« People, chained by monotony, afraid to think, clinging to certainties… they live like ants. » — Béla Lugosi
It’s October first, and you know what that entails, don’t you? Among other ominous occurrences, it happens to be the onset of Who’s Out There’s annual Hallowe’en Countdown!
This year, we open hostilities with this fine monster mash by Pete Millar (1929 – 2003), drag-racing cartoonist nonpareil. I suspect we’ll be seeing more of certain members of this ghoulish cast of fiends.
Any goodies to be found beyond the dandy cover? Well, there *is* this little number (of several, actually) by one Alexander Toth…
« Drosera’s snap tentacles — which can sense moving prey — catapult insects directly onto the glue tentacles at the plant’s center, where the prey is digested. What’s more, the catapult system is very effective—the insect almost never escapes. » (source)
Which child hasn’t passed through a temporary fascination with Venus flytraps in particular, and carnivorous plants in general? From there it only takes a tiny shift of the imagination to arrive at man-eating plants, which grab their victims with murderous tentacle-like tendrils, crawling vines and grabby creepers. Today we delve into one of my favourite sub-categories of tentacle obsession: plant tentacles.
This spine-chilling greenery often deploys its lethal vines in some remote corner of the Earth (well, in comics, at any rate). This, I firmly believe, is far scarier than the idea of other planets harbouring these carnivorous forms of life. After all, our chances of landing on Mars or somesuch are slim, and we’re a lot more (though not very) likely to wind up in some mysterious jungle.
But first, we deal with that old trope about a power-mad scientist breeding some man-devouring monstrosity in a pot, garden or greenhouse.
When I was a wee girl, my dad would give me piles of adventure books to read. Quite a few of them involved some intrepid explorers discovering (or literally falling into) a jungle (often hidden in some volcanic crater) in which prehistoric creatures had somehow survived (among the novels I remember reading were Sannikov Land and Plutonia by Vladimir Obruchev, The Lost Worldby Conan Doyle,Journey to the Center of the Earth by Jules Verne, The Land That Time Forgot by Edgar Rice Burroughs, etc.) Cue dinosaurs and woolly mammoths! As I loved dinosaurs, I didn’t mind this recurring theme, which by now seems a little, shall we say, hackneyed.
The cover story, The Deadly Jungle, is scripted by Paul S. Newman, penciled by Giovanni Ticci and inked by Alberto Giolitti.
« Ach ja! That field once produced the best wine in the world, for it is said it was fertilized with human blood! »
(Does that only apply to red wine?)
As far as 80s reprint packages go, this was something special by any measure: first of all, though the spooky tales within were produced in the pre-code 1950s, they had never gone to press. The material was intended for the 15th issue of Pines/Standard/Better/Visual Editions’ Adventures Into Darkness, which was never published, presumably in the wake of the heavy-handed censorship of the newly-instituted Comics Code Authority. Why bother revising and releasing a book that likely wouldn’t even get distributed?
Second, the originals were adapted for the 3D process. The effect was quite the rage in 1953-54, but these particular 3D separations were created retroactively, in the 80s, by modern stereoscopy master and keeper of the flame Ray Zone (1947–2012) and Tony Alderson.
And finally, there’s that eyeball-caressing Dave Stevens (1955-2008) cover. The gone-too-soon creator of The Rocketeer also made his mark with a cherished handful of covers in those dark Reagan years, a mark that thankfully shows no sign of fading.
This is Seduction of the Innocent 3-D (Oct. 1985, Eclipse). Logo by Ken Steacy.