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

Charles Bronson’s Paper Doppelgängers

« I guess I look like a rock quarry that someone has dynamited. » — Charles Bronson

Welcome to our 400th post! I suppose a Steve Ditko birthday post would have been more momentous, but I did that already a couple of years ago, while he still drew breath.

Today, our man Charles Dennis Buchinsky, aka Charles Bronson (1921 – 2003… he would have turned 98 today — picture that!) squeezes in a rather routine bit part (merely credited as « The Pilot ») in Joe Molloy and Mike Zeck’s nonsensical hijacking melodrama Only a Toy. Heck, read it here if you don’t believe me.

Oddly enough, this expanded cameo came about just a year after Bronson’s megahit Death Wish, as Bronson reached the pinnacle of his earning power (in inverse proportion to the quality of his output, thanks to his long association with the shady Cannon Group). Presumably, he was just doing a favour for his old pal Zeck.

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« Like an unpalatable salad » indeed; a word salad. Published in Charlton’s Scary Tales no. 2 (October, 1975). Edited by George Wildman.

Ah, but this wasn’t the first time cartoonists had paid such tribute to Bronson: in 1971, writer Jean-Marie Brouyère and artist William Tai (aka Malik) created the South-America set Archie Cash series for Belgian bédé weekly Spirou. The series had a healthy run of 15 albums (what one would call a graphic novel over in North America) between 1973 and 1988.

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Front and back covers of Archie’s début, Le maître de l’épouvante (1973).

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And to give you a sense of the series’ narrative texture, page five from Le maître de l’épouvante; when it debuted in the fall of 1971, the series brought a welcome griminess and ethno-social realism to the squeaky-pristine pages of Spirou.

The Italians would then follow suit, “borrowing” Jean-Paul Belmondo‘s likeness for their Goldrake series around 1972, followed by Alain Delon‘s looks for Playcolt, and more exploitively, Ornella Muti‘s charms for Sukia. Mind you, all these liberties with celebrity likenesses don’t make Brian Hitch‘s laziness and lack of imagination any less reprehensible.

Anyway, back to our birthday boy: if you want to see Bronson at his finest, I recommend his early, pre-moustache TV showcase Man With a Camera (1958)… the 29-episode boxed set’ll cost you peanuts and it’s great value. Then, from his European period, you can’t go wrong with 1968’s Adieu l’ami (Farewell, Friend), co-starring the aforementioned Mr. Delon; 1970’s gloriously weird Le passager de la pluie (Rider on the Rain), 1971 winner of the Golden Globe for Best Foreign Film, and co-starring creepy Eva Green‘s mom (or should that be “mum”?) Marlène Jobert. And of course 1971’s Soleil rouge (Red Sun), co-starring, this time not only Delon, but none other than Toshirô Mifune!

Happy birthday, Mr. Buchinsky!

– RG

Tentacle Tuesday: a Treasure Trove of Charlton Tentacles

I wasn’t around in the 70s. (Literally, as in “I hadn’t been born yet”.) So when somebody – in, oh, say 2008 or so – handed me a copy of some ghost comics printed by Charlton Comics (I don’t remember what exactly), that was my first exposure to this publishing company. I wasn’t aware that I wasn’t « supposed » to like this stuff… and by the time some kind soul pointed out that it’s not exactly orthodox to seek out Charlton publications, it was too late to change my mind. Clearly, that’s how monsters with no taste are created.

Charlton Comics had the reputation for inferior printing (as one of my friends put it, « godawful colours and reproduction and paper ») and low quality control. I’d say that when one contemplates the variety of artistic styles and the dizzying panoply of artists published by them, the quality of the printing distinctly becomes a less important consideration. Charlton paid badly, sure, but since when do people decide what they like and what they don’t based on how artists are treated? (Just look around – companies that trample on creators’ rights are doing very well indeed.) It seems like a knee-jerk reaction; I often wonder if people who automatically react with sneers to the very mention of Charlton have actually read any of the comics this company printed. Or perhaps they’re scared by some of the artists’ styles which are just too wild, too squiggly, just not clean enough. (Sloppy line work! Anathema to any comic book lover worth his salt, right?)

Anyway, Charlton’s « loose editorial oversight » meant there was no house style to speak of, and artists with highly idiosyncratic styles could let their eccentricities shine.

You may notice some names are conspicuously absent from today’s post. Tom Sutton, exhibit A of the “chaotic, scratchy art” category, will get a Tentacle Tuesday post all to himself at a later date. Some beloved artists just didn’t draw any tentacles for Charlton (as far as I know!): Warren Sattler, Don PerlinSam Glanzman, Don Newton, Rocco Mastroserio, etc. Wayne Howard is already part of a Tentacle Tuesday (see Plant Tentacle Tuesday), as is Enrique Nieto (Tentacle Tuesday: Spunky Skirmishes).

Without further ado, but with lots of tentacles…

First, two beauties from Steve Ditko (if you’d like more Ditko – and who wouldn’t? – visit my co-admin RG’s lovely posts about him: Ditko’s Ghostly Haunts and Happy 90th birthday, Mr. Ditko!), both featuring “70s Ditko green“. (It’s that characteristic green hue that often appears on his covers, a fitting term coined by erudite Professor Fester.)

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Ghostly Tales no. 111 (September 1974), cover by Steve Ditko. « The Thing in the Hole » is a really cool story, but it’s written and drawn by Tom Sutton, and as such it’s off-limits for now (I’m hoarding material for a different post.)

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Ghostly Tales no. 122 (August 1976), cover by Steve Ditko.

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Do these green noose-appendage-things count as tentacles? Sure they do! Panel from The Crew That Was Hanged!, illustrated by Steve Ditko and written by Joe Gill.

And moving on to other series, other artists:

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Haunted no. 8 (October 1972), cover by Jack Abel (1927-1996), perhaps best known as an inker for DC and Marvel.

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Newly-weds that are half-squid, half-fly, but newly-weds nonetheless. Page by Peter A. Morisi (1928-2003), who went by the nom de plume of PAM (or, since his signature’s M looks like a triple “I”, “PAIII!”). He was a NYC police officer, and moonlighted as a comics artist. I really like his calm, easily recognizable style and the way his characters seem to be frozen in each panel. There’s something quite effective about this stillness, a pleasing contrast between the drama and action of a story and the way people are staring off-panel in quiet contemplation, even when terrified. This story is called “Wrong Turn” and comes from Haunted no. 13, 1973.

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(Baron Weirwulf’s) Haunted (Library) no. 28 (July 1976), cover by Mike Zeck, whose career actually started at Charlton (he later moved on to Marvel to work on Master of Kung Fu, Captain America, etc.).

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« The creature’s tendril closed so gently around his leg, he didn’t notice it at first. Then a second grasped his arm! » The Source is the cover story of Haunted no. 28. Is old Thomas Willet mad? Well, he just has unusual taste in pets, that’s all (and, as tradition demands, he will pay dearly for his extravagance). Pencils and inks by Frank Bolle (born in 1924), who worked for Gold Key and Charlton, illustrated horror stories for Warren titles, and also had a hand in several newspaper strips (Winnie Winkle, Apartment 3-G, Stan Drake’s The Heart of Juliet Jones, and Gil Thorp).

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Ghost Manor no. 1 (October 1971), cover by the ever-masterful Pat Boyette (1923-2000), who’s a big favourite at Who’s Out There. Go read a whole story by him: Pat Boyette — Hillbilly Makes Good

We couldn’t find a good enough scan of this issue online, and it’s one of the rare Ghost Manors co-admin RG doesn’t actually own, so here’s a cover photostat (slightly coloured):

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Ghost Manor no. 58 (August 1981), cover by the Recreo Studio.

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Ghostly Haunts no. 48 (February 1976), cover by Rich Larson (we’ve seen him before in Haunted House of Lingerie — see Tentacle Tuesday: a Day at the Beach).

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Ghostly Haunts no. 52 (October 1976), another cover by Pat Boyette, this time gorgeously painted.

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Beyond the Grave no. 11 (October 1983), cover by Mitch O’Connell (also present in Have Tentacles, Will Space Travel).

~ ds