Don’t Feed the Sooti!

« I used to be Snow White, but I drifted. » — Mae West

Spring has most definitely arrived, even up here in the Northern latitudes.

Last week, while wandering the neighbourhood on a gorgeous, inviting day, we roamed farther afield than usual, and happened upon a mostly-deserted parking lot flanked by a humongous pile of sooty snow. I’ve always been fascinated by these filthy behemoths; where I grew up, increasingly crusty and grotesque snowbanks would endure midway through June each year.

It always made sense to me that, being dark, these mounds would absorb more heat from the spring sunlight and melt faster than pristine snow. Counterintuitively, they just stuck around. As it usually turns out, there are more factors at play than one might initially suspect. Here’s a handy scientific explanation.

Another individual who shared my bemused interest in the phenomenon was incredibly-gifted cartoonist Richard Church Thompson (1957-2016), who bestowed upon the unsightly obsidian lumps some intriguing bits of mythology, as he so often and compellingly did to the base materials of the everyday.

This Richard’s Poor Almanac entry « … predates Cul de Sac by some years, yet keen eyes will note the kids in silly hats and the pile of parking lot snow, which have both found their way into the strip. »
Thompson: « CUL DE SAC began as a Sunday-only feature in The Washington Post Magazine in 2004. I painted them in watercolors instead of the process color needed for most newspaper comic strips. »
The syndicated strip remake, from Sunday, January 9, 2011. Rats! Now we’ll never hear about the bathtub drain bogy…
Alice retells the Sooti legend with some slight distortions… but you just wait until Dill recounts it his way. Sadly, this was the final allusion to these mysterious creatures. This is the Cul de sac daily from Tuesday, Feb. 8, 2010.
We set off on a quest just yesterday and indeed, there are abandoned shopping carts by the score… if you know where to look.
And a bonus seasonal entry to wrap things up! Then it snows.

For more Thompson marvels, do check out our general category, The Stupendous Richard Thompson, and expect massive doses of both awe and amusement.

-RG

Hallowe’en Countdown IV, Day 8

« Superstition, the mother of those hideous twins, fear and faith, from her throne of skulls, still rules the world. » — Robert G. Ingersoll

Feeling a tad superstitious? Today, as it also happens to be Richard Thompson’s birthday (coïncidence? hardly!), we combine two fabulous flavours into this confection of sheer frightful delight. Careful you don’t bite your tongue or deal yourself a case of whiplash.

Take the quiz and quell, at least for a time, those vicious neighbourhood rumours concerning you. For further such priceless resources, do take a gander at our prior Thompson posts, including this Hallowe’en-themed goodie and this fair sampling from Richard’s Poor Almanac.

– RG

Tentacle Tuesday: C’est du méli-mélo

Tentacle Tuesdays have been a fixture of this blog since the very beginning (which is to say September, 2017). I am not about to run out of material, but over the years I do tend to accumulate odd and ends that don’t neatly fit into a theme. Though I know of at least one faithful reader of this blog who doesn’t like it much when a TT entry is all over the place, hopefully there’s something in here for everyone. Just consider it the equivalent of spring cleaning in my archives!

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Panel from Treasure Chest Vol. 19 no. 6 (Nov. 21, 1963). Written by Dave Hill and illustrated by Fran Matera. Everybody in this panel is adorable, but the octopus is especially fetching, I think.

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A cartoon by Rowland Wilson, from Playboy‘s June, 1980 issue. Several tons of meat are going to need a lot of butter. It would be much more economical for the creature to eat the astronaut!

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The author of this charming cartoon is Marvin Townsend, the subject of a whole Halloween Countdown post by co-admin RG. That’s a bigger honour in this parts than being a Tentacle Tueday master, as TTs come around once a week, and the Halloween count-down takes place once a year (to be more precise, for 31 consecutive days and not one day more).

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This tentacled-monster-pothole was dreamed up by Richard Thompson and appeared in his Poor Richard’s Almanac. It would make being stuck in traffic jams a lot more entertaining, don’t you think?

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Customer Service Wolf is a hilarious comic strip by Australian illustrator Anne Barnetson, who has worked in a bookstore for long enough for have encountered all kinds of annoying customers. Anyone who has toiled in retail will know that most people are insane, but a bookstore is a backdrop for a very special kind of lunacy.

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Ruben Bollings Tom the Dancing Bug can be pleasantly surreal. If there are tentacles involved, so much the better!

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I’ve been following British sculptress Caroline McFarlane-Watts and her company Tall Tales Productions for a while. She makes incredibly detailed sculptures of all sorts of things, most notably of witches and their ménage (take a discreet peek at their activities on her website, but  be careful, they’re cantankerous old bats). McFarlane-Watts also draws, sometimes comics. This pink (take my word for it) octopus is a witch’s best pal!

Thanks for sticking around while I got things off my chest!

∼ ds

Tentacle Tuesday: Cephalopods in Suburbia

There are places and situations where one definitely expects to run into octopuses – in seas and oceans, on other planets, in brothels and harems (much like one can put a box in the middle of the room and a cat will suddenly appear to sit in it, even when one does not own a cat, a nearly-naked woman is almost guaranteed to summon an octopus). But sometimes the presence of tentacles is quite unexpected. Just when you think you’re safe – no, oops, a touch of the cephalopod springs abruptly into your life.

Tentacles at the cinema? No way. What would they be doing there?

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« He turns into a monster at the touch of a pretty girl! » Say, that sounds familiar… This is Gross Point no. 11 (May 1998), cover by Roger Langridge. This nearly-forgotten comic (so forgotten, in fact, that Google will try to correct you if you look its title up) is a delight for those of us who like to bask in a Halloween mood year-round. The plot is not exactly original, yet beautiful art by Roger Langridge makes it a very enjoyable read, especially given the latter’s propensity to add little jokes to the script. Unfortunately, too many issues are sloppily pencilled by Joe Staton, whose art cannot be entirely redeemed, even by Langridge inking it.

Because I’m nice and this January 1st, here’s a link to all the issues of Gross Point, to save you the trouble of hunting them down.

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A page from “Welcome to Gross Point”, pencilled by S.M. Taggart and inked by Roger Langridge.

Or you purchase a box of doughnuts and then…

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Wacky Packages no. 17 (All-new Series 7), 2010. Art by David Gross, I believe.

How would you feel about going back to the office after the holidays and finding a multi-tasking octopus taking over your duties?

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Hogan’s Alley no. 21, February 2017. The hard-working octopus (it must have been hard to find pants that fit him, but octopuses are dedicated workers!) is drawn by Jack Davis, of course.

I’d say the most unexpected tentacles of all would be found in a For Better or For Worse strip. There’s no way that would happen.

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Panel from “Comic Strip Previews for 2007“, a Richard’s Poor Almanack (sic) by Richard Thompson.

~ ds

How do you like *your* Christmas?

« Christmas, Christmas, Christmas, Christmas makes me happy
I love Christmas cold and grey, I love it sweet and sappy
Says crazy kissin’ Cousin Flo:
‘Let’s break out the mistletoe’ »

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The heart-warming cover of that Four Color no. 201, 1948. Art by Walt Kelly. Check out the adorable moon-jumpin’ cow in the top left corner!

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This is the back cover of Dell’s Four Color no. 302 (Santa Claus Funnies), 1950. Such warm colours. Art by Canadian Mel Crawford, who worked on various Dell publications in the 1950s (such as Howdy Doody, Mr. Magoo, and Four Color Comics) to later become an accomplished watercolours/acrylics painter.

« Christmas, Christmas, Christmas, Christmas out the waz
Christmas, Christmas, Christmas, Christmas up the schnozz
Come all ye faithful, don’t be slow
It’s Christmas time, you can’t say no »

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Creepy no. 68 (January 1975), cover by Ken Kelly. “House’ and “about” don’t rhyme, but it’s the season to forgive. I like how Santa appears to be bawling in frustration.

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Vault of Horror no. 35 (EC, 1954), cover by Johnny Craig. Maybe open the lid of the coffin first, dumbass?

« Momma wants a kitchen sink
And daddy wants a stiffer drink
Grandma wants us to cut the crap
Grandpa wants a nice long nap »

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Illustration by Richard Thompson. Who else wants some Festive Dietetic Crackers? I’d definitely sit with the mouse.

« Christmas, Christmas, Christmas, Christmas everywhere
Christmas, Christmas, Christmas, Christmas pullin’ out my hair
Shoppers lined up out the door
Traffic backed up miles and more
It’s Christmas time, so what the heck
Let’s go spend the whole paycheck »

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A Little Lulu cartoon by Marge Buell (Saturday Evening Post, 1944).

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From the pleasantly warped mind of Hilary Barta with a fond tip of the Santa hat to old Uncle Salvador, obviamente. Да да да!

« Deck the halls, it is the season
We don’t need no rhyme or reason
It’s Christmas time, go spread the cheer
Pretty soon gonna be next year »

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Sensation Comics no. 38 (1945), cover by H.G. Peter.

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Original art for a Christmas card of Little Orphan Annie by Harold Gray. Just some 70 years ago, right?

Merry Christmas!

~ ds

Hallowe’en Countdown II, Day 19

« You know what I wish? I wish that I when I got mad I could pull my own head off and throw it at people. » – Alice Otterloop

There’s simply no justice. Richard Thompson (not the former Fairport Convention guitarist, béret enthusiast and all-around musical authority) was, in my view, the greatest cartoonist of his generation, and, in his prime, his voice was stifled by Parkinson’s disease. Sigh.

Here, then, is a trio of seasonally-and-thematically pertinent excerpts from his Richard’s Poor Almanac, a feature that made its august début in The Washington Post in 1997. Mr. Thompson is somewhat better known for his (other) masterpiece, the beyond-brilliant suburban family comic strip, Cul de Sac (2004-2012).

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And since I brought up Cul de Sac, and insolently pilfered a panel from it for this post’s preview image, I would be remiss in my duties were I to not include the strip in its entirety. Here you are.

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This one originally saw print on Sunday, October 26, 2008.

For more of Mr. Thompson’s Almanac, check out, if you will, this earlier post on the topic.

-RG

Richard Thompson’s Far-from-poor Almanac

Richard Thompson*, cartoonist extraordinaire and an exceptionally kind and talented man, tragically passed away in 2016 – and I don’t like to throw the word “tragically” about without good cause. His was a rare combination of wit, imagination, and style – think of how often one comes across an excellent writer whose material suffers from his poor drawing ability, or an artist whose beautiful art is like en empty shell, with nary a story nor convincing characterization in sight. Thompson had ideas, tons of ideas, and he was able to translate them into visuals with a dynamic pen-line and elegant watercolours.

His first truly successful strip was Richard’s Poor Almanac, which ran in the Washington Post for seven years or so from 1997. These little gems have been collected in “Richard’s Poor Almanac: 12 Months of Misinformation in Handy Cartoon Form” in 2004, but sadly this wonderful volume is quite out of print. You can get your fix from GoComics, however, as they’re re-running the whole thing here.

*not the musician.

Here’s a few strips from Richard’s Poor Almanac that always make me chuckle, no matter how many times I see them.

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The sprawling, madcap Almanac presented “misinformation in handy cartoon form” on subjects ranging from traditional almanac fodder like weather phenomena and local fauna to entertainment and political news. “The ideal cartoon for the Almanac was made up off the top of my head with no research, with only its own comic logic holding it together,” noted the artist in The Art of Richard Thompson. (Andrew Farago for the Comics Journal.)

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RichardThompson-CountyFair

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It may not be spring anymore, but this is still perfectly relevant. Just trade “magic bean-stalk” for “zucchini”.

You may have heard about the Almanac thanks to the fame of “Make the Pie Higher”.

«Upon learning that George W. Bush had opted not to invite an official poet to his inauguration ceremony in January 2001, Thompson composed his own poem from Bush malapropisms, and assembled them into a free-form verse entitled “Make the Pie Higher”. The cartoon was widely circulated online over the next year, was set to music by multiple composers, and earned its own entry on the fact-checking website Snopes.com. » (source)

RichardThompson-makethepiehigher

~ ds

Hey, Easy With the Jackhammer!

I understand that this image has to do with the tradition of greeting the new year by banging on pots and pans and generally making a racket, but I presume that both sailor-garbed primate and pneumatic drill were optional, particularly in times of scarcity.

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Art by Stephen Douglas, from Famous Funnies no. 138 (January, 1946). FF number one (July, 1934) was likely the second comic book issued, and the first one *sold*. It was published by Eastern Color / Dell Comics.

Read the issue here: http://comicbookplus.com/?dlid=35200

And while we’re on the subject of ushering in the New Year by making a hellacious din, let’s treat ourselves to a couple of relevant Cul de sac pieces. The first returns us to the strip’s formative, water-coloured years, when it appeared weekly (2004-2007) in The Washington Post‘s weekly magazine section.

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The Washington Post Magazine, Dec. 31st, 2006. Richard Thompson: « From when Petey played the trombone, and I found it too hard to draw. »

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The master tackled the theme again in this brief sequence from Dec. 31, 2008- Jan. 1st, 2009.

Nothing left to do now but to wish a joyful 2018 to all you monkeys and assorted critters!

– RG

Tentacle Tuesday: Groping Vines and Other Shenanigans

What better way to start Tentacle Tuesday than with the Big Pop-Up Book of Giant Squids? Sensitive people may want to skip this one.

PopUpTentaclesA« Dirk Dragonslapper », other than making me giggle every time, sounds like an actual character from some fantasy trilogy, which may be a comment on the state of fantasy these days (hint: it’s not fantastical). I’ll go with the cephalopods, thanks!

Incidentally, there’s a lot of dreadful fantasy covers out there (and that’s quite out of the scope of this blog, anyway), but I can’t resist sharing this one with you.

Swords-In-The-Mist-cover

Poor Fritz Leiber! An octopus holding a bunch of swords at completely ridiculous angles, a squat muscle-bound freak with a bare ass and some booby green-and-purple women floating a distance away. Thanks, Peter Elson.

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Let’s take a break from cuteness. Next up is some serious cause for alarm from Tom Sutton, who’s excellent at psychological horror. His weird art is full of details one can sink into; his sketchiness and sweeping lines leave one with the disquieting impression of being inextricably pulled into a distorted, nightmarish world.

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Damsel in distress from « Budding Evil », Haunted no. 17 (July 1974, Charlton), both scripted and drawn by Tom Sutton. Tell me you can look at the girl’s face as she’s getting strangled by tentacles and not get goosebumps.

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The meat-eating flowers have seriously disturbing “buds”… the best of us would have fainted!

There’s an inspired essay about Sutton here which I heartily recommend! I’ll take the liberty of borrowing a great Sutton quote from it (itself taken from a 2000 interview by Jon B. Cooke for Comic Book Artist no. 12). Voilà:

« They published weird stuff, and I have always been fascinated by weird stuff, and the weirder the better….  I do owe a certain amount to Charlton, because they allowed me to write a lot of ditties of my own, to paint a lot of horrible covers, and they never, ever, ever remarked on my technique. »

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Brr. I think we need an example of straightforward macho heroism to counter-act the icky impression left by the creeping horror glimpsed above. Here’s Doc Savage to the rescue, as usual. Watch the epic struggle between muscled man and malevolent tentacled beast!

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Original cover art for Doc Savage no. 8 (Marvel, Spring 1977) by illustrator Ken Barr. And no, I don’t have the answer as to why Doc Savage’s normally bronze hair looks like a white bathing cap here. However, Barr seems to have enjoyed painting it – just look at that glistening musculature!

Let’s see the cover as it was published:

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A bit too much text, guys. C’mon, you have a tentacled monstrosity with indubitably evil eyes, a man with rippling muscles and bulging veins… We’ve figured out that Doc is its next victim (just as surely as we know that he will come to no real harm).

Interestingly, upon opening the magazine, the first thing one sees is a Tom Sutton illustration. Small world! The cover story, « The Crimson Plague », is an adaptation of a novella published in Doc Savage Magazine in September 1939, and most likely written by Lester Dent (as Kenneth Robeson), who’s responsible for most of the classic Doc Savage epics. It’s an « adventure in which Doc Savage and his team deal with kidnapped scientists, captured comrades, and the deadly secret of the Octo-Brain » (sounds exciting, doesn’t it?) and is illustrated by Ernie Chan.

~ ds

Borborygmi phobia

Yes, “borborygmi” is actually a word.
Borborygmi [bawr-buh-rig-mahy]
a rumbling or gurgling sound caused by the movement of gas in the intestines. Did you know you could have a whole conversation in borborygmese? But don’t take my word for it:

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This page, entitled “Les pois chiches” (Chickpeas), comes from a comics collection called “Tourista”, published in 1984, about, what else? Tourists and their behaviour in foreign climes.

Claire Bretécher is a socio-satirical cartoonist from France, best known for her comics dealing with women and gender-related issues (Les frustrés, Aggripine…) Lots of them have been translated into English. A quick rundown of her career: her work has been published in Spirou and Pilote in 1972, and she co-founded the Franco-Belgian comics magazine “L’écho des savanes” (Echoes of the Savannah) together with Marcel Gotlib and Nikita Mandryka. She also has a pretty good handle on Weird Body Things and how people react to them.

And speaking of odd stomach noises, this pertinent little gem comes to mind:

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From Cul de Sac, an awesome comic strip (February 3, 2009) by the tragically deceased and much-missed Richard Thompson (1957-2016).

~ ds