« Take it easy, Shakespeare — TA-AKE it easy! Ya’ll dislocate an iambic, an’ THEN where’ll ya be? » — Cookie raises a fair point
It’s one of the field’s small, fortuitous victories that monumentally multi-faceted animator Dan Gordon (Superman, Popeye, The Flintstones, Huckleberry Hound…) happened to drift into comics from 1943 to the early ’50s, and his output from that period demonstrates he was having a ball as a solo performer, surely a break from the often frustrating assembly-line constraints of the animation world. While it certainly wasn’t the money that lured him to funny books (and his books *were* funny), this is no mere case of slumming or professional doldrums.
« Gordon soon expanded his work with human characters when he created high school student Cookie O’ Toole. Marking his debut in the April 1945 issue of Topsy-Turvy Comics, Cookie received his own series of magazines the following year. Unlike the Archie comics that typified the teen humor genre in comics, Gordon’s Cookie stories possessed a strong vitality with a satirical edge. » [ source ]
Gordon’s Cookie stories are full of vitality and knockabout visual effervescence. The very colloquial dialogue’s pretty titter-worthy also. And you know, you can read each and every issue of Cookie right here, thanks to the assiduous efforts of the kind folks at comicbookplus.com.
Today, however, I really wanted to salute Gordon’s Cookie cover art, which first drew my attention to his comics work. Here, then, is a gallery of my picks.
… and before you go, check out Gordon’s action-packed cover for Ha Ha Comics no. 66, which my partner ds featured one bright Tentacle Tuesday last year. « They say he can cook too! »
The Golden Age of comics proffered quite a lot of anthropomorphic animals to its readers. The stuff on offer ran the gamut of different definitions of humour, from inane slapstick to pleasant goofiness, all the way to batshit surrealism. There’s at least one common streak running through this zoological revelry – tentacles!
Our first exhibit is a charming comic from the 40s. Land of the Lost was a radio series broadcast from 1943 to 1948 on Mutual Broadcasting System and ABC, written, produced and narrated by Isabel Manning Hewson. Each episode started with the line « In that wonderful kingdom at the bottom of the sea… », and presented a new under-the-sea adventure of Isabel and Billy, two kids lucky enough to have an adorable avuncular fish for an underwater guide. (The fish was called Red Lantern, and was most notably voiced by Art Carney.) You can listen to an episode from 1945 here.
Coming back to our beloved cartoons: in 1946, EC Comics started publishing Land of the Lost Comics, a series that lasted for 9 issues. Hewson remained the writer, and the art was handled by Olive Bailey (not the Olive Bailey who helped crack Germans’ Enigma cipher machine in WWII.) The result was impressive: these comics are delectable, combining beautiful art with inventive plots that may be goofy, but have a solid internal logic. Hewson gave her sea-creatures vibrant personalities, and it’s so much fun to dive (not pun intended) into this world.
The following panels are from “Jack Frost“, scripted by Isabel Manning Hewson and drawn by Olive Bailey, published in Land of the Lost Comics no. 3.
Thank you, cool ladies, for all the fun!
Land of the Lost also became an animated cartoon as part of Famous Production Studios‘ Noveltoon series: Land of the Lost (1948), Land of the Lost Jewels (1950) and Land of Lost Watches (1951). I find the animation to be definitely subpar to the comics or the radio show, but I’ll let you judge for yourselves. (Jack Mercer is in it, albeit briefly!)
Did you know octopuses love to box? This implausible situation is definitely part of the lazy artist’s roster. To wit:
Ha Ha Comics, a sister anthology of Giggle Comics, was published by ACG. (With issue #100, Ha Ha became Teepee Tim, going from animal hijinks to young Indian shenanigans for all of… three issues.) It’s quite a the playground of anything goes, but upon careful inspection, one easily finds good art shining among the dirt-pile of mediocrity, and diverting storytelling among hackneyed yarns.
How many arms does the fellow up above have, nine? I suppose that’s why he’s the champ!
Comic Cavalcade went all funny-animals only with issue 30 (Dec-Jan 1948), when superheroes faded from popularity (oh man, that’s hard to imagine now, isn’t it?) It lasted until 1954, by which time it shrank from its original 96 pages to 76, however retaining its 15-cent cover price.
Tuesdays sure roll around quickly, but that’s okay – another week, another fresh batch of prehensile, slimy tentacles for our enjoyment. I’ll open Tentacle Tuesday with an “oldie but goodie”. (Speaking of that, I have an irrational pet peeve: comic shop owners who, upon seeing a customer carefully clutching a stack of 70s comics he meticulously unearthed from a grimy comic box stashed in the darkest corner of the store, say, with a slightly condescending grin, “oh, you’ve found some oldies!” The comment is no doubt well-intentioned, but there are nicer ways to start the conversation.)
First on the list for today is this painted beauty by Pat Boyette, from Haunted no. 19, December 1974. Just look at those shiny, healthy tentacles – just the kind to gently grab your ankle and drag you into murky waters. Their diaphanous keeper doesn’t exactly inspire confidence, either.
This issue is worth picking up for more than its cover. It remains excellent when one opens its pages: there are three stories, and they’re all worthwhile – the beautiful “The Unholy!” by Pete Morisi (PAM! PAII!) (written by his son, Steve Morisi, and therefore unfortunately not making a lick of sense), the moody “There Ain’t No Hell!” by Sanho Kim and Joe Gill, and, the cherry on the cake (and story on the cover), the quietly-elegant-but-with-tentacles “The Keeper”, illustrated by Boyette (and also written by Joe Gill).
Just like octopuses (who eat small crabs and scallops, as well as snails, fish, turtles, crustaceans, and of course other octopuses), I like a little variety in my diet, so number 2 is humorous rather than scary. How did this octopus manage to figure out which of its tentacles to stick into shorts? Who’s the happy little slug with chickenpox holding up letter “A”? Why does an octopus have beaver teeth?
This is Ha Ha Comics no. 66 (Jun – Jul 1949), published by American Comics Group, or more technically Creston, an imprint of ACG. This seems to be a rather rare issue, unavailable on Comic Book Plus although they have pretty much every other issue of Ha Ha. Thanks to an Ebayer selling this comic, however, I can state with some degree of certainly that this issue features – as advertised – an all-star cast, featuring not only the habitués Izzy and Dizzy (a pair of trouble-prone mice), but also Anthony & Cleopatra, the Impulsive Imps, Robespierre, Hard-Hearted Hannah, Wigglin’ Willie the Worm and Shilly and Shally. Doesn’t it all sound like some sort of battle of the bands? As for the artist of the cover, it’s Dan Gordon, storyboard artist and film director mostly known for his work at Famous Studios and Hanna-Barbera Productions – he did quite a few “funny animals” titles for ACG.
T.T. number 3 is colourful. It also leads to the question “vegetable, mineral or animal?” These tentacles seem to be rather plant-like… if plants had eyeballs attached by blood vessels.
Judging by the adventures of Space Family Robinson, most planets are inhabited by aliens with tentacles. One would think that they’d be very well prepared for this eventuality (not to mention kind of bored by it), but no, the tentacles always take them by surprise.
This is the back cover of Space Family Robinson no. 9 (Gold Key/Western, August 1964), which is just like the front cover minus the text. Painted by George Wilson, who has a nice sense of colour. (Hurray for saturated colours in this sepia-and-grey or orange-and-teal world.)
In the beginning, oh, long before that. When light was deciding who should be in and who should be out of the spectrum, Yellow was in trouble. Even then it seems that green, you know how green can be, didn’t want yellow in. Some silly primal envy I suppose, but for whatever cause, the effect was bad on yellow. And caused yellow to weep yellow tears for several eternals, before there were years. Until blue heard what was up between green and yellow and took green aside for a serious talk, in which blue pointed out that if yellow and blue were to get together, not that they would, but if they did (a gentle threat), they could make their own green. “Ooh”, said green with some understanding. Naturally, by a sudden change of hue, green saw the light and yellow got in. Worked out fine, yellow got lemons and green got limes.*