Hallowe’en Countdown V, Day 6

« There’s money, all right! I quoted Mrs. Tarrent a hundred slugs for this trip and she never batted a tonsil! » — Ken Shannon’s on the job.

Reed Crandall (1917-1982), one of the final additions (mid-1953… late in the ballgame!) to EC Comics’ immortal roster, previously spent most of the Golden Age years (1941-53) exclusively working for Quality Comics, and it was only when the publisher began to scale back its output, in 1953, that Crandall began to look elsewhere for additional work. After EC, he would make landfall at George A. Pflaum’s Treasure Chest of Fun & Fact, a story we’ve touched upon earlier this year.

Hard-boiled private eye (was there any other kind?) Ken Shannon was introduced in Quality’s Police Comics with issue 103 (Dec. 1950), and right away grabbed the cover spot (dethroning Plastic Man, no less!), which he doggedly retained to the bitter end, namely Police’s final bow, issue 127 (Oct. 1953). Concurrently, Shannon’s investigations were spun off into his own book, over the course of ten issues (Oct. 1951 to Apr. 1953).

Shannon certainly had his share of unusual cases to puzzle out, and here are the spookiest!

This is Ken Shannon no. 3 (Feb. 1952, Quality). From what I’ve seen and heard, these babies are scarce.
The cover story’s introductory splash. Read the entire issue here!
This is Ken Shannon no. 6 (Aug. 1952, Quality). Read the entire issue here!
And this is Ken Shannon no. 7 (Oct. 1952, Quality). Read the entire issue here!

-RG

Tentacle Tuesday: Glittering Lure of the Golden Age

The source of tentacles in Golden Age comics seems inexhaustible – every time I think I have reached the bottom of the well, I find myself awash in cephalopods. That being said, a lot of these octopusoid appearances are one-panel cameos, and even when the tentacles linger for a few pages, the shitty printing, questionable scans or bare-bones art don’t exactly incite me to use this material in a Tentacle Tuesday. Today’s crop is all Golden Age, running the gamut from 1939 to 1952, and composed of pages/covers I can enthusiastically endorse.

George (of Harry J. Tuthill’s The Bungle Family, ‘one of the most under-rated comic strips in the history of American cartoonery’ according to Art Spiegelman, one of the top hundred comics of the 20th century‘, according to The Comics Journal) may be thoroughly bundled up in tentacles, but he still keeps a sort of prosaic calm that I admire.

Feature Comics no. 23 (August 1939, Quality Comics). Cover by Ed Cronin. As for Charlie Chan, he was originally a private detective in a series of novels by Earl Derr Biggers, from which a number of movies were made. Opinions are divided about whether he was a breakthrough Asian character (tired of Yellow Peril stories, Biggers conceived him specifically as an alternative to stereotypical, ‘sinister and wicked‘ Chinese) or perpetuated a lot of the same preconceived notions that were circulating at the time (and, alas, are still with us today).

Just look at the canines the red devil is ready to plunge into Black Hood’s leg! Throw in a fanged octopus, and this cover has as much action as one would possibly want. Sadly, nothing of the sort actually goes on in this issue.

Top Notch Comics no. 16 (June 1941. Archie Comics). Cover by Al Camy.

Robotman and his Robot dog are a worthy topic of discussion in themselves, especially when Jimmy Thompson is involved (see Robotman and Jimmy Thompson: Golden Age Comics’ Best-Kept Secret), but for now these two pages will do nicely!

Page from Fisherman’s Luck, published Star-Spangled Comics no. 41 (February 1945, DC).
This page from Boy Meets Robotdog was printed in Star-Spangled Comics no. 75 (December 1947, DC). I would certainly come to this house!

We really like Howard Nostrand at WOT, though so far he has been woefully under-featured in our posts!

This page is from The Man Germ, scripted by Nan Barnett and illustrated by Howard Nostrand. This story was published in Chamber of Chills Magazine no. 13 (October 1952, Harvey Comics).

Finally, I have a soft spot for these tiered layouts that Rugged Action employs… especially when an octopus with tender, moist eyes is moonlighting in one of them.

Rugged Action no. 1 (December 1954, Marvel). Cover by Carl Burgos.

~ ds

All Men Are Brothers: Henri Dunant’s Croix-Rouge and the Geneva Convention

« When a naked man is chasing a woman through an alley with a butcher knife and a hard-on, I figure he isn’t out collecting for the Red Cross. » — Clint Eastwood in Dirty Harry (1971)

As is often the case, I had something else in the pipeline for this week… but then I came across a beautiful biography of a wise man whose birthday was just around the corner. Now if the other guy (he’s 88) can just hold on and stay alive another week, things’ll be just fine.

In these riotous days when acts and thoughts of kindness and compassion are being denounced as political and partisan, we would do well to remember the life and example of International Red Cross founder, Henri Dunant ( Jean-Henri Dunant, May 8, 1828 in Geneva, Switzerland). Read on…

To Treasure Chest’s credit, they’re not being tribal or sectarian at all: Dunant wasn’t even Catholic, but rather Calvinist.

As you can bear witness, Reed Crandall (1917-1982) was not the type of artist to cut corners. Unlike some of his peers who could not be bothered to properly draw, say, details of background, period or costume, Crandall lavished attention and care to each and every element, yet without overpowering the narrative. His pages aren’t mere sequences of panels: they’re smartly composed for smoothness of flow and tonal balance.

Though nowadays his fame rests largely upon his brief but fruitful association with EC Comics (1953-56) and its echo at Warren Magazines (1964-1973), the greater bulk of his work was produced for Quality Comics (1941-1956) and for the catholic comics anthology Treasure Chest of Fun & Fact (1960-1972). All Men Are Brothers was, as it happens, his first work to be published in Treasure Chest.

Here’s a tongue-in-cheek but revealing snippet from a profile of Crandall that appeared in Creepy no. 10 (Aug. 1966, Warren):

« Combined with Reed’s fantastic drawing ability and mastery of rendering technique, is the rare ability to take any subject or setting and impart to it a complete sense of realism and authenticity. This, along with the fact that he is one of the most genial and unassuming men in the comics field, has earned him the high regard of his fellow artists, in addition to a growing circle of reader-admirers.

Asked about his ambitions, Reed replied: “To live in an ivory tower and to try to learn to draw and paint, also to pursue unendurable pleasure indefinitely prolonged.” It looks to us as though the drawing and painting are pretty far along already, so surely the ivory tower and prolonged pleasure can’t be too far behind… and in our opinion, it couldn’t happen to a nicer guy! »

As for writer John Randolph, who knows? He scripted twenty or so non-fiction pieces for TC between 1955 and 1962, then appears to have moved on. It must be noted that he understood the comics medium, as his work (often with Crandall) was well-paced and not overwritten, the words and visual in steady harmony. Many a writer, lacking the restraint and finesse required for the collaborative pas de deux of comics, tends to crowd out the illustrator, box him in (j’accuse, Al Feldstein!) or pointlessly restate what’s right there in the visuals (Et tu, True Believer?). Add to that the difficulty of elegantly condensing a life or career in six pages… as in this case. Take a bow, Mr. Randolph, whoever you are.

All Men Are Brothers originally appeared in Treasure Chest of Fun & Fact vol. 16 no. 7 (Dec. 8, 1960, Geo. A. Pflaum); cover by Crandall.
Crandall is most closely associated with the long-running Quality (and DC thereafter) character of Blackhawk (a Will Eisner co-creation). This is Modern Comics no. 78 (Oct. 1948, Quality). Between the operas, musicals, and films, John Luther Long’s Madame Butterfly sure gets around! Read the issue here!
More orientalism, but what a cover! This is Police Comics no. 105 (Apr. 1951, Quality). This title was the former and first home of longtime headliner Plastic Man, who bowed out with issue 102. Superheroes, you’ll recall, suffered fading popularity by the early 1950s. Read the issue here!
While Crandall arrived a bit late to the EC party, he made his lasting mark. Versatile as he was, I’d argue he was most in his element on this swashbuckling title, one of EC’s last-ditch, doomed attempts to placate the censors. Wally Wood drew the ship on the left, a recurring element of the cover layout. EC colourist Marie Severin (1929-2018) truly deserves a long round of applause for the sublime job she performed here. This is Piracy no. 3 (Feb.-Mar. 1955, EC).

-RG

Tentacle Tuesday: The Whole Merry Menagerie

The tentacled well of funny animal insanity from the Golden Age is nearly bottomless. Just when I think I’ve more or less covered it all, some new goofy octopus cover that I have never seen before pops up, or an unhinged inside story swims by and waves a cheerful ‘hi there!’ with a free tentacle.

Never mind Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, or Bugs Bunny. We have Supermouse, Dizzy Duck, and Hoppy the Marvel Bunny! Oh, and also the absurdly (even by funny animal standards) named Peter Porkchops.

This page from a Supermouse story was published in Coo Coo Comics no. 41 (September 1948, Pines Publishing); artist unfortunately unknown. For more (perfectly aptly titled) Coo Coo Comics, visit Tentacle Tuesday: Ha-Ha and Coo-Coo With Frolicsome Animals.

Next up, two pages from The Daffy Diver, published in Dizzy Duck no. 32 (November 1950, Standard Comics), artist once again unknown:

I promised some bunny action – but not the kind that springs immediately to mind! Enjoy this 2-page tentacled tussle in this Hoppy the Marvel Bunny story illustrated by Chad Grothkopf and published in Fawcett’s Funny Animals no. 5 (April 7th, 1943, Fawcett).

For dessert, two covers, because a man does not live on inside pages alone!

National Comics no. 70 (February 1949, Quality Comics). Cover by Gill Fox.
Peter Porkchops no. 14 (February-March 1952, DC); cover by Otto Feuer.

~ ds

Tentacle Tuesday: How Does That Grab You?

Today’s TT is like one of those 5$ grab bags: you don’t exactly know what you’re going to get, but there will at least one thing you’ll find amusing! Unless the store has cheapened out and stuffed it with nonsense nobody in their right mind would want. This offering, on the other had, is full of our favourite artists, and is not nearly as disparate as I first thought 😉

I don’t always have an over-arching idea for a post, inevitably ending up with plenty of odds and ends that don’t neatly fit into any one category. Actually, some of those “scraps” are the most enjoyable finds for me.

Feature Comics no. 71 (September 1943, Quality Comics). Cover by Gill Fox. The octopus-in-plumbing theme is an oldie-but-goodie; the undaunted housewife may yet regret her cavalier attitude towards the tentacled one, who probably wants to move in with his family.
Nicola Cuti‘s Weirdlings was a charming little ‘filler’ gag page designed and drawn by him. This one was published in Haunted no. 14 (Sept. 1973, Charlton).  I think the octopus, that appears to be still alive, would also prefer a good old PBJ sandwich.
Midnight Tales no. 11 (February 1975). Cover by Wayne Howard, who’s a Who’s Out There? (oh, all right, mine) favourite. Read my take on his art in Tentacle Tuesday: Plants Sometimes Have Tentacles, Too.
Archie’s Pal Jughead no. 77 (October 1961). Cover by, dare I say legendary, Samm Schwartz; revisit (or discover!) some of the nicest covers he has drawn for Archie Comics in co-admin RG’s post.
Al Jaffee Sinks to a New Low (1985, New American Library). Visit Al Jaffee: Snappy Answer to Many a Stupid Question for Who’s Out There’s take on this quintessential Mad Magazine artist!

= ds

Hallowe’en Countdown IV, Day 10

« Ghosts! Haunted house! … wow!
I’m glad we don’t have to investigate
around a joint like
that! »
— Woozy Winks… who else?

How about some Golden Age Plastic Man Hallowe’en goodness? I thought as much. All this and Woozy Winks too!

This lovely splash opens Murder in Maniac Mansion, from Police Comics no. 17 (March 1943, Quality), edited by John Beardsley. Script, pencil and inks by Jack Cole.

Never mind the trick– treat yourself and read this sprightly ol’ comic book right here: http://comicbookplus.com/?dlid=14584

Mr. Cole’s splashy splash from another spooky Plas yarn, The Ghost Train, from Police Comics no. 23 (Oct. 1943, Quality). Read it here: https://comicbookplus.com/?dlid=37425

The supremely versatile Jack Cole could always be counted on to inject a bit of sinister ambiance (or over-amped sensuality, depending on his mood) to mix up the generally humorous proceedings of the stretchy exploits of the former Patrick “Eel” O’Brian. At times, things got pretty grand-gignolesque, as in the following case.

This is Police Comics no. 26 (Jan. 1944, Quality). Cover art by Jack Cole.
Double, double toil and trouble; Fire burn and caldron bubble. This is Plastic Man no. 33 (Jan. 1952, Quality); cover pencils by Jack Cole, inks by ‘Burly’ Sam Burlockoff.

By the 1950s, Jack Cole had moved on to other pastures and projects, but Plastic Man kept right on stretching, one of the few superheroes flexible enough to withstand the horror boom. But not without a few alterations to fit the times, as evidenced by the following pair of samples.

This is Plastic Man no. 38 (Jan. 1952, Quality); cover art by Alex Kotzky. You have to appreciate that boney Monk Mauley hung on to his lucky belt even as his pants lost their corporeality. That’s commendable dead-ication! (sorry); Oh, read all about it: https://comicbookplus.com/?dlid=30201
This is Plastic Man no. 43 (Nov. 1952, Quality); cover pencils by Dick Dillin, possible inks by Chuck Cuidera.

It must be stated that, even without the masterly Jack Cole, Plastic Man clearly brought the best out of the rest of Quality’s admittedly admirable bullpen, so his adventures remain worth reading… which is certainly not the case with most subsequent revivals, with the exceptions of DC’s 1976-77 mostly-ignored Ramona Fradon run and Kyle Baker‘s award-winning 2004-06 outing.

-RG

Tentacle Tuesday: The Hungry Greenery

As we’re currently in the blaze of summer (rocketing temperatures and crazy humidity, courtesy of global warming – this June was the hottest June ever, and we’re well on track for beating records for July), a Tentacle Tuesday post about plants seemed appropriate. Did I say “plants”? More like “plantacles”: these vines and tendrils snatch and grab, creep and reach, entwine and writhe just like their cephalopod counterparts.

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Pages from Dark Side of the Moon, with art by Maurice Gutwirth, published in Hit Comics no. 2 (June 1941, Quality Comics).

So Blaze Barton encounters some vine tentacles, fine; but he also encounters ‘queer tiny plants‘ that swarm him and attack with what looks very much like octopus appendages. The delightful thing about Hit Comics and particularly Barton’s adventures is that the stories are goofy as hell.

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The story continues in the same vein, merrily galloping into insanity… into an ‘evil-infested‘ lake that boasts man-eating weeds, once again complete with tentacles.

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Visit Atomic Kommie Comics for many further Blaze Barton exploits.

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Continuing our grabby, carnivorous vines theme, a creepy little tale of a scientist who slightly oversteps his bounds:

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Pages from The Hungry Garden (scripted by Joe Gill and drawn by Fred Himes), published in Ghostly Haunts no. 34 (August 1973). Trespassers will be stung, choked, and then gleefully consumed.

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Should you be curious or concerned, the pooch makes it out just fine, and in fact goes on to save the day!

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Occasionally, an entire tree will decide that it’s more fun to strangle a human than to passively let itself be chopped down. Who could argue with that?

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Psychotic Adventures no. 3 (June 1974, Last Gasp). Cover by Charles Dallas. The blog Mars Will Send No More has many Dallas stories (all from Psychotic Adventures) for your perusal; I recommend them heartily.

The cover story, Women of the Wood, is based on a short story by Abraham Merritt that you can read here if you’re so inclined. It’s an excellent creepy tale – though I can’t promise tentacles, I can definitely guarantee murderous trees.

« For all those hundred years there have been hatred and battle between us and the forest. My father, M’sieu, was crushed by a tree; my elder brother crippled by another. My father’s father, woodsman that he was, was lost in the forest — he came back to us with mind gone, raving of wood women who had bewitched and mocked him, luring him into swamp and fen and tangled thicket, tormenting him. In every generation the trees have taken their toll of us — women as well as men — maiming or killing us. »

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Speaking of attacking tree trunks, I do believe this qualifies:

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The Defenders no. 132 (June 1984). Penciled by Sandy Plunkett and inked by Alan Weiss.

The cover story, The Phantom of Gamma-Ray Flats! (scripted by Peter B. Gillis, penciled by Don Perlin and inked by Kim DeMulder) is quite entertaining – and brimming to the gills with plant tentacles.

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Not “rapey”, “ROPEY”.

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The tiny remnant of the tentacle creature manages to find a hold on Warren’s back, perfectly à propos to this post… but I couldn’t resist including the other panel revealing his thoughts about his sexy colleague. Warren is Warren Worthington III, aka The Angel, a founding member of the X-Men.

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I’ve done a couple of Tentacle Tuesdays about Conan already (Tentacle Tuesday: Conan-o-rama and Tentacle Tuesday: the Savagery of Conan’s Savage Sword), but a few plantlike tentacles managed to slip through, as they’re wont to do.

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The Savage Sword of Conan no. 42 (July 1979). Cover by Bob Larkin.

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The Devil-Tree of Gamburu is scripted by Roy Thomas, penciled by John Buscema and inked by Tony DeZuniga.

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And another Conan cover for the flora hall of tentacles:

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Conan the Barbarian no. 243 (April 1991). Cover by Filipino artist Whilce Portacio.

Need – nay, crave! – more plant tentacles? Visit our post from June 2018 (how time flies): Tentacle Tuesday: plants sometimes have tentacles, too.

~ ds

The Unforgettable Jack Cole

« What are you mumbling about? »
« Oh, nuthin’! … just that 
my false teeth get loose 
an’ make a lot of noise! »

Today marks the one hundred and third anniversary of the enigmatic Jack Cole (December 14, 1914 – August 13, 1958) a man embodying, in equal parts, hilarity, talent and torment. Just when everything seemed to be going his way, he took his own life in 1958, for reasons still surmised about. His widow was the only one to know, and she took her secret to the grave.

Let’s move past this morbid stuff and concentrate on the man’s creative legacy, shall we?

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Cole’s cover for his Plastic Man story « The Rare Edition Murders » (originally called « The Bookstore Mystery », judging from the cover art) cleverly ties in the mag’s other features. And they do need to be mentioned: Flatfoot Burns by Harvey Kurtzman, The Darson Twins by Jack Keller, The Spirit by Will Eisner (or his talented ghosts), Manhunter by Reed Crandall… This is Police Comics no. 25 (December 1943, Quality.)

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Routine, the same old grind… another issue of Police Comics, another splendid Jack Cole cover. This is Police Comics no. 27 (February, 1944), featuring Plastic Man in « Woozy Winks, Juror », and tales of Dewey Drip, Flatfoot Burns, Destiny, Manhunter, Dick Mace, The Human Bomb, Burp the Twerp (by Cole), and of course The Spirit. Sounds potentially entertaining? Read it here, then: http://comicbookplus.com/?dlid=37421

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Cole’s Plastic Man, one of the timeless wonders of comics’ Golden Age, a character only his creator truly knew how to handle properly. This is Police Comics no. 72 (November 1947, Quality.)

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Another vivid (what else?) example of Mr. Cole’s boundless inventiveness, featuring his flagship creation, Plastic Man (and rotund sidekick Woozy Winks). This is Police Comics (1941-1953, 127 issues) no. 76 (March 1948, Quality.)

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« You mean this guy had nine slugs in his chest and still choked the other one to death? » Web of Evil no. 5 (July 1953, Quality.)

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Web of Evil no. 6 (September 1953, Quality.)

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This lovely watercolour ran in Playboy Magazine‘s August, 1955 issue. It’s titled « The Elongated Hand ».

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« Like they say in the travel folders, Miss Duncan – ‘Getting there is half the fun’ ».
Playboy Magazine, August, 1956.

Versatile, wasn’t he?

– RG