Tentacle Tuesday: Treehouse of Tentacular Horror

Treehouse of Horror episodes are easily my favourite Simpsons material, and not just because Hallowe’en is the most interesting ‘holiday’ of the year (in my hardly humble opinion). Of course, abandoning the pretence of any continuity makes for entertaining, anything-goes storytelling, but what I find especially appealing is that these little gems take the Simpsons’ brand of humour, admittedly already somewhat dark, and kick it up a notch all the way into full-blown black humour and gore.

The comic books series of the same name continued this tradition, offering readers a fun grab bag of horror and science fiction film parodies, literary references and just plain madcap-yet-macabre nonsense. Not all stories are good; plots vary widely in quality, and even a good plot falls flat in the hands of an artist lacking the expertise to pull it off. However, through the years (there are 23 issues of total, published between 1995 and 2017) a number of illustrious comic artists and writers have contributed their talents to this misshapen, haphazardly hammered treehouse.

You will not be too surprised to hear that a number of stories included tentacles, be it in a secondary capacity or featured front and centre. The quotidian presence of aliens Kang and Kodos ensures that, but there are also a number of plant and chest hair tendrils, Homer-as-octopus, Cthulhu guest appearances and god knows what else. The following is by no means an exhaustive list; I have striven to include a bit of everything. Two stories have made it into previous Tentacle Tuesdays (see Tentacle Tuesday Masters: Hilary Barta and Tentacle Tuesday: tentacles, some fresh, some older than time).

We start with Treehouse of Horror number one and its parody of a Little Shop of Horrors.

Little Shop of Homers, scripted by Mike Allred and pencilled by Luis Escobar and Bill Morrison, was published in Treehouse of Horror no. 1 (October 1995).

The cover of number two features… err, is that Kang or Kodos? with tentacles in full display. You may insert a ‘all aliens look alike’ joke here, to be fair, these two can mostly be told apart by their voice, Kang’s being deeper.

Treehouse of Horror no. 2 (September 1996). Cover by Bill Morrison, who, incidentally, is the co-founder of Bongo Comics and creator of Roswell: Little Green Man.

The insides offer us the tentacles of Sideshow Bob, whose transformation into a blob is distinctly cephalopodian in nature.

Sideshow Blob! was scripted by Paul Dini and illustrated by Bill Morrison and Tim Bavington.

Skipping over a few tentacle-less issues (for shame!), we arrive at number five, in which Mr Burns and Smithers, having been turned into Rigellians, demonstrate a proficient use of tentacles for their god-intended purpose, namely grabbing and choking.

Apu on Rigel 7, written and illustrated by Doug TenNapel, was published in Treehouse of Horror no. 5 (September 1999). I’d like to say a few words about TenNapel, here: my first encounter with his sense of humour was through the video game Earthworm Jim, which has retained a special place in my heart though I last played it some twenty years ago. I’ve read some of his graphic novels, and though I was mostly underwhelmed, TenNapel’s wild imagination was a pleasure. Having said that, his politics and beliefs have led him to gradually transforming into a judgmental asshole, which is completely at odds with the empathy he displays in his comics.

Leaving Kang and Kodos behind for now, we can play the game ‘option A or option B’: if somebody was forcing you to choose between having a third eye or tentacles instead of hands, which would you go for?

Treehouse of Horror no. 9 (September 2003); cover by Bill Morrison. Here we see how Homer has opted for the more destructive, tentacle-hands choice.

The following, incredibly boring parody of LOTR at least offers one genuine octopus, perhaps supposed to be the Watcher in the Water.

Ring Around the Simpsons, scripted by Ian Boothby and illustrated by Dan Brereton.

The following cover is Kodos (or Kang? sorry, guys) again, which I’m including because I like it…

Treehouse of Horror no. 12 (September 2006). Cover by Bill Morrison.

… and because one of its stories featured a somewhat original interpretation of tentacles: chest hair!

Willie: Portrait of a Groundskeeper was written and illustrated by Eric Powell.
Aliens’ penchant for busty human females is one of those mysteries of life…

One of my favourite tropes, octopus-in-the-library (wait… it’s not actually a trope, but it should be!), is aptly used in number thirteen:

Prop, Prop, Whiz, Whiz!, scripted by Ian Boothby and Pia Guerra, pencilled by Pia Guerra and inked by Terry Austin, was published in Treehouse of Horror no. 13 (September 2007).

Mutants with tentacles traipse on in number sixteen…

I Screwed Up Big-Time and Unleashed the Glavin on an Unsuspecting World!, scripted and illustrated by Evan Dorkin, was published in Treehouse of Horror no. 16 (September 2010).

… and plant tentacles rear their acquisitive little tendrils again in number eighteen.

Treehouse of Horror no. 18 (September 2012). Cover by Tentacle Tuesday Master Hillary Barta!

Finally, the last (alas!) cover of this series feature tentacles a’plenty! What a great note to end this on.

Treehouse of Horror no. 23 (September 2017). Cover pencilled by Jason Ho and inked by Mike Rote.

~ ds

Tentacle Tuesday: Unpopular Mechanacles

Greetings, tentacle lovers! After a hearty breakfast of cephalopod pancakes (no octopuses harmed), one can sit down with a quiet cup of tea and enjoy today’s crop of mechanical tentacles.

I tend to follow a chronological order, so our first is E-Man no. 1 (October 1973, Charlton Comics). The cover aside, these images have been taken from a recent reprint, which accounts for the somewhat garish colours. I am hardly a fan of Joe Staton, so this is starting off on a somewhat less aesthetically pleasing foot, but mechanical tentacles are en flagrant délit in the cover story. Besides, E-Man has a certain innocent charm.

The cover story is The Beginning, scripted by Nicola Cuti and illustrated by Joe Staton:

Going towards a much darker note (both in terms of printing and content – and to be honest, I by far prefer this dark-ish colour palette to the rainbow of E-Man colours), here is The Absolute Power-Play of the Parasite!, scripted by Martin Pasko, pencilled by Curt Swan, and inked by Frank Chiaramonte, and published in Superman no. 320 (February 1978, DC):

Next, dramatic Rebirth!, scripted by Marv Wolfman and drawn by Gil Kane (Tentacle Tuesday Dabbler!), published in Action Comics no. 544 (June 1983, DC):

There’s even a sort of pin-up in that issue: The New Brainiac, pencilled by Ed Hannigan and inked by Dick Giordano.

So much flair and poise!

In a previous post (Tentacle Tuesday: Mechanical Tentacles) I promised that I would stick to but a few instances of Doctor Octopus and ne’er again return to him. However, I would like to point out this familiar fellow in the lab coat (top right):

…So You Want to Work for Globex, Huh?, scripted by Gail Simone, pencilled by Óscar González Loyo and inked by Steve Steere Jr., was published in Simpsons Comics no. 66 (January 2002, Bongo). Sometimes Simpsons comics are real fun to read, and this is one of those instances.

~ ds

Tentacle Tuesday Masters: Hilary Barta

There are few things more satisfying than hitting two birds with one stone. Today’s Tentacle Tuesday almost, but not quite, coincides with the birthday of Hilary Barta, who was born on June 17th, 1957. As it happens, he is delightfully adept at depicting tentacles, and quite enthusiastic about it, too…. so it is my pleasure to combine tentacle festivities with a (hopefully) tantalizing sampling of a great artist’s work.

HorrorNoir-HilaryBarta
All I could find about this illustration is that it was meant as a cover to a book. To quote from Rhine’s website, « writer R.S. Rhine and illustrator Hillary Bata will collaborate on the graphic novel (release 2005) ». Was it ever released? It doesn’t seem so.

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Art for The Black Flame no. 7, 2017. Art by Hilary Barta. So Black Flame is getting attacked by a bunch of drooling monsters and he’s victoriously brandishing… a small lizard?

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The published version of The Black Flame no. 7. I think this colour scheme works much better, actually.

There’s no mentioning Barta without perusing some of his Simpsons’ work, especially under the umbrella of that tentacle-rich (my favourite!) manifestation of the Simpsons, the Treehouse of Horror.

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P is for Portal! This « Lexicon of Lurid Limericks » was published in Treehouse of Horror no. 8, 2002. Art by Hilary Barta, colours by Dave Stewart. Moe is nonplussed, as usual… it’s going to take more than a few slimy tentacles and a big puddle of gore to shake him up.

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Barta can also channel Wally Wood with ease, and who says “Wally Wood”, says “tentacles”!

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Art by Hilary Barta for a promotional poster for the Lake Count-I-Con, Lake County’s 2014 comic convention.

(And this is what the actual poster looked like… at least they didn’t cover up too much of the artwork)

HilaryBartaRobotGirl

It’s rare for me to post something published recently (my head is firmly lodged in the past), but this is a pleasant exception:

ComicCreator17
Comic Book Creator no. 17, 2018. It just came out, actually, so you’ll still catch it on quality newsstands if you hurry.  Cover by Hilary Barta.

Don’t forget to visit Barta’s blog, Surly Hack Attack!

HilaryBartaFrink
Barta, looking at Professor Frink no. 1, 2013 (the cover has tentacles, by the way) in which he has a story titled « Frink Sinatra ».

~ ds

Tentacle Tuesday: tentacles, some fresh, some older than time

Welcome to Tentacle Tuesday! We now have an official logo for T.T., courtesy of my husband and fellow blogger. It’s brand-spanking new, so here it is in a fairly high resolution.

TentacleTuesdayLogoA

Give him a round of applause… oh, what’s that, it’s hard to applaud with tentacles? Okay, a round of « squish, squish », then.

Let’s begin (proper) with « The Thing on the Roof », adapted by Roy Thomas from a story by Robert E. Howard. The latter was a member of the renowned Lovecraft circle, so the Chthulian vibe of this is no accident. It’s illustrated by Frank Brunner, who does a bang-up job – the man was asked to draw the love child of a dragon and an octopus, and he did not disappoint!

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The Thing on the Roof from Chamber of Chills no. 3 (May 1973, Marvel.)

Continuing in a similar vein (but fast-forwarding 40 years), here’s a terrific story from Bart Simpson’s Treehouse of Horror #19 (September 25th, 2013) which is so chock-full of tentacles that it could be a post all by itself. Written by Lovecraftian Len Wein and illustrated by Demonic Dan Brereton, it ranks as one of the top Treehouse comic stories as far as I’m concerned… but then I might be slightly biased. Or possessed by Chthulhu, whichever.

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I want a Lovecraft vacuum cleaner. *hint, hint*

TreehouseofHorrorChthulhu2
In this story, *everything*, animate and inanimate, sprouts tentacles.

TreehouseofHorrorChthulhu3
The dramatic/sublime/ludicrous wrap-up! Sorry to give the plot away. Yum, they even remembered to stick an apple in Milhouse’s mouth (it keeps him from screaming, I suppose). Did Lisa forget she’s a vegetarian?

I couldn’t help but post at least three pages of this story – hell, I was tempted to post it in its entirety – but I’ll let you do the work. Go read the whole thing here.

And to wrap up, let’s go back half a century or so, to the Miss Horrible Entity 1954.

StartlingTerrorTales10
This striking cover is by L.B. Cole, who can always be relied on to provide us with some eye-popping colours. He’s also got a knack for depicting especially disgusting, moist and fleshy tentacles, don’t you think? Startling Terror Tales no. 10 (August 1954).

What I want to know is who, upon being startled by a cephalopod cyclops with vampire fangs and one very bloodshot eye, describes it as an “entity”? “Monster”, sure, even “beast” or “demon” or “creature”, but “entity” (defined as “a thing with distinct and independent existence” by Webster’s)? If you’re going to be *that* stuffy, maybe you deserve to get eaten.

~ ds

 

Hallowe’en Countdown, Day 1

« I’m being haunted by all the meat I’ve eaten* »

Welcome to our daily rending of calendar leaves ’til All Hallows’ Eve 2017 is upon us, all flailing fangs and claws…

We open with a salute to our kindred evil spirits, the ticklish rogues who bring us The Simpsons. Their Halloween Special / Treehouse of Horror episodes, by now numbering thirty entries, have done much to keep the torch of seasonal eeriness ablaze over the years.

The comic book spinoff series is none too shabby, either: launched in 1995, it also appears once a year, when noons go quickly, dusks and twilights linger, and mid-nights stay**. It shares its parent show’s penchant for references to comic books and magazines, toys and films and tv shows, some recent, some rather ancient, some known to all and some surprisingly (and wonderfully) obscure.

To meekly invoke but a few: Ba(r)t Out of Hell, The Thing With Two Heads, Famous Monsters of Filmland (down to the logo), War of the Colossal Beast, shock rockers Gene Simmons, Alice Cooper, Rob Zombie and Pat Boone (shudder), EC’s Tales From the Crypt, Mars Attacks, the Bride of Frankenstein, Gremlins, Ghostbusters… and these are just the covers.

Treehouse14A

This is The Simpsons’ Treehouse of Horror no. 14 (Bongo Comics, Sept. 2008). Cover by Bill Morrison. Check out a gallery of the issues here!

*and pastries and snacks, et cetera. A quotation from Godley and Creme’s 1981 art-rap, Snack Attack.

**Ray Bradbury’s The October Country

– RG