« The man asked, “Who are you?” “I am Death, who makes everyone equal.” » *
Greetings! Today I am giving my co-admin RG a much-needed chance to rest, and taking over Hallowe’en count-down duties. He protested a bit, but I was persuasive. Oh, don’t worry about him – he’s quite comfortable in the basement, and I may even unchain him at the end of the evening.
We have previously dipped a toe into Gespenster Geschichten (Ghost Stories) territory before, but – and this will come as no surprise – it was through the peculiar prism of tentacles. (For example, see Tentacle Tuesday: A Torrent of Teutonic Tentacles.) Yet this long-running (1974-2006) series published by Bastei Verlag also offers plenty of Hallowe’en-appropriate thrills: witches, ghosts, demented scientists, cold-blooded killers… you name it, Gespenster Geschichten has it! Here are a few covers which seem particularly appropriate for this wonderfully dreary, grey October evening.
The insides of these issues are of lesser interest: reprints of American horror comics, and, later on in the series, new content by artists local and migrated (Argentine, Spanish, Italian, Yugoslav…) Within some of these pages dwell reprints from Gold Key Comics’ Boris Karloff Tales of Mystery (for example, with artwork by John Celardo, Sal Trapani, and Canadians Jack Sparling and Win Mortimer). I think we can safely conclude that the covers are considerably more horrifying than the innards of these issues…
With that out of the way, let’s see what German ghost stories have in store for us!
This charming little doggo was a rather… creative interpretation of the following painting, created for Boris Karloff Tales of Mystery no. 48 by George Wilson:
So you see how that particular Teutonic ball rolls! I admire George Wilson, but I admit I much prefer the German interpretation of this scene.
« 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.
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 Worldby 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.
The cover story, The Deadly Jungle, is scripted by Paul S. Newman, penciled by Giovanni Ticci and inked by Alberto Giolitti.
Todd Franklin of Neato Coolville has actually transformed this cover into a groovy wallpaper (go to his website to download the high-res version).
That previous cover has borderline tentacles, I agree, but the completist in me insisted on its inclusion. Also, it’s entertaining.
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.
The painting lost something in detail (a lot, actually) when it was made into a cover… this is more what it originally looked like:
« 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.
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…
« 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.)
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.
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.
All of Gold Key’s Doctor Solar run is available here. How much time do you have on your hands, anyway?
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.
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).
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. »
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.)
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.
Today’s tentacle adventure brings us a bounty of Gold Key covers.
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.)
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.
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.
Seriously, who keeps stranding these vicious octopuses in space?
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.
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.
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.
As is often the case, the original painting has a lot more detail than the printed version:
What does this peculiar, one-eyed beast look like closer up, one might ask? Something like this:
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.
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…
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).
Octopuses have also been defeated by valiant warriors in space…
And intrepid daredevils have also gone tentacle a’manglin’ in… say, what is that gooey stuff, anyway?
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:
Well, that’s it for now. I’ve got some pretty cute tentacled creatures saved up for next week’s installment. À bientôt!
« 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.
Here’s a gallery of cover highlights from Gold Key Comics’ long-running Boris Karloff Tales of Mystery (95 issues, 1962-80).
« These computer cards are wonderful… almost as if they were alive! They tell me everything! » Boris Karloff Tales of Mystery no. 62 (July 1973). Luis Angel Dominguez‘s painted cover depicts a scene from (presumably) Arnold Drake‘s witty It’s in the Cards.
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. »