« Il vente — C’est le vent de la mer qui nous tourmente… »
Yesterday, I finished reading an excellent book by French author Pierre Mac Orlan, best known for Quai des brumes (Port of Shadows), written in 1927 and transformed into a movie in 1938. In other words, a while ago! The title of the novel I joyously devoured is Le chant de l’équipage (1918), and it’s a grand tale of swashbuckling adventure on the high seas. Well, actually it’s a lot more complex than that, and it’s beautifully written. As it’s in the public domain, you can read it online here (but in French only, I’m afraid). As I’m still digesting scenes from the novel, so to speak (no, the équipage did not encounter an octopus on its journey), my mind’s eye is focused on the far-away sea… so today’s Tentacle Tuesday has been rerouted from its original concept into everything nautical. Let’s spend a little time inhaling the healthy sea-breeze, in a world of handsome ships and the people who make them sail.
Perhaps the following story does not depict your standard encounter with an octopus… but it’s indubitably a seafaring tale. The Eyes, illustrated by Pete Tumlinson, was published in Astonishing no. 30 (February 1954, Atlas):
Monsters from a Thousand Fathoms, scripted by Carl Wessler and illustrated by the Redondo Studio (RG: with a heavy dose of E.R. Cruz), was published in The Unexpected no. 185 (May-June 1978, DC):
Ads endeavouring to put the viewer into the shoes of an action-type he-man to sell some nonsense is nothing new. And yet, through this hackneyed jungle, sometimes a glimmer of real excitement comes through:
Those of us who like to dream of adventure, but preferably from the comfort of our own homes, I have this strip:
Since the aforementioned The Tracy Twins got its wings in a colour supplement of monthly scouting magazine Boys’ Life in 1952, I will now smoothly segue into a related topic, or a bit of warning, if you like.
If you start out as a wide-eyed kid in search of sea-faring thrills, and meet an octopus, just like this:
You might end up, many years down the road, growing up to be, well… a little peculiar, shall we say.
And if that wasn’t sufficient, the same doctor has further advice for his readers in this slightly subsequent issue:
« Hugs can do great amounts of good, especially for children. » — Diana, Princess of Wales
Today’s entry is a tale of vampirism from the typewriter of Jack Oleck (1914-1981). In the late 1940’s Mr. Oleck’s career in comics began promisingly with his brother-in-law Joe Simon and his partner Jack Kirby‘s Prize (Young Romance, Strange Worlds of Your Dreams, Black Magic and other anthologies), followed by a stint with EC late in the publisher’s classic, pre-Mad Magazine-only run (Crime SuspenStories, Shock SuspenStories, Vault of Horror, Incredible Science-Fiction, et al), along with assignments with Hillman, Atlas, Charlton and Harvey… among others.
Finding the décor of the Code-regimented funnybook industry a bit austere to his taste, he devoted the years of 1957 to 1969 to publishing and editing the magazine Decorator News and authoring the odd novel.
In 1969, he sauntered over to DC, where he cranked out quite a caboodle of scripts over the following decade-or-so, mostly in the horror (as it couldn’t be and shouldn’t be called under The Code) genre (“Mystery”, they called it), but also the occasional bit of romance, science-fiction and adventure. I’d like to say he was great, but frankly, he was pretty much a page-filling hack.
This is probably his finest script from this most prolific period, and it’s still full of plot holes and other inconsistencies. But that’s market reality for you: Oleck was consistently readable, he was fairly competent, he turned in his work on time, and he got along with the editors. Sometimes that’s all you need.
So why am I featuring Spawns of Satan if I seem to think so little of it? Well, obviously, there’s the luxurious grace of Nestor Redondo‘s art, granted here a specially generous setting to display its virtues. The middle act of the story is virtually mute, and all the more effective for it.
Read it first, then I’ll tell you more.
SOS is otherwise mainly notable in its introduction of themes and ideas that would be brought to full miasmic flowering by (of course) Alan Moore in issues 38 and 39 of Swamp Thing (July and August, 1985), namely the family unit of underwater vampires. Moore’s set of toothsome nasties was more-or-less introduced, but not fully-fleshed out, by his predecessor, Martin Pasko, in July, 1982’s Saga of the Swamp Thing no. 3‘s A Town Has Turned to Blood. Moore’s keen eye caught the spark of potential and set the hills ablaze. However, it seems unlikely that Moore’s research hadn’t trailed back a few years to the lacustrine lair of the parasitical Baker brood.
Speaking of editors, I’ve long suspected that this particular issue of House of Secrets was the dumping ground of an aborted experiment by its editor, Joe Orlando. Orlando had clearly been trying to shake things up a bit, running two longer, less compressed stories per issue instead of the usual three… as DC’s available story page count had dropped from 24 to 20 (and would reach a woeful 17 by 1976!); the two-story practice lasted but a few issues. After no. 117, it was jettisoned. It would appear that at least one of House of Secrets 113’s stories had been scheduled and delayed: eight months earlier, Jack Sparling’s grey-tone lovely cover for House of Secrets no. 105 (Feb. 1973) was a perfect illustration for Doug Moench‘s, Mike Sekowsky and Nick Cardy‘s fascinating ‘Not So Loud– I’m Blind’… which finally turned up in this issue as the lead story. Sombre and rambling, Moench’s likely first sale to DC lacks the usual forced twist ending, opting instead to trail off into darkness. In fact, when I first read it, I thought my copy was missing a page.
Moench went off to be arguably (well, he’s my pick) Marvel’s most consistent writer of the 1970s, and only returned to DC in the ensuing decade.
This feels like a portentous occasion: the last Tentacle Tuesday of 2019. The mind boggles at the sheer number of tentacles we have released into the wild this year! As far as the splendour of this moment is concerned, there’s no reason for me to fight this feeling. Yet my general tendency at the year’s end – to throw in a lot of women fighting off tentacles (witness last year’s TT – “Foul as Sewer Slime!”) – is slightly one-track-minded, and it’s probably going to be my new year resolution to curtail that. Nah, just kidding.
Still: what *is* good is saying goodbye to the year in colour. So enjoy these not-quite-good, garishly coloured tentacle fiestas, and Happy New Year!
You know how I said, earlier, that I was one-track-minded? I’m not the only one. Yikes. This is a tame image, but the… wilder… ones were in black and white, and I had to stick to my theme. See the sacrifices I make?
Do visit Maroto’s website, tentacles abound (generally revolving around naked women).
While we’re at it, from the same artist, here’s his Elvis‘n’tentacles:
…. preceded by “The Rocket Girls run into a thing that is all tentacles and eyeballs.”
It’s not every day that Tentacle Tuesday lands on Christmas Eve! I hope you have pleasant plans for the night, if not involving an epic Christmas tree and impeccably-wrapped presents, then at least a lot of booze. In the meantime… I present you with this short and sweet gallery of classy black and white images by some quite well-known illustrators (with one foot, or more, in the comic world, this being, after all, a blog about comics).
*The article I linked to also contains this not entirely tentacle-related, but amazing (especially if, at heart, you’re a kid who’s into creepy things) explanation:
Dog Vomit Slime Mold: This creature isn’t technically a plant or a fungus, but it is one of the most fascinating creepy-looking things in nature. “It’s basically a giant amoeba,” Hodge says. “Usually, you can’t see an amoeba with the naked eye. But the dog-vomit is the size of a dessert plate.” She adds that she gets a lot of phone calls about the dog vomit slime mold, which often turns up in people’s garden mulch. “They look weird, and they freak people out.” she says. Even creepier, this huge single-celled blob can crawl. “They ooze around for a while, and then they convert themselves into spores,” Hodge says. “Although it’s not really a spore,” she adds, “because it hatches like an egg and a little amoeba crawls out.” That’s the point when I almost dropped the phone. But Hodge was nonplussed. She teaches a summer course about fungi, and she gives her students slime molds to take home and raise. “You can watch them just cruising around on the petri dish, eating oats.” Some of the students really bond with their slimy little pets, she says: “It’s my campaign to convert people to lovers of stinkhorns and slime molds.”
I understand that the artist left quite a lot of empty space on purpose – to be filled with pointless text – but still, was it necessary to plaster nearly every inch of the image with captions yellow, red and purple? (I do like how the WEB seems to be made out of plasticine… and likely was.) Here’s the cover without all that wordy fluff:
The Rook couldn’t quite kill the fishy brute’s whole family in #4, so he had to confront its slightly more colourful cousin in issue 7:
Co-admin RG suggested I check Eclipse Magazine‘s tentacular offerings for this post, and he was correct, there was one issue involving an octopus used as a coffee table.
Marvel’s Epic Illustrated, with its 70-odd pages per issue, surely offered something for everyone. The aforementioned offerings were quite hit-or-miss, but the occasional presence of Stephen Bissette, Rick Veitch, Basil Wolverton (in reprints), Berni Wrightson, Ernie Colón, Craig Russell, et al. makes it worthwhile to go through its 34 issues (okay, maybe not all in one sitting, unless you have quite a few thermoses of tea prepared – or something stronger).
Brunner’s painting is rather nice – the mermaid and her friendly octopus both look so serene! – that here it is again. And read an interview with him while you’re at it: Legendary Feathers: Interview with Frank Brunner. (I apologize for linking to a website titled Fanboy Nation, though. Erk.)
Issues 10 to 17 of Epic Illustrated featured Rick Veitch’s Abraxas and the Earthman, a purported retelling of Moby Dick (although frankly, aside from a vengeful squid, the similarities are not striking). Naturally, tentacles abound. Really freaky, creepy tentacles, much like the rest of the story.
Veitch’s fucked-up (I mean that as a compliment), imaginative tale continues with “Man and Whale (Chapter Eight)”, the final installment. Alongside a plethora of sea-creatures (no longer in the sea), there’s this Devourer of Awareness, Bearer of Tentacles:
Welcome to Tentacle Tuesday! Today’s edition features beautifully painted covers from series published by Warren, and oh boy oh boy, are there are a lot of tentacles to be found there! To borrow a title from the first cover we’ll be ogling today, “THE SLIMY, CRAWLY SLITHERING GROPIES DO TERRIBLE THINGS TO PRETTY LITTLE GIRLS!” It’s a tad lacking in subtlety, but summarizes the state of things quite nicely.
On with the show…
I wouldn’t expect cephalopods to care for patriarchal, machismo standards of female purity, but apparently Lecherous Groatie (great nickname) wants his maidens virginous (which isn’t even a word, you guys). “Little Beaver!”, you say? Way to go in being offensive to both tentacled creatures *and* Indians. This issue also contains the story “The Russians Are Coming… All Over America!”, a title which I, for one, find hilarious.
Leaving 1994 behind (although technically we’re going back in time), and moving on to Eerie, we get to tentacles that look like worms coming out of a lumpy, squishy brain – the joy of any good anatomical pathologist.
One understands the guy’s desperate attempts to get free, but why is the woman so placid, serenely exposing herself to the creature’s grasp? I guess Tentacle Tuesday doesn’t have the same effect on everyone. Interestingly, Sanjulián seems to have tweaked his art for the cover – here’s his original painting, in which the girl’s face is clearly visible.
Let’s visit good old Vampi and see what sort of cephalopod encounters she’s had.
The tentacled creature in question is the “star-beast” advertised on the cover – an alien (suspiciously similar to an octopus) who, as usual, tries to take over the earth by breeding (which for some reason involves a lot of nude & nubile college students as sacrifices) and is killed when Vampirella crashes a car into it. Starting on an epic, inter-planetary scale and ending it all with a banal road accident is a bit of an anti-climax.
Is this Vampirella’s last encounter with tentacles, you ask? Don’t be silly – of course not. As the Russians say, « and yet again the little hare will go out for a walk. »
Today’s Tentacle Tuesday honours Filipino artists who laboured in the comics industry in the 70s. To quote from Power of Comics: Filipino Artists (read the essay here),
« The Filipino talent began to arrive in 1970, when immigrant Tony DeZuñiga began to work for National Comics. DeZuñiga began with assignments on various romance, horror, western, and war anthologies—a combination that many Filipino artists coming after him would also follow—but he made a lasting mark when he co-created Western anti-hero Jonah Hex in All-Star Western #10 (1972). By then, DeZuñiga had convinced then National Comics publisher Carmine Infantino that other talented artists were awaiting discovery back in his nation of origin. With a stable of graying veterans working for him, Infantino was faced with a paucity of new talent in the early 1970s and had trouble finding gifted artists who could work for what the going page rate in American comics would pay at the time. DeZuñiga accompanied Infantino on a recruiting trip to the Philippines in 1971.
As noted, first among the Filipino artists to make a move were Redondo and Alcala. Among his works, Redondo turned in a memorable run on Swamp Thing, and the prolific Alcala picked up a considerable fan following for his work on series like Batman and Arak. Other Filipinos followed. Alex Niño brought a distinct style to Warren Publishing’s 1984 and 1994 series. Ernie Chan’s talent for composition led to his becoming National’s principal cover artist between 1975 and 1977. Gerry Talaoc enjoyed an extended run on The Unknown Soldier. »
Without further ado, let’s have a look at some of the tentacles the artists mentioned above have dreamed up. In no particular order…
I like the styles of all the artists mentioned in this post, but a couple of these names will make me do a little dance of joy when I encounter their art. Alfredo Alcala (b. 1925, d. 2000) is a definite favourite. He could draw anything he wanted, convincingly… at an amazing speed, and with the sort of detail that other artists would kill for.
Alcala drew for all genres in the early portion of his career, and developed the speed and work ethic for which he later become known amongst his fellow professionals. His fastest page rate was 12 pages in a nine-hour sitting, while in one 96-hour marathon he produced 18 pages, three wrap-around covers and several color guides. During the portion of his career where he worked solely for Filipino publishers, Alcala worked without assistants and did his own inking and lettering. “I somehow always felt that the minute you let someone else have a hand in your work, no matter what, it’s not you anymore. It’s like riding a bicycle built for two…” (source)
Here’s a gorgeous sequence from « The Night of the Nebish! », scripted by Arnold Drake and illustrated by Alfredo Alcala, published in House of Secrets #107 (April 1973).
Ruben Yandoc (also known as Rubeny, 1927-1992) isn’t nearly as well-known as Alcala, yet he has a beautiful, half-decorative, half-sketchy style. He excelled at horror stories (published in DC’s Witching Hour, House of Mystery, Ghosts, House of Secrets..), and was a master at creating mood. His perfect grasp of architecture and anatomy enabled him to draw believable characters in incredible settings – none of this “figures floating about aimlessly” shit that you sometimes get from artists who can’t imbue their objects and subjects with mass. When Stefan gets grabbed by tentacles, you can feel their weight on his torso and feel the heat and painful brightness of the torch he’s holding, dammit!
Alex Niño’s art doesn’t give me butterflies. His stuff is quite weird, sometimes far too detailed, but his talent is nevertheless undeniable. For a good appreciation of his style (and more examples of it), go to this entry from Wizard’s Keep. As for me, I’ll limit myself to this humble, one-panel mass of tentacles, eyes, teeth, spikes, and god knows what else.
Redondo’s “memorable run on Swamp Thing” was mentioned at the beginning of this post. Well, we’ve already featured the tentacled robot who tries to finish Alec Holland off here, but rest assured – there’s more tentacles than just that in the career of Nestor Purugganan Redondo (1928-1995)! For example, this:
By the way, he’s most assuredly another favourite in this household. His women are believably sexy, his monsters inventive and scary, his animals pitch-perfect… His style is realistic but lush, his nature almost prettier than in real life. And I like him much, much better than Bernie Wrightson, as far as Swamp Thing is concerned 😉
A perfect fit for any Tentacle Tuesday, here’s the requisite damsel-in-distress-with-tentacles:
We shouldn’t forget Tony DeZuñiga (1932-2012), who after all started all this. Among other accomplishments, he co-created Jonah Hex and Black Orchid, two pretty damn cool characters.
I hope you enjoyed this (non-exhaustive) romp through Filipino-American tentacles! As historian Chris Knowles (1999) has noted about Filipino artists, « Here was a group of immensely talented and hard-working draftsmen who could draw absolutely anything and draw it well. They set a standard that the younger artists would have to live up to and that the older ones would have to compete with. » Amen to that!
Mechanical tentacles! Cephalopod monsters communicating by mental telepathy! Even Jimmy Olsen playing the part of a monster in an alien horror movie! Yes, it’s all this and more in this Tentacle Tuesday post (after which I’ll quit bugging you with various cephalopods until next Tuesday).
Head over to the Fourth Age blog for a further discussion (with pictures!) of the cover story from this issue, “Jimmy Olsen’s Private Monster!”, written by Jerry Siegel (ahem…) and illustrated by the aforementioned Curt Swan (pencils) and John Forte (inks).
The two-eyed, many-tentacled mechanized wonder appears again in Superman’s Pal, Jimmy Olsen no. 47 (September 1960):
In a similar line of thought (but some 15 years later), a more steampunk relative of the creature above appears in Swamp Thing.
And here’s a peek at the glorious (I’m a fan of Redondo) inside:
Here’s another file for our records of Tentacular fascination: the Boy Commandos’ intrepid gang of feisty moppets, tired of fighting Nazis, switch it up by doing battle with some tentacled robots.
I couldn’t very well have a mechanically-minded Tentacle Tuesday without mentioning Dr. Octopus, one of Spider-Man’s most famous foes! Otto Gunther Octavius, a.k.a. Dr. Octopus, a.k.a. Doc Ock was created by Steve Ditko, and first appeared in The Amazing Spider-Man no. 3 (July 1963). Obviously I could feature a gallery of Dr. Octopus tentacles as long as your arm (pardon the confused anatomical terminology on my part), but I’ll limit myself to a couple.
First, The Amazing Spiderman no. 12 (May 1964), cover by Steve Ditko. The “Look who’s back!!” caption pointing to the Doc is rather mystifying, given that he was there in the previous issue.
Second, an underwater scene, because what element more appropriate for tentacles? Kudos to Doc Ock for making his perfectly watertight.
Dr. Octopus’ metallic appendages, resistant to radiation and of great strength and agility, were originally attached to a harness…. but became fused to his body after an explosion involving radioactivity (what else?) They were surgically removed, but he could now control them telepathically from a distance. Spooky.