On This Day: November 16, 1902

A cartoon appears in the Washington Post, prompting the Teddy Bear Craze, after President Teddy Roosevelt refused to kill a captive bear tied up for him to shoot during a hunting trip to Mississippi.

Boy, American presidents sure were different back in those days.

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The history-making cartoon by Pulitzer Prize–winning cartoonist Clifford K. Berryman (1869-1949), who worked with the Washington Post from 1891-1907, then with the Washington Star from 1907-1949.

Which brings us to Teddy Bears (as they became known henceforth) returning the favour of protecting the vulnerable and innocent.

The earliest instance that comes to mind is Johnny Craig and “Ghastly” Graham Ingels’ holiday charmer, Shoe-Button Eyes!, which appeared in The Vault of Horror no. 35 (Feb.-Mar. 1954, EC), wherein a blind, put-upon little boy gets a new set of peepers… the hard way.

Post-Code, this sort of harsh poetic justice had to be handled very gingerly, if at all. The vengeful bear turned up again in Nicola Cuti and Jack Abel’s elegantly-told The Teddy Bear, in Haunted no. 15 (Nov. 1973, Charlton.)

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Quoth the plush companion: « I was sent to you to protect you and I will! » Spoiler alert: the butler did it.

A couple of years down the pike, “Grisly”* Tom Sutton took up the gauntlet with his «Terrible Teddy!», from Ghost Manor no. 23 (May 1975, Charlton). Here it is, presented in its glorious entirety (including Sutton’s gnarly painted cover).

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TerribleTeddy1ATerribleTeddy2ATerribleTeddy3ATerribleTeddy4ATerribleTeddy5ATerribleTeddy6A

– RG

*perhaps more appropriately “Grizzly”, in this instance.

Purple Tentacle Tuesday

Greetings. Today’s theme: purple tentacles! (No, that’s not a euphemism.)

First up on our list is this beauty of an octopus, the Octo Rod.

This intrepid purple fella is part of Topps’ 1980 series, Weird Wheels, which had 55 cards in all. The credit for the gorgeous artwork is split between Norman Saunders and Gary Hallgren; nobody’s quite sure which artist worked on which card, and whether Saunders actually painted the images himself, or just retouched paintings by somebody else.

Sadly, Weird Wheels just didn’t sell all that well, so you can still purchase them for fairly cheap today. You can see the whole set here (and please do feast your eyes on them, they’re quite stunning).)

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Octo Rod is no. 21, 1980. The art is by Gary Hallgren, at least according to David Saunders, Norman Saunders’ son.

Speaking of David Saunders and his dad, here’s a quote from “Norman Saunders” (a book written by David in 2009):

« In 1980, at the age of 73, with failing eyesight, cataracts, and advanced emphysema, Norman Saunders defied doctor’s orders and went back to work on one last card set. Weird Wheels are painted with full control of his creative powers, but with a morbid humor that reflects his attitude towards mortality. When reprimanded by his son for risking his life on low paying work, the artist said, ‘It’s fun! I gotta keep working! What the hell else am I gonna do?!‘ »

Saunders passed away in 1989, at 82, after a remarkably prolific and varied career.

Moving on, here’s a thrilling scene of purple tentacles vs Nemesis:

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This is ACG’s Adventures Into the Unknown no. 157 (June-July 1965). The cover is by Kurt Schaffenberger (who signed as Jay Kafka here). “Case of the Tittering Texan” sounded intriguing – I figured that the Texan was being tickled by a tentacle – but no, he’s just a stuttering, crazy, power-hungry villain in a cowboy hat and spurs. Same old, same old…

I would also like to mention that Nemesis *is* wearing pants (well, shorts, at any rate), but his costume is still gosh-darned stupid. You try wearing a hood under water and see how far it gets you. I’m normally a fan of ACG‘s Adventures, but Nemesis is by no means a favourite character of mine.

Further developing the theme of violaceous violence, here’s another:

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« Giant squid, giant water rats! Are we in New York, or are we on Mars? Down here, it’s hard to tell! » Ghostly Haunts no. 31, April 1973, cover by Jack Abel.

“Sewer Patrol”, the cover story, is also illustrated by Abel, with an excellent script by Nicola Cuti – it’s a story about people who dump their pets (and still-alive food) when they don’t want them anymore… and where and how these pets end up. (The answer to that, of course, is “mutated, gigantic and in the sewers.”)

~ ds

Hallowe’en Countdown, Day 11

« Geez! What’s he been feedin’ that horse?! I’m runnin’ wide-open — and he’s gainin’ on me! »

I won’t pretend that The Headless Horseman Rides Again is all that good a comic book, even by the standards of 1973 Marvel. It’s a clumsy narrative hodgepodge, a tangle of tough guy private dick clichés and your basic Scooby Doo plot, courtesy of Gary Friedrich (Ghost Rider, Son of Satan). But it’s agreeably moody in spots, considerably helped along by a solid art job by the prolific George Tuska (1916-2009), who’s not, for once at Marvel, saddled (ha!) with the likes of Vince Colletta. Here he’s smartly matched with the fine but generally undervalued Jack Abel (1927-1996), whose velvety strokes significantly add to the fittingly nocturnal ambiance.

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I happen to own a page of original art from the issue, and here are some of my favourite panels. This is page 7 of 20. Script by Gary Friedrich, pencils by George Tuska, inks by Jack Abel. Love that Abel smoke!

The issue bears your typical hyperkinetic Gil Kane 70s cover, winningly inked by Ernie Chua/Chan. This is Supernatural Thrillers no. 6 (Nov. 1973, Marvel).

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The published version…
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… and a peek at the original artwork. Note the absence of the alterations presumably made on an overlay, namely the texture on the foreground rock and the halftone mist across the middle.

– RG