Monday, January 30, 2006

Fred Hembeck's worst day ever

It's Fred Hembeck's birthday!

A birthday is one of those milestones that make you start thinking about years past. Opportunities seized, your challenges met, celebrations and successes.

I wonder if Fred ever looks back and recalls the disappointments? I know I do. Every. Minute. Of. Every. Day. So...I'm going to share the sadness and remind Fred Hembeck of that period in 1979 when his career very nearly came to an end at the uncaring hands of insanely jealous fellow "professionals".

What do I mean? I am referring to that dark day when his art was destroyed by the color correction from hell.

I don't have the backstory on what happened here but back in the 70's it was not unheard of to have the printers take it upon themselves to "fix" what they thought were incorrect color directions for a comic. I mean, it isn't like DC has no idea what they are doing, right? If the destruction of Fred's art was at the hands of a colorist, then he was an idiot or an outright mean person to screw up on a popular character. I can empathize with what must have been Fred's soul-annihilating disappointment when he received his comp copy from DC and discovered his hard work was mutilated!

To me, this Hembeck strip as it appeared in the October 1979 issue of Superman #340 made no sense. Everyone knew that Hal Jordan's weaknesses were the color yellow, cheap bimbos and soap, so what the heck was going on here? Defeated by a foe bearing wood? What is up with that stupid costume? Then I realized after an hour or so that Hembeck was guilty not of sloppy work, but the crime of trust in his fellow man. The fool.

Being the perceptive sort of fanboy I eventually puzzled out what had happened...And calmed down. This wasn't the Hal Jordan Green Lantern put into the wrong costume by a drunken artist! No. It was the Golden Age Green Lantern known as Alan Scott! Unfortunately the damage was done and Fred Hembeck's hilarious strip was ruined for eternity.

But what of the average reader? Hopelessly mired in established continuity the typical fanboy must have gone ballistic. I imagine that they rushed from their basement for a visit to Dad's work to use a IBM Selectric 2 to send off tens of letters of flaming righteous contempt to DC about the inaccurate Hembeck strip.

Undoubtedly, sales for all DC titles must have plummeted causing some kind of...I don't know, company-wide implosion or something.

So in the interest of accurate comic book history I'm going to do something I once swore I would never approve of....A retcon!

Here is the color-corrected version of the Hembeck strip. Now it makes sense, doesn't it? It's still funny! I don't know about Mr. Hembeck, but it feels as if a stone has been on my chest for the last 26 years and it has finally been removed.

This is my gift to you and the world.
Happy Birthday, Fred!

I hope the guy that screwed over Fred burns for eternity.


  1. Extremism in defense of proper coloring (and Fred) is no vice.

    Fred seems like one of the nicest guys ever. A couple of years ago I sent him a copy of "Songs and Stories of the Justice League" after he mentioned that he'd never heard it. As a thank you, he sent me an inked original drawing of the entire JLA.


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