Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Buried Treasures: Fred Hembeck

Karen: Certainly a staple of the mid to late Bronze Age was Fred Hembeck, who lovingly made fun of both DC and Marvel. Hembeck's style was unique and instantly recognizable (the little swirls on the elbows and knees always got me) and he certainly had a thorough knowledge of comics history.

He had books published by Fantaco, like this one I found in the garage, as well as one-shot issues at Marvel, and features in different Marvel books. I'm not so sure if he had work published at DC -anyone? 

This particular issue of "Dial H for Hembeck" from 1983 has an editorial from Fred praising the decision to kill off Captain Marvel, a funny article about conveniently ignored Superman/Superboy stories, a couple of pages of "The Many Faces of Jimmy Olsen" (it seems like he must have been transformed into something every other issue), a lot of one-page jokes about different characters, and at the end, a four page remembrance of comedian Soupy Sales. Interestingly, Hembeck draws Sales in a realistic manner -and it's quite good.

 I used to enjoy seeing Hembeck's work pop up in Marvel books. Any thoughts on Hembeck?


William said...

Hembeck's stuff is just another reminder of how comics used to actually be FUN.

I always enjoyed Fred's sense of humor and unique funny artwork. His stuff was definitely a product of those times, when comics were accessible to everyone, and didn't take themselves so deadly serious.

I don't think there would be room for his light and breezy brand of storytelling in today's market. At least I haven't seen any of his work in quite a long time.

Redartz said...

Hembeck was indeed fun. Those cartoons he filled his books with had a great balance of humor and trivia. The Fantastic Four Roast he wrote was hilarious! And Fred was plenty capable of humor at his own expense: his segment in the Spirit Jam (a classic in itself) shows Fred starting on one of his nostalgic monologues only to be told by an adjacent bystander "...Who really cares, you know?"...

J.A. Morris said...

I'm a huge fan of Hembeck's work, I strongly recommend this reprint collection:

Hembeck has a nice Tumblr page where he uploads new and "classic" art:

david_b said...

Hmmm, I will agree with William that it's 'light and breezy', but it's alway struck me as 'slacker art'..

My 20something nephew used to draw the same stuff in his highschool notebook all the time. Millions of other kids did as well, I'm assuming.

In terms of funny drawings/comic satire, I'd stick with the likes of Mort Drucker (MAD) and Marie Severin (Not Brand Echh), who actually knew how to draw satire on a more sophisticated and satisfying level.

- David 'Yep, sitting cozy in the minority again' from sunny yet chilly Milwaukee

Edo Bosnar said...

I like Hembeck, too.
And Karen, yes, he did have work published at DC. In fact, that was where I first saw his work: he had a regular strip in Direct Currents (you know, the DC version of the Bullpen Bulletins that appeared in most of their comics in the late '70s/early '80s).

Anonymous said...

I mainly remember Hembeck from the Direct Currents (aka Daily Planet) page in Superman Family and/or World's Finest ca. 1980. He had a three-panel gag strip that spoofed DC characters, usually with silly puns (e.g., "Man-Bat has hired a butler named Fred-Al").

As interviewer Daniel Best said, if you take comics too seriously, you are probably not a fan of Hembeck.

WardHillTerry said...

I LOVE Hembeck! I was so excited to find this collection and others at the first comic convention I attended! This book is a collection of his pieces from magazines. I learned a lot of silver-age comics history form these pieces. David B. these pieces are illustrated articles about favorite stories, covers, etc. with personal reminiscences. He would also conduct "interviews" with various comics characters asking them about current storylines and which writers and artists they preferred to depict them. Another Fantaco book is Abbott & Costello Meet the Bride of Hembeck where various DC, Marvel, Archie, and other characters meet and interact in a kind of limbo where they know they are comic book characters. His DC work included not only his strip in The Daily Planet coming attractions page, but also Zoot Sputnick! That was the comic book within a comic book in 'Mazing Man. You never read 'Mazing Man? Fun comics! As a certain Little Stuffed Bull says, " Comics Ought To Be Fun!"

Anonymous said...

Hembeck's art never really grabbed me, but I liked his writing; his jokes are usually pretty funny (and accurate).

Mike W.

sleek said...

Always loved the Hembeck...he was one of the first "artifacts" of comic fandom that let me know there were other people out there who enjoyed them in the way I did.

These kids these days, what with their intranets and stuff, don't understand that you didn't even know there WERE like-minded individuals back-in-the-day.

I first saw Hembeck's stuff in THE COMIC of the great early comics 'zines, (also presented the early fanboy work of Mike Mignola), and his stuff about killed me.

pfgavigan said...

One of my absolute favorite Hembeck moments was in his regular feature in that Marvel Age mag.

In this installment Chris Claremont is explaining his latest plot to Shooter. It revolves around Scott and Madelyne Summers honeymoon in Arizona and how Cyclops lingering guilt over the death of Jean Grey has caused the local community to become a single psychic entity determined to murder the couple.

Everything culminates with a frantic phone call to Xavier's school and a desperate cry for rescue.

"Help!! Dark Phoenix is trying to destroy us !!"

Humorous and a much better plot idea than many of the ones employed at Marvel nowadays.


Anonymous said...

I first saw his art in the Chronicles line that FantaCo published. And I saw his stuff in Marvel Age. Why do I recall someone with a bucket on his head holding a mop?

The Prowler (When I get off of work on Friday after working like a dog all week I go to meet the boys for a cold one at a little joint up the street they got a jukebox in the corner full of old country tunes feed it five dollars worth of quarters is the first thing I always do).

Dr. Oyola said...

I LOVE Hembeck, and I think his art is deceivingly simply - there is a lot of detail in his "cartoony" work.

Fred W. Hill said...

When I first came across Hembeck's work, I didn't quite get it at first, unable to get past the "primitive" art, but eventually I came around and loved his informed commentary and amusing style. Quite enjoyed his FF Roast.

Robert L said...

Fred Hembeck is a favorite of mine from way back in the 1970's. I intend to get the omnibus of all his comics. Unlike today where the heroes are all super serious and dark, Hembeck added that element of fun that comics do not have today. I wish that he was still drawing his Spider Man parody, The Amazing Spider Ham.

I really wish that there were new Hembeck comics today because I'd be interested to see what he thinks about the current state of the comic industry.

jim kosmicki said...

Fred started in The Buyer's Guide - the newspaper tabloid era, well before it became the Comics Buyer's Guide. And he has reprinted pages of his more traditional art style that he submitted to Marvel before his cartoony style became well known.

He also is a regular on eBay selling custom drawn trading cards of various comics characters at bargain prices.

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