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HerbieThe HERBIE series was one of a handful of odd little titles published during the early and mid-60's by the (now defunct) American Comics Group; an outfit specializing in science fiction and horror "anthology" titles, for the most part. They were the sort of comics which thrived (in a manner of speaking) during the pallid, largely superhero-less stretch of years between the inception of the Comics Code Authority (and, hence, the end of the Golden Age) and the publication of DC Comics' SHOWCASE #4 (the event signaling the onset of what would later be recognized as the Silver Age). Tame, never-terribly-shocking (much less interesting) comics, invariably with two-word titles such as STARTLING STORIES; EERIE ADVENTURES; and COWBOY SEXCAPADES. (All right... all right; maybe I did make up that last one. What are you gonna do about it, huh? Big mister tough guy? Here: cross this line, whydon'tcha? I dare ya. Sissy.)
HERBIE was one of said company's rare non-anthology entries into the comics marketplace of the day. Detailing the studiedly surreal, Dali-esque adventures of one "Herbie Popnecker" [see panel, accompanying -- aphlegmatic and indolent grade school butterball whose sole obsessions were (in order): eating; sleeping; and lollipops, and whose mortified father continually referred to him as: "a fat little nothing!" -- the series was (you have my oath on it) as completely and thoroughly beyond all possible categorization as the most mutated rara avis. Nothing like it had ever before seen print, in any mainstream American comic book; in its Boy Battleship-sized wake, nothing has since, either. )
Herbie wasn't so much a super-hero, you see, as he was a sort of living super-singularity; bizarre, reality-bending phenomena circled Young Master Popnecker like so many lunatic fireflies -- the sudden manifestation (say) of George Washington's wooden teeth on a dining room table, here; a prehistoric cavewoman shambling out from the dynamited rubble of a highway excavation site, there -- and were sucked into his remorseless, slow-moving wake, in turn.
Herbie, you see, could accomplish any feat -- vanquish any foeman; sojourn to any point in time and/or space; even locate and purchase copies of TV GUIDE without those annoying little "record club" inserts stuck in the middle of same -- so long as he had a lollipop gripped in one meaty fist. [See pictures, accompanying] With no more preamble than a drawled: "... gonna bop you with this here lollipop...!", Herbie did -- throughout the course of histitle's run -- dispatch such otherwise tres formidable opponents as: the Sheriff of Nottingham; Hitler; Dracula; Zeus; and even the Hades-dwelling Lord of the Flies his own bad self. The "bop" attack, apparently, knew no defensive recourse; it was as deadly and implacable as a hurricane. )
Most fearsome of all, however, was the sight of an angered Herbie Popnecker -- lumbering towards his chosen opponent with glacial imperturbability -- with the dreaded "hard-to-find cinnamon flavor lollipop" clenched in one white-knuckled paw. Said "cinnamon" pops, you see, were reserved for only the most dire and awful of contingencies; sort of the confectionery equivalent, if you will, of a missle carrying a nuclear warhead in its payload. As charmingly explicated by writer Shane O'Shea and artist nonpareil Ogden Whitney, the HERBIE adventures were every bit as hallucinatory and non sequitor as anything one might find in Hunter S. Thompson's personal diary. For those readers who could (or would) "get" the joke... the title was nothing less than an inspired free fall into Total Dementia.
HERBIE enjoyed the monthly devotions of a fanatically loyal readership (of which number Your Narrator, I assure you,was amply proud to be counted) for many a year, during the greater portion of the 60's, outlasting any number of the more "serious" offerings from the American Comics Group. Changing fannish tastes and sentiments, alas, finally succeeded in accomplishing what any number of befuddled alien despots or slow-witted other-dimensional entities had failed to achieve prior, however: with the advent of the "Marvel Age" style of Heavy Angst and Total Seriousness during the latter part of the decade... the charming conceits of the self-styled "Fat Fury" fell out of favor with a plurality of the audience, and -- after a healthy (but too brief, still) run -- HERBIE was, at long last, canceled.
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