Tentacle Tuesday: Doin’ the Watusi, the Frug and… the Tentacle Crawl

« The vibrating tentacles produce hypnotic music that people can’t resist! »

This is the last Tentacle Tuesday before Christmas, so wishing all of our lovely readers a splendid (and safe) evening, whether you celebrate Christmas specifically, something else altogether, or nothing at all.

As far as I’m concerned, one of the most important components to creating a holiday mood (aside from being with my family, of course) is music. If it’s played by an octopus, so much the better – and one not? Having a lot of arms is surely handy for playing many instruments at the same time. One must say this is a musical edition of Tentacle Tuesday – so put on a record, preferably of the old-school vinyl variety, and swing your tentacles (or whatever appendage you do possess) along!

Grumpy Shark (1946, Belda Record & Publ. Co.) Written by Bob Bellem and illustrated by Mel Millar, this comic is part of the Talking Komics series issued by Belda Record & Publishing Co., in which a record was sold alongside the comic to delight both eyes and ears of its young audience. I didn’t know octopuses had whiskers – live and learn!
These panels, which I have been seeing all over the place with no attribution of artist or issue number (tssk, tssk) are taken from Aquaman Meets Aquagirl!, scripted by Robert Bernstein and illustrated by Ramona Fradon, and published in Adventure Comics no. 266 (November 1959, DC). Of course Topo, Aquaman’s pet octopus, is adorable as well as talented, and probably deserves his own post… but in the meantime, he has to share space with Aquaman’s other tentacled encounters.

Speaking of Topo… he’s been getting some attention recently, and unsurprisingly his musical talent is involved:

Page from Heroes of the High Seas (January 2011, Picture Window Books), scripted by J.E. Bright and illustrated by Art Baltazar. « Capstone Publishers and DC Comics have joined forces to produce a new children’s books series, DC Super-Pets. The series will focus on the super-powered pets of heroes like Superman, Aquaman, Wonder Woman, Batman, and Green Lantern… »
Page from The Swinging Superman!, scripted by Otto Binder, pencilled by Curt Swan and inked by George Klein, and published in Superman’s Pal, Jimmy Olsen no. 88 (October 1965, DC).

And to prove that octopuses dig LPs, too, I’ll include this nifty poster:

Poster by Sébastien Feraut (known as Niark1), a French illustrator. Visit his website!

On a connected subject, I heartily recommend this Soviet cartoon, which involves all manner of sea-creatures (yes, including several octopuses!) playing all sorts of instruments – don’t worry, it has subtitles in English.

Merry Xmas, folks!

A splendid seasonal piece by Taly Reznik!
And finally — hope you’ve remembered to mail out all your Unholiday cards! Never forget that the ever-vigilant Cyäegha has its eye on you! [ artist unknown… so far ]

☆ ds

Tentacle Tuesday: Secrets, Both Sinister and Domestic

Random fact of the day: in Mandarin Chinese, secret is “mimi”, whereas in French “mimi” means something like “cute”. Today’s post is not cute, but it is very much about secrets – DC secrets, to be more precise.

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Secrets of Haunted House no. 14 (Oct-Nov 1978). Cover by Mike Kaluta.

The original art for this cover feels a little less cluttered:

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Taking a peek at the insides, we will find that they have little to do with the cover, but tentacles are still present. The Discovery is scripted by Jay L. Zilber, pencilled by Juan Ortiz, and inked by Vince Colletta:

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Tentacles also rudely intrude in Selina, a story scripted by Nicola Cuti and elegantly illustrated by Ramona Fradon and Bob Smith

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The thing about masks was too topical to not include.

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Secrets of Haunted House no. 29 (October 1980), cover by Mike Kaluta.

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Secrets of Haunted House no. 36 (May 1981), cover pencilled by Rich Buckler and inked by Dick Giordano.

Beware the Sea Hag, the cover story,  is scripted by Carl Wessler and drawn by Wade Hampton:SecretsofHauntedHouse36-bewareoftheseahag

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But, wait, this is not what the Sea Hag normally looks like! This is more like it:

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Popeye the Sailor no. 73 (August 1964), cover by Bud Sagendorf. I wonder if the Sea Hag realises how much spinach reduces under heat.

Shifting to another sort of secrets (these are sinister rather than haunted), we have another tentacle apparition —

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The Monster of Death Island is scripted by Maxene Fabe and drawn by Ruben Yandoc (i.e. Rubeny). It was published in Secrets of Sinister House no. 11 (April 1973).

This story, a sort of take on Bluebeard, is well worth reading, for the plot as well as the stunning art. I don’t want to reveal spoilers – you can read it here.

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Since we’re discussing secrets, I might as well throw in The House of Secrets… I will willingly admit that I have the hardest time keeping track of which is which.

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House of Secrets no. 101 (October 1972), cover by Mike Kaluta. This could have been a Mike Kaluta Tentacle Tuesday!

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From House of Secrets no. 100 (September 1972). This page of Abel’s Fables is by Lore Shoberg.

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Cain & Abel by Sergio Aragonés, printed in House of Secrets no. 103 (December 1972).

∼ ds

Tentacle Tuesday: Dial T for Tentacle

Some people automatically conflate “goofy” with “childish”, but goofiness comes in many guises: from the charmingly nonsensical to the playfully quirky, from the clearly brilliant but confusing to the fucking stupid. (It’s also a snow-boarding term – How do I tell if I’m Goofy or Regular?) Today’s Tentacle Tuesday is goofy, all right, but more in the category of seemingly drug-induced codswallop. Another word for Dial H for Hero is wacky; distinctly wacky, so wacky that (as co-admin RG put it) it’s hard to really dislike it.

Maybe I should backtrack for those in the audience who are not familiar with the concept of Dial H for Hero. Robby Reed, a lucky (?), plucky teenager with a propensity to shout “Sockamagee!” in moments of excitement, stumbles upon some sort of magical thingamajig in a cave that enables him to become a superhero at the drop of hat (well, a turn of a dial). The process has unpredictable and uncontrollable results, in the sense that Robby has no idea who he will become, or what powers will be at his fingertips.

I have nothing against the idea of a rotary phone cum magical dial – that idea is rather interesting, given that rotary phones are indeed mysterious objects to the current generation – but I find the stories a tad too random to be enjoyable. Yet that’s the aspect that some readers clearly relished. To quote a letter from House of Mystery no. 172 (January-February 1968) from Bethesda, MD’s Irene Vartanoff.

« One of the best things about DIAL H FOR HERO is the huge amount of imagination put into each story. When at least two new heroes with new powers, costumes, weaknesses, bodies, etc. have to appear in each story, it may make your writers rack their brains and work overtime, but the results are fantastic. »

Given all the transformations Robby has gone through and the many bad guys he has had the pleasure of defeating, it is unavoidable that he would 1) encounter some villains with tentacles 2) acquire some tentacles himself. Dial H for Highball on *your* old-fashioned phone, if you still have one gathering dust in the attic, and enjoy this gallery of fun nonsense.

The very first appearance of Robby Reed and his magical dial, and already we have tentacles:

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House of Mystery no. 156 (January 1966), cover by Jim Mooney. This is a good demonstration of how random some of the superheroes generated by the machine are.

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This is the first Dial H for Hero story, and as such it has no other title. Scripted by Dave Wood, drawn by Jim Mooney. [RG: panel three looks suspiciously like the work of George Tuska. Ghosting… or swiping? Hmm…]
I mentioned that Robby himself sometimes sprouts tentacles. Here’s a good example:

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House of Mystery no. 159 (June 1966), cover by Jim Mooney. Another issue, another gallery of improbable heroes and villains

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Human Starfish Robby Reed conveniently improves upon the concept of a normal starfish, developing prehensile appendages to capture a very stretchy criminal. The Clay-Creep Clan is written by Dave Wood, and drawn by Jim Mooney.

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Jim Mooney was responsible for Dial H for Hero‘s art for many issues, from the onset of the series with House of Mystery no. 156 (January 1966) to House of Mystery no. 170 (October 1967). Dial H for Hero lasted three more issues after Mooney’s departure. As luck would have it, no. 171 and no. 172 bring our most striking examples of tentacles yet. (The final DHFH issue, House of Mystery no. 173, features a cover by Jack Sparling, with insides by Charles Nicholas and Sal Trapani.)

Arguably the prettiest cover of this post (my favourite, at any rate):

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Back to fighting tentacles! House of Mystery no. 171 (December 1967), cover by Nick Cardy.

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The Micro-Monsters! is written by Dick Wood and illustrated by Frank Springer.

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House of Mystery no. 172 (January-February 1668), cover by Frank Springer.

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The Monsters From the H-Dial! is written by Dick Wood and illustrated by Frank Springer.

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How does Chief Mighty Arrow defeat the flying octopus? Why, by shooting jet-propelled feathers from his headdress, of course.

The last thing I’d like to mention is that my favourite Robby Reed appearance was in an issue of Plastic Man, of all places – to be more precise, in Plastic Man no. 13 (June-July 1976). In If I Kill Me, Will I Die? (read it here!), scripted by Steve Skeates, pencilled by Ramona Fradon and inked by Bob Smith, Reed not only gets to take on Plas (in more ways than one), but also falls deeply and magically in love with a professional hog-caller. Also, tentacles. Adorable *and* exciting!

PlasticMan13p13APlasticMan13p14A~ ds

Tentacle Tuesday: Aquaman and his Octopus Sidekicks

When you think of Aquaman, what is the first thing that comes to mind? Is he a brooding, tragic hero? A hapless sap whose prowess extends no further than throwing a starfish at his assailant? A talented swimmer, defender of Earth’s oceans?

« The image of the superhero riding on a chariot made of fish—sporting that classic orange top and green pants—sealed the depths-dweller in public memory as a doofy champion, despite defenders who insist there’s more to Aquaman than talking to fish and riding them places. While later depictions of the character emphasized his serious side, Aquaman jokes abounded especially in the 90s and 2000s—largely thanks to a school of young male animators, including Seth MacFarlane and South Park’s Matt Stone and Trey Parker, who couldn’t help but poke fun at Aquaman’s ineffectual reputation. »|source|

I believe the aforementioned Aquaman’s defenders are slightly missing the point. What’s wrong with catching a ride from a fish, or getting a helping hand from an octopus? In Aquaman’s world, octopuses play the role of indispensable helpers, using their tentacles as lassos, bludgeons and tourniquets, or forming acrobatic formations to give Aquaman a boost. Does this somehow make this superhero wimpy? Do we seriously still believe that treating animals with kindness, or collaborating with them, is emasculating? No wonder this world is going to hell in a handbasket. The audience for superhero comics sometimes seems to be quite devoid of imagination (or a sense of humour).

« Jokes about his wholesome, weak portrayal in Super Friends and perceived feeble powers and abilities [] led DC to attempt to make the character edgier or more powerful in comic books. Modern comic book depictions have attempted to reconcile these various aspects of his public perception, casting Aquaman as serious and brooding, saddled with an ill reputation, and struggling to find a true role and purpose beyond his public side as a deposed king and a fallen hero. » |source|

Okay, I’ve grumbled, and now I’ll move on to the tentacles. Take a seat astride your favourite jellyfish, strap in your fins, and let’s go!

Aquaman, the child of an undersea explorer who learned how to breathe and live underwater “by training and a hundred scientific secrets”, was created in 1941 by Paul Norris and Mort Weisinger. During the Golden Age of comics, he fought various evil guys (usually from water-related professions: sailors, marine biologists, pirates… and Axis villains, too). The whole thing started becoming really interesting (imho) in 1956 (coincidentally, with the advent of Silver Age), when Aquaman acquired his sidekick Topo the Octopus:

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Topo’s first appearance! « Aquaman’s Undersea Partner », drawn by Ramona Fradon, published in Adventure Comics no. 229 (October 1956).

Ramona Fradon handled Aquaman from 1951 to 1959, when she became pregnant and had to temporarily withdraw from the comics field until 1963. She deserves a separate post, really, especially since I love her art. In the meantime, read The Woman Who Made Aquaman a Star. As for Topo, I don’t have to explain why I’m fond of the idea of an octopus sidekick.

A few nice Fradon pages:

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«The Town That Went Underwater», drawn by Ramona Fradon. It was published in Adventure Comics no. 246 (March 1958).

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Another panel from « The Town That Went Underwater ».

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A panel from « The Undersea Hospital! », scripted by Robert Bernstein and drawn by Ramona Fradon. This issue, Adventure Comics no. 262 (July 1959), has not one, but two fun animal stories: the other one – also lovable, imaginative nonsense – is « The Colossal Superdog », scripted by Otto Binder and drawn by George Papp.

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Another panel from « The Undersea Hospital! ». Don’t you love the idea of a seaweed stretcher with eel supports?

In 1961, Nick Cardy started working on Aquaman with Showcase no. 31 (March-April 1961). When the sea king got his own title in 1962, Cardy became the regular artist, drawing inside stories and covers until Aquaman no. 39 (May-June 1968), and staying as the cover artist until Aquaman no. 56 (April 1971).

« Cardy proved adept at drawing sea creatures; his fluid, swirling water currents helped create a captivating, eye-pleasing undersea world. He became a fan favorite, not only because of his superb story-telling ability, solid figure work and facile inking, but because of the way he rendered Mera, Aquaman’s girlfriend. Cardy’s women had curves, not angles, and seemed to exist in three dimensions on the two-dimensional page. He never stopped trying to elevate his work, until the later covers in the series were among the most striking and imaginative of the publisher’s entire line.» (source: Comics Journal’s eulogy for Nick Cardy)

Well, that’s high praise indeed, but is it deserved? I can confirm that Cardy covers were really inventive. As for the interior art, let’s take a peek, as these stories conveniently overflow with tentacles.

There’s tentacles getting tangled, the octopus equivalent on panties in a twist…

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Panel from « The Invasion of the Fire Trolls », scripted by Jack Miller and drawn by Nick Cardy, published in Aquaman no. 1 (January-February 1962).

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Panel from « The Aquaman from Atlantis », scripted by Jack Miller and Nick Cardy, published in Aquaman no. 3 (May-June 1962).

An army of octopus fighters…

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Page from « The Menace of Alien Island », scripted by Jack Miller and drawn by Nick Cardy, published in Aquaman no. 4 (July-August 1962).

I promised you acrobatics, so here are some octopuses doing a cheerleading routine (Aquaman forgot his pompoms at home):

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Aquaman no. 9 (May-June 1963). « The menace of the Aqualad-Creature » is scripted by Jack Miller and drawn by Nick Cardy.

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It’s not *all* octopus tentacles. Page from  « The Secret Mission of King Neptune», scripted by Jack Miller and drawn by Nick Cardy, printed in Aquaman no. 9 (May-June 1963).

Continuing our tentacle shenanigans…

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Any jerk who refers to an octopus as a “fish” deserves what’s coming to him. Page from « The Doom from Dimension Aqua », scripted by Jack Miller and drawn by Nick Cardy, published in Aquaman no. 11 (September-October 1963).

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As usual, mind fuckery rears its ugly head whenever romance is part of the plot. “I could kill you! But I really love you, actually!” An eye roll and a sigh. Panels from « The Wife of Aquaman », scripted by Jack Miller and drawn by Nick Cardy, published in Aquaman no. 18 (November-December 1964).

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Page from  « The Wife of Aquaman », scripted by Jack Miller and drawn by Nick Cardy, published in Aquaman no. 18 (November-December 1964).

One of those Nick Cardy covers we were discussing earlier, so you can decide for yourself whether his women are all angles or all curves:

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Aquaman no. 22 (July-August 1965), cover by Nick Cardy.

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« The Trap of the Sinister Sea Nymphs », published in Aquaman no. 22 (July-August 1965) art by Nick Cardy.

With Aquaman no. 40 (July-August 1968), Jim Aparo replaced Cardy on the inside art. Issues no. 40 to no. 47 (September-October 1969) were scripted by Steve Skeates (a definite favourite of this blog; read co-admin RG’S post “… and the Dog Howls Through the Night!”) and drawn by Jim Aparo. This creative team is a favourite of many an Aquaman fan. Voilà:

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Page from « Return of the Alien! », scripted by Steve Skeates and drawn by Jim Aparo, printed in Aquaman no. 55 (January-February 1971).

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Panel from « Return of the Alien! », scripted by Steve Skeates and drawn by Jim Aparo, printed in Aquaman no. 55 (January-February 1971).

More Jim Aparo (sans Skeates):

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« The Manta-Ray Means Murder! », scripted by Paul Levitz and Martin Pasko and drawn by Jim Aparo, published in Adventure Comics no. 446 (July-August 1976).

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Aquaman no. 57 (August-September 1977), cover by Jim Aparo. I’m angry at that stupid “you could be in the Superman movie” sign that’s far more distracting than it has any right to be.

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Page from « A Life for a Life », scripted by David Michelinie and drawn by Jim Aparo, published in Aquaman no. 57 (August-September 1977).

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Another page from « A Life for a Life ».

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Aquaman no. 63 (August-September 1978), cover by Jim Aparo.

You can read issues Aquaman issues no. 1 through to 63 here.

One last thing… I happen to be the proud owner of a piece of original art by Ramona Fradon (of fairly recent vintage), given to me by my sweetie. Lucky me!

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Keep your octopus pals happy and you’re guaranteed a fulfilling relationship.

~ ds