This week’s episode of “The Fred Hembeck Show” is a thrill-packed sequel to our 90th edition, the one featuring “The Massacre of the Innocents”. You might recall that I identified that long-lost, highly idiosyncratic tale, as being one of three that I can’t help but look back on as extremely influential in shaping my own oddball approach to cartooning.
Well, friends, today we have a second neglected gem to share with you, one that actually appeared several years earlier than our previous offering. Released in late 1967, “The Best of All Possible Worlds” was NOT the subject of this memorable Rocke Mastroserio scenario (based, no doubt, on a striking layout provided him by editor/art director Dick Giordano) gracing the cover of the January, 1968 issue of Charlton’s The Many Ghosts of Dr. Graves (number five, for those of you scoring along at home…), but trust me, it was in there…
(Oh, and if that cover looks a wee bit familiar to some of you and you’re not quite sure why, I should point out that it was prominently displayed in a Charlton Comics house ad found in all the line’s titles, right alongside Steve Ditko’s cover for Blue Beetle #6, the issue that famously never actually came out! In fact, you can find that very advertisement tucked inside the pages of Dr. Graves #5 itself, which offers the paying customer a curious - and unique - choice: “Hey kid, wanna buy ANOTHER copy of a comic ya already have, or wouldja prefer the one we’re never gonna publish? Yer choice…”)
The eight-page story - written by Steve Skeates and drawn (as well as lettered) by Jim Aparo - cleverly plays around with various comic book conventions, not merely breaking the fourth wall along the way, but downright demolishing it in the process! Both separately and in tandem, Skeates and Aparo did a lot of fine work in their respective careers (including a memorable run on Aquaman, one that allowed me, for the ONLY time in my entire life, to honestly utter the words, “Gee, I can’t wait until the next issue of Aquaman comes out!”….), but the strange saga of Charlie Droople remains my all-time favorite by the pair to this day.
Now, I don’t want to say much more about the story in question for two reasons. Firstly, I’d like you to read it for yourselves (yes, this entire sentence serves as the handy-dandy link), fresh, and without too much of it being given away. Secondly, I’ve already HAD my say on “The Best of All Possible Worlds” - y’see, several years back, I contributed a Dateline:@#$% strip focusing on it to a Charlton-centric issue of Comic Book Artist (Hey, remember Comic Book Artist, folks? Gee, whatever became of that fine publication anyway?…). When you get to the eighth and final page of the Skeates/Aparo opus, you’ll find a link to my strip at the bottom, and - should you be in any way interested - THAT would be the proper time to check out my thoughts (but NOT before - read the real thing first, cuz that’s the main attraction here, okay?…).
So, go! Enjoy! And afterwards, ask yourself - would I make the same choices as Charlie Droople?
I did, and look what it got me: Hembeck.com! Please come visit - I get SO lonely sometimes…
-Copyright 2007 Fred Hembeck
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