Tentacle Tuesday Masters: Sergio Aragonés

I was startled to discover that after several years of WOT blogging, we still have no post dedicated to Sergio Aragonés. Perhaps this is in part because his art is ubiquitous – throughout his long career, he has contributed manifold pages to various DC publications, created an enduring barbarian parody, scripted and drawn (mostly solo but also in collaboration) an impressive number of mini-series published by Fantagraphics, Dark Horse and Bongo Comics, produced various comic-con paraphernalia, etc. And this is not to mention his lasting contributions to Mad Magazine (which I did discuss, though not at length, in A MAD dash… inside) – something in the magnitude of twelve thousand gags spread over 57 years and 491 issues of Mad.

A sequence from A Mad Look at Sharks from Mad no. 180 (January 1976, EC).

He’s also a charming, universally-liked man whose bigger-than-life persona has ensured that his participation in anything is always surrounded by fun anecdotes. It is my great pleasure to share this abridged compendium of Aragonés tentacles, of which there are many, as he enthusiastically added them into doodles and margins with great glee (and, as we know, « he has quite literally drawn more cartoons on napkins in restaurants than most cartoonists draw in their entire careers *», so just imagine how many tentacles are scattered throughout his work).

*according to Al Jaffee.

Room 13 one-pager, scripted (and edited) by Joe Orlando. This was published in House of Mystery no. 190 (Jan-Feb 1971, DC).

Incredibly, we still haven’t written a post dedicated to the great Plop! (this post is starting to sound like a to-do-in-the-nearest-future list), though Hallowe’en Countdown III, Day 30 did include a story from number 1. Plop!, “The New Magazine of Weird Humor!“, certainly included a lot of cephalopods in its 24 issues and I will doubtlessly get around them one of these days. In the meantime, here’s a very appropriate page from Plop! no. 16:

This closing page of Plop! no. 16 (September 1975, DC) was scripted by Steve Skeates.

Galloping forward through some twenty years, we briefly land at Marvel, namely these two pages from Groo the Wanderer no. 98 (February 1993, Marvel), co-plotted and scripted by Mark Evanier.

Sergio Aragonés Funnies, published between 2011 and 2014 by Bongo Comics, boast 12 issues of really enjoyable, remarkably varied material. For those who may think that Aragonés is one-trick pony who can only do ‘silly’ humour, this series offers many auto-biographical stories, some of them surprisingly poignant and heart-felt. Not to say that it’s not devoid of humour – the more serious stuff (including social criticism in the form of animal parables) is nestled among pages of slap-stick humour and imaginative goofiness, from one-pagers to longer stories that take most of an issue to develop. Aragonés also shares some background on his approach to stories, allowing us to peek into his imagination and possibly answer that hackneyed question that plagues all manner of writers, ‘where do you get your ideas from?’ If an anthology of Funnies is ever published, I’ll happily purchase it.

Excerpts from Kira and the Beauty Contest, published in Sergio Aragonés Funnies no. 2 (August 2011, Bongo Comics):

Panels from Sergio’s Inferno, published in Sergio Aragonés Funnies no. 3 (September 2011, Bongo Comics):

Finally, a panel from the back cover of Sergio Aragonés Funnies no. 10 (October 2013, Bongo Comics). Nevermind what the joke is, I just really like that octopus (as well as his other sea friends).

I mentioned materials related to Comic-Cons, so I would be amiss to not include at least one image of something vaguely related!

This design was created for the ‘Free Comic Book Day Commemorative Artist T-shirt’ in 2010.

I’ll end this post with a classic Aragonés anecdote, as told by Mark Evanier. This happened while these two were participating in filming The Half-Hour Comedy Hour television show for NBC in 1983, on which the model Jayne Kennedy was a guest. [source]

« This was one of the most beautiful women in the world. And she wore this dress that was very revealing, so much so the censors wouldn’t let us put her on the air in it without adding some material. So we’re all talking to her, the writers and whoever, just in awe of this woman. And Sergio comes walking in looking like a homeless person, carrying his portfolio. And Jayne sees him and she shouts, ‘Sergio!’ and she runs over and starts kissing him passionately.

They’d worked together before, it turned out. But Johnny Carson comes walking out into the hallway and he thinks Jayne Kennedy is being sexually assaulted by a homeless person in the NBC hallways. He came over to make sure she was okay. She said it was fine, that she knew him, and I said, ‘It’s okay, he’s a cartoonist.’

So Johnny gives that classic look and he says, ‘I knew I should have taken up drawing.’ » 

~ ds

With the Magic Words, ‘Hey Look!’

« Hey, Look! is essential reading for any cartoonist. » — the late and much-missed Patrick Dean, who truly knew what he was talking about.

Sometimes I think of a post topic and dismiss it with a ‘nah, too obvious’… but on some of my brighter days, I run the idea past my wife, who provides a welcome reality check: ‘Obvious to whom?‘, she asks. Well, there’s been a collected edition… which has been out of print for most of the nearly thirty years since it hit the stands. Fair enough.

As I’ve been lately foraging through the crumbling back pages of Golden Age humour comics (see my previous post), it would be negligently immoral for me to pass over one of the crown jewels of the genre, the era and the medium.

One* of the redeeming features of Marvel’s overwhelmingly crass Dynamite (magazine) rip-off, Pizzazz, was its reprinting of a handful of Harvey Kurtzman‘s majestic Hey Look! strips. Of course, it made perfect economic sense: grab some already (and barely)-paid-for, all-but-forgotten ‘filler’ from the 1940s, slap some new colour on ‘em, and wham! One less egg to fry.

Here’s the collection in question. Published in 1992 by the venerable Kitchen Sink Press, it has yet to be improved upon. In addition to all the Hey Look! strips, it includes an unsurprisingly excellent introduction by the erudite John Benson, and further sweetens the pot with Kurtzman’s other Timely features of the era, namely Genius, Egghead Doodle and Potshot Pete. The latter is particularly worth a look-see.
The earliest Hey Look! strips are cute and of some historical significance, but rather scattershot and tentative. Here’s roughly where Kurtzman starts to really, and consistently, cook. Originally published in Gay Comics no. 33 (Aug. 1948, Timely).
« Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose. » — Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr, circa 1848. Clearly, listening to the news has never brought much comfort to one’s mind and soul. Originally published in Gay Comics no. 34 (Oct. 1948, Timely).
Mr. Kurtzman was ahead of the game, anticipating the superhero genre’s dark turn of the mid-80s and beyond, and pointing out its inherent fascism. Already a bit too close too home at the time of its creation, this piece languished in limbo until its publication in 1966 in a limited-edition portfolio.
Originally published in Nellie the Nurse no. 16 (Dec. 1948, Timely).
Originally published in Hedy Divine no. 30 (Dec. 1948, Timely).
Originally published in Joker no. 35 (Jan. 1949, Timely).
Originally published in Millie no. 16 (Feb. 1949, Timely). Always experimenting: dig here Kurtzman’s elegant use of the scratchboard technique.
Originally published in Nellie the Nurse no. 19 (Apr. 1949, Timely). With the miniaturisation of electronics, and cameras in particular, there’s (of course) been an opposing movement toward huge telephoto lenses. Read into it what you will.
I was, and remain, especially fond of this one, originally published in Gay Comics no. 37 (Apr., 1949) and reprinted in Pizzazz 15 (Dec. 1978)… the one with the Battlestar Galactica cover. ‘Cabazziz’ is made up, but Podunk has roots.
Originally published in Patsy Walker no. 22 (May 1949, Timely). Incidentally, generic ‘teen’ humour character Patsy Walker has since (circa 1976) been refashioned and recycled, in the tried-and-true ‘waste not, want not’ Marvel manner, into a superheroine, Hellcat. Sheesh.

-RG

*one other was Jon Buller‘s riotously surreal Bob the Blob in The Great American Comic Strip Catastrophe.

Tentacle Tuesday: Don’t Miss the Boat!

« Don’t change your tack when the timbers crack
On the dark and the rolling sea…
» *

I am relatively indifferent to tales of adventure, but the siren song of the ocean sometimes prompts me to venture into reading tales about ruthless pirates or valorous seafarers and the perilous voyages they undertake on ships big and small, magnificent or modest. Who hasn’t felt a thrill at spotting a handsome vessel on the water, even if that water is but a canal running through the city? The other point of interest of this discussion is that where there’s an ocean and a ship upon it, there is a (preferably) giant octopus somewhere nearby, only waiting to shred the ship’s hull to smithereens and voraciously gobble up its shipmates.

I’ve talked about consumed shipmates before (see Tentacle Tuesday: Seafaring octopuses and the men they have shamelessly devoured), so today let’s focus on some nautical vessels!

Here is a modestly-sized yet utilitarian boat with a handsome octopus in tow. Maybe he just wanted to climb on deck to rest a while, like this otter?

More Fun Comics no. 44 (June 1939). Cover by Creig Flessel.

A similar boat (I don’t know whether it’s my profound lack of knowledge of boats that makes it seem that way) was attacked by a bigger, scarier – downright malevolent! – octopus some twenty years later. See Kyle “Ace” Morgan, Matthew “Red” Ryan, Leslie “Rocky” Davis and Walter Mark “Prof” Haley scramble for safety while an enraged octopus seeks to devour them! Oh, sorry, I’m being melodramatic.

Challengers of the Unknown no. 77 (Dec. 1970 – Jan. 1971, DC). Pencilled by Jack Kirby, inked by Jack and Rosalind (Roz) Kirby.

This cover has actually been recycled from Showcase no. 12 (Jan.-Feb. 1958, DC), where the background was yellow and the water a more normal shade of blue-white. I do like how the octopus stands out against a black background, however (and the multi-coloured water really sets off his beady, evilly-glowing green eyes!)

Of course these encounters also take place within the stories, as opposed to on the cover.

Page from The Outcasts of the Seven Seas, scripted by Bob Haney, pencilled by Howard Purcell, and inked by Sheldon Moldoff, was published in Sea Devils no. 23 (May-June 1965).

Time to move underwater, a very natural setting for an octopus attack. Here we have a submarine tenderly wrapped in tentacles:

Page from The Human Torch in the Clutches of the Puppet Master!, (over)scripted by Stan Lee, pencilled by Dick Ayers and inked by George Roussos. This story was published in Strange Tales no. 116 (Jan. 1964, Marvel).

Last but not least, I’ve kept this neat little submarine until the end:

Voyage to the Deep (IDW Publishing, 2019), a collection of Dell Comics’ short-lived, four-issue series published from 1962 to 1964 and illustrated by Sam Glanzman. Note the introduction by WOT favourite Stephen Bissette!

Glanzman is also a favourite of ours, though we haven’t talked about him much (yet). In case you’re wondering what the insides of one of those issues looked like – good, they looked really good! Note the octopus proudly perched in the middle of the page.

Page from Voyage to the Deep no. 1 (September-November 1962, Dell). Art by Sam Glanzman.

~ ds

Into the Inky Shadows With Jerry Grandenetti

« Jerry Grandenetti started out ghosting The Spirit, and nobody… NOBODY… captured the spirit of The Spirit better. Not content to stay in Will Eisner’s shadow forever, he forged his own unique style leading to a highly successful comics career lasting decades. » — Michael T. Gilbert

Since my very first encounter with his work, Jerry Grandenetti (1926-2010; born ninety-five years ago today, another Thursday April 15th) has endured as one of my true artistic heroes. But he’s not celebrated much at all.

Though he’s worked extensively on The Spirit, he’s treated as a bit of a footnote in the Eisner hagiography. His DC war work is well-regarded, but he’s inevitably overshadowed by the Joe KubertRuss HeathJohn Severin trinity. Besides, by and large, the war comics audience doesn’t overlap much with the spandex long johns crowd. Grandenetti has only very occasionally and timidly dipped a toe into the super-heroics fray, and he was far too unusual for overwhelming mainstream acclaim.

In fact, aside from the couple of converts I’ve made over the years, I can only think of three fellow torch-bearing aficionados: Michael T. Gilbert (who digs best the early, Eisner-employed Jerry); Stephen R. Bissette (who favours the spooky 60s and 70s work); and Don Mangus, who’s most into the DC war stuff. I daresay I enjoy it all, but my taste is most closely aligned with Mr. Bissette’s on this particular point. Let’s sample a bit of everything, insofar as it’s feasible to sum up a career spread out over five decades… in a dozen-or-so images.

Opening splash from The Secret Files of Dr. Drew: Sabina the Sorceress, written by Marilyn Mercer and lettered by Abe Kanegson, from Rangers Comics no. 56 (Dec. 1950, Fiction House); this version hails from a reprint (Mr. Monster’s Super Duper Special no. 2, Aug. 1986, Eclipse) using the surviving original art; it was recoloured by Steve Oliff.
Page 3 from The Secret Files of Dr. Drew: Curse of the Mandibles!, written by Marilyn Mercer and lettered by Abe Kanegson, from Rangers Comics no. 55 (Oct. 1950, Fiction House); this version hails from a reprint (Doc Stearn… Mr. Monster no. 4, Dec. 1985, Eclipse) using the surviving original art; it was most tastefully recoloured by Steve Oliff.

In 1954, the powers-that-be at National Periodical Publications (you know, DC) gave Grandenetti some latitude to experiment with their War covers. Grandenetti produced an arresting hybrid of painted and line art. The process involved a grey wash painting that was photostatted, with flat colour laid over the resulting image. The first few attempts yielded striking, but nearly monochromatic results. A bit farther down the pike, the production department got more assured in its technical exploration.

This is G.I. Combat no. 77 (Oct. 1959, DC); wash tones and colouring by Jack Adler, who recalled, in a 1970s interview: « It was suggested that we start doing washes for covers, and we were talking about doing it for so damned long, but nobody attempted it. I think Grandenetti did the first one, an army cover with someone floating in the water. I think that was the first wash cover that was done. That one ended up looking like a full color painting. »
This is G.I. Combat no. 83 (Aug.- Sept. 1960, DC); wash tones and colouring by Jack Adler. In 1995, Robert Kanigher, Grandenetti’s editor on the DC war books and a frequent collaborator, recalled: « Jerry liked to experiment and I had to sit on him to get him to stop it. Especially in his covers, which were outstanding, when I forced him to draw as realistically as possible. »
Original art from The Wrath of Warlord Krang!, smothered in dialogue and exposition by Stan Lee, from Tales to Astonish no. 86 (Dec. 1966, Marvel); inks by Bill Everett. Namor‘s constant random shouts of ‘Imperius Rex!‘ make him sound like a sitcom character with Tourette’s. As far as I’m concerned, it’s possibly been the most annoyingly asinine slogan in comics since Stan stole ‘Excelsior!‘ from Jean Shepherd.
The opening splash from Cry Fear, Cry Phantom, written by Archie Goodwin, from Eerie no. 7 (Jan. 1967, Warren). In the mid-60s, presumably tiring of being pigeonholed as a war artist at DC, Grandenetti made the publishers’ rounds, doing a bit of work for Tower, Gold Key, Charlton, Marvel, Cracked (check it out here) and most memorably Warren where, after ghosting a few stories for Joe Orlando, he unleashed his innovative expressionistic style.

DC was generally hesitant to entrust its more established properties to the more “out there” artists. In the cases of Grandenetti and Carmine Infantino, the solution was to match them with the weirdness-dampening inks of straight-arrow artist Murphy Anderson. And you know what? It did wonders for both pencillers and inker.

This is The Spectre no. 6, October, 1968. A tale told by Gardner Fox (and likely heavily revised by hands-on editor Julius Schwartz, a man who loved alliterative titling) and superbly illustrated by the Grandenetti-Anderson team. Steve Ditko aside, Jerry Grandenetti had no peer in the obscure art of depicting eldritch dimensions (you’ll see!)

Page 13 from Pilgrims of Peril! written by Gardner Fox, from The Spectre no. 6 (Sept.- Oct. 1968, DC); inked by Murphy Anderson. Dig the salute to a trio of real-life spooky writers, all of whom editor Julius Schwartz knew well, having even served as Lovecraft’s literary agent late in his life. By the tail end of the 1960s, Lovecraft’s work was finally making some commercial inroads, thanks largely to Arkham House co-publisher Derleth‘s unflagging diligence.
Page 22 from Pilgrims of Peril! written by Gardner Fox, from The Spectre no. 6 (Sept.- Oct. 1968, DC); inked by Murphy Anderson.
Page 2 from Men Call Me the Phantom Stranger, written by Mike Friedrich, from Showcase no. 80 (Feb. 1969, DC); inks by Bill Draut. This story reintroduced an obscure character from the early 50s, which Grandenetti had drawn a couple of times during his six-issue run. The Phantom Stranger has remained active ever since, but most writers (save Alan Moore, wouldn’t you know it?) don’t really know what to do with him. This, however, is my very favourite PS appearance. Draut, a slightly old-fashioned penciller by this time was, as a slick inker, a wonderful fit for Grandenetti’s confidently loopy layouts.
Page 3 from The Haunting!, written by Jack Oleck, from House of Mystery no. 183 ((Nov.-Dec. 1969, DC). Grandenetti pencils and inks: undiluted!
Page 2 from Eyes of the Cat, written by Robert Kanigher, from House of Mystery no. 189 (Nov.-Dec. 1970, DC); inks by Jerry’s fellow Will Eisner ghost Wallace Wood. The inspired combination of Grandenetti’s adventurous layouts and the velvety unctuousness of Wood’s finishes are a match made in heaven, but one Woody wasn’t fond of. Oh well.

So there you are. Just the tiniest tip of the iceberg. Happy birthday, Mr. Grandenetti!

-RG

Tentacle Tuesday: Barbarian Fatigue

Greetings all! Today we play whack-a-mole with a few warriors in loincloths – or at least that’s how I felt when looking for material in this post. Every time I found an instance of tentacles in some Conan the barbarian or Kull the destroyer tale, there was yet another one just an issue or a couple down the line. Let’s then consider this the end of a story begun with Tentacle Tuesday: the Savagery of Conan’s Savage Sword and continued with Tentacle Tuesday: Conan-o-rama: after this, I’ll be all Conan-ed out for a few years to come. So drink a shot of some concoction you like (be it coffee or the potent Zombie), and join me for this last foray into the dark, mysterious, predictable world of sword-and-sorcery heroes who run around half-naked (for better freedom of movement, no doubt).

Poor octopus, by far the most tragic figure of this story… These two pages are from The Dweller in the Dark, scripted by Roy Thomas and illustrated by Barry Smith, was published in Conan the Barbarian no. 12 (December 1971, Marvel).
You can’t have it both ways – praising a woman for exhibiting quintessentially ‘feminine’ characteristics and then getting pissed off at her dismay and fright when grabbed by a murderous monster.
The Sunken Land, scripted by Denny O’Neil (from a short story by Fritz Leiber), is pencilled by Walter Simonson and inked by Al Milgrom. This story was published in Sword of Sorcery no. 5 (Nov-Dec 1973, DC). I like Leiber, and I’ve been meaning to get to the Gray Mouser for a while – but I’m reading Andrzej Sapkowski’s Witcher right now, and one sword-and-sorcery saga at a time seems reasonable.
Page from Flame Winds of Lost Khitai!, scripted by Roy Thomas, pencilled by John Buscema and inked by Ernie Chan, published in Conan the Barbarian no. 32 (November 1973, Marvel). Interestingly, barbarians seem to universally abhor striking a woman; an attempt at primitive ethics from the part of the scripters.

One more Conan before we move on to Kull…

Page from Isle of the Dead, scripted by Bruce Jones and illustrated by Val Mayerik, published in Conan the Barbarian no. 138 (September 1982, Marvel). This page has the rare distinction of having the warrior-hero being less clothed than the girl he’s with.

As promised, here’s Kull the destroyer, engaged in battle with an eighties octopus (check out that mohawk!)

Two pages from The Thing from Emerald Darkness, scripted by Doug Moench, pencilled by Ed Hannigan and inked by Alfredo Alcala. This story was published in Kull, the Destroyer no. 17 (October 1976, Marvel). Why does a traitor (that’s not ‘traiter’) deserve better than to die from tentacles? That seems like no worse a death than any other in battle.
A page from City of the Crawling Dead, scripted by Don Glut, pencilled by Ernie Chan, and inked by Rick Hoberg. It was published in Kull, the Destroyer no. 21 (June 1977, Marvel).

Just before you pass out from over-consumption of alcoholic drinks (I’m having a gin and tonic over here!), I’d like to enliven this parade of humdrum tentacles a bit with this Conan pin-up:

This scene by Mike Zeck featured on the cover of long-running ad zine Rocket’s Blast Comicollector no. 119 (June 1975, James Van Hise).

~ ds

Tentacle Tuesday: The Tentacles Are Coming! The Werewolves Are Here!

« The tentacles had burned where they’d touched our skin… and the oozing slime they’d rubbed into the wound didn’t help. We panted and trembled »

I have little interest in werewolves, despite just having finished one in wool. I’d say I place them somewhere between Frankenstein’s monster (in which I have zero interest – sorry!) and Dracula (whom I am generally intrigued by, depending on whose version we’re talking about). Having said that, the bizarre concept of werewolf vs tentacles grabbed my imagination by its incongruity. “Grarr”, as the werewolf might say.

The author and her werewolf; he doesn’t have a name, yet.

The Giant-Size Werewolf may not be as rife in tentacles as the Giant-Size Dracula, but it has its moments. “A man, a woman… and rampaging hordes” has a certain nice ring about it!

A page from Tigra the Were-Woman!, published in Giant-Sized Creatures no. 1 (July 1974). Script by Tony Isabella, pencils by Don Perlin and inks by Vince Colletta.

When the Moon Dripped Blood!, scripted by Doug Moench and illustrated by Yong Montaño, was published in Giant-Size Werewolf no. 4 (April 1975):

Anybody would be startled by slimy tentacles coming out from under a robe… slimy and burning, at that.

Doug Moench continues his tentacle shenanigans one month later in Werewolf by Night no. 7 (March 1975).

Cover pencilled by Gil Kane (Tentacle Tuesday dabbler!) and inked by Tom Palmer.

The Amazing Doctor Glitternight was scripted by Doug Moench and illustrated by Don Perlin:

Likely beating all records for how much text you can cram into one splash page.
The “yecch-monster” awakens as Glitternight somehow manages to exude both light and darkness, and simultaneously nourish and feed. I get the impression somebody was paid by the word for this story.
Has the werewolf ever heard that “words are very unnecessary“? Was it essential to inform us that he might have been stunned, or maybe paralyzed, and it doesn’t matter anyway, as both are just words?

Next time the Werewolf encounters tentacles, it’s an epic, 2-issue tale of the desperate fight against ‘soul-eater’ Marcosa, an ectoplasmic wraith who occasionally takes a physical form and often deploys tentacles to do his dirty work for him.

Werewolf by Night no. 36 (January 1976). Cover Don Perlin.

Marcosa in Death (plot-spoiler: death is not actually involved) was scripted by Doug Moench and illustrated by Don Perlin:

Moral of the tale: don’t open doors when you don’t know what’s behind them.

Marcosa doesn’t quite die despite all the gnashing of teeth and ripping of tentacles, so the story continues to its grim conclusion in the next issue. The End, scripted by Doug Moench and illustrated by Don Perlin, was published in Werewolf By Night no. 37 (March 1976).

Perlin goes wild drawing teeth! An orthodontist’s worst nightmare (or perhaps a nice little earner).

What other giant-sized topic will we continue with next time? Only time will tell! Stay tuned…

~ ds

Nomenclature, or How to Tell Your Thingamajig From Your Whatchamacallit

« The beginning of wisdom is to call things by their proper name. » — Confucius

To a bibliophile, shelf space is precious. In recent years, I’ve happily purged my library of many a bulky and obsolete reference tome. With the sheer mass of information that’s migrated online, it’s frequently far simpler to tap a few key words than to scan the shelves in order to pull out and peruse some quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore. Frequently — but not always. One significant exception is my copy of What’s What, accurately touted as « a visual glossary of everyday objects — from paper clips to passenger ships ». Obviously, it covers the expected doohickeys and other dinguses, contraptions and doodads, esteemed constituents of our flora and fauna… but, on occasion, it drifts deep into left field, and that gives it spice. To wit, its entry on cartooning:

Cartooning: Many one-panel cartoons use captions or labels below the illustration for dialogue or explanation. Those appearing on the editorial pages of newspapers are called editorial or political cartoons and usually feature an exaggerated likeness, or caricature, of some well-known figure, as the main character. Comics, or comic books, use cartooning throughout. A complete shericasia, or shallop, is used by a cartoonist to depict a complete swing at an object, be it a golf ball or another person.

This most edifying illustration was the work of Mike Witte (b. 1944), who later chucked this charming infusion of the old ‘big foot’ school of cartooning to settle into an in-demand but pasteurised version of Ralph Steadman‘s style (itself, I would argue, a more grotesque version of Ronald Searle‘s approach). Still, bully for him — it’s a hard business to earn a proper living in. Sure, the classic big foot tradition already had a modern master in Elwood Smith… but the more the merrier! (and speaking of Onomatopeia…)
Mort Walker‘s Beetle Bailey Sunday strip from July 9, 1978, a most judicious choice, was dissected.
Here’s my well-thumbed, yellowing copy of What’s What: it’s the first book trade edition (Nov. 1982, Ballantine), copies of which, or the updated edition, circa the early 1990s, can still be obtained dirt cheap. And “Nose leather?” Awww.

To this array of clever cartooning terms, we simply must remedy one omission, and it’s a crucial one: Kirby Krackle!

A page from Nazi “X” (Captain America no. 211, July 1977, Marvel) with the wild and wooly Arnim Zola – the Bio-Fanatic – flexing his mental muscles. Written, pencilled and edited by Jack Kirby, inked and lettered by our dear Mike Royer, and coloured by Glynis Wein.
Another example, to make sure everyone gets it straight? The sky’s ablaze with Kirby Krackle in this ominously magnificent splash from Kamandi no. 24 (Dec. 1974, DC) and its tale of The Exorcism! Written, pencilled and edited by Jack Kirby, inked and lettered by Douglas Bruce Berry, and most likely coloured by Jerry Serpe.

-RG

Tentacle Tuesday: Métamorphoses

« My imagination grew wilder, the most unexpected associations flared up in my mind, and as I kept trying, the reception room kept filling with strange objects. Many of them were born, apparently, out of the subconscious, the brooding jungles of hereditary memory, out of primeval fears long suppressed by the higher levels of education. They had extremities and kept moving about, they emitted disgusting sounds, they were indecent, they were aggressive and fought constantly. I was casting about like a trapped animal. All this vividly reminded me of the old cuts with scenes of St. Anthony’s temptations. » [source]

Today’s topic does not involve a man becoming a cockroach: that has been discussed often enough. My current area of interest concerns the many strange and striking ways in which a living form becomes a completely different form under the influence of a supernatural power or its natural inclination, of witchcraft or the whimsy of a writer whose imagination flares up much like it did for poor A. I. Privalov, depicted above trying to create a a sandwich and a cup of coffee and ending up with a roomful of horrors…

This strange creature surely illustrates the perils of getting stuck mid-metamorphosis!

The Doom Patrol no. 95 (May 1965). Cover by Bob Brown. While transforming into god-knows-what, Dr. Sven Larsen is careful to preserved his impeccably coiffed chevelure. Perhaps he inspired Ted Baxter.

In Return of the Animal-Vegetable-Mineral Man, scripted by Arnold Drake and illustrated by Bruno Premiani, the Doom Patrol battle a scientist crazed with power-lust (while dealing with trouble of their own, like being unable to control their powers – it was apparently decided that a scientist who can become anything he likes is not interesting enough).

That this AVM (animal, vegetable, mineral) man decided to transform into an octopus will not surprise regular readers of Tentacle Tuesday: we know that the octopus is the most perfect form there is!

In the rest of the story, AVM also transforms himself into electric eels, tungsten birds, a building-tall neanderthal man, liquid mercury, a grizzly bear, etc., but it’s all a bit of a let-down after the giant octopus, if you ask me.

I’ll continue with this rather evocative cover by Bernie Wrightson, in which we get a preview peek at a gruesome scene just a few seconds before it actually happens.

House of Mystery no. 204 (July 1972). Cover by Bernie Wrightson.

It all starts with a nasty dream of cranberry jelly…

… and ends with an unwelcome transformation of future bride into hungry monster. In this case, a pretty girl is not so much like a melody, but yet another helping of aforementioned cranberry jelly… perhaps I should have kept this story until Christmas.

All in the Family was scripted by Mary Skrenes and Bernie Wrightson; illustrated by Bernie Wrightson.

If this story of transmogrification made your teeth itch, just have a gander at the following histoire d’amour

Captain Marvel no. 40 (September 1975). Cover pencilled by Al Milgrom and inked by Klaus Janson.

No, hold your horses, I’m not implying anything untoward about Captain Marvel. That thing he’s tangled up with is his lover (or should I say ex-lover) Una. Just a little case of demonic possession!

Um, those are not “eyes of wonder”, more like a demented gaze.

Will Captain Mar-vell be able to kill the woman he loves, even if she’s more of a shell inhabited by a tentacled psychic monstrosity, and despite having lost his manhood, whatever that was?

Stay put for the exciting finale of Rocky Mountain ‘Bye! was scripted by Steve Englehart and Al Milgrom, pencilled by Milgrom, and inked by Al McWilliams!

What do we have here? A harmless trick-or-treating kid transformed by Mr. Mxyzptlk into a malefic octopus? It’s business as usual for Superman in this goofy tale (who, incidentally, was the star of Tentacle Tuesday: It’s a Bird! It’s a Plane! It’s a Tentacle!) I’m sure most children would relish the opportunity to become an actual ghost or werewolf…

But I am not convinced that anybody would want to be transformed into, err, “Globby”.

Nothing as stylish as an octopus with a digital watch.

These pages were from The Haunting Dooms of Halloween!, scripted by Dan Mishkin, pencilled by Curt Swan and inked by Tony de Zuñiga, published in DC Comics Presents no. 53 (January 1983).

~ ds

Hallowe’en Countdown IV, Day 25

« He was offered a sloe gin fizz in a pink frosted glass by a young woman who removed her glass eye and sucked on it while discussing the moral imperatives of the sponge boycott in Brooksville, Florida. » — Harlan Ellison, ‘Neon’.

In 1973, Marvel was trying all sorts of things to bolster its market presence. They even dared to tread where even the venerable Weird Tales had never quite succeeded. The Haunt of Horror was a prose fiction digest that strongly showed its comics roots. It offered a mixture of classic material (Fritz Leiber’s Conjure Wife, a piece by Robert E. Howard) and of contemporary genre practitioners: Harlan Ellison, Ramsey Campbell… featuring a score of illustrations slapped together by Marvel’s less superhero-limited alumni, namely Gene Colan, Mike Ploog, Frank Brunner, Walt Simonson and Dan Green. After two issues, Marvel called the whole thing off, licking its wounds, but soon revived the title as a b&w comics magazine, this time eking out five issues (May 1974 – Jan. 1975) plus a 1977 issue of Marvel Preview.

This is The Haunt of Horror no. 1 (June, 1973), edited by Gerry, no, make that *Gerard* Conway (in full ‘take me seriously, I’m not just a hack comics writer!‘ mode), with a striking cover by Gray Morrow.

As for me, I picked it up for the rare short story by the nonpareil R. A. Lafferty, Ghost in the Corn Crib.

Dan Green‘s illustration for Lafferty’s story.
One of Frank Brunner‘s illustrations for John K. Diomede (alias George Alec Effinger)’s The First Step.
Werewolf by Night originator Mike Ploog didn’t have to stretch far beyond his comfort zone for this illustration for Alfred Angelo Attanasio‘s Loup Garou (french for Werewolf, if you still feel the need to ask).
It’s nigh-impossible to fully scan some these images without destroying the source document, but here’s the opening splash for Haunt of Horror’s publication of Fritz Leiber’s 1943 classic Conjure Wife, adapted in the movies as Night of the Eagle (in the UK) and Burn, Witch, Burn (in the US). Here, a fine, committed but uncredited Gray Morrow pebble board illustration is ‘corrected’ by Marvel’s number two Yes Man (Consulting Editor Rascally Roy Thomas would surely be numero uno), who replaces whichever figure Gray had drawn by an image of Mary Jane Watson, not even bothering with the slightest effort to match the style. John Sr. had gotten plenty of practice ‘fixing’ Kirby and Ditko, so Gray Morrow was just ‘all in a day’s work’.
Gene Colan was called upon to whip up a few quick pieces for the rest of the feature.
The Haunt of Horror ran just one more issue, graced by a lovely, quite pulpy cover by the nonpareil Frank Kelly Freas, whose efforts Romita Sr. has also seen fit to ‘fix’. See Unknown World of Science-Fiction no. 1 (Jan. 1975). This, however, is The Haunt of Horror no. 2 (Aug. 1973, Marvel). Come to think of it, that evil priest kind of anticipates a latter-day Nicolas Cage, doesn’t he?

In the end, you might say that this short-lived publication is best known for a screwup: indeed, the notoriously disorganized Marvel Bullpen messed up the page order of Harlan Ellison‘s contribution to the first issue, Neon. Never one to let such things slide, Harlan made sure that a correct version was printed in the second issue. Score one for the good guys.

-RG

Tentacle Tuesday: Grabbery Through the Ages

It occurs to me that I haven’t focused on the good old mademoiselle-embraced-by-tentacles cliché in a while. If today has a further theme, it’s of women (both human and alien) being grabbed by the midriff. Polka-dotted tentacles in a swamp and furry tentacles on Venus, whether they’re latching on to a humanoid woman with four breasts or a blue-skinned Talokian, all basically behave the same way.

As usual, this is a chronological progression that takes us from early Golden Age days all the way to mid flamboyant 80s.

The Robot Masters of Venus, illustrated by Max Plaisted (of Spicy Mystery fame!), was published in Exciting Comics v. 1 no. 3 (June 1940, Pines).
The Vengeance of the Space Monster!, pencilled by Ken Bald and inked by Syd Shores (both names are, however, guesses), was published in Marvel Mystery Comics no. 90 (February 1949, Atlas).

I agree that having one’s ribcage crushed does not help with breathing, but still, I am not sure why Shadow Lass is choking on the panel on the right when the vege-demon has her by the midriff.

War of the Wraith-Mates!, scripted by Cary Bates, pencilled by George Tuska and inked by Vince Colletta, was published in Superboy no. 183 (May 1972, DC).

For a little variety, I’m also including the following warrior vixen as a pleasant exception to the rule – she is not only not being grabbed, but also has an octopus for an obedient pet.

Girl on Octopus by Brian Lewis, painted sometime in the mid 1970s.

Our next stop is a proposed illustration for the 1984 movie The Warrior and the Sorceress, painted by Bob Larkin. The movie in question (which I have never seen) is apparently “noted chiefly for containing extensive nudity and violence and for being one of the more extreme examples of the sword-and-sorcery genre. It is also considered by some to be a cult classic.

The sorceress has 4 breasts – a logistical nightmare when selecting a bikini, no doubt.

As… questionable… as this is, the illustration that was chosen in the end is in a whole other class of cheesiness. The sorceress has also died her hair blonde, presumably because she wants to have (even more) fun! We also lost the cephalopod, unfortunately, but the maxim “one can’t have everything” comes to mind – and David Carradine in a pearly loincloth is plenty.

Art by Joanne Daley, who at least makes some sort of attempt at designing a functional four-breast-bra.

After *that*, the following cover looks quite humdrum by comparison. It’s difficult to imagine how Red Sonja will extricate herself from this situation…

Red Sonja no. 5 (January 1985, Marvel). The cover is by Pat Broderick.

Incidentally, there are tons of Red Sonja cover with tentacles, mostly of recent vintage, and most of them are ugly as sin. This one is decent:

The cover art for Red Sonja no. 21 (April 2007, Dynamite). This is a variant cover by Roberto Castro.

✭ ds