Tentacle Tuesday: SpongeBob Goes Squish!

That SpongeBob would encounter a lot of tentacles in his day-to-day life is not at all surprising – he’s a sea sponge. What still surprises me, however, by is how much fun SpongeBob comics can be. Between 2011 and 2018, a respectable 85 issues were published by Stephen Hillenburg‘s production company, United Plankton Pictures (what a great title) and distributed by Bongo Comics.

No tentacles yet, but I couldn’t resist sharing this colourful, spook-tastic spread from SpongeBob Comics No. 25 (October 2013). Art by Andy Rementer.

The formula was similar to Simpsons Comics spin-off Treehouse of Horror: plenty of famous (and talented!) cartoonists having fun with the characters. Between the roster for the regular comics and the special-themed supersized issues, quite a few artists who participated are WOT favourites, and some are Tentacle Tuesday masters, to boot: Hilary Barta, Tony Millionaire, Al Jaffee, Ramona Fradon, Michael T. Gilbert… in 2017, Stephen R. Bissette even broke up out of retirement to work on a special Hallowe’en issue. I think this post is a decent sampler of the different styles and storytelling techniques involved – I’ve concentrated on prominent tentacles, and ignored all the trimmings (the recurring jellyfish tentacles, pumpkins sprouting grabby vines, etc.)

The tentacle fun starts right off with the first issue! Mermaid Man and Barnacle Boy vs. the Octopus King, written by James Kochalka and illustrated by Hilary Barta, was published in SpongeBob Comics No. 1 (February 2011):

A page from Serpents & Sealords, written and illustrated by Corey Barba and published in SpongeBob Comics no. 51 (December 2015).

The following glorious illustration at the tail end of SpongeBob Comics no. 50 (November 2015) is by Jim Woodring:

Given that Stephen Hillenburg (the creator of SpongeBob) was a marine scientist and teacher, it does not come as a surprise that the recurring feature Flotsam and Jetsam was used to talk about all manner of nautical critters and their habits. Here are a few:

Flotsam and Jetsam: Ocean Facts – The Mimic Octopus, written and illustrated by Maris Wicks and published in SpongeBob Comics no. 52 (January 2016).
Flotsam Fables: Legends of the Deep – The Kraken, written by Karen Sneider and illustrated by Vanessa Davis), was published in SpongeBob Comics  no. 62 (November 2016).
Flotsam & Jetsam – Ocean Facts: Sea Stars, written by Julie Winterbottom and illustrated by Nate Neal, published in SpongeBob Comics no. 71 (August 2017).

~ ds

Hallowe’en Countdown III, Day 22

« I saw old Autumn in the misty morn stand shadowless like silence, listening to silence. » — Thomas Hood (1799-1845)

Jim Woodring‘s Frank, cogently termed « a bipedal, bucktoothed animal of uncertain species » was introduced to readers on the cover of Jim no. 4 (Dec. 1990, Fantagraphics), virtually straight from his genitor’s id. He would turn out to be Woodring’s most enduring creation. I was absolutely in awe of Woodring’s original, somewhat autobiographical showcase title, Jim. But it practically sold in the negative numbers (I recall an admiring / dismayed Dan Clowes stating something to that effect during an interview), and dammit, a genius like Woodring should be able to earn a living in freedom and dignity, so I understand the slight shift in gears. Though I miss Woodring’s tremendous verbal gifts, Frank’s is a rather extraordinary universe.

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This is Tantalizing Stories no. 1 (Oct. 1992, Tundra), a duplex anthology shared by Woodring and Mark Martin. Painted cover by Woodring, of course.

Speaking of Tundra, its tale is quite a colourful one: it was the publisher that The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles built; an act of atonement? « Tundra was certainly, not to put too fine a point on it, the biggest and most absurd (as well as the most idealistic) publishing catastrophe in the history of comics — maybe in the history of the print medium. » [ source ]

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Frank observes the signs of autumn, which puts him in a contemplative, melancholy mood; the middle tier of page 2.

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Yeah, I’ve been to a couple of those parties too.

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The party sequence; I wouldn’t want to spoil the ending, which comes one page later. Read the issue in full here. Woodring is of that rare complete breed of cartoonist, a uniquely soulful writer and a master of both black and white and colour rendering, quite autonomous but also a fine collaborator.

Woodring, nearly three decades down the line, has stated that he’s ‘extremely interested’ in wrapping up Frank’s adventures.

-RG

Earth Day With Jim Woodring and Friends

« Oh Beautiful for smoggy skies, insecticided grain,
For strip-mined mountain’s majesty above the asphalt plain.
America, America, man sheds his waste on thee,
And hides the pines with billboard signs, from sea to oily sea. » ― George Carlin

On this day, the forty-ninth edition of Earth Day, we feature some little-seen work (by his usual audience, at any rate) by Jim Woodring and his collaborator Scott Deschaine*. Given the current political climate, an increasingly dire state of affairs, I’ll (mostly) skip the chit-chat and make with the visual riches.

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Among the Woodring / Deschaine collaborations, One Green Tree (1990) is the masterpiece, and the only full-on Woodring, visually-speaking, with its expressive inks, unsimplified art and lush palette.

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An interior (in more than one sense) page from One Green Tree, a sixteen-pager. Full marks to Deschaine, a science popularizer of the first order, and a cartoonist himself, which goes a long way in explaining the success of these collaborations.

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Incidentally, Woodring drew himself into the story as the friendly guide, Mr. Underwood.

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As it happens, Earth Day 2019’s theme is « Protect Our Species », and few species need more protection than the gentle elephant.

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An excerpt from An Elephant’s Life (1999), written by Mike Benton and Scott Deschaine, illustrated by Woodring.

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Search for Soil (2000, Discovery Comics) features Woodring in a simpler style, but it’s still gorgeous and effective. And hey, a Tiny Perfect Mole!

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And for those of you who may find this all too earnest, cute and family-friendly, I’ve saved a Woodring piece to soothe your savage brow. This is the one-shot Northwest Cartoon Cookery (1995, Starhead Comix), also featuring fine work by J.R. Williams, Donna Barr, Ellen Forney, Roberta Gregory, Michael Dougan, Mark Zingarelli… and a couple of pages of Ed Brubaker’s dismal artwork.

« What we are doing to the forests of the world is but a mirror reflection of what we are doing to ourselves and to one another. » ― Chris Maser, Forest Primeval: The Natural History of an Ancient Forest

-RG

*French family names, after spending some time in English-speaking lands, tend to distort in interesting ways: “Deschaine” makes no grammatical sense. It likely started out as “Deschaînes” (of the chains), or its homonym, Deschênes ou Duchêne (of the Oaks or the Oak). Sometimes, the name gets so badly distorted that it’s quite unpronounceable: Shia LaBeouf  (Leboeuf, the ox) or Cara Delevingne (Delavigne, of the vine)… not that I’d want to utter these names, save perhaps as curses.