Archive for the ‘Rocco Nigro’ Category


It my friend Fred’s birthday. Not quite sure what new to say, so let me (mostly) recapitulate:

Fred Hembeck is a comic book artist/cartoonist/storyteller whose narratives often involve superheroes interacting with a character named Fred Hembeck. His early work was compiled in a magazine published by Eclipse Comics, which I remember purchasing at a comic book store in Greenwich Village in New York City in 1979.
Fred’s second collection was published by FantaCo Enterprises of Albany, NY, and I met Fred at the store in February 1980 at a signing, a couple months before I would end up working at FantaCo myself. Eventually, Fred would do seven Hembeck publications with FantaCo, including an expanded version of that first Eclipse edition.

Fred would also grab the attention of both Marvel and DC. For the former, he did the Fantastic Four Roast, with Fred MCing the event. He’s possibly best know, though, for Fred Hembeck Destroys the Marvel Universe, where Fred…well, what the title says.

During this, Fred and I became friends, with shared passions for the Who, the Beach Boys, and especially the Beatles, and also television and other popular culture.
But when Fred and his wife Lynn Moss moved out of the area, I lost track of him. I know I learned about the birth of their daughter Julie in 1990 secondhand, and quite possibly a couple years after the fact.

But I’d keep tabs on Fred through various sources from time to time.Fast forward to October 2004. I’m at the Book House in Stuyvesant Plaza in Albany, where I see Fred’s and my mutual friend, going back to the FantaCo days, Rocco Nigro. Rocco says, “Have you seen Fred’s blog?” Well, no, but in point of fact, I had never seen ANYONE’S blog. I had HEARD of blogging, but like most people who had heard of it but had never seen it, I had poo-pooed it out of hand. When I actually READ Fred’s blog, however, I was captivated. Not only did I read it every day, I read all of the stories he had written from the very beginning of his blog back in January 2003. His voice was right there; it was as though he were talking to me back in the day.
Eventually, I contacted Fred and we established an e-mail friendship. I suggested a couple ideas for some blog pieces, which he used.

I also looked at his blogroll. Having gotten totally out of comics since 1994, I started reading and eventually following comic blogger folks such as Mike Sterling, Greg Burgas and Lefty Brown, all with whom I have some contact to this day.
Then I came across the now late comic book writer Steve Gerber’s blog on Fred’s blogroll and that pushed me into starting my OWN blog on May 2, 2005, which Fred generously plugged more than once that first year or two. So to say that Fred is responsible for me blogging would not be an overstatement.

Somewhere along the way, Fred and I decided to meet. There’s a MidSummer’s party in upstate New York my wife and I have attended frequently. so, for about three years in a row – but not, alas, in 2009 – the day after the party, we’d travel over to Fred & Lynn’s house for the afternoon. Fred and I would speak in some blogging and pop culture shorthand that occasionally left our wives mystified.
Ever since the folks at Image put out THE NEARLY COMPLETE ESSENTIAL HEMBECK ARCHIVES OMNIBUS in the spring of 2008, I’ve seen Fred at various comic book shows, once in Saratoga Springs, but usually in Colonie, both near Albany. Frankly, seeing Fred is the primary reason for going, along with our friend Rocco; I might even have an ADD sighting.

I do wish Fred had time to blog more often. He was a daily guy for a number of years, but he’s only posted six times the first 28 days of this month. But he’s had a good reason: he’s been compiling a new feature on his blog: Hey, Did I Tell You About That MOVIE I Saw Recently? Fred’s probably seen more movies in the past 10 months than I’ve seen in the past 10 years.

The best thing about today is that, for the next five weeks, Fred is older than I am!
So go to his page, buy his book (900 pages for $25; the FantaCo stuff is only about a quarter of it) or purchase some artwork, and then go draw a squiggle on your knee – no, the real Fred does NOT have them.
Happy birthday, effendi!

One of the things Fred and I have done in the 21st Century is to make mixed CDs to exchange. Four that Fred did focus on the late 1960s and early 1970s, and I played them all this week. One interesting song, in no way a reflection of Fred himself, of course, is King Crimson’s 21st Century Schizoid Man.


ROG


My friend Dan really cracked me up, when, in his comment to my NaBloPoMo post, he described my blog as one of the “Breakfast Blogs. That what I call blogs like yours, Roger. ‘For today’s post I’m going to tell you what I had for breakfast this morning! I had exactly what I told you I had for breakfast in yesterday’s post, but today I also had a big glass of orange juice! Let me tell you how that came about!’ etc.”

For the record, I can recall noting my breakfast habits five times in four and a half years, twice in my dedication to cold cereal, especially mixed; one about maple syrup; and a couple times in response to a meme question. OK, and once in answer to this question. That’s about once every nine months.

And it’s fine that he has a more “slow cooking” blog. Frankly, if I wrote as infrequently as he does, I’m afraid I wouldn’t write anything at all. I have so many ideas, or at least pieces of ideas floating around in my head at any given time.
***
What I will tell you is that I went to a comic book show on Sunday, well described by Fred Hembeck here (November 3). Had a grand old time talking with Fred, his wife Lynn Moss, John Hebert and his wife and mother, Bill Anderson, Joe Staton and especially Rocco Nigro. But what Fred and Rocco and I all said at different points was, “Where’s Alan David Doane?” He plugged the event in his blog and then no one saw him there. Maybe he was incognito in one of those Watchman or Star Wars costumes; one really can’t tell much about a person in a Darth Vader outfit.
***
I’ve been at a State Data Center Affiliates meeting Wednesday, Thursday and will be today, learning a lot about the 2010 Census, the American Community Survey. and other Census products. I know the Census people really can’t say this, but I can: if you don’t want some intrusive government person coming to your house, fill out the form and return it right away. The decennial form next year is 10 questions, 10 minutes. Expect me to bore you with this regularly until at least mid-April.
***
I TOLD you the Yankees would beat the…Cardinals I TOLD you the Yankees would win the World Series. Didn’t see an inning of it live; mostly caught the highlights.
***
I’m really pleased to announce that I received an acceptance letter this week for the proposal I submitted for Underground Railroad History Project of the Capital Region, Inc. 9th annual conference in February. I’ll talk more about it as it gets closer, but I’ve been a big fan of Paul and Mary Liz Stewart’s work on this for years.

ROG

Sometimes I see October 9 creeping up on the calendar and have not much to say past “Happy birthday, John.” This year, though, as a result of the 09/09/09 VH1 Classic extravaganza, there were a couple Lennon-related items worthy of noting, neither of which I had ever seen before.

One was a live concert in New York City in 1972, a benefit for the mentally handicapped (the preferred term in the day). It was odd, though. It all SOUNDED particularly familiar, such as him referring to his old group as the Rolling Stones. That’s because I own the album that was released posthumously in 1986; I have it on vinyl, perhaps one of the last LPs I ever bought. A photo of Lennon given to me by my friend Rocco was almost certainly from the same set of concerts. (Yes, the same Rocco who gets a mention in Love & Rockets 40.)

VH1 bleeped a couple words in the concert, one of them a pronoun. One was in the title of Woman Is the N***** of the World, which was excised several times. The other word was from Well Well Well. In the line, “She looked so beautiful, I could eat her,” the “her” was clipped. The interesting thing about the technology is that it didn’t affect the backing track, only the vocal track.

Something that I DIDN’T know until recently is that there were two concerts. And Elephant’s Memory, John and Yoko’s backing band, was reportedly really ticked off with Yoko Ono, believing she should have released the music from the tighter second concert rather than the first. A few of those second show performances appear on the box set Lennon Anthology. John messes up the lyrics to Come Together in both.

Here’s a performance of Instant Karma, followed by Mother.

The other item I saw was the 2006 feature film, the U.S. vs. John Lennon, which chronicled the development of John Lennon’s evolution from moptop to the famous/infamous “The Beatles are more popular than Jesus” comment to John & Yoko on the cover of Two Virgins. But ultimately, he was recognized as a political creature – black activist Angela Davis, e.g., took notice of the Beatles song Revolution. Many may have thought John and Yoko’s bagism and bed-ins were silly; John didn’t seem to care. Yet “Give Peace a Chance”, recorded at the Montreal bed-in, became as much the antiwar anthem as “We Shall Overcome” was the anthem for the civil rights movement.

Post-Beatles, John and Yoko’s activism became more pointed, hanging out with Abbie Hoffman, Jerry Rubin, and Bobby Seale (who appears in the film). When John was seemingly successful in freeing activist John Sinclair, the Nixon White House became concerned about the 1972 election, especially given the passage of the 26th Amendment allowing 18-year-olds the right to vote for the first time nationally.

What to do? Based on a suggestion by Senator Strom Thurmond, the Nixon White House decided to try to deport John Lennon. The basis was a marijuana conviction that lots of pop stars in England had been subjected to, all performed by one overzealous officer.

The twists and turns of that four-year journey are fascinating, especially as told by among others, Walter Cronkite, Mario Cuomo, John Dean, Ron Kovic, George McGovern, Gore Vidal, and Geraldo Rivera, who had broken the story of the abuses in the mental health system, and was MC for the One to One concerts. Most interesting, though, was Watergate convict G. Gordon Liddy, who freely confirmed that the Nixon White House WAS out to get John.

October 9, 1975 was not only John’s 35th birthday, it was the date of Sean Lennon’s birth AND the day their immigration lawyer Leon Wildes informs John that he’d won the case. In some ways, I think the movie should have ended there. Instead, we get happy scenes of John, Yoko and Sean for a few minutes, followed by four gunshots. It seemed tacked on, though Yoko’s only complaint was that the bullets should have been louder.

Still I learned a LOT in this film that I did not know. Recommended. Here’s the trailer.

ROG

As pop culture goes, my participation in same was pretty dismal. But I’m going to plod on and describe the highlights.

COMICS
Last month, the Comic Reporter asked its readers to “Name Five Memorable Comics-Related Things About 2008 (A Book You Read, An Experience You Had, An Event That Made You Take Notice — Anything That Would Help You In The Future Recall This Year.” I failed to participate there, but I will here.

1a. Fred Hembeck’s book came out, and I’m mentioned in the thank yous; I like seeing my name in print, what can I say? This also meant that I actually went to more comic-related shows (three) than I have in a while. At two of them, I saw Fred.
1b. At one of those shows, someone actually asked ME to sign some FantaCo Chronicles I worked on 25 years ago. What an ego boost!
1c. I also saw my friend Rocco Nigro, and re-met the inestimable Alan David Doane, who was probably an annoying teenager last I had seen him, rather than the charmer he is now.

2. Someone put out a Wikipedia page for FantaCo, a place I worked for 8.5 years, this summer. Frankly, the page was awful, riddled with errors and omissions. Fortunately, the guy contacted me, and it became the mission of mine and of my old buddy Steve Bissette to rectify the record; the thing is not perfect, but it’s a WHOLE lot better. The incident also gave me a chance to get in contact with former FantaCo owner Tom Skulan for the first time in nearly a decade.

3. Reading Kirby: King of Comics by Mark Evanier. It explained a lot about Jack’s motivation the times I dealt with him on the phone in the early 1980s.

4. The deaths of Steve Gerber in 2008, who unbeknowst to him helped inspire this blog, and of Raoul Vezina, 25 years ago.

5. Freddie and Me by Mike Dawson, which, among other things, made me want to listen to more of the music of the group Queen.

MUSIC
I got maybe a dozen 2008 albums all year, by Lindsay Buckingham, Elvis Costello, Randy Newman, REM, She and Him, Brian Wilson, Lizz Wright, a couple others plus the MOJO take on the Beatles’ white album. I liked them all at some level, but the even snarlkier than usual Newman album “stuck” the most. More old fogey music I received for Christmas and haven’t heard enough to judge: Paul McCartney, James Taylor and Johhny Cash. The latter is a 40th anniversary double CD/DVD box set of his Folsom Prison concerts; just on a quick listen, I’m happy to hear the Carl Perkins and Statler Brothers tunes for the first time.

MOVIES
A paltry number of 2008 pics so far: Iron Man (my favorite), Young@Heart, Man on Wire, Vicki Cristina Barcelona, and Synecdoche, New York. Three of them, IM, MoW and VCB made the Top 10 list at the WSJ along with WALL-E, Slumdog Millionaire and a bunch of other films I will try to see.
Yes, I did see some 2007 films in 2008 and I will undoubtedly see some 2008 films in 2009. Still, five is worse than the seven I saw last year, and catching up on video just doesn’t seem to happen, not that it’s entirely comparable anyway.

TELEVISION

Oh, heck, TV deserves its own posting. Thanks to technology, it’s about the only thing I have even a modicum of a chance to (barely) keep up with.

ROG


Every year, I go to Free Comic Book Day, and every year, I get assaulted by some superfolks. This year, FCBD is this Saturday, May 3rd. Hope I survive.

BTW, to prepare for FCBD, I went to this show this past weekend and saw my old compatriots Rocco Nigro, Bill Anderson and John Hebert. AND I finally ran into ADD; he DOES exist! He’s written a nice account of our meeting here.
And I even won a drawing for a copy of Iron Man #97, “The Return of the Guardsman”. Almost certainly, I owned this comic book once upon a time – all those Marvels with the 30-cent cover price I would have been buying perforce – but without looking inside, I just don’t remember The Guardsman at all.

ROG

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