Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Seven Questions with FRED HEMBECK

We've had the good fortune here at The Vault to interview a number of comic creators and legends, but this week we're proud to introduce someone who may be among the most beloved creators in comics: Fred Hembeck. Hembeck, who has been providing smiles to comics fans for over three decades with his curlicue joints and lovingly inside jokes (some of which can be viewed on his website), took some time from his busy schedule to answer some our most pressing questions, such as what he thinks of the new Doctor Voodoo series. So without further ado, let's jump right into our Seven Questions with Fred Hembeck.

1. Over the course of your career you’ve worked for seemingly every publisher in the business. What do you have in the works now and is there any chance we’ll be seeing more stuff at Marvel or DC like the recent strip you did for Captain America #600?

Marvel has an 8 page "Petey" story in the can--in which the young Peter Parker meets his new babysitter, the teen-aged Sue Storm, as well as (unfortunately) her kid brother, Johnny--for an upcoming, unscheduled issue of "Web Of Spider-Man". I hope to do some more of these--only time will tell if they'll let me!! I have several other irons in the fire as well, but nothing definitive to report as of yet.

2. It’s my understanding that prior to developing your famous style, you attempted to break into comics as a more traditional artist. How did that transition come about and do you have any plans to ever create a “serious” title?

"No", to the latter portion of your question--I know what's good for me after all these years, and it ain't competing with the likes of the amazing artists drawing super-hero comics currently! Heck, I was having a hard enough time back in 1977 when my portfolio was rejected on several occasions. That prompted me to develop my cartoony style as a way to keep drawing and keep my spirits up as I retrenched and gave serious illoing a second go. But, much to my surprise, the cartoony stuff caught on so quickly, I never had a chance to go back, and I've never regretted how things turned out cuz, as a standard adventure story illustrator, I woulda had to work way, way hard just to make "average"--sometimes your limitations can actually be a blessing!!

3. Speaking of more traditional comics art, you once did a Brother Voodoo story for Marvel in classic superhero style, thanks to your well known obsession (or mock obsession?) with the character. Now that he’s become Doctor Voodoo, the new Sorcerer Supreme, what are your thoughts on the character? Can you take credit for this development? And can we expect to see you involved in the new series?

It'd certainly be fun to be involved with the new Doctor Voodoo series, but so far, that call hasn't come in. I'll admit to not knowing anything about it save for what I can garner from the web, as I no longer keep up with current Marvel or DC Comics, but I wish my ol' pal, Bro--I mean, Doc--only the best!!

4. Image recently published an omnibus collecting hundreds of pages of your work. How did that come about and can we expect to see collections of your Marvel and DC work any time in the future?

Long time inker and friend Al Gordon suggested the idea to me, and while I thought he was a bit balmy for it, he also ran it past his buddy Erik Larsen, who just happened to be Image's publisher at the time, and amazingly, he thought it was a good idea too!! So who was I to argue? It perculated as simply a notion for over a year, then took nearly that long to compile, but Al has my everlasting thanks for putting the whole thing in motion!! As for Marvel and DC collections, nothing's planned, but I certainly wouldn't be adverse!!

5. It’s been clear from your work that right from the start you have always been a big fan of comics and superheroes, so it makes sense that you have a lot of interaction with the fan community, though your website, blog, facebook page and even ebay auctions and message boards. How has the internet changed the fan experience from your perspective as both a fan and as a creator?

It makes everything instantaneously intimate--and this from someone who, due to poor typing skills, stays away from message boards and instant messaging. When I first began doing my strip for The Buyer's Guide back in the late seventies, I wrote my home address at the bottom of each page, and was delighted with the amount of feedback that arrived through the mail. However, when I returned the Comic's Buyer's Guide in the mid-nineties, I often felt as if I was simply talking to myself, as I ditched the home address gambit. But now, online, I find folks WERE reading that stuff, and it's a great place to reconnect with fans who followed my work several decades back! Simply put, the response I've received over the last few years on the internet has been highly gratifying!!

6. You’ve had a chance to work with or riff on just about every publisher or character over your career, both in short strips and in longer form comics such as Fred Hembeck Destroys the Marvel Universe. Are there any dream projects that you have yet to work on, or characters or series that you would like to play with?

Not really--though it might be cool to have a full blown Weisinger-era Superman family homage story of mine actually published inside a bona-fide DC Comic--THAT'D be fun!!

7. Lastly, what’s one specific storytelling technique you use that you could share with new creators to help them hone their craft?

Hmm--well, I always write WAY too much dialog, so I wouldn't advise anyone to follow me THERE. And the knee-squiggles are mine (I stole 'em from Mort Walker and Hank Ketcham fair and square)--HANDS OFF! I suppose my best advice would be to make sure that one panel flows logically into the next--don't get so hung up on drawing pretty pictures that you forget this salient fact!! And have fun--it'll show in the final product!!

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Hembeck was always a favorite, and FF Roast remains one of my all-time favorite comic book-related items. I remember ordering FF Roast from Mile High comics for 50-cents, not really knowing what it was. Identifying EVERY hero on the cover became my obsession (at @ nine years old!). It is probably my most re-read comic, and it's still funny.

Hembeck also did a nice drawing of the Avengers line-up in Chronicles:Avengers by Fantaco. Another one of my favorites from Hembeck.

Nice interview, too. Love the Knee-squiggles!

I actually bought my copy at a Creation convention in Chicago, but I can echo the rest of it.
Bravo Fred, and I will be pestering DC to move forward on the Superman idea!