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Comic Book / Fred Hembeck Destroys the Marvel Universe

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"I always did want to go down in comic book history, and destroying the Marvel Universe is one sure way to do it. Of ocurse, it's not as good as creating the Marvel Universe, but it's a start."

Fred Hembeck Destroys the Marvel Universe is a 1989 one-shot comic where cartoonist Fred Hembeck... well, destroys the Marvel Universe.

Ever since a fiasco involving an Anyone Can Die Marvel comic book, Fred Hembeck had fallen from grace, and is slumming it up in an alley with nothing but the unpublished comic to keep him warm. Suddenly, he is visited by none other than The Punisher, who has come to determine how guilty Hembeck is for destroying the Marvel Universe. Will Hembeck's reputation be redeemed, or is he doomed to die at the hands of the Punisher?

This comic is notable for its troubles in production regarding a Framing Device that involved Jim Shooter (which was eventually reduced to Second-Hand Storytelling in the final product).



  • Black Comedy: It's a humor comic about characters dying, what other kind of comedy were you expecting?
  • Bloodless Carnage
  • Celestial Bureaucracy: All of the killed characters end up in the Beyond, a paradise where they are fitted with either a pair of wings or horns.
  • Dramatic Unmask: Mr. Fantastic makes a final request to see Doctor Doom without his mask. Doctor Doom reveals himself to be Nathaniel Richards, Reed's father — Victor Von Doom was Dead All Along.
  • Evil Twin: A jealous one was involved in the backstory provided by Hembeck.
  • Excuse Plot: The main story is Crackers systemically killing off all the superheroes and supervillains in the Marvel Universe through the orders of "the Big Guy" (i.e. Jim Shooter).
  • "Freaky Friday" Flip: The last two characters killed were Prince Namor the Submariner and Zzzax the Living Creature of Electricity, who get their minds switched by Crackers and die trying to engage in their contrasting elements.
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  • The Grim Reaper: Portrayed here as Crackers, the crown prince of death.
    "Why the clown get up? Well, look at it this way: life is just one long elaborate set up, and death? Why, death is the ultimate punch line, of course!
    "Hey, who says I don't have a sense of humor?"
  • Hurricane of Puns: The scene where Daredevil meets an undercover agent at the Mexican border is full of puns on the word "sí". It's an extended reference to the "Si Sy" sketches from The Jack Benny Program, and an excuse to skewer Daredevil with a sai. "(sigh)" "Si."
  • It's Been Done: Crackers, in trying to come up with an ironic death for Elektra, decides she should be run through with her own sai, only to remember that it already happened.
  • Medium Awareness: Towards the end of the comic, after Fred Hembeck finishes telling his story to the Punisher, he asks if he's going to kill him now, "Because if you are, you'd better hurry because we're almost out of pages."
  • Microwave the Dog: Ant-Man is killed when an old lady sticks him into a microwave oven.
  • Money, Dear Boy: How Hembeck agreed to create the comic in-universe.
  • Reasoning with God: A variation — since the Big Guy wants all the super characters dead, Mr. Fantastic decides they should instead appeal to an even higher power... Fred Hembeck himself.
  • Sequel Snark: The back cover advertises a sequel called "The Marvel Universe Destroys Fred Hembeck" (Coming Soon?), depicting various Marvel characters walking away from Hembeck's grave carrying shovels, unaware that Hembeck is rising from the grave.
  • The End... Or Is It?: At the very end of the story, Hembeck's comic is abandoned in the trash, with the reasoning that as long as it isn't published, the Marvel Universe is safe. But then Crackers comes across it and flies off with it. "The End?"
  • The Fourth Wall Will Not Protect You: After all of the super heroes and villains are dead, Crackers decides he deserves a vacation, but reminds you that he'll still come for you some day, when you least expect it.
  • Theme Naming: In the original Framing Device, Jim Shooter's fictional assistaints are named Clark, Bruce, and Diana. The inside cover for the "evil twin" version of the story implies that those aren't their real names.
  • Trapped in TV Land: The fate of Captain Marvel (Monica Rambeau, in this case).
  • Twist Ending: At the end of the story, the Punisher reveals himself to be Stan Lee in disguise, reasoning that Fred Hembeck would be more honest to someone like the Punisher than Lee himself if the story behind the comic was true.
  • Unintentional Period Pieceinvoked: Lampshaded by Hembeck when the Punisher starts reading the comic, pointing out that the team rosters, costumes, and characerizations depicted in the comic were products of their time.
    Hembeck: -- Why, it's so ancient that the New Yorks Mets were still a very bad baseball team at the time it was done! Now, that's old, let me tell ya --
    • Also when The Punisher, having finished the original comic, angrily confronts Hembeck for getting only one cameo panel in all the deaths presented. Hembeck points out that when he originally wrote it, Frank was just a third-tier vigilante "going after jaywalkers" and not the popular 80s Anti-Hero he had become by the time the book came out.
  • You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: Nightmare tells Crackers that he had done what he was told to do and killed Dr. Strange. Crackers then tells him he has to die as well, and Nightmare subsequently pops.