Tentacle Tuesday: Dark Horse, Pt. 3

Dark Horse seems to publish more mini-series heavily dependent on tentacles that you could shake a stick at, and enough spin-offs of spin-offs to make one’s head spin. Still, I have been dutifully saving the… shall we say, less ugly… tentacle-heavy DH covers I have come across, and since there is clearly little point in hoarding them, the time has come for a part III. Visit the previous instalments here: Tentacle Tuesday: Dark Horse, Pt. 1 and Tentacle Tuesday: Dark Horse, Pt. 2. Your mileage may vary!

I have to include at least a couple of things I actually somewhat like per post, whatever pleasure I may get from mocking the rest.

The first is the back cover of Madman Comics no. 4 (October 1994), with art by Dave Stevens, with well-defined, slimy tentacles and plenty of boobage. That’s Madman (created by Mike Allred) in the middle, but he surely ends up ending up in the background of his own adventure, courtesy of the cephalopod and skin-tight costumes of the damsels.

Continuing with the 90s, here are two Star Wars covers by Mark Schultz who’s, err, distinctly not at his best – though bringing one’s best to Star Wars would be a waste, anyway.

Classic Star Wars no. 8 (April 1993).
Classic Star Wars no. 17 (March 1994).

Continuing with the 90s…

Dark Horse Comics no. 15 (November 1993). Cover by John Higgins. The suggestive-yet-fuzzy shapes made me think that this woman is bare-bosomed and possibly vagina dentata-ed at first. The teeth belong to the tentacled monster, the nakedness is still a possibility.

This one I like far more:

The Thing from Another World: Eternal Vows no. 1 (December 1993). Cover by Paul Gulacy. Upon seeing this, co-admin RG quipped ‘oh, what’s left of Gulacy‘ (after his run on Master of Kung Fu, that is).

Finally, we have three Black Hammer-related covers, which made me look up this series since I didn’t even know of its existence before spotting these tentacles. Created by Jeff Lemire and Dean Ormston, it’s apparently doing quite well (given that it started in 2016, and is still ongoing with many spin-offs, awards received, and a possible TV show).

Black Hammer no. 4 (October 2016). Cover by Dean Ormston.
Black Hammer no. 4 (October 2016). Variant cover by Jeff Lemire.
Black Hammer: Visions no. 6 (July 2021). Cover by Malachi Ward.

No Dark Horse post about tentacles can avoid the elephant in the room, namely Hellboy and Mignola. If that’s what floats your boat, I covered that ground in Tentacle Tuesday Masters : Mike Mignola.

~ ds

Q: What’s Michael? A: Kobayashi’s Most Special Cat

« Michael is, simply put, Japan’s version of Garfield, Heathcliff and Krazy Kat all rolled into one. » — Wizard: The Guide to Comics*

* I actually disagree with all three comparisons, aside from the fact that the first two comics are also about orange cats, but this is the review Dark Horse used to promote the series.

What’s Michael? (ホワッツマイケル? in Japanese) is a comic series by Makoto Kobayashi about a cat named Michael who goes about his cat life in a pretty standard way. He spends most of the day snoozing, has distinct food preferences, and likes to meow loudly at night while courting his favourite cat lady. One would not be entirely unjustified in thinking that cat lovers will read any old comic that prominently features felines (I have occasionally been guilty of that myself!), but I am convinced that there’s something special about this series.

One of the things that makes it so endearing is that Kobayashi has a very good grip on feline body language, making it fun to follow even the poorest excuse for a plot, like for instance Michael contemplating which cozy enough spot to select for a nap. That being said, he doesn’t limit himself to realistic cat situations, often featuring cats acting like (very goofy) people, parodying human and feline at the same time.

Natural cat body language… and different ways in which cats just can’t bend, cheerfully pointed out.

Some readers are more interested in the outlandish stories, of which there are many (ranging from cat parodies of various movies to plain weirdness), some develop a soft spot for the recurring human (or semi-human) characters. Michael himself switches owners like switching gloves, depending on the needs of the story, and there is not much continuity. Kobayashi’s ideas can be a little hiss or miss, but there’s something here for everyone… provided you like felines, of course… adventures of a vampire count who is scared of cats are side-by-side with wacky cat food commercials, depictions of everyday life of various cat-besieged country bumpkins alternate with cat street gang rumbles, and all of that is sprinkled with humans-as-pets interludes. And, naturally, our ordinary yet handsome tabby Michael drinks, sleeps and plays alongside Popo, his wife, their kittens, and a rotating cast of other cats (Catzilla comes to mind!) and the poor, often put-upon dog nicknamed Bear.

The Count’s quest for a pretty neck to bite is, as always, thwarted by Michael or one of his relatives.
Michael, Popo and their kittens on the prowl for a soft spot for a snooze.
One of the strip’s running jokes is that Michael passionately hates Morning Cat canned food, and will go to ridiculous lengths to avoid eating it.

The following sequence illustrates one of Kobayashi’s favourite tricks, namely to start off with more-or-less normal cat behaviour and veer off into an unexpected direction:

As you have probably noticed, Kobayashi often opts for exaggeration when it comes to people’s facial expressions, which sometimes leads to results that are more grotesque than funny. He also enjoys drawing pretty women, but that is more obvious elsewhere, for instance in his series Club 9 (Dark Horse has published 3 volumes of that and abandoned the project before the story’s end, much to my annoyance).

In Japan, What’s Michael? was published in the weekly magazine Morning starting in 1984, and it even won the Kodansha Manga Award in 1986. There seems to also have been quite a few collections released.

One of the Japanese editions of volume 1 and 2.
Cover of another collection from 1987; Bear likes to sit and watch cats playing.

In 1988, its popularity was also rewarded with a 45-episode anime which was also broadcast in Italy and Spain (at least according to a Russian article I found). The following is the cover of a collection of these episodes, as far as I could ascertain:

In the US, it was published by Dark Horse‘s manga imprint. I am not entirely sold on the translation (the aforementioned country bumpkins, for instance, talk as if they were in a cheesy would-be Western written by somebody who has no understanding of the genre), and it also bothers me that the comics were published in the standard American left-to-right reading direction. I think it is a relatively recent phenomenon to leave manga as it was drawn when translating it into European languages – audiences have become more refined.

An example of the story going interestingly off the rails, in the proper right-to-left format.

Apparently there are stories that have never been translated, as they were deemed unfit for Western audiences (those intrigue me, yet my knowledge of Japanese is nil!), but those that were selected by whomever is in charge of these decisions have been collected in 11 volumes, published between 1997 and 2006. Most of them are quite out of print by now; I managed to gather all eleven over the years, though while writing this post I discovered that Dark Horse has decided to rescue this series out of its out-of-print-darkness and re-publish the works in two 500-page volumes. Am I going to purchase those? Yes, of course, as there is bonus material involved! Though the wrong reading direction remains wrong, alas.

Volume 8 of Dark Horse’s initial What’s Michael? run.

I enjoyed reading a review of the first volume of the reissue on Al’s Manga Blog, and maybe you will, too: What’s Michael? Fatcat Collection Vol 1.

~ ds

Guy Davis: Quietude and Cataclysm

« It’s a lot easier to draw rubble when deadlines hit. » — Guy Davis

Today, on his birthday, we seize the occasion to salute prodigious autodidact Guy Davis and to look upon his works, no despair necessary.

Born in Michigan on November 20, 1966, Guy Davis started out in comics in 1981 with a SF strip, Quonto of the Star Corps, published (he suspects his dad had something to do with it) in local newspaper The Clarkston News.

From there, he delved into sword and sorcery with The Realm (1986-1988, Arrow), then made significant strides toward his mature style with punk saga Baker Street (1989-1991, Caliber).

He then hit the majors, devoting most of the 90s to pencilling and inking the bulk of Sandman Mystery Theatre‘s quite respectable run (70 issues + 1 annual, 1993-1999, DC/Vertigo), Matt Wagner‘s darkly revisionist chronicles of Wesley Dodds, the Golden Age Sandman… pre-yellow-and-purple togs.

I must confess that I wasn’t, at this point, particularly fond of Davis’ style. His endearingly schlubby, potato-schnozzed characters had yet to work their charm upon me. But the writing was compelling, Davis’ storytelling was strong and clear, so I stuck around.

However, I’m not ambivalent at all when it comes to his subsequent work, wherein he ditched his often awkward cross-hatching, his inking improved by leaps and bounds in expressiveness, and he was at long last paired with a colourist that fully grasped his singular style.

This is The Nevermen no. 4 (Aug. 2000, Dark Horse). Cover by Guy Davis.
Page 22 of Nevermen no. 1 (May 2000, Dark Horse). Written by Phil Amara, pencils and inks by Davis, colours by Dave Stewart.
Page 8 of The Nevermen no. 4 (Aug. 2000, Dark Horse). Same personnel…
Page 15 of B.P.R.D. Plague of Frogs no. 1 (Mar. 2004, Dark Horse). Story by Mike Mignola, pencils and inks by Davis, colours by Dave Stewart.
Page 22 of B.P.R.D. The Dead no. 3 (Jan. 2005, Dark Horse). Story by Mignola and John Arcudi, pencils and inks by Davis, colours by Dave Stewart. Shot from the original art, courtesy of, er… the author’s collection.
And in case you’ve ever wondered just what a good colourist can contribute to the finished product, let alone the finest colourist in the business. Ladies and gentlemen, Mr. Dave Stewart!

Guy Davis on his collaboration with Dave Stewart:

I was never never happy with my work in color — I hated the idea of it — until [ Dave Stewart ] started coloring me in B.P.R.D. He had this textured brush look that was just perfect for my linework. My linework is not clean, and before Dave, everybody who’d color me would do a standard house style. They wouldn’t adapt for each artist, and that’s what makes Dave so amazing is that he adapts his style for the art as opposed to trying to shoehorn one style of coloring — which a lot of colorists do — into every artist’s style.

(from an interview conducted by Eric Nolen-Weathington and published in Modern Masters Volume 24: Guy Davis, 2010, TwoMorrows)

Page 22 of B.P.R.D. The Dead no. 3 (Jan. 2005, Dark Horse), by the aforementioned.
This is B.P.R.D. The Dead no. 4 (Feb. 2005, Dark Horse). Cover by Davis and Stewart.
Page 11 of B.P.R.D. The Dead no. 4 (Feb. 2005, Dark Horse). Note that Stewart doesn’t fall back on one go-to, characteristic colour palette; he has range. Muted, saturated, bright or dark… he uses what the situation calls for. That’s what a true artist does.
Page 18 of B.P.R.D. The Dead no. 5 (Mar. 2005, Dark Horse). Now *that* is a library.
With his love and mastery of period detail and the human proboscis, wouldn’t you say that Davis would have been the ideal candidate to depict legendary pulp hero The Shadow? A 2005 drawing excerpted from Guy Davis Sketch Macabre Volume 2 (Oct. 2006).

Frankly, I don’t think Mr. Davis ever received his due in comics; he remained an artist’s artist, reliable and productive, but relatively unsung. On B.P.R.D., he allowed Mr. Mignola to envision events and visions on a far, far grander scale than Hellboy’s creator could have realised by himself. After Davis resigned from the title and exited the comics field for challenges and well-earned success, artistic and financial, in the realms of film and video games, there simply wasn’t anyone able to fill the void he’d left.

Just check out that résumé

Happy birthday, thanks for everything and all the best to you, Mr. Davis!

-RG

p.s. In selecting artwork for this essay, I forced myself to exclude any and all instances of tentacles, and trust me, there were plenty. We haven’t made it official yet, but if anyone ever deserved the title of Tentacle Master…

Tentacle Tuesday: Dark Horse, Pt. 2

Back in August, I promised to follow Tentacle Tuesday: Dark Horse, Pt. 1 with another instalment of cephalopod material issued by this publisher. The time, as they say, has come! While I’m not always on board with the comics they opt to publish (rarely, I might even say), I do like today’s selections.

Dark Horse obtained the licence to produce James Bond comics in 1992. The result is a number of series and stand-alone comics – Serpent’s Tooth was the first, a three-part miniseries. The following two pages are from Serpent’s Tooth Part III: Mass Extinction, scripted by Doug Moench and illustrated by Paul Gulacy, published in James Bond 007: Serpent’s Tooth no. 3 (February 1993).

You decide for yourself which James Bond this is .

In 2007, Dark Horse stepped into a partnership with New Comic Company, who had earlier acquired from Warren the rights to Creepy and Eerie. The result was the gradual publishing of ‘archival’ hardcover collections of all issues of Creepy and Eerie magazines. In 2009, DH launched the ‘new’ Creepy Magazine, which mostly featured new stories, sprinkled with the odd reprint. A revived Eerie soon joined it.

Dark Horse’s revival of the classic Warren magazine is a mixed bag – this issue for instance, features several new stories and a reprint from 1970 (Life Species by Bill DuBay). This is Eerie no. 1 (July 2012). Cover by Jim Pavelec.

Incidentally, if you’re a Warren fan, we’ve covered a lot of tentacled ground with Tentacle Tuesday: Warren and Its Many Tentacles, Part I and Tentacle Tuesday: Warren and Its Many Tentacles, Part II.

The next story is Tentacle Master Mike Mignola‘s ‘Champion of the Worms‘, which held my lazy interest for a few pages… until I found out that it’s actually quite good. What a pleasant surprise for one who had such low expectations! It also brims over with tentacles. The following three pages are from ZombieWorld: Champion of the Worms (October 1997), scripted by Mignola and illustrated by Pat McEown.

Not everybody can boast to such a classy octopus hat!

Last but not least… Scarlet Traces is a sort of sequel to Ian Edginton and D’Israeli‘s adaptation of H. G. WellsThe War of the Worlds, with heavy Dan Dare and Doctor Who references. This story wears its Englishness on its sleeve!

Scarlet Traces: the Great Game no. 4 (October 2006). Art by British artist D’Israeli, whose real name is actually Matt Brooker.

~ 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: Wrap Your Brain Around This!

The brain-with-tentacles is curled up at the comfy intersection of two beloved tropes, the Brain Monster and the Tentacled Terror. Through some clever combining, one is guaranteed a truly horrendous creature that’s at least 25% more appalling than either of its step-parents. It’s the favourite of many a filmmaker and comic artist, and the toast of this particular post!

It may be a little too early to wrap yourself around a drink (at least in this part of the world), so you’ll have to enjoy this Tentacle Tuesday sober.

A friendly critter from Fiend Without a Face, a British movie from 1958.

One has to pay one’s dues to the classics: Basil Wolverton‘s The Brain Bats of Venus, originally published in Mister Mystery no. 7 (September 1952), is unquestionably indispensable, so I could hardly turn a blind eye to it. In case you were out that night and missed it, you can read the whole story at The Horrors of It All blog.

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The tentacled brain has several means of locomotion at its disposal, and while crawling around spasmodically is a great mood-setter, floating around gives one much better scope of movement. The following is one of those floaters, aided by some mechanical gizmos.

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Superboy & the Legion of Super Heroes no. 241 (July 1978). Cover pencilled by James Sherman and inked by Joe Rubinstein.

The cover story, Prologue to Earthwar is scripted by Paul Levitz, pencilled by James Sherman and inked by Bob McLeod:

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It’s just the worst when a brain launches into a tedious monologue after attacking you.

Superboy241--prologuetoearthwar.jpg

As implicitly suggested earlier by that panel from Brain Bats of Venus, some brain-monsters latch onto their victims’ brains, either sucking them out like you’d do with a coconut and a straw, or taking over people’s minds by puncturing some unsavoury holes I’d rather not think about too closely. A character in the following issue of World Below, when it is kindly suggested to her that perhaps it would be a sound idea to sever her ties with the tentacled thing on her head, mentions that « it hurts them to release — terribly. And it’s hard to reconnect, too. Like surgery without anaesthesia.» The implications are… unpleasant.

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The World Below: Deeper and Stranger no. 2 (January 2000), cover by Paul Chadwick. Say, that’s a stylish hat you’ve got there, fella!

Zombies! is scripted and pencilled by Paul Chadwick and inked by Ron Randall, with grey tone separations by Jason Hvam:

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I would recommend not taking advice from women with a cephalopod on their heads.

 

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The headaches this hat must cause… just think of the neck pressure from having to support 40 pounds of octopus-flesh.

 

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Oops, that doesn’t look like it’s going to end well.

Moving along to goofier pastures…

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SpongeBob Comics no. 49 (October 2015). Cover by Kelley Jones.

This is perhaps getting ever-so-slightly beyond the parameters of today’s brain theme, but the inside of this issue hides a gem in its otherwise dull pages (although I have to be fair: the stuff is much better than I expected). Behold: Spongebob in Monster Canyon, written by Kaz and drawn by Tony Millionaire, both favourites of this blog. With such excellent parentage, one expects something wonderful, and one is not disappointed.

spongebob49-story1.jpg

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Keep a close eye on your brains, folks, lest they be transformed into mindless mush by brainy aliens with tentacles with a taste for grey matter. I’d also stay away from TV, just in case… 

∋∈ ds

Phew, That Was Close!

« Death smiles at us all, all a man can do is smile back. » — Marcus Aurelius

The other day, I chanced upon a Rick Geary piece about tangos with the Angel of death, which returned my mind to a time, when I was but six years of age, and that my parents had gone holidaying, leaving me in the care of some old friends. At their home, I recall perusing some back issues of that evergreen Reader’s Digest (the French-Canadian edition, called Sélection du Reader’s Digest), wherein I encountered some memorable articles, including one about the miraculous survival of people who tumbled from great heights*, unencumbered with parachutes, and another that grimly recounted the calamitous landslide that one night engulfed a village, Saint-Jean-Vianney, just a few kilometres from my hometown.

Ah, but human memory is notoriously fallible and self-deceiving. So I deemed it prudent to inquire whether the events were truly as recollected. A quick call to my folks confirmed that yes, they did toddle off to Europe for three weeks in November of that year (I think my parents are delighted when I quiz them about such matters). The landslide took place in May, so that fits too.

As the close shave lends itself well to comics, I’ve gathered a potpourri of short pieces on the topic. Tighten your seatbelts, we’re in for a rough ride!

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A presumably factual two-pager from New Heroic Comics no. 70 (Jan. 1952, Famous Funnies), featuring artwork by no less an eminence than the great Harry Peter (according to Ger Apeldoorn, which is good enough for me). The whole ‘salt of the earth’ thing rings pretty hokey, but one has to appreciate that this account of selfless heroism wasn’t whitewashed.

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This post’s springboard, originally published in Dark Horse Presents no. 82 (Feb. 1994, Dark Horse). From Heavy Metal to National Lampoon, with High Times and The American Bystander in between,  I’ve yet to encounter a publication wherein Mr. Geary’s work failed to rise to the very top with its patented palette of fanciful perspective, sunny understatement and psychological verisimilitude. 

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An airborne entry from Gordon Johnston‘s Ripley’s Believe It or Not-style syndicated strip ‘It Happened in Canada‘ (1967-81). However, the Wikipedia listing of historical tornadoes in Canada fails to turn up one such whirlwind in 1823. Perhaps it happened in Kansas instead.

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Pesty baby brother saves the day! Another entry from New Heroic Comics no. 70 (Jan. 1952, Famous Funnies), artist unknown. Astoundingly, a little research (I wouldn’t want to pry further) indicates that a Donald P. Kiselyk, now 73, still resides in New Jersey. Doing the math, he would have been born in 1947, which fits perfectly). I wonder whether he recollects his hour of four-colour glory…

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Another It Happened in Canada entry. Looks legit, too, though it seems Johnston didn’t nail the spelling: the resilient gent’s moniker is Myllyla. According to Wikipedia, « At 9:57 in the morning, an avalanche of snow buried the Leduc Camp in British Columbia, killing 27 copper miners working for the Newmont Mining Corporation workers and destroying several buildings. Another 42 of the 68 people buried were rescued on the same day, while a carpenter, Einar Myllyla, was saved three days later from the ruins of a collapsed building. “To their everlasting credit”, author Jay Robert Nash would write later, “rescuers refused to abandon their search until every man in the camp had been accounted for. »

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Obviously, I couldn’t leave out this Gary Larson classic.

Keep your arms and legs in the vehicle, don’t tease the wild animals, wear your life jacket, look to both sides before crossing the road, and don’t forget to floss. Oh, and call your mother more often; she misses you.

-RG

*the fellow whose tale stayed with me was most likely Lt. I.M. Chisov, « … a Russian airman whose Ilyushin IL-4 bomber was attacked by German fighters in January of 1942. Falling nearly 22,000 feet, he hit the edge of a snow-covered ravine and rolled to the bottom. He was badly hurt but survived. »

Recalling Tomorrow With Dean Motter

« Mister X has always puzzled me. I’ve never been exactly certain where he came from. It seems like he has always been present — maybe not skulking through the perplexing shadows of the city so much as through some kind of collective unconsciousness. » — Dean Motter (1986)

On this day, back in 1953, the celebrated art director, graphic designer, writer-illustrator and cartoonist Dean Motter was born in Berea, Ohio, not far from Cleveland.

Over the course of his illustrious career, Motter has flitted in and out of comics, often in tandem with a rather remarkable array of collaborators, among them Jaime Hernandez, Paul Rivoche, Seth, Ty Templeton and Michael Lark… but just as frequently on his own.

As you’ll see, though he is quite adept in a vast range of media and techniques, nearly all of his mature work is lovingly filtered through his abiding interest in Will Eisner’s The Spirit, film noir, Art Deco, German Expressionism, with, I’d say, a soupçon of Soviet Propaganda art… resulting in a surprisingly cogent and coherent retro-futurist vision. The future as seen from the past, in short. And that’s just the visuals.

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Ah, youthful indiscretions! Motter’s cover for the inaugural issue of the tabloid version of Andromeda (1974, Media Five; Bill Paul, editor). Herein, Motter wears some rather less highfalutin’ influences on his sleeve, notably those of Mssrs. Brunner, Kane and Steranko. « Focus Fire ~ white Eclipse The Aurora Anti-Cosmos Splitting Heavens Apocalypse. »… concluded Young Master Motter’s epic poem, Celestial Circuit Cirkus.

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An early appearance from (a yet-unnamed?) Mister X, snuck its way onto a Canadian reissue of Patrick Cowley‘s Megatron Man (1982, Attic Records). And here is a later, rather dodgy recycling of his artwork that must give Dean some choice nightmares.

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A nice change of pace to showcase his range, this is Motter’s cover for Mister X no. 6 (Dec. 1985, Vortex). This splendid logo, débuting here, would thankfully return from time to time.

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This is Mister X no. 8 (Oct. 1986, Vortex); In its subtlety, this cover stretched the limits of what was technically possible in comics printing at the time, in terms of saturation and contrast.

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In the late 1980s, Motter jumped at the chance to write and illustrate Shattered Visage (oh dear me, a Shelley quote!) a sequel to 60s British television classic The Prisoner (4 issues, prestige format). This is the (much improved) cover to a 2019 reprint (Titan Books) of the original 1990 DC Comics collected edition.

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This is Electropolis no. 2 (Sept. 2001, Image), a spin-off of his Terminal City limited series (1996-97, DC Comics).

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Page two of Epilogue Prologue from A1 no. 1 (Atomeka Press, 1989), story and art by Motter.

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Cover from Mister X: Eviction no. 2 (June 2013, Dark Horse).

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The cover of Dean Motter’s Mister X: Eviction & Other Stories (Nov. 2013. Dark Horse).

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Front and back cover spread of Mister X: Razed no. 4 (May 2015, Dark Horse). Unusually done in gouache, if I’m not mistaken.

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One of the current comics field’s crasser, most mercenary outfits, Dynamite Entertainment specializes in the frivolous mangling and mingling of established franchise properties, with the wankbait titillation ramped way the hell up and variant covers out the wazoo. Sample titles: Red Sonja & Vampirella Meet Betty & Veronica (twelve issues so far, as it’s so very high-concept), Barbarella / Dejah Thoris, or Army of Darkness / Xena… I mean, check out this train wreck of a lineup. Such is the power of their brain-dead crappitude that they even managed to produce an abysmal mini-series from a Roger Langridge script, a career first for the great man. Their not-so-secret weapon: in the hallowed publisher’s tradition of the old bait-and-switch, they don’t scrimp on the slick-as-spit cover artwork. This is The Shadow no. 25 (May 2014); a variant cover, need you even ask?

Aside from his comics work, Motter spent a considerable part of the 1980s working for the Canadian arm of what was then the biggest (and possibly stingiest) record label in the world, CBS/Sony, shepherding or designing beautiful and clever covers for albums that were often neither… but that’s an art director’s job, cynical as it may seem. Anyway, you know you’ve made it when your work rates a pastiche decades on; to wit:

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This reminds me of how a single-minded, contrarian generation of Chuck Klostermans has taken over music criticism in order to wipe away the work of the Obama Administration Robert Christgaus and Dave Marshes of this world, aiming to vindicate and impose their beloved childhood bands, which once were the reigning critics’ whipping boys. Nowadays, you’ll find 4 and 5 star ratings (out of five, there’s no room here for moderation!) of Van Halen, Kiss, Loverboy and Journey albums, which was unthinkable at the time of their release. Plus ça change…

What is there left to do but to warmly wish Mr. Motter the finest of birthdays… at a safe distance? Alles Gute zum Geburtstag!

– RG

Tentacle Tuesday: “…to swallow yesterday”

« The tentacles of today reach out like an octopus to swallow yesterday. »

That’s a quote from Gladys Taber, columnist for Ladies’ Home Journal in the 19th century, and almost as good as “put your foot down with a firm hand”.

Another thing tentacles of today… or any day… do is reach out for women, preferably ones in skimpy outfits. ’nuff said.

By now, I’m completely confused about who Ms. Marvel is supposed to be, but here is some version of her battling an octopus with a heavy hangover or a bad case of conjunctivitis. This blondie is Carol Danvers, I believe, though, that her usually bare stomach has been wrongly coloured red… but I can’t muster enough interest to care.

MsMarvel16
Ms. Marvel no. 16 (April 1978, Marvel). Cover pencilled by Dave Cockrum and inked by Terry Austin.

The next one is a scene from a fantasy world, though pray note that the tentacle grabs the woman, not the guy who’s right behind her, nor the gorilla (?) who’s right in front of her.

In case anybody is wondering about the plot of this 6-issue series by Bo Hampton, « A wizard, an air force pilot, and a young woman on a mysterious quest, join forces on a “lost planet” accessible only through magic corridors. As Ambrose Bierce, a self-taught wizard who disappeared from Earth in 1914, tells them, when the evil Zorrin family conquered the planet Iriel, they killed off its scientists so it could be dominated by the Zorrins’ magic. Before they can return to Earth, the heroes have to destroy the lotus potion which subjugates the world’s populace to the Zorrins’ will. » (source)

LostPlanet3
Lost Planet no. 3 (September 1987, Eclipse), cover by Bo Hampton.

There’s very little science in these Thrilling Science Tales – and would you expect any from a story with a protagonist named Stormy Tempest? (any relation to Joey?) Trying to untangle her hair from the tentacle’s suckers/cilia is going to be horrendously painful, but I suppose she has more serious things to worry about.

ThrillingScienceTales2
Thrilling Science Tales no. 2 (1990, AC Comics). Cover pencilled by Mark Heike and inked by John Dell. The brown slime oozing from the tentacle’s embrace is profoundly disturbing, IMHO.

The following is not exactly a worthy use of Mark Schultz‘ talents, but at least it’s a nice, intriguing cover. The insides are not drawn by him, in case you’re wondering.

Subhuman4
SubHuman no. 4 (February 1999, Dark Horse), cover by Mark Schultz.

Pulpo comics
This Mexican science-fiction comics anthology was published in 2004. The cover is by Mexican cartoonist and illustrator Bernardo Fernández, who’s also the editor.

I’ll wrap up with some eye candy – I was pleasantly surprised to discover that it was actually drawn by Bruce Timm and not one of his many imitators. A Timm comic with tentacles and more than a subtle hint of seduction? I’m very pleased, indeed.

Batman- HarleyandIvy2-Bruce-Timm
A page from Batman: Harley & Ivy no. 2 (July 2004, DC). Jungle Fever! is scripted by Paul Dini and drawn by Bruce Timm. I recommend reading the whole thing, if only for the art.

∼ ds

Tentacle Tuesday: Dark Horse, Pt. 1

Today’s Tentacle Tuesday is dedicated to Dark Horse Comics, one of the largest independent comic companies (the third largest, period, after Marvel and DC – at least according to their website). That being said, I’m not a huge dusky stallion fan – one of my gripes is that this publisher tends to reprint older comics (like the Harvey Comics Treasuries) on inappropriately glossy paper, as well as ramp up the contrast on the art until the background is so dazzlingly white you could probably blind yourself with it. On the other hand, a lot of mangas translated to English are published by their imprint, Dark Horse Manga – I am profoundly grateful for What’s Michael?, for instance (even though it’s not the first thing that comes to mind, manga-wise).

Throughout DH’s run (it was formed in 1986), it has housed the work of quite a few influential artists and writers, as well as published many long-running and award-winning series. Overall, this publishing house is a force to be reckoned with… and a lot of their pet series (like Hellboy) have tentacles galore. Shall we take a look-see?

Ragemoor#2-JanStrnad-RichardCorben
Ragemoor no. 3 (May 2012), cover by Richard Corben.

I’ll get around to reading Dept. H one of these days, but in the meantime, some tentacles from this suspenseful (or so say the reviews!) deep-sea who-dunnit:

DarkHorseDept.+H+hardcover+v1
Dept. H no.1 (April 2016), cover by Matt Kindt.

DeptH7
Dept. H no. 7 (October 2016), cover by Matt Kindt, colours by Sharlene Kindt.

DarkHorseBlack Hammer Justice League#1
Black Hammer / Justice League no. 1 (July 2019), a variant cover by Yuko Shimizu.

I mentioned Hellboy earlier – speaking of that, unsurprisingly, a large chunk of today’s post features covers from this ever popular series. But am I going to show you regular covers? Naah, too obvious.

«Dark Horse Comics printed a precious few blank covers on the landmark Hellboy and the B.P.R.D. 1952 #1, and the Hero Initiative commissioned 100+ top artists to do an original drawing on each cover. Presented here is the gallery of ALL 109 original covers!» (See them here.)

I picked a few that I liked, but make sure you click on that link because about three quarters of those commissioned covers are awash in tentacles. Now that’s what I call good, nay, great commission art!

HellboyandtheBPRD1952-ChrisIvy
Cover by Chris Ivy. Chosen because despite the abundance of all manner of creatures, the eye is automatically drawn to the Cthulhian horror that’s politely waiting its turn for devouring and whatnot.

HellboyandtheBPRD1952_lanagan_walter
Cover by Walter Flanagan. They’re somewhat, shall we say, timid tentacles, but that’s what I like about ’em.

HellboyandtheBPRD1952_glendenning_ben
Cover by Ben Glendenning. Chosen because of the WTF factor of a creature with a dozen scaly, plant-like tentacle-arms.

HellboyandtheBPRD1952__crain_clayton
Cover by Clayton Crain. Probably the most gruesome cover of today’s post, included for the blood and entrails and disquieting albino-ness of it all.

HellboyandtheBPRD1952__allison_grace
Cover by Allison Grace. I hope that cigarette isn’t implying anything… untoward has happened.

And a last cover, just to leave you on a quiet, peaceful note…

AliensDefiance-no6- October2016
Aliens: Defiance no. 6 (October 2016).

This is, by no means, an exhaustive list – stay tuned for a Part 2, coming to your computer and cellphone screens sometime soon (when you least expect it!)

~ ds