Tentacle Tuesday: Justice League of America

JLA’s roster has rotated throughout the years, but for the sake of this post, only the seven original members will get cephalopod tussling privileges! Here they are, with the conspicuous absence of Batman and Superman who are no doubt rushing behind the scenes to rescue everybody (but don’t worry, we’ll get to them as well):

The Brave and Bold no. 28 (February-March 1960, DC). Cover pencilled by Mike Sekowsky and inked by Murphy Anderson.

I’ll start with Superman, otherwise he’ll get offended – you know how susceptible he can be. Rather, a double whammy of Superman and Flash, who stumble upon some rather adorable (aside from their propensity to eating people) tentacled aliens. Of course our superheroes decide to make a race out of it, because concentrating on saving some planet or other is clearly not exciting enough – and Batman just happened to be hanging around to give the starting signal. Some afternoons are just that quiet. Race to Save the Universe!, scripted by Denny O’Neil, pencilled by Dick Dillin and inked by Joe Giella, was published in World’s Finest Comics no. 198 (November 1970, DC).

Nevertheless, this dynamic duo does allow itself to get distracted from its marathon, just long enough to defeat this green cutie:

Don’t underestimate kittens.

Incidentally, Superman already has a Tentacle Tuesday all to himself (Tentacle Tuesday: It’s a Bird! It’s a Plane! It’s a Tentacle!) Still, here he is collaborating (more like ‘rescuing’) Jimmy Olsen from an intriguing green (why must they always be green?) monstrosity with worm-like tentacles. Ugh, not the most appealing. These pages are from The Voyage of the Mary Celeste II!, scripted by Jerry Siegel, pencilled by Curt Swan and inked by George Klein and published in Superman’s Pal, Jimmy Olsen no. 75 (March 1964, DC).

DC’s “Big Three” – its most iconic and popular – are of course Superman, Batman and Wonder-Woman. As far as the latter is concerned, as much as I love this character, seeing as we already have two Tentacle Tuesdays posts in her honour – Tentacle Tuesday: H.G. Peter and Wonder Woman lend a hand and Tentacle Tuesday: More Golden Age Wonder Woman Wonders! – I think I’ve said everything I had to say on the subject. Thus, we move on to Batman, albeit briefly because there is also Tentacle Tuesday: All Aboard the Batmarine! to peruse. He’ll have to share the stage with Superman, but I’m sure he’ll be a good sport about it.

World’s Finest Comics no. 110 (June 1960, DC). Pencilled by Curt Swan and inked by Sheldon Moldoff.

The cover story is The Alien Who Doomed Robin, scripted by Jerry Coleman and inked by Sheldon Moldoff.

Our next JLA member is the Martian Manhunter, whom I have a strange soft spot for. It’s well known that girls just can’t resist green skin! In honour of this bias, here are not one, but two excerpts from stories featuring tentacles front and centre.

First, two pages from The Beings in the Color Rings, scripted by Dave Wood and illustrated by Joe Certa, published in House of Mystery no. 148 (January 1965, DC).

And for dessert, a page from The Supernatural Masterpieces!, scripted by Dave Wood and illustrated by Joe Certa, published in House of Mystery no. 150 (April 1965, DC).

Naturally, Aquaman has encountered more than a handful of octopuses in his long undersea career – I went on about that in some length in Tentacle Tuesday: Aquaman and his Octopus Sidekicks. I have plenty more where that came from, so there surely be a part II to that particular tale… in the meantime, here is a rather striking cover that didn’t make it into that post.

The Brave and the Bold no. 73 (August-September 1967, DC). Cover pencilled by Carmine Infantino and inked by Charles Cuidera.

The cover story is Glag the Destroyer, scripted by Bob Haney, pencilled by Howard Purcell and inked by Sal Trapani.

Last… and maybe least, because I could never warm up to him… is Green Lantern. The following pages are from a story pencilled by Gil Kane, who doesn’t generally get glowing reviews from WOT. Nevertheless co-admin RG wrote an ingenious post combining our common dubiousness about Kane and percolated it through specifically Green Lantern covers – the result is Hot Streak: Gil Kane’s Green Lantern, which impressed, if not quite convinced, me.

Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Earth!, scripted by John Broome, pencilled by Gil Kane and inked by Vince Colletta, was published in Green Lantern no. 70 (July 1969, DC).

I hope you enjoyed this overview of the Justice League of America as filtered through the rather eccentric lens of tentacles.

~ 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

Hallowe’en Countdown IV, Day 21

« Listen, youse guys — we’ve had enough of dis horsin’ around! When do we grab the dough? » — a hood craves action, from Haunted Halloween! (Flash Comics no. 78)

Superheroes, back when they weren’t all wrapped up in their grimness and grittiness, took a bit of time to properly enjoy the holidays.

This is Flash Comics no. 78 (Dec. 1946, All-American Comics), featuring Haunted Halloween!, scripted by Gardner Fox and illustrated by Everett Edward Hibbard… plus four more stories for your dime. Edited by Sheldon Mayer, with a cover by Hibbard.
And here’s All-American Comics no. 61 (Oct. 1944, All-American Comics), featuring The Green Lantern (and Doiby Dickles!) squaring off against a gruesome new foe, Solomon Grundy, in a tale entitled Fighters Never Quit!, written by none other than Alfred Bester (later the author of The Demolished Man and The Stars My Destination) and illustrated by Paul Reinman. Edited by Sheldon Mayer, with a Reinman cover.
And this is Comic Cavalcade no. 12 (Fall, 1945, All-American Comics), where we catch both The Flash and Wonder Woman about to indulge in some blackface. Edited, you guessed it, by Sheldon Mayer. Cover by E. E. Hibbard (The Flash), H.G. Peter (Wonder Woman) and Martin Naydel (Green Lantern).

-RG

In Memory of Mike Sekowsky

Sekowsky, born on November 19, 1923 (it was a Monday), was another of those precocious, tireless, versatile pioneers of the comic book industry, such as Joe Kubert, Carmine Infantino and Alex Toth. He started out with Timely Comics in 1941.

I’ve always enjoyed his mature style most, as it became more eccentric and more distinctive, without sacrificing an iota of storytelling and compositional ability. We’ll come back to the topic with some examples in tow, but for the present, here’s a select gallery of his covers over the years. I stayed away from the more obvious choices… we hardly need to revisit his introduction of the Justice League of America (Brave and the Bold no. 28, March 1960), for instance.

AdventuresDarkness13A
I’m reminded of an old joke (usually) told about Beethoven: « A tourist is sightseeing in a European city. She comes upon the tomb of Beethoven, and begins reading the plaque, only to be distracted by a low scratching noise, as if something was rubbing against a piece of paper. She collars a passing native and asks what the scratching sound is. The person replies, ‘Oh, that is Beethoven. He’s decomposing. » This jazzy Mike Sekowsky / Mike Peppe (attributed) cover tableau sadly doesn’t turn up in any of the inside tales. Typical. This is lucky issue 13 of Standard/Better/Nedor Comics’ Adventures into Darkness (Dec. 1953.) And if you’re in the proper mood, the whole thing’s available for your reading pleasure right here.

Captain-Flash1A
« Sorry, old buzzard! Pick on someone your own size! » One of the last new supermen of the Golden Age, the absurdly well-endowed Captain Flash came along just before the Code did, in November 1954. Captain Flash’s adventures were published by tiny Sterling Comics, which released a handful of titles in 1954-55 then vanished. Bad timing. Captain Flash gained his mighty powers through accidental exposure to cobalt rays, if you must know. Thrill to his heroics right here: http://comicbookplus.com/?dlid=17682

B&B68A
« Blazes! And if I remember my Bat-lore, that’s the flying bat-cave he’s using to charge that bank! Hit the brakes, stoop-skull! » Bob Haney and Mike Sekowsky bring the wacky to this issue of The Brave & Bold no. 68 (Oct/Nov. 1966), with the saga of “Alias the Bat-Hulk“! Script by Haney, pencils by Sekowsky, cover inks by Joe Giella and story inks by Mike Esposito. Gotta love the cackling peanut/rogues’ gallery!

JLA61A
I’ve always had a soft spot for Gardner Fox and Sekowsky’s JLA, but no-one else’s, really. Especially late in their run, when things got increasingly bizarre. This is Justice League of America no. 61 (March 1968). Cover by Sekowsky and Jack Abel.

GL66A
Ah, the always fun “screw you, hero!” cover theme. This is Green Lantern no. 66 (January, 1969), pencilled by Sekowsky and inked by Murphy Anderson, an unusual but effective combo. Within, «5708 A.D. — A Nice Year to Visit — But I Wouldn’t Want to Live Then!» is scripted by John Broome, pencilled by Sekowsky and inked by Joe Giella.

Atom38A
The final issue of the Atom as a solo book. He would team up with Hawkman for a few issues (with gorgeous Joe Kubert covers), but all in vain. The Atom no. 38‘s (Aug./Sept. 1968) « Sinister StopoverEarth! » is written by Frank Robbins, pencilled by Sekowsky and inked by George Roussos. Cover by Sekowsky and Jack Abel.

MetalMen38A
While newly-ensconced editorial director Carmine Infantino seemed to have boundless faith in Sekowsky in the late 1960s and early 1970s, pretty much every one of his creations and revamps turned out to be box office poison… but they were often bold, and certainly different. His take on Bob Kanigher and Ross Andru‘s Metal Men was odd, at times baffling, invigorating… and, at six issues, quite short-lived. This is Metal Men no. 38 (June-July 1969).

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« Do we dare follow? Keep your distance now… don’t let it know you’re there! »
Nick Cardy crafted the majority of DC’s The Witching Hour’s gorgeous early covers, some of his finest work. But… *this* understated beauty was pencilled by Sekowsky and inked by Cardy. The picturesque results are set in the selfsame 1930s Universal Studios backlot Balkans of the mind so dear to several generations of monster-loving artists and kids. This is The Witching Hour no. 3 (June-July, 1969.)

– RG