It's Out And It's HUGE!!!

By | Thursday, May 29, 2008 Leave a Comment
You know, it's one thing when somebody tells you that a book has 900 pages. It's another thing entirely when you actually get the book for real, and the guy selling it to you reminds you to lift with your legs and not your back. At long last, and after much anticipation, The Nearly Complete Essential Hembeck Archives Omnibus is in stores!

But look at the size of this thing! It's frickin' huge!
(Photo liberally swiped from

Obviously, I haven't had a chance to read the whole book yet but I'm here to say that this is a book worth snagging! You see, Fred Hembeck spent years -- decades, even -- living the dream: he got paid to spout off about whatever comic book-ish topic he wanted. He was getting published by the big name publishers -- not to mention getting his own books out like Bah, Hembeck! and The Hembeck File -- and wax poetic about his favorite comics or make bad gags about superhero names and costumes. Heck, in Marvel Age he got his own talk show where he got to interview everybody who had a comic book title and show "clips" from their upcoming adventures. Oh, geez, and then he got to totally geek out and kill everyone in the Marvel Universe! (Ant-Man in the microwave -- still love it!)

In many ways, Hembeck was my idol. Heck, after getting a little name recognition as a letterhack several years ago, I tried emulating his cartoon-self-interviewing-superheroes-in-a-comic-strip format to try to get my artwork published...
(It never was.)

But the thing about Hembeck was that, even though he was seemingly everywhere, you could never track down everything. It wasn't uncommon (and still isn't, for that matter!) to run across Hembeck comics that you've never seen before. And so I've taken great pleasure in getting "nearly" everything he's ever had published. Except, of course, all those Marvel Age bits. And I don't see any of those wonderful three-panel strips he did for DC. But, given the sheer volume of material the man's produced, this book still qualifies as "nearly complete."

But, on top of the great work Hembeck did in many of those strips, the book also features an introduction to each section that puts the work in something of a more historical context. So if you find yourself racing through the comics and stumble across a what-the-heck-is-he-talking-about moment, you can step back to the nearest introduction and get a little more insight. A lot of collections like this wouldn't have included that, I don't think, so it's a welcome addition. Especially for the kids! (We all know kids love exposition!)

I find it hard to complain about this book. It is printed on newsprint, and is a paperback. But on any thicker paper or with a hard cover, and you wouldn't be able to lift the thing! However, even the oldest artwork prints remarkably clean, which is especially surprising given Hembeck's occasional use of Zip-A-Tone. The artwork throughout fits to the page size well, despite being created for different formats and different media over the years.

It's a great set-up overall. As I've been writing this, I've kept flipping to random pages and reading, only to find myself getting distracted and having to pull myself away just to complete this post. Wonderful stuff!

Many thanks to inker Al Gordon for getting the ball rolling on this particular compilation, and many thanks to publisher Erik Larsen for buying into it. And, of course many, many thanks to Fred Hembeck for years of yucks as well as some inspiration.
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