Tentacle Tuesday: Justice League of America

JLA’s roster has rotated throughout the years, but for the sake of this post, only the seven original members will get cephalopod tussling privileges! Here they are, with the conspicuous absence of Batman and Superman who are no doubt rushing behind the scenes to rescue everybody (but don’t worry, we’ll get to them as well):

The Brave and Bold no. 28 (February-March 1960, DC). Cover pencilled by Mike Sekowsky and inked by Murphy Anderson.

I’ll start with Superman, otherwise he’ll get offended – you know how susceptible he can be. Rather, a double whammy of Superman and Flash, who stumble upon some rather adorable (aside from their propensity to eating people) tentacled aliens. Of course our superheroes decide to make a race out of it, because concentrating on saving some planet or other is clearly not exciting enough – and Batman just happened to be hanging around to give the starting signal. Some afternoons are just that quiet. Race to Save the Universe!, scripted by Denny O’Neil, pencilled by Dick Dillin and inked by Joe Giella, was published in World’s Finest Comics no. 198 (November 1970, DC).

Nevertheless, this dynamic duo does allow itself to get distracted from its marathon, just long enough to defeat this green cutie:

Don’t underestimate kittens.

Incidentally, Superman already has a Tentacle Tuesday all to himself (Tentacle Tuesday: It’s a Bird! It’s a Plane! It’s a Tentacle!) Still, here he is collaborating (more like ‘rescuing’) Jimmy Olsen from an intriguing green (why must they always be green?) monstrosity with worm-like tentacles. Ugh, not the most appealing. These pages are from The Voyage of the Mary Celeste II!, scripted by Jerry Siegel, pencilled by Curt Swan and inked by George Klein and published in Superman’s Pal, Jimmy Olsen no. 75 (March 1964, DC).

DC’s “Big Three” – its most iconic and popular – are of course Superman, Batman and Wonder-Woman. As far as the latter is concerned, as much as I love this character, seeing as we already have two Tentacle Tuesdays posts in her honour – Tentacle Tuesday: H.G. Peter and Wonder Woman lend a hand and Tentacle Tuesday: More Golden Age Wonder Woman Wonders! – I think I’ve said everything I had to say on the subject. Thus, we move on to Batman, albeit briefly because there is also Tentacle Tuesday: All Aboard the Batmarine! to peruse. He’ll have to share the stage with Superman, but I’m sure he’ll be a good sport about it.

World’s Finest Comics no. 110 (June 1960, DC). Pencilled by Curt Swan and inked by Sheldon Moldoff.

The cover story is The Alien Who Doomed Robin, scripted by Jerry Coleman and inked by Sheldon Moldoff.

Our next JLA member is the Martian Manhunter, whom I have a strange soft spot for. It’s well known that girls just can’t resist green skin! In honour of this bias, here are not one, but two excerpts from stories featuring tentacles front and centre.

First, two pages from The Beings in the Color Rings, scripted by Dave Wood and illustrated by Joe Certa, published in House of Mystery no. 148 (January 1965, DC).

And for dessert, a page from The Supernatural Masterpieces!, scripted by Dave Wood and illustrated by Joe Certa, published in House of Mystery no. 150 (April 1965, DC).

Naturally, Aquaman has encountered more than a handful of octopuses in his long undersea career – I went on about that in some length in Tentacle Tuesday: Aquaman and his Octopus Sidekicks. I have plenty more where that came from, so there surely be a part II to that particular tale… in the meantime, here is a rather striking cover that didn’t make it into that post.

The Brave and the Bold no. 73 (August-September 1967, DC). Cover pencilled by Carmine Infantino and inked by Charles Cuidera.

The cover story is Glag the Destroyer, scripted by Bob Haney, pencilled by Howard Purcell and inked by Sal Trapani.

Last… and maybe least, because I could never warm up to him… is Green Lantern. The following pages are from a story pencilled by Gil Kane, who doesn’t generally get glowing reviews from WOT. Nevertheless co-admin RG wrote an ingenious post combining our common dubiousness about Kane and percolated it through specifically Green Lantern covers – the result is Hot Streak: Gil Kane’s Green Lantern, which impressed, if not quite convinced, me.

Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Earth!, scripted by John Broome, pencilled by Gil Kane and inked by Vince Colletta, was published in Green Lantern no. 70 (July 1969, DC).

I hope you enjoyed this overview of the Justice League of America as filtered through the rather eccentric lens of tentacles.

~ 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

Hot Streak: Gil Kane’s Green Lantern

« It was exactly an assembly line. You could look into infinity down these rows of drawing tables. » — Gil Kane

Some of our more sensitive readers may have noticed that we’ve been none too gentle with Gil Kane (1926-2000) in the past, dealing him some rather rough lumps at times. But that’s not the whole story: in taking stock of such a protracted and prolific (dare I say profligate?) career as his, much of it inevitably spent on autopilot, one must be discerning. In other words, I like some of Kane’s work, but there’s plenty of it I don’t care for. Still, WOT’s rule of thumb is that if we altogether loathe an artist and/or his work, we’ll just turn a blind eye.

And speaking of the sense of sight, what makes a great comic book cover? Must be my art school training and subsequent work in advertising tipping the scales, but to me, design and layout reign primordial as ingredients… as values. I’m often dismayed at many a would-be critic’s apparent method of assessing an image’s artistic worth, namely: how many popular characters does it feature? Is it action-packed? Is the issue sought-after and expensive? Does it feature a famous character’s début? Is it drawn by a fan-favourite artist who unquestionably do no wrong… because he’s a fan-favourite artist who unquestionably do no wrong? (and how dare you claim otherwise!)

Gil Kane reportedly generated around eight hundred covers for Marvel in the 1970s… of all levels of craft and quality. With that kind of frenzied output, it’s impressive that most were perfectly serviceable, given that there certainly was no time for meticulous, sober planning. They were generally over-captioned (not Kane’s fault!) and crassly sensationalistic, but that’s what Marvel sought and settled for.

It’s a shame that Kane and his former classmate at the School of Industrial Art (back in the early 40s!), DC lynchpin Carmine Infantino didn’t get on too well, because their Silver Age collaborations had a special spark… must have been the animosity. It had been noted by the DC brass, as early as the late 50s, that Carmine’s covers reliably caught prospective buyers’ attention and dimes. And so, by 1967, he was unofficially designing most of the publisher’s covers, and certainly the covers of all titles edited by Julius Schwartz. Green Lantern was among these.

So we turn today’s spotlight on a hot streak of seven. Kane gets his name in the title, but it would be more accurate to say they were Infantino-designed, Gaspar Saladino-lettered, Jack Adler-coloured, Gil Kane-pencilled and Murphy Anderson and Sid Greene-inked covers. The streak begins after Green Lantern no. 54’s downright poor cover, and ends with the interruption of Kane’s impressively long run of consecutive issues.

We begin with Green Lantern no. 55 (Sept. 1967, DC). Harmonious, easy-to-parse arrangement of numerous elements and exemplary integration of text. Design by Infantino, pencils by Kane, inks by Murphy Anderson, lettering by Gaspar Saladino, colours by Jack Adler. Oh, and lest we forget: logo designed by Ira Shnapp (circa 1964), classic Green Lantern uniform designed by Kane (circa 1959).
This is Green Lantern no. 56 (Oct. 1967, DC). Kane was never much for varying his monsters (see below). Pencils by Kane, inks by Anderson.
For a bit of comparison on how things were done from company to company, this is Tales to Astonish no. 91 (May, 1967, Marvel). This is what happens when there’s no planning or attention to detail: in an already-crowded cover, did we really need that ugly box advising us of the presence of The Abomination? He’s right there! (maybe the abomination refers to the cover itself). And the foreshortening nightmare that is the baddie’s left arm was so dire that, when a fan commissioned Arthur Adams to produce a recreation of this cover (which, things being as they are, many surely consider ‘iconic’)… he wisely corrected the anatomy and tweaked the poor composition. Interesting how Marvel’s heavy-fingered yes-man, art director John Romita Sr., was always game to “fix” Ditko and Kirby art, but saw nothing wrong with this one.
This is Green Lantern no. 57 (Dec. 1967, DC), featuring Catastrophic Weapons of Major Disaster!, written by Gardner Fox, pencilled and inked by Kane. Cover by Kane and Greene… love the placement of the signatures!
This is Green Lantern no. 58 (Jan. 1968, DC), featuring Peril of the Powerless Green Lantern! (a Julius Schwartz title if there ever was one), written by Gardner Fox, pencilled by Kane and inked by Greene. I’m not overly fond of the Kane-Greene mix, but Sid Greene, as a penciller-inker did some splendid work on the Star Rovers series (1961-64), co-created and scripted by Gardner Fox.
An issue whose price few can afford unless they bought it off the racks, this is Green Lantern no. 59 (March 1968, DC); pencils by Gil Kane, inks by Murphy Anderson. Featuring the introduction of GL alternate Guy Gardner, who was to be dubiously re(jack)-booted in the 1980s, by Steve Englehart and Joe Staton, as a jackass with an ugly uniform and a worse haircut. Notwithstanding the fact that the Green Lantern Corps would never bestow power and stewardship on such an immature and pompous loose cannon.
This is Green Lantern no. 60 (April 1968, DC); an evident Infantino design, with pencils by Kane and inks by Anderson… which interestingly ends up producing a prototype of Brian Bolland‘s distinctive style… a decade early.
This is Green Lantern no. 61 (June 1968, DC); pencils by Kane, inks by Greene, and featuring (groan) Thoroughly Modern Mayhem!, scripted by Mike Friedrich, pencilled by Kane and inked by Greene. Co-starring Alan Scott, the Golden Age Green Lantern.

-RG

Hallowe’en Countdown IV, Day 30

« The world will come to an end, but the monster models will still be around. » — James Bama, who went on to paint artwork for over twenty of Aurora’s kit boxes.

Well-executed comic book ads were often just as enticing (and sometimes more, depending on the title) as the contents proper. A prime example, this lovely Aurora Monster Kit campaign, announcing the epochal model maker’s forays out of the Universal ménagerie of misunderstood fiends with Toho’s Godzilla and RKO’s King Kong.

The first Aurora monster model advertisement, it appeared in various DC Comics titles dated November and December, 1963.
The ad ran on the back cover of various DC titles in late 1964. In this case, House of Secrets no. 69 (Dec. 1964). The artwork is almost certainly that of Mr. Murphy Anderson, who goes uncredited, but is betrayed by the characteristic finesse of his inking.
A couple of the models that usually received considerably less attention got their turn in the spotlight in this ad that appeared on the back cover of select DC titles cover-dated October, 1965.

Incidentally, if you were wondering, indeed, the giant monsters cost more… 50 cents more. A bunch more empty bottles to collect, son.

In the late ’60s, a new twist was added: phosphorescence! A cool idea, it however made painting the models, a tricky task to begin with, even less rewarding, as opacity was a bitch to achieve. It worked okay if you had mostly light-coloured The Mummy, but otherwise… This advert appeared on the back cover of DC Comics dated October, 1969… and thereabouts.
The Spring, 1970 collection.
Here’s where Aurora’s close business relationship with Warren Magazines became most evident, with the appearance of a Vampirella model kit. Controversy ensued, once moms caught a glimpse of Junior’s new model kit, the heirloom of his bedroom. Speaking of controversy, Vampirella’s quip about New York was likely a barb about the infamous Kitty Genovese case. This pitch showed up in various DC titles, again, in and around June, 1971.

Warren sold a lot of Aurora kits via his mail order business, and a decision was made to include his character in the line rather than risk dissolving a partnership. Unpainted, she appeared to be virtually naked. Her counterpart, the Victim, sported hot pants and a halter top; a dress or flowing skirt was deemed impractical in order to have her fit on the torture rack. [ source ]

This beautifully-designed ad showed up in October, 1971 DC titles.
At this point, the diluted message is a hint that the bloom is off the rose. An ad from November, 1971.
As a bonus, here’s Big Frankie, the seldom-seen, long-unavailable Aurora grail (until its relatively recent reissue). As the largest Aurora model of all, BF fetched, at the time, an astronomical $4.98; now it goes for a hundred smackers, so don’t complain. Take a look at the big fella!

Though the original Aurora issues of these classic kits are mostly rare as hen’s teeth, enterprising contemporary kit companies have reissued these babies, and you now can actually afford to free the monsters from the confines of their box and assemble and paint ‘em. Mint in Box? Pfui!

– RG

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).

Batman86A

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):

World'sFinestComics113
I totally squee-ed when I saw this panel.

World'sFinestComics113-2

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

JusticeLeagueofAmerica027A

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

SekowskyJLA27A

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

Batman357A

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

Batman357-SquidA

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):

DetectiveComics524

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):

BraveandtheBold142

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):

Batman-shadowofthebat58

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

Batman66-Jorge Fornes

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.

SaundersBatmanCardA

∼ 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).

Fantastic Comics #17

FantasticComics17-OctoMen2

FantasticComics17-FlipFalcon
Interesting that “dog” is used as a slur even on planet Octo, despite there clearly being no canines around.

FantasticComics17-OctoMen
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).

Super Tests of the Super Pets! (Adventure Comics no. 322)-1-SheldonMoldoff

Super Tests of the Super Pets! (Adventure Comics no. 322)-2-SheldonMoldoff
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).

Adventure Comics no. 334
To terrify Proteans, whose appendages are borderline tentacles, Saturn Girl decides to conjure up a… monster with tentacles.

AdventureComics334-TheUnknownLegionnaire3
In case you didn’t believe me that Proteans have “tentacles”.

AdventureComics334-TheUnknownLegionnaire-2
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).

Hawkman15-1964-MurphyAnderson

Hawkman15-1964-MurphyAnderson3
Isn’t it a lovely last panel?

Hawkman15-1964-MurphyAnderson4

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.

Action Comics #524 (1981)

Action Comics #524 (1981)-2

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).

BlueBoltVol1-#5
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.

Blueboltvol1#5-detail

And a few pages later….

BlueBolvol1#5-detail2-JackKirby

TentacleTuesdayIcon

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.

ShadowVol3No6
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).

Shadow Comics v5#5
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.

TentacleTuesdayIcon

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.

LarsofMars11
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.

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

TentacleTuesdayIcon

« 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…

Harvey Comics Hits #59
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.

Harvey Comics Hits #59-detail1-RussellStamm

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

Harvey Comics Hits #59-detail

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.)

MysteryinSpace60
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.

Mysteryinspace60-TentacleWorldA

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.

MysteryinSpace65
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?

AdamStrange-MysteryinSpace65
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.

StrangeAdventures21-MurphyAnderson
“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.

StrangeAdventures143-MurphyAnderson
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.

StrangeAdventures160-MurphyAnderson
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).

StrangeAdventures222-MurphyAnderson
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.

MysteryinSpace21-MurphyAnderson
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.

Showcase61-MurphyAnderson
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…

TalesoftheUnexpected94-MurphyAnderson
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.)

FlashComics44A
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.

FlashComics44Panel
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.

TeenTitans32A
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:

TeenTitans32Panel

TentacleTuesdayIcon

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

FantasticFour88A
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.

TentacleTuesdayIcon

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!”

Superman 246MonsteratWork
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…

Superman246CoverA
Tentacles? Well, “grasping appendages” anyway – let’s be generous. Superman no. 246, December 1971; pencilled by Curt Swan, inked by Murphy Anderson.

TentacleTuesdayIcon

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.”

Adventure445A
Adventure Comics no. 445 (May 1976). Cover by Jim Aparo, with colours by Tatjana Wood.

AdventureComics445Panel
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!

AdventureComics445Death

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