Lady Bird Johnson was his PUPPET ON A STRING!
He wore a turtle shell, made dragons gag and BOPPED THINGS WITH THIS HERE LOLLIPOP!
I'm talking about Herbie, the Fat Fury, an incredibly funny comic published by ACG in the sixties. Earlier this month, Dark Horse announced that Herbie Popnecker was finally going to get a proper reprint series, which had all the comic bloggers applauding, but it occurs to me that many of my readers just don't know why this news is so damn good.
Herbie is often overshadowed by the reputations of other comedy titles. He was never licensed for TV cartoons and his publisher, who also presented the superhero exploits of Magicman and Nemesis, never obtained the hip cache of Marvel among collectors. It doesn't look like a typical comedy book of the sixties, and unlike Harvey's Richie Rich, who, at his peak, was appearing in three titles a week, Herbie's every-other-month book never had the chance to dominate drugstore comic racks. So his exploits have always appealed to a comparatively small crowd, one which I only joined last year.
The character, created by Richard E. Hughes and Ogden Whitney, first appeared in 1958, and made sporadic appearances in ACG's anthology titles before getting his own book in 1964. Herbie is the most powerful being on the planet - a juggernaut of strength, irresistable to women (save for the ones he's actually interested in dating), possessing uncanny powers which are unlocked by supernatural lollipops. Everybody on the planet, throughout history, is aware of Herbie's might, with the exception of his blissfully ignorant parents. His dad laments this "fat nothing" of a son, to which Herbie can only shrug.
If you recall the classic Monty Python sketch about Mr. Neutron, the most powerful and dangerous man on the planet, spending his days in the suburbs considering the outcome of a prize of all the ice cream he can eat, you've got a good start on how surreal, bizarre and often hilarious these stories are.
A recurring gag features Herbie travelling back in time, thanks to the power of his time lollipops, which give him a flying grandfather clock to zoom into the past. He's usually recognized and greeted by somebody along the way - General Custer and a Lakota might pause from the battle at Little Big Horn to shout hellos as Herbie flies overhead.
Despite the recurring gags, Herbie was a constantly inventive and unpredictable book, with zany plots spinning out in any direction. The character himself is oddly appealing, with his unusual, terse speech patterns, dropping the subjects from his sentences or beginning a thought and letting it tail off. And the occasionally topical stories, with presidents summoning Herbie to the White House to deal with some threat that only he can stop, can't fail to please. It's surreal, off-kilter and just really entertaining.
That's why I'm so incredibly pleased that Dark Horse is starting its reprint line. One of the members of a collected edition message board which I frequent believes that Dark Horse can collect all of Herbie's appearances in three volumes. Normally, fifty bucks is too much for me to justify spending on one book, but as each of these will reprint about nine comics, which start for around $20 each for fine condition copies, then I'd be more than happy to upgrade from my scans. And so should you! Trust me, friends, if you want some wacky fun comics to read, make yours Popnecker.
Besides, Elizabeth Taylor does not go ga-ga for just ANY man.
(Originally posted March 18, 2008, 09:54 at hipsterdad's livejournal.)