Fred Hembeck is 70

What the World Needs Now

Fred HembeckI first met Fred Hembeck at FantaCo, the comic book store at 21 Central Avenue in Albany, NY, in February 1980. That was about three months before I would work there.   The occasion was a signing for Hembeck 1980, published by FantaCo.

But I knew his work from the weekly strips that he did for the Buyer’s Guide to Comic Fandom.  Here’s a brief review by former Marvel editor Tom Brevoort, who nails what I liked about his work.

“Hembeck was great–he had an appealing style, he didn’t take the subject matter too seriously (and simultaneously took it very, very seriously, a dichotomy I could appreciate), and he was a like a comic book archaeologist, digging through old issues to find weird and forgotten stories to spotlight.”

Fred created seven Hembeck magazines with FantaCo, He also made some spot illos for other FantaCo pubs, including the three FantaCo Chronicles I edited. We also became friends. A few years later, he moved from Rensselaer County downstate, and we lost touch for a while.

Then in 2004 – and I’ve mentioned this before – our mutual friend Rocco asked if I had read Fred’s blog. I had never read ANYONE’S blog. But I devoured his writings going back to January 2003.

Eventually, I would send Fred blog ideas or questions, and my name started appearing in his columns, starting in January 2005.

Around the same time, we exchanged CD mixes. His were more eclectic than mine, featuring discs of Andy Williams, Robbie Williams, and Beatles covers. His discs of 1960s tunes were epic.

In time, I decided that I’d start my blog. Fred plugged it. Moreover, I visited his extensive blog roster, checked out some of those folks, and commented on their blogs. That’s how I “met” Lefty, Gordon, Eddie, and even Greg.

Visit

Then my family started being in his general neighborhood once each summer. So from 2006 to 2013, my wife, daughter, and I would visit his family, a grand time in which Fred and I would philosophically muse about media.

He tends to stay with television programs he started with to the end, whereas I will give up. We were both describing the same song but remembering different parts: What the World Needs Now/Abraham, Martin, and John by Tom Clay.

These days, I tend to see him at the Albany Comic Con when I can make it, which was impacted by COVID. I should note that Fred does NOT have squiggles where his elbows and knees should be, though his comic book persona does.

So now Fred is older than I am, for about five weeks. Happy birthday, effendi.

Happier Now Sunday Stealing

Hembeck, ADD, AmeriNZ, Forgotten Stars

happier nowThe Happier Now Sunday Stealing questions this week are all over the place.

What flavor Popsicle is the best?

I haven’t had Popsicles in years. But I remember that I favored grape, lime, cherry, and orange, in approximately that order.

Do you have a DVR feature with your cable?

Yes, and increasingly it’s the ONLY way I can watch television. It’s not only much faster – JEOPARDY! in 18 minutes – but I also get to avoid the plethora of advertisements for prescription drugs that are ubiquitous on American television. I’ve been told, and someone can correct me, that the ads are banned everywhere except in the US and New Zealand.

How many drawers does your dresser have?

Five. Or not nearly enough.

Is your closet a mess?

Actually, I have an armoire. After our daughter was born, the room with a large closet became her bedroom for a time. Now it’s my wife’s office. So no.

Have you ever solved a Rubik’s Cube?

No, but I haven’t tried in decades.

Describe your favorite pair of pajama pants:

They’re blue and have moose on them.

What color is your wallet?

The brown color of probably faux leather.

Do you find flea markets and thrift shops enjoyable?

Not really. The cost (of time)/benefit (the find) is too unbalanced. Sorry, Eddie.

AMAZING

Have you met amazing people online?

Yes. I could write a whole blog post on this topic. When I first started blogging in 2005, I followed my friend Fred Hembeck’s now-defunct but still extant blog. I met a slew of great folks there, including Lefty, Gordon, the aforementioned Eddie, and even Greg.

I discovered the late Dustbury, who died in 2019. So I know fillyjonk because I knew Charles Hill.

I stumbled upon Denise Nesbitt’s ABC Wednesday, which I participated in for about a decade. I met Leslie and many other fine folks.

The local newspaper, the Times Union, used to have a blog platform. I still follow folks such as Chuck Miller and J. Eric Smith, the latter of whom is no longer in the area.   

Then there are people for whom I have NO idea how I “met” them, such as  Arthur and Kelly.

This doesn’t count all of the people I’ve become reacquainted with, including Steve Bissette,  Alan David Doane, and a bunch of folks on Facebook.

Between the lines

Would you be happy if I colored a picture for you?

Only if it’s better than I would draw for myself, which is almost certainly going to be true.

What show do you think ‘made’ the 90’s?

Law and Order, The Simpsons, Saturday Night Live, NYPD Blue… I think I’m supposed to say Seinfeld or Friends.

Are you happier now than you were last year?

Yes, because 2021 was too COVIDy. An odd observation, I suppose, since I actually GOT COVID in August 2022. But I’ve gone to a few movies, attended plays, eaten at a few restaurants, and participated in the church choir in 2022.

What are you currently drinking?

Not alcohol, and that’s about calories, not any other consideration. Arnold Palmer.

Do you trust people easily?

Not especially. I don’t DISTRUST people out of hand, but when they’ve betrayed me, I always remember. I can forgive, but I seldom forget.

What are you looking forward to in the next three months?

My daughter will be home from her first semester of college.

What if the FantaCo Chronicles had continued?

We did magazines about the X-Men (Dave Cockrum cover, edited by me), Fantastic Four (John Byrne cover, mine), Daredevil (Frank Miller cover, edited by Mitch Cohn), the Avengers (George Perez cover, Mitch’s), and Spider-Man (Byrne cover, mine).

spider-man chroniclesAlan David Doane, who was a regular customer at FantaCo, the comic book store/publisher where I worked from 1980-1988 asked:

If you could have edited five more FantaCo Chronicles volumes, what comics/characters would you have chosen, who would be the main interview subject in each, and who would you have chosen to draw the covers?

First, a review: we did magazines about the X-Men (Dave Cockrum cover, edited by me), Fantastic Four (John Byrne cover, mine), Daredevil (Frank Miller cover, edited by Mitch Cohn), the Avengers (George Perez cover, Mitch’s), and Spider-Man (Byrne cover, mine).

I was happy to get almost anyone good to do the covers. Owner/publisher Tom Skulan didn’t want Cockrum to do the X-Men cover, not out of artistic taste. He believed Dave was also doing that Official Marvel Index cover for the X-Men. We tried getting several others, including Wendy Pini of Elfquest fame.

Byrne was great for the FF front cover, but Perez was late for the back, which is why the front and back were the same, and for no additional charge. Miller was supposed to do Spider-Man but he found that he could not, and Byrne did that cover extremely fast.

After getting chewed out by Marvel’s Jim Shooter, we were steering away from doing any more of their titles. In fact, a Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers Chronicles (and other “underground” titles) was even announced but never released; that would have certainly been edited by Mitch Cohn.

I was in early conversations with Denis Kitchen about doing something with Kitchen Sink Enterprises, which surely would have been driven by Will Eisner’s Spirit.

To your question about future Chronicles:

The Defenders, with an emphasis with Doctor Strange. Writer Steve Gerber, for sure. Cover by Sal Buscema.

Captain America and Iron Man, who of course, shared Tales of Suspense; this would make indexing easier. Cap writer Steve Englehart; I LOVED that run. Cover by John Buscema.

Characters related to the Fantastic Four: Silver Surfer, the Inhumans and Black Panther, for sure. She-Hulk? Luke Cage? Oh, what the heck – Stan Lee. Cover by Byrne.

The Hulk and Sub-Mariner, who were in Tales to Astonish for a time. Bill Bixby, because I was a big fan of My Favorite Martian. Cover by Herb Trimpe.

Thor plus any Avengers not covered – Ant-Man/Giant Man, et al. The underrated Marie Severin. Walt Simonson turned the Thunder God upside down.

Of course, I have no idea if I could GET any of those artists, save for Byrne. Maybe we would have asked Fred Hembeck, who was friends with a number of artists in the Mid-Hudson. And he could have done a great take on Tales to Astonish #100.

R is for Ramblin’ with Roger

Steve Gerber, comic book writer extraordinaire, posted about writing in April 2005, essentially saying, “Writers write.”

Since I just hit my 13th anniversary of writing this here Ramblin’ with Roger blog thing, I’d thought I’d describe why I do it.

I’ve mentioned before that my friend Fred Hembeck had started a blog, that friend Rocco had tipped me off to same, and that I read everything Fred wrote, which meant going back about two years.

And Fred was prolific. He wrote every day, usually pieces a lot longer than I write currently. Then I would comment on his blog, and he would mention me therein. I gave him a couple ideas; for instance, I found a page of record album covers based on other album covers, which still exists.

So I thought, maybe I could do this myself. But what would I write ABOUT? I only had two topics that I KNEW I would have to cover. One was the Daughter, who was a little over a year old. I said to myself when she was born that I would write about her in a baby book that people give to parents of newborns, where you track when the child first crawls and walks and gets the first tooth.

There is incontrovertible evidence that I was TERRIBLE at this exercise. Instead, I would write about her every month, on the 26th. And I have, every month, although it’s often been as much about ME having a daughter after I’m five decades old.

The other topic was my appearances on the game show JEOPARDY. It was taped in September 1998 and was broadcast in November, and I was afraid the details were starting to fade.

I started writing in my Blogger blog on May 2, 2005, and I have written every day, at least once a day. In the early days, it was tough because Blogger didn't let me schedule posts. I remember writing at a library in Lake Placid during a break in a work conference.

I was inspired by what the late Steve Gerber, comic book writer of Howard the Duck, Man-Thing, the Defenders, and other Marvel comics I loved, posted about writing in April 2005, essentially saying, “Writers write.”

Oh, the duck. At FantaCo, I was editing something called X-Men Chronicles. I had extra pages to fill, and so Smilin’ Ed artiste Raoul Vezina and I pieced together a story about the rodent buying a case of a popular comic book. I appeared as a duck because… well, I don’t know.

Around that time, Raoul drew the duck for my friend Lynne. In 2010, when I was getting my own URL, Lynne’s husband Dan, who recognized me from the caricature when he met me on the street back in 1985, scanned the drawing, and I have used it ever since, on the Ramblin’ with Roger blog, Twitter, and Facebook.

For ABC Wednesday

13 years – feeling lucky, blogger?

Roger Green, strolling the streets of Albany, talking about the weather.

After 13 years, I think blogging is easy. There are 365 days. My birthday. My two sisters’ birthdays. My parents’ birthdays, the anniversary of their marriage, and the anniversaries of their deaths. 12 posts about The Daughter, always on the 26th of the month. Music throwback – another 52.

Various holidays – a dozen more. ABC Wednesday – 52 posts. Birthday people who turn 70 – 3 score and 10. There were 21, but some became music throwbacks, so let’s say 12 additional. That’s roughly 170 posts right there. All I need is another 185. Easy-peasy.

Blogging is hard. I have no skill, and frankly little interest, in the backside of the blog, how it works. So when it doesn’t work, for reasons mysterious and frustrating, makes me wanna holler, to quote Marvin Gaye. Dustbury has been gracious and helpful and gracious in this regard.

Blogging is convenient. When I’m on Facebook and having a conversation about a movie I’ve seen or an issue I care about, it’s easier to reply with a link to a blog post I’ve already written rather than answering on the fly.

Blogging is a community. I’ve discovered a bunch of other bloggers over the years. My friend Fred Hembeck, when he was blogging, had a sidebar. That’s how I was introduced to comic book fans such as Lefty Brown, Greg Burgas, and Eddie Mitchell; maybe SamauraiFrog, as well. I was reintroduced to my old buddy, former Swamp Thing artist, Steve Bissette, who had done work for FantaCo, the comic book shop/publisher I worked for in the 1980s.

Somehow I connected with other people I didn’t know, from Jaquandor at the other end of the Erie Canal, to AmeriNZ, on the other side of the globe. Mrs. Nesbitt started ABC Wednesday, and I got involved in that early on.

Blogging begets blogging. The same month my blog started, our work blog began. Because I was blogging here, I was invited to blog on the Times Union site, something I do rarely these days, for all sorts of reasons. Alan David Doane, a young FantaCo customer in the day, had invited me to blog on a couple of his comics-related blogs.

And blogging generates connections. People from my elementary school, old friends of the late FantaCo artist Raoul Vezina, fans of donuts, and many others.

It’s even gotten me on the news: Here’s Roger Green, strolling the streets of Albany, talking about the weather. The station saw my blog post from 10 years earlier and decided to interview me.

So I guess, if I can do 13 years, I’ll keep at it for another 12 months.

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