Tentacle Tuesday: Mam’zelles in Green and Red

Hello, cephalopod aficionados! I have some lovely tentacles for you today, all wrapped around voluptuous women (my favourite kind of cephalopod content, I admit). There is a lot of ‘that kind of thing’ going on in the rivers of the comic kingdom, but most of it, alas, is distinctly ugly. I have accumulated a few covers not suffering from that particular scourge (quite by accident, most of them use a green-and-red palette), and I invite you to enjoy them with me!

The first is a Judge Dredd cover that had somehow previously escaped my attention, despite WOT’s affection for the former and my personal affection for Judge Anderson (lackaday, ill-handled once out of the hands of creator John Wagner and writer Alan Grant – and preferably drawn by Brian Bolland, of course).

Judge Dredd no. 28 (February 1986, Eagle Comics). Cover by Brian Bolland, a Tentacle Tuesday master. Note that in Bolland’s care, she looks like a determined, intelligent woman in full possession of her faculties, as opposed to this sort of nonsense.

The following cover presumably has something to do with DC’s Star Rovers series, which ran between 1961 and 1964, but I wasn’t able to find more about this particular comic, the company that published it (Comax), or the equally mysterious cover artist, Butch Burcham. A comic-savvy friend described the latter as ‘a low rent Frazetta knock-off artist‘. I have no opinion about that part, but I do like this cover and its lushly coloured maiden with her completely impractical suit.

Star Rovers no. 1 (1990, Comax). Cover by Butch Burcham.

Next up a contribution from Dan Brereton, whose work has already been part of several previous Tentacle Tuesdays.

L.E.G.I.O.N. ’92 no. 41 ( July 1992, DC). Cover by Dan Brereton.

In a ‘something completely different‘ vein, I’d much rather get Red Sonja drawn in a very cartoony style, rather than in a ‘realistic’, trying-to-show-boobs-and-ass-simultaneously one. (I dig voluptuous women, but not. ones. with. a. spine. deformation.) For instance…

Red Sonja no. 12 (September 2014, Dynamite). This variant cover is by Stephanie Buscema, an American illustrator specializing in Hallowe’en art.

Finally, we have a surprisingly tasteful (albeit a bit stiff – so would you be, barely perching at the very edge of a chair like that), girl-next-door Vampi cover. And look, she actually has enough space for internal organs! I like that the tentacles seem like a friendly presence, almost guarding her (as opposed to getting a quick grope in). In case you want more Vampirella, head over to Tentacle Tuesday: Warren and Its Many Tentacles, Part II.

Vampirella: Feary Tales no. 3 (December 2014, Dynamite). Variant cover by David Roach.

Pip pip cheerio and toodle-loo, and see you next week!

~ ds

Tentacle Tuesday: Treehouse of Tentacular Horror

Treehouse of Horror episodes are easily my favourite Simpsons material, and not just because Hallowe’en is the most interesting ‘holiday’ of the year (in my hardly humble opinion). Of course, abandoning the pretence of any continuity makes for entertaining, anything-goes storytelling, but what I find especially appealing is that these little gems take the Simpsons’ brand of humour, admittedly already somewhat dark, and kick it up a notch all the way into full-blown black humour and gore.

The comic books series of the same name continued this tradition, offering readers a fun grab bag of horror and science fiction film parodies, literary references and just plain madcap-yet-macabre nonsense. Not all stories are good; plots vary widely in quality, and even a good plot falls flat in the hands of an artist lacking the expertise to pull it off. However, through the years (there are 23 issues of total, published between 1995 and 2017) a number of illustrious comic artists and writers have contributed their talents to this misshapen, haphazardly hammered treehouse.

You will not be too surprised to hear that a number of stories included tentacles, be it in a secondary capacity or featured front and centre. The quotidian presence of aliens Kang and Kodos ensures that, but there are also a number of plant and chest hair tendrils, Homer-as-octopus, Cthulhu guest appearances and god knows what else. The following is by no means an exhaustive list; I have striven to include a bit of everything. Two stories have made it into previous Tentacle Tuesdays (see Tentacle Tuesday Masters: Hilary Barta and Tentacle Tuesday: tentacles, some fresh, some older than time).

We start with Treehouse of Horror number one and its parody of a Little Shop of Horrors.

Little Shop of Homers, scripted by Mike Allred and pencilled by Luis Escobar and Bill Morrison, was published in Treehouse of Horror no. 1 (October 1995).

The cover of number two features… err, is that Kang or Kodos? with tentacles in full display. You may insert a ‘all aliens look alike’ joke here, to be fair, these two can mostly be told apart by their voice, Kang’s being deeper.

Treehouse of Horror no. 2 (September 1996). Cover by Bill Morrison, who, incidentally, is the co-founder of Bongo Comics and creator of Roswell: Little Green Man.

The insides offer us the tentacles of Sideshow Bob, whose transformation into a blob is distinctly cephalopodian in nature.

Sideshow Blob! was scripted by Paul Dini and illustrated by Bill Morrison and Tim Bavington.

Skipping over a few tentacle-less issues (for shame!), we arrive at number five, in which Mr Burns and Smithers, having been turned into Rigellians, demonstrate a proficient use of tentacles for their god-intended purpose, namely grabbing and choking.

Apu on Rigel 7, written and illustrated by Doug TenNapel, was published in Treehouse of Horror no. 5 (September 1999). I’d like to say a few words about TenNapel, here: my first encounter with his sense of humour was through the video game Earthworm Jim, which has retained a special place in my heart though I last played it some twenty years ago. I’ve read some of his graphic novels, and though I was mostly underwhelmed, TenNapel’s wild imagination was a pleasure. Having said that, his politics and beliefs have led him to gradually transforming into a judgmental asshole, which is completely at odds with the empathy he displays in his comics.

Leaving Kang and Kodos behind for now, we can play the game ‘option A or option B’: if somebody was forcing you to choose between having a third eye or tentacles instead of hands, which would you go for?

Treehouse of Horror no. 9 (September 2003); cover by Bill Morrison. Here we see how Homer has opted for the more destructive, tentacle-hands choice.

The following, incredibly boring parody of LOTR at least offers one genuine octopus, perhaps supposed to be the Watcher in the Water.

Ring Around the Simpsons, scripted by Ian Boothby and illustrated by Dan Brereton.

The following cover is Kodos (or Kang? sorry, guys) again, which I’m including because I like it…

Treehouse of Horror no. 12 (September 2006). Cover by Bill Morrison.

… and because one of its stories featured a somewhat original interpretation of tentacles: chest hair!

Willie: Portrait of a Groundskeeper was written and illustrated by Eric Powell.
Aliens’ penchant for busty human females is one of those mysteries of life…

One of my favourite tropes, octopus-in-the-library (wait… it’s not actually a trope, but it should be!), is aptly used in number thirteen:

Prop, Prop, Whiz, Whiz!, scripted by Ian Boothby and Pia Guerra, pencilled by Pia Guerra and inked by Terry Austin, was published in Treehouse of Horror no. 13 (September 2007).

Mutants with tentacles traipse on in number sixteen…

I Screwed Up Big-Time and Unleashed the Glavin on an Unsuspecting World!, scripted and illustrated by Evan Dorkin, was published in Treehouse of Horror no. 16 (September 2010).

… and plant tentacles rear their acquisitive little tendrils again in number eighteen.

Treehouse of Horror no. 18 (September 2012). Cover by Tentacle Tuesday Master Hillary Barta!

Finally, the last (alas!) cover of this series feature tentacles a’plenty! What a great note to end this on.

Treehouse of Horror no. 23 (September 2017). Cover pencilled by Jason Ho and inked by Mike Rote.

~ ds

Tentacle Tuesday: Head Cases

Sometimes tentacles are positioned so close to the head that one gets the impression they’re sprouting directly from it. Whether accidental or not, the result is quite horrific – sometimes in a good way, if one enjoys the creepy and bizarre. In this Tentacle Tuesday, we’ll come across literal cases of octopus-instead-of-head, beard-tentacles (stylish!) and alien cepha-cerebellum-pods, which I hope will catch on as a term.

The following has been taken from The Octopeople of Ectroia, illustrated by Henry Kiefer, and published in Fantastic Comics no. 8 (July 1940, Fox Comics). If the introductory panel gives but a brief glimpse of the creature we are about to encounter…

… the splash page gives us an eyeful of her charms. Now we know what Baba Yaga would look like with tentacles instead of her usual limp grey tresses. Incidentally, a few days ago an enterprising fellow won enough support (and funding) from the Lego community to make his Lego Baba Yaga idea an (eventual) reality. She would come with her traditional hut on hen’s legs, a black cat and “everyday useful things” like horseradish drinks. Needless to say, I want one.

“Comics” McCormick has had more than just one encounter with cephalopod-headed men! The following is the cover of Fat and Slat no. 4 (Spring 1948, EC Comics), illustrated by Ed Wheelan.

And here is a page from The Octopus, printed in Terrific Comics no. 3 (May 1944, Helnit Publishing). Is it the same villain? Well, nearly: they’re Octopus-Man and Octopus, differentiated only by the costumes they sport under all those tentacles.

Edgar S. Wheelan (1888-1966) was the creator of Fat and Slat and “Comics” McCormick, and he is well remembered for his introduction of some cinematic techniques to comic strips. Of special significance is his Minute Movies, created for the George Matthew Adams Newspaper Service. This series of animated shorts not only had its stars (and continuity!), but also made full use of techniques that weren’t usually employed in comics, like close-ups, long shots and head shots with title cards.

The following sequence is an oldie-but-goodie from the oft-quoted Origin of the Species!, scripted by Bill Gaines and Al Feldstein, and illustrated by Feldstein. It was first published in Weird Fantasy no. 8 (July-August 1951, EC Comics). For those of you who may not have read it and are wondering whether those tentacled beasts were somehow the progenitors of the human race… no, they weren’t. As for the plot, it raises more questions than it answers, which I believe is not atypical of a Feldstein tale (from those I’ve read, they tend to be like a movie with plenty of drama and special effects, but little sense).

I recently came across a 3-part story published in Eerie numbers 91 to 93 that I quite liked: the tale of Moonshadow, the assassin who never failed, scripted by Bob Toomey and illustrated by José Ortiz. As luck would have it, two of the instalments were rife with tentacles!

The following page (and also the preceding panel) is from Suzanna Don’t You Cry, part 2 of the tale, published in Eerie no. 92 (May 1978, Warren).

Last but hardly least, a page from Kingdom of Ash, published in Eerie no. 93 (June 1978, Warren).

Fast forwarding some twenty years, we land in the middle of a pirate tale – and what suits a pirate more than a headful of tentacles (and a peg-leg)? This page is from Autopsy in B-Flat, written and illustrated by Gary Gianni and first published in Hellboy: Almost Colossus no. 1 (June 1997, Dark Horse) as a back-up feature. Gianni’s The Monstermen stories have since been collected separately.

What we gather from this dialogue is that octopus pirates like pork.

Finally, I think I promised some tentacles in lieu of beard, and the early stages of this guy’s transformation surely qualify:

This creature appears in the pages of Nocturnals: Black Planet (October 1998, Oni Press), with all plotting and art handled by auteur Dan Brereton. Actually the pages of this collection are so rife with tentacles that I’m going to force myself to be succinct.

Another instance of tentacles-as-hair:

Cover for Nocturnals: Black Planet (October 1998, Oni Press).

Thanks to friend Barney for pointing this last batch out!

~ ds

Tentacle Tuesday: State of the Modern Tentacle

Tentacles have always been omnipresent in comics, but there’s been a true explosion of tentacular material in recent years. Sadly, the quantity is inversely proportional to the quality, and the comics market seems to be flooded with covers so aesthetically unappealing that I can’t bring myself to feature them. Still, I’ve been accumulating covers from 21st century – here are a few that I can get behind, albeit half-heartedly.

Army of Darkness vs. Re-Animator! (October 2006, Dynamite Entertainment). Cover by Canadian comics artist Nick Bradshaw.

As any story loosely based on an H. P. Lovecraft character (in this case Herbert West) and featuring a crossover as the main point of interest (in this case, West is fighting Ash Williams from the Evil Dead series), this is, not to put too fine a point to it, crap.

Dark Goodbye vol. 1 (April 2007, Tokyopop). Cover by Drew Rausch.
Great Pacific no. 16 (July 2014) – variant cover by Charles Paul Wilson III.

Great Pacific has been lauded as an interesting comic with a powerful message of environmental preservation, but this is the only cover I kind of like, the others being distinctly on the ugly side (albeit abounding with tentacles). I see comics as a great merging of words and images, so when the pictorial side leaves so much to be desired, my interest in reading the story is nil — I’ll go read a book instead.

I had low expectations for Professor Dario Bava, but this was surprisingly a rather fun read, despite its extremely derivative nature, abounding, as publicity promised, naked women, monsters, exorcisms and lesbian scenes involving a nun in lingerie.

The art is not great but quite serviceable, involving a murky but non-offensive palette with some colour pops.

A collection of Dan Brereton art, published in November 2013 (Little Eva Ink).

I can actually say that I like Brereton’s painted and colourful style (co-admin RG demurs on that point), and as he seems to quite enjoy painting tentacles, his art will surely crop up again in one of my posts.

~ ds