Tentacle Tuesday: Satirical Cephalopods

« Knock it off, squiddo! You couldn’t make a class-B horror picture on earth — you’re not even good for a milk shudder! Better skeddadle, or I’ll tie your tentacles into a bow! »

Tentacles are no cause for levity, you say? Ha! Their place in all manner of spoofs and parodies (and other silliness) is ensured. Peppered with a barrage of puns (never undersell puns, please!), whimsical tentacular entanglements abound in literature… err, comic literature, at any rate, and that’s good enough for me.

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I meant “entanglements” very literally. Story published in Not Brand Echh no. 11 (December 1968, Marvel); script by Arnold Drake, art by Marie Severin.
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Say, did I hear some barely restrained giggling over “20 000 leaks under the sea?” (This story, written and drawn by Jay Disbrow, was reprinted in 2000 by Fantagraphics in a collection called The Sincerest Form of Parody: The Best 1950s MAD-Inspired Satirical Comics.) Unsane no. 15 (June 1954, Star Publications), cover by L.B. Cole.

Even some 100 years ago (well, a little less), some unfortunate octopus could easily become a Figure of Fun if he wasn’t careful.

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The story doesn’t say what happened to the freaking octopus, though. This edition of Pussyfoot the Redskin was printed in Comic Cuts no. 1735 (August 1923). Visit BLIMEY! The Blog of British Comics for more Comic Cuts.

I can’t mention équivoques and wordplay without mentioning Pogo, Walt Kelly‘s keenly intelligent comic strip. Sadly, this was the only appearance of Octopots, as far as I know (and I long to be corrected).

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From Figmentality, from The Pogo Sunday Parade (1958). Art by Walt Kelly, of course!

In the competitive world of jokes in bad taste, the man from SRAM probably takes the cake. It’s lucky that he has no qualms about hitting females, or the world would be doomed… although his mirthless monologue would probably kill the creature with sheer ennui.

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Madhouse in Hollywood (Man from SRAM), scripted by Otto Binder and drawn by Carl Pfeufer, published in Jigsaw no. 2 (December 1966, Harvey).

On the other hand, Superman‘s creative insults can easily shame a thin-skinned Tentacled Terror (was his spaghetti-and-meatball crack some sort of early Flying Spaghetti Monster reference, even though the latter was only officially created in 2005?)

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Superman no. 184 (February 1966). The story is The Demon Under the Red Sun!, scripted by Otto Binder (again; he clearly has some unhealthy attraction to tentacles, like the best of us) and drawn by Al Plastino. Figure out what’s going on in this story (or not, for there’s not a lot of logic to be found, anyway) at Mark’s Super Blog.

~ ds

The Demons and Rockets of L.B. Cole

There’s probably no need to write a panegyric on Leonard Brandt Cole, 1918-1995. (But did you know he had a doctorate in anatomy and physiology?) The first thing that springs to mind is his use of primary colours over frequently black backgrounds, what he referred to as “poster colours”. Indeed, most L.B. Cole covers would, and occasionally do, make great posters. Going into biographical detail, one might also mention his publishing company, Star Publications, founded in 1949 and singled out in Fredric Wertham’s 1954 exposé Seduction of the Innocent for the “grisly” nature of its published horror titles. Then there’s his work as art director and editor at Dell in the early 1960s… but as usual, I’ll let others get to the nitty-gritty of his life and career. Here are some of my very favourite L.B. Cole covers, in chronological order.

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Mask Comics no. 2, April-May 1945 (Rural Home). Read it here. The classically-oriented study of human expressions had me smitten even before I noticed the devil’s muscular thighs.
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Great Comics no. 1, 1945 (Novack Publishing). Read it here.

« An avid science fiction fan, Cole was known for slipping in sci-fi elements even when they weren’t appropriate, such as rocket ships and ray guns appearing on the covers of Captain Flight Comics and Contact Comics. Both titles were supposed to be devoted to contemporary aviation. » (source) Fuck being appropriate, I say!

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Captain Aero Comics no. 26, August 1946 (Continental Magazines). Read it here. This is like a Soviet poster in overdrive.
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Cat-Man Comics no. 31, June 1946 (Continental Magazines). A great scene, isn’t it? Though shoddily printed, the tension of the moment comes through loud and clear, and I love the dots of snow in the darkness. Cat-man isn’t to be confused with Catman, a supervillain and enemy of Batman (first appearance in Detective Comics in 1963). Catman: a professional trapper of jungle cats turned to crime for the usual reason (i.e. boredom) after procuring himself a costume made out of ancient African cloth (?!) Cat-man: raised by a tigress to be an upstanding member of society and scourge of criminals, with 9 lives, super-strength and night vision at his disposal. The moral – be kind to tigers! Read the issue here.
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Cat-Man Comics no. 32, August 1946 (Continental Magazines). Cat-Man (created by Irwin Hasen), usually paired up with sidekick Kitten (created by Charles M. Quinlan), a former circus acrobat. That’s them frolicking underwater on this cover – tigers love water, by the way. This is the last issue of Cat-Man, so Kitten, who was 11 years old when her association with son-of-tigress began, is at her shapeliest. Mr. Cole wasn’t well-versed in anatomy for nothing. Read it here.
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Into its gurgling ghastliness goes Peep… sailing blithely in the rocket car...” I somehow imagine that read out loud with a British accent. And yes, there’s a character named “Peep” in the story. Jeep Comics no. 3, March-April 1948 (Spotlight Publishers). Read the issue here.
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Guns Against Gangsters vol. 1 no. 6, July-August 1949 (Premium). Read the issue here. Another cover with that blue-green-yellow gradation, and while I love these colours together, it’s the cartoony shark that gets my vote (and sympathy). Sadly, when one pits a woman in high heels and a miniskirt against a huge shark, the latter will always lose.
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Blue Bolt no. 105, April-May 1950 (Star Publications). I can’t resist the combination of a dragon/bird flown straight out of a Slavic fairy-tale with stylish space opera.
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Blue Bolt Weird Tales of Terror no. 113, May 1952 (Star Publications). A genuinely spooky cover.
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Blue Bolt Weird Tales of Terror no. 113, August 1952 (Star Publications). « It was a terrible thing that moaned and cried out in the dark vistas  of the deep bayous… » This cover is busy, no doubt about it, but I think it works. That slow, grotesque shuffle through water… brrr! Say what you will about L.B. Cole’s style or his propensity for using reds and greens, but the guy knew what he was doing.

~ ds

Tentacle Tuesday: out of the snowbank and into the jungle!

Welcome to the first Tentacle Tuesday of 2018. Exciting, isn’t it?

Since it’s currently chillingly cold outside (or so the weather networks tell us), let’s bask in a bit of warmth and visit some exotic places where heat reigns supreme all year ‘round.

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What’s the first thing to do on a vacation? Take a leisurely walk, of course. However, I’d advise against venturing into a swampy forest. Some people never listen to sage advice, however…

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This is Beware #13, 1953, with a cover by Harry Harrison. « Out of the filth and mud-spawned deep it came, this horrible slug-white creature that wanted only one thing — to be loved! » Wait, what? “Rebirth”, the cover story, also illustrated by Harrison, clearly has absolutely nothing to do with the cover.

I’m quite fond of Harry Harrison as a writer, but as an artist he seems to have been rather middling. Although advertised as a « saga of terror », Rebirth is an intriguing story in which the « horrible slug-white creatures » are actually far more likable than the regular humans, who are back-stabbing, greedy assholes. Not that the plot makes much sense.

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The “white slug” may be well-intentioned, but he tends to launch into pompous speeches at the drop of a hat.
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A heart-warming, romantic scene.

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Okay, so a walk through a forest didn’t pan out quite as hoped. Let’s take a soothing dive into welcoming, warm waters. Did I say “welcoming”? Perhaps a little *too* welcoming.

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Terrors of the Jungle #20, December 1952, cover by L.B. Cole. Normally I like Cole’s use of bright colours, but on this cover he goes all the way into gaudiness. However, the octopus is quite handsome, and he’s got startlingly human, expressive eyes. I’m rooting for him! Once again, the cover has little to do with the cover story.

“The Creeping Scourge”, credited to the Iger Shop (that my spellchecker keeps correcting to “tiger shop”), a comics packager that was officially known as the Eisner and Iger Studio, is an entertaining romp with babes in bondage, wild natives, cat fights, blood sacrifices, etc. For example:

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A typical page from The Creeping Scourge, published in Terrors of the Jungle #20, December 1952. « Help! The crawling thing eats me! » is a pretty snappy catchphrase.

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For the botanically-minded, a vacation is a fine opportunity to admire some heretofore unseen exotic plants. Take a look at this sweet little flower:

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« In the middle of the everglades, there’s a flower that’s different from any you’ve seen… »  Tales of Horror #11, June 1954. Pencils by Ben Brown, inks by David Gantz. “Death Flower” tells the blood-curdling tale of a creepy old man who lives in the Florida swamps and feasts on human flesh – after having turned into a flower, of course.
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The opening panel of “Death Flower”, also drawn by the Ben Brown (pencils) and David Gantz (inks) team.
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Wouldn’t *you* trust this old man? Just look at him – such honest eyes, such a confidence-inspiring face. Yes, of course we’ll go to your cabin, venerable oldster!

That’s it for our little holiday pleasure trip – come to think of it, I’ll remain where it’s cold and snowy, thanks.

~ ds

Tentacle Tuesday: tentacles, some fresh, some older than time

Welcome to Tentacle Tuesday! We now have an official logo for T.T., courtesy of my husband and fellow blogger. It’s brand-spanking new, so here it is in a fairly high resolution.

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Give him a round of applause… oh, what’s that, it’s hard to applaud with tentacles? Okay, a round of « squish, squish », then.

Let’s begin (proper) with « The Thing on the Roof », adapted by Roy Thomas from a story by Robert E. Howard. The latter was a member of the renowned Lovecraft circle, so the Chthulian vibe of this is no accident. It’s illustrated by Frank Brunner, who does a bang-up job – the man was asked to draw the love child of a dragon and an octopus, and he did not disappoint!

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The Thing on the Roof from Chamber of Chills no. 3 (May 1973, Marvel.)

Continuing in a similar vein (but fast-forwarding 40 years), here’s a terrific story from Bart Simpson’s Treehouse of Horror #19 (September 25th, 2013) which is so chock-full of tentacles that it could be a post all by itself. Written by Lovecraftian Len Wein and illustrated by Demonic Dan Brereton, it ranks as one of the top Treehouse comic stories as far as I’m concerned… but then I might be slightly biased. Or possessed by Chthulhu, whichever.

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I want a Lovecraft vacuum cleaner. *hint, hint*
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In this story, *everything*, animate and inanimate, sprouts tentacles.
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The dramatic/sublime/ludicrous wrap-up! Sorry to give the plot away. Yum, they even remembered to stick an apple in Milhouse’s mouth (it keeps him from screaming, I suppose). Did Lisa forget she’s a vegetarian?

I couldn’t help but post at least three pages of this story – hell, I was tempted to post it in its entirety – but I’ll let you do the work. Go read the whole thing here.

And to wrap up, let’s go back half a century or so, to the Miss Horrible Entity 1954.

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This striking cover is by L.B. Cole, who can always be relied on to provide us with some eye-popping colours. He’s also got a knack for depicting especially disgusting, moist and fleshy tentacles, don’t you think? Startling Terror Tales no. 10 (August 1954).

What I want to know is who, upon being startled by a cephalopod cyclops with vampire fangs and one very bloodshot eye, describes it as an “entity”? “Monster”, sure, even “beast” or “demon” or “creature”, but “entity” (defined as “a thing with distinct and independent existence” by Webster’s)? If you’re going to be *that* stuffy, maybe you deserve to get eaten.

~ ds