Tentacle Tuesday: A Child’s Garden of Carnivorous Plants

« Drosera’s snap tentacles — which can sense moving prey — catapult insects directly onto the glue tentacles at the plant’s center, where the prey is digested. What’s more, the catapult system is very effective—the insect almost never escapes. » (source)

Which child hasn’t passed through a temporary fascination with Venus flytraps in particular, and carnivorous plants in general? From there it only takes a tiny shift of the imagination to arrive at man-eating plants, which grab their victims with murderous tentacle-like tendrils, crawling vines and grabby creepers. Today we delve into one of my favourite sub-categories of tentacle obsession: plant tentacles.

This spine-chilling greenery often deploys its lethal vines in some remote corner of the Earth (well, in comics, at any rate). This, I firmly believe, is far scarier than the idea of other planets harbouring these carnivorous forms of life. After all, our chances of landing on Mars or somesuch are slim, and we’re a lot more (though not very) likely to wind up in some mysterious jungle.

But first, we deal with that old trope about a power-mad scientist breeding some man-devouring monstrosity in a pot, garden or greenhouse.

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Shadow Comics v. 2 no. 8 (November 1942, Street & Smith), cover by Vernon Greene.
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Page from Horror House, the cover story, scripted by Walter Gibson and illustrated by Jack Binder.
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The Botanist of Death, scripted by Joe Blair and illustrated by Lin Streeter, was published in Blue Ribbon Comics no. 19 (December 1941, Archie)
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 Gespenster Geschichten no. 550. One would think that a vampire getting restrained by a carnivorous plant is actually a *good* thing, but the lady seems unimpressed. Maybe she wanted to get bitten?

When I was a wee girl, my dad would give me piles of adventure books to read. Quite a few of them involved some intrepid explorers discovering (or literally falling into) a jungle (often hidden in some volcanic crater) in which prehistoric creatures had somehow survived (among the novels I remember reading were Sannikov Land and Plutonia by Vladimir Obruchev, The Lost World by Conan Doyle, Journey to the Center of the Earth by Jules Verne, The Land That Time Forgot by Edgar Rice Burroughs, etc.) Cue dinosaurs and woolly mammoths! As I loved dinosaurs, I didn’t mind this recurring theme, which by now seems a little, shall we say, hackneyed.

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Turok, Son of Stone no. 26 (Dec. 1961-Feb. 1962, Dell), cover by George Wilson.

The cover story, The Deadly Jungle, is scripted by Paul S. Newman, penciled by Giovanni Ticci and inked by Alberto Giolitti.

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Very much on topic is this installment of Land Unknown (a comic adaption of the 1957 science fiction movie), scripted by Robert Ryder and illustrated by Alex Toth, published in Four Color no. 845 (August 1957, Dell).

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I shall doubtlessly return to this topic again. In the meantime, visit Plants sometimes have tentacles too and The Hungry Greenery.

By the way, the Drosera plant (more precisely, a genus that includes about 152 species) – called Sundew in common parlance – is not only lethal, but beautiful, too.

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A real-life plant tentacle in action – goodbye, little insect.

~ ds

 

Tentacle Tuesday: Bits and Bobs of Gold Key

« And pray that this beautiful stranger is pleasing to the taste of the demon DARGOMMA! »

We have already covered a lot of Gold Key territory… there’s Tentacle Tuesday Masters: George Wilson and his painted covers for Gold Key as well as Tentacle Tuesday: Gold Key’s Octopian Plenitude. But it is my credo to never leave an octopus behind (lest he creep up on you with evil intentions), so I’d like to add a few covers we haven’t seen yet.

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Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea no. 2 (July 1965). Cover by George Wilson.

Todd Franklin of Neato Coolville has actually transformed this cover into a groovy wallpaper (go to his website to download the high-res version).

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Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea no. 13 (August 1968). Cover by George Wilson.
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Brothers of the Spear no. 7 (December 1973), cover by George Wilson.

That previous cover has borderline tentacles, I agree, but the completist in me insisted on its inclusion. Also, it’s entertaining.

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The Tree That Walks is illustrated by Jesse Santos. The story tags as detailed by GCD are «chariots; draft elands; giant carnivorous plants; human skeletons; leopard; rock slides; saddle elands». I had to look up “elands” (it’s an antelope). How much more entertaining can one get?
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Tales of Sword and Sorcery Dagar the Invincible no. 11 (April 1975). Cover by the underappreciated Luis Dominguez.

A beautiful cover this may be, but the insides are distinctly underwhelming. The title story, It Lurks by Moonlight, is scripted by Don Glut and illustrated by Filipino artist Jesse Santos, who seemed like a likable artist with a wide-ranging career… but his art is not my cup of tea.

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Boris Karloff Tales of Mystery no. 93 (August 1979), cover by Luis Dominguez. The cover story is Dum-Dum’s Basement and we’ve covered it in Tentacle Tuesday: Domesticated Octopus Seeks Soulmate

The painting lost something in detail (a lot, actually) when it was made into a cover… this is more what it originally looked like:

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Crisp octopus!

~ ds

Hallowe’en Countdown III, Day 19

« Since man cannot live without miracles, he will provide himself with miracles of his own making. He will believe in witchcraft and sorcery, even though he may otherwise be a heretic, an atheist, and a rebel. » — Fyodor Dostoyevsky

Here’s the earliest recorded appearance of Futurama’s Phillip J. Fry, and it would appear that he’s in for a heap of trouble… voodoo trouble! Fortunately, world-class sleuth Ellery Queen is on the case and on his side. That’s him discreetly crouching behind a gravestone.

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This once-upon-a-midnight-dreary George Wilson beauty served as the cover of Dell’s Four Color no. 1243 (Nov. ’61 – Jan. ’62), the tale of The Witch’s Victim, featuring interior art by Mike Sekowsky, with inks by, from the look of it, George Roussos.

I wonder what Fry had done to get a coven so howling mad at him? I mean, just look at that innocent face…

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Here’s how the painting fared in print.

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A couple of sample pages from the story…. interesting to see the tension between the staid-by-design Dell style and a bit of an iconoclast like Sekowsky. It’s impressive that Mr. S. could find the time, between pencilling the rollicking monthly adventures of Snapper Carr, to moonlight for the competition… but here we are.

Has your interest been piqued ? Enjoy the tale in its entirety, courtesy of Karswell’s fine blog, The Horrors of It All.

– RG

Tentacle Tuesday Masters: George Wilson and his painted covers for Gold Key

« Savage plants, monster mutations, human vultures… »

George Wilson (1921-1999), prolific cover illustrator for Dell Comics and Gold Key from the 1950s through to the 1970s, is such a ubiquitous figure for anyone interested in comics of that era that it’s almost like he’s taken for granted by comic aficionados. “Oh, yes, another gorgeous George cover”, we say and move on to something else. Let’s not, shall we? We can admire his trademark bright colours, eye-popping attention to detail and impeccable compositions *and* celebrate Tentacle Tuesday. And there’s all kinds of tentacles in these covers – organic or motorized, animal, mineral, or… plant-like. (I refuse to use “vegetable” as an adjective.)

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Mighty Samson #11 (August 1967). This might just be the most random menace (and the most ridiculous set-up) I’ve seen in a while.

Mighty Samson was created by writer Otto Binder and artist Frank Thorne, and involved a heroic barbarian-type sword-and-sandaler loitering around a dystopian, post-nuclear disaster world that has reverted to something resembling the Stone Age. One thing that amused me – not only is our dashing hero blond, but so is his love interest (apparently recessive traits help survive radioactivity). The evil temptress-cum-scientist is a dark-haired femme fatale, obviously. You can read each and every issue of Mighty Samson here.

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Panels from “The Swamp Rats”, written by Otto Binder and drawn by Jack Sparling, whose art is for some reason hated by many (the same many who have no trouble with bad art from other, more publicly accepted artists).

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Doctor Solar, created by writer Paul S. Newman and editor Matt Murphy, was fairly humble at first, despite his somewhat ponderous moniker. (« The Man of the Atom »!) Originally clad in a normal lab-coat, he acquired his red costume in issue #5. The source of his super-powers? A nuclear disaster, of course. It’s difficult to be impressed by that when everyone and their auntie is getting exposed to radioactivity. I try to keep in mind that Doctor Solar was one of newly-formed Gold Key’s first publications, and in 1962, a nuclear war seemed imminent whatever side of the continent you were on… but I’m still bored. There’s a list of Atomic Superheroes with 27 items in it here, but it only includes public domain characters.

Of special interest are the first two issues of this series because they boast glorious covers by Richard Powers. Go look at them. That’s an order.

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Doctor Solar, Man of the Atom #21 (October 1967).
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Doctor Solar, Man of the Atom #24 (July 1968).
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Page from “The Deadly Trio”, written by Dick Wood and drawn by Ernie Colón. That “monstrous master of the sea” is so freaking cute!

You can read all issues of Doctor Solar here. How much time do you have on your hands, anyway?

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Fantastic Voyage #2 (December 1969).

This two-issues “series” features « adventures based on the cartoon about the Combined Miniature Defense Force (CMDF) with Jonathan Kidd, Erika Lane, Dr. Guru, and Busby Birdwell. » Clearly, nobody cared about the comic. Maybe someone cared about the animated TV series the comic was based on.

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Speaking of boring… I haven’t yet encountered *one* issue of Ripley’s Believe It or Not! that wouldn’t cause me to yawn or start rolling my eyes. However, painted covers are often worth dwelling on, and the inside art is also occasionally quite nice (especially when it’s by Luis Dominguez).

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Ripley’s Believe It or Not! #12 (February 1969).

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The Microbots #1 (December 1971). The tentacled monster was designed by Jack Sparling, who illustrates This Is the Way the World Ends and Day of the Juggernaut, but the cover art is by George Wilson.

There’s an excellent (and suitably sarky) review of this one issue of Microbots on Gone & Forgotten. Here’s a little taste: « Superstitious, parochial, and frequently eaten alive by mutated elephants, the people of the future world have turned their backs on technology. » Bet you’ve never seen *that* sentence before. Or — « The Microbots are the creation of Dr. Norman Micron (of the Connecticut Microns, I presume), a scientist living in the dire times of a world succumbing to man’s pollution. ‘Mankind had ample warning that he was destroying the world around him’ he muses, standing by a window with a highly-desirable garbage view. »

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The crew of the Starship Enterprise keeps running into tentacles, it seems. (Presumably, they couldn’t do it as convincingly on the TV show, as the visual effects weren’t quite up to snuff.)

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Star Trek #24 (May 1974). Gold Key published Star Trek comics between 1967 and 1978, for a total of 61 issues. They weren’t a rehash of the TV series, and featured original characters and stories, although later issues included sequels to a couple of episodes (which is pretty cool, if you ask me).
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Star Trek #29 (March 1975).

Gail O’Brien shared this snippet on a forum about Wilson’s art, sadly a fairly typical story: « You might be interested to know that George’s widow (a friend of mine) has had no income from his paintings as they “disappeared” from his estate at his death while they were separated. She is presently living on small retirement from teaching. I’ve tried to influence her to seek legal advice to acquire her share of George’s sales, but she feels it is impossible… hope there is a lawyer who enjoys George’s work, who would want to go on a 50/50 basis to acquire what is rightfully belonging to my friend. » |source|

Look at more (less tentacle-centric) George Wilson art here.

~ ds

Tentacle Tuesday: Gold Key’s Octopian Plenitude

Today’s tentacle adventure brings us a bounty of Gold Key covers.

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The Close Shaves of Pauline Peril no. 2 (September 1970). Cover by Jack Manning. I love the Pauline Peril series – it’s such loveable nonsense, with dynamic art and fusillade-style dialogue. However tempting it may be to jump to that conclusion, It’s not a comic-book adaptation of a TV cartoon. Read a whole issue (number four, to be more precise, the last one) at, appropriately, the Ominous Octopus Omnibus blog.
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Hanna-Barbera The Addams Family no. 3 (April 1975). The adorable cover is by Bill Ziegler. Is there anything groovier than a froggy belt-buckle? I think not.
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Looney Tunes no. 11, 1976. Cover artist unknown. The boat has been filled beyond legal capacity, and no-one’s wearing their mandatory Mae West. The Safety Octopus is here to ensure that the offending parties are brought up to standards (or at least given a tentacle slap on the wrist).

And just to offset all the cartoony, cutesy stuff, here’s a cover featuring an epic struggle, a life-or-death situation, a decisive skirmish between Man and Beast. (I’ll let you guess which is which, though.)

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Boris Karloff Tales of Mystery no. 37 (October 1971), cover by George Wilson. Here we have a tentacled creature – “Sea-Beast” for friends – defending a village of innocent people against some sort of flaming monstrosity by shooting water from its tentacles (trunks?) at the flames. Hey, somebody should hire it as a firefighter!

~ ds

Tentacle Tuesday: Grabby Denizens of the Airless Void

Aliens inevitably have tentacles. It’s a simple fact of life for any space explorer. Although I’m sure you wouldn’t dream of doubting my words, here are a few exhibits for your pleasure.

We’ll start off with a tentacle bonanza! This is what happens when you cross an octopus with a centipede.

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Spaceman #6 (July 1954), cover by always-enjoyable Joe Maneely. “Speed Carter, Spaceman”  only lasted six issues, which is unfortunate – the stories are a lot of fun, with great art and intelligent-but-humorous scripts.

When “plant creatures” (who look remarkably like toothy goldfish) gone berserk deploy their tentacles to strangle you – in space, no less – , it must be Tentacle Tuesday.

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Space Family Robinson Lost in Space #30 ( Gold Key Comics, October 1968). Cover by George Wilson, whose paintings are usually quite well executed (and this is no exception). The tentacle story, titled “Attack of the Plant Creatures”, is scripted by Gaylord Dubois and illustrated by Dan Spiegle. Incidentally, Space Family Robinson was an original science-fiction comic by Gold Key, and predates the Lost in Space TV series.

Seriously, who keeps stranding these vicious octopuses in space?

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Space Ace #5 (1952, Magazine Enterprises), cover by Dick Ayers. I like these elegant space suits of the 50s, where naught but a small glass bubble and a tiny tank provided all the air one might need, and the costumes were tight enough to show off the guy’s muscles. The tentacle wrapped around the astronaut’s leg looks severed.
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Just watch Solar-Brain nimbly dismantle an expensive piece of machinery with its tentacles. Tsk, tsk. These panels are from “The Living Gun”, a story from Metal Men #7 (April-May 1964) written by Robert Kanigher, pencilled by Ross Andru and inked by Mike Esposito.

Since I like pointing things like that out, please note that all the plot points of “The Living Gun” that concern Platinum (the only girl on the team) are fucking inane. She gets jealous when Doc Magnus is wooed by a beautiful model; participates in a beauty pageant while everybody else continues with their scientific research; attacks her team-mates when she’s disqualified from the pageant for not being human; quits the Metal Men in a huff and barely makes it into the epic battle pitting Magnus and his Metal Men against the murderous, power-grabbing Solar Brain. Girls will be girls… at least when a certain writer with the initials R.K. is around.

~ ds

Tentacle Tuesday: Seafaring octopuses and the men they have shamelessly devoured

Ahoy, landlubbers! Today’s Tentacle Tuesday goes back to the good ol’ days of nautical journeys, ships crushed by mighty tentacles, and brave men who end their lives as snacks for the mighty cephalopod.

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Printed in Pilote Hors série aventure no 17 bis (October 1975, Dargaud). The story is titled L’Antoinette Pécuchet, from the cycle Les histoires de Pemberton, written and illustrated by Sirius (real name Max Mayeu, Belgian cartoonist).
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After most of the crew is swallowed up by the starving octopus, our narrator gets the bright idea to stick some dynamite into the pocket of the next sacrificial lamb and lights it just before he’s eaten. “The octopus savoured Nolasque with a healthy appetite. Suddenly, she hiccuped loudly, like a burping baby… Pale, she threw us a glance of bitter reproach, and dove into the water, never to be seen again.”

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Speaking of the Sargasso Sea (frequently depicted in fiction as a perilous area where ships go to die, mired in Sargassum seaweed, unable to escape), here’s another vignette about that mysterious spot. Incidentally, it is the only sea that doesn’t have land boundaries, enclosed by the Gulf Stream on the west side, the Canary Current on the east, the North Atlantic Current on the North and the North Atlantic Equatorial Current on the South. No wonder people thought it was full of mystery and danger! Even I, more or less immune to the siren’s call of wild maritime adventure, feel a little thrill at its mention. *Ahem* back to comics.

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Boris Karloff Tales of Mystery no. 29 (March 1970), painted cover by George Wilson.

As is often the case, the original painting has a lot more detail than the printed version:

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The original painting for “Creature of the Sargasso Sea” by George Wilson.

What does this peculiar, one-eyed beast look like closer up, one might ask? Something like this:

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A page from Creature of the Sargasso Sea, pencils by John Celardo and inks by Sal Trapani. Furry octopuses are my favourite!

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The sea can bring many (other) strange things, including a sword-wielding octopus… who should have stayed in the water, where he had the home advantage, instead of attempting to wage battle on sort-of land.

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A couple of pages from Fafhrd and The Gray Mouser, a comic adaptation of Fritz Leiber’s cycle of sword-and-sorcery stories. Adaptation by Howard Chaykin, art by Mike Mignola, who’s inked by Al Williamson. This 4-issue series was anthologized in 2007 by Dark Horse; these pages were scanned from Book 4, published in 1992 by Epic Comics.
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One can only hope to be as stylish while fighting a many-tentacled monster.

~ ds

Tentacle Tuesday: Swashbuckler vs Octopus

For as long as there have been tentacles, there have also existed brave men to combat them (preferably whilst garbed in tight costumes).

Heroes have battled poor, innocent octopuses in water…

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« The mantled crime-battler makes a desperate lunge… a razor-keen blade knifes into rubbery flesh! » Prize Comics no. 43, July 1944. The cover is by Dan Zolnerowich, illustrating a scene from « Wanted – Dead Or Alive ». Dick Briefer’s Frankenstein also puts up an appearance in this issue, this time fighting – pardon, smashing – the Nazis.

The aforementioned scene doesn’t look anything like it does on the cover, involving a much bigger tank, an orange octopus, and a quite underwhelming fight scene (my main emotion was sympathy towards the octopus for getting stabbed by some idiot in a mask with ears).

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Nobody was asking you to get into the tank, bubba. Observe the octopus knitting its tentacles together in distress (we knit our brows; octopuses knit their tentacles).

Octopuses have also been defeated by valiant warriors in space…

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« Earth to Starlab – why don’t you answer? » «Well, sir, we were grabbed by this giant space-octopus and he just won’t let go…» Boris Karloff Tales of Mystery no. 56, 1974 (This one is a Whitman variant.) This painted cover is most likely the work of the prolific George Wilson.

And intrepid daredevils have also gone tentacle a’manglin’ in… say, what is that gooey stuff, anyway?

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Is that green thing attacking our hapless hero a malevolent butterfly, a hostile starfish, a vindictive serpent? Only one thing is certain: it has tentacles! (Also, here’s the form-revealing, tight clothing I was pining for earlier.) House of Mystery no. 301 (February, 1982); cover by Joe Kubert illustrating The Scoop.

The Scoop (script by Bruce Jones, art by Tom Yeates) has an intriguing premise (I won’t spoil it – read it for yourself). Here’s the original art of its first page:

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Well, that’s it for now. I’ve got some pretty cute tentacled creatures saved up for next week’s installment. À bientôt!

~ ds

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On This Day: Boris Karloff Crosses Over

« What’s that noise comin’ up from the cellar?
It’s the restless bones of Boris and Bela* »

It’s a cinch that William Henry Pratt, back when he was eking out a living in Canada, digging ditches or driving a truck, never suspected that his name, his stage name that is, would still elicit shivers of recognition long after his passing. Here we are, a whole hundred and thirty years past his birth, in Camberwell, South London, on Wednesday, November 23, 1887.

From his ascent to stardom in the early 1930s until his passing in 1969, he certainly lived to see his likeness appear in a bewildering array of toys and games and bedsheets and mugs and a zillion knicknacks and gewgaws, a parade that continues to this day. But he was likely never represented more consistently and abundantly than he was in comic books.

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Here, the Monster meets his… inspiration, in « Boris Karload, Master of Horror ». Dick Briefer‘s Frankenstein is a definite highlight of the Golden Age of comics. This is Frankenstein no. 11 (Jan.-Feb. 1948, Prize Comics). Read it here: http://comicbookplus.com/?dlid=39937 And if you, er… dug that, treat yourself to Craig Yoe‘s selection of Briefer’s rendition(s) of the Famous Monster. It’s a great package, and Mr. Yoe can always use the money… to unleash further wonders.

Here’s a gallery of cover highlights from Gold Key Comics’ long-running Boris Karloff Tales of Mystery (95 issues, 1962-80).

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Before there was called Boris Karloff Tales of Mystery, there was, for two issues, Thriller, based on the by-then-cancelled NBC series. Gold Key were often quite slow in making their licensing moves. The tv Thriller was often terrifying (“Pigeons From Hell”, “The Hungry Glass”…), but the comic book never scaled such heights, even sans the emasculating influence of the Comics Code Authority.
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« You know that one sideways glance from that bug-eyed banshee can turn your brains to prune-whip! » Boris Karloff Tales of Mystery no. 33 (Feb. 1971), Cover painted by George Wilson, illustrating Len Wein, Tom Gill and John Celardo’s «March with a Monster.»
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« I’m being scorched by something that shouldn’t even exist! » A laser cannon-equipped Evel Knievel tussling with a badass reptilian nightmare? That’s the Seventies for you. Gold Key’s mystery comics were generally pretty tame fare, but their covers, such covers! This one’s painted by Saint George Wilson. Boris Karloff Tales of Mystery no. 34 (April 1971.) You just know that «Dragondoom» is written by Lein Wein, because its damsel-in-distress shares his wife’s name, Marvel and DC colourist Glynis.
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A look at Mr. Wilson’s original painting gives us an idea of just how much was lost in the transition from brush to print. Sometimes it’s better *not* to know.
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« Feast your eyes upon them, mortal! Do they satisfy your appetite for witchcraft? Hee Hee! » Wayne Howard conjures up some decent monsters inside, but Psychotomimetic George Wilson, who painted this mind-melting cover, shows how it’s *really* done. Boris Karloff Tales of Mystery no. 43 (Oct. 1972.)
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« The car — being sucked in by this blasted fetid swamp! Goodbye car… goodbye, convention! » Roadside George Wilson strikes again! Boris Karloff Tales of Mystery no. 49 (March 1973.)
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« A giant, scaly claw coming out of the river! That’s what he ‘saw’! Now get that nut off my back! » This time out, the cover is painted by Argentine great Luis Angel Dominguez. Within, « The Mystic and the Monster » is illustrated by José Luis García-López, but the issue’s shiniest bauble is Freff’s witty « Don’t Play That Ukelele! ». Artist unknown, sadly. Anyone know? This is Boris Karloff Tales of Mystery no. 64 (Oct. 1975.)
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« G-g-get away, B-Bobby! There’s a living horror out there! » « Aww, gee, dad! I’m sorry about that! It’s just my sea monster! » Meet « The Mail-Order Monster », a gem from an uncredited scripter (likely Arnold Drake, if the sparkling wit is any indication), and illustrated by Ed Robbins. It’s a fabulously wacky yarn, combining to fine effect good old Sea-Monkeys (brine shrimp, really) and a generous sampling of Ray Bradbury’s « Boys! Raise Giant Mushrooms in Your Cellar! » 
This is Boris Karloff Tales of Mystery no. 65 (Dec. 1975), edited by Paul Kuhn. Also within: « Don’t Put It on Paper », another of the handful of jobs José Luis García-López did for Gold Key, before settling down at DC later that year. The plot is basically that of Clark Dimond/Terry Bisson & Steve Ditko’s « The Sands That Change! » (Creepy no. 16, Aug. 1967, Warren), but with a much gentler outcome.
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« But — why would anyone create something so — so terrifying? » One thing you can nearly always count on in any given issue of BKToM: “scientific” experiments always go awry, and they nearly always yield rampaging monsters. Fitting! Luis Angel Dominguez provides this electrifying cover for issue no. 92 (July, 1979.) The man has such a peerless colour sense.

And remember, there’s far more to Boris Karloff than Frankenstein’s Monster: for evidence of his talent, check out The Body Snatcher (1945, directed by Robert Wise and produced by Val Lewton) or Targets (1968, directed by Peter Bogdanovich.)

Let’s reserve our closing words for the man (monster) himself: « Certainly I was typed. But what is typing? It is a trademark, a means by which the public recognizes you. Actors work all their lives to achieve that. I got mine with just one picture. It was a blessing. »

– RG

*Ships Don’t Disappear In The Night (Do They?) by 10cc (1973)

Tentacle Tuesday: Horror and Humour Walk Tentacle in Tentacle

Tuesdays sure roll around quickly, but that’s okay – another week, another fresh batch of prehensile, slimy tentacles for our enjoyment.  I’ll open Tentacle Tuesday with an “oldie but goodie”. (Speaking of that, I have an irrational pet peeve: comic shop owners who, upon seeing a customer carefully clutching a stack of 70s comics he meticulously unearthed from a grimy comic box stashed in the darkest corner of the store, say, with a slightly condescending grin, “oh, you’ve found some oldies!” The comment is no doubt well-intentioned, but there are nicer ways to start the conversation.)
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And a-one

First on the list for today is this painted beauty by Pat Boyette, from Haunted no. 19, December 1974. Just look at those shiny, healthy tentacles – just the kind to gently grab your ankle and drag you into murky waters. Their diaphanous keeper doesn’t exactly inspire confidence, either.

 

This issue is worth picking up for more than its cover. It remains excellent when one opens its pages: there are three stories, and they’re all worthwhile – the beautiful “The Unholy!” by Pete Morisi (PAM! PAII!) (written by his son, Steve Morisi, and therefore unfortunately not making a lick of sense), the moody “There Ain’t No Hell!” by Sanho Kim and Joe Gill, and, the cherry on the cake (and story on the cover), the quietly-elegant-but-with-tentacles “The Keeper”, illustrated by Boyette (and also written by Joe Gill).

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“You bawled me out many a time for not feeding your pets, your lordship… this time, they’ll feast!”

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Just like octopuses (who eat small crabs and scallops, as well as snails, fish, turtles, crustaceans, and of course other octopuses), I like a little variety in my diet, so number 2 is humorous rather than scary. How did this octopus manage to figure out which of its tentacles to stick into shorts? Who’s the happy little slug with chickenpox holding up letter “A”? Why does an octopus have beaver teeth?

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This is Ha Ha Comics no. 66 (Jun – Jul 1949), published by American Comics Group, or more technically Creston, an imprint of ACG. This seems to be a rather rare issue, unavailable on Comic Book Plus although they have pretty much every other issue of Ha Ha. Thanks to an Ebayer selling this comic, however, I can state with some degree of certainly that this issue features – as advertised – an all-star cast, featuring not only the habitués Izzy and Dizzy (a pair of trouble-prone mice), but also Anthony & Cleopatra, the Impulsive Imps, Robespierre, Hard-Hearted Hannah, Wigglin’ Willie the Worm and Shilly and Shally. Doesn’t it all sound like some sort of battle of the bands? As for the artist of the cover, it’s Dan Gordon, storyboard artist and film director mostly known for his work at Famous Studios and Hanna-Barbera Productions – he did quite a few “funny animals” titles for ACG.

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And a-three!

T.T. number 3 is colourful. It also leads to the question “vegetable, mineral or animal?” These tentacles seem to be rather plant-like… if plants had eyeballs attached by blood vessels.

Judging by the adventures of Space Family Robinson, most planets are inhabited by aliens with tentacles. One would think that they’d be very well prepared for this eventuality (not to mention kind of bored by it), but no, the tentacles always take them by surprise.

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Apart from tentacles, this has some of my other favourite things: a pterodactyl (or at least some creature approximating a pterodactyl), a vibrant sunset, and eyeballs.

This is the back cover of Space Family Robinson no. 9 (Gold Key/Western, August 1964), which is just like the front cover minus the text. Painted by George Wilson, who has a nice sense of colour. (Hurray for saturated colours in this sepia-and-grey or orange-and-teal world.)

In the beginning,
oh, long before that.
When light was deciding who should be in and who should be out of the spectrum,
Yellow was in trouble.
Even then it seems that green, you know how green can be, didn’t want yellow in.
Some silly primal envy I suppose, but for whatever cause,
the effect was bad on yellow.
And caused yellow to weep yellow tears for several eternals, before there were years.
Until blue heard what was up between green and yellow
and took green aside for a serious talk,
in which blue pointed out
that if yellow and blue were to get together,
not that they would, but if they did (a gentle threat),
they could make their own green.
“Ooh”, said green with some understanding.
Naturally, by a sudden change of hue, green saw the light and yellow got in.
Worked out fine,
yellow got lemons and green got limes.*

~ ds

*Ken Nordine, Yellow