Thursday, May 17, 2007
Fred Hembeck was (and still is) one of the most prominent star artists in comics fanzines, though he has done a fair amount of work for the major publishers through the years. I would first encounter his work in the form of short gag strips in the backs of various DC comics in the late '70s (archived here). I've always enjoyed his work, but 1980-85 was the height of my interest. I still remember riding back from a Charlotte Mini-Con in the back of my friend Jerry's mother's car, while we performed a radio play-style performance of the Fantastic Four Roast. Looking back, I can say that Fred was probably the single biggest outside influence on my taste in comics in those days. If not for him, I might not have known how much I needed Brother Power, the Geek or Mysterious Suspense. Thanks, Fred!
These drawings are an approximation of his earlier, clunkier style (he's since streamlined the lumpy elbows and knees, while retaining the trademark knee squiggles). One can criticize that early work for its overuse of a basic stylized design that is customized to suit one's needs, like a Zwinky or a Qee, but the upside of it is that a 13-year old can apply the design rules and produce a reasonably presentable imitation of it. Of course, that's not at all the same as being able to make actual comics of note, which Mr. H was doing all along, and continues to this day.