Tentacle Tuesday: Rise, the Demon Etrigan!!

« Challenge Merlin and be a fool! — Challenge a demon — and be destroyed! »

Suddenly having so much time on my hands (courtesy of COVID-19) is an eerie, though by no means unpleasant, experience. While I could crochet mini couches for my cats or enrol my partner’s help to re-create some favourite classic paintings, I prefer to catch up on books I’ve been meaning to read for a while. Case in point: in April, I’ve been joyously absorbing Jack Kirby’s Fourth World saga, reprinted in a handsome 4-tome omnibus (and to which I have easy access, thanks to co-admin RG’s vast library). That ended all too soon, and I moved on to a collection of Etrigan the Demon. It was a somewhat underwhelming experience, especially given the epic scope of Fourth World, but of course still worth a read.

The red-eyed, yellow-skinned creature called Etrigan came into existence in 1972. Mark Evanier, in his introduction to Jack Kirby’s The Demon, explains: « There was, at the time, a feeling around DC that perhaps superheroes were on the way out again. Ghost and mystery comics like House of Mystery and Phantom Stranger seemed to be selling, and some in the office felt the next trend was what Joe Orlando, who edited most of them, dubbed “weird adventure” comics. A few weeks later, [Carmine] Infantino asked Jack to whip up something in that category… »

Kirby accepted the challenge and, despite his lack of interest in horror, created The Demon, patterning his face on a a detail from Hal Foster‘s Prince Valiant strip as an inside joke.

As great a storyteller Kirby is, I think being asked to write about a subject he wasn’t particularly into had its repercussions. Although he clearly tried to give Etrigan a stimulating playground of supernatural rogues of varying degrees of viciousness to bat around, the overall result is rather underwhelming by Kirby standards. I’ve seen quite a few people in comic forums expressing their undying love for the Demon – if you’re one of them, I’m open to being convinced!

I actually first encountered Etrigan the Demon in a Swamp Thing issue written by Alan Moore. He first made an appearance in Swamp Thing no. 26 (July 1984) and then came back for the 14-issue storyline American Gothic that ran from June 1985 to July 1986. In Moore’s hands, Etrigan cut a dashing, mysterious figure, and he spoke in rhyme, which was a really nice touch. I admit I was disheartened to find out that he really wasn’t that exciting in his original form.

However, he *did* encounter tentacles, and more than once!

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I was rather hoping the Somnambula would stick around, but it came and went in one page. Merlin’s Word… Demon’s Wrath! was published in The Demon no. 5, January 1973.
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The spoiled and malicious brat Klarion and his cat/pussycat-princess Teekl are my favourite characters of the series. The One Who Vanished!! was published in The Demon no. 15 (December 1973), the penultimate issue. This scene is reminiscent of a sequence from the 1961 movie Night Tide.
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In the following (and final) issue, tentacles reared their grabby suckers yet again. Immortal Enemy! was published in Demon no.16 (January 1974). One more complaint from me – Kirby’s use of the philosopher stone (which Warly is clutching on this page) as a sort of Deus ex machina, that can be used for accomplishing pretty much everything (some examples: it produces the ultimate cold or demon flame, shields the owner from thousand-volt electricity or brings people back form the dead, turns people into vultures or an Egyptian mummy or a chair into flowers, randomly makes objects levitate, etc.) This makes one wonder why Jason bothers running around at all, instead of elegantly waving the stone about and solving all problems instantly.

The three pages above are Etrigan’s encounters with actual tentacles, but we have an honorary mention of almost-tentacles-but-not-quite, which I wanted to include in the spirit of thoroughness.

Can the following creature’s beard tentacles be used to grab anything? We never learn if they’re prehensile or not, because the fear-monster doesn’t stick around long enough.

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The Demon no. 3 (November 1972). This little baby is one of my favourite monsters of the series, despite just being part of Jason Blood/Etrigan’s nightmare – one can really felt its crushing weight. Besides, it’s probably a preview of the Kamara, a creature that becomes what the person fears most, and an awe-inspiring enemy.
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A panel from Reincarnators.

In case anyone is interested, I am currently re-reading Kamandi: the Last Boy on Earth, which was my first exposure to Kirby.

≈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.

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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.

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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.
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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.
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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.]
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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.
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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.
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This is Unexpected no. 142 (Dec. 1972, DC); cover art by Nick Cardy.
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This is Unexpected no. 147 (June, 1973, DC); cover art by Nick Cardy.
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This is Unexpected no. 150 (Sept., 1973, DC); cover art by Nick Cardy.
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« 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.
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« … 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!
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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.

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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…

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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

Tentacle Tuesday: We’re Off to the Moon!

I think the most disappointing scientific discovery of recent years is that there appears to be no octopuses on the moon. Not one teensy-weensy tentacle was spotted by the lunar rovers (that we dispatched to the Moon for that very purpose, of course). But comics had led us to expect otherwise!
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 Mystery in Space no. 51 (May 1959), cover by Gil Kane.
The inside offers us even more tentacles:
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Battle of the Moon Monsters! was scripted by Gardner Fox, pencilled by Carmine Infantino and inked by Joe Giella.
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In the end, our protagonists realize that the tentacled monster is actually a spaceship, and one manned by humans, at that… after which both parties have a good laugh about having almost annihilated one another. A peculiar sense of humour, those astronauts.
A bit of comic relief…
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Panels from the one-pager Outer Space with art by Bob White, printed in Archie’s Madhouse no. 21 (September 1962)
And back to our scheduled program of lethal, tentacle-sprouting monsters that attack the moment anyone sets foot on the moon.
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« Traveling at an incredible speed, the rocket reaches the moon in twenty three hours and lands in the gigantic crater… » And what is waiting for our hero, freshly stepped from his rocket? Funny you should ask… Page from Rocket to the Moon (1951 one-shot, Avon) scripted by Walter Gibson and illustrated by Joe Orlando.
Here’s a good instance of the good folks at Marvel getting quite confused. The First Men in the Moon, published in 1901, was written by H. G. Wells. From the Earth to the Moon was written in 1865 by Jules Verne. Which one is this supposed to be an adaptation of, then? I can confirm that the vaguely ant-like creatures with tentacles are H. G. Wells’ creation. His Selenites are described as following: « They are vaguely similar to quasi-humanoid ants, about five feet tall, with a light physical constitution enclosed in an exoskeleton from which slender jointed limbs and whip-like tentacles protrude. »
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Marvel Classics Comics no. 31 (1978), cover by Alan Weiss.
However, the first page of this comic informs us that…
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So I guess whoever laid out the cover screwed up. The insides, scripted by Don McGregor and drawn by Rudy Mesina, are considerably better drawn, and an unqualified tentacular treat.
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I think the artist just wanted to draw tentacles, and this post is clearly not the place where he is likely to be judged for that little peccadillo.

Did this adaptation succeed in being faithful to and respectful of Wells’ influential novel? Well, not really, although an honest attempt was made. But I found that it focused far too much on the fight scenes, and left out quite a few complex nuances as well as skewing the philosophical underpinnings of The First Men in the Moon. That being said, if you like tentacles, I heartily recommend reading this issue. I cringe at the very idea of recommending something from the Marvel Classics line, but honestly must prevail. Really, it’s good fun. Take a look —

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Did the artist go into tentacle overdrive? Oh boy, did he ever!
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Thanks for traveling with us today! If you want more tentacles in space, visit Tentacle Tuesday: Have Tentacles, Will Space Travel, or perhaps Tentacle Tuesday: Entangled in Tentacles with Adam Strange. As for me, I’m waving my tentacle (I do have one on a bookshelf) and bidding you adieu until next Tentacle Tuesday!
~ ds
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Hot Streak: Nick Cardy’s Aquaman

« Who’s Aquaman? I never heard of him! »
« He’s one of the super-beings from the place called Earth! He lives at the bottom of the ocean! » —  Steev & Jimm, rubberneckin’ in Aquaman no. 51

Some may have wondered at the deep, abiding affection held, by a certain savvy contingent of comics aficionados, for sea king Aquaman. After all, he’s a bit of a second-stringer, and he’s had a pretty spotty record for decades. Well, I’d say one has to have encountered the erstwhile Arthur Curry at his peak, in the hands of the Stephen Skeates, (writer) Jim Aparo (penciller-inker-letterer), Dick Giordano (editor-poacher), Nick Cardy (cover artist), Carmine Infantino (editor-in-chief/art director), Jack Adler (colourist) and Gaspar Saladino (cover letterer) set.

Fond as I am of Nick Cardy and Ramona Fradon‘s work, the series’ Skeates-Aparo period is more my speed. I can’t quite put my finger on it. There’s a whiff of the end of the world, something ominous and immediate about it, despite the fanciful settings. I guess it was « relevance », but with a lighter touch and without the cringe-inducing bathos of the concurrent Green Lantern-Green Arrow series. Because of Aquaman’s aquatic nature, environmental doom seldom seems far. The Skeates-Aparo rampage lasted from issue 40 (June 1968) to number 56 (April 1971). Aparo returned to the character just a few years down the road (Adventure Comics no. 441, Sept. 1975), but by then, he’d already begun his long, painful artistic deterioration.

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But back to the covers: this represents, in my view, Cardy’s second hot streak on this title. From the beginning of his career (in 1940 with the Iger/Eisner shop!) Cardy had always been a reliably competent artist, but rarely a very exciting one. That all changed in the mid-Sixties when newly minted art director/editor-in-chief Carmine Infantino made him his right-hand man and co-designer of DC’s covers. This greater latitude gave Cardy wings. Cardy’s first Aquaman hot streak opens on issue 37 (Jan.-Feb. 1968) and closes with issue 45 (May-June 1969). Issues 46 to 48 are nice enough, but short of transcendence… beyond that bump in the road, we’re set for a smooth run of splendid covers.

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This is Aquaman no. 49 (Jan.-Feb. 1970). Cover pencils and inks by Cardy, colours by Jack Adler, Aquaman logo by Ira Schnapp, title lettering by his worthy successor, Gaspar Saladino. Edited by Dick Giordano, directed (and likely laid out) by Infantino.
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This is Aquaman no. 50 (Mar.-Apr. 1970), sporting a Cardy cover that couldn’t have been more evidently designed by Carmine Infantino, with more Saladino magic on the titles and Deadman logo. Gestalt: it’s what great collaboration is all about! It seems fair to assume that the title is a nod to the Harlan Ellison-scripted 1967 Star Trek episode, The City on the Edge of Forever.
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This is Aquaman no. 51 (May.-June 1970). I don’t usually pilfer Tentacle Tuesday material… but I’m inclined to make an exception for a (sea) worthy cause. Design-wise, Infantino and Cardy took full advantage of the aquatic action settings. Up, down, sideways — anything goes!
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This is Aquaman no. 52 (July-Aug. 1970). A wistful, disorienting experiment in colour and design economy. You’d never see such a *hushed* cover chez Marvel.
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This is Aquaman no. 53 (Sept.-Oct. 1970). A fine instance of the notorious “Infantino tilt”. Michael Kaluta on Infantino’s cover design input: « My approach to a cover, when I got to do my own ideas, was to show the picture straight on, staged, unless it was a dramatic perspective view. Almost every time I’d bring one of these sketches in to Carmine he’d turn the paper about 30 degrees to the right and demand that that made the composition 100% stronger, more “grabby”… and I’d have to agree about 50% of the time… »
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This is Aquaman no. 54 (Nov.-Dec. 1970). Did I mention that DC’s books of the early ’70s had a general predilection for the macabre and the moody? Fine by me, then and now.
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This is Aquaman no. 55 (Jan.-Feb. 1971). The fact that this complex idea works so well on the page is evidence of some first-rate design work, with some heady colouring mojo sealing the deal.
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This is Aquaman no. 56 (Mar.-Apr. 1971). Would you believe that this story was continued over three years later in Marvel’s Sub-Mariner no. 72 (Sept. 1974). Seems sneaky Steve Skeates slipped something past sleepy editor Roy Thomas. In an interesting bit of coincidence, it was each of the competing oceanic monarchs’ final issue. On another note, I presume that the title is a takeoff on Norman Greenbaum‘s 1967 song The Eggplant That Ate Chicago (popularized by Dr. West’s Medicine Show and Junk Band), itself likely an homage to Arch Oboler‘s infamous 1937 Lights Out radio episode, The Chicken Heart (That Ate the World). Phew!

Under normal circumstances, this run of covers would have turned out quite differently for, as Steve Skeates told me a few years ago, « The only reason Jim [Aparo] didn’t do the covers was that he lived out of town, couldn’t come in for cover conferences! »

-RG

The Case of the Cackling Conjurer!

« Never keep up with the Joneses. Drag them down to your level. » — Denis Charles Pratt (1908-1999)

Longtime companions Bruce and Alex, who spend their days tracking down and investigating “queer events”, presumably for a guide they’re putting together, happen to drive near Oakville, where a gleeful oldster is on a tear.

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I’m thinking Quentin Crisp, because his fellow raconteur and bon vivant Sir Noël Coward wasn’t especially into large, floppy hats.

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« The very purpose of existence is to reconcile the glowing opinion we hold of ourselves with the appalling things that other people think about us. » — Quentin Crisp ( Denis Charles Pratt)
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You don’t say, Bruce! Let’s face it, screwball ideas hardly ever fail to bear fruit in these zany yarns.
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More action-packed merriment with Bruce & Alex, roving queerness inquirers!

Alex has a plan, and Bruce grasps instantly what Bruce has in mind. It’s like they’ve done this before. Somehow, Alex’s brainstorms always involve Bruce disrobing, and, judging from his expression, he’s unfailingly eager to comply.

This saga is that of The Cackling Conjurer (Strange Adventures no. 201, June 1967, DC), writer regrettably unknown, art by that magnificent oddball Bernard Baily. Edited, of course, by Jack Schiff; he may have screwed DC out of Jack Kirby’s talent throughout the 1960s, and nearly drove the Batman titles over the cancellation cliff, but he certainly produced some perversely entertaining crap. Incidentally, Schiff retired from comics two issues after this one, but surely that’s mere coincidence.

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As you can see, the rest of the issue was quite mundane and utterly devoid of eccentricity. Cover by Carmine Infantino and George Roussos. That’s a rather… intimate hold the Mod Gorilla Boss has on Animal-Man, don’t you think?

– RG

Nick Cardy’s Romantic Side

« In YOUNG LOVE, how can people talk when they kiss? My mom can’t talk when she’s kissing. Can you? I am nine years old. » — Mary K, an astute young reader

It’s recently occurred to me that, in a year-and-a-half of posting, I’ve utterly neglected to feature one of my favourite artists, Nick Cardy (1920-2013); I suppose he’s been easy to take for granted, as he was DC’s main cover artist during most of Carmine Infantino‘s management years (1967-1976).

Much has been made, in various forums, of Cardy’s covers for Aquaman, the Superman titles, The Teen Titans, the Mystery books, and so on. I figured I’d have to dig a bit deeper. Cardy, ex aequo with the even more underappreciated Bob Oksner, was arguably DC’s primer portrayer of feminine pulchritude, and what I’d seen of his artwork for DC’s romance line was pretty stunning. It just turned out that there was far less of it than I had assumed.

DC’s romance books were sadly treated as the proverbial Siberia of the company’s roster. How else might one explain calling upon top illustrative talent, the likes of Jay Scott Pike, John Rosenberger, Ric Estrada, Werner Roth … then taking these fine men’s work and slathering it with wall-to-wall Vince Collettafinishes. We’ll return to this topic, naturally. This time around, we’ll showcase the sentimental side of Mr. Cardy. He seems to have produced fewer than thirty covers for the romance line (not counting a handful of gothics he did), of which I’ve retained an even dozen. I’m reserving a handful for an eventual thematic post, plus one that Colletta “fixed” (in the criminal, rather than useful, sense.)

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Falling in Love no. 115 (Feb. 1970), edited by Murray Boltinoff.
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Falling in Love no. 119 (Nov. 1970), edited by Murray Boltinoff. Something tells me Mr. Older Generation is holding a pipe off-panel.
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« Goodbye, and as my sister once said, good riddance! » This great Nick Cardy cover puts an attractive spin on an issue unfortunately marred by the omnipresent and indigestible Vinnie Colletta sauce over half the stories. Poor Ric Estrada and Werner Roth! Girls’ Romances enjoyed a healthy 160-issue run from 1950 and 1971. This is number 144 (Oct. 1969).
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« Rumors are carried by haters, spread by fools and accepted by idiots. » – Unknown purveyor of sage quips –  This is Girls’ Love Stories no. 139 (Nov. 1968) Edited by Jack Miller. Inside: The Only Man for Me, illustrated by Ric Estrada, How Could He Stop Loving Me?, by Tony Abruzzo, a Mad Mad Modes for Moderns from Jay Scott Pike, a reprint from 1963, Kiss Me If You Dare, by John Romita, Sr. and Bernard Sachs, and our cover story, She’s Young, Beautiful–and Alone! … Why?, illustrated by John Rosenberger.
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Girls’ Love Stories no. 143 (May 1969), edited by Joe Orlando, who couldn’t be less suited to the genre.  Cover wise, it’s not everyone’s cup of tea, I  suppose, but I adore Cardy’s expressive, roughly organic inks. Still totally in control!
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Girls’ Love Stories no. 148 (Jan. 1970), edited by Joe Orlando.
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Girls’ Love Stories no. 151 (May, 1971), edited by Joe Orlando.
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Interesting, given that these were the prime days of women’s lib, how little actual sisterhood was in evidence in these comics. Too many *male* cooks, surely. Girls’ Romances no. 147 (Mar. 1970), edited by Murray Boltinoff. Carmine Infantino‘s fingerprints are all over this particular layout… which is more than fine: he’s a master.
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This is Super DC Giant no. S-17 (Sept.-Oct. 1970), “edited” by Dick Giordano. Despite comprising nothing but crappy reprints, the scarce item will cost you a pretty penny if you can find it in decent condition. Here’s its only worthy selling point, Mr. Cardy’s cover, of course.
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Talk about a question that provides its own answer… this is Young Love no. 74 (May-June, 1969). Edited by Dick Giordano (who lost the bet that month). Cardy’s Alex Toth-ish side rises to the surface.
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Young Romance no. 157 (Dec. 1968 – Jan. 1969), edited by Joe Orlando. Never was the “Have a Fling With…” tag more appropriate… and more disturbing. « Oh, Ann-Margret‘s your mom? »
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Young Romance no. 163 (Dec. 1969 – Jan. 1970), edited by Joe Orlando. YR, as you may know, was the original romance comic book, created way back in 1947 by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby. Things improved near the end of the series’ run, when Simon briefly returned to ride it into the sunset.

-RG

Tentacle Tuesday: Tangles with Adam Strange

« The menacing tentacles came probing down out of the sky in a fantastic quest for the secret of life! »

To celebrate Tentacle Tuesday, I’ve planned a visit to the mysterious planet Rann, as seen through the eyes of Adam Strange, that intrepid, quick-witted, teleporting archeologist. (First, a little context: Adam Strange was created by Julius Schwartz, with a costume designed by Murphy Anderson. He first appeared in Showcase #17 (November 1958). At first, Gardner Fox’s scripts were penciled by Mike Sekowsky, but this task was assigned to Carmine Infantino once the character moved to Mystery in Space, with Murphy Anderson inking most of the stories. As much as I like the Infantino + Anderson team, today’s contributions mostly involve other inkers.)

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Mystery in Space no. 60 (June 1960). Cover inked by Carmine Infantino and inked by Joe Giella. “The Attack of the Tentacle World!” is scripted by Garner Fox, pencilled by Infantino and inked by Bernard Sachs.

That green thing? That’s Yggardis, a sentient planet that (who?) craves companionship. Here’s its highfalutin explanation, in that pompous English that Enemies of Mankind use when detailing their raison d’être to their victims: “For uncounted centuries, I have roamed the universe, raiding other worlds for their life-forms, lifting them in my tentacles! Unfortunately no form of living thing which I stole from other planets could live on me more than 24 hours!” The solution to that is (obviously) to steal even more animals for its private, deadly zoo, which is what it proceeds to do on Rann.

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Yggardis’ problem is solved when Adam blows it into carefully calculated smithereens, thus separating its radiation-producing mind from the rest of its inert body. A comparison is made to human surgeons removing deadly tissues and organs from an ailing patient. Uh, yes, surgeons regularly use explosives to sever their patients’ brains from their bodies, thus eliminating the need for expensive medication and such.

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Mystery in Space no. 65 (February 1962), artwork also by Infantino and Giella.

The Mechanimen are anthropoid robots hellbent on protecting humans on Rann, destroying all their weapons on the principle that “weapons breed mistrust! mistrust breeds wars!” When the Mechanimen, while attempting to repel a sneak attack by some hostile aliens, run out of power (they “mechanically never gave a thought to renewing their power” – what?), Adam has to save the day, much like he has to avert disaster every time he sets foot on Rann. How did Rannians ever survive without him around?

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Adam doesn’t only have to confront mechanical tentacles in this issue: he’s also almost swallowed up by plant tendrils. “The Mechanical Masters of Rann” is scripted by Gardner Fox, pencilled by Infantino and inked by Murphy Anderson (ah, finally).

As you’ve probably noticed, Adam Strange stories tend to have gonzo plots. I *like* goofy stories, but these leave me frustrated: they’re far too far-fetched to make any kind of sense, yet they’re not wacky enough to be properly entertaining. The stories toss around “futuristic” terms like sky-radiation and zeta-beams and altered molecular structures, and provide “scientific” explanations that are supposed to make the plot plausible, except that the plot’s still ridiculous, all the more so after these attempts to shoehorn logic into it. It wouldn’t be so bad if Strange wasn’t over-explaining everything – he’s like your best friend’s pedantic dad, droning on about something while everyone feigns interest, sucking out the joy from topics that would otherwise be fascinating.

The other interesting aspect of Adam Strange is the sexual tension – basically, Adam’s zeta-beam wears off every time he and Alanna share an embrace. (That sends him back to Earth until he catches the next beam and gets teleported back to Rann.) That’s an original way of keeping them apart, I have to admit.

AdamStrangeByeAHe’ll be back soon, he says – as will I, with another Tentacle Tuesday.

~ ds