When Rosy Baffled the Kids

« I believe that the Belgians do possess some surrealistic gene. » — Eddy de Clercq

I’m afraid we’re back into surrealism territory, folks. Our focus today is on a single piece by polymath Maurice Rosy (1927-2013, Fontaine-l’Évêque, Belgium), published in bédé weekly Spirou in 1966, in the midst of Rosy’s tenure as the magazine’s co-art director (with Yvan Delporte) and boundless idea generator (1956-73, for the record… the period widely hailed as Spirou’s golden age).

As for the story in question… it was, shall we say, ahead of its time. And still is.

Nonetheless, its value was recognized almost immediately (less than one year on, for the record) by connaisseurs Jacques Sternberg, Michael Caen (co-founder of the epochal Midi-minuit fantastique) and Jacques Lob‘s essential Les trésors de la bande dessinée (1967, Éditions Planète), wherein they wrote:

Intrigued by oriental philosophies and General Semantics*, jazz pianist in the modern idiom, art director of the publishing house that produces Spirou, hilarious storyteller, Rosy has had drawings published in Paris-Match and Adam, all the while crafting (with Pol Deliège) tales of Bobo. He is also the author of the most bizarre story ever to appear in a kids’ magazine, which earned its publisher and author an especially venomous stream of insulting letters. Geniuses are always unsung.

Rosy has the sharp smile of a Steve McQueen and a picturesque language all his own.

You be the judge, He looked winningly impish, all right!

And now, the item in question:

From the next page over, a detail from more typical fare, namely Peyo’s La Schtroumpfette. Rosy, art director to the hilt, had opted to further mess with the readers’ minds by tampering with the magazine’s standard À suivre (to be continued) box.

When Rosy was interviewed for a deluxe, 16-volume reprinting (begun in 2007) of the adventures of Tif et Tondu (with Will as illustrator, Rosy served as writer/metteur en scène on the feature for many of its glory years, 1954-67), the notorious one-shot was touched upon:

In 1966, you created a strip with an unreadable, and therefore unpronounceable name, which even made it onto the magazine’s cover: are we deep into Herriman* territory?

Rosy: That’s weird, people say that, but at the time, there was no such conscious homage. It was rather a reflection of the state of mind that I was in. I was increasingly bearing the marks of (and anguished by) the absurdity of certain facets of life.

«… awaits you on page 5. » Rosy’s cover for Spirou no. 1465 (May 12, 1966, Éditions Dupuis).

-RG

*Philosopher Alfred Korzybski‘s General Semantics, that is; most famous for its premise that « the map is not the territory ».

**In the same way that people with an insufficient frame of reference wrongly compare every musician they hear to The Beatles, the under-informed tend to ascribe any sign of whimsy or absurdity in the comics medium to Krazy Kat progenitor George Herriman. Yes, both were deeply influential, but come on, there are limits. In Rosy’s case, I’d posit that, if there was influence at work there, it was more likely that of the mighty Saul Steinberg.

Tentacle Tuesday: Unpopular Mechanacles

Greetings, tentacle lovers! After a hearty breakfast of cephalopod pancakes (no octopuses harmed), one can sit down with a quiet cup of tea and enjoy today’s crop of mechanical tentacles.

I tend to follow a chronological order, so our first is E-Man no. 1 (October 1973, Charlton Comics). The cover aside, these images have been taken from a recent reprint, which accounts for the somewhat garish colours. I am hardly a fan of Joe Staton, so this is starting off on a somewhat less aesthetically pleasing foot, but mechanical tentacles are en flagrant délit in the cover story. Besides, E-Man has a certain innocent charm.

The cover story is The Beginning, scripted by Nicola Cuti and illustrated by Joe Staton:

Going towards a much darker note (both in terms of printing and content – and to be honest, I by far prefer this dark-ish colour palette to the rainbow of E-Man colours), here is The Absolute Power-Play of the Parasite!, scripted by Martin Pasko, pencilled by Curt Swan, and inked by Frank Chiaramonte, and published in Superman no. 320 (February 1978, DC):

Next, dramatic Rebirth!, scripted by Marv Wolfman and drawn by Gil Kane (Tentacle Tuesday Dabbler!), published in Action Comics no. 544 (June 1983, DC):

There’s even a sort of pin-up in that issue: The New Brainiac, pencilled by Ed Hannigan and inked by Dick Giordano.

So much flair and poise!

In a previous post (Tentacle Tuesday: Mechanical Tentacles) I promised that I would stick to but a few instances of Doctor Octopus and ne’er again return to him. However, I would like to point out this familiar fellow in the lab coat (top right):

…So You Want to Work for Globex, Huh?, scripted by Gail Simone, pencilled by Óscar González Loyo and inked by Steve Steere Jr., was published in Simpsons Comics no. 66 (January 2002, Bongo). Sometimes Simpsons comics are real fun to read, and this is one of those instances.

~ ds

Treasured Stories: “Smalltown Stardom” (1999)

« I’m going down to the Dew Drop Inn / See if I can drink enough / There ain’t much to country living: sweat, piss, jizz and blood » — Warren Zevon, Play It All Night Long

Kevin Nowlan (b. 1958, Chandron, NE) is one of those artists whose style I’ve always admired, and I’m far from alone in this sentiment. However, when it comes to what I think he should be applying his tremendous talent to, I’m squarely in the minority. Most people would evidently have him drawing Batman or the X-Men or other spandex fanboy favourites… but I feel there’s far more to him. He’s too good for the mainstream comics industry as it exists.

Always a meticulous artist he’s slow as (anti-gravity?) molasses in February, but while that’s led to a relatively modest body of work, it’s all solid. Even early in his career, his path was set, as evidenced by this bit of biography that appeared along with the opening instalment of his short-lived fantasy series, Grimwood’s Daughter (written by Jan Strnad) in Dalgoda no. 2 (Dec. 1984, Fantagraphics):

He discovered that working as gun-for-hire, illustrating scripts for which he had no respect, turning out more art than he could comfortably (and conscientiously) handle, and being forced by publishing schedules to allow as four artists to ink a single story, was artistically debasing and depersonalizing.

Like other creators (say, Adam Hughes and Frank Frazetta, for instance) of the popular but leisurely persuasion, he’s got imitators that can produce at five times his rate of speed. Good; let them take care of the superhero stuff.

Nowlan’s always possessed a sure hand with wry understatement, but he’s not a writer, and that’s a thorny problem when lacking a reliable accomplice to handle that part of the equation. So Nowlan’s done more than his share of covers, pinups and inking jobs.

Ah, but then along came Alan, whom you’ve all met. That hirsute prankster from Northampton understood. He had in his mind’s eye just what Mr. Nowlan needed to truly stretch out and shine, the absurd deeds of Jack B. Quick, Boy Inventor.

JBQ was supposed to be one of a quartet of regular features appearing in the Moore-scripted anthology title Tomorrow Stories, but Nowlan didn’t last long on a schedule, and there are but a handful of JBQ tales, all excellent, capped by the fitting double-length finale, I, Robert. (Tomorrow Stories Special no. 1, Jan. 2006). The feature was (for the most part) replaced by an unfunny waste of Hilary Barta‘s talent, a woeful would-be Plastic Man ersatz, Splash Brannigan. Alan Moore can wring humour out of nearly anything, but as Splash and (even worse) The First American show, superhero parodies are his Waterloo.

JBQ, on the other hand, provides values rarely encountered, let alone appreciated, in mainstream American comics: deadpan, understated humour, surreal but non-cloying whimsy, and a rigorous, steadfast adherence to the mechanics of internal logic, no matter how outlandish things get. In prose, one might chance upon that sort of approach in the works of Marcel Aymé or R.A. Lafferty. But even there, it’s hardly routine. Oh, and given that it’s Alan Moore we’re dealing with, it’s a huge bonus that the JBQ stories are quite rape-free!

But let’s commence from the top, with the dizzying tale of Smalltown Stardom (Tomorrow Stories no. 1, Oct. 1999, America’s Best Comics). No need to shove, there’s plenty of room at the trough!

Is it just me, or can you also picture Thomas Dolby as a grown-up Jack?

-RG

Tentacle Tuesday: That Bizarro Look in Your Eye

Today’s Tentacle Tuesday is a continuation of previous post that’s close to my heart. In a little less than a year, I have accumulated a new batch of tantalizing tentacles from the pens and minds of that intrepid team, Wayno and Dan Piraro. The initial post can be found here: Tentacle Tuesday: Let’s Get Bizarro. The loveliest thing is that some of these are from 2021 – I am not taking for granted the fact that these guys just keep going on, with no loss in quality, year after year. Without further delay…

First, some Dan Piraro Sundays – Wayno has been part of the team since 2018, but only on the dailies.

And now, on to the aforementioned dailies! Wayno straddles the line between continuing the Bizarro aesthetic and keeping his own drawing style beautifully, I think.

As a bonus, 3 older Piraro dailies, artfully collated by co-admin RG. Wouldn’t you like to hang this in your home? I know I would.

~ ds

Herluf Bidstrup: The Goal of Satire Is to Speak the Truth

I’d like to talk about Danish Herluf Bidstrup (1912 – 1988), yet another talented artist of some renown during his lifespan, but who soon sank into the oblivion of time. His wild popularity in the Soviet Union at the height of his artistic prowess not only resulted in honourable mentions in various works of Russian literature, but also in the printing of a bevy of collections both old and new. He has also received numerous awards from the USSR (most notably, the Lenin Peace Prize – a bit of a contradiction in terms – and the Order of the Red Banner of Labour). Now he’s forgotten by most everyone… except by Russians, who still carry a torch for his cartoons, and publish new collections of his work to this day. He produced around five thousand cartoons during his lifetime, so there’s certainly plenty of material to collect!

In Moscow, circa 1953.

The openly anti-fascist Bidstrup had been contributing humorous drawings to various publications since 1935, but he truly found his voice in the underground (and illegal) newspaper, Land og folk, the offshoot of Denmark’s (also illegal) Communist party, which Bidstrup joined in 1943. While his work was also appreciated and published in East Germany, his obvious political stance significantly limited the scope of what could be printed. It even affected his career in his home country, as Denmark was economically dependent on then-Fascist Germany. Bidstrup himself considered that he was most accurately represented in the Soviet press, not only before and during WWII, but also after the war. In 1953, in a letter to his friend Soviet journalist Mikhail Kosov, translator of his work and main enthusiast, he wrote that « all Soviet anthologies which we have prepared together are a hundred times better than collections published in other countries… in the German version, I become more and more of a harmless humourist, and a completely toothless satirist. »

Bidstrup’s sketch of the Cathedral of Vasily the Blessed.

In a sense, Bidstrup can be compared to his contemporary, French artist Jean Effel (also a favourite of Soviet citizens): both were openly communists whose work confronted social injustice and inequality. But at the end of the day, artists aren’t much remembered for their ‘social conscience’: it’s their keen eye for everyday detail and sense of humour that allows cartoons to pass unscathed through decades, to touch and amuse us some seventy years on. In that sense, Bidstrup’s cartoons are arguably more ‘dated’, more tied to his politics than Effel’s, which perhaps explains why one encounters mentions of the latter a little more often. Still, there’s plenty there to admire and chuckle at.

Bidstrup Herluf: Drawings (2017, Mesheriakov Publishing House); such a nice shade of green.

The following images have been selected from the collection seen above and kindly scanned and framed by co-admin RG.

«The circle closes.»
« On the wings of Pegasus. »
« Amateur photographer »
« Self-criticism »
« Direct hit »
« Life’s journey »
« Wife of a jazzman »
« Solitude »
« Fished out »
«The mirror of the soul »
« An extended game »
« A perfect example »

Finally, here is a charming cartoon that Soviet animation director Lev Atamanov produced in collaboration with Bidstrup during one of his many visits to the USSR.

I hope your enjoyed this walk down history’s lane. And if you’d like to see more, while Herluf Bidstrup may be relatively obscure, you can still see a nice collection of his cartoons here and here.

~ ds

Behold… the Great Shnozzola!

« That’s the conditions that prevail! » — Jimmy Durante

Today, we salute noted vaudevillian, piano player, comedian, singer, film and radio star, raconteur and unlikely comics legend James Francis “Jimmy” Durante, born on this day, February 10, in 1893 (as it was a Friday, the family presumably fasted or had fish for dinner). He truly was a master of all media, as you’ll witness.

This early bit of biography appeared in Juke Box Comics no. 4 (Sept. 1948, Eastern Color); it was illustrated by Ed Moore. Hear Cantor and Durante reminisce about their early days on this 1947 episode of The Jimmy Durante Show.
A passing mention of old Jimmy, from Nyoka the Jungle Girl no. 24 (Oct. 1948, Fawcett). Writer and artist unknown.
An early cover by Dick Ayers (1924-2014), this is Jimmy Durante Comics no. 1 (Oct. 1948, Magazine Enterprises).
The second and final issue of Jimmy Durante Comics (Winter 1948-49, Magazine Enterprises).
Mr. Durante rates a smashing musical appearance in this Rube Goldberg Device daily strip (Apr. 14, 1951, King Features Syndicate)… by Rube Goldberg, naturally.
And here’s the Shnozzola in the midst of a carnal melée of his fellow Old Hollywood legends (can you name them all, cinephiles?) This is Bill Griffith‘s cover for The Tiajuana Bible Revival Volume Two: Under the Stars in Hollywood (1977, Hooker, California: Paramounds Prod.). This was « An anthology reprinting 1930’s Tijuana Bibles, some of which were obscene parodies of popular newspaper comic strips of the day. Others made use of characters based on popular movie stars and sports stars of the day, such as Mae West and Joe Louis, sometimes with names thinly changed. Before the war, almost all the stories were humorous and frequently were cartoon versions of well-known dirty jokes that had been making the rounds for decades. » [ source ]
Pointillist-satirist Drew Friedman‘s immortal Jimmy Durante Boffs Young Starlets first saw print in National Lampoon vol. 2 no. 78 (Jan. 1985).
Durante briefly pops up (with the Checkered Demon!) in the second half of a truly all-star underground comix jam involving R. Crumb, Steve Clay Wilson (1941-2021… he left us just three days ago, aged 79… RIP), Victor Moscoso, Spain Rodriguez, Rick Griffin, Robert Williams and Gilbert Shelton. It appeared in Zap Comix no. 12 (1989, Last Gasp). Cartoonists are generally fond of the Schnozzola, but Underground cartoonists are just mad about him.
And finally, on a gentler note… here’s a clearly affectionate caricature (a preliminary sketch) of the esteemed Signor Durante (aw, he’s blushing!) by the amazing Sam Berman (crayon on onionskin paper, 1947). Berman (1907-1995) was, deservedly, quite a big deal in his day; as the erudite Drew Friedman told Print Magazine in his quality of co-curator of the 12 Legendary Caricaturists You’ve (probably) Never Heard Of exhibition at NYC’s Society of Illustrators, Berman « was indeed famous and celebrated in his day. Beginning his career in the late 1930s, he created iconic sculpted caricature covers for Esquire featuring their new mascot “Esky” (created by Berman) for an entire year. He created the sculpted caricatures of the leading actors (Fredric March, Carole Lombard, etc.) for the opening titles of the 1937 classic screwball comedy Nothing Sacred, did huge amounts of work for all the top magazines and newspapers of the day, including for Mark Hellinger’s popular column, created close to 60 amazing full-color portraits for the 1947 booklet The NBC Parade of Stars, drew children’s books, and arguably his most famous creation, the opening caricature of Jackie Gleason rising over Brooklyn for “The Honeymooners,” although he was never credited on the show for drawing that image, nor in any books. He then inexplicably went into map-making and faded quietly into obscurity. »

To wrap things up, here’s Jimmy D. and Frankie S. duetting in Russian. And why not? Happy birthday, Jimmy, wherever you are (and do say hello to Mrs. Calabash!)

-RG

Tentacle Tuesday: Barbarian Fatigue

Greetings all! Today we play whack-a-mole with a few warriors in loincloths – or at least that’s how I felt when looking for material in this post. Every time I found an instance of tentacles in some Conan the barbarian or Kull the destroyer tale, there was yet another one just an issue or a couple down the line. Let’s then consider this the end of a story begun with Tentacle Tuesday: the Savagery of Conan’s Savage Sword and continued with Tentacle Tuesday: Conan-o-rama: after this, I’ll be all Conan-ed out for a few years to come. So drink a shot of some concoction you like (be it coffee or the potent Zombie), and join me for this last foray into the dark, mysterious, predictable world of sword-and-sorcery heroes who run around half-naked (for better freedom of movement, no doubt).

Poor octopus, by far the most tragic figure of this story… These two pages are from The Dweller in the Dark, scripted by Roy Thomas and illustrated by Barry Smith, was published in Conan the Barbarian no. 12 (December 1971, Marvel).
You can’t have it both ways – praising a woman for exhibiting quintessentially ‘feminine’ characteristics and then getting pissed off at her dismay and fright when grabbed by a murderous monster.
The Sunken Land, scripted by Denny O’Neil (from a short story by Fritz Leiber), is pencilled by Walter Simonson and inked by Al Milgrom. This story was published in Sword of Sorcery no. 5 (Nov-Dec 1973, DC). I like Leiber, and I’ve been meaning to get to the Gray Mouser for a while – but I’m reading Andrzej Sapkowski’s Witcher right now, and one sword-and-sorcery saga at a time seems reasonable.
Page from Flame Winds of Lost Khitai!, scripted by Roy Thomas, pencilled by John Buscema and inked by Ernie Chan, published in Conan the Barbarian no. 32 (November 1973, Marvel). Interestingly, barbarians seem to universally abhor striking a woman; an attempt at primitive ethics from the part of the scripters.

One more Conan before we move on to Kull…

Page from Isle of the Dead, scripted by Bruce Jones and illustrated by Val Mayerik, published in Conan the Barbarian no. 138 (September 1982, Marvel). This page has the rare distinction of having the warrior-hero being less clothed than the girl he’s with.

As promised, here’s Kull the destroyer, engaged in battle with an eighties octopus (check out that mohawk!)

Two pages from The Thing from Emerald Darkness, scripted by Doug Moench, pencilled by Ed Hannigan and inked by Alfredo Alcala. This story was published in Kull, the Destroyer no. 17 (October 1976, Marvel). Why does a traitor (that’s not ‘traiter’) deserve better than to die from tentacles? That seems like no worse a death than any other in battle.
A page from City of the Crawling Dead, scripted by Don Glut, pencilled by Ernie Chan, and inked by Rick Hoberg. It was published in Kull, the Destroyer no. 21 (June 1977, Marvel).

Just before you pass out from over-consumption of alcoholic drinks (I’m having a gin and tonic over here!), I’d like to enliven this parade of humdrum tentacles a bit with this Conan pin-up:

This scene by Mike Zeck featured on the cover of long-running ad zine Rocket’s Blast Comicollector no. 119 (June 1975, James Van Hise).

~ ds

A Secret, Silken World: Max Andersson’s “Lolita’s Adventures” (1995)

« Most of us will still take nihilism over neanderthalism. » — David Foster Wallace

It’s become so quiet” “Yes“; from Galago no. 40 (1994, Atlantic Förlags AB)

Today, let’s dip a toe (at the risk of losing it) into the midnight domain of Swedish cartoonist and filmmaker Max Andersson (b. 1962). It’s a relentlessly-perilous scene, but like Kaz’s Underworld comic strip or Arnt Jensen‘s Limbo video game, I find it unexpectedly comforting in spite of (and thanks to) all the darkness, both thematic and in density of ink. In Andersson’s case, might it be owing to the author’s kindness to his protagonists? That’s a factor with odds I rather favour.

I don’t doubt that certain readers of a more sensitive cast will differ, but I posit that the cheerful lack of clemency the artist affords the callous, the cruel and the pernicious makes Andersson’s universe a profoundly moral one. Contrary to, say, your average American action blockbuster, such a purge of the villainous doesn’t restore the status quo… because here, malevolence is the status quo. Andersson’s put-upon little people are true outsiders, and his stories feel like Kafka, but blessed with dénouements far merrier yet merited.

Jolly carnage! Lolita’s Adventures appeared in the third issue (July, 1995) of Fantagraphics’ outstanding anthology title Zero Zero (27 issues, 1995-2000).

See? A happy ending and all, and even a rare glimpse of daylight.

Soon after he began to publish his work, Gary Groth spoke with Andersson (The Comics Journal no. 174 (Feb. 1995, Fantagraphics):

Groth: What would you point to as your defining influences? How did you develop this approach, style and point of view?

Andersson: What I always have in my backbone is the style of classic comics, the stuff I read when I was a kid.

G: I don’t see much Tintin.

A: No, but it’s there if you look closely. The basic technique of how to tell a story well. I try to do that because I want the storytelling to work, to be easy to read.

G: Were you influenced by sources outside of comics — film, literature?

A: Yeah, more of those than comics. The German Expressionist movies of the ’20s, Nosferatu; and artists from the period, like George Grosz.

And don’t leave out old cartoons! Andersson’s thoroughly animist way dovetails neatly with early animation’s unhinged, anything-can-happen mode. By which I mean that anything and everything possessed motion and sentience, be they boulders or pebbles, thunderclouds, petals or creepers, sparks or flames, pantaloons or braces, blunderbusses or bassoons…

As a bonus, a sequence from Andersson’s breakthrough work, Pixy (1993). The title character is the fœtus with a pistol, and the happy little fellows on the counter are units of money. Highly recommended, and likely available in the language of your choice.

About Pixy, fellow dweller-in-darkness Charles Burns exulted: « So you think it’s a cold, creepy, world out there, huh? Hah! Just wait’ll you get a load of Max Andersson’s Pixy… safe sex suits, buildings that eat people, drunken fœtuses with bazookas, money that shits on you, recyclable bodies… hey, wait a minute, that’s not creepy, that’s fun. MY kind of fun. »

For more dope on this important creator’s endeavours, do sidle over to his official website!

-RG

Tentacle Tuesday: Head Cases

Sometimes tentacles are positioned so close to the head that one gets the impression they’re sprouting directly from it. Whether accidental or not, the result is quite horrific – sometimes in a good way, if one enjoys the creepy and bizarre. In this Tentacle Tuesday, we’ll come across literal cases of octopus-instead-of-head, beard-tentacles (stylish!) and alien cepha-cerebellum-pods, which I hope will catch on as a term.

The following has been taken from The Octopeople of Ectroia, illustrated by Henry Kiefer, and published in Fantastic Comics no. 8 (July 1940, Fox Comics). If the introductory panel gives but a brief glimpse of the creature we are about to encounter…

… the splash page gives us an eyeful of her charms. Now we know what Baba Yaga would look like with tentacles instead of her usual limp grey tresses. Incidentally, a few days ago an enterprising fellow won enough support (and funding) from the Lego community to make his Lego Baba Yaga idea an (eventual) reality. She would come with her traditional hut on hen’s legs, a black cat and “everyday useful things” like horseradish drinks. Needless to say, I want one.

“Comics” McCormick has had more than just one encounter with cephalopod-headed men! The following is the cover of Fat and Slat no. 4 (Spring 1948, EC Comics), illustrated by Ed Wheelan.

And here is a page from The Octopus, printed in Terrific Comics no. 3 (May 1944, Helnit Publishing). Is it the same villain? Well, nearly: they’re Octopus-Man and Octopus, differentiated only by the costumes they sport under all those tentacles.

Edgar S. Wheelan (1888-1966) was the creator of Fat and Slat and “Comics” McCormick, and he is well remembered for his introduction of some cinematic techniques to comic strips. Of special significance is his Minute Movies, created for the George Matthew Adams Newspaper Service. This series of animated shorts not only had its stars (and continuity!), but also made full use of techniques that weren’t usually employed in comics, like close-ups, long shots and head shots with title cards.

The following sequence is an oldie-but-goodie from the oft-quoted Origin of the Species!, scripted by Bill Gaines and Al Feldstein, and illustrated by Feldstein. It was first published in Weird Fantasy no. 8 (July-August 1951, EC Comics). For those of you who may not have read it and are wondering whether those tentacled beasts were somehow the progenitors of the human race… no, they weren’t. As for the plot, it raises more questions than it answers, which I believe is not atypical of a Feldstein tale (from those I’ve read, they tend to be like a movie with plenty of drama and special effects, but little sense).

I recently came across a 3-part story published in Eerie numbers 91 to 93 that I quite liked: the tale of Moonshadow, the assassin who never failed, scripted by Bob Toomey and illustrated by José Ortiz. As luck would have it, two of the instalments were rife with tentacles!

The following page (and also the preceding panel) is from Suzanna Don’t You Cry, part 2 of the tale, published in Eerie no. 92 (May 1978, Warren).

Last but hardly least, a page from Kingdom of Ash, published in Eerie no. 93 (June 1978, Warren).

Fast forwarding some twenty years, we land in the middle of a pirate tale – and what suits a pirate more than a headful of tentacles (and a peg-leg)? This page is from Autopsy in B-Flat, written and illustrated by Gary Gianni and first published in Hellboy: Almost Colossus no. 1 (June 1997, Dark Horse) as a back-up feature. Gianni’s The Monstermen stories have since been collected separately.

What we gather from this dialogue is that octopus pirates like pork.

Finally, I think I promised some tentacles in lieu of beard, and the early stages of this guy’s transformation surely qualify:

This creature appears in the pages of Nocturnals: Black Planet (October 1998, Oni Press), with all plotting and art handled by auteur Dan Brereton. Actually the pages of this collection are so rife with tentacles that I’m going to force myself to be succinct.

Another instance of tentacles-as-hair:

Cover for Nocturnals: Black Planet (October 1998, Oni Press).

Thanks to friend Barney for pointing this last batch out!

~ ds

Take Ten With Shel Silverstein

« Join the army and see the next world. » — Dylan Thomas

A couple of eternities ago, in Shel Silverstein: Without Borders, we profiled you-know-who and showcased the travel cartoons he produced for Hugh Hefner and Playboy Magazine. Now, we reach back even earlier, to his first stirrings as a professional cartoonist… and a lifelong rover. As it would turn out, Shel truly was a free spirit.

A little bit of biography to set the stage… circa 1955. I can just about hear him, in that distinctive voice of his, hawking hot dogs at Comiskey Park!
« In 1955, Stars and Stripes published Take Ten, a book collection of his cartoons that was sold through military PXs et commissaries. » And also by mail!
« Here they are… the Centaurs and Bird men… the Geniis and Cobras… the fifteen-foot PFC’s and two-inch E-1’s. Here is TAKE TEN, the first collection of Shel Silverstein’s cartoons, taken from Pacific Stars and Stripes, Army Times and his untapped top drawer. Here is a pocket-full of cartoons that will make you smile and chuckle and laugh out loud. »

Lisa Rogak writes, in her A Boy Named Shel (2007, St. Martin’s Press):

Once he arrived in Tokyo, Shel was assigned to the Pacific Stars and Stripes to past up stories and photo features for the paper. When his work was done — which he performed as quickly as possible — he turned his attention to drawing cartoons using the material that was right in front of him: the military. Shel roamed the streets of Shinbashi, a neighborhood that GIs frequented that once served as the end of the line of Japan’s first railroad. He spent hours each day wandering the streets taking note of the activities of his fellow soldiers, which would invariably end up in one of his cartoons.

He initially did it for his own amusement, through within a few weeks, the paper began to print his work. After spending six months juggling newspaper paste-up with cartooning, he convinced his editors to take him off layout duties and allow him to wander the Far East and send back reports in the form of one-panel cartoons. They agreed.

Evidently, Mrs. Silverstein’s boy was a most charming and persuasive fellow. He would soon pull the same stunt on Hugh Hefner… but none can claim, in either case, that he failed to deliver on his lofty promises!

Here’s a little bit of background on that famous old General, should you need it.
Here’s a helpful guide to US Military acronyms. Who knows, it might spare you some confusion one day.

Even with his freedom, Shel had a hard time dealing with the restraints of army protocol. Corky Alexander, the late editor of the English language Tokyo Weekender, first met Shel at Stars and Stripes. “He was an army corporal and was perhaps the worst soldier in the history of armed might, down through the ages,” he said.

His technique followed a simple pattern. First he thought of an object — say, his first sergeant. He’d concentrate until he would come up with 20 or 30 gags on the one subject. Out of it came situations peopled by his long-nosed characters, his little men, his giants, the animals and the strange creatures for which he has a special affection.

His favorite overall targets were the officers. “They even made zebras off-limits to me because they had stripes,” Shel said.

Old habits die hard. An occupational hazard, you might say.
This, er.. pet might be an early prototype of Shel’s mythic Floobie Doobie Doo.
Now what is that?
It ain’t no dog and it ain’t no cat.
It’s nine feet tall with eyes of blue.
I never seen such a thing
As a thing called a Floobie Doobie Doo.
« Shel’s humor had struck such a nerve, and soldiers based in the Pacific shared his cartoons with their families and other civilians to show them what life in the military was really like, that a larger audience for his work was a natural consequence. In 1956, Ballantine Books published a thirty-five-cent mass market paperback edition of Take Ten called Grab Your Socks! »

In his foreword to Take Ten, Shel’s good buddy and PS&S colleague Bob Sweeney recounts:

In a letter to the home office, Bob Brown of the S&S Seoul Bureau wrote:
He stays up all night chewing pencils, drawing cartoons and writing ideas on little scraps of paper he never finds again. In the first twenty minutes he was here he had our little office more cluttered than the convention hall in his native Chicago.”

But,” added Brown, “he knows the people he draws. He’s lived through the same experiences and heard the same lines.

Here then are the simplicities as well as the subtleties — the obvious and the obtuse — the wonderful conglomerate of a man who loves to write, to draw, to create — and best of all — who loves to laugh.

-RG