Joyeux anniversaire, Gilbert Shelton!

« … and now for some of that fun we promised you! Trained chihuahas! Car races! A couple of inspirational documentaries! And a quiz show! Hallelujahgobble! Hallelujahgobble! »

For my money, there’s no funnier man in comics, at least on such a consistent, sustained level, as the extraordinary Gilbert Shelton (born May 31st, 1940, in Houston, TX, which makes him 78 today). Sure, he’s slowed down some since 1959 (the year he foisted upon the world the Wonder Warthog), but the quality of his output has not decreased one iota (quite the contrary, in fact!) It may well be that the secret of his longevity lies in his choice of collaborators, but as far as I’m concerned, that’s just another facet of his talent. I’ll (mostly) let the man’s work speak for itself. Brace yourselves for the ride, here we go!

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Yeah, that old hippie shit’s totally dated; this has nothing to do with American’s current socio-political situation. Well, it would be nice if Amtrak’s trains ran a bit closer to schedule. This ran as the back cover of « Wonder Wart-Hog and the Nurds of November: Gilbert Shelton’s Exciting Cartoon Novel of Election-Year Politics, International Nuclear Terror, Professional Football, Science Fiction, Motorcycle and Auto Racing, Pestilence, Famine, Economic Collapse and Romantic Love. » (1980, Rip Off Press)

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Damn roommates. An apocalyptic scenario from The Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers no. 12 (1992, Rip Off Press). 

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The toilet-training method reportedly works, but it helps to have more than one toilet available. From Fat Freddy’s Cat no. 7 (1993, Rip Off Press)

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Shelton’s most recent major creation, circa 1988-89, is Not Quite Dead, “the world’s oldest and least successful Rock ‘n’ Roll band”. So far, we’ve been treated to six issues, and the latest, “Last Gig in Shnagrlig” (2009), is quite the epic! A fruitful collaboration with French bédéiste Denis Lelièvre, alias Pic. These vignettes hail from Not Quite Dead no. 5 (2005, Knockabout)
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Aw, ain’t he adorable, and don’t you just wanna slip the birthday boy a big ol’ sloppy smooch? Photo by Christophe Prébois.

Speaking of collaborators, though it’s none of their birthdays, let’s give a salty salute to Shelton compadres-in-crime Tony Bell, Joe E. Brown Jr., Dave Sheridan, Paul Mavrides and Pic. Did I forget anyone?

-RG

Tentacle Tuesday Masters: Wally Wood

If your little heart desires babes with form-fitting clothing (or wearing nought but their birthday suits) and tentacled monsters with sad, expressive eyes, look no further than Wallace Allan Wood (1927-1981). Famously advising fellow cartoonists to “never draw anything you can copy, never copy anything you can trace, never trace anything you can cut out and paste up”, he would return to the beloved theme of buxom girl + tentacles again and again.

Without further ado, let’s take a gander at some of Wally Wood’s tentacled offerings.

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This opulent, splendi-tentacular painting has been spawned by Wally Wood in 1954. It’s called Dweller in the Dungeon, and was originally presented as a gift to EC publisher Bill Gaines. I don’t know about you, but I’m rooting for the cephalopod, who has unquestionably good taste in women.
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The cover Wally Wood drew for a mail order catalog (to be more precise, The Magazine of Mail Order Collector’s Press Newsletter no. 16, 1979. Phew, that’s a mouthful.)
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Original art from The Man Hunters (published in Eerie no. 60, 1974 – you can see this issue’s cover in our previous post.)

This theme is returned to again several years later:

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It may have reflected Wood’s mental turmoil, but his tentacled monsters have pleading eyes that just beckon to the viewer. Maybe it’s a form of hypnotism. You’re grabbing the wrong human, buddy! Go for the girl! This Wally Wood painting was used as the cover of The Comic Book Price Guide no. 9 (1979).
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Wood cover art for an LP (Bell Records, 1965). Here the green-brain-with-tentacles is almost unbearably cute.

There’s also this poignant scene…

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Cover for EC Portfolio no. 5, 1974.

Wally Wood was a tremendous influence on artists who came after, and there’s a myriad of parodies, imitations, and derivations of his style… But I’ll wrap up this post with one well-executed hommage that fits in well with the theme, I think.

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World of Wood no. 1 (Eclipse, April 1986). Cover by Dave Stevens.

~ ds

A MAD dash… inside

Okay, now that you’ve seen some Mad covers (see a MAD dash… outside)  let’s have a peek at some inside art by the habitués.

One of my favourite MAD artists is Antonio Prohías (1921-1998). Hailing from Cuba (but being forced to emigrate thanks to an repressive government that wasn’t too fond of the concept of “free press”), he moved to New York in 1960. Apparently Prohias was in no hurry to learn English (and, in fact, his cartoons are silent). Here’s a cute anecdote involving Sergio Aragonés, courtesy of Wikipedia:

« Two years after Prohias’ debut in the magazine, cartoonist Sergio Aragonés made the trek from Mexico to New York in search of work. Because Aragonés’ command of English was then shaky, he asked that Prohias be present to serve as an interpreter. According to Aragonés, this proved to be a mistake, since Prohías knew even less English than he did. When Prohías introduced the young artist to the Mad editors as “Sergio, my brother from Mexico,” the Mad editors thought they were meeting “Sergio Prohías. Twelve years later, Mad writer Frank Jacobs reported that Prohias’ conversational English was limited to “Hello” and “How are you, brother?” Said Aragonés, who speaks six languages, “Even I could not understand him that well. »

Clearly, art was Prohias’ language, and we’re not at all complaining.

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It pays to play the *long* game! “Vengeance” was published in Mad no. 66 (October 1961). Art by Antonio Prohías.
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This it the original art for a gag called “The Old Ball Game”, created for Mad’s Fortune Kookie Dept. It was published in Mad no. 161, September 1973. Art by Antonio Prohías.

In case you’re wracking your brain, trying to remember where you’ve seen his style before, Prohías is mostly known for Spy vs Spy, a series inspired by his clash with Fidel Castro. The series debuted in Mad #60 (January 1961).

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Original art for a strip published in Mad no. 253, March 1985. Ironically, I don’t particularly like Prohías’ Spy vs Spy, despite the lovely art and violent dismemberment scenes, much preferring Peter Kuper’s (much later, starting in 1997 up until today) version of this strip.

Next on our list is Al Jaffee, the “world’s oldest cartoonist” (Guinness World Records certified and everything!), Mad’s longest-running contributor, creator of the Mad Fold-In, mastermind of Snappy Answers to Stupid Questions.

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This fold-in comes from Mad no. 297, September 1990. Drawn by Al Jaffee, it answers (maybe) the paramount question of “What is the most sickening trend in movies today?”( Since I can’t very well ask you to fold your computer screen, the answer is “Commercials in theaters.”)

Incidentally, Mad introduced fold-ins in 1964 – they were a most prominent feature of MAD Magazine, conceived, drawn and written by the aforementioned Jaffee. I’ll quote the man himself:

Playboy had a foldout of a beautiful woman in each issue, and Life Magazine had these large, striking foldouts in which they’d show how the earth began or the solar system or something on that order — some massive panorama. Many magazines were hopping on the bandwagon, offering similar full-color spreads to their readers. I noticed this and thought, what’s a good satirical comment on the trend? Then I figured, why not reverse it? If other magazines are doing these big, full-color foldouts, well, cheap old Mad should go completely the opposite way and do an ultra-modest black-and-white Fold-In!”
I guess they folded (ahem) on the “black-and-white” part later on. Here’s another nice Al Jaffee production:

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This cartoon dwelled on the back cover of Mad no. 214 (April 1980), and was written by Dave Manak & drawn by Al Jaffee.

In a 2010 interview, Jaffee said, “Serious people my age are dead.” That may just be the recipe for eternal life.

Moving on to another mainstay of MAD: Sergio Aragonés, an artist about whom Mad director Al Feldstein said “he could have drawn the whole magazine if we’d let him.” Prolific, delightfully funny, and (by all accounts) a really friendly guy, Aragonés (born in 1937) is still with us today.

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A little gruesome hippy humour from Sergio Aragonés, published in Mad no. 139, December 1970.

My favourite recurring feature by Aragonés is “Who knows what evils lurk in the hearts of men? The shadow knows. Many years ago, I picked up a copy of “Mad’s Sergio Aragonés on Parade” at a second hand store. I didn’t know who he was, then, but I loved the sometimes tiny, always funny squiggly drawings immediately. (I also didn’t know who the Shadow was, so that reference was sailing right over my head.) Even though I have since then upgraded to the considerably heftier “Sergio Aragones: Five Decades of His Finest Works“, there’s no way I’m getting rid of my dog-eared, stained and shopworn copy – that’s the one I reach for when I need a chuckle.

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Published in From Mad no. 131, December 1969, scanned from “Mad’s Sergio Aragonés on Parade“, and artistically coloured by co-admin RG.
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Published in From Mad no. 129, September 1969, scanned from “Mad’s Sergio Aragonés on Parade“, and artistically coloured by co-admin RG.

Hurray for Aragonés, the weird hours he keeps (by his own admission), and the thousands of ideas bubbling in his head at any given time. “Sergio has, quite literally, drawn more cartoons on napkins in restaurants than most cartoonists draw in their entire careers“, said Al Jaffee, and glancing at the tiny drawings decorating the margins and in-between-panels of Mad magazine, one can easily believe it.

The other guy who just has to be mentioned is Don Martin (1931-2000), promoted as Mad’s Maddest Artist. Where else would we get our fix for goofy characters with comically large, hinged feet? I can just imagine the squeaking noises they make.

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Well, *have* you?
This Don Martin cartoon was used as one of the eight “Vital Message” mini posters offered with Mad Super Special no. 17 (1970). It makes me think of my mom’s parting admonition every time I would leave the house – “and don’t hit old ladies with an umbrella”. I am proud to say that I’ve followed her advice… so far.

Here’s a fun description of standard Don Martin characters (source):

« His people are big-nosed schmoes with sleepy eyes, puffs of wiry hair, and what appear to be life preservers under the waistline of their clothes. Their hands make delicate little mincing gestures and their strangely thin, elongated feet take a 90-degree turn at the toes as they step forward. Whether they’re average Joes or headhunters, Martin’s people share the same physique: a tottering tower of obloids. Martin puts the bodies of these characters through every kind of permutation, treating them as much like gadgets as the squirting flowers and joy buzzers that populate his gags: glass eyes pop out from a pat on the back; heads are steamrollered into manhole-cover shapes. All of this accompanied by a Dadaist panoply of sound effects found nowhere else: shtoink! shklorp! fwoba-dap! It’s unlikely Samuel Beckett was aware of Don Martin, but had he been he might have recognized a kindred spirit. »

 

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From Mad no. 78, April 1963. Art by Don Martin.

~ ds

Couch Surfing With Drew Friedman

« I find television very educating. Every time somebody turns on the set, I go into the other room and read a book. » ― Groucho Marx

In the mid-90s, the always-discerning masterminds* at Rhino Records (they had, after all, picked William Stout to design their logo, back in 1974) called upon master satirist, caricaturist and of course pointillist Drew Friedman (1958-) to gather some perennial favourites on his old couch for the purposes of a three-volume compilation.

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In the usual order: Dan Winkless as Drooper of the Banana Splits (bass), Henry Winkler as Arthur ‘The Fonz’ Fonzarelli, Jean Stapleton and Carroll O’Connor as Edith and Archie Bunker, Jimmie Walker as James ‘J.J.’ Evans, Jr., and David Cassidy as Keith Partridge, who seems peeved at being crowded off the couch.

In this second entry in the trilogy, Mr. Friedman seems a bit out of his element, as drawing purdy gals and conventionally handsome men is hardly his forte. But he aces Gabe Kaplan, as you’d hope and expect. Judging from his expression, Gabe appreciates it.

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In the usual order: Lynda Carter as Wonder Woman, Gabriel Kaplan as Gabe Kotter, Tom Selleck as Thomas Magnum, Soleil Moon Frye (hippie parents, anyone?) as Penelope “Punky” Brewster, and Farrah Fawcett (Fawcett-Majors at the time) as Jill Munroe.

This time, our artiste ably succeeds where he faltered earlier: he has no difficulty capturing the likenesses of Ms. Anderson and (5x so far) Mrs. Collins.

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In the usual order: Loni Anderson as Jennifer Marlowe, Ted Danson as Sam Malone, Gavin MacLeod as Captain Merrill Stubing, Don Johnson as Detective James Crockett, and Dame Joan Henrietta Collins as Alexis Carrington.

From volume 3’s liner notes: « The 1980s may well be remembered as the final decade of the television theme song. The disturbing trend of the ’90s seems to be the elimination of the title song in preference of an additional minute of commercial airtime – a sad state of affairs for fans of the opening anthem. »

Maybe it’s all for the better: I’d rather have an additional hour of commercial airtime than be subjected again to the opening jingle of, say, Charles in Charge. You have been warned.

– RG

*That is, before the Warner group’s « total and depressing takeover of Rhino in the early 2000s ».

Tentacle Tuesday: the Filipino cavalry

Today’s Tentacle Tuesday honours Filipino artists who laboured in the comics industry in the 70s. To quote from Power of Comics: Filipino Artists (read the essay here),

« The Filipino talent began to arrive in 1970, when immigrant Tony DeZuñiga began to work for National Comics. DeZuñiga began with assignments on various romance, horror, western, and war anthologies—a combination that many Filipino artists coming after him would also follow—but he made a lasting mark when he co-created Western anti-hero Jonah Hex in All-Star Western #10 (1972). By then, DeZuñiga had convinced then National Comics publisher Carmine Infantino that other talented artists were awaiting discovery back in his nation of origin. With a stable of graying veterans working for him, Infantino was faced with a paucity of new talent in the early 1970s and had trouble finding gifted artists who could work for what the going page rate in American comics would pay at the time. DeZuñiga accompanied Infantino on a recruiting trip to the Philippines in 1971.

As noted, first among the Filipino artists to make a move were Redondo and Alcala. Among his works, Redondo turned in a memorable run on Swamp Thing, and the prolific Alcala picked up a considerable fan following for his work on series like Batman and Arak. Other Filipinos followed. Alex Niño brought a distinct style to Warren Publishing’s 1984 and 1994 series. Ernie Chan’s talent for composition led to his becoming National’s principal cover artist between 1975 and 1977. Gerry Talaoc enjoyed an extended run on The Unknown Soldier. »

Without further ado, let’s have a look at some of the tentacles the artists mentioned above have dreamed up. In no particular order…

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I like the styles of all the artists mentioned in this post, but a couple of these names will make me do a little dance of joy when I encounter their art. Alfredo Alcala (b. 1925, d. 2000) is a definite favourite. He could draw anything he wanted, convincingly… at an amazing speed, and with the sort of detail that other artists would kill for.

Alcala drew for all genres in the early portion of his career, and developed the speed and work ethic for which he later become known amongst his fellow professionals. His fastest page rate was 12 pages in a nine-hour sitting, while in one 96-hour marathon he produced 18 pages, three wrap-around covers and several color guides. During the portion of his career where he worked solely for Filipino publishers, Alcala worked without assistants and did his own inking and lettering. “I somehow always felt that the minute you let someone else have a hand in your work, no matter what, it’s not you anymore. It’s like riding a bicycle built for two…” (source)

Here’s a gorgeous sequence from « The Night of the Nebish! », scripted by Arnold Drake and illustrated by Alfredo Alcala, published in House of Secrets #107 (April 1973).

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Ruben Yandoc (also known as Rubeny, 1927-1992) isn’t nearly as well-known as Alcala, yet he has a beautiful, half-decorative, half-sketchy style. He excelled at horror stories (published in DC’s Witching Hour, House of Mystery, Ghosts, House of Secrets..), and was a master at creating mood. His perfect grasp of architecture and anatomy enabled him to draw believable characters in incredible settings – none of this “figures floating about aimlessly” shit that you sometimes get from artists who can’t imbue their objects and subjects with mass. When Stefan gets grabbed by tentacles, you can feel their weight on his torso and feel the heat and painful brightness of the torch he’s holding, dammit!

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« The Monster of Death Island », plotted by Maxene Fabe and illustrated by Ruben Yandoc. Published in Secrets of Sinister House no. 11 (April 1973).

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Alex Niño’s art doesn’t give me butterflies. His stuff is quite weird, sometimes far too detailed, but his talent is nevertheless undeniable. For a good appreciation of his style (and more examples of it), go to this entry from Wizard’s Keep. As for me, I’ll limit myself to this humble, one-panel mass of tentacles, eyes, teeth, spikes, and god knows what else.

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“Something on me”, indeed! A panel from « Evil Power », plotted by Jack Oleck and illustrated by Alex Niño from Weird Mystery Tales no. 9 (December 1973-January 1974). Niño was born in 1940, which makes him 78. He’s officially retired, but still holds art classes and takes commissions, as well as making the occasional appearance at conventions.

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Redondo’s “memorable run on Swamp Thing” was mentioned at the beginning of this post. Well, we’ve already featured the tentacled robot who tries to finish Alec Holland off here, but rest assured – there’s more tentacles than just that in the career of Nestor Purugganan Redondo (1928-1995)! For example, this:

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Original art for “Monsters From a Thousand Fathoms”, published in The Unexpected no. 185 (May-June 1978). You’ll note the art is attributed to the “Redondo Studio”; Nestor and his brother, Frank, often collaborated under that name.

By the way, he’s most assuredly another favourite in this household. His women are believably sexy, his monsters inventive and scary, his animals pitch-perfect… His style is realistic but lush, his nature almost prettier than in real life. And I like him much, much better than Bernie Wrightson, as far as Swamp Thing is concerned 😉

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A perfect fit for any Tentacle Tuesday, here’s the requisite damsel-in-distress-with-tentacles:

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Wench & Co. Book 1, a collection of drawings – of mostly naked women, what else? – by Ernesto Chan (1940-2012), born and sometimes credited as Ernie Chua. Published by Big Wow, 2005. Sadly, we will never get a Book 2.

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We shouldn’t forget Tony DeZuñiga (1932-2012), who after all started all this. Among other accomplishments, he co-created Jonah Hex and Black Orchid, two pretty damn cool characters.

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Page from “Home is the Sailor”, plotted by Len Wein and illustrated by Tony DeZuñiga, published in The Phantom Stranger no. 18 (March-April 1972).

I hope you enjoyed this (non-exhaustive) romp through Filipino-American tentacles! As historian Chris Knowles (1999) has noted about Filipino artists, « Here was a group of immensely talented and hard-working draftsmen who could draw absolutely anything and draw it well. They set a standard that the younger artists would have to live up to and that the older ones would have to compete with. » Amen to that!

~ ds

A MAD dash… outside

And now… for a bit of levity: a few favourite MAD covers.

I’ll start with this by-now-iconic cover, that’s nevertheless worth posting (with proper attribution to artists involved and in high enough resolution to admire the details, two characteristics sadly often absent from stuff posted online). You’ll note I’ve skipped over the first couple of Harvey Kurtzman covers (MAD nos. 1, 3 and 4) – which are amazing but a topic for another conversation.

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Mad no. 5, June-July 1953. Cover by Will Elder, colours by Marie Severin. The busty babe is the least interesting character on this cover!

And it’s back to Kurtzman for covers of MAD nos. 6 to 10. Then I’ll disregard the somewhat boring covers, and jump over the Norman Mingo ones, and that brings us to… Frank Kelly Freas! It shall quickly become apparent that I really like his art (guilty as charged). Having started his career at Mad in February 1957, by July 1958 he was the magazine’s official cover artist (his first was MAD no. 40), and painted most of its covers until October 1962.

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This one must have been fun to draw. I especially like the three (drunk?) crows singing on Alfred E. Neuman’s left arm. Mad no. 43, December 1958. Cover by Frank Kelly Freas (from an idea by Joe Orlando).
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Frank Kelly Freas painted this attractive, colourful cover for the annual More Trash From Mad no. 2, 1959. This cover + Mad labels (you can see some of them here) for 50 cents? Seems like a good deal!
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MAD Magazine no. 53 (March, 1960). Looks like there’s a woman about to follow Alfred E. Neuman’s bold cliff-jumping example.. unless she’s the one who pushed him off.
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Original art for the cover of Mad no. 55, June 1960. Cover by Frank Kelly Freas. The sides of the weather indicator would be labelled “Fair” and “Foul” on the actual cover, but here you can really admire the detail of Freas’ deft brush. Alfred E. Neuman would be standing under “Fair”, of course, which would mean he’s predicting the weather erroneously… but maybe he’s just a pluviophile.
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Another Kelly Freas cover: Mad Magazine no. 58 (October 1960). A summery cover, wouldn’t you say? Look closely and you’ll see that Freas cleverly carved his name onto the bough. Random fact: Freas painted bomber noses during WWII.
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MAD no. 62, April 1961.

And to wrap this post up…  a lithograph from the cover of More Trash from MAD no. 1 (1958).

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Everything but the kitchen sink (which has been replaced by a barbecue).

Only three of these lithographs were ever published before the production was stopped as a violation of the MAD copyright. The other two are currently in private major MAD Magazine collections. This is the only lithograph done by Kelly Freas of one of his MAD book covers.

For more (not necessarily MAD-related) FKF, go here.

~ ds

Treasured Stories: “The Mine’s All Mine” (1972)

« That’s funny… I didn’t leave the lantern lit… wonder if anybody’s in there? »

In 1972, Golden Age journeyman cartoonist Stanley Josephs Aschmeier (1912-1992) wrapped up his career in comics with a single tale for Charlton, a publisher he’d briefly worked for two decades prior*, pre-Code. Yet earlier, at DC, he’d had a hand in creating Johnny Thunder and Thunderbolt (1939) and Dr. Mid-Nite (1941), the original sight-impaired costumed hero.

While Aschmeier’s already-manic drawing style hadn’t changed much in the intervening years, the industry certainly had, which made him a man well out of time. Still, as with his peer, sudoriparous Rudy Palais‘ final work for Charlton, the nervous energy and artistic freedom yielded something unusual and charming. While this sort of semi-primitive outsider approach decidedly isn’t for everyone, it’s a breath of fresh air. I found it unsettling and baffling when I first encountered it all those years ago, and it hasn’t lost its jolt, unlike many fan favourites I could name.

Without further preamble, here’s Joe Gill and Stan Asch (his abridged nom de plume)’s tale, from Ghostly Haunts no. 27 (Nov. 1972, Charlton.)

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By this point, Aschmeier had evolved (or devolved) a highly stylized, woodcut-like approach. Bizarre as it may be, it sure works for me. That’s one of my favourite things about Charlton: leave your “house style” at the door!

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Note Aschmeier’s interesting depiction of a revenant, quite unlike Steve Ditko’s lime green, vaporous wraiths or Pat Boyette’s rotting cotton shamblers. Pete Eklund’s shade is more akin to a dancing flame, an electric apparition.

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Here’s a guy who *really* gets it!
That final panel is one of the most unhinged I’ve had the pleasure of encountering.

As for the story, it’s the soul of the thing: to my mind, what made writer Joe Gill’s work special was his common-sense response to the meagre number of available plots: when the mood struck him, he focused on ambiance, tone and character, as he does here.

I love that our protagonist, Harve Davis, is so shiftless, so insignificant, that the reader can’t even be bothered to hate him: throughout the story, we witness his well-earned unpopularity, and what a shabby and piteous creature he is. He murdered the only man who gave him the time of day, and he was too dense and self-absorbed to be anything but resentful of it. I do feel that the tale’s very construction supports this view: it opens on the commission of his crime, and the aftermath is a fateful tumble of dominos.

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And yes, the story is narrated by Winnie the Witch, the Nana Mouskouri of the ghostly storyteller set. Many have noted the resemblance.

*For stylistic comparison, take a gander at a 1944 Mr. Terrific tale by Mr. Aschmeier, and some of his crime comics work from Lawbreakers Suspense Stories no. 14 (Sept. 1953, Charlton), featuring three Aschmeier-illustrated pieces, Flight!, The Green Light and The Face in the Glass. Enjoy!

– RG

Tentacle Tuesday: a visit to the House of Mystery

Welcome to the entertaining world of science-fiction/fantasy of the 60s! If you’re an admirer of extravagant creatures with improbable anatomy, or a fan of twisted stories that take questionable leaps of logic to arrive to an implausible conclusion, willkommen.

However, if, like me, you tend to root for strange creatures (most of which didn’t want to be discovered in the first place), tread gently.  If there’s one pattern in House of Mystery stories, it’s that the “monsters” (that fly in from space/emerge from the sea/crawl out of the depths of the earth/are born in fire/whatever else we can think of) get slain, more often than not, by well-meaning people… or not-so-well-meaning people who are afraid of anything that looks different. If they somehow manage to escape getting shot or bombed out of existence, they’re buried under a convenient avalanche or volcanic eruption.

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House of Mystery no. 99, June 1960. Art by Bernard Baily. Yep, the Beast gets killed by the military.  It’s sad to think that our reaction to a friendly shape-shifting alien would be “kill first, ask questions later”… but it sadly rings true.

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I know that it’s Tentacle Tuesday and everything’s possible, but… this? An octopus with spines on his tentacles (very conveniently placed, I might add) and the puffy eyes of a career alcoholic? A parrot-dragon with opposable thumbs?

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House of Mystery no. 113 (1961), pencils by Dick Dillin, inks by Sheldon Moldoff and letters by Ira Schnapp. Err, guys… I don’t think either of these two monsters is all that interested in you, seeing as they both seem to be screaming in horror/pain. If the octopus is Water-Beast, the parrot must be Land-Beast – such wit! I would have gone with “pink thing” and “green bird thing”.

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As Tentacle Tuesday continues, we are once again confronted with a situation where misunderstanding between species leads to needless conflict. Shoot first, sort it out later, is the mantra of any red-blooded man! I’m sorry, am I being a tad unsubtle?

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House of Mystery no. 130, January 1963. Cover by George Roussos.

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Some guys land on an island patrolled by creatures controlled by a beautiful woman. Well, there’s no need to quarrel, they can talk it out, right?

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House of Mystery no. 133, April 1963. Pencils by Dick Dillin, inks by Sheldon Moldoff, letters by Ira Schnapp.

Okay, the woman seems to be friendly. So far, so good.

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Art by Howard Sherman.

So perhaps everyone can go on their merry way and leave the island and its creatures alone? No, it’s not enough to just kill them. Oops! The whole fucking island explodes to smithereens when the guys detonate some explosives in a cavern and thus trigger an underwater eruption.  I mean, the real threat to these “nice” people was the evil guy trying to gain control of the beasts, but do they try to attack *him*? Nah, they focus on killing the octopus, instead! And the giant armadillo! And the furry rhinoceros!

« And soon, Beast Island sinks beneath boiling, steaming waters… », the omniscient narrator tells us. « The island is gone now – and so are the terrible things that walked on it, flew over it — and swam around it! » The power-grabbing asshole is okay, though – he escaped just fine!

There’s plenty more tentacles in House of Mystery – to which we will no doubt return.

~ ds

Bang, bang, the mighty fall!*

« Now, Carlos — put that gun away! »
« Why, Fernando, I thought
I’d start the show with a bang! »

CrimeClinic11A

That guy in the audience with the irritating donkey laugh is finally getting his. This unforgettable cover is the work of the peerless Norman Saunders, whose long and prolific career blazed its way through pulps, comic books, slicks, men’s adventure magazines, paperbacks, trading cards… you name it!

This is Ziff-Davis’ The Crime Clinic no. 11 (actually its second issue, September-October 1951). And for once, the inside story kind of matches the cover mayhem.

But don’t simply take my word for it, read it here: http://comicbookplus.com/?dlid=8545

-RG

*a fond tip of the top hat to the great B.A. Robertson.

Tentacle Tuesday: the Many-Armed Comic Strip

Today’s Tentacle Tuesday is home to that conventional, oft-seen beast, the comic strip. Without getting into the complexities of defining this term, I use “comic strip” here to refer specifically to the (syndicated) newspaper comic strip, although by now the newer ones may have never seen print in a newspaper, only online.

BizarroOc18-2006
There’s one that doesn’t need an introduction. Go visit his website, though!

Most of these are available for perusal on one of the comics-clustering websites, such as gocomics.com, or sometimes directly on a strip’s own website (in which case it also becomes a webcomic strip, I guess). I’ve provided the links in the description.

Overboard_By_Chip_Dunham_July_3__2010_201709271341
Overboard by Chip Dunham, July 3rd, 2010. Overboard’s been around for almost 30 years.
Brevity_By_Dan_Thompson_Mar_27__2011_201709271339
Brevity, March 27th, 2011. This strip was created by by Guy Endore-Kaiser and Rodd Perry, and for the first couple of years (it’s been around since 2005), it was plotted and drawn by them. Dan Thompson took over at some point… around 2012 or something like it (I can’t find any hard and fast information online). The strip has a home here, but frankly it’s not really worth visiting (terrible art, dumb jokes).
Pooch Café
Once again, Poncho gets his fishy friend into trouble. Pooch Café, May 6th, 2018. I hate Poncho and think his owners should have kicked him out a long time ago, but there’s enough characters and surreal situations to tolerate his presence in this fun strip.
Sherman'sLagoonApril20-2016
Sherman’s Lagoon by Jim Toomey, 20th April 2016, also around for almost thirty years (it made its debut in 1991).
Calvin_and_Hobbes_By_Bill_Watterson_Jan_29__1986_201709271340
Not to forget our classics! One of the nice things about Calvin and Hobbes is that it was never ghost-written – when Bill Watterson quit it in 1995, that was it. However, you can catch re-runs in many places, for instance here.
LioOctoBath
Liō (not forgetting the accent!) by Mark Tatulli and distributed by the Universal Press Syndicate since 2006. This is the first appearance of Ishmael, Liō’s cephalopod best friend. Tatulli says that he at first wanted to make Ishmael into a mother figure for motherless Liō, but that’s not the way things worked out.
LioSquidBath
Liō routinely encounters tentacles, so it would be a long list indeed, but here’s another favourite. Both strips were plucked from the collection Liō’s Astonishing Tales: From the Haunted Crypt of Unknown Horrors, 2009.

We started on a Bizarro note, so let’s wrap things up with another.

Bizarro-04-06-14-WEB

~ ds