The Fred Hembeck Files!Proud Robot ProductionsProud Robot Productions

Green Arrow and The Human Target Superman
The Strips

Martian Manhunter & J. Hex New!

Superman and The Flash New!

Justice League of America

Jonah Hex

Green Lantern


Green Arrow and The Flash


The Flash


Gotham City Police Dept.

Johnny Thunder and Shazam!

Batman, Green Lantern,
and The Flash


Metal Men

Pete Ross and Lana Lang

Superman & J'onn J'onzz

Charles M. Jones

Batman and Robin

The Flash and Zatanna

Jor-El and Lara

DC Prez Jenette Kahn


Clark Kent and Lois Lane

The Haunted Tank

Superman and Lois Lane

The Unknown Soldier

The Vigilante

The Private Life of Clark Kent

Green Arrow and Black Canary

Sgt. Rock and Easy Company

Witching Hour

Green Arrow, The Human Target,
and Superman

Super Friends

Lois & Clark

Green Arrow & Black Canary

Superman & Jimmy Olsen


Batman & Shazam!

Justice Society of America

Phantom Stranger and
Phantom Girl

Batman and Robin

Black Lightning

Private Life of Clark Kent

Green Arrow and The Warlord

Eclipso / Mr. Mxyzptlk

The Flash & Adam Strange


Lightning Lad & Chameleon Boy

Justice League of America

Wonder Woman

Zatanna and Professor Zoom

Firestorm, the Nuclear Man

Swamp Thing

Gotham City Police Dept.

Bizarro World

The Atom

The Flash and The Mirror Master


The Batman and the Joker

Lex Luthor and Brainiac

The Flash

Enemy Ace

Green Arrow & Black Canary

Hawkman & the Flash

The Phantom Stranger

Legion of Super-Heroes

Green Lantern


Batman and Red Tornado

Green Lantern and the Flash

The Creeper

Robin, the Boy Wonder

Justice League of America

Legion of Super-Heroes

Elongated Man and Plastic Man

Superman Family

The Flash and the Spectre

Superman's Pal, Jimmy Olsen


Hawkman & Hawkgirl


Wildcat & Dr. Fate

Batman & Robin


Plastic Man

Bob 'Answer Man' Rozakis

Batman & the Flash

Green Arrow & Green Lantern

The Atom

Batman & Robin

Coming soon

Jimmy Olsen & Lois Lane

Steve Trevor


Steve Savage

The Flash

Johnny Thunder

Sgt. Rock & Easy Company


Johnny Cloud

Green Lantern

Lois, Clark & Jimmy

Plastic Man

Perry White & Jimmy Olsen

Martian Manhunter

Madame Xanadu

Bruce Wayne


Swamp Thing

Fred Hembeck

Green Arrow and The Human Target
Uploaded October 12, 2000

Okay, these are kind of obvious jokes, but you've got to give Fred major points for the delivery.

Besides, it lets me segue neatly into a rant about advertising, namely two words that strike terror into the hearts of consumer advocates everywhere: 'product placement'.

Just check out that Target logo on the shirt…what, you didn't watch Survivor this summer?

I know, I know, Fred never received a treasure chest full of linens and toilet paper in exchange for painting those concentric circles on Christopher Chance's mock turtleneck, but I'm trying to make a point here.

For those of you new to the concept, product placement involves embedding assorted brand name products into other vehicles, most notably television and movies (although ad banners on the web might qualify, too). All of those racing patches that Tom Cruise wore in Days of Thunder? Product placement. Sandman posters in Darlene's bedroom on Roseanne? Product placement. The Verizon payphone in last week's season premiere of The West Wing? Product placement. Okay, that last was kind of a mistake, since the scene in question was a flashback from five years before Verizon had even been incorporated. But I digress (with apologies to PAD for the appropriation of his trademark catchphrase).

And those are the innocuous examples.

It used to be that product placement was limited to background stuff and assorted props. Sadly, in that ever present drive to latch onto marketing dollars, the products are receiving greater prominence, and in some cases, are deliberately referred to in the script. Case in point: one episode of Beverly Hills, 90210 featured Brandon waving a Blockbuster video rental in front of his friends. (Yes, I know Blockbluster, Viacom, and Aaron Spelling Productions are all in bed together in some kind of unholy triumvirate, but that really doesn't mitigate the situation.)

Until fairly recently, the comic book industry had largely been insulated from product placement deals. The brand names of the stuff characters used was never specifically identified. Everything was more or less generic, apart from exceptions resulting from the collective impulses of pencillers and inkers.

Hmmm. All of a sudden I'm wondering whether inker Terry Austin's renowned penchant for drawing Popeye into the pages he works on might be the result of some kind of secret deal with King Features...

That golden age of marketing innocence in comics ended earlier this year, when the Nautica clothing line worked out a deal with DC to insinuate company logos and styles directly into the story artwork of the Flash spin-off series Impulse. To be fair, I haven't seen a copy of the issue myself, so I can't judge the relative intrusiveness of the placement for myself.

Even if the placement was fairly benign, and didn't distract from the story, it still places comic books on the edge of a slippery slope. Please understand, I began reading comics back in the heyday of the Hostess ads, which featured DC super-heroes thwarting villains intent on stealing assorted cupcakes and fruit-filled pastries. Those were all one-page, self-contained ads, though, with no connection to or bearing on the published stories, and that distinction was important. It allowed us - mentally - to shuffle the characterizations shown in those ads to some other Earth in the DC Multiverse, and not fret over the dissonance between those portrayals and the likes of Denny O'Neil's and Neal Adams' grim-and-gritty Batman stories.

Whether you call it 'Earth Sell-Out', or just 'Earth-Twinkie', for lack of a better name, it's just about the only place you could approach Wonder Woman and say, "Hey! Nice cupcakes!", without her tying her golden lariat to your nether regions and using you for bolo practice.

What's next, now that the doors have been opened? Hard to say. I suspect that DC and Nautica are in the middle of discussions as to whether the stunt had any real marketing impact in either direction, apart from the PR splash that accompanied the first bit of negotiated product placement in comics.

If the campaign proves to have been successful in light of their marketing goals, we can count on seeing more in the way of such activities. In that event, all we can do is ask the publishers to be mindful of the potential impact of product placement on the flow of a story. Comic books - particularly of the super-hero variety - depend so much on the suspension of disbelief. As we all know, blatant, intrusive advertising within the story can bring that suspension to a screeching halt. Just be careful, okay? That's all we ask.

Oh, yeah, the heroes of the strips. Almost forgot.

Green Arrow: Millionaire playboy Oliver Queen falls overboard, washes up on a desert island, masters archery in order to catch food, and then captures a band of crooks using the island as a hideaway, with nary a Jeff Probst or CBS camera crew in site. Returns to civilization to take up double life as a financial whiz and super-hero via an assortment of arrow-related gimmickry.

The Human Target: I confess - this has always been a favorite, but, then again, I've always been a sucker for Dick Giordano's artwork. The Human Target, a.k.a. Christopher Chance, made a career out of impersonating people who have been marked for murder, serving himself up as bait to flush out the killers. Very nifty concept, so long as you ignore all thoughts of the really lame television adaptation. I mean, really - Rick Springfield? I kept expecting him to break into 'Jesse's Girl'. Next thing you know, you'll see a Nick Fury adaptation starring David Hasselhoff...

Superman: Aw, you all know who he is.

- NP

The copyrights, trademarks and publication rights to Fred's cartoons belong to DC Comics, Marvel Comics, and Fred Hembeck where appropriate. Proud Robot Productions graphics, site design, cartoon re-coloring and commentary copyrights belong to Neil Polowin and Proud Robot Productions.

Proud Robot Productions