Publisher: Dark Horse (April 29, 2009)
Hardcover, 232 pages
“It’s a bit difficult to consider Herbie volume by volume. After all, each story is self-contained - there are no ongoing subplots or themes. Each issue is instead a marvel of cartoon engineering: hermetically sealed entertaining. In fact, it’s the relentless imagination of writer Richard Hughes and artist Ogden Whitney that provides the engine here. Both veterans of comic books for almost three decades, by 1967 the due had written and drawn every conceivable kind of comic-book story… In Herbie, the duo found the ideal vehicle for their talents, combining, via Herbie’s godlike powers, all their seemingly favorite themes in single stories.”
- Dan Nadel from the introduction.
This final volume, which took me forever to find at a reasonable price, collects the final group of issues, 15 - 23. It’s not poor Herbie’s fault that he was cancelled. His entire publisher, American Comics Group, went belly up a month after issue 23. In fact, there were rumors of some lost Herbie stories floating around, but they’ve never been anything but rumors as far as I can tell. Thank goodness Dark Horse made these archive editions.
Herbie Popnecker is a squat round boy with coke-bottle glasses and a lollypop addiction. While simultaneously being irresistible to women, the lollypops give him special powers to beat foes up, travel through time, etc. Essentially any power he needs is wrapped up in a lollypop on his special belt- think 1960s Batman TV show utility belt. His father, on the other hand, is drawn like as a standard handsome protagonist of comic stories, but is revealed to be stupid, cowardly, and arrogant, who enjoys bullying his own son. A sort of revenge by the authors on all the pretty boys jocks from their past.
Humor books are not unusual for the comic industry (or weren’t unusual), but Herbie stands apart from them in style. That is, a dead-pan style. Normally I would’ve thought that it was impossible to achieve in sequential art, but Herbie is a perfect example of it. Because, while the events in stories are ridiculous beyond belief, the art is not done in a comic or “wacky” style. Instead it is drawn straight as it would be for any normal comic. It’s almost bland and casts the entire Compare the art to any 1960s superhero story and you will see it’s done as straight-forward as anyone of them. No little comic additions in the panel, just stark, minimalist art which accentuates the insanity of the script.
For more readings, try books by Rex Hurst.