Tentacle Tuesday: Waiting for Fungi

Today’s Tentacle Tuesday is going to be succinct, as I have traded tentacles for mushrooms this week! Keep an eye on Friday 😉

I am planning a separate post about Marc Hempel (and his Tug & Buster!), but in the meantime, here is an Illustration by him – visit his website here, or buy this design on a t-shirt from his store on Redbubble.
A poster by illustrator Michael Hacker, created for the High On Fire show that took place in Vienna on June 2015.

See you in a few days!

~ ds

Tentacle Tuesday: What Lurks Within the Grab Bag?

Since the previous instalments of Tentacle Tuesday had specific, unified themes, the time has come for another anything-goes grab bag of goodies. That being said, I am in the mood for bright colours, as the lawns and plants around these parts have acquired that drab, dusty shade of brownish green that’s characteristic of August and its dry spells…

This epic Cthulhu-vs-Godzilla scene was drawn by Chaz Folgar for a 2010 online illustration competition – the exact wording of the challenge was “Cthulhu and Godzilla with the fate of Japan in the balance“. I’m definitely betting on Cthulhu (see Tentacle Tuesday: Ho ho ho, Mr. Lovecraft if you need a refresher!), ancient and powerful and eternal being that he is. Godzilla, in the meantime? Just a prehistoric, overgrown lizard (with apologies to all Kaiju film buffs).

In a somewhat different vein, here is a postcard/cartoon/illustration by British artist Ann Edwards (visit her website!) She has a bouncy, colourful style that’s really fun… especially if there are tentacles involved.

In a similar format, and perhaps even more colourful, is this cartoon that I found in an article about My Octopus Teacher, a movie about the filmmaker Craig Foster and the octopus he makes friends with. Amazingly (and not in a good way), the article did not specifically credit this image to anybody in particular. Did Foster document his octopus shenanigans with cartoons? Is this the work of some completely unrelated artist that was included because it was on topic?

Peter Bagge’s Other Stuff (Fantagraphics, May 2013) is a collection of Bagge’s shorter stories from the 90s and 2000s. I’m not really a Bagge fan (his sense of humour is too based on making audiences cringe), but I enjoyed reading this one, though my inclination to revisit it is very low.

The flustered emerald-hued tentacled fellow, front and centre, is Shamrock Squid, whose first published appearance was featured in an earlier instalment, Tentacle Tuesday: Pleasantly Goofy.

~ ds

Into the Inky Shadows With Jerry Grandenetti

« Jerry Grandenetti started out ghosting The Spirit, and nobody… NOBODY… captured the spirit of The Spirit better. Not content to stay in Will Eisner’s shadow forever, he forged his own unique style leading to a highly successful comics career lasting decades. » — Michael T. Gilbert

Since my very first encounter with his work, Jerry Grandenetti (1926-2010; born ninety-five years ago today, another Thursday April 15th) has endured as one of my true artistic heroes. But he’s not celebrated much at all.

Though he’s worked extensively on The Spirit, he’s treated as a bit of a footnote in the Eisner hagiography. His DC war work is well-regarded, but he’s inevitably overshadowed by the Joe KubertRuss HeathJohn Severin trinity. Besides, by and large, the war comics audience doesn’t overlap much with the spandex long johns crowd. Grandenetti has only very occasionally and timidly dipped a toe into the super-heroics fray, and he was far too unusual for overwhelming mainstream acclaim.

In fact, aside from the couple of converts I’ve made over the years, I can only think of three fellow torch-bearing aficionados: Michael T. Gilbert (who digs best the early, Eisner-employed Jerry); Stephen R. Bissette (who favours the spooky 60s and 70s work); and Don Mangus, who’s most into the DC war stuff. I daresay I enjoy it all, but my taste is most closely aligned with Mr. Bissette’s on this particular point. Let’s sample a bit of everything, insofar as it’s feasible to sum up a career spread out over five decades… in a dozen-or-so images.

Opening splash from The Secret Files of Dr. Drew: Sabina the Sorceress, written by Marilyn Mercer and lettered by Abe Kanegson, from Rangers Comics no. 56 (Dec. 1950, Fiction House); this version hails from a reprint (Mr. Monster’s Super Duper Special no. 2, Aug. 1986, Eclipse) using the surviving original art; it was recoloured by Steve Oliff.
Page 3 from The Secret Files of Dr. Drew: Curse of the Mandibles!, written by Marilyn Mercer and lettered by Abe Kanegson, from Rangers Comics no. 55 (Oct. 1950, Fiction House); this version hails from a reprint (Doc Stearn… Mr. Monster no. 4, Dec. 1985, Eclipse) using the surviving original art; it was most tastefully recoloured by Steve Oliff.

In 1954, the powers-that-be at National Periodical Publications (you know, DC) gave Grandenetti some latitude to experiment with their War covers. Grandenetti produced an arresting hybrid of painted and line art. The process involved a grey wash painting that was photostatted, with flat colour laid over the resulting image. The first few attempts yielded striking, but nearly monochromatic results. A bit farther down the pike, the production department got more assured in its technical exploration.

This is G.I. Combat no. 77 (Oct. 1959, DC); wash tones and colouring by Jack Adler, who recalled, in a 1970s interview: « It was suggested that we start doing washes for covers, and we were talking about doing it for so damned long, but nobody attempted it. I think Grandenetti did the first one, an army cover with someone floating in the water. I think that was the first wash cover that was done. That one ended up looking like a full color painting. »
This is G.I. Combat no. 83 (Aug.- Sept. 1960, DC); wash tones and colouring by Jack Adler. In 1995, Robert Kanigher, Grandenetti’s editor on the DC war books and a frequent collaborator, recalled: « Jerry liked to experiment and I had to sit on him to get him to stop it. Especially in his covers, which were outstanding, when I forced him to draw as realistically as possible. »
Original art from The Wrath of Warlord Krang!, smothered in dialogue and exposition by Stan Lee, from Tales to Astonish no. 86 (Dec. 1966, Marvel); inks by Bill Everett. Namor‘s constant random shouts of ‘Imperius Rex!‘ make him sound like a sitcom character with Tourette’s. As far as I’m concerned, it’s possibly been the most annoyingly asinine slogan in comics since Stan stole ‘Excelsior!‘ from Jean Shepherd.
The opening splash from Cry Fear, Cry Phantom, written by Archie Goodwin, from Eerie no. 7 (Jan. 1967, Warren). In the mid-60s, presumably tiring of being pigeonholed as a war artist at DC, Grandenetti made the publishers’ rounds, doing a bit of work for Tower, Gold Key, Charlton, Marvel, Cracked (check it out here) and most memorably Warren where, after ghosting a few stories for Joe Orlando, he unleashed his innovative expressionistic style.

DC was generally hesitant to entrust its more established properties to the more “out there” artists. In the cases of Grandenetti and Carmine Infantino, the solution was to match them with the weirdness-dampening inks of straight-arrow artist Murphy Anderson. And you know what? It did wonders for both pencillers and inker.

This is The Spectre no. 6, October, 1968. A tale told by Gardner Fox (and likely heavily revised by hands-on editor Julius Schwartz, a man who loved alliterative titling) and superbly illustrated by the Grandenetti-Anderson team. Steve Ditko aside, Jerry Grandenetti had no peer in the obscure art of depicting eldritch dimensions (you’ll see!)

Page 13 from Pilgrims of Peril! written by Gardner Fox, from The Spectre no. 6 (Sept.- Oct. 1968, DC); inked by Murphy Anderson. Dig the salute to a trio of real-life spooky writers, all of whom editor Julius Schwartz knew well, having even served as Lovecraft’s literary agent late in his life. By the tail end of the 1960s, Lovecraft’s work was finally making some commercial inroads, thanks largely to Arkham House co-publisher Derleth‘s unflagging diligence.
Page 22 from Pilgrims of Peril! written by Gardner Fox, from The Spectre no. 6 (Sept.- Oct. 1968, DC); inked by Murphy Anderson.
Page 2 from Men Call Me the Phantom Stranger, written by Mike Friedrich, from Showcase no. 80 (Feb. 1969, DC); inks by Bill Draut. This story reintroduced an obscure character from the early 50s, which Grandenetti had drawn a couple of times during his six-issue run. The Phantom Stranger has remained active ever since, but most writers (save Alan Moore, wouldn’t you know it?) don’t really know what to do with him. This, however, is my very favourite PS appearance. Draut, a slightly old-fashioned penciller by this time was, as a slick inker, a wonderful fit for Grandenetti’s confidently loopy layouts.
Page 3 from The Haunting!, written by Jack Oleck, from House of Mystery no. 183 ((Nov.-Dec. 1969, DC). Grandenetti pencils and inks: undiluted!
Page 2 from Eyes of the Cat, written by Robert Kanigher, from House of Mystery no. 189 (Nov.-Dec. 1970, DC); inks by Jerry’s fellow Will Eisner ghost Wallace Wood. The inspired combination of Grandenetti’s adventurous layouts and the velvety unctuousness of Wood’s finishes are a match made in heaven, but one Woody wasn’t fond of. Oh well.

So there you are. Just the tiniest tip of the iceberg. Happy birthday, Mr. Grandenetti!

-RG

Tentacle Tuesday: Ho ho ho, Mr. Lovecraft

Christmas is approaching fast, so naturally it occurred to me that I have never really done a proper H.P. Lovecraft Tentacle Tuesday. What, does the idea of a festive Cthulhu sound strange to you? But he’s the one who brings nameless horror… err, gifts to little children!

“For several years now, artist Amy L. Rawson has crafted a needle-felted Santa Cthulhu sculpture (often in collaboration with artist Brian East), changing the design each year.” Make sure to visit her website, all aglow with many more Santa Cthulhus and even a Mrs Santa Cthulhu!

I’d like to put us all in the proper chipper mindset, especially since cheer (festive or otherwise) is so hard to come by this horrendous year. For starters, I can make a few decorating suggestions. How about some Christmas ornaments with tentacles? Or perhaps a Cthulhumas wreath? You say your partner would most certainly object… Well, how about an ugly Cthulhu sweater to impress people at your next Zoom meeting? No, not your cup of tea, either? Some people are so hard to please! Well… in that case, let’s just check out some comics.

I actually think that there’s not much point in attempting to adapt Lovecraft stories into comics – it’s just too hard to do properly, and few (if any) people have managed it. How can you transform a description like « the words reaching the reader can never even suggest the awfulness of the sight itself* Â» into images on paper? Yet I can sympathize with artists who tried to do just that – the grandeur of Lovecraft’s visions is a compelling force. At the same time, he has become a bit of a ridiculous figure by now, his legacy awkwardly stuck between reports of his racism and misogyny and the current ubiquity of the characters he created. Oh yes, it’s tentacles all the way down for this father of our (nearly) collective tentacular obsession… down into memes and light-hearted pokes that abound online, spanning the range between ‘amusing’ and ‘blatantly stupid’. It is possible to buy a cuddly baby Cthulhu toy, for instance (and I would have purchased it, if it hadn’t gone out of stock).

*quote from At the Mountains of Madness. I recommend reading H.P. Lovecraft, the pioneer of being unable to describe the indescribable, for a clever discussion of « the collapse of language in the face of an emotionally unhinging reality Â», how Lovecraft handled it, and how a clever reader could employ his technique in the modern world.

First we’ll take a look at a few serious attempts to adapt HPL stories into comics… ones with tentacles, of course, as this is Tentacle Tuesday, after all. Let’s face it, there have been many, many comics series (and I do mean many) based on, vaguely or directly, on Lovecraft material… and the bulk of this has horrible (in my humble assessment) art, and stories to match. I’m really not interested in reading about how Lovecraft teamed up with Houdini to save Arthur Conan Doyle’s life, but it may be the coolest thing somebody has ever heard. Your own mileage may vary – for every Lovecraft fan who shudders at bad adaptations of his oeuvre, there’s one (or two) who just want to “get to the good stuff, not be derailed by a rambling description of the bloody countryside” (actual quote).

For a detailed look at comics adapting Lovecraft, head over to this Cthulhu Mythos Comics list.

I’ll begin with Tom Sutton visuals – after all, he’s one of our esteemed Tentacle Masters.

The Cover of H.P. Lovecraft’s The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath: a Portfolio (1978), with Tom Sutton illustrations of this classic Lovecraft tale.
One has to admit that the sheer horror on the face of the man stuck amidst all these suggested-but-not-quite-clear monsters is supremely convincing!

On the other hand, Richard Corben opted to for clearly defined monsters when he illustrated Dagon:

Page from Dagon, a Lovecraft story adapted and illustrated by Richard Corben, published in Haunt of Horror: Lovecraft no. 1 (August 2008, Max Comics). I like Corben’s art much, much better in colour, so this leaves me rather cold.
Art (once again by Corben) that was used as a cover illustration for Haunt of Horror: Lovecraft no. 1. Read the issue here.
Lovecraft: The Myth of Cthulhu (2018, IDW). Cover by Esteban Maroto. Maroto did a very nice job of depicting out-worldly creatures in stark black and white, with just the right proportion between the well-defined and the merely suggested – have a look at the inside of this book over here.
I’ll quote the artist, Richard Svensson:  Â« This is actually a panel from my 10-page comic version of H. P. Lovecraft’s “The Dunwich Horror”. I did it for a small-press Swedish (mostly humorous) comic book Lovecraft anthology. Since there aren’t that many images around showing Wilbur Whateley’s mostly-invisible twin I thought I’d post my own attempt at portraying the unnamable.» A pretty good job, I think!

I don’t actually like Svensson’s art that much, with the exception of this comic, but I dig his animation work, for which he builds monsters out of clay! Watch Out of the Old Land, his latest from September, 2020.

I mentioned earlier how the Great Old Ones have been repurposed as butts of jokes and tropes for memes. Well, I’m not here to share memes (other than very occasionally), but I do have a few nice illustrations-cum-cartoons to share.

Matchbox design by Chet Phillips (2000); he has a done quite a few, and sells them as prints in his store. I haven’t really witnessed the age of colourful, stylish matchboxes, but I understand the people who collect them! It’s a very quaint and romantic topic.
A very relatable cartoon by Pavel Lujardo (2019).
Instant Cthulhu by Christian Krank (2018).

Readers, do you have any favourite comics adaptations of Lovecraft?

~ ds

Hallowe’en Countdown, Day 8

« But the Ancient Evil remains… waiting to rise and prey on an unsuspecting humanity »

Adapting Howard Phillips Lovecraft’s sinister literature to other media has always been as tempting as it is daunting. It absolutely requires the discernment to know when to hold back and when to go all out, and therein lies the difficulty: it’s a rare gift.

Eureka Productions’ Graphic Classics series of anthologies wisely chose, for the cover of its HPL entry (from 2002), a detail from Todd Schorr’s wry 1993 painting, H.P. Lovecraft’s Fried Seafood Cart.

SchorrLovecraftA

Schorr, born in 1954 in New York City, first became aware of HPL in high school and « became totally consumed in his writings. » « When read now », continues Todd, « Lovecraft’s work still retains the same spine-shivering thrills I first experienced. »

More Schorr: http://www.toddschorr.com/

And a view of the full painting (taken in a gallery, pardon the reflections):

– RG