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CSBG Archive

365 Reasons to Love Comics #300

Holy crap, #300. We’re in the home stretch now! (Be sure to check out #299, which is now up.) Tonight’s regular-sized super-extravaganza features a character I’ve been meaning to write about for a few hundred columns now. Who better to talk about in the epic #300 than the weirdest, wackiest comic book character of them all? (Don’t knock it till you archive it.)

10/27/07

300. Herbie Popnecker, the Fat Fury

Herbie 3.jpg

The “little fat nothing” named Herbie, not to be confused with any famous Love Bugs or Human-Torch-replacing robots, is the greatest comic book character to come out of the 1950s. Created by Richard E. Hughes (as Shane O’Shea) and the fantastic artist Ogden Whitney for the American Comics Group company (which published a lot of nifty sci-fi and horror anthologies), Herbie broke all the rules of comics. His stories were weird, bizarre, surreal, ridiculous– I use these words quite often, but trust me when I say that no comic in the history of the universe has been more delightfully absurd than Herbie.

Herbie first appeared in 1958, in an issue of Forbidden Worlds. It started as a one-off at first, but over the years Herbie began to appear more and more, until he finally graduated to his own title in 1964. The stories were blisteringly insane. Herbie, you see, was just your average overweight young boy with a penchant for lollipops– that is, until he parents weren’t looking. Herbie ended up on fantastic adventures, utilizing his nigh-infinite superpowers to walk on air, travel through time, and accomplish just about anything. He met everyone from John F. Kennedy to Adlai Stevenson to Richard Burton to Satan himself. The laconic little fellow was a gentleman and a ladies’ man, hero to all who knew him.

In the eighth issue of his own book, Herbie decided to become a superhero, putting on pajamas, a cape, and a toilet plunger, and becoming none other than the Fat Fury! This only led his escapades to become even more ludicrous, and Herbie’s Fat Fury identity reappeared in every even-numbered issue of the title throughout the rest of its run.

Herbie 1.JPGHerbie 2.JPG

(That Fat Fury page above is possibly my favorite comics page of all time.)

In the world of Herbie, almost nothing made sense. The book’s sense of humor was patently absurd. What I truly love about the title is not how amazingly crazy it was– don’t get me wrong, I adore that about Herbie, but what I truly love is the sheer audacity of it all. Hughes and Whitney clearly realized that comics can portray anything, going places and achieving feats that no other medium could handle– and so crafted a book that did anything and everything. Herbie knew no boundaries, no conventions. It was a comic that did whatever the hell it wanted to do.

Herbie 5.jpgHerbie 4.jpgHerbie 6.jpg

The problem I have here is that it’s so hard to describe Herbie. His stories really have to be experienced. Hughes and Whitney brought such glorious madness to the page that I fear I can’t possibly bestow enough information upon you to truly do it justice. Luckily, Herbie’s been featured an uncanny amount of times in Scott Shaw!’s Oddball Comics column. You can find the entires here. Shaw! goes into great detail about the raw insanity found within Herbie’s pages– from the battle with Mao Zedong’s perfect spy (which is to say, a two-headed Chinese guy named Foo Manchoo with helicopter blades on his butt) to Dracula’s Pizza Parlor. These columns incited my love for all things Herbie.

Herbie 8.jpgHerbie 9.jpg
Herbie 7.jpgHerbie 10.jpg

I would love for Herbie to return in some fashion. A few companies have tried Herbie revivals– little guys like A+ and Avalon Communications, and bigger guys like Dark Horse– but none of them have taken off. I’ve no idea who has the rights these days, but I’d like to find out. Imagine a Herbie anthology with everyone’s favorite creators letting loose on sparklingly mad Herbie adventures! I’m sure no one can live up to Hughes and Whitney– perhaps it’s better that way, but I think we need to bring Herbie back to the masses. C’mon, we should at least have a few collections of the title! Who’s with me?

Maybe most people don’t remember Herbie, but, as the old saying goes, the Internet never forgets. Dial B for Blog featured a loving look at the little fat nothing. Don Markstein’s Toonopedia has not one, but two entries for him: one as Herbie, and one as the Fat Fury. And, as always, there’s the Wiki, which goes into detail about Herbie’s powers and gags.

Herbie’s father Pincus never believed in him, but I do. Thanks for being here with me for this 300th episode celebration. The year’s winding down! What will make the list? What won’t? Find out here, same Bill-time, same Bill-channel. (I think I made that joke before, actually. Bah. What do you want from me? New material? Want I should bop you with this here lollipop, buddy?)

19 Comments

The current Gumby series is nearly that crazy.

Just saying that.

Also: Herbie seems awesome.

You’re right, Gumby is a title that can potentially live up to Herbie. Then again, you have to remember that Gumby is written by Bob Burden, who once guest-starred Herbie himself in an issue of Flaming Carrot! I forgot to mention that one above. Bob Burden is the spiritual successor to Richard E. Hughes.

Okay, that’s awesome. I’d never heard of it until just now, but I’d buy collected editions for sure.

Are there any collected editions of Herbie out there? It sounds, quite simply, awesome. I’d love to check it out.

The short-lived Dark Horse series had its heart on the right place. It mixed reprints with new stories by top creators (John Byrne did the first one!), but sadly lasted only two issues.

Best,
Hunter (Pedro Bouça)

I loved, loved, loved this comic. Even as a wee lad I could see the difference between the Silver Age stooopidness of Jimmy Olsen and Lois Lane comics, the bland “humor” of Richie Rich and Archie, and the inspired madness of Herbie. Herbie vs Satan was heady stuff for this little Catholic boy, but my favorite bit was when Herbie walked to England.

Fred Hembeck used to “borrow” Herbie a lot in his old 80s comics. I know he showed up in “The Martian Manhunter meets the Human Torch.”

When you promise “the weirdest, wackiest comic book character of them all,” you don’t disappoint, Bill.

I’ll never doubt you again.

[...] Bill Reed created an interesting post today on 365 Reasons to Love Comics #300.Here’s a short outline:Herbie ended up on fantastic adventures, utilizing his nigh-infinite superpowers to walk on air, travel through time, and accomplish just about anything. He met everyone from John F. Kennedy to Adlai Stevenson to Richard Burton to Satan … [...]

Wow.

[sits back in stunned admiration]

Ian’s right – I think you’ve reached your personal apotheosis, here, Bill. The only real mystery is how you managed to save him this long.

Okay, looking for back issues of this is going to be my new E-Bay obsession. Thanks, Bill. Also, does anyone else get a heavy Dan Clowes vibe off this art? It reminds me a lot of his work. Maybe I’m just delerious from having had a cold this weekend, but still; I get that feeling from it.

YES! Yes! Yes!

I noticed something odd: Herbie talks just like Rorschach! Here’s a sampling of some of Herbie’s very Rorschach-like dialog:

“Look at ‘em. Costume heroes by the drove. Need fellas like them. Meet the challenge.”

“She’s woman. Not right.”

“Getting places now. More like it.”

“Not forgetting what you did for me.”

“Eat Chinese food. Hour later feel empty. Just like all other Americans.”

“Slightly annoyed. Teach ‘em lesson.”

“Done things for you. Thought maybe you could use your influence.”

“Got to be punished for what you’ve done.”

“Sleep. Sleep very hard.”

“Mad now.”

[...] Dark Horse is doing hardcover archive editions of Herbie! [...]

[...] may recall I featured good ol’ Herbie as the 300th Reason to Love Comics, and with good reason; the Fat Fury starred in the strangest comics of all time, surreal adventures [...]

[...] So the Eisner nominees are out, and lo, it has come to pass: Herbie is nominated in two categories! Vindication at last. I’m hoping for a [...]

I found this comic by accident in an old store back in the early 70′s or late 60′s when I was still a kid. I stood out of the clerk’s vision & read it as I didn’t have any change at the time to purchase it. I had never seen it again yet that one time burned this comic into my head! I was thrilled to find your reference to it & may go buy a copy and set it down beside my Book on Stan lee’s “New Gods” series which contains all the books in the series. This too was a much overlooked series.
Thanks, Mara

Hey guys, just get yourself a copy of the Holy Babble, the writings of the Church of Herbangelism. This great production was produced by the Herbangelists, a group of fans who revere Herbie and have turned him into a humorous religion. Not exactly Herbie Comics, but certainly Herbie. Be the judge yourself. And be prepared to see some Holy Cows slaughtered in this religious parody.

Yours,
Elst, Chief Expounder of the Truthe

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