Tentacle Tuesday: Treehouse of Tentacular Horror

Treehouse of Horror episodes are easily my favourite Simpsons material, and not just because Hallowe’en is the most interesting ‘holiday’ of the year (in my hardly humble opinion). Of course, abandoning the pretence of any continuity makes for entertaining, anything-goes storytelling, but what I find especially appealing is that these little gems take the Simpsons’ brand of humour, admittedly already somewhat dark, and kick it up a notch all the way into full-blown black humour and gore.

The comic books series of the same name continued this tradition, offering readers a fun grab bag of horror and science fiction film parodies, literary references and just plain madcap-yet-macabre nonsense. Not all stories are good; plots vary widely in quality, and even a good plot falls flat in the hands of an artist lacking the expertise to pull it off. However, through the years (there are 23 issues of total, published between 1995 and 2017) a number of illustrious comic artists and writers have contributed their talents to this misshapen, haphazardly hammered treehouse.

You will not be too surprised to hear that a number of stories included tentacles, be it in a secondary capacity or featured front and centre. The quotidian presence of aliens Kang and Kodos ensures that, but there are also a number of plant and chest hair tendrils, Homer-as-octopus, Cthulhu guest appearances and god knows what else. The following is by no means an exhaustive list; I have striven to include a bit of everything. Two stories have made it into previous Tentacle Tuesdays (see Tentacle Tuesday Masters: Hilary Barta and Tentacle Tuesday: tentacles, some fresh, some older than time).

We start with Treehouse of Horror number one and its parody of a Little Shop of Horrors.

Little Shop of Homers, scripted by Mike Allred and pencilled by Luis Escobar and Bill Morrison, was published in Treehouse of Horror no. 1 (October 1995).

The cover of number two features… err, is that Kang or Kodos? with tentacles in full display. You may insert a ‘all aliens look alike’ joke here, to be fair, these two can mostly be told apart by their voice, Kang’s being deeper.

Treehouse of Horror no. 2 (September 1996). Cover by Bill Morrison, who, incidentally, is the co-founder of Bongo Comics and creator of Roswell: Little Green Man.

The insides offer us the tentacles of Sideshow Bob, whose transformation into a blob is distinctly cephalopodian in nature.

Sideshow Blob! was scripted by Paul Dini and illustrated by Bill Morrison and Tim Bavington.

Skipping over a few tentacle-less issues (for shame!), we arrive at number five, in which Mr Burns and Smithers, having been turned into Rigellians, demonstrate a proficient use of tentacles for their god-intended purpose, namely grabbing and choking.

Apu on Rigel 7, written and illustrated by Doug TenNapel, was published in Treehouse of Horror no. 5 (September 1999). I’d like to say a few words about TenNapel, here: my first encounter with his sense of humour was through the video game Earthworm Jim, which has retained a special place in my heart though I last played it some twenty years ago. I’ve read some of his graphic novels, and though I was mostly underwhelmed, TenNapel’s wild imagination was a pleasure. Having said that, his politics and beliefs have led him to gradually transforming into a judgmental asshole, which is completely at odds with the empathy he displays in his comics.

Leaving Kang and Kodos behind for now, we can play the game ‘option A or option B’: if somebody was forcing you to choose between having a third eye or tentacles instead of hands, which would you go for?

Treehouse of Horror no. 9 (September 2003); cover by Bill Morrison. Here we see how Homer has opted for the more destructive, tentacle-hands choice.

The following, incredibly boring parody of LOTR at least offers one genuine octopus, perhaps supposed to be the Watcher in the Water.

Ring Around the Simpsons, scripted by Ian Boothby and illustrated by Dan Brereton.

The following cover is Kodos (or Kang? sorry, guys) again, which I’m including because I like it…

Treehouse of Horror no. 12 (September 2006). Cover by Bill Morrison.

… and because one of its stories featured a somewhat original interpretation of tentacles: chest hair!

Willie: Portrait of a Groundskeeper was written and illustrated by Eric Powell.
Aliens’ penchant for busty human females is one of those mysteries of life…

One of my favourite tropes, octopus-in-the-library (wait… it’s not actually a trope, but it should be!), is aptly used in number thirteen:

Prop, Prop, Whiz, Whiz!, scripted by Ian Boothby and Pia Guerra, pencilled by Pia Guerra and inked by Terry Austin, was published in Treehouse of Horror no. 13 (September 2007).

Mutants with tentacles traipse on in number sixteen…

I Screwed Up Big-Time and Unleashed the Glavin on an Unsuspecting World!, scripted and illustrated by Evan Dorkin, was published in Treehouse of Horror no. 16 (September 2010).

… and plant tentacles rear their acquisitive little tendrils again in number eighteen.

Treehouse of Horror no. 18 (September 2012). Cover by Tentacle Tuesday Master Hillary Barta!

Finally, the last (alas!) cover of this series feature tentacles a’plenty! What a great note to end this on.

Treehouse of Horror no. 23 (September 2017). Cover pencilled by Jason Ho and inked by Mike Rote.

~ ds

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