Tentacle Tuesday: Dark Tendril of Contagion

« Morticoccus is overpoweringly large and sinister! In this new world he can live — only if he destroys all other life around him — kingdoms and empires would crumble to dust at his deadly touch! Morticoccus waits in his prison — he waits to get out — and breed!! »

I apologize, but according to co-admin RG (whose sense of humour is apparently more morbid than mine) this is Contagion Week on Who’s Out There? Well, I suppose tentacled microbes and germs are as good a topic as any right now…

Our first foray into germs is This Beachhead Earth, scripted by Roy Thomas, penciled by Neal Adams and inked by Tom Palmer, published in The Avengers no. 93 (November 1971). The Vision collapses, the Avengers send Ant-Man into his body to figure out what’s amiss. I made an earnest attempt at following the plot, but the bad dialogue made my head hurt. Did you know that the scream of an ant « is like the wailing of a forsaken child »?  The story includes gems like « frankly, my dear, I don’t give an hydroelectric dam» and « therein lies the only true superiority of the educated man — that he analyzes — dissects — probes — reconstructs ». Oh, the glorious mix of bad puns and pompous lines!

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You can read this « paltry prologue to the most portentous Avengers saga of all! », the work of a fellow who’s just a little too fond of calembours and his thesaurus, here.

Continuing on a grand scale – this time, it’s the grandest scale there is! – we pay a visit to the aforementioned Morticoccus (sinister a’plenty, you shall surely agree), arguably the most fatal disease known to mankind, or at least the deadliest to spring from Jack Kirby‘s fertile mind (ouch) . As for me, I really like the giant, lethal bats.

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Kamandi, The Last Boy on Earth no. 10 (October 1973). Killer Germ! is written and pencilled by Jack Kirby, and inked by Mike Royer, with whom co-admin RG has conducted an interview. 
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Our third medical study is a little case of fungoid infection that even boasts a name. M’Nagalah had a rather complicated birth. Created by British horror writer Ramsey Campbell for his cycle of H.P. Lovecraft pastiches (to be more precise, the creature first appeared in the short story The Inhabitant in the Lake in 1964), it was soon adopted by DC Comics, after doubtlessly being bowled over by its puppy eyes while visiting a no-kill shelter of the Great Old Ones. It was first borrowed for Swamp Thing no. 8 (1974) and afterwards used as per the Russian idiom “a plug for every barrel“. Just look at this mess.

Challengers of the Unknown no. 82 (August-September 1977), scripted by Gerry Conway, pencilled by Michael Netzer, and inked by Joe Rubinstein, starts off with a just mild (if disgusting) contamination…

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That fast progresses to the old “unspeakable, indescribable horror” (yawn).

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Swamp Thing gets dragged in, and professor Mark Haley blooms prettily in the beginning of Challengers of the Unknown no. 82 (October-November 1977), also scripted by Gerry Conway, but this time pencilled by Keith Giffen and inked by John Celardo

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It is soon explained that this is actually some Elder God trying, as usual, to take over the planet, blah blah blah.

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Wishing everyone health and bon courage in these trying times, especially to our poor American friends who seem to be caught in the middle of the virus vortex… And a last strip to end on a more positive note:

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Calvin & Hobbes strip from February 7, 1993. May our worst encounter with microbes be of the digestive variety!

Oh, all right, one more:

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Page from The Incredible Shrinking Tightwad, published in Uncle Scrooge no. 359 (November 2006). Story by Don Rosa, of course!

∞ ds

Hallowe’en Countdown III, Day 7

« Phooey on trick or treaters! This year I’M going to have all the fun — play the tricks and eat the candy myself! » — foolish words from Donald

Whoa, lots of action for poor Unca Donald this Hallowe’en, some of it possibly malevolent. Best hand out the treats and be generous, to be on the safe side.

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This lovely painting entitled Halloween in Duckburg was created in 1973 by the incomparable Carl Barks, aka The Good Duck Man. It’s based on his cover for Walt Disney’s Donald Duck no. 26 (Dell Comics, Nov. 1952), which in turn was based upon the Disney cartoon short Trick or Treat.

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Watch it here… while you still can.

As a bonus, here’s a nice Donald mask (not that Donald… right colour, but too scary) for your trick or treating purposes, from the same issue’s back cover.

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– RG

The Unassuming Brilliance of William Van Horn

« Sepulveda Von Lovely looks much better in a handlebar, if I do say so myself! » — ‘Bumps’ (2004)

Since the 1980s, when it came to carrying the torch of Good Duck Man supreme Carl Barks, there have been three clear contenders, namely Daan Jippes, Don Rosa and William Van Horn. All three are outstanding talents, and honestly, no single being can take the place of Barks. In the end, Van Horn is my pick, because he’s the most complete package*, possessing his own lively, economical style in both writing and drawing (and that includes his expressive lettering, a perennially underrated art form). His work is just a pure joy to read, while Jippes is arguably too close to the model and Rosa’s stories sometimes feel like continuity-saddled homework. Van Horn is a natural.

On the occasion of Mr. Van Horn’s eightieth birthday (he was born on February 15, 1939, and is thankfully still with us), here’s a modest Van Horn comics sampler, opening with his first comics series after decades of work in animation and children’s books, Nervous Rex, and continuing into his work for Danish Disney comics packager Egmont**.

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From Don Markstein’s Toonpedia: « Cartoonist William Van Horne created the series, which lasted ten bimonthly issues (September, 1985 through March, 1987). Like Russell Myers, creator of Broom Hilda, he used a style clearly inspired by George Herriman’s Krazy Kat, without being a slavish imitation. Van Horn, who had made his living for decades in commercial art and children’s book illustration, had earlier come to the attention of the comics community with a couple of minor series in Critters, a funny animal anthology published by Fantagraphics Books. »

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Here’s the opening of a twelve-pager, Just a Humble, Bumbling Duck, published in Walt Disney’s Donald Duck Adventures no. 13 (June, 1991). Written, drawn and lettered by Van Horn and coloured by Susan Daigle-Leach. Read the issue right here.
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Donald Duck Adventures no. 2 (July 1990, Disney), illustrating Van Horn’s “Rootin’, Tootin’ Duck”. Read it here. You can tell when a soul’s worked in animation. Nary a hint of stiffness.
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Donald Duck Adventures no. 18 (Nov. 1991, Disney), illustrating Van Horn’s “That Ol’ Soft Soap”. read it here.
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Walt Disney’s Comics & Stories no. 616 (Sept. 1997, Gladstone), featuring Van Horn’s “Catch of the Day”. Read it here.
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Uncle Scrooge no. 322 (Oct. 2003, Gemstone), illustrating Van Horn’s “The Utter Limits”. Read the issue here.
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Walt Disney’s Comics & Stories no. 655 (Apr. 2005, Gemstone), featuring Van Horn’s “Full Circle”. Read it here.
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Walt Disney’s Comics & Stories no. 680 (May 2007, Gemstone), featuring Van Horn’s “In a Minor Key”. Read it here.

A most joyous 80th anniversary to you, Mr. Van Horn! Fittingly, I leave the last word to our humble birthday boy: « Let’s create our own classics if we can… but heaven help us if we think we’re doing that. We should follow Barks’ lead and regard these stories as something to pay the rent and buy the pot roast. »

– RG

*it’s pronounced Pah-kawje

**speaking of Egmont, this sobering note from Van Horn, from a brief interview conducted by John Iatrou in 2010: « Disney comic books in North America have been virtually a dead issue (no pun intended) for over a decade, possibly two. Sales here hover around 4000 copies a month! This on a continent of over 350 million people! Egmont has never tried to publish here. They thought about it years ago and decided it wasn’t worth the effort. » So there you have it. Van Horn and Don Rosa have been producing their ducks for the European market, to be then reprinted, with piddling print runs, in North America. Nul n’est prophète en son pays… On the other hand, if you’ll forgive me for saying so, most European Disney comics are utter garbage, and have been for decades. If you like endless arrays of Donald as a superhero, Donald as Michael Jackson or Indiana Jones, Rappin’ Donald… you’ll be in hog heaven. “Opera Mundi crap“, we used to call it.