Friday, November 21, 2008

An Introduction to Herbie (ACG Comics)

For those of you not familiar with Herbie Popnecker, please take a seat....

I discovered "the Fat Fury" in junior high, circa 1988/89. If most of my readers haven't already figured out that I LOVE comic books....I mean really, really, REALLY LOVE comic books, almost to a fanatical level..then go back to the first post of this blog and start reading again. I was ravenous for the medium of sequential art as a youth. I'd read anything that even vaguely looked like a comic book, from Jack Chick tracts to HEAVY METAL magazine. I can even remember a friend of mine in the sixth grade would steal his dad's PLAYBOY's and bring 'em on the school bus, where I'd proceed to tear out the Little Annie Fannie and Bobby London's wonderful DIRTY DUCK sections with which I'd paste in a scrapbook (which thankfully my parents never found) at home.

So, needless to say that I spent the first few decades of my life in my little small hometown raiding the place for every and any comic book I could find....which led to some really amazing discoveries, and such is the case with my introduction to the wonderful world of Richard E. Hughes and Ogden Whitney's HERBIE.

So, one day....a classmate of mine who was aware that I collected comics shows up at school with an ancient bowling bag...stuffed with comics, and asks if I'd like to buy 'em. The asking price: 10 bucks. I figured there was around 100 or so books in I figure a dime apiece for reading material over the coming Christmas break would be worth it, so I bite.

The contents of the bag, after inspection?

Several early 1960s Charlton sci-fi books, such as Space Adventures, DC sci-fi books like Tales of the Unexpected, a ton of Charlton war books (as well as several of the publisher's hot rod and road racing titles from the early 1960s, which I always thought was an odd little genre for them to try and market),and some ACG (American Comics Group) sci-fi books such as Forbidden Worlds....

Some gems that the bag contained: Amazing Spider-Man #11, the first actual Ditko issue I ever owned that wasn't a reprint, Tales of Suspense #51, the 1st app. of the Scarecrow (Marvel), Strange Tales #123 the 1st issue I owned that contributed to my obsessive need to collect all of the Ditko Dr.Strange run, that later spilled over into collecting every issue of the Steranko Nick Fury...and Herbie #5.

And this book introduced me to the incredible dada-istic humor that the world Mr. Popnecker inhabited contained: An obese, dull-tempered bespectacled lovable loser....who was a hit with all the ladies (including Ladybird Johnson, who seemed infatuated with him), could talk to animals, rode in a grandfather clock that could travel time, and had lollipops that gave him various superpowers, dependant upon the flavor. One of the reasons why I absolutely fell in love with the book, and then spent years trying to track down issues of it, was that it's unusual brand of humor seemed miles ahead of all the other humor comics fare being pawned off to the public when one takes into consideration the era in which it was still in publication, the early 1960s...and it reminded me alot of another book that I had become a fan of around that period, Bob Burden's wacky, off-center Flaming Carrot Comics. Years later, I came to discover that this was no accident, for Burden was a huge HERBIE fan himself...

Seems Burden isn't the only fan of Herbie, because several folks working inside the comics industry fondly remember the Fat Fury, amongst them names such as John Byrne and Dark Horse Comics honcho Mike Richardson...

Oh alarmingly little Brit fellow named Alan Moore considers he Fat Fury as his favorite superhero.

From Wikipedia:

Herbie Popnecker, a parody of a superhero, first appeared in Forbidden Worlds #73 in December 1958, published by ACG, American Comics Group. It was the introduction of the antithesis of a hero -- short, fat, young -- but this unlikely hero was one of the most powerful and best known beings in history. Deriving some of his powers from genetics and some from magical lollipops from the Unknown, Herbie could talk to animals (who knew him by name), fly (by walking on air), become invisible, and when he got his own comic, travel through time.

In Forbidden Worlds Herbie made several appearances (#73, #94, #110, #114, and #116, the final two with Herbie featured on the cover), during which his character developed: emotionless, terse, irresistible to women, consulted by world leaders, and more powerful than the Devil. Herbie's parents were unaware of his great powers and fame, and his father repeatedly referred to him as a "little fat nothing". Herbie's dad, Pincus Popnecker, was a financial failure with one poorly-conceived scheme after another, but Herbie would bail him out every time and his dad would take the credit for being a business genius.

Herbie also made a brief appearance, completely out of character, in Unknown Worlds #20 in 1961.

Herbie got his own comic in April 1964. The series ran 23 issues until February 1967, shortly before the demise of ACG. The stories were written by Shane O'Shea, one of several pseudonyms of the ACG editor, Richard E. Hughes. The artwork was by Ogden Whitney.

In Herbie #8 (March 1965), Herbie felt a need to become a costume super hero, but after failing superhero school, he created the Fat Fury by donning full-body red underwear with a drop seat, a blue plastic mask, and a toilet plunger on his head. He was bare-footed. The Fat Fury was featured in even-numbered Herbie comics from #8 to #22. Herbie's father wished that his little fat nothing of a son could be like the Fat Fury.

As the Fat Fury, Herbie did not have any powers beyond the many he had before donning the costume. Although Herbie traveled back in time, the Fat Fury never did.

All 23 issues of Herbie showed "MAKE WAY FOR the FAT FURY..." over the comic title.

Alan Moore regards the Fat Fury as his favorite superhero.

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Herbie in Forbidden Worlds (1959-63) comp. CBR

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