Hallowe’en Countdown IV, Day 14

« Listen, Angel! If they’re out of bananas… I’ll meet you at the corner fruit stand! »

Today, let’s combine our general theme with a celebration of the birthday of one of comics’ great, yet perpetually underappreciated talents: Bob Oksner (October 14, 1916 – February 18, 2007), DC’s go-to humour and good girl art guy. Can you beat that? Didn’t think so.

Bob had a winning penchant for mixing monsters and babes, and for this, he’s earned our lifelong gratitude.

This is Angel and the Ape no. 6 (Sept.-Oct. 1969, DC), featuring The Robbing Robot and The Ape of 1,000 Disguises! (Would You Believe Four?), wittily written by John Albano, lusciously pencilled by Oksner, and creamily inked by Wallace “Wally” Wood. Truly swoon-inducing stuff. Edited by Joe Orlando (that explains all the monsters!), with a cover by Oksner.

You might say Angel and the Ape exist in an awkward sort of limbo: popular enough for the back issues to be kind of pricey, but not popular enough to have been reprinted (eight issues, including their Showcase appearance, ideal for a trade paperback, hint, hint).

So what else has Mr. Oksner cooked up over the years? Keeping to our theme, here are a few highlights, but first, a handy bio:

This piece appeared in The Adventures of Jerry Lewis no. 73 (Nov.-Dec. 1962, DC).
The is The Adventures of Jerry Lewis no. 83 (July.-Aug. 1964, DC). Formerly The Adventures of Dean Martin & Jerry Lewis… of course. The book (under both titles) featured some lovely artwork from Owen Fitzgerald, Mort Drucker and of course Oksner… but it was no Sugar and Spike. Still, it had its audience, long-lasting as it was (124 issues… Jerry wasn’t just big in France!)
This is The Adventures of Bob Hope no. 104 (Apr.-May 1967, DC). DC’s celebrity-licensed humour titles followed a parallel course: fading sales led to their nominal stars being more or less sidelined in their own book in favour of increasingly outlandish supporting casts.
An inside page from that issue. Good-looking comics… but they weren’t particularly witty, which can be a bit of a drawback. Arnold Drake was the writer, and while he could be pretty damn funny, it just didn’t work here. Still, you can bet that it was still more amusing than Milton Berle’s comic book.
1940s teenager Binky was pulled out of mothballs in the late 60s (ten years elapsed between issues 60 and 61). A moderate success (especially given it mostly consisted of slightly updated reprints), it returned to oblivion after another twenty-two issues, though the first seven bore some rather fine Oskner cheesecake covers. This is Leave It to Binky no. 67 (June-July 1969, DC).
Finally, for a touch of the more ‘realistic’ Oksner style, here’s his cover introducing Sheldon Mayer‘s marvellously-mysterious Black Orchid. This is Adventure Comics no. 428 (July-Aug. 1973, DC). She deserved far more than a mere three-issue run!

-RG

Tentacle Tuesday: Ahoy, Sea Devils!

« The tentacles are like steel vises, Dane! Can’t break their hold!

*Heh, heh* Try harder — HARDER! »

Greetings! I have just come back from a vacation, and I’m too tired to ramble on the way I usually do. Fortunately, if an image is worth a thousand words, this post is equivalent to a decent novella. Here’s what you need to know about the Sea Devils, here’s our take on the wonderful artist Russ Heath, as well as my complaint about Robert Kanigher’s scripts. Okay, we’re all set now!

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Sea Devils no. 1 (September-October 1961). Cover by Russ Heath.

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The Sea Devils vs. the Octopus Man! is scripted by Robert Kanigher and illustrated by Russ Heath.

The same team returns to tentacles with Sea Devils no. 6:

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The Flame-Headed Watchman!, scripted by Robert Kanigher and drawn by Russ Heath, was published in Sea Devils no. 6 (July-August 1962).

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Now we unfortunately have to leave Heath behind and walk over to the territory of Howard Purcell, whose art is not nearly as striking, but still quite serviceable.

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Sea Devils no. 17 (May-June 1964), cover by Howard Purcell.

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The Impossible Maritime Menaces is scripted by Arnold Drake, penciled by Howard Purcell and inked by Sheldon Moldoff.

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Sea Devils no. 19 (September-October 1964), cover by Howard Purcell. Is it just me or does the guy on the left look like a Ditko villain?

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The Sea-Devil Robots is penciled by Howard Purcell and inked by Sheldon Moldoff.

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Sea Devils no. 21 (January-February 1965), cover by Howard Purcell.

The Forty-Fathom Doom!, scripted by Jack Miller, penciled by Howard Purcell and inked by Sheldon Moldoff, boasts quite an assortment of tentacles:

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Everybody is almost in identical position as on the cover – but the octopus has lost his baby blues and gained a pair of poached eggs.

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And, in case you’re wondering where that quote at the top of this post comes from… The ‘heh, heh’-ing octopus is Dr. Quad.

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~ ds

Tentacle Tuesday: Satirical Cephalopods

« Knock it off, squiddo! You couldn’t make a class-B horror picture on earth — you’re not even good for a milk shudder! Better skeddadle, or I’ll tie your tentacles into a bow! »

Tentacles are no cause for levity, you say? Ha! Their place in all manner of spoofs and parodies (and other silliness) is ensured. Peppered with a barrage of puns (never undersell puns, please!), whimsical tentacular entanglements abound in literature… err, comic literature, at any rate, and that’s good enough for me.

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I meant “entanglements” very literally. Story published in Not Brand Echh no. 11 (December 1968, Marvel); script by Arnold Drake, art by Marie Severin.

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Say, did I hear some barely restrained giggling over “20 000 leaks under the sea?” (This story, written and drawn by Jay Disbrow, was reprinted in 2000 by Fantagraphics in a collection called The Sincerest Form of Parody: The Best 1950s MAD-Inspired Satirical Comics.) Unsane no. 15 (June 1954, Star Publications), cover by L.B. Cole.

Even some 100 years ago (well, a little less), some unfortunate octopus could easily become a Figure of Fun if he wasn’t careful.

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The story doesn’t say what happened to the freaking octopus, though. This edition of Pussyfoot the Redskin was printed in Comic Cuts no. 1735 (August 1923). Visit BLIMEY! The Blog of British Comics for more Comic Cuts.

I can’t mention équivoques and wordplay without mentioning Pogo, Walt Kelly‘s keenly intelligent comic strip. Sadly, this was the only appearance of Octopots, as far as I know (and I long to be corrected).

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From Figmentality, from The Pogo Sunday Parade (1958). Art by Walt Kelly, of course!

In the competitive world of jokes in bad taste, the man from SRAM probably takes the cake. It’s lucky that he has no qualms about hitting females, or the world would be doomed… although his mirthless monologue would probably kill the creature with sheer ennui.

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Madhouse in Hollywood (Man from SRAM), scripted by Otto Binder and drawn by Carl Pfeufer, published in Jigsaw no. 2 (December 1966, Harvey).

On the other hand, Superman‘s creative insults can easily shame a thin-skinned Tentacled Terror (was his spaghetti-and-meatball crack some sort of early Flying Spaghetti Monster reference, even though the latter was only officially created in 2005?)

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Superman no. 184 (February 1966). The story is The Demon Under the Red Sun!, scripted by Otto Binder (again; he clearly has some unhealthy attraction to tentacles, like the best of us) and drawn by Al Plastino. Figure out what’s going on in this story (or not, for there’s not a lot of logic to be found, anyway) at Mark’s Super Blog.

~ ds

Treasured Stories: “The Servant of Chan” (1975)

« Followers in death: Attendants and relatives who were killed so they could be buried in the tomb with the person (normally someone very important or wealthy) who had died. » — The British Museum

Let’s face it, Gold Key’s would-be-spooky comics rarely lived up to their habitually fine painted covers (mostly courtesy of hard-working George Wilson, with Vic Prezio, Luis Dominguez, Jesse Santos or Jack Sparling occasionally chipping in); as with most things, there were exceptions: I’ve raved earlier about a particular issue of the generally ho-hum Grimm’s Ghost Stories, namely issue 26, boasting, along with the usual Paul S. Newman sleep aids, two excellent yarns from the undervalued Arnold Drake (co-creator of The Doom Patrol, Deadman, and the original Guardians of the Galaxy).

Ah, but today, we’re celebrating Drake’s co-conspirator, the prolific Argentine master (yes, another one) Luis Angel Dominguez, reportedly born ninety-five years ago to the day (Dec. 5, 1923), and still among the living… as far as we know. I like to envision him warmly surrounded by several generations of loved ones and well-wishers, an impish gleam in his eye.

Without further foot-dragging, here’s a vintage tale of quick wits in ruling class hubris from beyond the grave, The Servant of Chan, by that dastardly duo, Drake and Dominguez.

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George Wilson’s cover highlights a dramatic scene from our little story. This is Grimm’s Ghost Stories no. 26 (Sept. 1975, Gold Key).

Some further details on historical context, from Ancient China for Kids (!):

« Slavery in ancient China was not a pleasant experience. The lives of slaves were filled with hardship. Many were abused. Many slaves were children.

Most people who were slaves worked in the fields, alongside of peasants. They did the same job, and had the same hours, and pretty much the same clothing and food, as free farmers. But they were not treated with the same respect given to farmers. Some slaves built roads. Some worked in government.

But slaves who worked for the emperor, the royal family, and sometimes the nobles, had the worst of it. They could only do what they were told to do. They were treated in any way that their master and his family felt like treating them. Many were treated with great cruelty. When their master died, they were killed, and buried with their master in his tomb, so they could continue to serve their master after his death. »

Brr. All the same, if you’ve enjoyed this yarn, check out Arnold Drake’s other contribution to this issue, The Anti-13, which we enthusiastically featured some time ago.

¡Feliz cumpleaños, Señor Dominguez… wherever you may be!

-RG

Hallowe’en Countdown, Day 13

« It is Friday the 13th and you are right on time — ten minutes to midnight! »

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The Anti-13 is that rarest of creatures: an unflinchingly skeptical tale published in the pages of a supernatural-themed comic book in the midst of the 1970s occult craze. Hats off, folks!

As the thirteenth fatefully falls on a Friday this month, I’m inspired to trot out a story from my very favourite issue of Gold Key’s Grimm’s Ghost Stories no. 26 (Sept. 1975). So what elevates this particular entry above its brethren? Admittedly, the competition from other issues is pretty tepid. Truth be told, though, all comers are swept out the door by a winning pair of yarns from the great Arnold Drake (1924 – 2007, co-creator of The Doom Patrol, Deadman and the original Guardians of the Galaxy): The Servant of Chan (illustrated by Luis Dominguez) and this one, the bracingly skeptical The Anti-13 (illustrated by John Celardo).

Intrigued? Read The Anti-13 for yourself!

And find out more about history’s real-life Anti-13 clubs right here.

– RG