Tentacle Tuesday: The Menace of the Mechanical Octopus

« The tentacles of  my followers shall seek you out and destroy your swiftly! »

If you like joyous nonsense, this post is for you! As if humanity wasn’t besieged enough by actual cephalopods, evil-but-brilliant minds insist on creating machines with tentacles to horrify and maim. Pain to some, amusement for us!

First, some definite eye candy. The following story is not only convincingly illustrated, but also makes some sense on a scientific basis. The Menace of the Mechanical Octopus was scripted by Ed Herron, and pencilled and inked by Jack Kirby. It was published in Word’s Finest Comics no. 97 (October 1958).

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Now we move on to that goofy-yet-fun series, DC’s House of Mystery.  I will readily admit that I’m not always a fan. At worst, some of the stories published within its pages have plots so random that amusement becomes irritated incredulity. But keep an open mind, and there are also very creative (sometimes “were these people on drugs?” creative) plots to be enjoyed and great art to be relished.

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House of Mystery no. 96 (March 1960), cover is pencilled by Dick Dillin and inked by Sheldon Moldoff.

The cover story, The Pirate Brain, was illustrated by Lee Elias:

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The ‘weird, giant seeds’ look remarkably like ice cream cones.

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Our next stop concerns Robby Reed, the original owner of the Dial H for Hero gizmo, and his epic (of course) battle with… well, a whole bunch of villains. House of Mystery no. 156 (January 1966) is where he made his début, transforming into the Cometeer, Giantboy and the Mole. So many adventures, all in one (half) issue! This story was scripted by Dan Wood and illustrated by Jim Mooney:

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From Giantboy we move on to Colossal Boy, more precisely to Colossal Boy’s One-Man War, scripted by Jerry Siegel, pencilled by Curt Swan, and inked by Sheldon Moldoff. It was published in Adventure Comics no. 341 (February 1966).

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A story in which everybody talks way too much, and only in clichés.

Skipping ten years ahead, we end up in Marvel territory –

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Amazing Adventures no. 31 (July 1975). The cover is by Philip Craig Russell with modifications by John Romita; the letters are by Gaspar Saladino.

The cover story, The Day the Monuments Shattered, is scripted by Don McGregor and illustrated by P. Craig Russell:

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Not Russell’s best work, I think we can safely say.

As a final note, here are some indubitably mechanical, yet not-quite-tentacles – a worthy addition to this post, as far as I’m concerned.

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Challengers of the Unknown no. 11 (Dec 1959 – Jan 1960). Cover by Bob Brown, with colours and grey tones by Jack Adler. I love the perturbed flying dinosaur, whose hooves suggest that he has some cow ancestors.
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Startling Stories: Fantastic Four – Unstable Molecules no. 2 (April 2003). The cover is by Craig Thompson.
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Disappearing Acts is scripted by James Sturm and illustrated by Guy Davis with assistance from James Sturm. The Vapor Girl insertions (imaginary alien escapades) are by Robert Sikoryak.

If you liked this post, don’t forget to visit Tentacle Tuesday: Mechanical Tentacles, too!

≈ ds

Free Inside Package: James Sturm’s The Cereal Killings (1992-95)

« You cannot work with men who won’t work with you. » — John Harvey Kellogg

Before he created his justly-celebrated The Golem’s Mighty Swing, wrote the mini-series Fantastic Four: Unstable Molecules, or co-founded The Center for Cartoon Studies, James Sturm (b. 1965) committed to paper and ink a mind-expanding, if little-noticed, saga entitled The Cereal Killings, complete in eight issues and published by Fantagraphics between 1992 and 1995. Sturm valiantly struggled through ocular problems during that period, undergoing no less than three retinal operations, leaving him with one good eye.

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The Cereal Killings no. 3 (Sept. 1992), colours by Mark Lang. Hey, I’d pay good money to see The Screaming Ernies perform. I’d settle for a t-shirt!

Sturm dug well beyond the shallow pun of the title and implacably hauled it to its logical conclusion. TCK has been likened to a Watchmen with a cast of funny animal cereal mascots, and that’s not that far off the mark. But beyond its conceptual debt to Alan Moore’s superhero deconstruction, Sturm’s story actually takes aim at more adult concerns and issues, made all the more harrowing and poignant by how psychologically credible his cast of cereal pitchmen and acolytes is. Corporate malfeasance, petty theft, betrayal, bitterness, grandiloquence, blind ambition, dementia, remorse… and wisdom. You name it, it’s all there, in a gripping, kaleidoscopic and haunting narrative.

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Sturm, Fantagraphics & Co. made splendid use of the entire, (actual) ad-free magazine to flesh out the concept. This is Mark Lang’s gorgeous depiction of The Scarecrow and Carbunkle. These are our good guys, appearances notwithstanding.
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Issue 3’s back cover provides a helpful look at our cast of characters.
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This is the cover of TSK no. 4, featuring Schmedly the Elephant, who wishes he *could* forget. Colour by Mark Lang.

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A crucial flashback scene from the eighth, and ultimate, issue (Jan. 1995). It would appear that The Scarecrow is a stand-in for cereal giant Kellogg’s founder, John Harvey Kellogg.

« It’s the present! It’s nostalgia! It’s a crispy non-sweetened comix story that doesn’t get soggy in milk! And remember — product is sold by weight, not volume. Some unsettling may occur. »

The series has never been collected or reprinted, so you’ll have to do the work… I think I noticed a torrent file somewhere. Sturm at one point intended to issue a revised collected edition, but has apparently changed his mind since. That’s no way to treat one’s masterwork, neglected as it may be.

-RG