13 JOYFUL HEMBECK Cartoons — in Widescreen!

A BIRTHDAY SALUTE to the beloved satirist, who was born 70 years ago on Jan. 30, 1953…


It’s Fred Hembeck’s 70th birthday! And if you’re friends with Fred on Facebook, he never forgets yours! So, I couldn’t forget his!

Fred’s been around forever and that’s no joke! His art style is instantly recognizable whether you’ve seen it in The Comics Buyer’s Guide, The Comic Reader, Marvel Age, DC Comics, his own self-published work, or all across the web. Show a comic, a sketch, or a magazine with Fred’s work in it to someone and the response will almost always be — that’s Hembeck and it’s great!

From The Marvel Universe According to Hembeck

One of the fun things about doing these birthday tributes at 13th Dimension is that you get to scour the web to show off the work of the birthday boy or girl! As a big fan of the Charlton Action Heroes, especially Captain Atom — I did a search and I found one — but not only that, it came back with a ton of pieces that Fred had called Across the Page and Across the Page 2! They’re a collection of double-page speads of various groups of heroes and comic characters that tickled Fred’s fancy! And they’re so awesome, they tickled mine, too! One of them was so goofily fun, that I just had to color it (you’ll find out which one a bit later) which then caused me to color my other picks, as well!

The thing about Fred’s work is that it has a sense of joy and fun that’s so often missing in today’s comics. If you ever need a palate cleanser, or want to see a fun sketch of your favorite character, just search Hembeck (he’s probably drawn it), or better yet pick up a piece of his original art which is easily found on eBay!

So, with that, here are 13 crazy awesome pieces by Fred! Enjoy!

The Charlton Action-Heroes. As I mentioned. when I first went looking for Hembeck illustrations to feature, I was hoping to find Captain Atom in his mid-1960s costume (which is my fave, by the way). Fred provided more than that by drawing the whole kit-and-kaboodle of Not Half Bad Charlton Action Heroes! Boy, would I have loved to seen these guys featured in their own book when DC bought the characters — and we almost did — from Paul Kupperberg and Jose Delbo!

The New Era of Blackhawk. I mean, really, who sketches this version of the Blackhawks team?!? Hembeck does, of course! This was the piece that got me to add color to these widescreen masterpieces. Who wouldn’t want to see the Listener in living color, in his onesie?!? Nobody in his right mind! Look at that sad state of affairs — it looks like Hendy bought it at Woolworth’s and gave it to Chuck as a joke!

The Many Faces of Jimmy Olsen. It’s clear that Hembeck loves the Silver Age — like many of us. And if one character defined the awesomeness of that time, it was Jimmy Olsen, who as Superman’s Pal morphed into an amazing array of forms, all without going absolutely nuts!

Watchmen. One of the aspects that define Hembeck’s characters is an innate sense of fun — something that he can’t get away from even when he draws characters seemingly far removed from the inherent silliness of superheroes. The Watchmen characters can’t escape it even when they try their hardest to be ultra-serious!

The X-Men. It’s the original X-Men in their original uniforms! These outcast mutants can’t help smiling — well, most of them, anyway! Fred’s expressions here are a delight — especially Marvel Girl and Professor X as they watch Cyclops destroy something else!

The Doom Patrol. Sneaking in three months before the debut of the X-Men, Hembeck captures the Doom Patrol team at play. Much like their Marvel counterparts, the members share a common uniform as well as a wheelchair-bound leader.

T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents. For a bunch of characters who shorten their lives every time they use their powers, they sure are happy here! Unsurprisingly, Hembeck throws in a couple of members of the T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Squad, Weed and Kitten, for good measure!

The Adventures of Bob Hope. One of the great unsung DC books was The Adventures of Bob Hope (and one that deserves to be collected as an omnibus — c’mon DC, talk to Bob’s estate). Here, Hembeck draws the cast that finished Bob’s impressive 18-year run at DC — the students and faculty of Benedict Arnold High School!

All Winners Squad. I love the Golden Age comics, especially those that featured teams like the Justice Society of America and, as seen here, the All Winners Squad! Bucky’s side-eye glance is a killer. I also love speedsters like the Flash and Johnny Quick. So, I couldn’t resist picking an image that features the Whizzer! What a name!

Horror Hosts. Did all horror books have hosts? It sure seemed like it. Here, Hembeck groups a variety of hosts from across publishers. Imagine a team book featuring these spooky guys and gals — well, I guess we don’t have to imagine it as Fred does that for us!

MAD Mascots. Humor magazines have an unwritten rule that they need a mascot! Alfred E. Neuman is undoubtedly the most famous, but here Hembeck collects them all together for a group photo. That lucky Nebbish!

DC’s Battle Stars. DC did its darnedest to keep war books interesting by introducing characters like G.I. Robot, the Unknown Soldier and, sadly missing here, the Creature Commandos. But at least Balloon Buster made the cut! And we won’t talk about what it took to get a couple of these characters to join the group photo.

The Haunted Tank was led by the ghost of Confederate Gen. J.E.B. Stuart. A storytelling decision that reflects a different time. — Dan

A Meeting of Marvels. I love this piece! Hembeck pulls together the history of the Marvels — all of them — and with his masterful expressions conveys the anger and disappointment of the original Marvel Family!


— 13 FUNKY ILLUSTRATIONS: A HEMBECK Birthday Celebration — 2020 EDITION. Click here.

— HEMBECK’s Cheeky Salute to WALLY WOOD’s DAREDEVIL. Click here.

A 10-year-old Walt Grogan fell in love with the Big Red Cheese thanks to essays written by Dick Lupoff and Don Thompson in the paperback edition of All in Color for a Dime, released in 1970 and bought for him by his father off a paperback spinner rack in a liquor store on the South Side of Chicago. Walt runs The Marvel Family Web Facebook page devoted to all incarnations of the Fawcett/DC Captain Marvel and blogs about Captain Marvel at shazamshistorama.com.

Author: Dan Greenfield

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  1. I NEED a reprinting of The Nearly Complete Essential Hembeck Archives Omnibus, but with clear, crisp printing. About 50% of it is completely unreadable, due to bad printing methods.

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  2. Hembeck is great. I remember all his fun Marvel Age work in the 80s

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  3. Love those DC strips in the Daily Planet.

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  4. Love his work. I agree with Ally. I also used to like the “ask the answer man” section by Bob Rozakis

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