Tentacle Tuesday: Superheroes Redux

As I pointed out during my initial foray into the tangled relationship between superheroes and tentacled creatures (Superheroes in Octopus Land), even heroic stock characters with extraordinary powers get bested by the occasional octopus, be it of oceanic, mystical, or outright intergalactic origins. Some of these monsters are aliens from proverbial outer space, some swam out from the depths of the sea for reasons they alone comprehend; some are plants, some are mammals – animal, mineral, or vegetable in form and content.

Our first entry is someone who’s faster than a speeding bullet… but requires a passerby’s help to get rid of some pesky plant tentacles. None too impressive for someone of his calibre, the first superhero that comes to mind for most.

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Superman no. 285 (March 1975). Cover by Nick Cardy.

That’s enough bumbling. I’ll move on to someone who can *really* handle tentacle problems!

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High atop Slaughter Mountain, where the rain never stops, stately Stearn Mansion stands silhouetted against the blood-red moon. This is the home of Dr. Strongfort Stearn, known throughout the world as … Mr. Monster!! From this lofty perch, Doc Stearn peers unflinchingly into the black abyss below. For it is Mr. Monster’s mission to search out evil — and destroy it!” Today Mr. Monster is fighting a cute octopus with googly eyes. Sometimes monsters look most innocuous, you know.

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Original art for Mr. Monster: Who Watches the Garbagemen? (2005). Cover by Alex Horley. As usual, the octopus has excellent taste in women.

And this is the way it was published:

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Mr. Monster: Who Watches the Garbagemen? (2005). Cover by Alex Horley.

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« Since the first simple life-form crawled from the pounding turf, the sea has been laced with legend! From the daring men who faced the raging waves in primitive wooden craft to those who probe the hidden depths today in devices of plastic and steel, fables have been passed, secrets whispered from father to son… » And where there’s sea legends and fables of raging depths, there’s tentacles, you can be sure of that. Can the mysterious Phantom Stranger cope with them?

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The Phantom Stranger no. 18, March-April 1972, with art by Neal Adams.

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Maybe saying that starfish have tentacles is stretching it a bit, but just look at the way their arms bend at the ends! Besides, they can “walk” using their tubed appendages, which look like tentacles to all but the most pedantic.

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Justice League of America no. 190 (May, 1981); cover by Brian Bolland, with colours by Anthony Tollin. This may not be a fashion statement, but think of all the money people would save on makeup and surgery!

Starro, a.k.a. Starro the Conqueror, was created by Gardner Fox and Mike Sekowsky in 1960. He’s a mean, stubborn alien lifeform with an idée fixe to enslave mankind, which he repeatedly tries to do by scattering his starfishy spores (which grow into clones of himself) over large cities. And, yes, he has prehensile extremities; it’d be difficult to wreak as much havoc without them.

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Technically, Medusa’s got hair, not tentacles, but she expressed the wish to be part of our Tentacle Tuesday line-up… and I am not going to argue with a woman with hair that can knock out an army.

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Created by Jack Kirby, Medusa first appeared In Fantastic Four #36 (1965). This is a pin-up from Fantastic Four Annual #5, November 1967; pencils by Kirby, inks by Frank Giacoia.

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A panel from Batman, Inc. no. 1 (January 2011), pencils by Yanick Paquette and inks by Michel Lacombe.

Does anybody have an answer for catty Ms. Kyle? I’ll see you next Tentacle Tuesday – until then, keep away from hungry and horny octopuses.

~ ds

In Memory of Mike Sekowsky

Sekowsky, born on November 19, 1923 (it was a Monday), was another of those precocious, tireless, versatile pioneers of the comic book industry, such as Joe Kubert, Carmine Infantino and Alex Toth. He started out with Timely Comics in 1941.

I’ve always enjoyed his mature style most, as it became more eccentric and more distinctive, without sacrificing an iota of storytelling and compositional ability. We’ll come back to the topic with some examples in tow, but for the present, here’s a select gallery of his covers over the years. I stayed away from the more obvious choices… we hardly need to revisit his introduction of the Justice League of America (Brave and the Bold no. 28, March 1960), for instance.

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I’m reminded of an old joke (usually) told about Beethoven: « A tourist is sightseeing in a European city. She comes upon the tomb of Beethoven, and begins reading the plaque, only to be distracted by a low scratching noise, as if something was rubbing against a piece of paper. She collars a passing native and asks what the scratching sound is. The person replies, ‘Oh, that is Beethoven. He’s decomposing. » This jazzy Mike Sekowsky / Mike Peppe (attributed) cover tableau sadly doesn’t turn up in any of the inside tales. Typical. This is lucky issue 13 of Standard/Better/Nedor Comics’ Adventures into Darkness (Dec. 1953.) And if you’re in the proper mood, the whole thing’s available for your reading pleasure right here.
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« Sorry, old buzzard! Pick on someone your own size! » One of the last new supermen of the Golden Age, the absurdly well-endowed Captain Flash came along just before the Code did, in November 1954. Captain Flash’s adventures were published by tiny Sterling Comics, which released a handful of titles in 1954-55 then vanished. Bad timing. Captain Flash gained his mighty powers through accidental exposure to cobalt rays, if you must know. Thrill to his heroics right here: http://comicbookplus.com/?dlid=17682
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« Blazes! And if I remember my Bat-lore, that’s the flying bat-cave he’s using to charge that bank! Hit the brakes, stoop-skull! » Bob Haney and Mike Sekowsky bring the wacky to this issue of The Brave & Bold no. 68 (Oct/Nov. 1966), with the saga of “Alias the Bat-Hulk“! Script by Haney, pencils by Sekowsky, cover inks by Joe Giella and story inks by Mike Esposito. Gotta love the cackling peanut/rogues’ gallery!
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I’ve always had a soft spot for Gardner Fox and Sekowsky’s JLA, but no-one else’s, really. Especially late in their run, when things got increasingly bizarre. This is Justice League of America no. 61 (March 1968). Cover by Sekowsky and Jack Abel.
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Ah, the always fun “screw you, hero!” cover theme. This is Green Lantern no. 66 (January, 1969), pencilled by Sekowsky and inked by Murphy Anderson, an unusual but effective combo. Within, «5708 A.D. — A Nice Year to Visit — But I Wouldn’t Want to Live Then!» is scripted by John Broome, pencilled by Sekowsky and inked by Joe Giella.
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The final issue of the Atom as a solo book. He would team up with Hawkman for a few issues (with gorgeous Joe Kubert covers), but all in vain. The Atom no. 38‘s (Aug./Sept. 1968) « Sinister StopoverEarth! » is written by Frank Robbins, pencilled by Sekowsky and inked by George Roussos. Cover by Sekowsky and Jack Abel.
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While newly-ensconced editorial director Carmine Infantino seemed to have boundless faith in Sekowsky in the late 1960s and early 1970s, pretty much every one of his creations and revamps turned out to be box office poison… but they were often bold, and certainly different. His take on Bob Kanigher and Ross Andru‘s Metal Men was odd, at times baffling, invigorating… and, at six issues, quite short-lived. This is Metal Men no. 38 (June-July 1969).
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« Do we dare follow? Keep your distance now… don’t let it know you’re there! »
Nick Cardy crafted the majority of DC’s The Witching Hour’s gorgeous early covers, some of his finest work. But… *this* understated beauty was pencilled by Sekowsky and inked by Cardy. The picturesque results are set in the selfsame 1930s Universal Studios backlot Balkans of the mind so dear to several generations of monster-loving artists and kids. This is The Witching Hour no. 3 (June-July, 1969.)

– RG