Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Happy Birthday, Fred Hembeck!

Today is comic-book fan extraordinaire Fred Hembeck's birthday! He was born on January 30, 1953, which means he is 60 years young!

I first came across Fred Hembeck's work in the late 70s, probably from THE COMIC JOURNAL. I know I ordered his first collection of strips, Dateline: Hembeck before he had gotten a semi-regular job drawing comic strips in DC Comics' monthly "Daily Planet" ads. I always liked his clean, silly style and his humor (when he was talking about characters I knew) was spot-on. To this day I think of two classic Hembeck works: The Super-Hero "Newlywed Game" sketch in HEMBECK 1980 and the essay comparing Superman to Elvis and the Fantastic Four to The Beatles in BAH, HEMBECK. Side-splitting on the one hand and then really deep, thought-provoking stuff on the other. 

I wrote a fan letter to Fred Hembeck back in the early 80s asking for a personal sketch of my favorite hero, Aquaman. He had commented somewhere that he liked Nick Cardy illustrations, but just didn't "get" Aquaman in the way that he did Superman or Spider-Man. He wrote back to this "Aquaman fanatic" and did indeed draw me a sketch. It was in a spot of pride in my Aquaman collection for years, but I've somehow mis-placed it in my moves to Japan and back.  This makes me sad just to write that. :-(

I stopped buying the Hembeck books with Hembeck #6 (aka Jimmy Olsen's Pal, Fred Hembeck) in 1981. I was reading fewer comics and busy with high-school stuff (I was editor of my school newspaper, I'll have you know). Fred's passion at looking *back* at comics was against my youthful looking *forward* of comics, and it felt natural to stop reading him. I do have on my "must buy" list the HEMBECK OMNIBUS, however. I feel Fred probably has a whole lot of fun things to say about comics over the past 30 years. 

I had the chance to meet Fred Hembeck at the Mid-Ohio Con a few years back. He seemed like a great guy, and I would have liked to have spent more time with him, but I was on a severe time constraint that year. I managed to get him to sign one of my books, but that was about it. The next time I see him I will definitely get another Aquaman sketch.

Happy Birthday, Fred Hembeck! 

...wherein super-hero couples appear on The Newlywed Game
A book-length essay about his loves of Superman and the FF

Hembeck will do various work for you on commission, such as re-drawing classic covers or re-imagining scenes, such as this Batman-Aquaman take-off of an actual Daredevil-Namor battle.

  Two characters who have never met, but should.

Hembeck's participation in the recent Hero Initiative JLA Collection

The actual Fred Hembeck with his monstrously large Archives Omnibus. 

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