Tentacle Tuesday: Hand Me My Helmet, Harry

The first helmets were used by Assyrian soldiers in 900 B.C., and they were made of thick leather and bronze to protect the head from blunt objects, swords and arrows during combat. Research shows that helmets can significantly reduce the severity of injuries sustained from head trauma. That’s why it’s so important to always wear a helmet when taking part in a potentially dangerous activity.

You may argue that helmets are just a way to be able to breath underwater, a compromise between the bulky scaphandre (less elegantly ‘diving suit’ in English) and the scuba diving mask. Breathing, ha, that’s just a distraction to the real purpose of a helmet during an octopus encounter: it makes the diver’s head look a little like an octopus’ head, thus confusing him and giving a much necessary advantage.

Install yourself comfortably following the example of this happy family of cephalopods, and let’s have a look…

I first encountered David Wiesner when I bought his Mr. Wuffles! book on a whim (it had cats!), but Flotsam, a collection of underwater life illustrations published in 2006, is also clearly of some interest.

Out first helmet of the day is a reasonable imitation of a diving suit! The following page is from Prisoner of the Undersea World!, scripted by Gardner Fox, illustrated by Sid Greene, and published in Strange Adventures no. 155 (August 1963, DC).

I am not sure how he could drink and eat without taking his helmet off, and taking it off would surely mean drowning – luckily, the frogs were smarter than him!

I am pleased to report that not only did the octopus come out of that encounter in one piece, no frog denizens were seriously harmed, either (which makes this tale pretty special, since human heroes tend to go and annihilate anything they don’t understand).

Actual attempts at establishing communication? Colour me impressed!

Our second is a helmeted beauty (albeit twisting in a way that isn’t anatomically feasible) and some of her teammates from U.N.D.E.R.S.E.A. (or United Nations Department of Experiment and Research Systems Established at Atlantis).

Undersea Agent no. 2 (April 1966, Tower Comics), pencilled by Mike Sekowsky and inked by Frank Giacoia.

The cover story is rife with tentacles, but unfortunately doesn’t feature the scene depicted above at all.

Panel from The Return of Dr Fang, scripted by D. J. Arneson, pencilled by Ray Bailey and inked by Sheldon Moldoff.

On the other hand, Buried Under the Sea, a fun read nicely illustrated by Mike Sekowsky on pencils and Joe Giella and Frank Giacoia on inks, has plenty of sea-helmets… but no cephalopods. One can’t have everything, alas!

One easily understands why she made it onto the cover of the comic!

From helmets that are actually connecting to some diving equipment and oxygen canisters, we move on to ones which are just like an upside-down fish bowl somehow magically sitting on the wearer’s shoulders. Style always takes priority over silly things like actually being able to breathe. For more Adam Strange, scoot over to Tentacle Tuesday: Tangles with Adam Strange!

DC Super Stars no. 8 (October 1976, DC), cover by Ernie Chan (signing as Ernie Chua). This issue features a bunch of reprints, mainly reprinted stories from Mystery in Space.

Speaking of Mystery in Space, no. 21 (August-September 1954) has a very appropriate story… proving that the ol’ anti-cephalopod helmet can be used out of water. This is a page from Interplanetary Merry-Go-Round, scripted by Otto Binder and illustrated by Sy Barry… who’s still with us and about to celebrate his 93rd birthday!

Maybe the Martian monster is going ‘beserk’ (sic) because it’s a sentient creature who’s been chained and used for the amusement of stupid crowds?

~ ds

Tentacle Tuesday: Tangles with Adam Strange

« The menacing tentacles came probing down out of the sky in a fantastic quest for the secret of life! »

To celebrate Tentacle Tuesday, I’ve planned a visit to the mysterious planet Rann, as seen through the eyes of Adam Strange, that intrepid, quick-witted, teleporting archeologist. (First, a little context: Adam Strange was created by Julius Schwartz, with a costume designed by Murphy Anderson. He first appeared in Showcase #17 (November 1958). At first, Gardner Fox’s scripts were penciled by Mike Sekowsky, but this task was assigned to Carmine Infantino once the character moved to Mystery in Space, with Murphy Anderson inking most of the stories. As much as I like the Infantino + Anderson team, today’s contributions mostly involve other inkers.)

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Mystery in Space no. 60 (June 1960). Cover inked by Carmine Infantino and inked by Joe Giella. “The Attack of the Tentacle World!” is scripted by Garner Fox, pencilled by Infantino and inked by Bernard Sachs.

That green thing? That’s Yggardis, a sentient planet that (who?) craves companionship. Here’s its highfalutin explanation, in that pompous English that Enemies of Mankind use when detailing their raison d’être to their victims: “For uncounted centuries, I have roamed the universe, raiding other worlds for their life-forms, lifting them in my tentacles! Unfortunately no form of living thing which I stole from other planets could live on me more than 24 hours!” The solution to that is (obviously) to steal even more animals for its private, deadly zoo, which is what it proceeds to do on Rann.

Mysteryinspace60-TentacleWorldA

Yggardis’ problem is solved when Adam blows it into carefully calculated smithereens, thus separating its radiation-producing mind from the rest of its inert body. A comparison is made to human surgeons removing deadly tissues and organs from an ailing patient. Uh, yes, surgeons regularly use explosives to sever their patients’ brains from their bodies, thus eliminating the need for expensive medication and such.

MysteryinSpace65
Mystery in Space no. 65 (February 1962), artwork also by Infantino and Giella.

The Mechanimen are anthropoid robots hellbent on protecting humans on Rann, destroying all their weapons on the principle that “weapons breed mistrust! mistrust breeds wars!” When the Mechanimen, while attempting to repel a sneak attack by some hostile aliens, run out of power (they “mechanically never gave a thought to renewing their power” – what?), Adam has to save the day, much like he has to avert disaster every time he sets foot on Rann. How did Rannians ever survive without him around?

AdamStrange-MysteryinSpace65
Adam doesn’t only have to confront mechanical tentacles in this issue: he’s also almost swallowed up by plant tendrils. “The Mechanical Masters of Rann” is scripted by Gardner Fox, pencilled by Infantino and inked by Murphy Anderson (ah, finally).

As you’ve probably noticed, Adam Strange stories tend to have gonzo plots. I *like* goofy stories, but these leave me frustrated: they’re far too far-fetched to make any kind of sense, yet they’re not wacky enough to be properly entertaining. The stories toss around “futuristic” terms like sky-radiation and zeta-beams and altered molecular structures, and provide “scientific” explanations that are supposed to make the plot plausible, except that the plot’s still ridiculous, all the more so after these attempts to shoehorn logic into it. It wouldn’t be so bad if Strange wasn’t over-explaining everything – he’s like your best friend’s pedantic dad, droning on about something while everyone feigns interest, sucking out the joy from topics that would otherwise be fascinating.

The other interesting aspect of Adam Strange is the sexual tension – basically, Adam’s zeta-beam wears off every time he and Alanna share an embrace. (That sends him back to Earth until he catches the next beam and gets teleported back to Rann.) That’s an original way of keeping them apart, I have to admit.

AdamStrangeByeAHe’ll be back soon, he says – as will I, with another Tentacle Tuesday.

~ ds