A decade-and-a-half after his unceremonious cancellation, the Stranger was dusted off and given another shot in Showcase no. 80 (Feb. 1969), which was gorgeously illustrated by Messrs. Grandenetti and Bill Draut, and the Stranger, fedora, turtleneck and all, was soon spun off into his own title once more. It began well enough, but despite some often gorgeous covers, in no time descended into endless formulaic repetition: the PS makes vague, laughably pompous statements, his skeptic foil Dr. Thirteen fumes and rants, and my candidate for all-time most tedious arch-nemesis, Tala (introduced by Bob Kanigher and Neal Adams in issue 4) almost invariably turns out to be behind the issue’s menace.
A couple of years after the book’s cancellation, The Phantom Stranger and Deadman were teamed up again for a Halloween special. Beyond a decent cover, the results were rather… dire. I really, really wanted to like it, but it’s just a hodgepodge of overwritten mediocrity that can’t seem to decide what it wants to be or what its audience is: not scary in the least (even by Comics Code Standards), barely moody, a waste of trees.
*helpfully reprinted, though in dribs and drabs and all over the place, through the 1970’s.
I can’t help but feel that a villain who makes time in his nefarious schedule for taking his, er, pooch for regular walks can’t be *all* bad. Likewise for a rogue who appreciates the cleverness and joie de vivre of a raven.
In the mid-70s, The Clown Prince of Crime held his own book for ten issues (nine of which appeared at the time… the tenth only seeing print in… 2019!), and its stories chiefly (and rather winningly) focussed on his squabbles with other members of The Batman’s rogues’ gallery (certainly the finest in comics). I haven’t followed the dodgy shenanigans of the back issue marketplace in decades, but I was amused and bemused by the lofty prices that this otherwise-innocuous little series commands. Overflow from his cinematic popularity, perhaps?
JLA’s roster has rotated throughout the years, but for the sake of this post, only the seven original members will get cephalopod tussling privileges! Here they are, with the conspicuous absence of Batman and Superman who are no doubt rushing behind the scenes to rescue everybody (but don’t worry, we’ll get to them as well):
I’ll start with Superman, otherwise he’ll get offended – you know how susceptible he can be. Rather, a double whammy of Superman and Flash, who stumble upon some rather adorable (aside from their propensity to eating people) tentacled aliens. Of course our superheroes decide to make a race out of it, because concentrating on saving some planet or other is clearly not exciting enough – and Batman just happened to be hanging around to give the starting signal. Some afternoons are just that quiet. Race to Save the Universe!, scripted by Denny O’Neil, pencilled by Dick Dillin and inked by Joe Giella, was published in World’s Finest Comics no. 198 (November 1970, DC).
Nevertheless, this dynamic duo does allow itself to get distracted from its marathon, just long enough to defeat this green cutie:
Incidentally, Superman already has a Tentacle Tuesday all to himself (Tentacle Tuesday: It’s a Bird! It’s a Plane! It’s a Tentacle!) Still, here he is collaborating (more like ‘rescuing’) Jimmy Olsen from an intriguing green (why must they always be green?) monstrosity with worm-like tentacles. Ugh, not the most appealing. These pages are from The Voyage of the Mary Celeste II!, scripted by Jerry Siegel, pencilled by Curt Swan and inked by George Klein and published in Superman’s Pal, Jimmy Olsen no. 75 (March 1964, DC).
The cover story is The Alien Who Doomed Robin, scripted by Jerry Coleman and inked by Sheldon Moldoff.
Our next JLA member is the Martian Manhunter, whom I have a strange soft spot for. It’s well known that girls just can’t resist green skin! In honour of this bias, here are not one, but two excerpts from stories featuring tentacles front and centre.
First, two pages from The Beings in the Color Rings, scripted by Dave Wood and illustrated by Joe Certa, published in House of Mystery no. 148 (January 1965, DC).
And for dessert, a page from The Supernatural Masterpieces!, scripted by Dave Wood and illustrated by Joe Certa, published in House of Mystery no. 150 (April 1965, DC).
Naturally, Aquaman has encountered more than a handful of octopuses in his long undersea career – I went on about that in some length in Tentacle Tuesday: Aquaman and his Octopus Sidekicks. I have plenty more where that came from, so there surely be a part II to that particular tale… in the meantime, here is a rather striking cover that didn’t make it into that post.
The cover story is Glag the Destroyer, scripted by Bob Haney, pencilled by Howard Purcell and inked by Sal Trapani.
Last… and maybe least, because I could never warm up to him… is Green Lantern. The following pages are from a story pencilled by Gil Kane, who doesn’t generally get glowing reviews from WOT. Nevertheless co-admin RG wrote an ingenious post combining our common dubiousness about Kane and percolated it through specifically Green Lantern covers – the result is Hot Streak: Gil Kane’s Green Lantern, which impressed, if not quite convinced, me.
I hope you enjoyed this overview of the Justice League of America as filtered through the rather eccentric lens of tentacles.
Because sometimes, for whatever reason, you just want to draw an octopus. — Mike Mignola, June 2019
I would say that this Tentacle Tuesday feature was started for a similar reason – sometimes one just needs to gather tentacled material, to share it more efficiently with like-minded weirdos.
I don’t imagine writer and comics artist Mike Mignola (most notably, creator of Hellboy and its spin-off B.P.R.D.) needs much of an introduction – he’s fairly ubiquitous in mainstream culture, and his style has been aped by many, which according to the proverb is the most sincere form of flattery. I was aware of this already, and yet was staggered by the sheer number of copycats I stumbled across while seeking out materials for this post.
I also started suffering from tentacle fatigue: as much as I love octopuses, seeing dozens upon dozens of fairly similar images made me weary. Mignola draws tentacles well, but he also draws them very, very often, and he also likes to revisit scenes already depicted. The result is a sprawling mess of sketches, variant covers and spin-offs of spin-offs… perhaps not inappropriate, come to think of it. This particular octopus has far more than just eight limbs!
Enjoy this barrage of Mignola tentacles, just make sure you’re in the proper mood for them 😉
No post of this nature would be complete without featuring, in some form or other, H.P. Lovecraft, arguably the father of our modern obsession with tentacles. On that topic, I am linking to an excellent article about Mignola’s relationship with the creator of the Cthulhu Mythos (be warned that it’s in French, sorry!)
Mignola revisited this very scene for his cover of Children of Lovecraft, and anthology of (non-comics) stories ‘inspired’ by Lovecraft (September, 2016). This was also published by Dark Horse.
More Victorian England and Lovecraftian archetypes can be found within the pages of Jenny Finn:
Even Batman, in Mignola’s hands, gets tentaclefied!
As a final note, I’d like to officially make a moue of distaste at people who share art without attribution, or without bothering to ascertain its source. To wit: a pair of images that are widely shared as Mike Mignola artwork… except that it isn’t by him at all, just by someone drawing in a similar style. Instagram and Pinterest are breeding grounds for such deplorable artistic credit robbery.
The following two illustrations are by Malaysian artist Daryl Toh.
« Well, she sneaks around the world from Kiev to Carolina She’s a sticky-fingered filcher from Berlin down to Belize She’ll take you for a ride on a slow boat to China Tell me, where in the world is Carmen Sandiego? »*
Today’s Tentacle Tuesday is for globe-trotters only – but don’t let this post give you an itch for actual travelling: that’s verboten right now.
Speaking of German comics, does anybody know where this page and its German Captain Nemo come from?
« Their bodies are mainly soft and pliant, with one major exception. In the centre of their web of tentacles lies a hard, sharp and murderous beak that resembles that of a parrot, is a tool for killing and dismembering prey… » (source)
When the story begs for an octopus intervention, artists can go the more-or-less realistic route, or take complete liberties with an octopus’ anatomy. Today I won’t talk about assorted tentacled zoological marvels one finds in comics – insert your choice of description into “… with tentacles”: dinosaurs, sharks, gorillas, robots, old hags, worms, bartenders, and so on. Yes, I can support my claims (email me if you want evidence… or just look through previous editions of Tentacle Tuesday).
Anyway, let’s say you want to draw a somewhat believable octopus – giant, sure, and plenty scary, but somewhat true to life. There’s a problem: frightening brutes generally have some sort of gaping maw, a set of incisors (preferably dripping with some revolting stomach acid), something they can visibly threaten the hero with. The octopus’ mouth is hidden under all that undulating mass of tentacles, pretty much where one would expect a normal creature’s anus to be, and definitely not next to his eyes. For that reason, in most octopuses sightings in comics, their mouths aren’t visible at all. But some artists, well, they want to have their cake and eat it, too. Here is a gallery of octopus mouths – we’ll start off with naturalistic ones, and make out way into that’s not how any of this works territory. I won’t include anything with a lamprey mouth, however.
Here’s the only clean attempt: the beast has a beak, there are no teeth in it, and the eyes are on the other sides of the octopus, where they’re supposed to be. Walter Simonson, you win this one!
In the next image, an attempt is made at something vaguely beak-like, but that dentition is definitely wrong. The octopus has some tiny teeth on its tongue which it uses to drill holes or scrape things out, and some razor-sharp hooks/teeth on its suckers, but nothing like normal teeth, which is why no octopus has ever needed dentures.
The other approach one could take is drawing something that looks like an especially irate parrot, but with tentacles. It is not entirely illogical, as the octopus’ mouth has been described as “similar to a parrot’s beak” by several people in the know.
Batman recently had a whole Tentacle Tuesday to himself – here he is again, fighting a squid with very unsquid-like features. At first, he looks normal, but glance at the bottom of the left corner – how did he suddenly develop a beak where there was none to be seen several panels prior?
Continuing the beak-and-parrot theme…
A final note to this conversation about octopuses’ mouths – should you locate an octopus, pleasedon’t put it on your face (or any other body parts).
« Even without the benefit of philosophical reflection, anyone who has spent some time in an enclosed space with an excited bat knows what it is to encounter a fundamentally alien form of life. » (Thomas Nagel, What is it like to be a bat?)
Bats and octopuses, now there’s a combination that doesn’t often occur in nature – while both are admirable, fascinating animals, they’re not linked by lifestyle or environment, and neither is the other’s prey. Batman, on the other hand, has definitely tangled with many tentacled monsters in his time (which proves that he’s not a bat). I’m sure today’s post didn’t unearth *all* the octopuses that Batman has had the pleasure of defeating, especially those of a more modern vintage (with mostly horrible art, which is why I’m not too worried)… but today’s selection, you will have to admit, is quite fair.
Bat-Mite Meets Mr. Mxyzptlk(he must be from Poland, with a name like that), scripted by Jerry Coleman, pencilled by Dick Sprang, and inked by Sheldon Moldoff, was published in World’s Finest Comics no. 113 (November 1960):
Since they threatened us with the continuation of the story, I followed up, and dug up more tentacles. Deathgrip, scripted by Gerry Conway, pencilled by Don Newton and inked by Dick Giordano, was published (as promised) in Detective Comics no. 524 (March 1983):
Enigma of the Death-Ship!, scripted by Bob Haney and illustrated by Jim Aparo, was published in The Brave and the Bold no. 142 (July-August 1978):
I mentioned modern comics, earlier – I’ve chosen two examples published relatively recently, with passable art.
The pompously titled Leaves of Grass, Part 3: Comedown!, scripted by Alan Grant, pencilled by Dave Taylor and inked Stan Woch, was published in Batman: Shadow of the Bat no. 58 (January 1997):
Knightmares, Part 4, scripted by Tom King and illustrated by Jorge Fornes, was published in Batman no. 66 (May 2019):
To conclude on a more pleasant note…
Tentacled Terror, number 8 in Topps‘ 1966 Batman ‘Red Bat’ trading card set, boasting painted artwork by Norman Saunders.
« Local people told me that at minus 60 and below, a dense fog settles in the streets, and pedestrians leave recognizable outlines bored into the mist behind them. A drunkard’s tunnel will meander and then end abruptly over a prone body. At minus 72, the vapor in your breath freezes instantly and makes a tinkling sound called ‘the whisper of angels.’ »
Then I thought: « all very nice, but that makes for a rather meagre post »… so I decided to toss in a few bonus images featuring that venerable recurring motif… and got carried away.
Oh, and since I wouldn’t want any of you superhero aficionados to think I’m freezing you out, here’s another demonstration of Mr. Infantino‘s “encased in ice” idée fixe.
… and I can just about hear the « but what about Cap? » troops tromping down the hall, so…
My co-admin ds was just telling me yesterday about a client who, upon remarking to a succession of winter-kvetchers that actually, we’d had a pretty mild January, was invariably met with goggling bafflement, as if he’d just then grown a second head. In related news, it was just announced that said month of January was, indeed, the planet’s warmest on record. There is, naturally, an xkcd strip about this sort of circular denialism.
« It’s wisest always to be so clad that our friends need not ask us for our names. » — James Fenimore Cooper
(Being a compendium of fashion faux-pas and various sartorial eccentricities.)
Now here’s a figure shrouded in mystery (and little else): Captain Wizard, whose sole appearance was on the cover (and not enough of it) of Atomic Bomb no. 1 (Gerona/Jay Curtis, 1946), a scarce one-shot. Artist unknown, regrettably.
What are this intriguing man of (relative) mystery’s abilities, aside from autonomous flight, quasi-nudity, bountiful love handles and a snazzy roué moustache? Did he “scare straight” hapless criminals with his sweaty, virile bear hugs? Sigh… I fear we shall never truly know. He’s in the public domain, the gent’s overdue for a revival!
I suppose there are many ways to compete for the prized title of « Most outré criminal Batman and Robin have ever encountered » (awarded every other year in October at Gotham City Hall; call 608-555-1313 for reservations): powers, weapons, motivations, henchmen, moniker, targets, modus operandi…
The Killer Moth made his play for the brass ring by donning the most garish and unsightly garb imaginable. Here he is making his début in Batman no. 63 (Feb. 1951), The Origin of Killer Moth! This sorry buffoon’s inception is credited to Bill Finger, Dick Sprang and Lew Schwartz, presumably to dilute the blame.
Of course, it’s unfair of me to pick on Killer Moth’s costume. I’m sure he took full opportunity to hone and refine his look over the next couple of decades. Plenty of down time to mull things over at his leisure in the clink, right?
To precious little avail, apparently. Here he is a quarter century on, in Batman Family no. 10 (April, 1977); his wings have arguably been upgraded to a cape, but he’s still evidently daltonic. Cover by Bob Brown and John Calnan. Sadly, this was some of veteran Brown’s last published work; he passed away from leukaemia in January, 1977.
Another entry from the closet of shame. His Very Name Invokes Terror… among the dandies of the Serengeti, who blanch and quake at the notion of being seen in public with him. However, that headgear of his reportedly drove Sir Elton mad with envy.
With Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko having decamped (not to mention Stan futilely slouching towards Hollywood), Marvel in the early 70s had not only lost its visionary plotters, but also its ace character designers.
Also, after 30 years or so of men in suits and hats, it was deigned that the younger and hipper generation should have characters whose wardrobe bore at least a tangential relationship to its own.
Created for the 100th issue of Daredevil by scripter Steve Gerber and penciller Gene Colan (who ended his initial long run on the title with that issue; was Angar the final straw, or was it the even more wince-inducing toadying to Jann Wenner?), Angar the Screamer was, to quote the amaranthine words of Wikipedia, « … born in San Francisco, California. He became a hippie and a radical social activist. He volunteered for an experiment that endowed him with sonic powers that caused people to hallucinate. » Groovy. Perfect for… 1973?
« In almost every picture, Batman looks as if he has spent the day greasing the Batmobile and didn’t bother to clean up afterwards. There is a difference between shadowing and what looks like globs of dirt and grime. » — letterhack Bob Rozakis (Detective 420, Feb. 1972), as astute an art critic as he would prove a writer
Think about it: from his initial appearance in 1939’s Detective no. 27, the Batman was always a bit of a shop product. While notorious deceiver and glory-hog Bob Kane (né Kahn, 1915-98) loved to slap his name on anything and everything, his principal talent was self-promotion. Kane’s Batman was mostly the work of far more talented ‘ghosts‘ such as Jerry Robinson, Dick Sprang, Bill Finger, George Roussos, Jack Burnley, Win Mortimer… and so on, for decades. It’s unlikely that anyone ever produced the artwork for a Batman story on their own (well, professionally), let alone wrote *and* drew one. In a nutshell, that’s the assembly-line style US funnybook industry.
As far as the caped crusader is concerned, that state of affairs would briefly change with Detective no. 416 (cover-dated October, 1971): under a particularly clumsy Neal Adamscover, the lead story, Man-Bat Madness!, was scripted, pencilled, inked *and* lettered by Frank Robbins. He would produce four more solo Batman adventures: Forecast for Tonight — Murder! (Detective Comics no. 420, Feb. 1972); Blind Justice — Blind Fear! (Detective Comics no. 421, March 1972), Killer’s Roulette! (Detective Comics no. 426, Aug. 1972) and Man-Bat Over Vegas! (Detective Comics no. 429, Nov. 1972).
Robbins had been scripting for DC since 1968 (starting right after the ignominious firing of many of their most seasoned writers… for presuming to ask for some social benefits after decades of loyal, and often forcibly exclusive, service*), but he didn’t get his brushes out until 1971, presumably wanting to draw his then-recent creation, Man-Bat** (Detective no. 400, June 1970).
After a final hurrah (script-only) with Batman 254‘s King of the Gotham Jungle! (Jan.-Feb. 1974), he was off to Marvel, where he did no writing, but illustrated tales of Morbius The Living Vampire, Dracula, Ghost Rider, The Legion of Monsters, Captain America, The Invaders, the Man From Atlantis, The Human Fly, Daredevil… generally while paired with inkers ranging from the decent (Frank Giacoia, D. Bruce Berry), to the inappropriate (Frank Springer) to the dismal (Frank Chiaramonte and… hello again, Vinnie). He walked away from the industry in the middle of a cliffhanger, after Daredevil no. 155‘s The Man Without Fear? (Nov. 1978). Beyond that, having endured far more than his share of fanboy sniping and editorial meddling, Robbins left comics forever, going off to paint in México. Wise man.
Robbins, as you may or may not know, was a truly polarizing figure in 1970s comics. He was the bane of house-style loving fanboys, and it seems that anyone savvy enough to appreciate him at a tender age later became a cartoonist. The ample evidence (meaning far too much) witnessed on FB comics groups has led me to shrugging acceptance that most fanboys’ aesthetic sensibilities haven’t shifted an iota from when they were twelve… and won’t now or ever.
Another dodgy character encountered in recent years is the annoyingly common “I hated Robbins then, but I totally get him now” git, which brings to mind a certain science-fiction cliché.
Back to our regularly scheduled train of thought…
How I wish he’d gotten to illustrate his moody script for The Spook’s Master Stroke! (Batman no. 252, Oct. 1973), introducing my favourite Bat-villain, seldom-seen The Spook. He was difficult to write, so they killed him off after a handful of appearances.
While Robbins wasn’t my very favourite Bat-writer, (that honour goes to… David V. Reed), he generally delivered a solid tale… but when he was in full command, he was pretty top-notch.
*« Even though Fox has worked for several comic book publishers, he remains most associated with DC Comics, for whom he worked more than three decades. That collaboration came to an abrupt end in 1968. Fox had joined other comics writers like Otto Binder, John Broome, Arnold Drake, Bill Finger and Bob Haney, signing a petition to ask DC for more financial benefits, particularly regarding health insurance. Since the company regarded writers as expandable people they were all fired without mercy and replaced by more obedient newcomers. » [ Source ] (incidentally, Haney wasn’t fired… at least permanently)
Mini-quiz answers: 1) Spores From Space (Mystery in Space no. 1, May 1951, DC); written by Gardner Fox and illustrated by… Frank Frazetta. 2) The Unknown Spaceman (Mystery in Space no. 11, Jan. 1953, DC); written by Gardner Fox and illustrated by Bob Oksner and Bernard Sachs; 3) I Created Sporr, the Thing That Could Not Die! (Tales of Suspense no. 11, Sept. 1960, Marvel); written by Stan Lee, art by Jack Kirby and Dick Ayers; 4) The Blip! (Tales to Astonish no. 15, Jan. 1961, Marvel); written by Stan Lee, art by Jack Kirby and Dick Ayers.