Tentacle Tuesday: All Aboard the Batmarine!

« Even without the benefit of philosophical reflection, anyone who has spent some time in an enclosed space with an excited bat knows what it is to encounter a fundamentally alien form of life. » (Thomas Nagel, What is it like to be a bat?)

Bats and octopuses, now there’s a combination that doesn’t often occur in nature – while both are admirable, fascinating animals, they’re not linked by lifestyle or environment, and neither is the other’s prey. Batman, on the other hand, has definitely tangled with many tentacled monsters in his time (which proves that he’s not a bat). I’m sure today’s post didn’t unearth *all* the octopuses that Batman has had the pleasure of defeating, especially those of a more modern vintage (with mostly horrible art, which is why I’m not too worried)… but today’s selection, you will have to admit, is quite fair.

The Voyage of the First Batmarine!, scripted by Edmond Hamiton, pencilled by Dick Sprang and inked by Charles Paris, was published in Batman no. 86 (September 1954).

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Bat-Mite Meets Mr. Mxyzptlk (he must be from Poland, with a name like that), scripted by Jerry Coleman, pencilled by Dick Sprang, and inked by Sheldon Moldoff, was published in World’s Finest Comics no. 113 (November 1960):

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I totally squee-ed when I saw this panel.

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Justice League of America no. 27 (May 1964), with the cover pencilled by Mike Sekowsky and inked by Murphy Anderson:

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The inside story, The “I” Who Defeated the Justice League! is scripted by Gardner Fox, pencilled by Mike Sekowsky, and inked by Bernard Sachs:

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Batman no. 357 (March 1983). Cover pencilled by Ed Hannnigan and inked by Dick Giordano:

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The cover story, Squid, is scripted by Gerry Conway, pencilled by Don Newton, and inked by Alfredo Alcala:

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Since they threatened us with the continuation of the story, I followed up, and dug up more tentacles. Deathgrip, scripted by Gerry Conway, pencilled by Don Newton and inked by Dick Giordano, was published (as promised) in Detective Comics no. 524 (March 1983):

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Enigma of the Death-Ship!, scripted by Bob Haney and illustrated by Jim Aparo, was published in The Brave and the Bold no. 142 (July-August 1978):

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I mentioned modern comics, earlier – I’ve chosen two examples published relatively recently, with passable art.

The pompously titled Leaves of Grass, Part 3: Comedown!, scripted by Alan Grant, pencilled by Dave Taylor and inked Stan Woch, was published in Batman: Shadow of the Bat no. 58 (January 1997):

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Knightmares, Part 4, scripted by Tom King and illustrated by Jorge Fornes, was published in Batman no. 66 (May 2019):

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To conclude on a more pleasant note…

Tentacled Terror, number 8 in Topps‘ 1966 Batman ‘Red Bat’ trading card set, boasting painted artwork by Norman Saunders.

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∼ ds

Tentacle Tuesday: Monsters with Really Long Arms

A favourite trope of tentacular obsession in comics is populating stories with monsters boasting exceptionally long arms (sometimes more than one pair) that they can wind around stuff with ease. In other words, monsters with tentacle forelimbs. You’d have to abstain from comics altogether to never encounter that of which I speak (or stick to slice-of-life comics, I guess). A little demonstration is in order.

Here’s a trick question: what kind of being lives on planet Octo? Duh: Octo-men! The following Flip Falcon story, illustrated by Don Rico (and not “Orville Wells”, despite claims to the contrary), was printed in Fantastic Comics no. 17 (April 1941).

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Interesting that “dog” is used as a slur even on planet Octo, despite there clearly being no canines around.
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Nasty little brutes, aren’t they?

The Super-Tests of the Super-Pets! (scripted by Edmond Hamilton, penciled by John Forte and inked by Sheldon Moldoff) is every bit as goofy as it sounds. I actually enjoyed reading it, much to my own amazement. Anyway, while Proty II (Chameleon Boy’s pet) transforms into quite a few creatures to pass the super-test, he clearly favours tentacular forms (and who could blame him?) This was published in Adventure Comics no. 322 (July 1964).

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How is it worse to be a jellyfish instead of some sort of blobby ectoplasm thing?

Speaking of Proty II and ectoplasm, a dozen issues later, the Legion decides to visit his home planet, which is just full of these jello-marshmallow doughboys, Protean citizens all. Part I: The Unknown Legionnaire and Part II: The Secret of Unknown Boy! (both parts scripted by Edmond Hamilton, penciled by John Forte and inked by Sheldon Moldoff) were published in Adventure Comics no. 334 (July 1965).

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To terrify Proteans, whose appendages are borderline tentacles, Saturn Girl decides to conjure up a… monster with tentacles.
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In case you didn’t believe me that Proteans have “tentacles”.
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The shape-shifting Proteans turn into more streamlined versions of themselves, with more pronounced tentacles. I swear, everyone is obsessed.

Next, I’d like to regale you with a fight scene illustrated by Murphy Anderson (yum!): Scourge of the Human Race!, scripted by Gardner Fox and published in Hawkman no. 15 (August-September 1966).

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Isn’t it a lovely last panel?

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If I Can’t Be Clark Kent… Nobody Can!, published in Action Comics no. 524 (October 1981), scripted by Martin Pasko, penciled by Curt Swan and inked by Frank Chiaramonte, offers us a nice helping of tentacles.

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If I should see an octopus
Lift its arms out of the sea
Or see its shadow rising up
Cross the rooftops above the streets
I’d follow those dancing limbs
To the spinning edge of the sky
Where all the boats fall off the world
Into the octopus’s eye

~ ds

Tentacle Tuesday: The Golden Age of Grabbery

For today’s Tentacle Tuesday post, I’d like to highlight some comic book artwork from the Golden Age, which is to say the period between the early (or late, depending on who you ask) 1930s and 1956, the year Showcase #4 was published, heralding the new era of superhero comics. (Our other TT post dedicated to the Golden Age was about Planet Comics; visit it here).

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Blue Bolt vol. 1 no. 5 (October 1940), cover by W. E. Rowland. The series was created by Joe Simon, who promptly enlisted Jack Kirby’s help. This cover story, «War in the Fourth Dimension»,  is by the Simon-Kirby team. Read the issue here.

The Blue Bolt gets tangled up in quite a few (crushing, of course) tentacles. Art by Jack Kirby.

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And a few pages later….

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It might be surprising to see the Shadow in the grip of an octopus, but there’s probably not that many creatures he *hasn’t* grappled with!

When a radio show was introduced in 1930 to boost the sales of Detective Story Magazine, the company (Street & Smith Publications) wasn’t expecting its freshly-minted narrator, The Shadow, to hog the limelight – but that he did, as listeners found this sinister character far more compelling than the stories he was narrating.

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Shadow Comics vol. 3 no. 6 (September 1943), cover by Vernon Greene. Just imagine the possible drama of this cover – the swordfish is actually the octopus’ friend, but he’s forced to become an instrument of his death by the merciless Shadow (only he would descend to the depths of the ocean to fight “devils” in full suit-and-cape regalia).

As his fans kept requesting copies of The Shadow magazine (which didn’t even exist at the time), Street & Smith obliged and The Shadow Magazine was born in 1931. The Shadow’s step-father is Walter B. Gibson, writing under the pen-name of Maxwell Grant. He wrote « more than 300 novel-length » Shadow stories to meet the demand of a public greedily clamouring for its hero, although at some point several writers were hired to lighten Gibson’s ridiculous workload. The Shadow soon slunk beyond the confines of pulp novels and into comics: a syndicated daily newspaper comic strip (written by Gibson and illustrated by Vernon Greene), preceded (by a month) by a comic book published by Street & Smith, which was supposed to attract a younger audience to pulp magazines (101 issues, from 1940 to 1949).

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Shadow Comics vol. 5 no. 5 (August 1945), cover by Charles Coll. Everybody is making puppy eyes at the Shadow, but will he choose the pretty girl or the pretty octopus?

Speaking of heroes, Wiki calls The Shadow « a film noir antihero in every sense »; now, I’ll concede the film noir, but I’ll balk at calling him an anti-hero, at least in this incarnation, as *that* term is defined as « a character who lacks conventional heroic qualities such as idealism, courage, and morality », all of which The Shadow has abundant reserves of. He’s a bit laconic and brusque with this conspirators, but that’s understandable when he had to destroy peace-threatening crime rings and bring brilliant crime-perpetrators to ruin at least twice a month.

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Who’s that handsome guy shooting commercials for Crackety-Wackett Cereal? Why, it’s Lars of Mars, the debonair Martian! In between fighting his communist arch-enemy (it was the 50s, what can I say?) and robots harassing women, Lars likes to relax by grappling with tentacled creatures.

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This lovely cover is Lars of Mars no. 11 (July-August 1951), painted by Allen Anderson (or Norman Saunders, according to another source, though Anderson seems likelier). What’s inside? Jerry Siegel scripts and Murphy Anderson art (and one story by Gene Colan). Yummy!

Lars of Mars was created by Siegel in 1951 for Ziff-Davis. There are only two issues (bizarrely numbered 10 and 11). The art for Lars of Mars, done by Murphy Anderson, is very nice indeed, but you don’t have to take my word for it. Feast your orbs on the first two delightfully nonsensical LoM stories on Pappy’s Golden Age blog.

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Now, is that any way to address a many-tentacled creature?

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« Scarlet’s adventures are never run-of-the-mill. Instead she enters into every phase of American life – whether on the baseball field or in a night club – always finding a way to help her clients, aid the forces of law and order… and bring plenty of thrills and laughs to her readers. »  Apparently « every phase of American life » includes being on the ocean’s floor, trying to stab an octopus with only 5 arms. Hmm…

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Harvey Comics Hits no. 59, 1952. Art (probably) by Al Avison. Interestingly, the fish is nibbling on the hand of the monster, when it could be partaking of the delicious flesh of the blub-guy. Tales of the Invisible reprints a bunch of Scarlet O’Neil stories from Black Cat, topped off with an introduction titled « Meet Russell Stamm » (the creator).

Incidentally, Invisible Scarlet O’Neil is supposed to be the first heroine with superpowers (well, one superpower: invisibility).

If I may be excused for going off-tentacle-topic,  « Blood of a Monster », the title story that takes up half of this issue, is surprisingly good (though it doesn’t really contain tentacles aside from a minor mention of cephalapoda at the beginning). The art (by the aforementioned Russell Stamm) is moody and quite unhinged in places.

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I enjoyed « Grave of Greed », the second half of the issue, even more, because it involves mushroom picking as part of the plot!

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Read the full issue here – it’s worth the detour, I think!

Stay tuned for our next Tentacle Tuesday post! In the meantime, visit our previous TTs (we’re getting to have quite a backlog) for your tentacle fix.

~ ds

Tentacle Tuesday: Tangles with Adam Strange

« The menacing tentacles came probing down out of the sky in a fantastic quest for the secret of life! »

To celebrate Tentacle Tuesday, I’ve planned a visit to the mysterious planet Rann, as seen through the eyes of Adam Strange, that intrepid, quick-witted, teleporting archeologist. (First, a little context: Adam Strange was created by Julius Schwartz, with a costume designed by Murphy Anderson. He first appeared in Showcase #17 (November 1958). At first, Gardner Fox’s scripts were penciled by Mike Sekowsky, but this task was assigned to Carmine Infantino once the character moved to Mystery in Space, with Murphy Anderson inking most of the stories. As much as I like the Infantino + Anderson team, today’s contributions mostly involve other inkers.)

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Mystery in Space no. 60 (June 1960). Cover inked by Carmine Infantino and inked by Joe Giella. “The Attack of the Tentacle World!” is scripted by Garner Fox, pencilled by Infantino and inked by Bernard Sachs.

That green thing? That’s Yggardis, a sentient planet that (who?) craves companionship. Here’s its highfalutin explanation, in that pompous English that Enemies of Mankind use when detailing their raison d’être to their victims: “For uncounted centuries, I have roamed the universe, raiding other worlds for their life-forms, lifting them in my tentacles! Unfortunately no form of living thing which I stole from other planets could live on me more than 24 hours!” The solution to that is (obviously) to steal even more animals for its private, deadly zoo, which is what it proceeds to do on Rann.

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Yggardis’ problem is solved when Adam blows it into carefully calculated smithereens, thus separating its radiation-producing mind from the rest of its inert body. A comparison is made to human surgeons removing deadly tissues and organs from an ailing patient. Uh, yes, surgeons regularly use explosives to sever their patients’ brains from their bodies, thus eliminating the need for expensive medication and such.

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Mystery in Space no. 65 (February 1962), artwork also by Infantino and Giella.

The Mechanimen are anthropoid robots hellbent on protecting humans on Rann, destroying all their weapons on the principle that “weapons breed mistrust! mistrust breeds wars!” When the Mechanimen, while attempting to repel a sneak attack by some hostile aliens, run out of power (they “mechanically never gave a thought to renewing their power” – what?), Adam has to save the day, much like he has to avert disaster every time he sets foot on Rann. How did Rannians ever survive without him around?

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Adam doesn’t only have to confront mechanical tentacles in this issue: he’s also almost swallowed up by plant tendrils. “The Mechanical Masters of Rann” is scripted by Gardner Fox, pencilled by Infantino and inked by Murphy Anderson (ah, finally).

As you’ve probably noticed, Adam Strange stories tend to have gonzo plots. I *like* goofy stories, but these leave me frustrated: they’re far too far-fetched to make any kind of sense, yet they’re not wacky enough to be properly entertaining. The stories toss around “futuristic” terms like sky-radiation and zeta-beams and altered molecular structures, and provide “scientific” explanations that are supposed to make the plot plausible, except that the plot’s still ridiculous, all the more so after these attempts to shoehorn logic into it. It wouldn’t be so bad if Strange wasn’t over-explaining everything – he’s like your best friend’s pedantic dad, droning on about something while everyone feigns interest, sucking out the joy from topics that would otherwise be fascinating.

The other interesting aspect of Adam Strange is the sexual tension – basically, Adam’s zeta-beam wears off every time he and Alanna share an embrace. (That sends him back to Earth until he catches the next beam and gets teleported back to Rann.) That’s an original way of keeping them apart, I have to admit.

AdamStrangeByeAHe’ll be back soon, he says – as will I, with another Tentacle Tuesday.

~ ds

Happy birthday to Mr. Murphy Anderson

There’s an impressive parade of artists born in July. Of present concern is the birthday of one Murphy Anderson, who came into this world on July 9th, 1926 (and ceased to exist in 2015, at 89, no doubt moving into some parallel dimension).

His work on the Atomic Knights or Hawkman is fondly remembered…  but I’ll concentrate on some covers dear to my heart from DC’s science-fiction titles because sci-fi + great art = squeals of enjoyment. Anderson had no trouble portraying any number of far-fetched monsters or depicting incredible situations in his crisp, clean style that made his audience willingly suspend disbelief. Ah, okay, I called it “science-fiction”, but it often crosses the line into fantasy, or horror, with occasional detours into superhero, or just plain quirkiness. To follow the loopy logic of the stories contained in the pages of the following publications, one has to abandon the notion that A leads to B, and prepare oneself for a wild romp through the whole alphabet. Great art certainly facilitates this – the story may leave me scratching my head, but Murphy Anderson’s illustrating chops provide a firm ground to anchor to.

Without further ado, the great Murphy Anderson and some of his artwork!

For instance, take a look at some of the creatures featured in DC’s Strange Adventures through the decades. Anderson’s gallery of characters includes, but is not limited to, startled fishermen, anthropomorphized atomic clouds, and Middle-Age barbarians from another planet, all impeccably drawn.

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“But I tell you I actually hooked one on my line… THIS BIG!” It’s only fair. I guess you don’t even need to use bait for this type of fishing. Strange Adventures no. 21 (June 1952). Cover by Murphy Anderson.
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There’s no head-breaking over what title to give these stories… “The Face in the Atom Bomb Cloud” it is! Pencils and inks by Murphy Anderson, grey tones and colours by Jack Adler, lettering by Ira Schnapp. This is Strange Adventures no. 143 (August, 1962). Edited by Julius Schwartz.
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Strange Adventures no. 160 (January 1964), cover by Murphy Anderson. This issue is a treat, featuring two parts of an Atomic Knights story (“Here come the Wild Ones!”, written by John Broome and illustrated by Anderson).
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I promised barbarians, didn’t I? Strange Adventures no. 222 (Jan-Feb 1970), art by Murphy Anderson. I have a love/hate relationship with Adam Strange, often loving the art and hating the stories. It’s been a while – I have to re-read this stuff and see if I still find it indigestible.

Another favourite series for its oft-striking covers is Mystery in Space. I love it when Anderson invents “space” animals composed of body parts from several Earth species. It’s indubitably fun, and children often have a great time inventing new creatures, but it takes chops to draw the result and make it work, anatomically and aesthetically.

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Damn, the safety regulations for those carousel things are really lax these (future) days.  It might not be science-fiction per se, but it sure is fun! Mystery in Space no. 21 (August-September 1954), with a cover by Mr. Anderson.

Despite my general resistance to superhero stuff, here’s a cover featuring the Spectre, whose classy costume is easy on the eyes.

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When you have to boink your arch-enemy on the head with a whole planet to knock him out and it still doesn’t work, you know you’re dealing with a pro. Showcase no. 61 (March-April 1966), cover by Murphy Anderson.

And one for the road…

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Goofiness or social commentary? Frankly, the green “president” looks a lot friendlier than most current politicians. Tales of the Unexpected no. 94 (April-May, 1966). Cover by Murphy Anderson.

~ ds

Tentacle Tuesday: Superheroes in Octopus-land

In this installment of Tentacle Tuesday, we shall bear witness to a somewhat surprising facet of superhero life: superheroes sometimes struggle with tentacles, too.

To kick off the festivities (and to respect a chronological order of creation and publication), here’s The Flash narrating a story of woe, his almost-deadly encounter with a green monstrosity (Judging by its coquettish pink tentacles, the monster wanted to woo him, not snuff him out.)

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Flash Comics no. 44, 1943. Cover by Lou Ferstadt (1900-1954), and here’s a bit of trivia: in addition to being a comics artist, he was a muralist, creating works for the RCA buildings and the 8th Street Subway station in NYC.

« The Liar’s Club », scripted by Gardner Fox and drawn by Lou Ferstadt, concerns itself with three men (one of whom is Jay Garrick, secretly The Flash) holding a fibbing contest to determine who can tell the biggest Flash-whopper.

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Sadly, this tale was not the winner in the contest.

The Flash may have been embroiled in some purely imaginary tentacles, but his Earth-One counterpart’s teenage sidekick (it’s complicated), Kid Flash, encountered the real deal.

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Teen Titans no. 32, March-April 1971. Drawn by Nick Cardy.

« A Mystical Realm, A World Gone Mad », scripted by Steve Skeates and drawn by Nick Cardy, is actually a pretty good read (with good art!), and I don’t even like superheroes. Just check out the beautiful results of a time travel experiment going wrong (when does one ever go right?), including the evil red eyes of a glaring octopus:

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If we throw a whole bevy of superheroes at a tentacled monster, are they going to fare any better?

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Fantastic Four no. 88, 1969. Pencils by Jack Kirby, inks by Joe Sinnott, letters by Sam Rosen. However… A house there was. Tentacles there weren’t.

This cover promises lots of tentacular fun. Instead of that, the Fantastic Four (and an infant) go looking for a new residence, something quiet and secluded – and the house that’s offered to them by a real estate agent appears to be haunted. At the very least, it causes migraines, gradually makes its inhabitants go blind, and shoots stun bolts out of its walls. The usual crap. I don’t want to tell you which super-villain is behind this mischief, but I will, however, point out that the bastard doesn’t have tentacles. Not even one. And neither does his lousy house.

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The Flash is small fry, the Fantastic Four are mincemeat, but let’s see how Superman, the most superhero-like superhero of them all, fares when confronted with tentacles.

In “Danger — Monster at Work!”, the villain is a protoplasmic glob: some algae mutates after a lab accident and becomes an out-of-control, garbage-devouring, tentacled monster. Now, trash disposal is important, but when Superman realizes that everything on earth is impure to some degree, he has to stop the seaweed monstrosity before “it cleans Metropolis right off the map!”

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This story was published in Superman no. 246 (December 1971), with a script by Len Wein, pencils by Curt Swan and inks by Murphy Anderson.

Incidentally, there *is* actually an algae farm that’s suspended over a highway in Geneva, Switzerland that gobbles up CO2 produced by car engines. I hope they’re keeping a close eye on it…

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Tentacles? Well, “grasping appendages” anyway – let’s be generous. Superman no. 246, December 1971; pencilled by Curt Swan, inked by Murphy Anderson.

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How about if we take a superhero who’s quite at ease with water, who can breathe H2O and communicate with sea life?

“Nope, sorry, still gonna gobble you.”

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Adventure Comics no. 445 (May 1976). Cover by Jim Aparo, with colours by Tatjana Wood.
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This imposing figure of an octopus (even though he’s referred to as a “plant-thing” by Aquaman) is Krakor, the tentacled antagonist from “Toxxin’s Raiders” – the cover story written by Paul Levitz & David Michelinie and drawn by Jim Aparo.

Oh, no! What is our hero going to do? Why, dispatch the octopus in the most far-fetched manner possible, of course!

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In conclusion, no superhero is immune from a harrowing encounter with a tentacled creature… but sadly, the latter is more often than not annihilated in the struggle. Next time, I’ll make sure to present you with some material in which the octopus gets the upper hand, so to speak!

~ ds