Hallowe’en Countdown V, Day 4

« She’s a haunted house / and her windows are broken. » — Scott Walker, “Big Louise” (1969)

I’ve been wanting to share one of the all-time most beautiful art jobs Steve Ditko ever wittled, 1960’s The Ghost of Grismore Castle! (published in Strange Tales no. 79), but I don’t have that book. I do, however, own a 70’s reprint of it, in Vault of Evil no. 14 (October 1974), but the colouring and reproduction were so bland and washed-out that I knew that justice wouldn’t be done to this meritorious piece.

Then it hit me: I *had* seen a lovingly reconstructed presentation of the tale — has it nearly been… 30 years ago? Yikes!

It was reprinted with brio in the redoubtable Mort Todd‘s Curse of the Weird (no. 2, January 1994), a flawlessly-assembled anthology title he somehow conned Marvel into publishing in the early 90s.

So my gratitude goes out to Mr. Todd and, once more, my admiration to Mr. Ditko.

« We shot it from the original stats I dug out of the Marvel vault, rather than reprint VoE #14, and lovingly recolored it! Thanks for noticing! »

Oh, and as bonus, here’s the cover, one of those absurdly lush Kirby-Ditko collaborations. As usual with Marvel, all captions are de trop.

This is Strange Tales no. 79 (Dec. 1960, Marvel), pencils by Jack Kirby, inks by Steve Ditko. And duh, *obviously*, “The Thing” is here, Stan. Show, don’t tell.
The very 70’s update. This is Vault of Evil no. 14 (Oct. 1974, Marvel); cover pencils by Larry Lieber, inks by Frank Giacoia.

-RG

Hallowe’en Countdown IV, Day 20

« When the mind is thinking, it is talking to itself. » — Plato

The waning years of the 1950’s marked the beginning of the monster craze, which coincided with Mad Magazine’s ripest period of influence. Here, then, is a publication that sought to capitalize on both occurrences. Alas, chasing fads too eagerly always did land you all-too-promptly in the cultural ditch. Still… Thimk had its moment.

This is Thimk no. 3 (Sept. 1958, Counterpoint). Edited by Alan Whitney, cover by Sam Hayle (1911-1996), who later did a bit of work for Cracked.
This is Thimk no. 4 (Dec. 1958, Counterpoint); cover by Sam Hayle. Elvis finds out first hand how fickle teenyboppers can be, and how a two-year army hitch might as well be an eternity, as far as they’re concerned. Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown!

Thimk was a short-lived (6 issues, 1958-59) would-be Mad, also in the black and white magazine format.

One holiday gleefully bleeds into another… this is Thimk no. 5 (Feb. 1959, Counterpoint). “Free… for 25 cents!”
Thimk no. 5‘s back cover… a well-aimed barb at Viceroy Cigarettes.
And some samples (there were many, many more!) from the object of parody, Viceroy’s The Man Who Thinks for Himself ad campaign. Lookit all them deep thinkers! (Martin Fry, cancer survivor, bottom left)
And it wasn’t to be the last Viceroy parody, either: the brand was also an early Wacky Packages target. This entry hails from Series 1, featuring a rough concept by Art Spiegelman painted by Norman Saunders (1973, Topps).
Heads up, Marlon… some… thing is about to cut in for a dance. Is his date dismayed or delighted? Last call: Thimk no. 6 (May 1959, Counterpoint) was the final issue. Cover art, again, by Sam Hayle.
From Think to Thimk in one easy step. What began as a ubiquitous IBM slogan soon, inevitably, led to parodic counterpunches.
During the late 50s, it spread seemingly everywhere.
Legendary Detroit DJ Paul Winter (station WXYZ) got in on the act early (1957). Here’s a sample, Fallout, featuring Charlie Byrd on guitar!
And of course, the great Steve Ditko took the slogan to heart (and mind), famously making his own sign. I wonder where it is now.

-RG

Tentacle Tuesday: Passive Protoplasm, Active Protoplasm

The thing kept coming.
“Die, die!” Parke screamed, his nerves breaking.
But the thing came on, grinning broadly.
“I like quiet protoplasm,” the thing said as its gigantic mouth converged on Parke.
“But I also like lively protoplasm.”
It gulped once, then drifted out the other side of the field. 
— excerpt from The Last Weapon by Robert Sheckley
I Am the Living Ghost!, illustrated by Steve Ditko, was published in Tales of Suspense no. 15 (Mar. 1961, Marvel). I came across a reprint of this story while looking for Draculian tentacles (which you can see in Tentacle Tuesday: Dracula Drops In).

Call it goo, label it as a giant amoeba, christen it ectoplasm or protoplasm, but when it starts crawling your way, do remember to beat a hasty retreat.

Oh, yeah, and keep your fingers away from it, too.

Coo! this page has everything: a prehensile amoeba, tentacled plants, aliens with cephalopod appendages…

Spawn of Venus was scripted by Bill Gaines and Al Feldstein, and illustrated by the latter. It was published in Weird Science no. 6 (Mar.-Apr. 1951, EC).

… but it’s the amoeba that’s of current interest to us (yes, the one devouring everything in its path, including dawdling professors).

Continuing our literary delusions, a peek at the adventures of a ‘star vampire’, from a (somewhat lackluster) comic book adaptation of a Robert Bloch short story:

The Shambler from the Stars!, based on a story by Robert Bloch, was adapted by Ron Goulart, pencilled by Jim Starlin and inked by Tom Palmer. It was published in Journey into Mystery no. 2 (Feb. 1973, Marvel). An amorphous red blob is not a dog to be ordered around, which explains the poor results.

If a tentacled amoeba is scary, just think of how startling it is to run into an amoeba with a single bloodshot eyeball (that feeds on soap, among other things).

A page from Creator of Life, published in Ghost Manor no. 11 (Apr. 1973, Charlton). This story was written by Joe Gill and illustrated by Charles Nicholas and Wayne Howard.
An eyeball in a turtleneck! Scary stuff.
Haunted no. 59 (January 1982), pencilled by Dan Reed and inked by John Beatty.

Not only does this monstrosity go after the scientist, instead of pursuing his absurdly attractive assistant…

The Man Who Played God was scripted by Joe Gill (again), pencilled by Dan Reed and inked by John Beatty.

But she’s also the one who saves the situation. Joe Gill, ladies and gentlemen!

I love his tough-guy stance at the end. He surely would have punched the amoeba out, if only the meddling female hadn’t interfered!

I’ll end this post with a woman with priorities:

Dan Piraro, unquestioned Tentacle Tuesday Master.

℘ ds

What! You Call This Cold Weather?

« Polar exploration is at once the cleanest and most isolated way of having a bad time which has been devised. » ― Apsley Cherry-Garrard, The Worst Journey in the World (1922)

Here’s what happened: I was leafing through Paul C. Tumey‘s splendid comics anthology Screwball! The Cartoonists Who Made the Funnies Funny (2019, The Library of American Comics/IDW) when I came across a wonderful sample of Gene Ahern‘s Room and Board (1936-58) wherein the strip’s central figure, Judge Homer Puffle, feeds another boarder a steady line of bull in that grand, booming Baron Munchausen — Captain Geoffrey Spicer-SimsonColonel Heeza Liar Commander McBragg tradition.

Room-And-Board1937A
Gene Ahern‘s Room and Board (March 17, 1937, King Features).

Of course, it’s all piffle and bunk, but it brought to mind a passage from a favourite article on weather peculiarities in Siberia, Marcel Theroux‘s The Very, Very, Very Big Chill (published in Travel & Leisure in 2000):

« Local people told me that at minus 60 and below, a dense fog settles in the streets, and pedestrians leave recognizable outlines bored into the mist behind them. A drunkard’s tunnel will meander and then end abruptly over a prone body. At minus 72, the vapor in your breath freezes instantly and makes a tinkling sound called ‘the whisper of angels.’ »

Then I thought: « all very nice, but that makes for a rather meagre post »… so I decided to toss in a few bonus images featuring that venerable recurring motif… and got carried away.

Astonishing36A
This is Astonishing no. 36 (Dec. 1954, Atlas), the title’s penultimate pre-Code issue… not that Atlas ever crossed the line into gruesome. The cover-featured yarn is The Man Who Melted!, an amusing load of utter rubbish you can read here. Cover art by Carl Burgos.

ChamberChills10MarvelA
This is Chamber of Chills no. 10 (May, 1974, Marvel), and most everything’s the same, save for the colour palette and the now-hostile expression on the caveman’s mug.

ChamberChills10HarveyA
And this is also Chamber of Chills no. 10 (July, 1952, Harvey)… the original, whose title Harvey Comics left curbside for Marvel to recycle when they went all kid-friendly in the Comics-code-ruled Silver Age. Cover designed and art-directed by Warren Kremer and illustrated by Lee Elias. For some insight into these collaborators’ working methods on the horror titles, here’s our post on that very topic. Incidentally, what’s up with the hifalutin Lord Byron quote, Harvey folks? This wacky fare is quite plainly fiction… what’s your point? [Read it here.]

Unexpected101A
This is Tales of The Unexpected no. 101 (June-July 1968, DC). Layout and pencils by Carmine Infantino, inks by George Roussos. Infantino, promoted the previous year to editorial director (he would soon rise to the rank of publisher), brought in the versatile Nick Cardy to serve as his right-hand man on the artistic front; together, they designed all of DC’s covers until both men stepped down in 1975.

HOM199A
This is House of Mystery no. 199 (February, 1972, DC), illustrating Sno’ Fun! a rare (possibly unique, really) collaboration between Sergio Aragonés (script) and Wally Wood (pencils and inks). Cover designed by Infantino and Nick Cardy, pencilled and inked by Neal Adams and coloured by Jack Adler.

Unexpected142A
This is Unexpected no. 142 (Dec. 1972, DC); cover art by Nick Cardy.

Unexpected147A
This is Unexpected no. 147 (June, 1973, DC); cover art by Nick Cardy.

Unexpected150A
This is Unexpected no. 150 (Sept., 1973, DC); cover art by Nick Cardy.

SuttonHaunts36A
« Hey, look! The critter is frozen whole… it’s in pretty good shape! » Tom Sutton vibrantly sells Joe Gill and Steve Ditko‘s cautionary tale of arctic drilling gone awry, The Ancient Mine. Also in this issue: Steve and Pete Morisi‘s Surprise!, and Gill and Fred Himes’ touching Pipe Dream. This is Haunted no. 37, (Jan., 1974, Charlton), presented by the publisher’s blue-skinned, green-haired answer to Nana Mouskouri, Winnie the Witch.

HulkHaunted37A
« … that face haunts me… was it a man or a beast? » Ah, the Seventies. Left dazed and frazzled by his whirlwind life of slow-mo violence, glamorous excess and substance abuse, not to mention radiation poisoning, the inevitable occurs: The Hulk wanders onto the wrong set, as well as the wrong publisher’s! Against all odds, he handles the rôle with aplomb and commendable gravitas. A page from Gill and Ditko’s The Ancient Mine. Read it here!

Ghosts37A
This is Ghosts no. 37 (April, 1975, DC), featuring Luis Dominguez‘s first (or many) cover for the title, a passing of the torch from Nick Cardy, who’d handled every one of the preceding three dozen…. minus one: number 7’s cover was the work of Michael Kaluta.

Oh, and since I wouldn’t want any of you superhero aficionados to think I’m freezing you out, here’s another demonstration of Mr. Infantino‘s “encased in ice” idée fixe.

Detective373A
Mr. Freeze, who first popped up in Batman no. 121 in 1959, initially known as, er… Mr. Zero (Celsius, Fahrenheit or Kelvin?) before being revamped and renamed for the mid-60s Batman TV show, a makeover that carried over to the comics, but tragically didn’t include his outfit. This is Detective Comics no. 373 (March, 1968, DC); layout by Infantino, finishes by Irv Novick. [ read it here!]
… and I can just about hear the « but what about Cap? » troops tromping down the hall, so…

KirbyCap112A
Namor goes all First Commandment on some poor Inuits (surely they’ve seen frozen bodies before?), displaying an unseemly level of insecurity for someone of his standing. This recap hails from King Kirby’s sensational feat of deadline rescue on the behalf of a tardy Jim Steranko (to be fair, it was worth the wait). George Tuska‘s inks are a surprisingly good fit! This is Captain America no. 112, Lest We Forget! (April 1969, Marvel). [ read it here!]
My co-admin ds was just telling me yesterday about a client who, upon remarking to a succession of winter-kvetchers that actually, we’d had a pretty mild January, was invariably met with goggling bafflement, as if he’d just then grown a second head. In related news, it was just announced that said month of January was, indeed, the planet’s warmest on record. There is, naturally, an xkcd strip about this sort of circular denialism.

-RG

Tentacle Tuesday: These Were Your Grandparents’ Tentacles

« Tentacles lashing wildly with pain… the squirming squid releases a sudden gush of inky-black liquid… »

Just look at that… yet another Tentacle Tuesday has come crawling (unless it prefers to travel by jet propulsion) out! Today our handy time machine brings us, once again, to the Golden Age of comics (1930s to 1956), when war was very much on people’s minds, and tentacles were very much part of every decent comic artist’s repertoire.

morefuncomics#83
More Fun Comics no. 83 (September 1942). Cover by George Papp, co-creator of Green Arrow and Congo Bill (with, respectively, Mort Weisinger and Whitney Ellsworth), and one of the main artists on DC’s Superboy feature between 1958 and 1968.

MoreFunComics#83-TheFiveArrows-GeorgePapp
Panels from « The Five Arrows », scripted by Joseph Greene and drawn by George Papp.

tentacletuesdayicon

During WWII, it was not unusual to find the Axis powers represented by an octopus in caricatures and political cartoons. As a matter of fact, as The Octopus, a Motif of Evil in Historical Propaganda Maps argues, the octopus, scrawled onto all manners of maps by caricaturists, has represented the spread of evil since the 19th century. I highly recommend at least glancing through the aforementioned essay – aside from being fascinating from a historical perspective, it also has tentacles galore. Anyway, the following comic eschews any subtlety and depicts Hitler himself as the Octopus of Evil:

BlueCircle3A
Blue Circle Comics no. 3 (September 1944), cover by Harold DeLay. That’s Maureen Marine bomb-diving into Hitler’s sorry ass. She has an interesting backstory, actually: a captain’s daughter who drowned when her dad’s ship was sunk by a Nazi U-boat, she was revived by Neptune (he must have liked her blonde hair) and became Queen of Atlantis, protector of the ocean, especially against despised Nazis.

There’s a great essay about Blue Circle Comics on Four Color Glasses. To quote, « Enwil’s “flagship” title was called Blue Circle Comics. It was a fairly common for publishers to use a color in conjunction with a shape or symbol for their comic book titles: Blue Circle, Red Circle, Red Band, Red Seal, Blue Ribbon, and Gold Medal were all titles from the Golden Age. In the case of Blue Circle Comics, though, the title did actually feature a character called the Blue Circle. » Read it here!

TentacleTuesdayIcon

A recurring theme of octopus adventures is that there’s some treasure involved. I bet the lady would prefer to stay with the octopus troupe and their tender nuzzles than to be rescued by this odd assortment of cut-throats in sailor costumes… The chick en question is Harvey Comics’ Black Cat.

speed-comics-40
Speed Comics no. 40 (November 1945), cover by Rudy Palais.

The title story turned out to be nothing but text… Though for readers with a decent imagination, a “score of octopi” and “bubbling moans” is definitely more than enough.

Speed Comics #40-tentacles

I bet you’re wondering how all this ends. Well, « Still, the octopi flopped forward!! CAPTAIN FREEDOM yanked the controls and the ship’s whirling airscrews roared into the octopi, sharp blades ripping tentacles from their bodies with murderous force! » Goodbye, trained octopi (which is not even the correct pluralization of an octopus).

tentacletuesdayicon

StrangeWorlds2AvonA
Strange Worlds no. 2 (April 1951). Cover by Gene Fawcette.

« They were like octopuses — they scurred along on huge rubbery tentacles, and their bodies were nothing but huge heads in the midsts of these. Monstrous squawking beings coming at us from all directions! » Lovely writing, isn’t it? Nevermind that “scurred” is not an actual word. The title tale is actually an illustrated text story titled « Octopus-Kings of the Lost Planet », scripted by W. Malcolm White. Well, “scripted” is a bit strong.

StrangeWorlds2-Octopus-Kings of the Lost Planet
« We decided that these descendants of a mighty but inhuman race had gone backwards in the course of the lost centuries. There were the Octopus-Kings of a Lost Planet — they had been rulers — but their own folly had lost them even the dignity of a solid body! »

tentacletuesdayicon

Airboy, a.k.a. David Nelson, has been in some truly bizarre scraps in his time, so a fight to the death with tentacled monsters who want (as usual) to take over Earth is strictly routine. Created by writer Charles Biro and artist Al Camy, Airboy not only used his expertise in aviation to fight off Nazis, but also all manner of fantastical monsters. A quick look through the covers of Airboy Comics will reveal crazy scientist machinery, rabid tigers, gladiator fights, giant amœbas, pterodactyls, minotaurs, insect-shaped aliens, an invasion of man-eating rats, and so on. Pure entertainment! Airboy’s most memorable (and prettiest, by far) foe (and love interest) is Teutonic aviatrix Valkyrie, who eventually defected to the Allies’ side. She barely seems like a Golden Age creation – with her blouse splitting until her navel and her skin-tights pants, her costume leaves little to the imagination.

airfighterscomics-airboy-valkyrie

She was sexualized further in later incarnations – Dave Stevens’ version of her for Eclipse Comics is probably the hottest – but the Golden Age Valkyrie is more charming and earnest (IMHO), devoid of the nymphomaniacal arrogance appended to her personality in later years. Anyway, back to the topic:

AirboyV9N7A
Airboy Comics no. 102 (August 1952). The octopus seems to be wearing glasses. « Excuse me, Sir, have you seen my book? »

Airboy102-Invasion-of-the-Tentacles
The title story, modestly titled « Invasion of the Tentacles » (no beating around the bush!), is drawn by Ernest Schroeder.

TentacleTuesdayIcon

Weird-Fantasy-no.-21
Weird Fantasy no. 21 (September-October 1953). Cover by Al Williamson and Frank Frazetta. The fur-trimmed boots are a nice touch!

The title story, « My Home… », scripted by Al Feldstein and drawn by Joe Orlando, is emotionally manipulative… and succeeds very well in breaking the readers’ hearts (or pissing them off, depending on your temperament). Read a synopsis of the plot, if you wish, or read the whole story here – who am I to give spoilers to those who don’t want ’em?

TentacleTuesdayIcon

Space-Adventures-11
Space Adventures no. 11 (May-June 1954), cover by Steve Ditko.

Space Adventures no. 11-interplanetarySafari
Ron Adams, explorer extraordinaire and famous hunter, goes to planet Xarto to capture a giant carnivorous plant (but if you called it an octopus, nobody would bat an eye). Panels from «  Interplanetary Safari! », penciled by Bill Molno and inked Dick Giordano.

Space Adventures no. 11-interplanetarySafari2

TentacleTuesdayIcon

TheShadow25
The Shadow no. 25 (September 1956), the child of Australian comic book publisher Frew Publications. The Australian Shadow has nothing to do with « Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men? »– this is just a guy who puts on a mask… and takes off his pants. The octopus seems astonished at the sight of bare man-flesh (if there are Speedos there, they’re well camouflaged).

Golden Age tentacles have cropped up many times before in my Tentacle Tuesday posts, but check out specifically Tentacle Tuesday: The Golden Age of Grabbery and Tentacle Tuesday: Planet of Tentacles. Until next time, toodle-oo!

~ ds

Tentacle Tuesday: a Treasure Trove of Charlton Tentacles

I wasn’t around in the 70s. (Literally, as in “I hadn’t been born yet”.) So when somebody – in, oh, say 2008 or so – handed me a copy of some ghost comics printed by Charlton Comics (I don’t remember what exactly), that was my first exposure to this publishing company. I wasn’t aware that I wasn’t « supposed » to like this stuff… and by the time some kind soul pointed out that it’s not exactly orthodox to seek out Charlton publications, it was too late to change my mind. Clearly, that’s how monsters with no taste are created.

Charlton Comics had the reputation for inferior printing (as one of my friends put it, « godawful colours and reproduction and paper ») and low quality control. I’d say that when one contemplates the variety of artistic styles and the dizzying panoply of artists published by them, the quality of the printing distinctly becomes a less important consideration. Charlton paid badly, sure, but since when do people decide what they like and what they don’t based on how artists are treated? (Just look around – companies that trample on creators’ rights are doing very well indeed.) It seems like a knee-jerk reaction; I often wonder if people who automatically react with sneers to the very mention of Charlton have actually read any of the comics this company printed. Or perhaps they’re scared by some of the artists’ styles which are just too wild, too squiggly, just not clean enough. (Sloppy line work! Anathema to any comic book lover worth his salt, right?)

Anyway, Charlton’s « loose editorial oversight » meant there was no house style to speak of, and artists with highly idiosyncratic styles could let their eccentricities shine.

You may notice some names are conspicuously absent from today’s post. Tom Sutton, exhibit A of the “chaotic, scratchy art” category, will get a Tentacle Tuesday post all to himself at a later date. Some beloved artists just didn’t draw any tentacles for Charlton (as far as I know!): Warren Sattler, Don PerlinSam Glanzman, Don Newton, Rocco Mastroserio, etc. Wayne Howard is already part of a Tentacle Tuesday (see Plant Tentacle Tuesday), as is Enrique Nieto (Tentacle Tuesday: Spunky Skirmishes).

Without further ado, but with lots of tentacles…

First, two beauties from Steve Ditko (if you’d like more Ditko – and who wouldn’t? – visit my co-admin RG’s lovely posts about him: Ditko’s Ghostly Haunts and Happy 90th birthday, Mr. Ditko!), both featuring “70s Ditko green“. (It’s that characteristic green hue that often appears on his covers, a fitting term coined by erudite Professor Fester.)

GhostlyTales#111-SteveDitko
Ghostly Tales no. 111 (September 1974), cover by Steve Ditko. « The Thing in the Hole » is a really cool story, but it’s written and drawn by Tom Sutton, and as such it’s off-limits for now (I’m hoarding material for a different post.)

GhostlyTales#122-SteveDitko
Ghostly Tales no. 122 (August 1976), cover by Steve Ditko.

GhostlyTales#122-inside
Do these green noose-appendage-things count as tentacles? Sure they do! Panel from The Crew That Was Hanged!, illustrated by Steve Ditko and written by Joe Gill.

And moving on to other series, other artists:

Haunted#8-JackAbel
Haunted no. 8 (October 1972), cover by Jack Abel (1927-1996), perhaps best known as an inker for DC and Marvel.

Haunted#13-WrongTurn-PeterMorisi
Newly-weds that are half-squid, half-fly, but newly-weds nonetheless. Page by Peter A. Morisi (1928-2003), who went by the nom de plume of PAM (or, since his signature’s M looks like a triple “I”, “PAIII!”). He was a NYC police officer, and moonlighted as a comics artist. I really like his calm, easily recognizable style and the way his characters seem to be frozen in each panel. There’s something quite effective about this stillness, a pleasing contrast between the drama and action of a story and the way people are staring off-panel in quiet contemplation, even when terrified. This story is called “Wrong Turn” and comes from Haunted no. 13, 1973.

BaronWeirWulf'sHauntedLibrary#28-MikeZeck
(Baron Weirwulf’s) Haunted (Library) no. 28 (July 1976), cover by Mike Zeck, whose career actually started at Charlton (he later moved on to Marvel to work on Master of Kung Fu, Captain America, etc.).

Haunted#28-FrankBolle-TheSource
« The creature’s tendril closed so gently around his leg, he didn’t notice it at first. Then a second grasped his arm! » The Source is the cover story of Haunted no. 28. Is old Thomas Willet mad? Well, he just has unusual taste in pets, that’s all (and, as tradition demands, he will pay dearly for his extravagance). Pencils and inks by Frank Bolle (born in 1924), who worked for Gold Key and Charlton, illustrated horror stories for Warren titles, and also had a hand in several newspaper strips (Winnie Winkle, Apartment 3-G, Stan Drake’s The Heart of Juliet Jones, and Gil Thorp).

GhostManor#1-PatBoyette
Ghost Manor no. 1 (October 1971), cover by the ever-masterful Pat Boyette (1923-2000), who’s a big favourite at Who’s Out There. Go read a whole story by him: Pat Boyette — Hillbilly Makes Good

We couldn’t find a good enough scan of this issue online, and it’s one of the rare Ghost Manors co-admin RG doesn’t actually own, so here’s a cover photostat (slightly coloured):

GhostManor58ProdA
Ghost Manor no. 58 (August 1981), cover by the Recreo Studio.

GhostlyHaunts#48-RichLarson
Ghostly Haunts no. 48 (February 1976), cover by Rich Larson (we’ve seen him before in Haunted House of Lingerie — see Tentacle Tuesday: a Day at the Beach).

GhostlyHaunts52A
Ghostly Haunts no. 52 (October 1976), another cover by Pat Boyette, this time gorgeously painted.

BeyondtheGrave#11-MitchOConnell
Beyond the Grave no. 11 (October 1983), cover by Mitch O’Connell (also present in Have Tentacles, Will Space Travel).

~ ds

Hot Streak: Steve Ditko’s Ghostly Haunts

« There’s no room for professional jealousy around the graveyard, chums… life is too short, as they say… but what comes after that short life may stretch into all eternity! »

I could carry on endlessly (or so it would seem) on any number of obscure topics, but it’s healthy, every once in a while, to take a deep breath, empty one’s mind of its flotsam and jetsam, and reach for an old favourite.

I hadn’t yet written anything about Steve Ditko‘s passing, as I figured it would get lost in the mad shuffle of tributes. That base was well-covered. Still, while I’d known all along the day would come, it was hard to imagine a world without that reclusive genius, likely my very first artistic inspiration.

I didn’t see much of Ditko’s 60s Marvel work until the late 70s pocket book reprints (the period equivalent of watching a movie on one’s cellphone), but the Charlton ghost books grabbed me at a tender age. And so…

As my candidate for Steve Ditko’s finest cover run, at any company, I submit issues 22-27 and 29-30 (curse you for the interruption, Joe Staton!), from January 1972 to March 1973, final year of Ditko’s peak period, imho.

ghostlyhaunts22a
Ghostly Haunts no. 22 (Jan. 1972), an excellently-balanced all-around winner, with the whimsical “Wh-Who’s in Th-There?” (w: Joe Gill p: Charles Nicholas i: Vince Alascia), “Witch’s Brew“, a taste of creepy suburbia with a whiff of Rosemary’s Baby brimstone (w: Joe Gill, p/i Pat Boyette) and our headliner, “The Night of the Lonely Man!” by Gill and Ditko. Read the whole pamphlet here, folks.

ghostlyhaunts23a
Ghostly Haunts no. 23 (Mar. 1972), offers two Gill-Ditko stories: “Treasure of the Tomb” and the cover-featured “Return Visit!“… and I’d be hard-pressed to pick the superior entry. The reader wins. Ah, you cast the deciding vote: read them both here.

ghostlyhaunts24a
Ghostly Tales no. 24 (Apr. 1972), another strong issue, thanks to Gill and Boyette’s “The Other One!” and of course Ditko illustrating “A Man Who Was Here“, Joe Gill’s parable about a Tennessee mountain man displaced, but not entirely, by the construction of a modern superhighway. Read the entire issue here, ladies and gentlemen.

ghostlyhaunts25a
« The butler’s a real monster! » Ghostly Tales no. 25 (June 1972) is where Mr. Ditko demonstrates his unmatched virtuosity in the delicate task of incorporating several elements of a tale without winding up with the dog’s breakfast. Compositional alchemy of the highest order! The cover tale aside, Joe Gill’s wonderfully-titled “What Will Lance Surprise Us with This Time?“, illustrated by Fred Himes, is loads of fun. Read “I’ll Never Leave You!here.

ghostlyhaunts26a
Roger C. Feeney, Indian Affairs bureaucrat from Washington, DC, appears to have stumbled onto the wrong sacred Hopi cave. Uh-oh, Roger, it appears you’ve been noticed by… something. This is Ghostly Haunts no. 26 (Aug. 1972). Beyond the classy Ditko cover, it’s just an okay issue.

ghostlyhaunts27a
« Why does it happen each year? Citizens of Trappton don’t know it, but it always begins right here… at an unmarked grave… » Presumably bearing no direct relation to the 1967 Michael Winner- Orson Welles – Oliver Reed film, I’ll Never Forget What’s-His-Name“, the Gill-Ditko cover story is a classic, the tale of a forgotten man, Bertram Crumm, who merely wanted his existence recognized by the town that spurned him during his lifetime.
It’s too bad Charlton only occasionally featured mystery host Dr. Graves in active (rather than narrative) roles, because when they did, the results were pretty gripping. Unusually, Graves guests outside his own book and in Winnie’s, and we find ourselves with a classic on our hands. This is Ghostly Haunts no. 27 (Nov. 1972). Read the Gill-Ditko story here, but don’t miss the fabulously oddball “The Mine’s All Mine!” by Gill and Stan Asch, featured right here.

ghostlyhaunts29a
« Maybe I’m going mad! I keep imagining I hear his voice! » Ghostly Haunts no. 29 (Jan. 1973) features a striking (gold) exercise in fearful symmetry announcing the Joe Gill – Ditko saga of two untrustworthy acolytes in the Canadian North. Check out “Partners!here.

ghostlyhaunts30
« Ugh! It’s really hideous! Is it a self-portrait of the real you?»  We put the finishing touches on our tour of Steve Ditko covers from 1971-72 with Ghostly Haunts no. 30‘s “Fear Has Three Dimensions” (Mar. 1973). Despite a theme right in Ditko’s wheelhouse, none of his art appears within; the cover feature is handled by Wally Wood disciple Wayne Howard, and the other tales are deftly told by Fred Himes and Warren Sattler.

That just about wraps it up. For further reading on the topic, I recommend you check out Ben Herman’s perspective on some of these very stories, and on Ditko’s spooky Charlton work of the 70s in general.

« Poor Agatha Wilson still has screaming fits! »

-RG

Hallowe’en Countdown II, Day 4

« Ape is real spooked, guys! He’s always imaginin’ he sees someone in there! »

Here we have an evocative Steve Ditko cover, solid evidence of his tremendous design chops, from Charlton’s Ghost Manor (no. 7, second series, October 1972). A collaboration between Joe Gill and Ditko, « The Monsters Ride at Night » is an elegant bit of storytelling legerdemain, a fairly basic yarn that retains its mystery past the conclusion and whose deliciously dusty mood lingers in the mind. Well, in mine, at any rate. Back in the late ’70s, I traded a copy of Amazing Spider-Man 121 (acquired at a garage sale in a two-for-five-cents deal) for this one. I know I came out ahead in the deal*.

Ghost-Manor7A

Again, I had every intention of providing the whole spooky shebang right here, but seeing as how I was preceded in this particular enthusiasm by a sinister confrère, it seems unnecessary. Just dim the light, settle in, point your browser to Destination Nightmare, pour yourself a noggin of your preferred poison, and savour this fine vintage.

Ghost-Manor7WhoIsA

I’m particularly fond of the mid-tale interlude, where our esteemed host, Mr. Bones, seizes the occasion to poke around the cobwebs a bit, a narrative game that the Gill-Ditko duo excelled at. DC and Warren’s hosts (with the obvious exception of Vampirella) never got to play such an active rôle in their respective recitals.

Oh, and since we’re on the topic of early 70s Charlton ghost books, here’s one I picked up just this afternoon, in the 50 cents box of the local comic book shop in Wolfsville, NS. It clearly had been through such hardships, I couldn’t resist giving it a home.

GhostlyTales86Beater.jpg
This is (or used to be) Ghostly Tales no. 86 (June, 1971), featuring three Joe Gill tales: « Return to Die » (illustrated by Pete Morisi), « Ghost Town » (illustrated by Pat Boyette), and « Someone Else Is Here! » (illustrated by Steve Ditko.) If books could speak…

-RG

*I had an extra copy, what do I care?

Let’s All Go Down to the Catfights!

Catfight (noun): A vicious fight between two women that features biting & scratching and often involves clothes being ripped off.

To which I’ll add that if you put two women with different hair colours in one room, it’s like there’s a chemical reaction that makes them instantly aggressive. In comics, at least – and we all know that comics reflect real life accurately, right? The resulting combativeness is especially obvious when the encounter is between a blonde and a brunette. The women involved must also be beauties – presumably, plainer girls resort to verbal assaults when provoked, eschewing physical violence, unlike their flashier counterparts.

Or it could have something to do with the mostly-male audience who actively likes watching belles brawl. (Perhaps “ogle” would be a better description.) Let’s move on to the ogling bit, then!

Undercovergirl-catfight
Err, agreed on the “talking too much” bit. Manhunt no. 9 (Magazine Enterprises, June 1948). That art’s by Ogden Whitney.

“Jeepers! Baldy’s been skewered through the ticker! He’s defunct!” This charming scene with boob grabbery and skirt rippery (I know, don’t I have a way with words?) is from “Off Stage Kill”, a Dan Turner Hollywood Detective story from Crime Smashers no. 7 (Trojan Magazines, 1951).

CrimeSmashers7-DanTurnerHollywoodDetective
Script by Robert Leslie Bellem, pencils and inks by Adolphe Barreaux (who was also the editor). Read the issue here. In case you were wondering, Fifi and Brenda are just acting out a fight scene for a movie, although they do get a little carried away (and accidentally skewer Baldy in the process). How many women have a knife tucked away in their garter belt?

Skipping ahead ten years or so…

EricStanton-Steve Ditko-DivorceAgreement
Ditko shared a studio in NYC with artist Eric Stanton between 1958 and 1968, and they collaborated on some bondage comics (or at least it’s commonly assumed that they have – for more information on that, dive into a discussion on the Four Realities blog, or read this excerpt from Fantagraphics’ Dripping with Fear: the Steve Ditko Archives Vol. 5.) This page is from a story published in 1966 and entitled “Divorce Agreement”.

The clothes-shredding and breast-mauling (ouch) continues…

Teena-dailystrip-Dec4th-1966
Newspaper comics do it, too! This is Teena A Go Go from December 4th, 1966, written by Bessie Little and illustrated by Bob Powell.

Sometimes Betty and Veronica associations are hard to avoid. These girls also made sure to wear contrasting costumes while fighting, for maximum visual appeal, proving it’s possible to be fashion-conscious even in prehistoric times.

Anthro6A
Anthro (the happy teenager watching this scene, and normally a redhead) will marry the victorious maiden… but the fight is a draw, and so he has to marry both in this “The Marriage of Anthro” story. This is Anthro no. 6 (July-Aug. 1969). Pencils by Howard (Howie) Post (who created Anthro, the “first boy”, a Cro-Magnon born to Neanderthal parents) and inks by Wally Wood. Let it be mentioned that Anthro is an immensely fun series, and that I love Howie Post’s art with or without Wood’s beautifying influence.

Women of other cultures aren’t immune from this phenomenon, by the way. Witness Italian chicks fighting:

Maghella13-Averardo Ciriello.
Maghella no. 13 (Elvifrance, 1975), cover by Averardo Ciriello. ” The title is something like “a scalded pussy doesn’t fear cold water”, a play on “chat échaudé craint l’eau froide“, an idiom that means roughly “twice bitten, once shy” or “a burnt child dreads the fire” and translates literally to “a scalded cat fears cold water”.

Italian erotica can be so entertaining! Maghella means a “young witch” in Italian. “The girl is identified by two braids of black hair and giant breasts with unspecified powers“, reads Wikipedia… Odd, I would have thought that her breasts have very specified powers, indeed. 😉

Moving on to French damsels…

LeTreizièmeApôtre-NatachaHôtessedel_Air
Natacha (hôtesse de l’air) is a Franco-Belgian comics series, created by François Walthéry and Gos.  This page is from an adventure (one of the final stories scripted by the great Maurice Tillieux) called Le treizième apôtre (The Thirteenth Apostle), published in 1978. The blonde is Natacha, our heroïne.

If you want to emphasize the catfight aspect, dress your girls in feline-motif outfits. Oh, I’m sorry – this is no quotidian quarrel, it’s professional wrestling!

Bunty352-WomenWrestlingComic
Bunty no. 352 (1992) – unfortunately, I don’t know who did the cover. British Picture Story Library was a 62 page a comic digest, published weekly. If you’d like to know how Leopard Lily overcame Tiger Tina, visit Assorted Thoughts from an Unsorted Mind.

I think we need one even more literal interpretation of “cat fight”:

BettyandVeronica-TigerGirl-DandeCarlo
A snippet from “Meow Row”, published in Betty and Veronica no. 59 (January 1993). Script by George Gladir, pencils by Dan DeCarlo, inks by Alison Ford. Now guess who is who. (It’s obvious: Tiger Girl is Betty, and Veronica gets Meow Girl’s sexier costume.)

This is a fairly inexhaustible topic, but one must quit sometime. Cold shower, anyone?

~ ds

Tentacle Tuesday: Mechanical Tentacles

Mechanical tentacles! Cephalopod monsters communicating by mental telepathy! Even Jimmy Olsen playing the part of a monster in an alien horror movie! Yes, it’s all this and more in this Tentacle Tuesday post (after which I’ll quit bugging you with various cephalopods until next Tuesday).

Superman'sPalJimmyOlsen43
There’s nothing quite as annoying as someone who wants to be your friend against your wishes. Superman’s Pal, Jimmy Olsen no. 43 (March 1960), pencils by Curt Swan and inks by Stan Kaye.

Head over to the Fourth Age blog for a further discussion (with pictures!) of the cover story from this issue, “Jimmy Olsen’s Private Monster!”, written by Jerry Siegel (ahem…) and illustrated by the aforementioned Curt Swan (pencils) and John Forte (inks).

The two-eyed, many-tentacled mechanized wonder appears again in Superman’s Pal, Jimmy Olsen no. 47 (September 1960):

Superman'sPalJimmy Olsen47
It’s the same cast: pencils by Curt Swan and inks by Stan Kaye; letters by Ira Schnapp.
JimmyOlsen47panel
Freaking cute.

TentacleTuesdayIcon

In a similar line of thought (but some 15 years later), a more steampunk relative of the creature above appears in Swamp Thing.

Swampy17SplashA
Swamp Thing no. 17 (July-August 1975). In case the credits are too small to read, script by David Michelinie, pencils and inks by Nestor Redondo, colours by Tatjana Wood, letters by Marcos Pelayos.

And here’s a peek at the glorious (I’m a fan of Redondo) inside:

Swampy17B
« But destroying that thing doesn’t answer the questions it brought up… like what a stainless-steel octopus is doing in the middle of a jungle… » That’s an excellent question – but destroying this mechanized, tentacled abomination was still a good idea, answers or no.

TentacleTuesdayIcon

Here’s another file for our records of Tentacular fascination: the Boy Commandos’ intrepid gang of feisty moppets, tired of fighting Nazis, switch it up by doing battle with some tentacled robots.

BoyCommandos7
Boy Commandos no. 17 (September-October 1946). Cover by Jack Kirby.

TentacleTuesdayIcon

I couldn’t very well have a mechanically-minded Tentacle Tuesday without mentioning Dr. Octopus, one of Spider-Man’s most famous foes! Otto Gunther Octavius, a.k.a. Dr. Octopus, a.k.a. Doc Ock was created by Steve Ditko, and first appeared in The Amazing Spider-Man no. 3 (July 1963). Obviously I could feature a gallery of Dr. Octopus tentacles as long as your arm (pardon the confused anatomical terminology on my part), but I’ll limit myself to a couple.

First, The Amazing Spiderman no. 12 (May 1964), cover by Steve Ditko. The “Look who’s back!!” caption pointing to the Doc is rather mystifying, given that he was there in the previous issue.

ASM12A

Second, an underwater scene, because what element more appropriate for tentacles? Kudos to Doc Ock for making his perfectly watertight.

TheAmazingSpiderManAnnual1
JFC, does this guy ever shut up? Especially given that Spiderman can’t even hear him? Splash (no pun intended) page from The Amazing Spider-Man Annual no. 1 (September 1964), with art by Steve Ditko.

Dr. Octopus’ metallic appendages, resistant to radiation and of great strength and agility, were originally attached to a harness…. but became fused to his body after an explosion involving radioactivity (what else?) They were surgically removed, but he could now control them telepathically from a distance. Spooky.

TheAmazingSpider-Man25
Poor Spider-Man is always getting attacked by tentacles, even when Doc Ock isn’t around! These belong to a robot built by a “nutty professor” to trap anything spider-related. A prize will go to the perceptive reader who can tell us how many tentacles this thing possesses – like, a million, would be my guess. The Amazing Spider-Man no. 25 (June 1965); cover by Steve Ditko.
Maker:S,Date:2017-8-29,Ver:6,Lens:Kan03,Act:Lar02,E-Y
Smythe’s robot in action, ensnaring Parker instead of the spider he’s holding in a globe (and nobody but us readers knows why!) J. Jonah Jameson, publisher of Daily Bugle, watches enthusiastically from the sidelines.
SpideyFeelersA
Okay, maybe the robot doesn’t have as many tentacles as the cover seemed to suggest. Here’s Spidey hotly pursued by Mr. Jameson, whose maniacal glee is a little scary. (I will readily admit I partially chose this panel because of Parker’s jiggly butt).

~ ds