Tentacle Tuesday: State of the Modern Tentacle

Tentacles have always been omnipresent in comics, but there’s been a true explosion of tentacular material in recent years. Sadly, the quantity is inversely proportional to the quality, and the comics market seems to be flooded with covers so aesthetically unappealing that I can’t bring myself to feature them. Still, I’ve been accumulating covers from 21st century – here are a few that I can get behind, albeit half-heartedly.

Army of Darkness vs. Re-Animator! (October 2006, Dynamite Entertainment). Cover by Canadian comics artist Nick Bradshaw.

As any story loosely based on an H. P. Lovecraft character (in this case Herbert West) and featuring a crossover as the main point of interest (in this case, West is fighting Ash Williams from the Evil Dead series), this is, not to put too fine a point to it, crap.

Dark Goodbye vol. 1 (April 2007, Tokyopop). Cover by Drew Rausch.
Great Pacific no. 16 (July 2014) – variant cover by Charles Paul Wilson III.

Great Pacific has been lauded as an interesting comic with a powerful message of environmental preservation, but this is the only cover I kind of like, the others being distinctly on the ugly side (albeit abounding with tentacles). I see comics as a great merging of words and images, so when the pictorial side leaves so much to be desired, my interest in reading the story is nil — I’ll go read a book instead.

I had low expectations for Professor Dario Bava, but this was surprisingly a rather fun read, despite its extremely derivative nature, abounding, as publicity promised, naked women, monsters, exorcisms and lesbian scenes involving a nun in lingerie.

The art is not great but quite serviceable, involving a murky but non-offensive palette with some colour pops.

A collection of Dan Brereton art, published in November 2013 (Little Eva Ink).

I can actually say that I like Brereton’s painted and colourful style (co-admin RG demurs on that point), and as he seems to quite enjoy painting tentacles, his art will surely crop up again in one of my posts.

~ ds

Hallowe’en Countdown III, Day 5

« … his appreciation for city life was such that when I was a little girl and we would be going on walks, he would periodically draw my attention to the colorful and interesting patterns created by garbage strewn about on the streets, or by dilapidated storefronts with their torn-off signs. » — Gina Kovarsky on her father’s perspective

Funny how history works: for every world-famous New Yorker cartoonist, there’s another who’s just about been forgotten, yet is every bit the equal of his more celebrated colleague.

Anatol Kovarsky (born in Moscow in 1919, lived and thrived to the impressive age of 97) began working for the New Yorker in 1947, who published his cartoons and cover illustrations until 1969, when the man turned his full attention to painting.

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This specific piece first saw print in The New Yorker in 1956, and was collected later that year as part of the classic Kovarsky’s World (Alfred A. Knopf).

For further reading, here’s a pair of excellent articles on the esteemed Mr. K:
http://michaelmaslin.com/inkspill/anatol-kovarsky-still-drawing-after-all-these-years/
and http://coyleart.typepad.com/coyleart/2007/08/anatol-kovarsky.html

-RG

Tentacle Tuesday: the Putrid, Gunky Insides of Death Rattle

Death rat·tle (/ˈdeTH ˈˌradl/), noun: a gurgling sound heard in a dying person’s throat.

Greetings! Today we explore Kitchen Sink‘s mostly-black-and-white horror anthology (drum roll, please) Death Rattle, which ran between 1972 and 1996 in three distinct “volumes” (please don’t forget your professional spelunking gear, things might get messy). For the pedants in the audience (and let’s be honest, that’s probably the majority of us comic-loving freaks), the break-down goes like this:

Volume 1, 3 issues published between June 1972 until June 1973 under the Krupp Comic Words imprint; volume 2, 18 issues published between October 1985 and October 1988 under Kitchen Sink Comix; finally, volume 3, five issues published between December 1995 and June 1996, also under Kitchen Sink Comix. I must admit that that my favourite period is Volume 2, and it’s from these issues that most material presented below has been drawn.

There is already a Tentacle Tuesday devoted to Kitchen Sink (see Tentacle Tuesday: The Kitchen Sink Touch) featuring, among other things, two splendid Death Rattle covers. We have also previously ogled some DR inside art in Tentacle Tuesday Masters: Rand Holmes. Today we take a longer peek into the stories promulgated by this fantabulous anthology. Get ready for some nasty fun!

(Man, I’ve got to tone down my build-ups…)

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Panel from Mind Siege! by Steve Stiles, published in Death Rattle no. 3 (February 1986). The “my god!! so BIG!!” alien has the power to telepathically send mind-shattering hallucinations, eventually driving (nearly) everyone on earth insane. This issue also provides the first installment of Jaxon’s epic series Bulto… the Cosmic Slug (collected as Secret of San Saba: A Tale of Phantoms and Greed in the Spanish Southwest in 1989, for those interested).

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The last soldier on earth killed it! …Or did he? Panel from Mind Siege! by Steve Stiles, published in Death Rattle no. 3 (February 1986).

The first 5 issues of Death Rattle volume 2 appeared in glorious colour, after which the series reverted to its standard black-and-white (financial hurdles). Issue 7 came out proudly bearing the slogan “too gruesome for color!” Issue 5 gave more details of the change to come:

« It will still be printed on quality paper, so you archivists out there won’t have trouble preserving disintegrating, rotting, putrid copies that look like they’ve just risen zombified from a Graham Ingels story. We’ll still be printing atmospheric stories of the unusual, the eerie, the — dare we say it — ghastly. So let’s rejoice, not mourn. »

I remember being vaguely disappointed for just a little while (it was nice to have colour), but the high quality of (most) stories made it easy to get used to the switch, and I really liked the unapologetic way Kitchen Sink confronted their audience, making a good thing out of a bad thing.

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Polite monsters knock before smashing noisily through the window. Page from Old House, scripted by Kenneth Whitfield and drawn by Steve Stiles, published in Death Rattle no. 7 (October 1986).

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Page from Old House, scripted by Kenneth Whitfield and drawn by Steve Stiles, published in Death Rattle no. 7 (October 1986).

I didn’t realize it immediately, but this post ends up being some sort of cephalopod love song to Steve Stiles. Speaking of the latter, I’d like to mention that he doesn’t get enough credit for his work on Mark Schultz’s Xenozoic Tales, even though he drew Schultz-scripted back-up stories for no fewer than 13 issues of XT – and, frankly, did an excellent job. Instead of getting interrupted smack in the middle of an intoxicating story, Xenozoic Tales could have continued to thrill us if Schultz scripted and Stiles illustrated. ‘Nuff said. Visit Stiles’ website – it has tons and tons of stuff.

If I may be allowed a slight digression, here are two examples of Stiles’ recent (and computer-coloured, I’m afraid) work taken from his Tumblr blog – I think tentacles still prey heavily upon his mind! 😉

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Okay, no more distractions. Back to our regularly scheduled program:

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Last Exit by Steve Stiles, published in Death Rattle no. 8 (December 1986). Comics *definitely* teach us that guns are useless against tentacles.

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« Savoring my growing fear and horror… the crawl and prickle of my flesh.. waiting to feel the rapid feather-flutter or antennae… the clammy weight of tentacles… the jolt of pain as mandibles grip with steady pressure…» Panel from Mirrors by Eric Vincent, published in Death Rattle no. 11 (June 1987).

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Page from Bulto – The Cosmic Slug (part 5) by Jaxon, published in Death Rattle no. 12 (September 1987). There simply isn’t anything Jaxon can’t ace: a lot of artists have no trouble depicting curvy vixens, few artists can draw an anatomically correct horse, and even fewer would be able to create a blood-curdling scene with a manic priest and a convincing Elder God.

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Panel from The Arrivals by Steve Stiles, published in Death Rattle no. 12 (September 1987). Watch who you’re calling filthy, kid – soon you’ll be one of them.

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A bit of comic relief: panel from Dr. Stodge Rimperton, Otologist by Tony Millionaire, published in Death Rattle no. 2 (volume 3), December 1995.

« Yes, you may find yourself raving in the aisles when you read Death Rattle, although we sincerely hope not. We hope it will thrill, chill, slice, dice and possibly even amuse you. » (introduction from Death Rattle no. 4)

~ ds

Tentacle Tuesday: The Kitchen Sink Touch

Kitchen Sink Press, a trailblazing publisher of underground comix that grew out of Denis Kitchen’s successful attempts at self-publishing, has seen its share of tentacles. (For a detailed story of how Kitchen Sink grew from a modest artists’ cooperative into a force to be reckoned with, as well as a discussion of its 30-year legacy, pay Comixjoint a visit.)

First we have a pair of entries from the Death Rattle catalogue. There were 3 “volumes” (series, if you will) published, and my favourite is volume 2, consisting of 18 issues coming out between October 1985 and October 1988, starting out in glorious colour but reverting to black-and-white with issue 6 (which was fine, actually). It’s a remarkably consistent anthology nearly devoid of clunkers, and featuring awesome stories and art by Rand Holmes, Jaxon, Tom Veitch, Al Williamson, Wally Wood, Steve Stiles, etc.  It’s also where Mark Schultz’ Xenozoic Tales series was introduced (Death Rattle no. 8, December 1986)!

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Death Rattle no. 4 (April 1986), cover by Rand Holmes, who’s already ascended to the rank of Tentacle Tuesday Master.

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Death Rattle no. 12 (September 1987), cover by Jaxon (Jack Jackson). The cover belongs to Jaxon’s “Bulto… The Cosmic Slug“, an epic eleven-parter that I really enjoyed reading (and not only because of its manifold tentacles). We’ll talk about that again.

Speaking of Jaxon, I’d like to quote from General Jackson, a tribute written by Margaret Moser (who dated him on-and-off through the years).

« The last time I saw Jack was a humid, late summer night in 2005 at the South Austin Museum of Popular Culture. His hair was nearly white and had lost its red-brown burnish, but his mustache was bushy as ever, and he resembled God Nose himself. He was a little grumpy, probably feeling bad, and I was with my boyfriend, so I didn’t sit on his lap. I did kiss his leathery cheek and fetch him a beer. He smelled like cigarette smoke and maybe of Old Spice.

On Wednesday, June 7, just three weeks after his birthday, Jack Jackson took his life at the graves of his parents outside Stockdale. His diabetes and arthritis were getting worse, affecting his ability to draw, and he’d been diagnosed with prostate cancer. Unwilling to face a debilitating course of chemo treatment, he put down his pen forever and made his own kind of peace with the unforgiving future. »

On to something more cheerful! Next, we have a bit of a non sequitur in this otherwise horror-centric post, although one might argue that being grabbed by an octopus is a traumatic experience. What’s The Spirit doing in here, you might ask?

« Kitchen Sink continued publishing multiple undergrounds and alternative comics through the ’80s and ’90s, but also expanded into publishing non-underground comics, graphic novels and extensive anthologies, most notably by Will Eisner, Al Capp, Milton Caniff and Harvey Kurtzman. » |source|

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The Spirit no. 34 (August 1987), cover by Will Eisner.

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Page from “A Day at the Beach“, drawn and scripted by Will Eisner and inked by André Leblanc, printed in The Spirit no. 34 (August 1987). Somehow I’m not surprised that Eisner draws a mean-yet-elegant octopus.

All rested now? Okay, back to horror.

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Flesh Crawlers no. 1 (1993), written by Richard Rainey and illustrated by Michael Dubisch. A quick look at the latter’s catalogue shows that Dubisch happily adds tentacles to whatever he’s drawing.

The scientist seems to have been preparing to dissect the specimen – turnabout is fair play! This cover reminds me of this, actually:

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Barney & Clyde is a syndicated newspaper strip with jokes that are actually funny and characters that you can get attached to, a rarity these days. You can read it online.

Back on topic, another attack of the Flesh Crawlers:

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Flesh Crawlers no. 3 (1993), written by Richard Rainey and illustrated by Michael Dubisch.

My final submission for today involves a cozy family scene where Frank is peacefully having breakfast with, err… Potted turnip babies and an almost-nude greek serial killer. I think.

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Hyena no. 4 (1993, Tundra), cover by Dave Cooper. If Jim Woodring’s work frequently creeps me out, Cooper’s comics are viscerally repulsive to me (I think he goes for “nauseating” on purpose, but I’m not in the camp of people who like to experience strong emotions by watching disgusting, repulsive things happen). This cover, though, is all right.

~ ds

Tentacle Tuesday: Convoluted Critters

Occasionally, I notice a comic book cover with a tentacled monster so peculiar that one starts wondering whether the artist was on drugs or just couldn’t give a shit. That is not a criticism, however: where grabby appendages are concerned, the weirder, the better. Even if some of these guys have a face (muzzle? rictus?) even a mother couldn’t love, or their anatomy defies all laws of biology, we’ll welcome them with open arms!

As usual, in chronological order.

First in our line-up is this little fella in a hat. At least he looks like he’s wearing a cap, although perhaps he just has a square head with a skin flap hanging over the sides. At first glance, his tentacles are hollow, although their flesh is probably just a dull shade of battleship grey. So what’s this “thing that waited”? Soviet soldiers who are actually alien invaders. Duh.

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Adventures Into Weird Worlds no. 3 (March 1952), cover by Joe Maneely.

This next cover is probably a little more standard for pseudo-octopus fare: a lady with huge, ahem, bazooms (Russ Heath liked ’em busty, it seems – seriously, just look at the size of those things!) threatened by some horrific monster who’s dispatching her companion as expediently as possible. Still, the somewhat Wolverton-esque, grave-dwelling aliens with pincers at the end of their tentacles are odd-looking enough to squeeze their way into this post.

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Spellbound no. 20 (March 1954), cover by Russ Heath.

This toupee-clad creature with evil gimlet eyes doesn’t look much like a pet, if you ask me. How are those grabby little arms attached to its head, anyway? Wait, who am I talking about, again? 😉

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House of Mystery no. 87 (June 1959), cover by Bob Brown.

“My Greatest Adventure” was a title that promised much, and it must have been difficult to live up to it every month. Witness the following “fantastic” creature – a furry slug with disturbingly fleshy lips and tentacles. I can’t vouch for my reaction had I been an excitable ten-year old, but to this blasé adult, the poor beast summoned by some psycho witch doctor (the jungles seem to be always overrun with them) is just begging to be put out of its misery.

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My Greatest Adventure no. 51 (January 1961), pencilled by Dick Dillin and inked by Sheldon Moldoff.

Our next exhibit finally features a proper alien, one who looks strange but at least makes sense as a unified, functioning creature. I love his sadly drooped whiskers, his dejected expression that’s strangely at odds with his pontifical speech.

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Tales of the Unexpected no. 66 (October 1961), cover by Bob Brown.

« Make him a werewolf! But in space! And give him tentacles! » Yeah, guys, that went over really well. A Marvel Masterwork, my ass. But wait: Black Destroyer! is an adaptation of A. E. van Vogt’s short story from 1939. And did Cœurl, the black cat-like creature, have tentacles in the story? Why, yes, he did.

« His great forelegs—twice as long as his hindlegs—twitched with a shuddering movement that arched every razor-sharp claw. The thick tentacles that sprouted from his shoulders ceased their weaving undulation, and grew taut with anxious alertness. Utterly appalled, he twisted his great cat head from side to side, while the little hairlike tendrils that formed each ear vibrated frantically, testing every vagrant breeze, every throb in the ether. » (read the full story here.)

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Worlds Unknown no. 5 (February 1974), cover pencilled by Gil Kane and inked by Frank Giacoia. Cœurl looks like he’s floating on top of the corpse – I don’t think the artists spent too much time watching an actual cat at work.

Read the comics version of Black Destroyer! here.

My last offering for today is the cutest, featuring an adorable blue varmint who gets my full sympathy and support. Weird? Sure, a bit – he’s got a tentacle sprouting out of his forehead – but beauty is in the eye of the beholder, right? This cover also proves that monsters are just as interested in tooth-whitening procedures as us humans.

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The Defenders no. 72 (June 1979), pencilled by Herb Trimpe and inked by Al Milgrom.

~ ds

Tentacle Tuesday: Tenta-come-lately

I have this tendency to overlook comics published more recently than 20 years ago. It’s not a conscious bias on my part (aw, who are we kidding?), and yet…  Why would I waste precious time trying to find something “modern” (which is a flexible concept, anyway) that’s half-decent instead of enjoying the bounty of excellent comics produced in the 60 (if not 70) years preceding the 2000s?

Having said that, tentacles are more popular than ever in the comics field – a panacea for a number of storytelling foibles, a piquant ingredient to offset blandness, a freaking deus ex machina. Unfortunately, almost all of the post-2000 comics graced by the appearance of tentacles are of the butt-ugly persuasion – for a number of reasons, although I could probably narrow them down to three or so (piss-poor anatomy, a cold metallic gleam over everything, terrible colours). Modern comics also have the lovely feature of having like a bazillion variant covers for each issue.

I could go on with covers like this one all day:

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Grimm Tales of Terror no. 6 (January 2015), pencilled by Giuseppe Cafaro and inked by Simone Di Meo.

That’s not ugly enough for you? The pretty girl is knocking out all capacity for rational thought? Are you forgiving the artist for thinking fabric needs about a thousand crinkles and folds to look, ahem, realistic? Okay, how about something like this?

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A panel from “When Superman Learned to Fly”, published in Action Comics no. 6 (April, 2012). Pencilled by Andy Kubert and inked by John Dell.

Everybody knows that if you’re going to combat tentacles, you should make sure your stance is wide enough to be completely impractical and then fight them off with your crotch. While you’re doing that, your cape will develop a mind of its own and will start lifting off your shoulders. That is normal and aids in battle. Throw some terribly witty dialogue in, triple check that the men have their hands curled up in manly fisticuffs even if they’re not really connected to their wrists, and you’re all set for an Action Scene!

Okay, okay, I’ll wrap up my rant now. Let’s look at some… decent comics.

“Doctor Lovecraft” made me do a serious eye-roll, but at least the story is interesting. Read the issue here. Note the teal-and-orange in this one:

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A page from « Betty R.I.P. Chapter One – Witch in the Dream House », published in Afterlife with Archie no. 6 (October 2014). Scripted by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, art by Francesco Francavilla.

I’m going to throw a spoiler your way with the following splash. It’s from the same issue as the previous page, so guess who gets to be bride of Cthulhu. (A more-than-slightly absurd thought. What would a Great Old One want with a human female, even if she’s a witch?) For more spoilers, head over to the Afterlife with Archie: the 13 Scariest Moments. I am aaalmost considering picking up the series. Maybe. As soon as I’m done with the piles of comics covering pretty much every surface of my office.

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Moving on: I never thought I’d be posting *anything* from My Little Pony franchise, but the “pastels” of this scene are rather well done. Also, these freaking ponies are annoying, so seeing them strangled is somewhat satisfying.

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My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic no. 27 (January 2015). Cover by Andy Price.

It’s even more preposterous that I should be sharing a Star Wars page, for fuck’s sake, but I like the art (pray note: more blue and orange!).

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«The Phantom Limb» is scripted by James Robinson and drawn by Tony Harris, and was published in Star Wars Special: C-3PO no. 1 (June 2016). Figure out why a tentacled monster is interested in a robot here.

~ ds

Tentacle Tuesday: Scuttle Over to British Shores

Finally, Tentacle Tuesday is here, and the tentacles are back with a vengeance! I’ve been waiting all week to spring ’em on you.

This cutie, the Triclopus, kindly agreed to let us use his, err, face to kick off the Tentacle Tuesday festivities.

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The Triclopus is a Ken Reid creation from August 31st, 1974. There’s a full list of Creepy Creations (published in the British Shiver and Shake) – with pictures! – over at Kazoop!, a great blog about British humour comics of the 60s and 70s. Go check it out. As for Ken Reid, we’ve previously talked about him here.

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Excerpt (or, as the Brits would say, extract) from Alienography by Chris Riddell (2010).

Chris Riddell is a British illustrator, writer of children’s books, acclaimed political cartoonist, talented doodler, etc. His hand-lettering (not at all on display in Alienography, I admit) is sort of Richard Sala, Edward Gorey-ish, as is his somewhat macabre sense of humour. Visit Riddell’s blog here.

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This splendid illustration by Roger Langridge (tentacle artist par excellence) was published in Doctor Who Magazine no. 300 (February, 2001) to accompany some-article-or-other about “Spearhead from Space” (a Doctor Who episode, the seventh season opener, if you really must know).

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A bit more information about the cool Dr. Langridge-and-Dr. Who pairing:

“Within Doctor Who comics, he can be regarded as effectively the current Doctor Who Magazine “house letterer”, having lettered the overwhelming majority of comics since his debut on DWM 272’s Happy Deathday in late 1998. Almost every issue of DWM published in the 21st century was lettered by Langridge.

He has also occasionally pencilled, inked and even coloured some stories along the way. Deathday, for example, was also his Doctor Who pencil and ink debut, and was followed by artistic duties on TV Action!, the back half of The Glorious Dead (where he was co-credited as penciller with Martin Geraghty), The Autonomy Bug, Where Nobody Knows Your Name, The Green-Eyed Monster, Death to the Doctor!, and Planet Bollywood. He is thus perhaps the only artist to professionally draw all eleven incarnations of the Doctor, even though many of his renderings were obvious parodic in Death. Finally, he coloured Me and My Shadow and Where Nobody Knows Your Name.” [source]

TentacleTuesdayIconThe Wizard, a weekly British publication put out by D.C. Thomson (without a P, though it’s tempting), was created in 1922 and lasted all the way until the late seventies (with periodic interruptions for a merger and several title changes, from “Wizard” to “Rover and Wizard” to “Rover” and then again back to “Wizard” in 1970 until its final demise in 1978).

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This edition of The Wizard is from October 26th, 1974, but I unfortunately have no idea who the artist is.

Between WWI and WWII (and sometimes beyond), D.C. Thomson published a number of weekly magazines/papers aimed at boys between 8 and 16. They cost 2 pence, and were thus known as “Tuppenny Bloods”, or the Big Five: Adventure, Rover, Skipper, Hotspur and the aforementioned Wizard. What could one hope to find in a Tuppenny? Short stories with illustrations, some comics, some non-fiction articles…. pretty much everything a growing boy (and girl!) with a lively mind would want.

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2000 AD no. 142 (1979). I call this the “dragons’n’tentacles” ploy. Other than tentacles on the cover, this issue contains part 3 of Judge Dredd: The Black Plague, which I highly recommend, and some Stainless Steel Rat adventures.

~ ds

Tentacle Tuesday: Popeye, the Sailor Man

Since Popeye’s a sailor, one would expect him to run into a lot of octopuses during his adventures. It doesn’t happen nearly as often as one would think, actually, but there’s still enough encounters for a decent-sized tentacle journey. Here we go!

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Popeye: Danger, Ahoy! Big Little Book #5768 (Whitman, 1969). Does anybody know who painted this cover?

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« Zombie Popeye » (and, more importantly for our current topic of discussion, Chtulhu-Olive!) by the talented Roger Langridge. He posted this so-called sketch (how detailed can a drawing be before it stops being a sketch?) on his website on September 2014… and the original is still for sale, I believe! Go here. This isn’t the first time Langridge tentacles slither into a blog post – for instance, go visit « Tentacle Tuesday: pirates and treasure, oh my».

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A variant cover for Popeye Classics #48, July 2016. These Craig Yoe reprints of Bud Sagendorf’s Popeye are great fun, by the way, and I highly recommend them for the proverbial children-at-heart.

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Original art for a Popeye Sunday, published on July 9th, 1958. The art is by Bela (Bill) Zaboly, who worked on Thimble Theater starting from 1939 and until Bud Sagendorf took over in 1959.

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A chunk of story in which an octopus makes a very minor appearance… from a strip by Bug Sagendorf published on October 7th, 1960.

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A panel from “Hitchhikers!” by Bug Sagendorf, published in Popeye Comics #19, January-March 1952. Read the full zany story here. (Technically, this is a Sherm story, but let’s not split hairs.) I’m not surprised the octopus looks like a spy, wearing a hairpiece like that. Or is it just a nest for the birdies?

– ds

 

Tossing Pebbles Down a Well

OutThereIconIt stands to reason that there are tons of spiffy-yet-unheralded material out there, most of it slowly mouldering away in obscurity. You may count on us to do some foraging and to showcase some of the spoils here… with proper attribution.

Our image: Artwork by Ed Robbins, from Cemetery Scene, writer unknown (The Twilight Zone no. 36, March 1971, Gold Key).