Friday, December 10, 2010

Fred Hembeck - Cartoonist Survey #198

Cartoonist Fred Hembeck was born in New York in January of 1953. He spent two years studying Advertising Art and Design at The State University of New York, Farmingdale and then two more years studying Communications Design at the SUNY campus in Buffalo. After graduating he submitted traditional adventure style comic book work but didn’t have much success. He had been using a cartoony, “bigfoot” style caricature of himself to illustrate letters to his college friends, complete with beard and hair parted down the middle. He created some one page strips using this character doing comedic interviews with Flash and Spider-Man and sent them to the leading fan publication of the day, "The Buyer's Guide for Comic Fandom" (currently known as the "Comics Buyers Guide"). These submissions were published and Fred’s strips, titled Dateline @!!?# , became very popular and would go on to be collected in the book “Hembeck: The Best of Dateline: @!!?#”.

Fred’s characters are instantly recognizable with curlicues at the knees and elbows. Over the years he has drawn innumerable parodies of Marvel and DC superhero comics. From 1979 to 1981 he drew a strip for the Daily Planet page in DC comic books, and in the 1980’s his strips regularly ran in the Marvel Comics information magazine, Marvel Age. In addition to Marvel and DC, his work has been published by Topps Comics, Two Morrows Publications, Archie Comics, First Comics, Fantagraphics Books, Krause Publications and many more. Fred lives in Upstate New York with his wife Lynn. He has a
wonderful website where you can find out a lot more about him and read tons of his comics. Some of my favorite works he has done are his “Classic Cover Redos” that you can see here. He updates his Fred Sez page quite regularly so it is definitely worth bookmarking. If you are a big fan of Fred like I am, you should definitely pick up the massive 900-page The Near Complete Essential Hembeck Archives Omnibus. Click here to purchase original Hembeck artwork.

What is your favorite pen to use?
I use a set of Koh-I-Noor Rapidographs, mixing and matching the various line widths.

Do you draw in pencil first and if so do you use a standard pencil or a mechanical one?
I draw fairly roughly in pencil first. I used a mechanical pencil for decades until one rolled off my table at a convention about a year back and busted the tip. I've been relying on the old fashioned kind ever since.

Do you do your coloring by hand or on the computer?
What little coloring I do, I do by hand.

If you do your coloring by hand, what do you use?
Prismacolor markers.

What type of paper do you use?
2 ply plate bristol, Canson brand for commissions, the slicker and thinner Borden &Riley for strips that I'm keeping the originals of.

What thing(s) do you hate to draw?
ANIMALS! Funny and otherwise--horses are the worst (especially the way I draw 'em!).

Do you buy your supplies from big chain art store catalogues/websites or a local one that you physically go to?
I order stuff via the internet from ASW.

Are there any rituals that you do before starting to draw?
You mean beside fretting? No.

Do you listen to music while you draw and if so what genre?
A fairly wide range--rock from the sixties, swing from the forties. Beatles, Beach Boys, The Who, and Abba are top faves.

Did you read comics as a kid and if so what was your favorite?
Um, yeah, as a matter of fact I did. Sixties era Marvel Comics (with Lee & Ditko's Spider-Man uppermost), Mort Weisinger's Superman family titles, Little Lulu, Dennis The Menace, Little Archie being the ones I was weaned on.

What is or was your favorite comic strip?
Mary Perkins, On Stage (dramatic), Beetle Bailey (humorous) are still my top faves.

What was your favorite book as a child and do you still own a copy of it?
Amazing Spider-Man Annual #1, and yeah, I still have my original copy. (No, I didn't read many real books as a kid--too many comics to absorb.)

Did you have any formal art training and if so where did you receive it?
2 years of Advertising Art and Design at SUNY Farmigdale, followed by 2 years of Communications Design at SUNY Buffalo. I graduated college the year the Kubert School opened--bad timing on my part...

Do you feel that the Internet is a blessing or a curse?
I'm leaning towards blessing (thank you, Ebay!!).

Did either of your parents draw?
Just paychecks.

Who in your life is/was the most supportive of your art?
Wife Lynn.

Do you keep a sketchbook?
Not currently. I have at times over the years, but find I really don't have time for extracurricular drawing.

Have you ever taught cartooning/drawing and if so did you enjoy the experience?
I was the guest teacher twice at a high school class Herb Trimpe taught a couple years back. It was fun to do on a limited basis but I wouldn't want to make a habit of it.

Do you feel that talent or passion is more important in drawing?
Cop out answer--you need both. Talent is fine, but if you're lacking the passion to utilize it, what's the point? Conversely, it's great if you have the passion, but unless there's at least a smidgen of talent to go along with it, go away buddy--we DON'T wanna see!

Do you collect anything and if so what?
Comic books (though I'm pretty much full up--no need for very many more), Beatles stuff, SpongeBob Squarepants merchandise (again, we've mostly reached our limit...)

If you were an animated cartoon character who do you think you would be?

Are you a righty or lefty?
Righty (though not politically).

If you weren't an artist what would you want to do for work?
Be a musician or a comedian--though I'd have to overcome my stage fright first.

In one or two sentences describe your drawing area.
An old drawing board I've had since high school surrounded by piles of comics, with my tools on a table to the side.

Do you play any musical instruments?
Nope. I tried in the 4th grade--saxophone--but no facility (or patience for practicing).

If you could give one piece of advice to someone who wants to pursue drawing as a career what would it be?
If your passion is true, don't give up. Otherwise, move on--hey, at least you have a fun hobby!

Who is your favorite artist?
Steve Ditko.

Thank you very much Fred!

Hugo award winning illustrator and author Shaun Tan is up next.


Robin Cain said...

Hey, just checking in! Still loving the interviews and the inside scoop on cartooning! Thanks!

David said...

Thank you Robin...and have a great holiday season!