Tentacle Tuesday: Satirical Cephalopods

« Knock it off, squiddo! You couldn’t make a class-B horror picture on earth — you’re not even good for a milk shudder! Better skeddadle, or I’ll tie your tentacles into a bow! »

Tentacles are no cause for levity, you say? Ha! Their place in all manner of spoofs and parodies (and other silliness) is ensured. Peppered with a barrage of puns (never undersell puns, please!), whimsical tentacular entanglements abound in literature… err, comic literature, at any rate, and that’s good enough for me.

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I meant “entanglements” very literally. Story published in Not Brand Echh no. 11 (December 1968, Marvel); script by Arnold Drake, art by Marie Severin.
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Say, did I hear some barely restrained giggling over “20 000 leaks under the sea?” (This story, written and drawn by Jay Disbrow, was reprinted in 2000 by Fantagraphics in a collection called The Sincerest Form of Parody: The Best 1950s MAD-Inspired Satirical Comics.) Unsane no. 15 (June 1954, Star Publications), cover by L.B. Cole.

Even some 100 years ago (well, a little less), some unfortunate octopus could easily become a Figure of Fun if he wasn’t careful.

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The story doesn’t say what happened to the freaking octopus, though. This edition of Pussyfoot the Redskin was printed in Comic Cuts no. 1735 (August 1923). Visit BLIMEY! The Blog of British Comics for more Comic Cuts.

I can’t mention équivoques and wordplay without mentioning Pogo, Walt Kelly‘s keenly intelligent comic strip. Sadly, this was the only appearance of Octopots, as far as I know (and I long to be corrected).

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From Figmentality, from The Pogo Sunday Parade (1958). Art by Walt Kelly, of course!

In the competitive world of jokes in bad taste, the man from SRAM probably takes the cake. It’s lucky that he has no qualms about hitting females, or the world would be doomed… although his mirthless monologue would probably kill the creature with sheer ennui.

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Madhouse in Hollywood (Man from SRAM), scripted by Otto Binder and drawn by Carl Pfeufer, published in Jigsaw no. 2 (December 1966, Harvey).

On the other hand, Superman‘s creative insults can easily shame a thin-skinned Tentacled Terror (was his spaghetti-and-meatball crack some sort of early Flying Spaghetti Monster reference, even though the latter was only officially created in 2005?)

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Superman no. 184 (February 1966). The story is The Demon Under the Red Sun!, scripted by Otto Binder (again; he clearly has some unhealthy attraction to tentacles, like the best of us) and drawn by Al Plastino. Figure out what’s going on in this story (or not, for there’s not a lot of logic to be found, anyway) at Mark’s Super Blog.

~ ds

Tentacle Tuesday: Superheroes Redux

As I pointed out during my initial foray into the tangled relationship between superheroes and tentacled creatures (Superheroes in Octopus Land), even heroic stock characters with extraordinary powers get bested by the occasional octopus, be it of oceanic, mystical, or outright intergalactic origins. Some of these monsters are aliens from proverbial outer space, some swam out from the depths of the sea for reasons they alone comprehend; some are plants, some are mammals – animal, mineral, or vegetable in form and content.

Our first entry is someone who’s faster than a speeding bullet… but requires a passerby’s help to get rid of some pesky plant tentacles. None too impressive for someone of his calibre, the first superhero that comes to mind for most.

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Superman no. 285 (March 1975). Cover by Nick Cardy.

That’s enough bumbling. I’ll move on to someone who can *really* handle tentacle problems!

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High atop Slaughter Mountain, where the rain never stops, stately Stearn Mansion stands silhouetted against the blood-red moon. This is the home of Dr. Strongfort Stearn, known throughout the world as … Mr. Monster!! From this lofty perch, Doc Stearn peers unflinchingly into the black abyss below. For it is Mr. Monster’s mission to search out evil — and destroy it!” Today Mr. Monster is fighting a cute octopus with googly eyes. Sometimes monsters look most innocuous, you know.

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Original art for Mr. Monster: Who Watches the Garbagemen? (2005). Cover by Alex Horley. As usual, the octopus has excellent taste in women.

And this is the way it was published:

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Mr. Monster: Who Watches the Garbagemen? (2005). Cover by Alex Horley.

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« Since the first simple life-form crawled from the pounding turf, the sea has been laced with legend! From the daring men who faced the raging waves in primitive wooden craft to those who probe the hidden depths today in devices of plastic and steel, fables have been passed, secrets whispered from father to son… » And where there’s sea legends and fables of raging depths, there’s tentacles, you can be sure of that. Can the mysterious Phantom Stranger cope with them?

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The Phantom Stranger no. 18, March-April 1972, with art by Neal Adams.

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Maybe saying that starfish have tentacles is stretching it a bit, but just look at the way their arms bend at the ends! Besides, they can “walk” using their tubed appendages, which look like tentacles to all but the most pedantic.

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Justice League of America no. 190 (May, 1981); cover by Brian Bolland, with colours by Anthony Tollin. This may not be a fashion statement, but think of all the money people would save on makeup and surgery!

Starro, a.k.a. Starro the Conqueror, was created by Gardner Fox and Mike Sekowsky in 1960. He’s a mean, stubborn alien lifeform with an idée fixe to enslave mankind, which he repeatedly tries to do by scattering his starfishy spores (which grow into clones of himself) over large cities. And, yes, he has prehensile extremities; it’d be difficult to wreak as much havoc without them.

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Technically, Medusa’s got hair, not tentacles, but she expressed the wish to be part of our Tentacle Tuesday line-up… and I am not going to argue with a woman with hair that can knock out an army.

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Created by Jack Kirby, Medusa first appeared In Fantastic Four #36 (1965). This is a pin-up from Fantastic Four Annual #5, November 1967; pencils by Kirby, inks by Frank Giacoia.

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A panel from Batman, Inc. no. 1 (January 2011), pencils by Yanick Paquette and inks by Michel Lacombe.

Does anybody have an answer for catty Ms. Kyle? I’ll see you next Tentacle Tuesday – until then, keep away from hungry and horny octopuses.

~ 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).

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There’s nothing quite as annoying as someone who wants to be your friend against your wishes. Superman’s Pal, Jimmy Olsen #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 #47  (September 1960):

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

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

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Swamp Thing #17, July-August 1975. In case the credits are too small to read, script by David Michelinie, pencils and inks by Nestor Redondo, colors by Tatjana Wood, letters by Marcos Pelayos.

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

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« 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.

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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.

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Boy Commandos #17, September-October 1946. Cover by Jack Kirby.

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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 Amazing Spider-Man #3, 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 two.

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

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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 #1, September 1964 (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.

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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 #25, June 1965, cover by Steve Ditko.
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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.
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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

Tentacle Tuesday: Superheroes in Octopus-land

In this installment of Tentacle Tuesday, we shall bear witness to a somewhat surprising facet of superhero life: superheroes sometimes struggle with tentacles, too.

To kick off the festivities (and to respect a chronological order of creation and publication), here’s The Flash narrating a story of woe, his almost-deadly encounter with a green monstrosity (Judging by its coquettish pink tentacles, the monster wanted to woo him, not snuff him out.)

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Flash Comics no. 44, 1943. Cover by Lou Ferstadt (1900-1954), and here’s a bit of trivia: in addition to being a comics artist, he was a muralist, creating works for the RCA buildings and the 8th Street Subway station in NYC.

« The Liar’s Club », scripted by Gardner Fox and drawn by Lou Ferstadt, concerns itself with three men (one of whom is Jay Garrick, secretly The Flash) holding a fibbing contest to determine who can tell the biggest Flash-whopper.

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Sadly, this tale was not the winner in the contest.

The Flash may have been embroiled in some purely imaginary tentacles, but his Earth-One counterpart’s teenage sidekick (it’s complicated), Kid Flash, encountered the real deal.

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Teen Titans no. 32, March-April 1971. Drawn by Nick Cardy.

« A Mystical Realm, A World Gone Mad », scripted by Steve Skeates and drawn by Nick Cardy, is actually a pretty good read (with good art!), and I don’t even like superheroes. Just check out the beautiful results of a time travel experiment going wrong (when does one ever go right?), including the evil red eyes of a glaring octopus:

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If we throw a whole bevy of superheroes at a tentacled monster, are they going to fare any better?

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Fantastic Four no. 88, 1969. Pencils by Jack Kirby, inks by Joe Sinnott, letters by Sam Rosen. However… A house there was. Tentacles there weren’t.

This cover promises lots of tentacular fun. Instead of that, the Fantastic Four (and an infant) go looking for a new residence, something quiet and secluded – and the house that’s offered to them by a real estate agent appears to be haunted. At the very least, it causes migraines, gradually makes its inhabitants go blind, and shoots stun bolts out of its walls. The usual crap. I don’t want to tell you which super-villain is behind this mischief, but I will, however, point out that the bastard doesn’t have tentacles. Not even one. And neither does his lousy house.

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The Flash is small fry, the Fantastic Four are mincemeat, but let’s see how Superman, the most superhero-like superhero of them all, fares when confronted with tentacles.

In “Danger — Monster at Work!”, the villain is a protoplasmic glob: some algae mutates after a lab accident and becomes an out-of-control, garbage-devouring, tentacled monster. Now, trash disposal is important, but when Superman realizes that everything on earth is impure to some degree, he has to stop the seaweed monstrosity before “it cleans Metropolis right off the map!”

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This story was published in Superman no. 246 (December 1971), with a script by Len Wein, pencils by Curt Swan and inks by Murphy Anderson.

Incidentally, there *is* actually an algae farm that’s suspended over a highway in Geneva, Switzerland that gobbles up CO2 produced by car engines. I hope they’re keeping a close eye on it…

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Tentacles? Well, “grasping appendages” anyway – let’s be generous. Superman no. 246, December 1971; pencilled by Curt Swan, inked by Murphy Anderson.

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How about if we take a superhero who’s quite at ease with water, who can breathe H2O and communicate with sea life?

“Nope, sorry, still gonna gobble you.”

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Adventure Comics no. 445 (May 1976). Cover by Jim Aparo, with colours by Tatjana Wood.
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This imposing figure of an octopus (even though he’s referred to as a “plant-thing” by Aquaman) is Krakor, the tentacled antagonist from “Toxxin’s Raiders” – the cover story written by Paul Levitz & David Michelinie and drawn by Jim Aparo.

Oh, no! What is our hero going to do? Why, dispatch the octopus in the most far-fetched manner possible, of course!

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In conclusion, no superhero is immune from a harrowing encounter with a tentacled creature… but sadly, the latter is more often than not annihilated in the struggle. Next time, I’ll make sure to present you with some material in which the octopus gets the upper hand, so to speak!

~ ds