Tentacle Tuesday: Groping Vines and Other Shenanigans

What better way to start Tentacle Tuesday than with the Big Pop-Up Book of Giant Squids? Sensitive people may want to skip this one.

PopUpTentaclesA« Dirk Dragonslapper », other than making me giggle every time, sounds like an actual character from some fantasy trilogy, which may be a comment on the state of fantasy these days (hint: it’s not fantastical). I’ll go with the cephalopods, thanks!

Incidentally, there’s a lot of dreadful fantasy covers out there (and that’s quite out of the scope of this blog, anyway), but I can’t resist sharing this one with you.

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Poor Fritz Leiber! An octopus holding a bunch of swords at completely ridiculous angles, a squat muscle-bound freak with a bare ass and some booby green-and-purple women floating a distance away. Thanks, Peter Elson.

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Let’s take a break from cuteness. Next up is some serious cause for alarm from Tom Sutton, who’s excellent at psychological horror. His weird art is full of details one can sink into; his sketchiness and sweeping lines leave one with the disquieting impression of being inextricably pulled into a distorted, nightmarish world.

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Damsel in distress from « Budding Evil », Haunted no. 17 (July 1974, Charlton), both scripted and drawn by Tom Sutton. Tell me you can look at the girl’s face as she’s getting strangled by tentacles and not get goosebumps.
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The meat-eating flowers have seriously disturbing “buds”… the best of us would have fainted!

There’s an inspired essay about Sutton here which I heartily recommend! I’ll take the liberty of borrowing a great Sutton quote from it (itself taken from a 2000 interview by Jon B. Cooke for Comic Book Artist no. 12). Voilà:

« They published weird stuff, and I have always been fascinated by weird stuff, and the weirder the better….  I do owe a certain amount to Charlton, because they allowed me to write a lot of ditties of my own, to paint a lot of horrible covers, and they never, ever, ever remarked on my technique. »

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Brr. I think we need an example of straightforward macho heroism to counter-act the icky impression left by the creeping horror glimpsed above. Here’s Doc Savage to the rescue, as usual. Watch the epic struggle between muscled man and malevolent tentacled beast!

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Original cover art for Doc Savage no. 8 (Marvel, Spring 1977) by illustrator Ken Barr. And no, I don’t have the answer as to why Doc Savage’s normally bronze hair looks like a white bathing cap here. However, Barr seems to have enjoyed painting it – just look at that glistening musculature!

Let’s see the cover as it was published:

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A bit too much text, guys. C’mon, you have a tentacled monstrosity with indubitably evil eyes, a man with rippling muscles and bulging veins… We’ve figured out that Doc is its next victim (just as surely as we know that he will come to no real harm).

Interestingly, upon opening the magazine, the first thing one sees is a Tom Sutton illustration. Small world! The cover story, « The Crimson Plague », is an adaptation of a novella published in Doc Savage Magazine in September 1939, and most likely written by Lester Dent (as Kenneth Robeson), who’s responsible for most of the classic Doc Savage epics. It’s an « adventure in which Doc Savage and his team deal with kidnapped scientists, captured comrades, and the deadly secret of the Octo-Brain » (sounds exciting, doesn’t it?) and is illustrated by Ernie Chan.

~ ds