Tuesday, August 16, 2011

The Skivvied Superheroes ~~ A "Comical Wednesday" Post! ~~ Part Three (of Three)

Two quick notes:

1. It seems that I was "half right" where my personal theory about how the  term "domino mask" originated, a theory disproved by Wikipedia. I looked up the etymology of the word "domino" in Wiktionary itself, and here's what I found (full article here):

From French domino (1801) < Medieval Latin domino < Latin dominus (“lord, master”); compare Medieval Latin dominicale (“a kind of veil”). The game is said to be so called from the black under surface or part of the pieces with which it is played. [Emphasis mine!]

So no, the term domino mask did not come from the name of the game, but the name of the game came from the same source as the name of the mask!

Or something.

2. You've no doubt noticed that my Comical Wednesday posts are very heavily laden with images. Right-clicking on most of these images and selecting "open link in new tab (or window)" -- and not "open image in new tab (or window)" -- will give you the largest image available. That'll help, if you ever want to read a comic story segment or page which I've included!

And now, without further ado... The biggest (by far) and the best (IMHO) of the "long-underwear" superheroes!

The Fat Fury

Who was the Fat Fury? Why, none other than... Herbie! No, not "Herbie, the Love Bug," although the two Herbies do share a similar shape! Disney's "Herbie" came several years later!

No, no, no...

"Our" Herbie was none other than Herbie Popnecker, who appeared in a handful of issues of the ACG (American Comics Group) title, Forbidden Worlds, before getting his own comic, which was called... ummm... Herbie!

Forbidden Worlds (which began in 1951) was a "supernatural" title which introduced a rather strange young man named Herbie Popnecker in its 73rd issue, published in late 1958.

Not yet realizing "what they had," ACG didn't put Herbie on the cover, nor even mention him. The comic-reading world's first glimpse of our hero (later altered very slightly) came here:

Herbie Popnecker was created by Richard E. Hughes, an incredibly prolific writer, and artist Ogden Whitney.

In the Golden Age of Comics, Hughes had created many characters; probably his best-known creations were The Black Terror and The Fighting Yank!

Before Herbie, Ogden Whitney was probably best known for his Golden Age character, Skyman!

 Herbie's dad, Pincus Popnecker, was a rather whiny sort with occasional delusions of grandeur who -- along with his wife and a few select individuals over time -- couldn't see what the rest of the universe (no exaggeration) could... and that was that his "little fat nothing" of a son was actually an amazing & powerful individual, capable of astoundingly heroic feats!

I wonder what modern-day child psychologists would say of Pincus Popnecker's insulting parental ways. (And Herbie's mom was never much freakin' help, either: "Now Dad, you know I don't like you to call him a little fat nothing! He's not little!" Gee, thanks, Mom!)

For that matter, I wonder what any psychologist would have to say about Pincus' attitude toward his son, if they knew what Pincus himself looked like during his college days! Below, a former rival of Pincus Popnecker's recalls Herbie's dad as a younger man. 

Note the surreal touch of Herbie's being able to look into the man's thought balloon! Also, as a running gag in the "Herbie" stories, any time Herbie encounters a character that resembles himself, he sees the man -- or woman! -- as ugly!

Thankfully, Herbie was rarely offended by his dad's -- or anyone's -- unthinking remarks! (The following panel, showing a dejected Herbie, was an exception to the rule.)

 In fact, at times, it seemed more like Herbie wanted his dad to under-estimate him.

Anyway, before I get too serious, here... When I say that Herbie was "amazing," I mean... well... 

Here's a description of the lad from the longer Wikipedia articleDeriving some of his powers from genetics and some from magical lollipops from "the Unknown," Herbie can talk to animals (who know him by name), fly (by walking on air), become invisible, and (once he got his own title), travel through time. Herbie is emotionless, terse, irresistible to women, consulted by world leaders, and more powerful than the Devil.

Yep, "more powerful than the Devil," indeed!

And as far as that "genetics" thing goes, not only was Herbie's dad a dead ringer for his son when Pincus was a young man, but Herbie's grandpa... Well, see for yourself!

So... yeah. Not exactly your average kid! Herbie's deadpan facial expression got him through some hilarious adventures, all delivered to the reader with their own skewed form of logic. Slowly but surely, these Herbie appearances caught on with ACG's readers, and Herbie started getting mentioned on the covers... 

Then shown on the covers...

Finally, in 1964, Herbie received his own title!

Numerous "house ads" in ACG's other publications touted the presence of the Herbie comic!

Unfortunately, I was a relatively late arrival to Herbie, and to ACG's other comics in general. In late 1964, no doubt inspired (as were other companies) to get into the Silver Age superhero race by the increasing popularity of the still relatively new Marvel Comics heroes, ACG introduced two new superheroes. One was Magicman (in the pages of Forbidden Worlds) and Nemesis (who appeared in Adventures into the Unknown). (I have fond memories of both heroes, especially Magicman -- I was only eight when they premiered -- but frankly, they weren't really all that great!)

Only a few months later, ACG decided to make Herbie a superhero as well... more or less.

That was the "house ad" that sent me looking for the Herbie comic. I did manage to score a few of them over the next couple of years, but ACG's titles received spotty distribution on the newsstand racks of that era, at least in my hometown. (I've always assumed that their distribution problems, years before the advent of the comic shops we all take for granted nowadays, was at least partly responsible for ACG's 1967 demise.)

And here are a few brief excerpts from the story telling how Herbie's superheroic alter ego came to be...

Note the illustration of Skyman! Nice touch, Mr. Whitney!

Herbie didn't fare too well at the school for superheroes, but that didn't stop him!

Okay, okay, this is actually a shot from a later issue...
but it fits so nicely here, dunnit?

(By the way, fellow babies, if you've been following this series about "The Skivvied Superheroes," do you remember my saying "Notice, if you will, that Lt. Hercules' 'H' insignia is on his stomach, rather than his chest, which is where most superheroes have theirs" in Part One? Well, take a look at the Fat Fury's costume! He, too, wears his insignia on his stomach, as did Lt. Hercules... but in Herbie's case, the choice of positioning seems much more appropriate!)

As The Fat Fury, Herbie had the powers of... well... all the powers that Herbie already had! The Fat Fury was featured in every other issue of Herbie from issue #8 (his debut, as shown at the very top of this post) until #22. The Herbie title "died" in 1967 (as did the rest of ACG's line), with issue #23.

The Fat Fury even got to meet ACG's other heroes, Magicman and Nemesis!

Both were treated with the "respect" you can easily imagine in their Herbie appearance!

And naturally, both Magicman and Nemesis returned to their own comics singing Herbie's praises! Only Herbie's parents seemed woefully unaware of the greatness that their "little fat nothing" possessed!

In the 1990s, a handful of new "Herbie" stories were produced, but frankly, even such modern talents as John Byrne and Bob Burden weren't able to fully capture the magic!

But it still was cool to have seen Herbie guest-starring in an issue of the incredible Flaming Carrot Comics! (Yep, I'm talkin' 'bout that Flaming Carrot guy again, as I did in Part Two, when I showed a photo of him having a drink with Marvel's Forbush-Man! I wonder when we'll see a post about the Flaming Carrot himself, eh?)

By the way, I heartily recommend this excellent feature about Herbie's dad and the whole "little fat nothing" scenario, including a few examples from recent "revivals" of the Herbie character... and where they went wrong!

*  *  *  *  *

With that, fellow babies, I bid you good-bye until next week's Comical Wednesday post. (What'll that one be about? I'm not telling!) And if you had the time, inclination, and patience to read this entire post, I can truly say...

Thanks for your time!


  1. Once again none of these were known, flaming carrot guy is certaintly ummm original..haha

  2. Heh. This post really takes me back. I remember buying a "Herbie" comic when I was looking for something to read, and the only other choices were romance comics, and "Tomahawk." He kinda creeped me out, and I had forgotten about him until I read your blog.


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