365 Reasons to Love Comics #352

The end of the year is almost upon us, my friends. As I present you two final weeks of random awesomeness from the world of comics, I'll also be doing my best to fill in all the holes in the archive before the ball drops. I may have to call in some friends to do it! Don't worry, I'll keep you updated.

What's on the docket for today? This fantastic cartoonist is the bee's knees.


352. Fred Hembeck

Fred Hembeck is the illustrious, hilarious, and wonderful cartoonist responsible for some great comics and strips throughout the years. Also, he draws the best knees in comics-- bless those knobby spirals.

He probably first came to prominence in the late '70s, when he began producing his Dateline:@#$%! column for the Comics Buyer's Guide, casting his eye on all things comics. He later provided columns for both DC's "Daily Planet" info page as well as Marvel Age. I think it's safe to say that Mr. Hembeck's drawn every comic book character ever over the course of his career in his simple-but-delightful style. Somewhere along the line, he became a devoted follower of Brother Voodoo. Heh heh.

I love quite a few of Fred Hembeck's various projects over the years. Take, for instance, his Adventures of Petey Parker, long before he became Spider-Man! They're a ton of fun-- Marvel needs to collect these, even if it's just in a new one-shot or something. In the spirit of Christmas, I present to you the story that spawned Marvel's current Secret Invasion:

He also wrote the Fantastic Four Roast, seen at the top of the post. Drawn by pretty much everybody working for Marvel at the time, it's both a supreme farce and a loving tribute to Marvel's first family.

I'd wager that Mr. Hembeck's most notable, however, for the one-shot "Fred Hembeck Destroys the Marvel Universe," an hilarious romp in which all the Marvel heroes are systematically killed off by Crackers, the clown prince of death. It was charmingly ridiculous, and, in those dark days of 1989, mocked the grim-and-gritty tendencies and pointless deaths to be found in comics. Fat lot of good that did, but hey! It's still a great comic. Here are two of the best deaths in the issue (and the DD page is one of the funniest comics pages of all time):

Plus, the book had ninja Sentinels. That's a killer idea (pun intended after the fact).

And hey, let's not forget the follow-up, Fred Hembeck Sells the Marvel Universe, comprised of reprints of Marvel Age strips, or the Assistant Editor's Month fill-in he did for Spectacular Spider-Man:

I have Fred Hembeck to thank for a lot of things, and this very column might just be one of those. Almost 25 years ago, Fred drew up a list of 100 things he loved about comics (and followed it up with 99 more shortly thereafter). Far after the fact, thanks to the wonders of the internet, it spawned an internet meme, and also put an idea in the back of my head. And now we've nearly wrapped up 365 Reasons to Love Comics. Thanks, Fred!

Here's that initial list of Fred's:

The man's got good taste.

In February, 2008, Image Comics will release The Nearly Complete Essential Fred Hembeck Archives Omnibus, a 900+ page collection of comics and artwork by the man himself, including pretty much everything he's ever done that isn't nailed down or owned by Marvel or DC, plus the kitchen sink. It will be a massive, glorious compendium, and I can't wait to buy it. Did I mention it's only 25 bucks? Oh, yes. Pick yourself up a copy when it hits.

You can find much, much more by Fred Hembeck at his website, which houses many of his writings, a blog, information on all of his various works, and roughly eight gazillion images, from past strips to cover recreations and more. It is a treasure trove of Hembeck goodness. Hie thyself!

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