Today’s entry is fun and light-hearted, but as this is the last week before Hallowe’en, let’s open on something with a bit more decorum!
Once upon a time, Vincent Price accorded his (paid) stamp of approval to Creamettes, a brand of elbow macaroni. You can read all about that in Vincent Price’s Supper Casserole! on the Dinosaur Dracula blog (where there are plenty of other things, too). I far prefer the version below. Who was this delightful parody created by? Is it something that would be served at The Monster Club with a nice glass of ruby red what-is-this-liquid-anyway? So many questions!
*No actual octopuses were eaten in the making of this post
« The man asked, “Who are you?” “I am Death, who makes everyone equal.” » *
Greetings! Today I am giving my co-admin RG a much-needed chance to rest, and taking over Hallowe’en count-down duties. He protested a bit, but I was persuasive. Oh, don’t worry about him – he’s quite comfortable in the basement, and I may even unchain him at the end of the evening.
We have previously dipped a toe into Gespenster Geschichten (Ghost Stories) territory before, but – and this will come as no surprise – it was through the peculiar prism of tentacles. (For example, see Tentacle Tuesday: A Torrent of Teutonic Tentacles.) Yet this long-running (1974-2006) series published by Bastei Verlag also offers plenty of Hallowe’en-appropriate thrills: witches, ghosts, demented scientists, cold-blooded killers… you name it, Gespenster Geschichten has it! Here are a few covers which seem particularly appropriate for this wonderfully dreary, grey October evening.
The insides of these issues are of lesser interest: reprints of American horror comics, and, later on in the series, new content by artists local and migrated (Argentine, Spanish, Italian, Yugoslav…) Within some of these pages dwell reprints from Gold Key Comics’ Boris Karloff Tales of Mystery (for example, with artwork by John Celardo, Sal Trapani, and Canadians Jack Sparling and Win Mortimer). I think we can safely conclude that the covers are considerably more horrifying than the innards of these issues…
With that out of the way, let’s see what German ghost stories have in store for us!
This charming little doggo was a rather… creative interpretation of the following painting, created for Boris Karloff Tales of Mystery no. 48 by George Wilson:
So you see how that particular Teutonic ball rolls! I admire George Wilson, but I admit I much prefer the German interpretation of this scene.
« A painting requires a little mystery, some vagueness, and some fantasy. » ~ Edgar Degas
… and some tentacles, of course!
This painting of a chained barbarian confronted by an octopus (here to collect his liver, no doubt?) is the work of Bob Juanillo, an artist of which little is known, other than that he was active in the late 60s and early 70s, contributed to a lot of comics fanzines, and died at 30 (source). At least we know it from 1974!
To follow, the original art for a variant cover for Red Sonja vs. Thulsa Doom no. 1 (February 2006). The painting is by Gabriele Dell’Otto, an Italian artist who has done work for Marvel and DC. Tentacles or enormous snake-tail, you be the judge. As for powerful necromancer (and shape-shifter) Thulsa Doom, he is the brain-child of American author Robert E. Howard.
This painting by John Totleben appeared (as far as I can tell) somewhere in Timeslip Special Vol 1 no. 1 (August 26th, 1998). « The isotope itself was eventually dumped, as garbage, into the oceans, where it began mutating the ocean life. One of the mutates was an octopus who, developing high intelligence, and through unknown means, donned a mechanical suit. The isotope itself eventually went on to mutate all life on the planet. » (source) I giggled at the idea of an octopus donning a mechanical suit ‘through unknown means’. These cephalopods get into everything!
Finally, voici an unfinished painting by Frank Frazetta, entitled Death Dealer VII (the first Death Dealer was painted in 1973). Health issues (blurry vision, and a series of strokes) prevented Frazetta from finishing it, though his preliminary sketch was published in Rough Work (Spectrum Fantastic Art, 2007).
« Every Goblinko product is a seed of a better world. Better because it is built to last – built for relevance – built for survival – built for buttermilk – built for speed – built for living the chaos – built for you! Everything else sucks! Go Goblinko! »
My path to discovering Sean Äaberg‘s art was rather tortuous.
On one hand, I’ve liked Goblinko t-shirt designs for a while – co-admin RG is a big fan, and given my love for pickles, so am I. Somehow I was not aware of those was creating these designs, however.
As for Äaberg art, it all began when I saw some very striking Tarot cards on some forum discussion – I have no interest in Tarot, but these were hitting all the right buttons, with their super bright green-magenta-yellow colour scheme and lush artwork. I looked up the artist, and landed on his Dungeon Degenerates on the wonderful Monster Brains blog.
As I am one of those silly people who want to own stuff on paper, I looked for a book and found Acid Vomit! The Art of Sean Äaberg on Kickstarter. When I received this (glorious, by the way) compendium, something clicked into place and suddenly I realized that Sean Äaberg = Goblinko!! (Well, to be fair, Sean’s wife Katie is part of it, too.) Nothing like one of those ‘well, that should have been obvious a long time ago…’ realizations to put one into a philosophical mood.
Did you hear the joke about fungus? You won’t like it, but it will grow on you.
As promised – though you folks may by far prefer tentacles to mushrooms – I am delighted to present this post about mushrooms both real and imaginary.
First of all why mushrooms? Those who know me are aware of my passion for fungus – it’s a gastronomic interest, as both co-admin RG and I love to cook with them, and also a platonic one, an admiration for their beauty and adaptability. In terms of aliens-on-earth, fungus is surely up there with the extraterrestrial octopus. We are currently on vacation, so this is the perfect moment to both admire some of our finds, and rediscover mushrooms in comics.
Usually people react in one of two ways to mentions of gathering wild mushrooms – ‘but how do you know you won’t poison yourself?‘ or ‘magic mushrooms! yeah!‘ The first question is pertinent, although there’s no need to take that horrified tone, and the second reaction is more than slightly one-track-minded.
Just like in real life, comics fungi come in all shapes and sizes: from cute appearances in the background of a cartoony comic, to psychedelic manifestations of the underground, to horror stories peppered with a slice or two of the deadly toadstool, and everything in between! I’ve tried to go for maximum contrast in this post, and include a little bit of everything. Dive in, like we dove in yesterday into our hedgehog-and-honey-mushrooms-pasta yesterday 😉
Speaking of Mercier, I love this anecdote: « One day, Claude McKay, the editor-in-chief of Smith’s Weekly, took a dim view of an X Emile Mercier had drawn under the upwardly extended tail on a cat. After a few stern words about “dirty gimmicks in cartoons”, the grim-faced McKay instructed Mercier to get rid of the cross.This presented Mercier with a challenge. He was someone who used to say you “have to think funny as well as draw funny” and he was not keen to let McKay’s prudish approach to his cat go unchallenged. Mercier’s solution was to draw a miniature roller blind under the cat’s perpendicular tail. He was in no doubt the blind would draw more attention to the cat’s anus than the X had. Fortunately for him, McKay saw the funny side of the addition and let the cartoon run. Not a man to push his luck too far, Mercier drew all future cats without an X at the base of their tails. »
I really enjoy the madcap world of Golden Age funny animal comics, and they’ve often made it into various Tentacle Tuesdays. Yet not everything fits into the somewhat narrow scope of tentacles (shocking, I know!), so I am pleased to take this fun gallop through some favourite covers that are quite devoid of cephalopods. Doing so involves going back some seventy, eighty years… a difficult to grasp concept for those of us who were not around back then.
My thirty-something colleagues consider movies from the late 90s to be ‘ancient’, so I can just imagine what their reaction would be to a comic from, say, 1942! Yet I feel emotionally close to these covers (whether artistically accomplished, entertainingly weird or just plain drugged-out) – humanity has not changed nearly as much as we tend to assume, and albeit some sources of humour require an historian’s explanation, others are every bit as funny and entertaining now as they were back then. As for talking animals, that goes back to the dawn of human history (Aesop’s fables readily come to mind, and Aesop was surely not the inventor of this concept!)
One could dedicate a whole lifetime to digging through this particular slice of history – I’ve tried to go for some variety in this post, but of course I am (happily) constrained by my own tastes in the matter. Here, then, are some Golden Age covers featuring funny animals that have amused, entertained or puzzled me.
Animal Comics no. 1 (December 1942, Dell), with a cover by H.R. McBride, is an amalgam of details both adorable and creepy – the harrowing expression of the fish contrasts wildly with Madame Crocodile’s peanuts-pilfering offspring and her flirty cocktail parasol, while her crocodile-skin purse makes me think of Disney’s Three Little Pigs cartoon (1933, Silly Symphonies). In case you’ve never noticed it, the third pig, the one with the brick house, has family pictures on his wall… for example, a string of sausages labelled “Father”. Black humour, indeed. Animal funnies are often dusted with a good sprinkling of the gruesome, as when a talking duck eats chicken legs for dinner.
Fast forwarding four years, we fall into pleasantly loopy territory of Fox Features’ Nuttylife no. 2 (Summer 1946, Fox Comics). Despite it being number two, this is technically the only issue, issue number 1 having appeared as Krazy Life, and issue number 3 and onward becoming Wotalife Comics. I can’t find credits for the cover, but the insides contain Pat Adams with Ellis Chambers (“One day a little goil went to her Grandma’s joint…”), Tim Howe and Cy King. Ellis Chambers by himself definitely deserves a separate post – take a glimpse at Eddie Elephant – 1946 Hallucinogenic Funny Animal Comix by Ellis Holly Chambers, for example.
I couldn’t very well leave Felix the Cat out of this post! I won’t go into the complex history of this character, but suffice it to say that this is one gorgeous cover. Clearly I’m not the only one to admire this image, as it was used for the cover of Craig Yoe‘s wonderful anthology Felix the Cat – Greatest Comic Book Tails (2011, IDW), which I highly recommend. This is Four Color no. 135 (February 1947, Dell Comics), with a cover by Otto Messmer.
The American Comics Group is responsible for many a goofy plot, source of my long-lasting affection for some of their titles (see Tentacle Tuesday: ACG’s Adventures Into the Tentacles). ACG’s Ha Ha Comics are a riot, all right, but I have two favourites among the 88 issues released. The first is Ha Ha Comics no. 11 (August 1944), with a cover by Ken Hultgren. A joke doesn’t have to be elaborate to be funny – something about the expression of the indignant man-eating lion and his wild mop of hair cracks me up!
The second is Ha Ha Comics no. 78 (Dec-Jan 1951), cover artist unknown. I like porcupines in general, but here we are presented with a truly bizarre situation – a porcupine who tears out his sweetheart’s quills one by one to figure out whether she loves him… (unless she’s just a friend helping out, and he’s in love with some other porcupine). Kinky, whichever way you look at it.
Going a few years back, we take a little inter-planetary voyage with Coo Coo Comics no. 38 (March 1948, Pines/Standard Comics), with a cover by (possibly)Vince Fago. I am very fond of this purple-green monster who looks like he’s suffering from a bad hangover (or terminal cretinism). Coo Coo Comics is credited with having introduced the first funny animal superhero (in its very first issue, published in October 1942). That little guy was Supermouse…
… but the other contender for this title was Terrytoons’ Mighty Mouse, also introduced in October 1942 (under the name of ‘Super Mouse’) in the theatrical short The Mouse of Tomorrow. That’s enough to get anybody confused in all these mice! This is Terry-Toons Comics no. 1 (October 1942), with an Ernie Hart cover that hints at the influence that funny animal comics had on the underground comix artists:
Today’s Tentacle Tuesday is a really fun one, given that its focus is the snazzy art of Richard Sala (1954-2020), deceased, alas, far too soon at 65, when he was about to launch a new webcomic.
Granted, perhaps the plots of his stories often don’t make that much sense. But! they’re awash in half-naked damsels, sad-eyed defeateds, vampires and ghouls of all kinds, a mad scientist or two, dark alleys and schoolgirl academies and strangely ominous museums and… all of this drawn in Sala’s easily recognizable, deliciously scary style. Peculia is definitely involved in this post (see co-admin RG’s Hallowe’en Countdown IV, Day 17), but so is Judy Drood, girl detective, plucky heroine and first-rate fighter… and a host of other characters! So follow me as I kick things off with some beautifully painted Evil Eye covers (and backs!) – Sala had an impeccable sense of colour.
I complimented Sala’s beautiful colour work earlier (and hopefully demonstrated this point!), but Sala’s black-and-white work is equally satisfying. Shall we have a look-see?
Some plant tentacles make an appearance in Peculia and the Groon Grove Vampires (2013, Fantagraphics):
The Grave Robber’s Daughter (2007, Fantagraphics) spins the yarn of what happens when Judy Dredd is stranded in a strangely empty town… empty until the clowns come out, that is. I really enjoyed this 96-page tale (read it here), with its quick-paced, cohesive plot, top-notch art and of course a good dose of Coulrophobia. I don’t like clowns, either. Here are two pages highlighting Freddie, ‘the Crawling Thing’, and his manifold tentacles:
Finally, as a little bonus, I am including a pin-up that doesn’t have any tentacles to recommend it, but is otherwise perfectly appropriate to this not-quite-end-of-September. Co-admin RG has plenty up his sleeve with his upcoming Hallowe’en count-down, but I am allowing myself just one furtive foray into vampire territory…
Sala explains: « According to the editor, I was one of only a few of the cartoonists asked to submit ideas whose submissions were ‘sex positive’. That is, according to him, most of the submissions by younger cartoonists were more in line with the kind of scatological, angry, ‘gross-out’, excretion-happy humor more typical of today, or focused on the adversarial relationship between men and women. My somewhat sweet oral sex joke seems pretty quaint in comparison, I guess. »
Hello, cephalopod aficionados! I have some lovely tentacles for you today, all wrapped around voluptuous women (my favourite kind of cephalopod content, I admit). There is a lot of ‘that kind of thing’ going on in the rivers of the comic kingdom, but most of it, alas, is distinctly ugly. I have accumulated a few covers not suffering from that particular scourge (quite by accident, most of them use a green-and-red palette), and I invite you to enjoy them with me!
The first is a Judge Dredd cover that had somehow previously escaped my attention, despite WOT’s affection for the former and my personal affection for Judge Anderson (lackaday, ill-handled once out of the hands of creator John Wagner and writer Alan Grant – and preferably drawn by Brian Bolland, of course).
The following cover presumably has something to do with DC’s Star Rovers series, which ran between 1961 and 1964, but I wasn’t able to find more about this particular comic, the company that published it (Comax), or the equally mysterious cover artist, Butch Burcham. A comic-savvy friend described the latter as ‘a low rent Frazetta knock-off artist‘. I have no opinion about that part, but I do like this cover and its lushly coloured maiden with her completely impractical suit.
Finally, we have a surprisingly tasteful (albeit a bit stiff – so would you be, barely perching at the very edge of a chair like that), girl-next-door Vampi cover. And look, she actually has enough space for internal organs! I like that the tentacles seem like a friendly presence, almost guarding her (as opposed to getting a quick grope in). In case you want more Vampirella, head over to Tentacle Tuesday: Warren and Its Many Tentacles, Part II.
Pip pip cheerio and toodle-loo, and see you next week!