It’s Fungus Friday!

Did you hear the joke about fungus? You won’t like it, but it will grow on you.

As promised – though you folks may by far prefer tentacles to mushrooms – I am delighted to present this post about mushrooms both real and imaginary.

First of all why mushrooms? Those who know me are aware of my passion for fungus – it’s a gastronomic interest, as both co-admin RG and I love to cook with them, and also a platonic one, an admiration for their beauty and adaptability. In terms of aliens-on-earth, fungus is surely up there with the extraterrestrial octopus. We are currently on vacation, so this is the perfect moment to both admire some of our finds, and rediscover mushrooms in comics.

Usually people react in one of two ways to mentions of gathering wild mushrooms – ‘but how do you know you won’t poison yourself?‘ or ‘magic mushrooms! yeah!‘ The first question is pertinent, although there’s no need to take that horrified tone, and the second reaction is more than slightly one-track-minded.

Just like in real life, comics fungi come in all shapes and sizes: from cute appearances in the background of a cartoony comic, to psychedelic manifestations of the underground, to horror stories peppered with a slice or two of the deadly toadstool, and everything in between! I’ve tried to go for maximum contrast in this post, and include a little bit of everything. Dive in, like we dove in yesterday into our hedgehog-and-honey-mushrooms-pasta yesterday 😉

Four Color no. 50 – Fairy Tale Parade (1944-1945, Dell). Cover by Walt Kelly. This is kind of an anonymous mushroom of indeterminate species.
A cartoon by Emile Mercier, Australian cartoonist who is best remembered for his work for the Sydney Sun between 1949 and 1968. This particular piece hails from the late ’50s.

Speaking of Mercier, I love this anecdote: « One day, Claude McKay, the editor-in-chief of Smith’s Weekly, took a dim view of an X Emile Mercier had drawn under the upwardly extended tail on a cat. After a few stern words about “dirty gimmicks in cartoons”, the grim-faced McKay instructed Mercier to get rid of the cross. This presented Mercier with a challenge. He was someone who used to say you “have to think funny as well as draw funny” and he was not keen to let McKay’s prudish approach to his cat go unchallenged. Mercier’s solution was to draw a miniature roller blind under the cat’s perpendicular tail. He was in no doubt the blind would draw more attention to the cat’s anus than the X had. Fortunately for him, McKay saw the funny side of the addition and let the cartoon run. Not a man to push his luck too far, Mercier drew all future cats without an X at the base of their tails. »

A page from Re di Picche no. 1 (AGIS, 1969), an Italian comics series created by Luciano Bottaro. Re di Picche means ‘king of spades’, and refers to the protagonist of this series (also the title of the magazine it was published in). Inspired by Alice in Wonderland? You bet! This mushroom appears to be some type of Amanita, a mostly deadly but handsome family of ‘shrooms.
The Plot to Destroy Earth, scripted by Dave Wood and illustrated by Jim Mooney, was published in Strange Adventures no. 183 (December 1965, DC). A man who refers to what is very obviously a mushroom as a ‘crazy-looking plant’ won’t impress anyone with his knowledge of nature… but this fungus-as-parachute interlude is entertaining.
Dr. Dean Cleanbean Deals with Drug Difficulties, scripted and illustrated by Monte Wolverton (Basil Wolverton‘s son!), was the back cover of Dope Comix no. 5 (January 1984). Here we have the very prototypical magic mushrooms, which comes as no surprise.
I promised horror, didn’t I? This is a page from Chapter One, scripted by Mike Mignola and illustrated by Guy Davis, and published in, B.P.R.D.: Plague of Frogs no. 1 (February 2011, Dark Horse).
A splash page from The Mushroom Fan Club by Elise Gravel (2018, Enfant – Drawn & Quarterly’s children’s imprint). I wholeheartedly agree with Gravel – mushrooms come in such a variety of shapes and sizes, that it’s crazy to even consider them as the same thing. Note the mischievous bolete (center, brown cap), probably the King Bolete, a.k.a. Penny Bun – it has a feeling of superiority, and we agree.
Some of our mushroom crop this week. In the usual clockwise order: Lactarius Deliciosus; various Leccinums (or Bolete); Armillaria gallica (Honey mushrooms) and Hydnums (Hedgehogs).

~ ds

Tentacle Tuesday: That Soupçon of the… Unexpected!

DC’s Tales of the Unexpected offer quite a ménagerie of strange looking creatures! Any peculiar combination of animals you can think of, you’ll find somewhere within the pages of this series. This possibly deserves its own post, as it’s quite entertaining to see artists combining, say, an elephant with a tiger. That being said, I tend to get annoyed at artists who can’t visualize anything truly alien-looking, thus resorting to carving up earth animals and stitching different body parts together… but that’s a different conversation.

Art by Lou Cameron.

Occasionally the artists will also add tentacles, a sure shortcut to make something mundane look properly alien, and this is today’s area of interest! For more questionable monsters, have a gander at Tentacle Tuesday: Convoluted Critters.

And now, onto ‘unexpected’ tentacles, even if the result of this ends up looking like badly-made puppet with a tacked-on beak…

The Strangest Show on Earth, illustrated by Jim Mooney, was published in Tales of the Unexpected no. 10 (February 1957).

Of course one can’t discount the lasting power of classic vine-tentacles.

The Earth Gladiator, illustrated by Nick Cardy, was published in Tales of the Unexpected no. 20 (December 1957).

Whereas these mini-planets gone bonkers with tentacles-cum-hair bring to mind, but anticipate, something by Junji Ito.

The Alien Earthmen, illustrated by Ruben Moreira, was published in Tales of the Unexpected no. 62 (June 1961).

The idea of an interplanetary veterinarian makes little sense for its assumption that life on other planets would have similar physiology to ours (even limiting the scope of action to only planet earth would be too ambitious – ask a doctor to treat a sick jellyfish and see how well he would do), but here we have the satisfaction of a sweet little scene of inter-species succor.

Creature Doctor of Space, illustrated by George Roussos, was published in Tales of the Unexpected no. 63 (July 1961).

Some 30 issues later, we have another case of rabid tree-tentacles… this time composed of rubber (or something that behaves like rubber, at any rate).

Prisoners of Hate Island, illustrated by George Roussos, was published in Tales of the Unexpected no. 93 (Feb-March 1966).

Finally, this tentacled purple gorilla (so his tail is more dinosaur than gorilla, so what?) will no doubt please a regular reader of this blog!

Tales of the Unexpected no. 71 (June-July 1962). Cover by Bob Brown.

~ ds

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