Treasured Stories: “Where Is the Paradise of Space?” (1962)

« Competition brings out the best in products and the worst in people. » — David Sarnoff

The other day, my partner was trying out a video game whose soundscape seemed exceptionally judicious and well-integrated to the action. At one point, she noticed that the optimal way to play was by matching one’s pace and movements to the musical rhythm. I said, “Oh, it’s just like that Star Rovers story!”

And now for a bit of context: The Star Rovers was a short-lived series that sporadically appeared in the back of DC’s Julius Schwartz-edited titles, mainly Mystery in Space, backing main feature Adam Strange.

As Michael Uslan beautifully puts it, in his introduction to Mysteries in Space: The Best of DC Science-fiction Comics (Fireside/Simon and Schuster, 1980):

« The Star Rovers were a whole other category of space heroes, typical of the kind of originality demanded by Julius Schwartz. A transgalactic trio of playboy, glamor-girl and novelist-thrill-seeker, they rarely agreed about anything and were rarely right about anything even when they did agree. »

This is the third Star Rovers episode, Where Is the Paradise of Space?, from Mystery in Space no. 74,Mar. 1962, DC).
This is the sequence that brought this story to my mind.
One of the most charming aspects of the Star Rovers is the protagonists’ equal footing. In this case, Karel is a bit more than the fellows’ equal, but the series is mostly exempt of the sexism you’d expect from the period of its creation.

Much of the appeal of the Star Rovers is that they’re not a team: they’re friendly rivals, ‘frienemies’, as we’d call them these days. Aside from matching wits and theories, they never directly compete, as differences in their fields of endeavour would make the exercice pointless. There’s a light, jovial tone to these mysteries, yet they can still be taken seriously as intriguing puzzles.

All nine episodes were edited by Schwartz, scripted by Gardner Fox, and illustrated by Sid Greene (1906-72). The latter, a veteran of the comics industry with published work going back to 1940, arguably turned in the finest work of his busy career, and likely would have kept on doing so had it not been for… Batman’s troubles.

To make a long story short, as the Batman titles were shedding readers like there was no tomorrow (making it possible that there would, indeed, be no tomorrow), DC bigwigs opted to switch things around a bit, pulling editor (and Jack Kirby blackballer) Jack Schiff off Batman and Detective Comics and handing him the reins of Schwartz’s SF titles Strange Adventures and Mystery in Space. He ran those into the ground, but in goofily entertaining fashion, at least. Unlike the bat-books, there were expendable to DC.

As the ultimate Star Rovers tale appeared in the final issue of the Schwartz-edited Strange Adventures before the changeover, it seems likely that the series would have carried on under a Schwartz régime. But the Rovers weren’t at all in Schiff’s wheelhouse: the delicate premise called for deft, intricate plotting and wit, qualities not to be found within Schiff’s stable of writers. Gardner Fox and Greene were among Schwartz’s trusted confederates, and talent poaching was rarely allowed within DC’s editorial enclaves.

After this editorial switch, Greene was, with few exceptions, put to work inking the pencils of Schwartz’s big three: Carmine Infantino on Batman and The Elongated Man, Gil Kane on Green Lantern and The Atom, and Mike Sekowsky on Justice League of America. The problem, at least as I see it: Greene’s inks didn’t mesh well with any of these pencillers’ styles. Oh well — it’s a living. At least Greene was able to return to full pencil and ink duties on a handful of short stories for editor Murray Boltinoff, mostly in the pages of The Unexpected. Better late than never.

Finally, for your edification and amusement, here’s a Star Rovers checklist:

Who Caught the Loborilla? (Mystery in Space no. 66, Mar. 1961)
What Happened on Sirius-4? (Mystery in Space no. 69, Aug. 1961)
Where Is the Paradise of Space? (Mystery in Space no. 74, Mar. 1962)
Where Was I Born– Venus? Mars? Jupiter? (Mystery in Space no. 77, Aug. 1962)
Who Saved the Earth? (Mystery in Space no. 80, Dec. 1962)
Who Went Where– and Why? (Mystery in Space no. 83, May 1963)
When Did Earth Vanish? (Mystery in Space no. 86, Sept. 1963)
Will the Star Rovers Abandon Earth? (Strange Adventures no. 159, Dec. 1963)
How Can Time Be Stopped? (Strange Adventures no. 163, Apr. 1964).

-RG

Tentacle Tuesday: Tender Tendrils of Vernal Bloom

« Is the spring coming? » he said. « What is it like? »
« It is the sun shining on the rain and the rain falling on the sunshine… » | Frances Hodgson Burnett, The Secret Garden

Having been meaning for a while now to concentrate on tentacled plant life, I was hitherto stopped by the idea that it’s somewhat unseemly to talk about flora when most of our readership is buried in snow and ice. But now, well! – today was the first day of the year suitable for wearing shorts, and green shoots are popping up wherever one’s gaze happens to land.

We have waited for quite a long time before co-admin RG managed to get his hands on this issue… and it turned out that the insides vary from ‘lacklustre’ to ‘wow, that’s ugly!’ Still, the wonderful, striking cover makes it worth owning, I believe.

Horror: The Illustrated Book Of Fears no. 2 (February 1990, Northstar). Cover by Mark Bernal.

ACG got its tentacle parade in Tentacle Tuesday: ACG’s Adventures Into the Tentacles, but as usual, some material didn’t quite fit the theme, and I saved the following cover for a more appropriate occasion. This, I do believe, is the moment.

Adventures into the Unknown no. 48 (October 1953, ACG), cover by Ken Bald.

Speaking of adventures, let’s delve into Strange Adventures for a bit. The following story has a rather peculiar plot – « Star Hawkins is down on his luck and has to pawn Ilda, his robot secretary. Luckily, Star is hired to locate a fugitive who’s thought to be hiding on Vesta, an asteroid mining settlement, in the Red Jungle. But with a little tracking skill and the help of the creepy vegetation of the Red Jungle, he nabs the fugitive, gets his prisoner, and gets Ilda back from the pawn shop, promising never to pawn her again. »

Page from The Case of the Martian Witness!, scripted by John Broome, pencilled by Mike Sekowsky and inked by Bernard Sachs, published in Strange Adventures no. 114 (March 1960, DC).

Here’s another Earthman (who has dreamed of this moment, by his own admission!) struggling with some coquettish plant tentacles that just want to be friends.

A page from Super-Athlete from Earth!, scripted by Gardner Fox, pencilled by Gil Kane and inked by Bernard Sachs, published in Strange Adventures no. 125 (February 1961, DC).

The next thing after adventures is, naturally, mysteries. If they’re strange, puzzling mysteries, even better… what’s that word I’m looking for… ah, yes: baffling! Another day, yet another ravenous man-eating plant.

Baffling Mysteries no. 19 (January 1954, Ace Magazines). Cover is presumed to be by George Roussos. I think strangulation is not even the worst option here.

One more happy tromp through the jungle? Sure, why not!

Kona no. 12 (October-December 1964, Dell). Cover by Vic Prezio. This giant ant-crab (?) is but one in a long line of supersized animal threats Kona has had to defeat.

The following image was originally created as a cover for House of Mystery no. 251 (1977, DC), but was nixed in favour of another, Neal Adams-penned illustration, which we’ve already featured in a previous post (Tentacle Tuesday: Plants Sometimes Have Tentacles, Too). I prefer this gruesome version (complete with skeleton being digested!… also more detail, more dynamic layout and better anatomy of all involved), pencilled by José Luis García-López and inked by Bernie Wrightson.

Happy gardening to all! And have a look at last spring’s tentacled plant post Tentacle Tuesday: Spring Has Sprung… Its Snare! while you’re at it!

🌱 ds

Hot Streak: Gil Kane’s Green Lantern

« It was exactly an assembly line. You could look into infinity down these rows of drawing tables. » — Gil Kane

Some of our more sensitive readers may have noticed that we’ve been none too gentle with Gil Kane (1926-2000) in the past, dealing him some rather rough lumps at times. But that’s not the whole story: in taking stock of such a protracted and prolific (dare I say profligate?) career as his, much of it inevitably spent on autopilot, one must be discerning. In other words, I like some of Kane’s work, but there’s plenty of it I don’t care for. Still, WOT’s rule of thumb is that if we altogether loathe an artist and/or his work, we’ll just turn a blind eye.

And speaking of the sense of sight, what makes a great comic book cover? Must be my art school training and subsequent work in advertising tipping the scales, but to me, design and layout reign primordial as ingredients… as values. I’m often dismayed at many a would-be critic’s apparent method of assessing an image’s artistic worth, namely: how many popular characters does it feature? Is it action-packed? Is the issue sought-after and expensive? Does it feature a famous character’s début? Is it drawn by a fan-favourite artist who unquestionably do no wrong… because he’s a fan-favourite artist who unquestionably do no wrong? (and how dare you claim otherwise!)

Gil Kane reportedly generated around eight hundred covers for Marvel in the 1970s… of all levels of craft and quality. With that kind of frenzied output, it’s impressive that most were perfectly serviceable, given that there certainly was no time for meticulous, sober planning. They were generally over-captioned (not Kane’s fault!) and crassly sensationalistic, but that’s what Marvel sought and settled for.

It’s a shame that Kane and his former classmate at the School of Industrial Art (back in the early 40s!), DC lynchpin Carmine Infantino didn’t get on too well, because their Silver Age collaborations had a special spark… must have been the animosity. It had been noted by the DC brass, as early as the late 50s, that Carmine’s covers reliably caught prospective buyers’ attention and dimes. And so, by 1967, he was unofficially designing most of the publisher’s covers, and certainly the covers of all titles edited by Julius Schwartz. Green Lantern was among these.

So we turn today’s spotlight on a hot streak of seven. Kane gets his name in the title, but it would be more accurate to say they were Infantino-designed, Gaspar Saladino-lettered, Jack Adler-coloured, Gil Kane-pencilled and Murphy Anderson and Sid Greene-inked covers. The streak begins after Green Lantern no. 54’s downright poor cover, and ends with the interruption of Kane’s impressively long run of consecutive issues.

We begin with Green Lantern no. 55 (Sept. 1967, DC). Harmonious, easy-to-parse arrangement of numerous elements and exemplary integration of text. Design by Infantino, pencils by Kane, inks by Murphy Anderson, lettering by Gaspar Saladino, colours by Jack Adler. Oh, and lest we forget: logo designed by Ira Shnapp (circa 1964), classic Green Lantern uniform designed by Kane (circa 1959).
This is Green Lantern no. 56 (Oct. 1967, DC). Kane was never much for varying his monsters (see below). Pencils by Kane, inks by Anderson.
For a bit of comparison on how things were done from company to company, this is Tales to Astonish no. 91 (May, 1967, Marvel). This is what happens when there’s no planning or attention to detail: in an already-crowded cover, did we really need that ugly box advising us of the presence of The Abomination? He’s right there! (maybe the abomination refers to the cover itself). And the foreshortening nightmare that is the baddie’s left arm was so dire that, when a fan commissioned Arthur Adams to produce a recreation of this cover (which, things being as they are, many surely consider ‘iconic’)… he wisely corrected the anatomy and tweaked the poor composition. Interesting how Marvel’s heavy-fingered yes-man, art director John Romita Sr., was always game to “fix” Ditko and Kirby art, but saw nothing wrong with this one.
This is Green Lantern no. 57 (Dec. 1967, DC), featuring Catastrophic Weapons of Major Disaster!, written by Gardner Fox, pencilled and inked by Kane. Cover by Kane and Greene… love the placement of the signatures!
This is Green Lantern no. 58 (Jan. 1968, DC), featuring Peril of the Powerless Green Lantern! (a Julius Schwartz title if there ever was one), written by Gardner Fox, pencilled by Kane and inked by Greene. I’m not overly fond of the Kane-Greene mix, but Sid Greene, as a penciller-inker did some splendid work on the Star Rovers series (1961-64), co-created and scripted by Gardner Fox.
An issue whose price few can afford unless they bought it off the racks, this is Green Lantern no. 59 (March 1968, DC); pencils by Gil Kane, inks by Murphy Anderson. Featuring the introduction of GL alternate Guy Gardner, who was to be dubiously re(jack)-booted in the 1980s, by Steve Englehart and Joe Staton, as a jackass with an ugly uniform and a worse haircut. Notwithstanding the fact that the Green Lantern Corps would never bestow power and stewardship on such an immature and pompous loose cannon.
This is Green Lantern no. 60 (April 1968, DC); an evident Infantino design, with pencils by Kane and inks by Anderson… which interestingly ends up producing a prototype of Brian Bolland‘s distinctive style… a decade early.
This is Green Lantern no. 61 (June 1968, DC); pencils by Kane, inks by Greene, and featuring (groan) Thoroughly Modern Mayhem!, scripted by Mike Friedrich, pencilled by Kane and inked by Greene. Co-starring Alan Scott, the Golden Age Green Lantern.

-RG

Tentacle Tuesday: Hand Me My Helmet, Harry

The first helmets were used by Assyrian soldiers in 900 B.C., and they were made of thick leather and bronze to protect the head from blunt objects, swords and arrows during combat. Research shows that helmets can significantly reduce the severity of injuries sustained from head trauma. That’s why it’s so important to always wear a helmet when taking part in a potentially dangerous activity.

You may argue that helmets are just a way to be able to breath underwater, a compromise between the bulky scaphandre (less elegantly ‘diving suit’ in English) and the scuba diving mask. Breathing, ha, that’s just a distraction to the real purpose of a helmet during an octopus encounter: it makes the diver’s head look a little like an octopus’ head, thus confusing him and giving a much necessary advantage.

Install yourself comfortably following the example of this happy family of cephalopods, and let’s have a look…

I first encountered David Wiesner when I bought his Mr. Wuffles! book on a whim (it had cats!), but Flotsam, a collection of underwater life illustrations published in 2006, is also clearly of some interest.

Out first helmet of the day is a reasonable imitation of a diving suit! The following page is from Prisoner of the Undersea World!, scripted by Gardner Fox, illustrated by Sid Greene, and published in Strange Adventures no. 155 (August 1963, DC).

I am not sure how he could drink and eat without taking his helmet off, and taking it off would surely mean drowning – luckily, the frogs were smarter than him!

I am pleased to report that not only did the octopus come out of that encounter in one piece, no frog denizens were seriously harmed, either (which makes this tale pretty special, since human heroes tend to go and annihilate anything they don’t understand).

Actual attempts at establishing communication? Colour me impressed!

Our second is a helmeted beauty (albeit twisting in a way that isn’t anatomically feasible) and some of her teammates from U.N.D.E.R.S.E.A. (or United Nations Department of Experiment and Research Systems Established at Atlantis).

Undersea Agent no. 2 (April 1966, Tower Comics), pencilled by Mike Sekowsky and inked by Frank Giacoia.

The cover story is rife with tentacles, but unfortunately doesn’t feature the scene depicted above at all.

Panel from The Return of Dr Fang, scripted by D. J. Arneson, pencilled by Ray Bailey and inked by Sheldon Moldoff.

On the other hand, Buried Under the Sea, a fun read nicely illustrated by Mike Sekowsky on pencils and Joe Giella and Frank Giacoia on inks, has plenty of sea-helmets… but no cephalopods. One can’t have everything, alas!

One easily understands why she made it onto the cover of the comic!

From helmets that are actually connecting to some diving equipment and oxygen canisters, we move on to ones which are just like an upside-down fish bowl somehow magically sitting on the wearer’s shoulders. Style always takes priority over silly things like actually being able to breathe. For more Adam Strange, scoot over to Tentacle Tuesday: Tangles with Adam Strange!

DC Super Stars no. 8 (October 1976, DC), cover by Ernie Chan (signing as Ernie Chua). This issue features a bunch of reprints, mainly reprinted stories from Mystery in Space.

Speaking of Mystery in Space, no. 21 (August-September 1954) has a very appropriate story… proving that the ol’ anti-cephalopod helmet can be used out of water. This is a page from Interplanetary Merry-Go-Round, scripted by Otto Binder and illustrated by Sy Barry… who’s still with us and about to celebrate his 93rd birthday!

Maybe the Martian monster is going ‘beserk’ (sic) because it’s a sentient creature who’s been chained and used for the amusement of stupid crowds?

~ ds

Tentacle Tuesday: Paging Doctor Strange

It’s difficult to impress me with a magician, unless we’re talking real-life magicians with a strong skeptical streak, like James Randi or Ricky Jay. Given that the concept of a person who has access to ‘mystical’ forces and who can manipulate beings (supernatural or otherwise) has been around for as long as humans have been able to communicate with one another, be it through grunts and squeals, it’s pretty damn difficult to come up with a new wrinkle to this old tired nag. Having no previous experience with the series, I had no high expectations for Steve Ditko‘s Doctor Strange, but I was pleasantly surprised. I liked the earnest, solemn Dr. Strange from the beginning, but it’s Ditko’s mind-boggling, soaring surrealistic landscapes that bloomed over time that really impressed me. It’s not an easy feat to make the reader feel like he’s being transported into another dimension, but Ditko pulled it off beautifully, making us feel Dr. Strange’s disorientation as he gets sucked into yet another psychedelic terrain.

To quote comics historian Mike Benton:

The Dr. Strange stories of the 1960s constructed a cohesive cosmology that would have thrilled any self-respecting theosophist. College students, minds freshly opened by psychedelic experiences and Eastern mysticism, read Ditko’s Dr. Strange stories with the belief of a recent Hare Krishna convert. Meaning was everywhere, and readers analyzed the Dr. Strange stories for their relationship to Egyptian myths, Sumerian gods, and Jungian archetypes.

What does this have to do with the current post? Precious little, actually. I’m a firm believer of not recycling dramatis personae past their due by date (defined, of course, as that time when their creator/author moves on to greener pastures, by design or because he has to). Doctor Strange moulded by other hands loses his raison d’être and becomes just another Joe in a funny cape, uttering ineffable, paranormal gobbledygook. Oh, sure, he’s aided by more mystical artifacts than before. How exciting… if you are excited by gadgets and gimmicks, that is.

He also encounters a lot of tentacles, apparently the most mystical, otherworldly apparitions *this* crew could think of. Welcome to 70’s (for the most part) Doctor Strange!

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Marvel Premiere no. 6 (January 1973). Cover by Mike Ploog and Frank Giacoia.

The Shambler from the Sea is scripted by Gardner Fox, pencilled by Frank Brunner, and inked by Sal Buscema and Ralph Reese:

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Dr. Strange no. 1 (June 1974). Cover by Frank Brunner.

Through an Orb Darkly is scripted by Steve Englehart and Frank Brunner, pencilled by Frank Brunner and inked by Dick Giordano:

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Doctor Strange no. 21 (February 1977). Cover pencilled by Gene Colan and inked by Tom Palmer. Is Clea basically humping the (impeccably, gleaming clean) side of the car, basically?

Mind Trip!, scripted by Marv Wolfman and drawn by Rudy Nebres, was published in Doctor Strange no. 22 (April 1977):

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That’s quite a group scene *slurp slurp slurp*

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Why does your image haunt me? Why are my boobs perkily gravitating towards the light?” I can’t even muster a passing interest in figuring out what’s happening in this mess.

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Doctor Strange no. 23 (June 1977). Cover pencilled by Gene Colan and inked by Tom Palmer.

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Doctor Strange no. 30 (August 1978). Cover by Frank Brunner.

A Gathering of Fear! is scripted by Roger Stern and illustrated by Tom Sutton:

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I like Tom Sutton, a Tentacle Tuesday master on this blog.

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Doctor Strange no. 45 (February 1981). Cover by Dave Cockrum and Steve Leialoha.

Wizard of the West Village is scripted by Chris Claremont and pencilled/inked… by a whole bunch of people:

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… and there you have it!

∼ ds

Tentacle Tuesday: Notes on Anatomy

« Their bodies are mainly soft and pliant, with one major exception. In the centre of their web of tentacles lies a hard, sharp and murderous beak that resembles that of a parrot, is a tool for killing and dismembering prey… » (source)

When the story begs for an octopus intervention, artists can go the more-or-less realistic route, or take complete liberties with an octopus’ anatomy. Today I won’t talk about assorted tentacled zoological marvels one finds in comics – insert your choice of description into “… with tentacles”: dinosaurs, sharks, gorillas, robots, old hags, worms, bartenders, and so on. Yes, I can support my claims (email me if you want evidence… or just look through previous editions of Tentacle Tuesday).

Anyway, let’s say you want to draw a somewhat believable octopus – giant, sure, and plenty scary, but somewhat true to life. There’s a problem: frightening brutes generally have some sort of gaping maw, a set of incisors (preferably dripping with some revolting stomach acid), something they can visibly threaten the hero with. The octopus’ mouth is hidden under all that undulating mass of tentacles, pretty much where one would expect a normal creature’s anus to be, and definitely not next to his eyes. For that reason, in most octopuses sightings in comics, their mouths aren’t visible at all. But some artists, well, they want to have their cake and eat it, too. Here is a gallery of octopus mouths – we’ll start off with naturalistic ones, and make out way into that’s not how any of this works territory. I won’t include anything with a lamprey mouth, however.

Here’s the only clean attempt: the beast has a beak, there are no teeth in it, and the eyes are on the other sides of the octopus, where they’re supposed to be. Walter Simonson, you win this one!

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Sword of Sorcery no. 5 (Nov-Dec 1973, DC), cover by Walter Simonson. Fafhrd, is that you?

In the next image, an attempt is made at something vaguely beak-like, but that dentition is definitely wrong. The octopus has some tiny teeth on its tongue which it uses to drill holes or scrape things out, and some razor-sharp hooks/teeth on its suckers, but nothing like normal teeth, which is why no octopus has ever needed dentures.

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Doomsday In The Depths, scripted by Garder Fox and illustrated by Gil Kane, was published in Undersea Agent no. 6 (March 1967, Tower).

The other approach one could take is drawing something that looks like an especially irate parrot, but with tentacles. It is not entirely illogical, as the octopus’ mouth has been described as “similar to a parrot’s beak” by several people in the know.

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Tentacles of Terror was published in Front Page Comic Book no. 1 (1945, Harvey). This page is drawn by Joe Kubert, at at least the signature attests to this – I admit I would have never guessed. There are much nicer Kubert tentacles over at Tentacle Tuesday Masters: Joe Kubert.

Batman recently had a whole Tentacle Tuesday to himself – here he is again, fighting a squid with very unsquid-like features. At first, he looks normal, but glance at the bottom of the left corner – how did he suddenly develop a beak where there was none to be seen several panels prior?

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An excerpt from Four Birds of a Feather, Batman no. 11 (June-July 1942, DC), script by Bill Finger, pencils by Bob Kane (take that particular credit with a grain of salt), inks by Jerry Robinson, backgrounds and lettering by George Roussos.

Continuing the beak-and-parrot theme…

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The Phoenix no. 279 (May 2017). Can anyone identify the cover artist?

A final note to this conversation about octopuses’ mouths – should you locate an octopus, please don’t put it on your face (or any other body parts).

∼ ds

Tentacle Tuesday: All Aboard the Batmarine!

« Even without the benefit of philosophical reflection, anyone who has spent some time in an enclosed space with an excited bat knows what it is to encounter a fundamentally alien form of life. » (Thomas Nagel, What is it like to be a bat?)

Bats and octopuses, now there’s a combination that doesn’t often occur in nature – while both are admirable, fascinating animals, they’re not linked by lifestyle or environment, and neither is the other’s prey. Batman, on the other hand, has definitely tangled with many tentacled monsters in his time (which proves that he’s not a bat). I’m sure today’s post didn’t unearth *all* the octopuses that Batman has had the pleasure of defeating, especially those of a more modern vintage (with mostly horrible art, which is why I’m not too worried)… but today’s selection, you will have to admit, is quite fair.

The Voyage of the First Batmarine!, scripted by Edmond Hamiton, pencilled by Dick Sprang and inked by Charles Paris, was published in Batman no. 86 (September 1954).

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Bat-Mite Meets Mr. Mxyzptlk (he must be from Poland, with a name like that), scripted by Jerry Coleman, pencilled by Dick Sprang, and inked by Sheldon Moldoff, was published in World’s Finest Comics no. 113 (November 1960):

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I totally squee-ed when I saw this panel.

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Justice League of America no. 27 (May 1964), with the cover pencilled by Mike Sekowsky and inked by Murphy Anderson:

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The inside story, The “I” Who Defeated the Justice League! is scripted by Gardner Fox, pencilled by Mike Sekowsky, and inked by Bernard Sachs:

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Batman no. 357 (March 1983). Cover pencilled by Ed Hannnigan and inked by Dick Giordano:

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The cover story, Squid, is scripted by Gerry Conway, pencilled by Don Newton, and inked by Alfredo Alcala:

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Since they threatened us with the continuation of the story, I followed up, and dug up more tentacles. Deathgrip, scripted by Gerry Conway, pencilled by Don Newton and inked by Dick Giordano, was published (as promised) in Detective Comics no. 524 (March 1983):

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Enigma of the Death-Ship!, scripted by Bob Haney and illustrated by Jim Aparo, was published in The Brave and the Bold no. 142 (July-August 1978):

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I mentioned modern comics, earlier – I’ve chosen two examples published relatively recently, with passable art.

The pompously titled Leaves of Grass, Part 3: Comedown!, scripted by Alan Grant, pencilled by Dave Taylor and inked Stan Woch, was published in Batman: Shadow of the Bat no. 58 (January 1997):

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Knightmares, Part 4, scripted by Tom King and illustrated by Jorge Fornes, was published in Batman no. 66 (May 2019):

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To conclude on a more pleasant note…

Tentacled Terror, number 8 in Topps‘ 1966 Batman ‘Red Bat’ trading card set, boasting painted artwork by Norman Saunders.

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∼ ds

Tentacle Tuesday: We’re Off to the Moon!

I think the most disappointing scientific discovery of recent years is that there appears to be no octopuses on the moon. Not one teensy-weensy tentacle was spotted by the lunar rovers (that we dispatched to the Moon for that very purpose, of course). But comics had led us to expect otherwise!

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 Mystery in Space no. 51 (May 1959), cover by Gil Kane.

The inside offers us even more tentacles:

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Battle of the Moon Monsters! was scripted by Gardner Fox, pencilled by Carmine Infantino and inked by Joe Giella.

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In the end, our protagonists realize that the tentacled monster is actually a spaceship, and one manned by humans, at that… after which both parties have a good laugh about having almost annihilated one another. A peculiar sense of humour, those astronauts.

A bit of comic relief…

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Panels from the one-pager Outer Space with art by Bob White, printed in Archie’s Madhouse no. 21 (September 1962)

And back to our scheduled program of lethal, tentacle-sprouting monsters that attack the moment anyone sets foot on the moon.

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« Traveling at an incredible speed, the rocket reaches the moon in twenty three hours and lands in the gigantic crater… » And what is waiting for our hero, freshly stepped from his rocket? Funny you should ask… Page from Rocket to the Moon (1951 one-shot, Avon) scripted by Walter Gibson and illustrated by Joe Orlando.

Here’s a good instance of the good folks at Marvel getting quite confused. The First Men in the Moon, published in 1901, was written by H. G. Wells. From the Earth to the Moon was written in 1865 by Jules Verne. Which one is this supposed to be an adaptation of, then? I can confirm that the vaguely ant-like creatures with tentacles are H. G. Wells’ creation. His Selenites are described as following: « They are vaguely similar to quasi-humanoid ants, about five feet tall, with a light physical constitution enclosed in an exoskeleton from which slender jointed limbs and whip-like tentacles protrude. »

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Marvel Classics Comics no. 31 (1978), cover by Alan Weiss.

However, the first page of this comic informs us that…
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So I guess whoever laid out the cover screwed up. The insides, scripted by Don McGregor and drawn by Rudy Mesina, are considerably better drawn, and an unqualified tentacular treat.

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I think the artist just wanted to draw tentacles, and this post is clearly not the place where he is likely to be judged for that little peccadillo.

Did this adaptation succeed in being faithful to and respectful of Wells’ influential novel? Well, not really, although an honest attempt was made. But I found that it focused far too much on the fight scenes, and left out quite a few complex nuances as well as skewing the philosophical underpinnings of The First Men in the Moon. That being said, if you like tentacles, I heartily recommend reading this issue. I cringe at the very idea of recommending something from the Marvel Classics line, but honestly must prevail. Really, it’s good fun. Take a look —

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Did the artist go into tentacle overdrive? Oh boy, did he ever!
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Thanks for traveling with us today! If you want more tentacles in space, visit Tentacle Tuesday: Have Tentacles, Will Space Travel, or perhaps Tentacle Tuesday: Entangled in Tentacles with Adam Strange. As for me, I’m waving my tentacle (I do have one on a bookshelf) and bidding you adieu until next Tentacle Tuesday!
~ ds
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Tentacle Tuesday: Monsters with Really Long Arms

A favourite trope of tentacular obsession in comics is populating stories with monsters boasting exceptionally long arms (sometimes more than one pair) that they can wind around stuff with ease. In other words, monsters with tentacle forelimbs. You’d have to abstain from comics altogether to never encounter that of which I speak (or stick to slice-of-life comics, I guess). A little demonstration is in order.

Here’s a trick question: what kind of being lives on planet Octo? Duh: Octo-men! The following Flip Falcon story, illustrated by Don Rico (and not “Orville Wells”, despite claims to the contrary), was printed in Fantastic Comics no. 17 (April 1941).

Fantastic Comics #17

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Interesting that “dog” is used as a slur even on planet Octo, despite there clearly being no canines around.

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Nasty little brutes, aren’t they?

The Super-Tests of the Super-Pets! (scripted by Edmond Hamilton, penciled by John Forte and inked by Sheldon Moldoff) is every bit as goofy as it sounds. I actually enjoyed reading it, much to my own amazement. Anyway, while Proty II (Chameleon Boy’s pet) transforms into quite a few creatures to pass the super-test, he clearly favours tentacular forms (and who could blame him?) This was published in Adventure Comics no. 322 (July 1964).

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How is it worse to be a jellyfish instead of some sort of blobby ectoplasm thing?

Speaking of Proty II and ectoplasm, a dozen issues later, the Legion decides to visit his home planet, which is just full of these jello-marshmallow doughboys, Protean citizens all. Part I: The Unknown Legionnaire and Part II: The Secret of Unknown Boy! (both parts scripted by Edmond Hamilton, penciled by John Forte and inked by Sheldon Moldoff) were published in Adventure Comics no. 334 (July 1965).

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To terrify Proteans, whose appendages are borderline tentacles, Saturn Girl decides to conjure up a… monster with tentacles.

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In case you didn’t believe me that Proteans have “tentacles”.

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The shape-shifting Proteans turn into more streamlined versions of themselves, with more pronounced tentacles. I swear, everyone is obsessed.

Next, I’d like to regale you with a fight scene illustrated by Murphy Anderson (yum!): Scourge of the Human Race!, scripted by Gardner Fox and published in Hawkman no. 15 (August-September 1966).

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Isn’t it a lovely last panel?

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If I Can’t Be Clark Kent… Nobody Can!, published in Action Comics no. 524 (October 1981), scripted by Martin Pasko, penciled by Curt Swan and inked by Frank Chiaramonte, offers us a nice helping of tentacles.

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If I should see an octopus
Lift its arms out of the sea
Or see its shadow rising up
Cross the rooftops above the streets
I’d follow those dancing limbs
To the spinning edge of the sky
Where all the boats fall off the world
Into the octopus’s eye

~ ds

Hot Streak: Joe Kubert’s The Atom and Hawkman

« Calm down, Harris… this is no teleportational phenomenon we’re dealing with… » — Hawkman, “Yo-Yo Hangup in the Sky!”.

In 1968, though DC was still handily outselling Marvel, the industry leader was beginning to feel the heat. Now, to be fair, not nearly as much as revisionists would surmise: Marvel’s top-seller, The Amazing Spider-Man, was only in twelfth place. Of course, Marvel was hobbled by distribution issues, but that problem would come to an end that very year.

Anyway, as neither of DC’s solo titles The Atom (38 issues, June-July 1962 – Aug.-Sept. 1968) nor Hawkman (27 issues, Apr.-May 1964 – Aug.-Sept. 1968) were doing all that well (both of them missed the top sixty in 1968), it was decided to attempt to merge the books in order to perhaps save them. Well, it didn’t work, but some splendid covers were created, and that’s what brings us here.

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The Atom and Hawkman no. 39 (numbering continued from Atom’s book, not Hawkman’s), November 1968. Insides by Robert Kanigher, Murphy Anderson and Joe Giella. Which one’s the Titan and which the Fury? They take turns. Check it out here.

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The Atom and Hawkman no. 40 (Jan. 1969) holds a rare treat: a highly unusual pairing, one that was only repeated once to my knowledge (in the following issue): Joe Kubert on pencils and Murphy Anderson on inks. The tale is The Man With an Inbuilt Panic Button, scripted by Gardner Fox. Peruse it here while you can.

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My candidate for the slightest cover of the Atom/Hawkman combo title, but only since the competition is so fierce, and well, it’s kind of busy. This is The Atom & Hawkman no. 41 (Feb.-Mar. 1969), edited by Julius Schwartz and featuring Return of the Seven-Year-Dead Man, written by Gardner Fox, pencilled by Dick Dillin and inked by Sid Greene, and Yo-Yo Hangup in the Sky!, written by Fox, illustrated by Kubert and Anderson. Feast your eyes here.

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This is The Atom and Hawkman no. 42 (Apr.-May 1969). Read it here!

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Robert Kanigher & Joe Kubert’s Gentleman Ghost, first appeared (so to speak) in Flash Comics no. 88 (Oct. 1947) had not been seen (hee hee) since the Golden Age, and he returned to pester Hawkgirl and Hawkman in Come to My Hanging, scripted by Kanigher and illustrated by Murphy Anderson. Meanwhile, The Atom stars in Buzzin’, Buzzin’ — Who’s Got the Buzzin’?, scripted by Dennis O’Neil, pencilled by Dick Dillin and inked by Sid Greene. This is The Atom and Hawkman no. 43 (June-July 1969). Read it here!

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Kubert clearly relished delineating his Gentleman Ghost, and who could blame him? That sticky-fingered filcher is one snazzy-looking felon. This is The Atom and Hawkman no. 44 (Aug.-Sept. 1969). Read it here!

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This is The Atom and Hawkman no. 45 (Oct.-Nov. 1969), featuring Queen Jean, Why Must We Die?, by Denny O’Neil, Dick Dillin and Sid Greene, whereas our heroes are enslaved by Ray “The Atom” Palmer’s girlfriend, Jean Loring. It was a common theme in DC Comics, just ask Superman and Green Lantern, for starters. Anyway, read the whacked-out tale here.

As a bonus, one could consider the final issue of Hawkman (no. 27, Aug.-Sept. 1968), the first entry in Kubert’s streak. Well, I do, and that’s that.

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It is said that late each year, Thanagarians mark the winter solstice by taking to the snowy skies to join cuddly flying Yeti in frolic. Look at them cute lil’ buggers. When the Snow-Fiend Strikes! is scripted by Raymond Marais, pencilled by Dick Dillin and inked by Chuck Cuidera.

-RG