Hallowe’en Countdown V, Day 24

« Strangely, I heard a stranger say, I am with you. » — Rainer Maria Rilke

I’ve always had a soft spot for The Phantom Stranger, overwhelmingly in light of his brief original run (6 issues, 1952-53), some quite scarce books* full of first-rate art by, among others, Carmine Infantino, Jerry Grandenetti, Murphy Anderson and Gene Colan, with even a couple of scripts by Manly Wade Wellman thrown in!

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.

It’s surely a minority opinion, but I only regain some interest in the series after its most celebrated creative team, Len Wein and Jim Aparo, have moved on. Scripters Arnold Drake, David Michelinie and Paul Levitz pick up the mantle, along with artists Gerry Talaoc and Fred Carrillo, and the book improves as its sales slowly tank. Near the end, editor Joe Orlando adds The Black Orchid as a back-up feature, and Deadman becomes a regular participant, both inspired decisions, but insufficient to stem the tide.

This is The Phantom Stranger no. 41 (Feb.-Mar. 1976, DC), the series’ final bow. Art by Jim Aparo. While I’m quite underwhelmed by Aparo’s work on the insides, just about every cover he provided, during and after his run, was outstanding.

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.

This is DC Super Stars no. 18 (Jan.-Feb. 1978, DC)… also the final issue of that particular series. Cover art by Jim Aparo.
The first page, one of the better ones. Script by Martin Pasko and art by Romeo Tanghal and Dick Giordano (who’s actually in the plus column this time).
Sigh. Yet another self-indulgent reference to perhaps the Nerd-fest of the 1970s, the Rutland (VT) Halloween Parade, comes in to utterly derail the story.
Tala is behind it? You don’t say! And then the “creative” team shoehorns itself into the proceedings. How refreshingly outré. An excerpt from the second half of the, er, epic, written by Gerry Conway, pencilled by Tanghal, and inked by Bob Layton.
One of the earlier tributes to the Rutland parade, this is Batman no. 237 (Dec. 1971, DC); cover art by Neal Adams (with presumed design input by Infantino and Cardy). This has laughably been deemed The Greatest Halloween Comic Book Ever, which provides a view into the mindset of people who apparently deem only superhero comics worthy of their attention.

-RG

*helpfully reprinted, though in dribs and drabs and all over the place, through the 1970’s.

Hallowe’en Countdown V, Day 2

« Every scarecrow has a secret ambition to terrorize. » — Stanisław Jerzy Lec

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.

This is The Joker no. 8 (July-August 1976), featuring The Scarecrow’s Fearsome Face-Off!, which was edited by Julius Schwartz (in case the alliterative title hadn’t tipped you off), scripted by Elliot S! Maggin, pencilled by the always-solid Irv Novick and inked by Tex Blaisdell. Cover by Ernie Chan (as Ernie Chua).

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?

I like the way Professor Crane works. Over these past couple of years, this last two panel sequence has probably come to pass in real life more often than one would care to count.
The Joker adopting a hyena as a companion was but a cruel cover dodge, but The Scarecrow‘s pet raven, Nightmare, is present and accounted for, superbly crafty and most efficient, just like the genuine article!
The same page, from the original printing. In closing, a slight editorial note: It’s easy to forget that, unless you kept close tabs on the printer’s work, most mainstream comics were quite badly printed… it’s especially easy to forget since much of the more popular work has since been reprinted from the original art or photostats, and digitally coloured-and-printed. Conversely, when it comes to the work of defunct publishers, and if the original artwork, or quality photostats of same, is no longer in existence or otherwise unavailable, reprinters have to make do with a flawed, not to mention secondary, sources — at best. For instance, the printing of my original edition of this Joker issue is dreadfully out of register. In the wings, things were quickly shifting at DC: as of late ’75, Carmine Infantino (publisher, etc.) and Nick Cardy (art director, etc.) were out, and an absolutely crucial production technician, Jack Adler, was being sidelined. He would retire a few years later. Long story short, Sturgeon’s Law in action, and why I went with the digital colour job. After toning down the contrast a bit. A guy’s got to have standards.

– RG

Tentacle Tuesday: Justice League of America

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):

The Brave and Bold no. 28 (February-March 1960, DC). Cover pencilled by Mike Sekowsky and inked by Murphy Anderson.

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:

Don’t underestimate kittens.

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).

DC’s “Big Three” – its most iconic and popular – are of course Superman, Batman and Wonder-Woman. As far as the latter is concerned, as much as I love this character, seeing as we already have two Tentacle Tuesdays posts in her honour – Tentacle Tuesday: H.G. Peter and Wonder Woman lend a hand and Tentacle Tuesday: More Golden Age Wonder Woman Wonders! – I think I’ve said everything I had to say on the subject. Thus, we move on to Batman, albeit briefly because there is also Tentacle Tuesday: All Aboard the Batmarine! to peruse. He’ll have to share the stage with Superman, but I’m sure he’ll be a good sport about it.

World’s Finest Comics no. 110 (June 1960, DC). Pencilled by Curt Swan and inked by Sheldon Moldoff.

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 Brave and the Bold no. 73 (August-September 1967, DC). Cover pencilled by Carmine Infantino and inked by Charles Cuidera.

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.

Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Earth!, scripted by John Broome, pencilled by Gil Kane and inked by Vince Colletta, was published in Green Lantern no. 70 (July 1969, DC).

I hope you enjoyed this overview of the Justice League of America as filtered through the rather eccentric lens of tentacles.

~ ds

Tentacle Tuesday Masters : Mike Mignola

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.

The back cover of Hellboy: Seeds of Destruction no. 2

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 😉

Hellboy: Seeds of Destruction no. 2 (April 1994).
Page from Hellboy: Seeds of Destruction no. 3 (May 1994).
Sketch from June 2019.
ZombieWorld: Champion of the Worms no. 2 (October 1997)

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!)

Art for the cover of Dark Horse Presents no. 142 (April 1999). Mignola made Lovecraft look downright dignified and borderline handsome, which is quite a feat, considering the latter’s unusual physiognomy.

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:

Artwork for Jenny Finn no. 1 (June 1999).
Back cover artwork for Jenny Finn Messiah no. 1 (2005).

Even Batman, in Mignola’s hands, gets tentaclefied!

A page from Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight no. 54 (November 1993).
Batman: The Doom That Came to Gotham no. 2 (November 2000).

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.

∴ ds

Tentacle Tuesday: Where in the World?

« 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.

MogaMobo3.jpg
This Teutonic tentacled cutie appeared on the cover of Moga Mobo no. 3 (1995). The wraparound cover is the work ofJonas Greulich, one of the co-founders of this German comics magazine that began publication in 1994  (the other two artists involved are Titus Ackermann and Thomas Gronle).

Speaking of German comics, does anybody know where this page and its German Captain Nemo come from?
45783563025_4e1c2ce075_b

On the topic of Jules Verne, here’s a page from a Spanish take on his novel Twenty Thousand Leages Under the Sea.

20.000 leguas de viaje submarino, de Oesterheld y Regalado
20.000 Leguas de viaje submarino was adapted by Héctor Oesterheld and illustrated by Roberto Regalado. This 23-page story was published in Argentine Billiken Magazine (Editorial Atlantida) in 1974. For those who can read Spanish or would just like to see more images, head over to this article.

One would be remiss in not paying at least a brief visit to Asia:

HONG KONG BATMAN #19-wild-octopus
The cover of a comics anthology from Hong Kong, probably from the 1960s.

And back to Germany at a staggering speed (watch out for whiplash)!

Petziunddertintenfisch
Petzi is actually a translated version of a Danish character named Rasmus Klump, created by a husband-and-wife team Carla and Vilhelm Hansen in 1951. The adventures of the lovable bear cub were popular enough to be translated into many languages, but a hefty price had to be paid – namely, a name change. Rasmus became Petzi in French, German, Italian, Portuguese and Vietnamese, and I’m slightly amazed that such different countries could agree on one name. In English, you will no doubt be familiar with Barnaby Bear. This is Petzi no. 40 (July 2008), a reprint of older material published by Carlsen Comics.

∼ ds

* She’ll go from Nashville to Norway, Bonaire to Zimbabwe
Chicago to Czechoslovakia.. and back!

Tentacle Tuesday: Notes on Anatomy

« 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!

Sword-of_Sorcery5-Walter Simonson
Sword of Sorcery no. 5 (Nov-Dec 1973, DC), cover by Walter Simonson. Fafhrd, is that you?

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.

UnderseaAgent6-Gil-Kane-DoomsdayintheDepths
Doomsday In The Depths, scripted by Garder Fox and illustrated by Gil Kane, was published in Undersea Agent no. 6 (March 1967, Tower).

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.

KubertFrontPageA
Tentacles of Terror was published in Front Page Comic Book no. 1 (1945, Harvey). This page is drawn by Joe Kubert, at at least the signature attests to this – I admit I would have never guessed. There are much nicer Kubert tentacles over at Tentacle Tuesday Masters: Joe Kubert.

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?

1562812791523-1
An excerpt from Four Birds of a Feather, Batman no. 11 (June-July 1942, DC), script by Bill Finger, pencils by Bob Kane (take that particular credit with a grain of salt), inks by Jerry Robinson, backgrounds and lettering by George Roussos.

Continuing the beak-and-parrot theme…

The Phoenix #279- The Weekly Story Comic
The Phoenix no. 279 (May 2017). Can anyone identify the cover artist?

A final note to this conversation about octopuses’ mouths – should you locate an octopus, please don’t put it on your face (or any other body parts).

∼ ds

Tentacle Tuesday: All Aboard the Batmarine!

« 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.

The Voyage of the First Batmarine!, scripted by Edmond Hamiton, pencilled by Dick Sprang and inked by Charles Paris, was published in Batman no. 86 (September 1954).

Batman86A

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):

World'sFinestComics113
I totally squee-ed when I saw this panel.

World'sFinestComics113-2

Justice League of America no. 27 (May 1964), with the cover pencilled by Mike Sekowsky and inked by Murphy Anderson:

JusticeLeagueofAmerica027A

The inside story, The “I” Who Defeated the Justice League! is scripted by Gardner Fox, pencilled by Mike Sekowsky, and inked by Bernard Sachs:

SekowskyJLA27A

Batman no. 357 (March 1983). Cover pencilled by Ed Hannnigan and inked by Dick Giordano:

Batman357A

The cover story, Squid, is scripted by Gerry Conway, pencilled by Don Newton, and inked by Alfredo Alcala:

Batman357-SquidA

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):

DetectiveComics524

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):

BraveandtheBold142

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):

Batman-shadowofthebat58

Knightmares, Part 4, scripted by Tom King and illustrated by Jorge Fornes, was published in Batman no. 66 (May 2019):

Batman66-Jorge Fornes

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.

SaundersBatmanCardA

∼ ds

What! You Call This Cold Weather?

« Polar exploration is at once the cleanest and most isolated way of having a bad time which has been devised. » ― Apsley Cherry-Garrard, The Worst Journey in the World (1922)

Here’s what happened: I was leafing through Paul C. Tumey‘s splendid comics anthology Screwball! The Cartoonists Who Made the Funnies Funny (2019, The Library of American Comics/IDW) when I came across a wonderful sample of Gene Ahern‘s Room and Board (1936-58) wherein the strip’s central figure, Judge Homer Puffle, feeds another boarder a steady line of bull in that grand, booming Baron Munchausen — Captain Geoffrey Spicer-SimsonColonel Heeza Liar Commander McBragg tradition.

Room-And-Board1937A
Gene Ahern‘s Room and Board (March 17, 1937, King Features).

Of course, it’s all piffle and bunk, but it brought to mind a passage from a favourite article on weather peculiarities in Siberia, Marcel Theroux‘s The Very, Very, Very Big Chill (published in Travel & Leisure in 2000):

« 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.

Astonishing36A
This is Astonishing no. 36 (Dec. 1954, Atlas), the title’s penultimate pre-Code issue… not that Atlas ever crossed the line into gruesome. The cover-featured yarn is The Man Who Melted!, an amusing load of utter rubbish you can read here. Cover art by Carl Burgos.

ChamberChills10MarvelA
This is Chamber of Chills no. 10 (May, 1974, Marvel), and most everything’s the same, save for the colour palette and the now-hostile expression on the caveman’s mug.

ChamberChills10HarveyA
And this is also Chamber of Chills no. 10 (July, 1952, Harvey)… the original, whose title Harvey Comics left curbside for Marvel to recycle when they went all kid-friendly in the Comics-code-ruled Silver Age. Cover designed and art-directed by Warren Kremer and illustrated by Lee Elias. For some insight into these collaborators’ working methods on the horror titles, here’s our post on that very topic. Incidentally, what’s up with the hifalutin Lord Byron quote, Harvey folks? This wacky fare is quite plainly fiction… what’s your point? [Read it here.]

Unexpected101A
This is Tales of The Unexpected no. 101 (June-July 1968, DC). Layout and pencils by Carmine Infantino, inks by George Roussos. Infantino, promoted the previous year to editorial director (he would soon rise to the rank of publisher), brought in the versatile Nick Cardy to serve as his right-hand man on the artistic front; together, they designed all of DC’s covers until both men stepped down in 1975.

HOM199A
This is House of Mystery no. 199 (February, 1972, DC), illustrating Sno’ Fun! a rare (possibly unique, really) collaboration between Sergio Aragonés (script) and Wally Wood (pencils and inks). Cover designed by Infantino and Nick Cardy, pencilled and inked by Neal Adams and coloured by Jack Adler.

Unexpected142A
This is Unexpected no. 142 (Dec. 1972, DC); cover art by Nick Cardy.

Unexpected147A
This is Unexpected no. 147 (June, 1973, DC); cover art by Nick Cardy.

Unexpected150A
This is Unexpected no. 150 (Sept., 1973, DC); cover art by Nick Cardy.

SuttonHaunts36A
« Hey, look! The critter is frozen whole… it’s in pretty good shape! » Tom Sutton vibrantly sells Joe Gill and Steve Ditko‘s cautionary tale of arctic drilling gone awry, The Ancient Mine. Also in this issue: Steve and Pete Morisi‘s Surprise!, and Gill and Fred Himes’ touching Pipe Dream. This is Haunted no. 37, (Jan., 1974, Charlton), presented by the publisher’s blue-skinned, green-haired answer to Nana Mouskouri, Winnie the Witch.

HulkHaunted37A
« … that face haunts me… was it a man or a beast? » Ah, the Seventies. Left dazed and frazzled by his whirlwind life of slow-mo violence, glamorous excess and substance abuse, not to mention radiation poisoning, the inevitable occurs: The Hulk wanders onto the wrong set, as well as the wrong publisher’s! Against all odds, he handles the rôle with aplomb and commendable gravitas. A page from Gill and Ditko’s The Ancient Mine. Read it here!

Ghosts37A
This is Ghosts no. 37 (April, 1975, DC), featuring Luis Dominguez‘s first (or many) cover for the title, a passing of the torch from Nick Cardy, who’d handled every one of the preceding three dozen…. minus one: number 7’s cover was the work of Michael Kaluta.

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.

Detective373A
Mr. Freeze, who first popped up in Batman no. 121 in 1959, initially known as, er… Mr. Zero (Celsius, Fahrenheit or Kelvin?) before being revamped and renamed for the mid-60s Batman TV show, a makeover that carried over to the comics, but tragically didn’t include his outfit. This is Detective Comics no. 373 (March, 1968, DC); layout by Infantino, finishes by Irv Novick. [ read it here!]
… and I can just about hear the « but what about Cap? » troops tromping down the hall, so…

KirbyCap112A
Namor goes all First Commandment on some poor Inuits (surely they’ve seen frozen bodies before?), displaying an unseemly level of insecurity for someone of his standing. This recap hails from King Kirby’s sensational feat of deadline rescue on the behalf of a tardy Jim Steranko (to be fair, it was worth the wait). George Tuska‘s inks are a surprisingly good fit! This is Captain America no. 112, Lest We Forget! (April 1969, Marvel). [ read it here!]
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.

-RG

« You’re going out wearing THAT? »

« 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.

AtomicBomb1A

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!

Inside this issue: the exploits of Mandrake lookalike Beau Brummel, Special Agent No.1, Airmale and Stampy, Teeny McSweeny and Captain Milksop. Bracing stuff!

Read it here: http://comicbookplus.com/?dlid=25457

WhoThereLogotype

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

Batman63A
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?

Batman-Family10A

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.

WhoThereLogotype

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.

Showcase66A
Showcase no. 66 (Jan.-Feb. 1967), The Birth of B’wana Beast, pencilled (and possibly scripted, but who’d admit it?) by Mike Sekowsky and inked by George Roussos. Edited by George Kashdan… who was unceremoniously relieved of his editorial duties after a mere two Showcase issues, both featuring B’wana Beast.

WhoThereLogotype

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?

ColanDD100AngarA
If anything, we can be grateful that Angar’s colour scheme is relatively restrained. I suppose it makes sense for a flower child to opt for earth tones. This is the concluding, cliff-hanging panel from Mind Storm! (Daredevil no. 100, June, 1973). Pencils by Gene Colan, inks… nay, “embellishments” by John Tartaglione. Read that, er… masterwork right here.

Daredevil101A
Poor DD’s saddled with calves thicker than his thighs. Cover art by Rich Buckler and Frank Giacoia, with the usual fussing and turd polishing by John Romita Sr..

This is Angar’s first cover appearance, Daredevil no. 101 (July 1973), in a tale that could only be called… Vengeance in the Sky With Diamonds!

There *are* indeed tentacles within, so you’ll likely encounter these, some enchanted Tentacle Tuesday…

– RG

The Batman’s First True Auteur

« 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 ( 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 Adams cover, 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).

RobbinsMadnessA
A sample from the first one-man Bat-Adventure, Detective no. 416‘s Man-Bat Madness! Robbins’ expertly fluid storytelling and confident spotting of blacks are well in evidence here.

RobbinsBlindJustice01A
Opening splash from my pick of the solo Robbins Batman, Detective no. 421‘s Blind Justice — Blind Fear! [Psst! Read it here.]

RobbinsBlindJustice02A
Those were the days of “relevance” in comics. The Attica Prison Uprising had just occurred…

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.

ChastenedHumanityA
« Yeah, we burned down his house, tarred and feathered him and ran him out of town… but looking back, he was a pretty swell guy! »  Which stories are these? Find out at the end of the post.

Back to our regularly scheduled train of thought…

RobbinsForecastA
A sample from Detective Comics no. 420‘s Forecast for Tonight — Murder! Read it here, while you can.

RobbinsRouletteA
A moody teaser from Detective Comics no. 426‘s Killer’s Roulette! Peruse it here .

RobbinsManbatVegasA
The precarious opening splash from Detective Comics no. 429‘s Man-Bat Over Vegas! Play the odds right… here.

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.

-RG

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)

**Neal Adams, having waited until everyone else in the room was dead (editor Julius Schwartz passed away in 2004), began to claim that Man-Bat had been his idea, with no-one’s help. Sorry, Neal, I think you’re a bit confused: you’re thinking of Valeria the She-Bat, and she’s all yours.

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.