Hallowe’en Countdown IV, Day 1

« 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. 

This is Drag Cartoons no. 8 (October, 1964, Millar Publishing Company). Cover by Mr. Millar. What does this… vehicle run on, exactly?

Any goodies to be found beyond the dandy cover? Well, there *is* this little number (of several, actually) by one Alexander Toth

Another seasonal bonus from the same issue… that certainly seems like an advantageous deal… yessiree buckaroos!

– RG

Tentacle Tuesday: A Child’s Garden of Carnivorous Plants

« 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.

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Shadow Comics v. 2 no. 8 (November 1942, Street & Smith), cover by Vernon Greene.

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Page from Horror House, the cover story, scripted by Walter Gibson and illustrated by Jack Binder.

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The Botanist of Death, scripted by Joe Blair and illustrated by Lin Streeter, was published in Blue Ribbon Comics no. 19 (December 1941, Archie)

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 Gespenster Geschichten no. 550. One would think that a vampire getting restrained by a carnivorous plant is actually a *good* thing, but the lady seems unimpressed. Maybe she wanted to get bitten?

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 World by 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.

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Turok, Son of Stone no. 26 (Dec. 1961-Feb. 1962, Dell), cover by George Wilson.

The cover story, The Deadly Jungle, is scripted by Paul S. Newman, penciled by Giovanni Ticci and inked by Alberto Giolitti.

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Very much on topic is this installment of Land Unknown (a comic adaption of the 1957 science fiction movie), scripted by Robert Ryder and illustrated by Alex Toth, published in Four Color no. 845 (August 1957, Dell).

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I shall doubtlessly return to this topic again. In the meantime, visit Plants sometimes have tentacles too and The Hungry Greenery.

By the way, the Drosera plant (more precisely, a genus that includes about 152 species) – called Sundew in common parlance – is not only lethal, but beautiful, too.

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A real-life plant tentacle in action – goodbye, little insect.

~ ds

Hallowe’en Countdown, Day 3

« 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.

Third, these morbid tales weren’t just hackwork scarcely worthy of publication, at least art-wise: they feature such solid talents as George Roussos, Mort Meskin, Mike Sekowsky, Alex Toth and Gene Fawcette.

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.

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This is Seduction of the Innocent 3-D (Oct. 1985, Eclipse). Logo by Ken Steacy.

If you’re in the mood, a couple of 2D samples of the issue, perhaps? Try Harvest of Death or Death Dives Deep. Just tell dear Mr. Karswell we sent you!

– RG