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. 

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Happy Birthday, Kansas!

Today is the anniversary of Kansas being admitted to our United States of America.
Date of Admittance: January 29, 1861
Parentage: The name is said to be based on the Sioux word "konza,"  which means "people of the south wind."  
Place in the Family 
Number 34
Kansas was admitted immediately prior to the Civil War, 
just after Oregon (Feb 1859) and right before West Virginia (June 1863). 
"To The Stars Through Difficulties"
Kansas was admitted as a state in the midst of the pre-Civil War animosity that existed in the US; it was called "Bloody Kansas" for several years because of the battle over it being a Slave State or not. "difficulties" was always part of its nature. 
The Sunflower State
Little known fact: 75% of all US sunflowers come from Kansas. I'm kidding.

On the License Plate 
What is that, the state seal 
on its side?

State Flag
A blue flag with the state symbol in the center and the word "Kansas" at the bottom.
As I've said too many times already, I don't mind the seal so much,
but WHY do we need the name?! If you have to put your state's name on your
flag, you're doing something wrong.

First City You Probably Think of 
When You Think "Kansas" 
Kansas City
Actual State Capital:Topeka

State Size (Area) is 15th of 50
Population is closer to 32nd of 50
(per 2000 Census figures)

Kansas Sports: 
NFL (Kansas City Chiefs)
supposedly in Missouri, but I forgot them
back in August so here they are. Sorry? 

MLB (Kansas City Royals)

Anybody From Kansas
Ever Grow Up To Be President?
34th President Dwight Eisenhower was born in Texas but grew up in
Kansas and considered it his home.

Good vs Evil 
Erin Brockovich
real-life political activist

Westboro Baptist Church
God doesn't hate, but I do think He cries... 

Kansas Film Celebrities
Buster Keaton
comedian, "The General"

Hattie McDaniel
Academy Award-winning actress

Dennis Hopper
actor, "Easy Rider"

Annette Bening
actress, "The Kids Are All Right"

Historical Kansans
Russell Stover
founder born in Kansas
Amelia Earhart

Pizza Hut
founded in Wichita in 1958 

Bob Dole
former Senator & Presidential candidate

George Brett
MLB All-Star born in WV, but
played his entire career with the 

Kansas Literary Celebrities
Damon Runyon
"Guys & Dolls" stories

William Inge

Bill Martin, Jr
"Brown Bear, Brown Bear" 
Steve Lightle
comic-book artist

Kansas Musicians
Charlie Parker 
jazz great

"Carry On My Wayward Son"

Martina McBride
"This One's For The Girls"

Kansas TV Celebrities
Vivian Vance
actress, "I Love Lucy," "The Lucy Show"

Hugh Beaumont
actor, "Leave It To Beaver"

Madge Blake
actress, "Batman"

Jim Lehrer

George Murdock
actor, "Barney Miller," "Star Trek: TNG"

Jeff Probst
host, "Survivor"

Eric Stonestreet
actor, "Modern Family"

Fictional Kansans
Dorothy Gale
"We're not in Kansas any more!"

Elmer Gantry 
preacher in Sinclair Lewis novel

Matt Dillon
sheriff in Dodge City

Dennis the Menace
lives in Wichita

Mary Ann Summers
from Winfield
The Winchesters
"Supernatural" ghost-busters

A Song For You....
"Kansas City"
by Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller
performed by Wilbert Harrison
supposedly this is about Kansas City, Missouri
but since the lyrics never call it out, I call it fair

Happy Birthday, Aquaman!

According to the 1976 DC Calendar, January 29 is Arthur Curry's birthday. Of course, Arthur Curry is better known throughout the world as AQUAMAN. According to his publisher, DC Comics, today is his birthday, which makes him an Aquarius. I think that makes perfect sense. :-)
This is the second year that I have been doing this blog in January so that I could write about Aquaman's birthday. (Last year's article is available here.) Because this year it falls on TV Tuesday, I thought I would talk about Aquaman on television.

Aquaman has had three distinct TV appearances/versions. The first one was in 1968 when he was part of The Superman-Aquaman Hour.This version was produced by Filmation and featured the voice talents of Mark Miller, Jerry Dexter as Aqualad, and Ted Knight as most of the bad guys. Besides Aquaman and Aqualad, the series featured Tusky the walrus, Storm and Imp the sea-horses, and, in a few episodes, Aquaman's wife Mera. Bad guys featured were Black Manta, The Fisherman, The Torpedo, and Filmation-created The Brain and Vassaa, Queen of the Mermaids.
 This cartoon is most famous for having Aquaman wearing black boots, a look that never caught on. It's also where I first heard his name pronounced. I hadn't thought about it before seeing this, but I am definitely in the "ah-qua" pronunciation camp; Ted Knight and everyone here says "aa-qua," which always bothered me.

Aquaman's second run on television occurred between 1973 and 1980 when he was cast on ABC-TV's lead cartoon series, The Super Friends. Originally he was one of the five main stars (alongside Superman, Batman & Robin, and Wonder Woman) but by the end of the run he was just another also-ran, outdistanced by upstart "hip" characters like Firestorm and Cyborg. Still, he made quite an impression in pop culture; if you don't believe me, ask around if people have heard of him or not. Most people, especially of a certain age, know who he is. We have The Super Friends to thank (or blame) for that.

  by the end, Aquaman stands with them and is one of the two fighter pilots, but that's about it

And lastly, Aquaman was a semi-recurring guest star on the SMALLVILLE television series. This was his first live-action appearance anywhere; he was portrayed by Alan Ritchson. A.C. was a student in Florida who was close to being "an environmental terrorist" (in the words of Lex Luthor). This portrayal of the character was popular enough for the SMALLVILLE producers to create a pilot "AQUAMAN" series in 2006. In this AC was portrayed by Justin Hartley. The pilot did not sell, and Hartley became famous on SMALLVILLE as another super-hero, Green Arrow.

 Here's a link to AC's first appearance on SMALLVILLE because I couldn't find the hyper-link to You Tube.

There are rumors of a JUSTICE LEAGUE motion picture if the up-coming SUPERMAN movie is a success. We can only hope that we may one day see another non-comic book version of Aquaman.

Aquaman's wife, by the way, has her birthday two days from now. Mera was a royal princess from another dimension. She happened to see Aquaman and Aqualad in some sort of inter-dimensional viewer and was infatuated enough to come for a visit. They fell in love and got married: the first wedding for a super-hero in comic-book history (Mr. Fantastic & The Invisible Girl got married a year later). So what do you think: are they the same age, is he older, or is he younger

Monday, January 28, 2013

Happy Birthday, Amadeus! Rock Me!!

Yesterday January 27, 1756 was the 257th birthday of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. He is some obscure musician from Vienna. Perhaps you've heard of him.

My mother loves classical music and operas so we always had that type of music playing in the house. I do not have a whole lot of self-confidence when trying to recognize composers, but of the many that have any claim to fame I know Mozart, Beethoven, and Tchaikovsky the best. I saw the movie "Amadeus" several times when I lived in Japan and its soundtrack was the first classical music I ever bought.

At about the same time as the move "Amadeus" was winning eight Academy Awards (including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, and Best Art Direction) Austrian pop singer Falco co-wrote and recorded a song he called, "Rock Me Amadeus."   I heard this when I was in Japan and thought it was fantastic. For me, and probably for thousands of others, the movie and this song are inextricably linked.

So here's something for us all: a trailer from the movie, and the video of the song. Enjoy! 

 If you haven't seen this yet, you should borrow it from the library. It is an excellent film!

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Happy Birthday, Michigan!

Today is the anniversary of Michigan being admitted to our United States of America.
Date of Admittance: January 26, 1837

Parentage: The name is said to be based on the Ojibwa tribe's phrase "Mici Gama," which means "Great Water."  

Place in the Family 
Number #26
Michigan joined six months after Arkansas (June 1836) and eight years before Florida (March 1845)
"If you seek a beautiful peninsula, look around you"
Or, "What, do you not know what state this is?"  

The Wolverine State
Little known fact: the X-Men moved to Detroit temporarily in order to recruit Hugh Jackman. After he finally joined up, they moved to New England. 

On the License Plate
"Great Lakes Splendor" 

State Flag
A blue flag with the state symbol in the center.
What a busy seal! It features an elk, a moose, a bald eagle, a shield with a smaller illustration of an armed man on it, and two ribbons with three different slogans on it, plus the words "State Seal of Michigan" and the date of its adoption in Roman numerals! 

First City You Probably Think of 
When You Think "Michigan" 
Actual State Capital:Lansing

State Size (Area) is 11th of 50
Population is closer to 8th of 50
(per 2000 Census figures)

Michigan Sports:
NFL (Detroit Lions)

MLB (Detroit Tigers)

NBA (Detroit Pistons)

NHL (Detroit Red Wings)

Anybody From Michigan
Ever Grow Up To Be President?
38th President Gerald R. Ford was born in Nebraska
but grew up in Michigan and considered it his home.

President Ford is the only President to never be elected 
by the people; he was appointed VP when
Vice-President  Spiro Agnew resigned.  
Then he stepped up again when President Nixon resigned.
He then lost the job to President Carter in 1976. 

Michigan Film Celebrities
Charlton Heston
Academy Award-winning actor

Kim Hunter
Academy Award-winning actress

Ellen Burstyn
Academy Award-winning actress

Richard Kiel
actor, "The Spy Who Loved Me"

  Tom Hulce
actor, voice actor, "Amadeus"

John Hughes
director, writer, "16 Candles" etc

Michael Moore
director, political commentator

Bruce Campbell
actor, "Army of Darkness" etc

Taylor Lautner
actor, the "Twilight" movies

Michigan Musicians
Bill Haley & His Comets
"Rock Around The Clock"

Jackie Wilson
"Lonely Teardrops" etc

Smokey Robinson & The Miracles
"Tears Of A Clown" etc

The Marvelettes
"Please Mr. Postman"

Mary Wells
"My Guy"

Stevie Wonder
"Part-Time Lover" etc

writers/producers extraordinaire
(Lamont Dozier and brothers 
Brian & Eddie Holland)

Martha & The Vandellas
"Heat Wave" etc

The Temptations
"My Girl" etc

The Four Tops
"I Can't Help Myself" etc

The Supremes 
"Stop In The Name of Love" etc

Aretha Franklin
First Lady of Soul

The Spinners
"I'll Be Around"

Alice Cooper
"School's Out"

Ted Nugent
"Cat Scratch Fever"
Bob Seger
"Old Time Rock & Roll" etc

"Vogue" etc

Glenn Frey
The Eagles, "The Heat Is On"

Kid Rock
"All Summer Long"

The White Stripes
"Fell In Love With A  Girl"

Michigan TV Celebrities
Ed McMahon
emcee, "The Tonight Show"

Wally Cox
actor, "Mr. Peepers," "Underdog"

Grace Lee Whitney
actress, "Star Trek"

Danny & Marlo Thomas
"Make Room For Daddy"
"That Girl"

Dick Martin
comedian, "Laugh In"

Lily Tomlin
comedienne, "Laugh In," "9 to 5"

Harry Morgan
actor, "Dragnet," "MASH"

Bob Eubanks
host, "The Newlywed Game"

Sonny Bono
actor/singer, "Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour"

David Wayne
actor, "Batman," "Ellery Queen"

Robert Wagner
actor, "Switch," "Hart to Hart"

Gilda Radner
comedienne, "Saturday Night Live"

Max Gail
actor, "Barney Miller"

Pam Dawber
actress, "Mork & Mindy"

David Spade
comedian/actor, "Saturday Night Live"

Terry O'Quinn
actor, "LOST"

Other Famous Michiganers
Charles Lindbergh
aviation pioneer

Malcolm X

Berry Gordy
founder, Motown Records

Casey Kasem
DJ,voice-actor on
"Scooby Doo" & "Super Friends"

Christie Brinkley

Mitt Romney

Michigan Comic Creators
Jim Starlin
Captain Marvel, Warlock

William Messner-Loebs
Flash, Wonder Woman

Dan Miskin
co-creator, Amethyst and Blue Devil,
organizer, Kids Read Comics

Mike Manley
co-creator, Darkhawk

David S. Goyer
JSA, "Batman Begins"

Geoff Johns
JSA, The Flash, Aquaman, JLA

Michigan Companies




A Song For You....
"Dancing In The Streets" 
by Martha & The Vandellas
There are (literally) thousands of Michigan songs to choose from, 
but if you were to try to get something close to a "perfect" 
Motown song, this one would come awfully close! 
Besides, it was written by Detroiters 
performed by Detroiters, AND 
it mentions Detroit in the lyrics!