Tentacle Tuesday: Métamorphoses

« My imagination grew wilder, the most unexpected associations flared up in my mind, and as I kept trying, the reception room kept filling with strange objects. Many of them were born, apparently, out of the subconscious, the brooding jungles of hereditary memory, out of primeval fears long suppressed by the higher levels of education. They had extremities and kept moving about, they emitted disgusting sounds, they were indecent, they were aggressive and fought constantly. I was casting about like a trapped animal. All this vividly reminded me of the old cuts with scenes of St. Anthony’s temptations. » [source]

Today’s topic does not involve a man becoming a cockroach: that has been discussed often enough. My current area of interest concerns the many strange and striking ways in which a living form becomes a completely different form under the influence of a supernatural power or its natural inclination, of witchcraft or the whimsy of a writer whose imagination flares up much like it did for poor A. I. Privalov, depicted above trying to create a a sandwich and a cup of coffee and ending up with a roomful of horrors…

This strange creature surely illustrates the perils of getting stuck mid-metamorphosis!

The Doom Patrol no. 95 (May 1965). Cover by Bob Brown. While transforming into god-knows-what, Dr. Sven Larsen is careful to preserved his impeccably coiffed chevelure. Perhaps he inspired Ted Baxter.

In Return of the Animal-Vegetable-Mineral Man, scripted by Arnold Drake and illustrated by Bruno Premiani, the Doom Patrol battle a scientist crazed with power-lust (while dealing with trouble of their own, like being unable to control their powers – it was apparently decided that a scientist who can become anything he likes is not interesting enough).

That this AVM (animal, vegetable, mineral) man decided to transform into an octopus will not surprise regular readers of Tentacle Tuesday: we know that the octopus is the most perfect form there is!

In the rest of the story, AVM also transforms himself into electric eels, tungsten birds, a building-tall neanderthal man, liquid mercury, a grizzly bear, etc., but it’s all a bit of a let-down after the giant octopus, if you ask me.

I’ll continue with this rather evocative cover by Bernie Wrightson, in which we get a preview peek at a gruesome scene just a few seconds before it actually happens.

House of Mystery no. 204 (July 1972). Cover by Bernie Wrightson.

It all starts with a nasty dream of cranberry jelly…

… and ends with an unwelcome transformation of future bride into hungry monster. In this case, a pretty girl is not so much like a melody, but yet another helping of aforementioned cranberry jelly… perhaps I should have kept this story until Christmas.

All in the Family was scripted by Mary Skrenes and Bernie Wrightson; illustrated by Bernie Wrightson.

If this story of transmogrification made your teeth itch, just have a gander at the following histoire d’amour

Captain Marvel no. 40 (September 1975). Cover pencilled by Al Milgrom and inked by Klaus Janson.

No, hold your horses, I’m not implying anything untoward about Captain Marvel. That thing he’s tangled up with is his lover (or should I say ex-lover) Una. Just a little case of demonic possession!

Um, those are not “eyes of wonder”, more like a demented gaze.

Will Captain Mar-vell be able to kill the woman he loves, even if she’s more of a shell inhabited by a tentacled psychic monstrosity, and despite having lost his manhood, whatever that was?

Stay put for the exciting finale of Rocky Mountain ‘Bye! was scripted by Steve Englehart and Al Milgrom, pencilled by Milgrom, and inked by Al McWilliams!

What do we have here? A harmless trick-or-treating kid transformed by Mr. Mxyzptlk into a malefic octopus? It’s business as usual for Superman in this goofy tale (who, incidentally, was the star of Tentacle Tuesday: It’s a Bird! It’s a Plane! It’s a Tentacle!) I’m sure most children would relish the opportunity to become an actual ghost or werewolf…

But I am not convinced that anybody would want to be transformed into, err, “Globby”.

Nothing as stylish as an octopus with a digital watch.

These pages were from The Haunting Dooms of Halloween!, scripted by Dan Mishkin, pencilled by Curt Swan and inked by Tony de Zuñiga, published in DC Comics Presents no. 53 (January 1983).

~ ds

Hallowe’en Countdown III, Day 4

« ... and suddenly, an ordinary business day becomes a day of horrible visions… »

When he was introduced in 1951 (Star Spangled Comics no. 122), Dr. Terrance Thirteen was a perfect fit for the DC universe: a skeptic who, in the nominally-rational world he inhabited, got to elucidate and debunk all sorts of mock-supernatural shenanigans. When the ghost-breaker made his return in the late 60s (as a foil to his also-returning contemporary The Phantom Stranger), however, the world had changed. The editorial balance had shifted in favour of the mystical, and Dr. 13 wasn’t as fortunate as the kids from Scooby Doo: he now faced bonafide manifestations from the beyond, but he wouldn’t have any of it, becoming a blind, overbearing ideologue in the vein of filmic non-believers Dana Andrews in Night of the Demon (aka Curse of the Demon) or the fabulous Peter Wyngarde in Night of the Eagle (aka Burn, Witch, Burn… adapted from Fritz Leiber’s Conjure Wife).

And things got worse and worse over the years; by now Dr. 13 is treated as a joke and a punching bag (even Matt Howarth blew it, a rare misfire), but that’s the general climate in the modern mainstream: most long-running characters, even the heroes, with a scientific background (Henry Pym, Reed Richards, Tony Stark et al) are frequently depicted as arrogant, misguided and often downright insane.

For a brief time in the early 1970s, Dr. 13 was handled by a sympathetic and skillful writer who understood what the man stood for and what made him tick. For a full example, check out our earlier post on another Dr. 13 case, … and the Dog Howls Through the Night! (1974).

DeZuniga13Glasses05ADeZuniga13GlassesA
Scripter Skeates stated, a few years ago: « I quite like this story, especially the beautiful psychedelic scary artwork DeZuniga provided (an artist I very much enjoyed working with; he also illustrated a number of my Supergirl tales), plus the ending in which I somehow decided to treat this yarn as though it were a cautionary tale, the lesson learned being that one shouldn’t commit murder! For the longest time a copy of this comic wasn’t in my collection , but a couple of years ago I came upon a copy at a convention — the price-tag was a bit high due to the origin story that’s also in there! When I told my wife I had shelled out forty bucks for a comic with a story of mine in it that didn’t even have credits on it, she concluded that I was the one who was quite definitely insane!! »

-RG

Tentacle Tuesday: The Hungry Greenery

As we’re currently in the blaze of summer (rocketing temperatures and crazy humidity, courtesy of global warming – this June was the hottest June ever, and we’re well on track for beating records for July), a Tentacle Tuesday post about plants seemed appropriate. Did I say “plants”? More like “plantacles”: these vines and tendrils snatch and grab, creep and reach, entwine and writhe just like their cephalopod counterparts.

HitComics12-Blaze
Pages from Dark Side of the Moon, with art by Maurice Gutwirth, published in Hit Comics no. 2 (June 1941, Quality Comics).

So Blaze Barton encounters some vine tentacles, fine; but he also encounters ‘queer tiny plants‘ that swarm him and attack with what looks very much like octopus appendages. The delightful thing about Hit Comics and particularly Barton’s adventures is that the stories are goofy as hell.

HitComics12-Blaze-insects

The story continues in the same vein, merrily galloping into insanity… into an ‘evil-infested‘ lake that boasts man-eating weeds, once again complete with tentacles.

HitComics12-Blaze-insects2

Visit Atomic Kommie Comics for many further Blaze Barton exploits.

tentacletuesdayicon

Continuing our grabby, carnivorous vines theme, a creepy little tale of a scientist who slightly oversteps his bounds:

HimesHungryGarden01A
Pages from The Hungry Garden (scripted by Joe Gill and drawn by Fred Himes), published in Ghostly Haunts no. 34 (August 1973). Trespassers will be stung, choked, and then gleefully consumed.

HimesHungryGarden02A
Should you be curious or concerned, the pooch makes it out just fine, and in fact goes on to save the day!

tentacletuesdayicon

Occasionally, an entire tree will decide that it’s more fun to strangle a human than to passively let itself be chopped down. Who could argue with that?

PsychoticAdventures3-LastGasp
Psychotic Adventures no. 3 (June 1974, Last Gasp). Cover by Charles Dallas. The blog Mars Will Send No More has many Dallas stories (all from Psychotic Adventures) for your perusal; I recommend them heartily.

The cover story, Women of the Wood, is based on a short story by Abraham Merritt that you can read here if you’re so inclined. It’s an excellent creepy tale – though I can’t promise tentacles, I can definitely guarantee murderous trees.

« For all those hundred years there have been hatred and battle between us and the forest. My father, M’sieu, was crushed by a tree; my elder brother crippled by another. My father’s father, woodsman that he was, was lost in the forest — he came back to us with mind gone, raving of wood women who had bewitched and mocked him, luring him into swamp and fen and tangled thicket, tormenting him. In every generation the trees have taken their toll of us — women as well as men — maiming or killing us. »

tentacletuesdayicon

Speaking of attacking tree trunks, I do believe this qualifies:

Defenders132-cover
The Defenders no. 132 (June 1984). Penciled by Sandy Plunkett and inked by Alan Weiss.

The cover story, The Phantom of Gamma-Ray Flats! (scripted by Peter B. Gillis, penciled by Don Perlin and inked by Kim DeMulder) is quite entertaining – and brimming to the gills with plant tentacles.

The Defenders132-tentacles
Not “rapey”, “ROPEY”.

The Defenders132-bouquetofslime

The Defenders132-nastysexy
The tiny remnant of the tentacle creature manages to find a hold on Warren’s back, perfectly à propos to this post… but I couldn’t resist including the other panel revealing his thoughts about his sexy colleague. Warren is Warren Worthington III, aka The Angel, a founding member of the X-Men.

The Defenders132-nastysexy2

TentacleTuesdayIcon

I’ve done a couple of Tentacle Tuesdays about Conan already (Tentacle Tuesday: Conan-o-rama and Tentacle Tuesday: the Savagery of Conan’s Savage Sword), but a few plantlike tentacles managed to slip through, as they’re wont to do.

Savage-Sword-of-Conan-#42
The Savage Sword of Conan no. 42 (July 1979). Cover by Bob Larkin.

Savage-Sword-of-Conan-#42-limbs
The Devil-Tree of Gamburu is scripted by Roy Thomas, penciled by John Buscema and inked by Tony DeZuniga.

Savage-Sword-of-Conan-#42-limbs2

And another Conan cover for the flora hall of tentacles:

Conan-the-Barbarian243
Conan the Barbarian no. 243 (April 1991). Cover by Filipino artist Whilce Portacio.

Need – nay, crave! – more plant tentacles? Visit our post from June 2018 (how time flies): Tentacle Tuesday: plants sometimes have tentacles, too.

~ ds

Tentacle Tuesday: the Filipino cavalry

Today’s Tentacle Tuesday honours Filipino artists who laboured in the comics industry in the 70s. To quote from Power of Comics: Filipino Artists (read the essay here),

« The Filipino talent began to arrive in 1970, when immigrant Tony DeZuñiga began to work for National Comics. DeZuñiga began with assignments on various romance, horror, western, and war anthologies—a combination that many Filipino artists coming after him would also follow—but he made a lasting mark when he co-created Western anti-hero Jonah Hex in All-Star Western #10 (1972). By then, DeZuñiga had convinced then National Comics publisher Carmine Infantino that other talented artists were awaiting discovery back in his nation of origin. With a stable of graying veterans working for him, Infantino was faced with a paucity of new talent in the early 1970s and had trouble finding gifted artists who could work for what the going page rate in American comics would pay at the time. DeZuñiga accompanied Infantino on a recruiting trip to the Philippines in 1971.

As noted, first among the Filipino artists to make a move were Redondo and Alcala. Among his works, Redondo turned in a memorable run on Swamp Thing, and the prolific Alcala picked up a considerable fan following for his work on series like Batman and Arak. Other Filipinos followed. Alex Niño brought a distinct style to Warren Publishing’s 1984 and 1994 series. Ernie Chan’s talent for composition led to his becoming National’s principal cover artist between 1975 and 1977. Gerry Talaoc enjoyed an extended run on The Unknown Soldier. »

Without further ado, let’s have a look at some of the tentacles the artists mentioned above have dreamed up. In no particular order…

TentacleTuesdayIcon

I like the styles of all the artists mentioned in this post, but a couple of these names will make me do a little dance of joy when I encounter their art. Alfredo Alcala (b. 1925, d. 2000) is a definite favourite. He could draw anything he wanted, convincingly… at an amazing speed, and with the sort of detail that other artists would kill for.

Alcala drew for all genres in the early portion of his career, and developed the speed and work ethic for which he later become known amongst his fellow professionals. His fastest page rate was 12 pages in a nine-hour sitting, while in one 96-hour marathon he produced 18 pages, three wrap-around covers and several color guides. During the portion of his career where he worked solely for Filipino publishers, Alcala worked without assistants and did his own inking and lettering. “I somehow always felt that the minute you let someone else have a hand in your work, no matter what, it’s not you anymore. It’s like riding a bicycle built for two…” (source)

Here’s a gorgeous sequence from « The Night of the Nebish! », scripted by Arnold Drake and illustrated by Alfredo Alcala, published in House of Secrets #107 (April 1973).

HouseOfSecrets#107-AlfredoAlcala-01

HouseOfSecrets#107-AlfredoAlcala-02

HouseOfSecrets#107-AlfredoAlcala-03

TentacleTuesdayIcon

Ruben Yandoc (also known as Rubeny, 1927-1992) isn’t nearly as well-known as Alcala, yet he has a beautiful, half-decorative, half-sketchy style. He excelled at horror stories (published in DC’s Witching Hour, House of Mystery, Ghosts, House of Secrets..), and was a master at creating mood. His perfect grasp of architecture and anatomy enabled him to draw believable characters in incredible settings – none of this “figures floating about aimlessly” shit that you sometimes get from artists who can’t imbue their objects and subjects with mass. When Stefan gets grabbed by tentacles, you can feel their weight on his torso and feel the heat and painful brightness of the torch he’s holding, dammit!

SecretsOfSinisterHouse#11-Rubeny
« The Monster of Death Island », plotted by Maxene Fabe and illustrated by Ruben Yandoc. Published in Secrets of Sinister House no. 11 (April 1973).

TentacleTuesdayIcon

Alex Niño’s art doesn’t give me butterflies. His stuff is quite weird, sometimes far too detailed, but his talent is nevertheless undeniable. For a good appreciation of his style (and more examples of it), go to this entry from Wizard’s Keep. As for me, I’ll limit myself to this humble, one-panel mass of tentacles, eyes, teeth, spikes, and god knows what else.

WeirdMysteryTales#9-AlexNiño
“Something on me”, indeed! A panel from « Evil Power », plotted by Jack Oleck and illustrated by Alex Niño from Weird Mystery Tales no. 9 (December 1973-January 1974). Niño was born in 1940, which makes him 78. He’s officially retired, but still holds art classes and takes commissions, as well as making the occasional appearance at conventions.

TentacleTuesdayIcon

Redondo’s “memorable run on Swamp Thing” was mentioned at the beginning of this post. Well, we’ve already featured the tentacled robot who tries to finish Alec Holland off here, but rest assured – there’s more tentacles than just that in the career of Nestor Purugganan Redondo (1928-1995)! For example, this:

Unexpected195-NestorRedondo
Original art for “Monsters From a Thousand Fathoms”, published in The Unexpected no. 185 (May-June 1978). You’ll note the art is attributed to the “Redondo Studio”; Nestor and his brother, Frank, often collaborated under that name.

By the way, he’s most assuredly another favourite in this household. His women are believably sexy, his monsters inventive and scary, his animals pitch-perfect… His style is realistic but lush, his nature almost prettier than in real life. And I like him much, much better than Bernie Wrightson, as far as Swamp Thing is concerned 😉

TentacleTuesdayIcon

A perfect fit for any Tentacle Tuesday, here’s the requisite damsel-in-distress-with-tentacles:

ConanWenchandCoBook1ErnieChan
Wench & Co. Book 1, a collection of drawings – of mostly naked women, what else? – by Ernesto Chan (1940-2012), born and sometimes credited as Ernie Chua. Published by Big Wow, 2005. Sadly, we will never get a Book 2.

TentacleTuesdayIcon

We shouldn’t forget Tony DeZuñiga (1932-2012), who after all started all this. Among other accomplishments, he co-created Jonah Hex and Black Orchid, two pretty damn cool characters.

PhantomStranger18DeZuniga
Page from “Home is the Sailor”, plotted by Len Wein and illustrated by Tony DeZuñiga, published in The Phantom Stranger no. 18 (March-April 1972).

I hope you enjoyed this (non-exhaustive) romp through Filipino-American tentacles! As historian Chris Knowles (1999) has noted about Filipino artists, « Here was a group of immensely talented and hard-working draftsmen who could draw absolutely anything and draw it well. They set a standard that the younger artists would have to live up to and that the older ones would have to compete with. » Amen to that!

~ ds

Jonah Hex’s Bumpy Friday the Thirteenth

« Whut in the ding-dong? »

Jonah Hex originators John Albano (1922-2205) and Tony DeZuniga (1941-2012) take the piss out of their boy in a little tale that was, according to Paul Levitz, intended for a (self) parody title provisionally titled Zany (having cycled through the tentative monikers Black Humor and Weird Humor), and that never saw the light of day… This feature was the only one completed for the abortive endeavour, and it saw print in the Plop!-themed issue of The Amazing World of DC Comics (October, 1976), its thirteenth, of course. Incidentally, Plop’s own cancellation was announced in that very issue of AWODCC. Bummer.

HexSpoof1AHexSpoof2A

HexSpoof3A
Why, yes… now that you mention it, an ice-cold root beer *would* be nice.

HexSpoof4A
« Lying out in the ‘dessert‘ », Jonah? That was either a root-beer float mirage or a careless letterer’s oversight.

I would be earning myself a sound flogging if I didn’t share Sergio Aragonés‘ adroitly-done cover, so here it is.

AmazingWorldDC13A

-RG

Steve Skeates’ “… and the Dog Howls Through the Night!” (1974)

« Who’d ever believe a story like that? »

On this fine day, we pay tribute to shifty scribe Chester P. Hazel (who sometimes goes by the unlikely nom de plume of Steve Skeates). It is whispered that Stephen, along with his nefarious twin Warren Savin, first invaded this plane of existence on January 29, 1943. That would make him/them/it seventy-five earthly rotations old, should these windblown tattles hold any credence.

Happily, in this case, picking out a Skeates favourite to share was no ordeal: I’d been meaning for some time to shine a light on one of his neglected gems, one that salt-rubbingly ran without proper attribution in The Phantom Stranger no. 34 (Dec. 1974-Jan. 1975, DC Comics.)

The cases of Dr. Terrance Thirteen, ghost breaker, must have been easier to write back in the 1950’s, when DC Comics’ default setting in its mystery titles was to explain away the supernatural element before the curtain call. DC’s resident skeptic first shared his insights in Star Spangled Comics, his feature lasting from issue 122 (November, 1951) to issue 130 (July, 1952). He then moved to The House of Mystery for a handful of appearances, then faded away. He returned to action, along with his also long-dormant colleague  and foil The Phantom Stranger, in 1969’s Showcase no. 80. In the Supernatural Seventies, all poor Dr. Thirteen could do is vainly and stubbornly play the cards of reason and logic against a house deck stacked to inevitably favour the uncanny and the unreal. He was doomed to be a comic book version of The X-Files’ Dana Scully, Fritz Leiber‘s Norman Saylor (Conjure Wife, 1943) or Night of the Demon‘s Dr. John Holden, all skeptics coming off as hopelessly obdurate and clueless in light of the “facts”.

Sounds like today’s so-called post-fact world… in which we need true skeptics (as opposed to deniers) and cool, rational minds more than ever.

Anyway, it wasn’t the first time wily Skeates had faced such a storytelling impasse: he’d had to ring the changes on pacifist character Dove (of Steve Ditko’s eternally-squabbling Hawk & Dove) within a universe of hard-slugging super vigilantes.

Dr. Thirteen bounced around various DC titles in the early-to-mid 70s. This is the series’ last bow in the back pages of The Phantom Stranger, and ironically its finest hour, alongside the penultimate entry, The Ghosts on the Glasses, which ran in Adventure Comics no. 428 (August, 1973.) In both cases, the inspired artwork is that of Filipino master Tony DeZuñiga (1932 – 2012), who was clearly in his element.

DrThirteen1ADrThirteen2ADrThirteen3ADrThirteen4ADrThirteen5ADrThirteen6ADrThirteen7ADrThirteen8A

A character likens the dead scientist’s ill-fated velocity experiments to comic book character The Flash… but it’s a cinch that what the impish* Mr. Skeates really had in mind was Virgil “Guy” Gilbert, aka Lightning, whose début, The Deadly Dust! he had scripted back in 1965 (T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents no. 4, April 1966). Here’s a relevant excerpt, featuring art by Mike Sekowsky and Frank Giacoia.

LightningA

In closing, a biographical blurb from DC’s T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents Archives, circa 2002: « A native and longtime resident of the Empire State, Steve Skeates began his work in comics as an assistant editor at Marvel Comics in 1965 – a job which he quickly abandoned in favor of writing comics as a full-time freelancer. Over the next twenty years he did work for nearly every major comics publisher, including DC, Marvel, Charlton, Tower, Warren, and Gold Key. Since leaving mainstream comics in the mid-1980s, he has worked as a reporter, bartender, and Zamboni operator, as well as publishing his own comics titles, which he continues to do from his home base in Fairport, New York. »

Happy birthday, Mr. Skeates, and thanks for everything!

-RG

*I mean to refer to Mr. Skeates’ undisputed status as King of the unofficial inter-company crossover. Naughty!

Tentacle Tuesday, from goofily scary to scarily goofy

It’s that time of the week again!

Let’s start with something hair-raising. Well, not really – we’re a blasé audience, and it takes something special to truly scare us. Yet can you deny the foul-smelling, palpable sense of foreboding, the billowing and swirling nightmare that beckons from the elegant inks of this page?

TheGravesendGorgonAlcala
« She boiled up out of the sea that hellish night — a monstrous hideous creature, she was, with the craggy face of an evil eyed witch! » Giant-Size Chillers no. 1 (February 1975). The cover promises a « frightful, fearful first issue! » Does it deliver? Eh, not really. Here’s a page of the best story in it, The Gravesend Gorgon, scripted by Carl Wessler and pencilled + inked by Alfredo Alcala.

Gravesend is an ancient town in northwest Kent, England; as for the gorgon part, it’s not entirely accurate, but it’s clear that comic writers cannot resist an alliteration.

On a slightly more humorous front (unless one is directly involved with this green monstrosity, in which case the situation would quickly lose its humour), here’s a page that hails from Jonah Hex: Riders of the Worm and Such no. 4, (June 1995). The story features the half-worm, half-human albino Autumn Brothers, whom you can see here greeting the big worm-momma. Texas blues rockers Johnny and Edgar Winter attempted to sue, but the suit was dismissed after a judge begrudgingly ruled that « the First Amendment dictates that the right to parody, lampoon and make other expressive uses of the celebrity image must be given broad scope. » Thank you, Los Angeles court. Frankly, it seems that the brothers are more remembered for the lawsuit than their music.

JonahHexRidersoftheWorm4
« Sure like to make big worm happy, whatever she want. Not care much for tentacle down throat. » Jonah Hex: Riders of the Worm and Such no. 4, June 1995. Scripted by Joe R. Lansdale,  pencils by Timothy Truman, inks by Sam Glanzman.

Jonah Woodson Hex, created by writer John Albano and artist Tony DeZuniga in 1971, curmudgeonly and disfigured but bound by a personal code of honour, is a favourite character of mine, although I only like the way he is written for DC’s Weird Western Tales. Well, with one exception, this one! I most tentacularily recommend Jonah Hex: Shadows West, a collection of the three Vertigo-published mini-series scripted by Lansdale and illustrated by Tim Truman and Sam Glanzman, containing the stories Two-Gun Mojo, Shadows West and Riders of The Worm and Such.

And to wrap this up, on an even goofier note, here’s Jughead getting into yet another weird situation, which is pretty standard for him.

JUghead77SammSchwartz
This page from The Eyes Have It comes from Jughead no. 77 (October 1961). Script by George Gladir, pencils by Samm Schwartz, inks by Marty Epp. Schwartz is absolutely the best Archie artist to draw tentacles; most everybody else would have made a mess of it.

Jughead77A

~ dsTentacleTuesdayIcon