding the shameful neglect he was suffering in the pages of very magazine that he'd lent his name to--way, WAY back when he still HAD a magazine to be neglected in, y'know?!?...

I Love Logos (1979)
There's nothing more exciting than giant display lettering on the front of a comic book!! Well, okay, maybe there is, but for the purposes of this vintage strip, let's just make believe there ISN'T, okay? (Hmm, wonder what Kobra's up to these days?...)

Celebrating 25 Years of The Punisher (...oh, Joy...) (1999)
Cartoon Fred, never a big fan of the pistol packin' Punisher, nonetheless finds SOMETHING positive to tell Mr. Castle when he encounters him face to face--and you just may be surprised at what exactly it is!!

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