Tentacle Tuesday: Ahoy, Sea Devils!

« The tentacles are like steel vises, Dane! Can’t break their hold!

*Heh, heh* Try harder — HARDER! »

Greetings! I have just come back from a vacation, and I’m too tired to ramble on the way I usually do. Fortunately, if an image is worth a thousand words, this post is equivalent to a decent novella. Here’s what you need to know about the Sea Devils, here’s our take on the wonderful artist Russ Heath, as well as my complaint about Robert Kanigher’s scripts. Okay, we’re all set now!

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Sea Devils no. 1 (September-October 1961). Cover by Russ Heath.
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The Sea Devils vs. the Octopus Man! is scripted by Robert Kanigher and illustrated by Russ Heath.

The same team returns to tentacles with Sea Devils no. 6:

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The Flame-Headed Watchman!, scripted by Robert Kanigher and drawn by Russ Heath, was published in Sea Devils no. 6 (July-August 1962).

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Now we unfortunately have to leave Heath behind and walk over to the territory of Howard Purcell, whose art is not nearly as striking, but still quite serviceable.

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Sea Devils no. 17 (May-June 1964), cover by Howard Purcell.
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The Impossible Maritime Menaces is scripted by Arnold Drake, penciled by Howard Purcell and inked by Sheldon Moldoff.
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Sea Devils no. 19 (September-October 1964), cover by Howard Purcell. Is it just me or does the guy on the left look like a Ditko villain?
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The Sea-Devil Robots is penciled by Howard Purcell and inked by Sheldon Moldoff.
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Sea Devils no. 21 (January-February 1965), cover by Howard Purcell.

The Forty-Fathom Doom!, scripted by Jack Miller, penciled by Howard Purcell and inked by Sheldon Moldoff, boasts quite an assortment of tentacles:

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Everybody is almost in identical position as on the cover – but the octopus has lost his baby blues and gained a pair of poached eggs.

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And, in case you’re wondering where that quote at the top of this post comes from… The ‘heh, heh’-ing octopus is Dr. Quad.

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~ ds

Tentacle Tuesday: Aquaman and his Octopus Sidekicks

When you think of Aquaman, what is the first thing that comes to mind? Is he a brooding, tragic hero? A hapless sap whose prowess extends no further than throwing a starfish at his assailant? A talented swimmer, defender of Earth’s oceans?

« The image of the superhero riding on a chariot made of fish—sporting that classic orange top and green pants—sealed the depths-dweller in public memory as a doofy champion, despite defenders who insist there’s more to Aquaman than talking to fish and riding them places. While later depictions of the character emphasized his serious side, Aquaman jokes abounded especially in the 90s and 2000s—largely thanks to a school of young male animators, including Seth MacFarlane and South Park’s Matt Stone and Trey Parker, who couldn’t help but poke fun at Aquaman’s ineffectual reputation. »|source|

I believe the aforementioned Aquaman’s defenders are slightly missing the point. What’s wrong with catching a ride from a fish, or getting a helping hand from an octopus? In Aquaman’s world, octopuses play the role of indispensable helpers, using their tentacles as lassos, bludgeons and tourniquets, or forming acrobatic formations to give Aquaman a boost. Does this somehow make this superhero wimpy? Do we seriously still believe that treating animals with kindness, or collaborating with them, is emasculating? No wonder this world is going to hell in a handbasket. The audience for superhero comics sometimes seems to be quite devoid of imagination (or a sense of humour).

« Jokes about his wholesome, weak portrayal in Super Friends and perceived feeble powers and abilities [] led DC to attempt to make the character edgier or more powerful in comic books. Modern comic book depictions have attempted to reconcile these various aspects of his public perception, casting Aquaman as serious and brooding, saddled with an ill reputation, and struggling to find a true role and purpose beyond his public side as a deposed king and a fallen hero. » |source|

Okay, I’ve grumbled, and now I’ll move on to the tentacles. Take a seat astride your favourite jellyfish, strap in your fins, and let’s go!

Aquaman, the child of an undersea explorer who learned how to breathe and live underwater “by training and a hundred scientific secrets”, was created in 1941 by Paul Norris and Mort Weisinger. During the Golden Age of comics, he fought various evil guys (usually from water-related professions: sailors, marine biologists, pirates… and Axis villains, too). The whole thing started becoming really interesting (imho) in 1956 (coincidentally, with the advent of Silver Age), when Aquaman acquired his sidekick Topo the Octopus:

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Topo’s first appearance! « Aquaman’s Undersea Partner », drawn by Ramona Fradon, published in Adventure Comics no. 229 (October 1956).

Ramona Fradon handled Aquaman from 1951 to 1959, when she became pregnant and had to temporarily withdraw from the comics field until 1963. She deserves a separate post, really, especially since I love her art. In the meantime, read The Woman Who Made Aquaman a Star. As for Topo, I don’t have to explain why I’m fond of the idea of an octopus sidekick.

A few nice Fradon pages:

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«The Town That Went Underwater», drawn by Ramona Fradon. It was published in Adventure Comics no. 246 (March 1958).
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Another panel from « The Town That Went Underwater ».
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A panel from « The Undersea Hospital! », scripted by Robert Bernstein and drawn by Ramona Fradon. This issue, Adventure Comics no. 262 (July 1959), has not one, but two fun animal stories: the other one – also lovable, imaginative nonsense – is « The Colossal Superdog », scripted by Otto Binder and drawn by George Papp.
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Another panel from « The Undersea Hospital! ». Don’t you love the idea of a seaweed stretcher with eel supports?

In 1961, Nick Cardy started working on Aquaman with Showcase no. 31 (March-April 1961). When the sea king got his own title in 1962, Cardy became the regular artist, drawing inside stories and covers until Aquaman no. 39 (May-June 1968), and staying as the cover artist until Aquaman no. 56 (April 1971).

« Cardy proved adept at drawing sea creatures; his fluid, swirling water currents helped create a captivating, eye-pleasing undersea world. He became a fan favorite, not only because of his superb story-telling ability, solid figure work and facile inking, but because of the way he rendered Mera, Aquaman’s girlfriend. Cardy’s women had curves, not angles, and seemed to exist in three dimensions on the two-dimensional page. He never stopped trying to elevate his work, until the later covers in the series were among the most striking and imaginative of the publisher’s entire line.» (source: Comics Journal’s eulogy for Nick Cardy)

Well, that’s high praise indeed, but is it deserved? I can confirm that Cardy covers were really inventive. As for the interior art, let’s take a peek, as these stories conveniently overflow with tentacles.

There’s tentacles getting tangled, the octopus equivalent on panties in a twist…

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Panel from « The Invasion of the Fire Trolls », scripted by Jack Miller and drawn by Nick Cardy, published in Aquaman no. 1 (January-February 1962).
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Panel from « The Aquaman from Atlantis », scripted by Jack Miller and Nick Cardy, published in Aquaman no. 3 (May-June 1962).

An army of octopus fighters…

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Page from « The Menace of Alien Island », scripted by Jack Miller and drawn by Nick Cardy, published in Aquaman no. 4 (July-August 1962).

I promised you acrobatics, so here are some octopuses doing a cheerleading routine (Aquaman forgot his pompoms at home):

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Aquaman no. 9 (May-June 1963). « The menace of the Aqualad-Creature » is scripted by Jack Miller and drawn by Nick Cardy.
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It’s not *all* octopus tentacles. Page from  « The Secret Mission of King Neptune», scripted by Jack Miller and drawn by Nick Cardy, printed in Aquaman no. 9 (May-June 1963).

Continuing our tentacle shenanigans…

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Any jerk who refers to an octopus as a “fish” deserves what’s coming to him. Page from « The Doom from Dimension Aqua », scripted by Jack Miller and drawn by Nick Cardy, published in Aquaman no. 11 (September-October 1963).
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As usual, mind fuckery rears its ugly head whenever romance is part of the plot. “I could kill you! But I really love you, actually!” An eye roll and a sigh. Panels from « The Wife of Aquaman », scripted by Jack Miller and drawn by Nick Cardy, published in Aquaman no. 18 (November-December 1964).
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Page from  « The Wife of Aquaman », scripted by Jack Miller and drawn by Nick Cardy, published in Aquaman no. 18 (November-December 1964).

One of those Nick Cardy covers we were discussing earlier, so you can decide for yourself whether his women are all angles or all curves:

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Aquaman no. 22 (July-August 1965), cover by Nick Cardy.
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« The Trap of the Sinister Sea Nymphs », published in Aquaman no. 22 (July-August 1965) art by Nick Cardy.

With Aquaman no. 40 (July-August 1968), Jim Aparo replaced Cardy on the inside art. Issues no. 40 to no. 47 (September-October 1969) were scripted by Steve Skeates (a definite favourite of this blog; read co-admin RG’S post “… and the Dog Howls Through the Night!”) and drawn by Jim Aparo. This creative team is a favourite of many an Aquaman fan. Voilà:

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Page from « Return of the Alien! », scripted by Steve Skeates and drawn by Jim Aparo, printed in Aquaman no. 55 (January-February 1971).
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Panel from « Return of the Alien! », scripted by Steve Skeates and drawn by Jim Aparo, printed in Aquaman no. 55 (January-February 1971).

More Jim Aparo (sans Skeates):

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« The Manta-Ray Means Murder! », scripted by Paul Levitz and Martin Pasko and drawn by Jim Aparo, published in Adventure Comics no. 446 (July-August 1976).
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Aquaman no. 57 (August-September 1977), cover by Jim Aparo. I’m angry at that stupid “you could be in the Superman movie” sign that’s far more distracting than it has any right to be.
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Page from « A Life for a Life », scripted by David Michelinie and drawn by Jim Aparo, published in Aquaman no. 57 (August-September 1977).
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Another page from « A Life for a Life ».
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Aquaman no. 63 (August-September 1978), cover by Jim Aparo.

You can read issues Aquaman issues no. 1 through to 63 here.

One last thing… I happen to be the proud owner of a piece of original art by Ramona Fradon (of fairly recent vintage), given to me by my sweetie. Lucky me!

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Keep your octopus pals happy and you’re guaranteed a fulfilling relationship.

~ ds