Tentacle Tuesday: Into the Cephalopodic Underground

 « Slursh squirch! »

Greetings to saddle sniffers, subterranean dwellers and lovers of nasty fun! Today we take a little trip into the underground, where tentacles squirm in anticipation! Through some quirk, all of today’s covers involve aliens and spaceships – underground artists clearly also liked to speculate about the possibilities of inter-planetary travel.

If you’re a fan of those wild years of cartooning, visit out MEANWHILE, IN THE UNDERGROUND category!

Tentacle Tuesday opens up with a Nicola Cuti cover, whose cutesy style, albeit not particularly original, is pretty recognizable (for example, take a look at his Weirdlings, which has really grown on me over the years). His big-breasted, doe-eyed « intergalaxtic nymph » was not devoid of charm, although she only appeared in three issues (and issue no. 3 had a print run of a hundred copies, so I don’t think many people have seen it…) For more details about Moonchild Comics, consult the ever-useful Comixjoint.

Moonchild Comics no. 1 (1968, Moonchild Productions). Cover by Nicola Cuti.

Next up this lively cover by Spain Rodriguez, a WOT favourite. We haven’t posted that much about him, but co-admin RG did a lovely post about a surprisingly touching story from SR’s youth in Treasured Stories: «Tex’s Bad Dream or ‘The Egg Lady’s Revenge’» (1988).

Gothic Blimp Works no. 4 (Spring 1969, East Village Other). Cover by Spain Rodriguez.

The next cover is on a similar theme: mostly naked female, tentacled alien, the shaboodle, with an interesting choice of perspective to boot. And by “to boot” I mostly mean that it looks like somebody gave her a good kick on the shapely derrière.

Real Pulp Comics no. 1 (January 1971, The Print Mint). Cover by Roger Brand, who tragically died at 42 – read a heartfelt panegyric from Kim Deitch in A Lousy Week for Woods (Remembering Roger Brand).

Staying with the same publishing house (The Print Mint was a major publisher/distributor of underground comix in their heyday in the San Francisco Bay Area!) and the same theme, another damsel in the clutches of a (pretty cute, actually) alien. She’s wearing red, which of course is the traditional colour for cephalopod attacks.

Yellow Dog no. 20 (July 1971, The Print Mint). Cover by Trina Robbins, who designed the original Vampirella costume.

~ ds

Behold… the Great Shnozzola!

« That’s the conditions that prevail! » — Jimmy Durante

Today, we salute noted vaudevillian, piano player, comedian, singer, film and radio star, raconteur and unlikely comics legend James Francis “Jimmy” Durante, born on this day, February 10, in 1893 (as it was a Friday, the family presumably fasted or had fish for dinner). He truly was a master of all media, as you’ll witness.

This early bit of biography appeared in Juke Box Comics no. 4 (Sept. 1948, Eastern Color); it was illustrated by Ed Moore. Hear Cantor and Durante reminisce about their early days on this 1947 episode of The Jimmy Durante Show.
A passing mention of old Jimmy, from Nyoka the Jungle Girl no. 24 (Oct. 1948, Fawcett). Writer and artist unknown.
An early cover by Dick Ayers (1924-2014), this is Jimmy Durante Comics no. 1 (Oct. 1948, Magazine Enterprises).
The second and final issue of Jimmy Durante Comics (Winter 1948-49, Magazine Enterprises).
Mr. Durante rates a smashing musical appearance in this Rube Goldberg Device daily strip (Apr. 14, 1951, King Features Syndicate)… by Rube Goldberg, naturally.
And here’s the Shnozzola in the midst of a carnal melée of his fellow Old Hollywood legends (can you name them all, cinephiles?) This is Bill Griffith‘s cover for The Tiajuana Bible Revival Volume Two: Under the Stars in Hollywood (1977, Hooker, California: Paramounds Prod.). This was « An anthology reprinting 1930’s Tijuana Bibles, some of which were obscene parodies of popular newspaper comic strips of the day. Others made use of characters based on popular movie stars and sports stars of the day, such as Mae West and Joe Louis, sometimes with names thinly changed. Before the war, almost all the stories were humorous and frequently were cartoon versions of well-known dirty jokes that had been making the rounds for decades. » [ source ]
Pointillist-satirist Drew Friedman‘s immortal Jimmy Durante Boffs Young Starlets first saw print in National Lampoon vol. 2 no. 78 (Jan. 1985).
Durante briefly pops up (with the Checkered Demon!) in the second half of a truly all-star underground comix jam involving R. Crumb, Steve Clay Wilson (1941-2021… he left us just three days ago, aged 79… RIP), Victor Moscoso, Spain Rodriguez, Rick Griffin, Robert Williams and Gilbert Shelton. It appeared in Zap Comix no. 12 (1989, Last Gasp). Cartoonists are generally fond of the Schnozzola, but Underground cartoonists are just mad about him.
And finally, on a gentler note… here’s a clearly affectionate caricature (a preliminary sketch) of the esteemed Signor Durante (aw, he’s blushing!) by the amazing Sam Berman (crayon on onionskin paper, 1947). Berman (1907-1995) was, deservedly, quite a big deal in his day; as the erudite Drew Friedman told Print Magazine in his quality of co-curator of the 12 Legendary Caricaturists You’ve (probably) Never Heard Of exhibition at NYC’s Society of Illustrators, Berman « was indeed famous and celebrated in his day. Beginning his career in the late 1930s, he created iconic sculpted caricature covers for Esquire featuring their new mascot “Esky” (created by Berman) for an entire year. He created the sculpted caricatures of the leading actors (Fredric March, Carole Lombard, etc.) for the opening titles of the 1937 classic screwball comedy Nothing Sacred, did huge amounts of work for all the top magazines and newspapers of the day, including for Mark Hellinger’s popular column, created close to 60 amazing full-color portraits for the 1947 booklet The NBC Parade of Stars, drew children’s books, and arguably his most famous creation, the opening caricature of Jackie Gleason rising over Brooklyn for “The Honeymooners,” although he was never credited on the show for drawing that image, nor in any books. He then inexplicably went into map-making and faded quietly into obscurity. »

To wrap things up, here’s Jimmy D. and Frankie S. duetting in Russian. And why not? Happy birthday, Jimmy, wherever you are (and do say hello to Mrs. Calabash!)

-RG

Treasured Stories: «Tex’s Bad Dream or ‘The Egg Lady’s Revenge’» (1988)

« You really saw that things were not at all what was portrayed in the mass media… at least not in our neighborhood. It was just a conclusion that most of the kids of that age came to, that things were extremely corrupt. » — Spain Rodriguez

While plenty of cartoonists trod the path of autobiography before him, it took Manuel ‘Spain’ Rodriguez (1940-2012) to truly show how it should be done: here at last was a genuine full-blooded practitioner, hardly content to merely observe from the sidelines, blending with the wallpaper. Lover, brawler, consummate graphic storyteller: a scarce combination indeed.

The following tale belongs to a cycle recounting the exploits and insights of The North Fillmore Intelligentsia, Spain’s closest compadres in Buffalo of the 1950s. Tex’s Bad Dream… originally appeared in Blab! No. 3 (Sept. 1988, Kitchen Sink Press); indeed, Spain’s recollections became, over time, the sole reason to purchase the once-excellent Blab! Mercifully, most of these were collected, in their usual exemplary fashion, by Fantagraphics, as Cruisin’ With the Hound (2012). You’ll still be lacking the mysteriously-omitted, quite essential « How I Almost Got Stomped to the “Still of the Night” by the “Five Satins » (Prime Cuts No. 2, Mar. 1987, Fantagraphics), which you can find in another Spain anthology, My True Story (1994, Fanta again).

In the meantime, enjoy, with my compliments, this true-life tale of original EC Fan-Addicts, facial restructuring, cautionary dreams, isometrics and pork sandwiches.

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-RG