Tentacle Tuesday: Leaps and Bounds

Today’s Tentacle Tuesday doesn’t have an over-arching theme, other than featuring some bits and bobs I’ve accumulated – from something drawn in 1942 to a cartoon created by computer in 2020. In a sense, this way of proceeding is much closer to the way my brain works, jumping from theme to theme and adding brackets within brackets. This is somewhat off topic, but incidentally, if that’s the way your brain works, too, I highly recommend David Foster Wallace‘s non-fiction material (read 27 of his articles and essays here!) and The Good Soldier Švejk and His Fortunes in the World War by Jaroslav Hašek for a deliciously rambling approach to story telling and arguments.

If you’re not already following WOT’s favourite cartoonist Roger Langridge on Instagram, I highly recommend doing so: his daily slice-of-life strips provide an interesting glimpse into the author’s family life, inner dialogue, and artistic endeavours. You can also support him on Patreon (he has a measly 54 supporters right now – compare that to the thousands of subscribers boasted by some considerably less talented comics artists, who shall remain nameless). The following daily from December, 2020 features the aforementioned introspection, a glimpse at the artistic process, Garfield and tentacles.

Speaking of Garfield, I recommend Garfield Minus Garfield, if you haven’t come across it already.

Texan cartoonist Sam Hurt is the creator of Eyebeam, and I say that with a similar reverence that one would employ in talking about some deity that has concocted a self-governing universe. It is a strange, a bitter-sweet, topsy-turvy place with its own impeccable logic, to which our world remains criminally indifferent. Tackling the problem of talking about Eyebeam, which is both the name of the protagonist and the title of the comic strip, is something we haven’t yet had the courage of doing on this blog. Still, co-admin RG bravely dipped his toe in these waters and talked about a connected comic series – read his All Hail Peaches, Queen of the Universe! and admire his courage. I will also add that Sam Hurt is a great painter, and that I am lucky to have one of this paintings hanging on my office wall (best Christmas gift, ever).

A blushing octopus in a hat? Won’t somebody introduce us, please?

From its humble beginnings around 1978, Eyebeam has grown and survived (with some interruptions) to this day! Strips from 1996 until now are available on GoComics. Someday, fortified with some Dutch courage, we will do a proper post about it, we promise.

I’ve never actually read Usagi Yojimbo, the eminently popular rōnin comic book epic by Stan Sakai. Rolling Stones’ slapdash list of best graphic novels, insultingly titled The 50 Best Non-Superhero Graphic Novels (which immediately makes one feel that they consider non-superhero comics somehow inferior), places it at 43. I will doubtlessly get around to at least reading one volume or two at some point – Sakai is definitely a talented artist, and I have nothing against anthropomorphic animals when they’re well-drawn. However, a dedication to reading the whole series is not for the faint-hearted: there are 35 books in total, which have been collected into nine omnibus volumes in more recent years, a considerable time commitment.

‘Usagi Yojimbo’ literally means something like ‘rabbit bodyguard’, which is what the main character, Miyamoto Usagi, is. Here he is fighting an octopus or two!

Usagi Yojimbo no. 27 (March 1991, Fantagraphics). Cover by Stan Sakai, with colours by Tom Luth.
Panel from My Lord’s Daughter, published in Usagi Yojimbo no. 27 (March 1991, Fantagraphics).
This was drawn by Sakai during the Lucca Comics and Games Convention (2015) for a fan.

Theodor Seuss Geisel, far better known under the pen name of Dr. Seuss, was not only the author of famous books for children, but also a perceptive political cartoonist. Between 1941 and 1943, he was working for PM, a New York daily newspaper, and this is when he produced a series of satirical cartoons about the Policy of Appeasement, the British policy makers’ attempt at avoiding a war with Germany by conceding to some of Hitler’s demands.

I hope you enjoyed this somewhat random stroll through years and styles! For dessert, I would suggest The Cooking Cartoonist: Guilt-Free Ways to Prepare Octopus by Farley Katz. A bite-sized preview:

~ ds

Hallowe’en Countdown IV, Day 31

« I grew up in a farm town in the Midwest, where not much exciting happened. I liked the idea of lives lived at night and the shadowy characters who lived in that demi-monde.Michael Emerson

And our final slot goes to… the eminent Mr. Roger Langridge!

An average, ‘nuclear’ family moves to a small town in the Midwest, which turns out to be mind-numbingly strange… a fact entirely lost on the clueless parental units. Sound familiar?

It’s obvious, given the time frame (five years late), that Gross Point was, to be charitable, keenly influenced by the television show Eerie, Indiana (1991-92)… whose short run (just one season and a mere nineteen episodes… plus fifteen novels!) belies its lasting appeal and influence.

But, and there’s a sizeable ‘but’… both series provide considerable, often subversive entertainment, and come from a long line of high-concept, cœlacanth-out-of-aqua sagas. You might say that Gross Point stands as a darker, yet goofier Eerie, Indiana. Incredibly, it was still approved by the clearly-agonizing, utterly irrelevant Comics Code Authority!

This is Gross Point no. 5 (Dec. 1997, DC), the Halloween special… but then again, as they say, “Every day is Halloween in Gross Point“. Cover by Sean Taggart.

The facetious small print:

Gross Point is a fictitious town, not to be confused with that differently-spelled one in Michigan. The magazine Gross Point is a work of satire. The stories, characters and incidents mentioned in this magazine are entirely fictional. No resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or comatose, deformed, deranged, disfigured, dismembered, disembodied, discarnate, decaying, reincarnated, undead, immortal, reanimated, telepathic, pyritic, telekinetic, magical, transformed, trans-channelled, enchanted, cursed, possessed, monstrous, cannibalistic, demonic, vampiric, reptilian, lycanthropic, subterranean, mummified, extra-terrestrial, or interdimensionally-stranded, is intended or implied, or should be inferred. Any similarity to same without satiric purpose is coincidental.

The Pickett family’s colourful neighbourhood in Gross Point. Sublime pencils and inks by Roger Langridge. He truly brought a sense of place to his work on GP.
Tight as a duck’s arse!” This is the issue when we find out — at last! — the answer to the mystery of the duck-shaped house next door.
Groucho, who else? DC clearly panders to the late 90s teen set with a hybrid parody of its own late 60s mystery anthology title and a legendary Depression-era comic. Well, it works for me, but what do *I* know?
A sizeable part of why this is Gross Point’s finest hour: Langridge gets to trot out his rather credible EC-vintage Wally Wood/Will Elder ersatz.
… and then goes full-on Mad-style Will Elder! This bourgeois chiller scared the Dickens out of the local youths.

In Issue two, we are told that:

Gross Point differs from most new DC titles in recent memory in that it was internally created. The concept from the series was the brainchild of the internal development program of the Special Projects Group, headed by Group Editor Martin Pasko [ né Jean-Claude Rochefort, in Montréal, QC ], who is also this title’s editorial overseer.

In other words, Created by committee, which accounts for the utter lack of originality… which is yet no impediment to its ultimate worth.

However, and a big However it is, some savvy, enlightened creative moves were made, most of all by recruiting stupendous penciller/inker Langridge, as well as Sean ‘S.M’ Taggart (perhaps a bit of nepotism, what with him married to a DC editor, but never mind, he’s good) and writers Dan Slott and Matt Wayne, among others.

The series lasted a not-too-shabby fourteen issues, which you can still get your calloused mitts on dirt cheap online and in the quarter bins, as it’s never been collected. I daresay it might have been a smash hit… if, say, Scholastic had published it.

Well, that wraps up another year’s selection! If you’re craving more, then the 93 entries of the previous trio of Hallowe’en Countdowns are (un)naturally at your disposal.

First there was… Hallowe’en Countdown I

And it was followed by… Hallowe’en Countdown II!

then came… Hallowe’en Countdown III!

Have a good one, warts and all — just be cautious out there!

-RG

Tentacle Tuesday: Prince Namor, the Sub-Mariner

Created by Bill Everett, Namor the Sub-Mariner first appeared in Marvel Comics no. 1 (October 1939). The offspring of a human sea captain and a princess of Atlantis (and thus proudly bearing the title of Prince), he possessed the aquatic talents one expects of a regular merman and the exceptional strength of a carnival strongman. The cool thing about Namor is that right off the bat, he was a rather negative character – to be more precise, he was an Enemy of the United States (Everett didn’t mince words or characters, huh?) As Les Daniels states in his Marvel: Five Fabulous Decades of the World’s Greatest Comics (1991), « Namor was a freak in the service of chaos. Although the Sub-Mariner acted like a villain, his cause had some justice, and readers reveled in his assaults on civilization. His enthusiastic fans weren’t offended by the carnage he created as he wrecked everything from ships to skyscrapers. » This chaos culminated in an epic fight with Human Torch in 1941 when Namor took things a little too far and threatened to inundate the whole island of Manhattan. This little skirmish didn’t prevent him from joining the Allies’ side once World War II started, however, which gave a more constructive outlet for his somewhat destructive energies.

Right from the beginning, the Sub-Mariner was a complex character who just wouldn’t fit into the standard good guy/bad guy dichotomy. He underwent through quite a few transformations, disappearing for a bit right after WWII like many of his super-and-anti hero compatriots (but never for more than a couple of years at a time) and resurfacing during the Silver Age as a slightly different character. Namor’s concern about encroaching technology and hate of humanity, his fierce independence, made him a likeable character for those of us who like mavericks. He is a tragic character, a king without a kingdom who finds that Atlantis and its people have been destroyed by nuclear testing. After that, who wouldn’t hold a grudge? Anyway, if you’d like a more cogent overview of the Sub-Mariner’s history, visit The Great Comic Book Heroes.

To get back on topic, given how much time Namor spends underwater, it’s hardly surprising that he quite frequently encounters tentacles.

First, a story scripted and drawn by Bill Everett – who better to introduce the character than his creator? This is “The Octopus-Men!”, printed in The Human Torch no. 38 (August 1954).

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« The Original Aquaman » ? My, aren’t we testy. Now, now, you boys both belong to a long, storied tradition.

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Skipping ahead some twenty years, a page from “Namor Agonistes!”, scripted by Roy Thomas, pencilled by Ross Andru and inked by John Severin, printed in Sub-Mariner no. 38 (June 1971). This is sort of an origin story of the Sub-Mariner. Lovely art, n’est-ce pas?

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A page from “When Wakes the Kraken!”, scripted by Roy Thomas, pencilled by Sal Buscema and inked by Mike Esposito, printed in Sub-Mariner no. 27 (July 1970):

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Oh, let’s have a couple of covers, too.

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A rather random assortment of creatures, isn’t it? Sub-Mariner no. 13 (May 1969), pencils by Marie Severin and inks by Joe Sinnott.

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Umm… why is a piranha wielding an axe? Sub-Mariner no. 54 (October 1972), pencilled by Alan Weiss and inked by Frank Giacoia.

I mostly sneer at modern “reboots” of Golden or Silver Age characters, but Namor’s appearance in the excellent Thor the Mighty Avenger (Marvel, 2010) was completely à propos. (The series is a happy union of an absorbing story with great graphics – it’s written by Roger Langridge with art by Chris Samnee.) Here’s a page from “Thursday Morning“, published in Thor the Mighty Avenger no. 5 (December 2010).

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~ 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

Tentacle Tuesday: Scuttle Over to British Shores

Finally, Tentacle Tuesday is here, and the tentacles are back with a vengeance! I’ve been waiting all week to spring ’em on you.

This cutie, the Triclopus, kindly agreed to let us use his, err, face to kick off the Tentacle Tuesday festivities.

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The Triclopus is a Ken Reid creation from August 31st, 1974. There’s a full list of Creepy Creations (published in the British Shiver and Shake) – with pictures! – over at Kazoop!, a great blog about British humour comics of the 60s and 70s. Go check it out. As for Ken Reid, we’ve previously talked about him here.

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Excerpt (or, as the Brits would say, extract) from Alienography by Chris Riddell (2010).

Chris Riddell is a British illustrator, writer of children’s books, acclaimed political cartoonist, talented doodler, etc. His hand-lettering (not at all on display in Alienography, I admit) is sort of Richard Sala, Edward Gorey-ish, as is his somewhat macabre sense of humour. Visit Riddell’s blog here.

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This splendid illustration by Roger Langridge (tentacle artist par excellence) was published in Doctor Who Magazine no. 300 (February, 2001) to accompany some-article-or-other about “Spearhead from Space” (a Doctor Who episode, the seventh season opener, if you really must know).

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A bit more information about the cool Dr. Langridge-and-Dr. Who pairing:

“Within Doctor Who comics, he can be regarded as effectively the current Doctor Who Magazine “house letterer”, having lettered the overwhelming majority of comics since his debut on DWM 272’s Happy Deathday in late 1998. Almost every issue of DWM published in the 21st century was lettered by Langridge.

He has also occasionally pencilled, inked and even coloured some stories along the way. Deathday, for example, was also his Doctor Who pencil and ink debut, and was followed by artistic duties on TV Action!, the back half of The Glorious Dead (where he was co-credited as penciller with Martin Geraghty), The Autonomy Bug, Where Nobody Knows Your Name, The Green-Eyed Monster, Death to the Doctor!, and Planet Bollywood. He is thus perhaps the only artist to professionally draw all eleven incarnations of the Doctor, even though many of his renderings were obvious parodic in Death. Finally, he coloured Me and My Shadow and Where Nobody Knows Your Name.” [source]

TentacleTuesdayIconThe Wizard, a weekly British publication put out by D.C. Thomson (without a P, though it’s tempting), was created in 1922 and lasted all the way until the late seventies (with periodic interruptions for a merger and several title changes, from “Wizard” to “Rover and Wizard” to “Rover” and then again back to “Wizard” in 1970 until its final demise in 1978).

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This edition of The Wizard is from October 26th, 1974, but I unfortunately have no idea who the artist is.

Between WWI and WWII (and sometimes beyond), D.C. Thomson published a number of weekly magazines/papers aimed at boys between 8 and 16. They cost 2 pence, and were thus known as “Tuppenny Bloods”, or the Big Five: Adventure, Rover, Skipper, Hotspur and the aforementioned Wizard. What could one hope to find in a Tuppenny? Short stories with illustrations, some comics, some non-fiction articles…. pretty much everything a growing boy (and girl!) with a lively mind would want.

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2000 AD no. 142 (1979). I call this the “dragons’n’tentacles” ploy. Other than tentacles on the cover, this issue contains part 3 of Judge Dredd: The Black Plague, which I highly recommend, and some Stainless Steel Rat adventures.

~ ds

Tentacle Tuesday: Octopus à la carte (sniff, sniff)

I don’t necessarily like to contemplate this fact of life, but octopus flesh gets eaten a lot (in some countries more than others). However, comic artists are mostly a classy lot: they tend to like cephalopods, so it’s not too often that one runs across a depiction of them as a foodstuff. An octopus slashed in battle is one thing, but disgraced and transformed into a dish? What kind of person would want to illustrate *that*? Perverts, that’s who!

These bold souls who have drawn the forbidden, mentioned the unmentionable, shall surely be punished by the Elder Gods.

Let’s have a cautious peek (don’t forget to leave a sacrifice at the altar of the Octopus God, however).

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Zoot no. 5 (December 1993, Fantagraphics). Cover by Roger Langridge.

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Originally called “Ernie” (the name of its main character), the strip was renamed “Piranha Club” presumably because it’s a much catchier title. No, or few, pirañas are involved, but you are guaranteed to encounter Quacko the Human Duck, his wife the Bearded Lady, Effie (who often cooks octopus, much to the dismay of her husband), Bob the zombie, and a host of other irrelevant and quirky characters.  Who’s responsible for all this mayhem? Bud Grace, the creator of this strip. If you haven’t heard of Piranha Club, slither over here.

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Delicious in Dungeon Vol. 3 (November 2017). This manga series by Ryōko Kui involves a few characters tromping around a dungeon, consuming all and any monsters they find within. “Slimes, basilisks, and even dragons… none are safe from the appetites of these dungeon-crawling gourmands!

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Octopus pie, again? Is it as inedible as tuna casserole, the frequent butt of jokes in all sorts of sitcoms? This is Mom’ Homemade Comics no. 1, October 1969, cover (and everything else) by Denis Kitchen. Visit Comixjoint for the riveting tale of how this underground classic came to be published, as well as a review of its three issues.

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Octopus Soup by Mercer Mayer (2011, Two Lions). Technically a book for kids, but I’d highly recommend it for octopus lovers of any age.

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Another peek at Octopus Soup…

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Cthulhu Does Stuff no. 4, by Ronnie Tucker and Maxwell Patterson. Visit their website.

Bon appétit!

~ ds

Tentacle Tuesday: Pirates and Treasure, oh my

Where there be pirates, there be treasure; where there be treasure, there be a displeased octopus, irritable after being roused by some foolish fortune-hunter. I’d like to dedicate this Tentacle Tuesday to the murderous marauders who, in bold search for immeasurable treasure, have to tackle tentacles (and survive, hopefully).

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Weird Terror no. 2, November 1952. Cover by H.C. Kiefer. Note the dead pirate’s hook embedded in the diver’s shoulder, while the former’s other hand is severing his umbilical cable…  I think the octopus is the least of this treasure-hunter’s worries.  By Weird Terror standards, this cover is actually pretty tame; this green octopus is not responsible for Fredric Wertham‘s nightmares.

Any octopus action inside, you may ask? Just two panels.

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AAAGH-BLUB! Panels from « Wrath of Satan », pencilled by John Belcastro and inked by Joe Galotti.

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I never thought I’d be posting something Garfield-related, but in Roger Langridge‘s hands, even the insipid orange cat acquires some charm.

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A panel from « Pirate Cat », written by Scott Nickel and illustrated+lettered by Roger Langridge, published in Garfield no. 34: His 9 Lives Part 2, (KaBOOM!, February 2015).

Melvin the Menacing Sea Monster isn’t just a pretty eye; he’s got at least one excellent pitching arm, too.

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All this proves is that there’s a simple solution to an inane plot and pedestrian characters: hire Langridge to illustrate your story, and it will magically transform into a fun yarn.

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Our next selection doesn’t technically feature pirates, but it features sailors, Spanish smugglers, swindlers and cheats, as well an epic battle with an octopus and stolen treasure buried at the bottom of the sea, so it damn well qualifies.

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Classics Illustrated no. 56, February 1949; cover by August M. Froelich. For one thing, I never knew Victor Hugo had written anything squid-related. As it turns out, Toilers of the Sea (French: Les travailleurs de la mer) is a novel from 1866. How educational! Classics Illustrated was created by Russian-born Albert Kanter (1897-1973), who wanted to use the power of comics to introduce young readers to “great literature” that they might not otherwise have deigned to read. “Classic Comics” began publication in 1941, with the name of the series changed to “Classics Illustrated” in 1947. The series lasted until 1971 for a total of 169 issues; various other companies reprinted its titles. I don’t know whether this series really made a difference in the edification of youth, but many of its issues are highly collectible, anyway.

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As a little bonus, here’s a cover that’s somewhat lacking in swashbucklers, but boasts some decent treasure and (quintessential ingredient) some tentacles.

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If Rex the Wonder Dog (created by Robert Kanigher and Alex Toth) can ride horses, show off as an expert bullfighter, use cameras, defeat a Tyrannosaurus Rex and swing on ropes (among his many other accomplishments), I don’t see why he wouldn’t be able to effortlessly fend off some pink tentacles. This is The Adventures of Rex the Wonder Dog no. 42 (Nov.-Dec. 1958). The cover is by Gil Kane on pencils, Bernard Sachs on inks, and Jack Adler on tones and colours.

~ ds

Happy Birthday to Roger Langridge

I’d like to wish a loud and boisterous (or quiet and dignified, depending on what he prefers) birthday to Roger Langridge, who’s a jolly good fellow (which nobody can, or will, deny). If you’re looking for a reason to celebrate something on the 14th of February, but hate the Cheez Whiz of Valentine’s Day, this could be it!

Here are some of my favourite Langridge moments, by no means an exhaustive list, but hopefully a fun one.

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The cover Roger Langridge created for The Comics Journal no. 284, July 2007. Orbis terrarum est mei! (Which, as far as I can figure it out, means “the world is mine”.) A bored-looking Fin Fang Foom (he must not like flowers) presides over assorted Langridge characters frolicking in the windows below. Note the malevolent nun (Knuckles!) in the middle window.

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From « The Bald Truth » by Scott Gray and Roger Langridge, published in Fin Fang Four Return (Marvel, 2009), a hilarious – yet heart-warming – one-shot comic. “There was a time when giants walked the Earth! Monstrous creatures! Products of science gone mad!!! FIN FANG FOOM! ELEKTRO! GOOGAM! GORGILLA! Once they were great and terrible, and all trembled in their wake! Now, reduced to human size, they must live in the modern world and earn a buck. So what happens when the freakish foursome tries to play nice?” You can ignore the typical over-the-top Marvel description with lots of exclamation marks; this comic is surprisingly subtle. In 2012, Langridge decided he didn’t want to do work for Marvel anymore.

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« The Bald Truth » by Scott Gray and Roger Langridge, published in Fin Fang Four Return (Marvel, 2009). The moral of the story, as summarized by Fin himself: « Men need to grow brains, not hair. »

Our man of the hour has also written and drawn quite a few stories for « children », most of them published by KaBoom!, or their tot-friendly division, Boom!. I think there should be a special category for books that are fun for children, but even more entertaining for their parents (or the nulliparous amongst us). For instance, are the Muppets purely child-fare? Sure, little ones enjoy their madcap, sometimes surreal humour, but adults are often as smitten by it, if not more. I think it takes a special talent and superior intelligence to write stories that appeal to youngsters, but are complex enough to give their older relatives something to chew on. Throw a spirited sense of humour into the mix, and you’re all set.

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Roger Langridge’s wonderful sense of humour is particularly suited for the comic book version of The Muppet Show, which he wrote and illustrated for BOOM! Studios starting in 2009 for a total of 15 (magnificent, by the way) issues.

To quote a perceptive review by Ryan Dosier (read it here),

« Once again, Langridge has beautifully captured the unhinged feeling that each of us enjoyed watching on the original Muppet Show. Zaniness reigns supreme, random Muppets hang out backstage, and we can once again feel like the show never ended. Roger Langridge has captured the Muppet spirit of writing in a way that is more than reminiscent of the Jerry Juhl days of The Muppet Show. He has a complete grasp on every character. Everything in the comic works, and it’s because of the quality of the writing that this is true. When there are, not one, but five chances for Fozzie to deliver a pun-filled monologue (each in a different comedic style) and hit each one out of the park (relatively speaking), you know the writing is top-notch. »

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I don’t normally buy Disney products – Disney bought the Muppets intellectual properties from the Jim Henson company in 2004, but I made an exception and purchased The Muppet Show Omnibus (2014), and I am not regretting this decision.

This wasn’t the last time Langridge worked with the Muppets.

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Jim Henson’s The Musical Monsters of Turkey Hollow, October 2014, published by Archaia. This is based on a lost television special originally written by Jim Henson and Jerry Juhl (respectively, producer and head writer of The Muppet Show) and (lovingly) adapted by Langridge for comic book form. Henson and Juhl wrote the script in 1968 (Henson was inspired by some footage he had taken of his daughters scampering through some trees during what must have been a particularly magical October), but nobody was interested in actually filming it, and so the story languished in the Jim Henson Company Archives until now. Langridge was a natural fit for this project, given that he had been the writer and main illustrator of Boom! Studios’ excellent The Muppet Show comics between 2009 and 2012.

Among more recent adventures undertaken by Mr. Langridge and his lucky readers is Snarked!, his take on Lewis Carroll’s topsy-turvy world, Abigail & the Snowman, and the Baker Street Peculiars, written by him but illustrated by someone else. All of the aforementioned comics are life-affirming *and* vocabulary-expanding.

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Snarked! no. 5, February 2012. « Presenting a fresh and incredibly modern “Langridge” spin on an already-warped classic, SNARKED starts here in an epic adventure featuring the Red Queen’s children, Princess Scarlett and her baby brother Rusty, as they set out in search of the missing Red King. And who better to help guide the way than the Walrus and the Carpenter from THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS. »  (description from publisher) Snarked! is also published by Kaboom.

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From Snarked! no. 11, August 2012. Would a child be able to appreciate the concept of “Aunt Fanny’s Leather Euphonium”? I don’t think so. An euphonium is a musical instrument, by the way, similar to a tuba in appearance.

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Page from Abigail and the Snowman no. 1, December 2014, published by KaBoom!. Claude is an erudite yeti on the run from evil scientists who want to continue experimenting on him.

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Abigail and the Snowman no. 4, March 2015. Yetis run better without shoes, that’s why the car is gaining on them.

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A splash page The Baker Street Peculiars no. 3, May 2016. Written by Langridge and illustrated by Andy Hirsch, with colours by Fred Stresing. Langridge-the-writer sometimes get paired with people who couldn’t draw if their life depended on it, and it’s a hideous waste of talent. Hirsch’s art is not quite as distinctive, but it fits the story well.

Wishing Mr. Langridge many happy returns, many productive collaborations, and above all the time and financial support he needs to pursue his solo projects.

~ ds

Tentacle Tuesday: Educated Cephalopod Seeks Damsel in Distress

This is the slimiest, creepiest day of the week: Tentacle Tuesday. Hurrah, hurrah, all hail the Chthonians.

It would be a long post indeed if I tried making an exhaustive list of comics in which buxom females are being groped by grabby tentacles. Still, let’s make a (small) dent in this category. Here’s three candies with sweet fillings of adventure, fun, and sex.

Let’s start things slow (but entertaining) with this playful octopus from Virgil Partch‘s madcap pen.

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Liberty Magazine, 1946. Frankly, I think she’s better off with tentacles than with the unshaven and blasé Mr. Smeech.

Next up, we have Brenda Buckler who seems to be rather enjoying her captivity. Tous les goûts sont dans la nature!

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« It’d been a long time since anyone touched Brenda. As the dry, scaly tentacle encircled her body, it touched something deeper than flesh… »  Eerie no. 60 (September 1974), painted cover by Ken Kelly (a gallery of his paintings can be found here).

Plot spoiler: the tentacled monster is actually her husband! Ain’t nothing wrong with bestiality as long as it’s sanctioned by the holy institution of matrimony. Brenda is the protagonist of the cover story, “The Man Hunters”, written by Gerry Boudreau and illustrated by Wally Wood (with colours by Michele Brand). Don’t worry, though: there’s a happy ending in store for her (aside from the whole “watching your shipmates eaten alive by a giant monster” thing). Moral of the story, never underestimate the erotic potential of “filth-encrusted tentacles”.

A coloured (and quite colourful) version of “The Man Hunters” was reprinted in Warren’s Comix International no. 2 (1975), and you can read it here: http://diversionsofthegroovykind.blogspot.ca/2010/02/ec-in-ya-wood-and-crandall-in-color.html

The wrap-up for today is scanned from a comic series I just finished reading, The Rocketeer: Hollywood Horror by Roger Langridge as author and J. Bone as illustrator. It was published in 2012, and collected as a paperback and hardcover in 2013. Aside from the healthy helping of tentacles it serves its readers, this comic features some top-notch writing from Langridge and some nice art. I don’t pretend this stuff is deep, but it’s a pleasurable romp with pretty girls, evil scientists, and a goofy-but-lovable hero. Recommended for some fun reading (although I admit I spoiled it a bit by featuring two of the main action pages)…

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I like a girl who can admit when she needs rescuin’.

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Am I the only one that feels sorry for the monster, even if it *is* a robot?

Tentacularly yours,

~ ds

New Release From Roger Langridge! “And there was much rejoicing…”

I’d like to talk about a book that’s coming out in October -“The Iron Duchess” by Roger Langridge. There’s two reasons to be excited about it: it’s a solo Langridge project; and it features Fred the Clown, a favourite character of many a R.L. aficionado. This graphic novel was initially self-published about a year ago, but Fantagraphics (displaying their usual impeccable taste) has picked it up since then, so it’s now commonly available through major stores.

But, you may ask, who is Fred the Clown and why should you care? Instead of blabbing incomprehensibly as I’m prone to doing when talking about Langridge (imagine a dog trying to explain its excitement about a juicy bone – there’s just going to be a lot of tail-wagging and drooling), I prefer to quote the back-cover blurb from the first Fred the Clown collection (equally highly recommended, published in 2004 also by Fantagraphics):

Existential clown comedy as you like it.
SEE! Fred the Clown get slapped regularly in his single-minded pursuit of l’amour!
HEAR! The screams of his lady friends from several blocks away!
SMELL! Fred the Clown’s scientifically improbable collection of fungal infections!
The signature creation of cartoonist Roger Langridge, Fred the Clown is the thinking man’s idiot. Fred has an eye for the ladies, as well as several other organs, but the only part of themselves they’re willing to share with him is a carefully placed kneecap…
Fred the Clown’s misadventures are a curious balance of bleakness and joyful absurdism; the universe may dump on Fred from a great height, but he never gives up. More often than not, they involve the pursuit of a lady—any lady will do, it seems, but bearded ladies are at the top of the list.

Just look at this striking art and Langridge’s impeccable sense of timing:

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(Fred the Clown in his initial black-and-white format.)

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To which I can add that I normally can’t *stand* clowns, and Fred is the only cartoon clown whom I not only tolerate but whose antics I actually enjoy.

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But to get back to the Duchess: *this* story doesn’t have bearded ladies, but it does have a (very) mad scientist, a damsel in dire and completely improbable peril, enough twists in the plot to make you yelp (and giggle) out loud (great for embarrassing yourself in public!), and heart-warming inter-species friendship, perhaps even romance. After all, there is a train involved; a train means somebody can be tied to the railroad tracks, or a couple can escape – or not – an evil father… I love people who can take a conventional story and run off with it while still “obeying” all the rules of the genre.

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It’s an entirely mute story, if you don’t count evil cackling as dialogue. Fred’s best friend is a pig, by the way, and as far as I’m concerned that’s another reason to love this goofball. The pig’s also considerably more intelligent than him.

It’s exciting, riveting and really funny. Did I mention the beautiful art, expert shading, etc., etc.? Just pick it up already. Langridge can deftly illustrate anything his freaky brain comes up with, which includes animals (especially horses, which most comic artists seem to struggle with), ugly people (ditto – it seems that artists often can draw either pretty people, or grotesque ones, but rarely both)… and he’s great at architecture and perspective, too.

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In an ideal world, Langridge would have free rein – and enough financial support – to draw the stories that are clearly close to his heart, instead of being forced (although he’s very gallant about it) to write for projects illustrated by pencillers/inkers so impressively inept that these comics, that should be excellent just by virtue of having a fantastic writer, become completely unreadable. Let’s at least take things one step closer to this ideal by adding the Iron Duchess to our comic book collections.

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Dare to take a train ride into the dark tunnel of creativity (but avoid awkward metaphors along the way.)

Don’t forget to visit Langridge’s Hotel Fred, his official website, where you can purchase original art, books, and also see lots of goodies like sketches, commissions, unpublished pages, and whatever else he’s got lying around.

~ ds