Redartz: What is it that brings us here to visit and debate each week? Quite simply, it's a fondness for discussing popular culture, be it comics, television, film or whatever. Waaaaaay back in the latest 70's, long before the availability of these convenient comics blogs, there arose a commentator. And not just a commentator; he was (and is today) a cartoonist, writer, humorist, and storyteller. His name is Fred Hembeck.
I first discovered Fred on the "Daily Planet" editorial pages of DC comics . His little comic strips featuring (and having some fun with) the company's cast of four color characters never failed to elicit a laugh from this reader. So when I saw the Hembeck name on some new magazines from Eclipse and Fantaco (on the shelf of my local comic shop, of course) I grabbed them up.
These books not only had comic strips, they also had 'interviews' with various comic characters (with the unmistakable persona of Fred himself doing the interviewing). There were cover reproductions, with Fred redrawing classic comic covers in his unique style. There were stories of Fred's comic fan history (often quite lengthy). And always, the material was covered in a lighthearted, conversational manner. Listening to (reading/watching?) Fred tell of his childhood comics was an exercise in nostalgia. He was describing things I (and many of you, probably) had thought and/or experienced. Kind of like a comics blog, but on paper and with only one speaker (no commenters).
A bit later, Fred was tapped by Marvel to give us all "Fantastic Four Roast", in honor of the FF's 20th. anniversary. Several years ago I did a post on this book over at Doug and Karen's Bronze Age Babies. For anyone interested, here's the link:
That story was a gem. And Hembeck later did more work for Marvel, including Spectacular Spider-Man 86, and even later both destroying and selling the Marvel Universe. His work in the years since can be found in many places, having done much more for numerous publishers and publications.
One of those publications is what prompted today's topic. "The Nearly Complete Essential Hembeck Archives Omnibus", published by Image Comics. A copy sat on the shelf at a bookstore last weekend when my wife and I stopped in to use Christmas gift cards. Not having been aware of this volume, and remembering Fred from years ago (those earlier volumes being sold off with the rest of my books years ago), that book was my pick for the day. And a good pick it was. The book lives up to it's name; it's gigantic. Omnibus is right, for those of you familiar with Marvel's various Omnibi. It's going to take a good while to read it all, so I've many weeks of light, amusing reading ahead.
Here's a few pages to give you a taste of Fred's trademark humor. Sorry about the scans, but have you ever tried putting an omnibus in a scanner?
So for any of you who also enjoy Fred's work, or are just now discovering it, let's hear your thoughts. And just in case you might be reading this, thanks Fred! You've got a way with words and pictures that makes the reader feel like an old pal visiting with you for a chat. Well done...