The First and Last of Herbie

Herbie Popnecker was introduced in a short one-off story that originally saw print in FORBIDDEN WORLDS #73. It was intended as a throwaway tale, one more short strange adventure to fill the pages of the anthology series. But the story and the character proved popular with readers, and creator Richard Hughes subsequently brought him back for a sequel story, then another, and eventually a series. HERBIE was one of the oddest and most unique titles published during the 1960s–hallucinatory, bizarre, off-kilter, dreamlike and possessing a very strange sense of humor. It is wonderful comics.

By 1967 and after 23 issues, HERBIE had run its course. In the final issue of the magazine, editor Hughes reprinted that first Herbie story as a way of filling out pages. But rather than simply rerunning it, he went through and added several editorial captions to it, pointing out just how much Herbie had changed and evolved since his initial one-off appearance.

The entire story is worth reading, but I was torn as to whether to show it as originally presented or with the notes that Hughes added in after the fact, as I thought that was an appropriately wacky thing to do. So here’s a comparison, at least of the pages where Hughes added in some commentary to the reprint.

As everybody who’s in-the-know is aware, the one-and-only central gag in the Herbie strip is that this fat little goofball is actually the most powerful, famous and accomplished being in the universe, unbeknownst to his parents.

Consequently, the conflicts in Herbie stories didn’t usually tend to center around physical confrontations–there wasn’t anything that Herbie couldn’t lick. But rather, there’d usually be some other point in play, some more abstract goal which Herbie was trying to achieve.

The source of Herbie’s phenomenal powers appeared to be the lollipops that he sucked on continuously.

And while Herbie was able to fly like any good comic book hero, he typically affected a pose whereby he walked through the sky, in a manner not dissimilar to Wayne Boring’s depiction of Superman.

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