Hallowe’en Countdown III, Day 22

« I saw old Autumn in the misty morn stand shadowless like silence, listening to silence. » — Thomas Hood (1799-1845)

Jim Woodring‘s Frank, cogently termed « a bipedal, bucktoothed animal of uncertain species » was introduced to readers on the cover of Jim no. 4 (Dec. 1990, Fantagraphics), virtually straight from his genitor’s id. He would turn out to be Woodring’s most enduring creation. I was absolutely in awe of Woodring’s original, somewhat autobiographical showcase title, Jim. But it practically sold in the negative numbers (I recall an admiring / dismayed Dan Clowes stating something to that effect during an interview), and dammit, a genius like Woodring should be able to earn a living in freedom and dignity, so I understand the slight shift in gears. Though I miss Woodring’s tremendous verbal gifts, Frank’s is a rather extraordinary universe.

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This is Tantalizing Stories no. 1 (Oct. 1992, Tundra), a duplex anthology shared by Woodring and Mark Martin. Painted cover by Woodring, of course.

Speaking of Tundra, its tale is quite a colourful one: it was the publisher that The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles built; an act of atonement? « Tundra was certainly, not to put too fine a point on it, the biggest and most absurd (as well as the most idealistic) publishing catastrophe in the history of comics — maybe in the history of the print medium. » [ source ]

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Frank observes the signs of autumn, which puts him in a contemplative, melancholy mood; the middle tier of page 2.

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Yeah, I’ve been to a couple of those parties too.
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The party sequence; I wouldn’t want to spoil the ending, which comes one page later. Read the issue in full here. Woodring is of that rare complete breed of cartoonist, a uniquely soulful writer and a master of both black and white and colour rendering, quite autonomous but also a fine collaborator.

Woodring, nearly three decades down the line, has stated that he’s ‘extremely interested’ in wrapping up Frank’s adventures.

-RG

Tentacle Tuesday Masters: Michael T. Gilbert and the Flamboyant Mr. Monster

« Yet another bloodthirsty alien invasion, led by a mad dictator with a brain harvested from a 60 year-old corpse. I get one of those every third Thursday… »

D’you know what today is? Well, Tentacle Tuesday, obviously. It’s also Radio Day. More relevantly to this post, however, May 7th is also the birthday of one Michael Terry Gilbert, confidant to the formidable Mr. Monster (a.k.a. Strongfort “Doc” Stearn) and fellow tentacle lover (at least judging from how many cephalopod-shaped creatures appear in his stories).

We’ve briefly mentioned Mr. Monster in Tentacle Tuesday: Superheroes Redux; now is the time to joyfully gallop through some more tentacle offerings from the merry crew of psychotic artists led by that sagacious shepherd, Michael T. Gilbert. Many happy returns, Sir!

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Doc Stearn… Mr. Monster no. 1 (Eclipse, January 1985). Cover by Michael T. Gilbert.
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Doc Stearn… Mr. Monster no. 5 (Eclipse, February 1986), cover by Michael T. Gilbert. The unwritten rules dictates that Mars inhabitants *must* have tentacles, and Gilbert clearly has respect for venerable traditions. Plus, they’re much cuter this way. Coochie-coochie-coo…

« The original Doc Stearne was a two-fisted adventurer along the lines of pulp hero Doc Savage, of whom he may have been intended as a knock-off. He was created by cartoonist Fred Kelly, whose other known credits are somewhere between sparse and nonexistent. Kelly did him for a small, virtually unremembered Canadian publisher called Bell Features (probably not related to Bell Syndicate, distributor of Mutt & Jeff, Don Winslow of the Navy and more). When Gilbert was asked to contribute to Vanguard Illustrated, the apparent purpose of which was to develop new properties for Pacific Comics to exploit, he drew on Kelly’s character as inspiration. The first new Mr. Monster story appeared in the seventh issue, which came out in 1984 without a specific cover date. Gilbert’s version was a fanatical monster hater, extreme not only in his attitude, but in his design and in every move he made. » |from Don Markstein’s Toonopedia|

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« The Demon of Destiny Drive », art by Michael T. Gilbert, published in Doc Stearn… Mr. Monster no. 5 (Eclipse, February 1986).
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« Mr. Monster’s Atomic Condenser » by Michael T. Gilbert was published in Doc Stearn…Mr. Monster no. 10 (Eclipse, June 1987).
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Is that an Oculothorax, by any chance? « Terror in 6-D », with script and layouts by Michael T. Gilbert and pencils and inks by Don Simpson, was published in Doc Stearn…Mr. Monster no. 10 (Eclipse, June 1987). Read the issue here.

As you’ve probably surmised, Mr. Monster cycled through quite a few publishers, from Pacific Comics to the aforementioned Eclipse Comics to Dark Horse passing through Fantagraphics, Image Comics and  Tundra publications. Some Tundra-published material for your pleasure, as always rife with tentacles:

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« Wish You Were Here »,  script and layout by Michael T. Gilbert,  inks by Dave Gibbons, was printed in Mr. Monster Attacks! no. 1 (Tundra, August 1992).
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Want to know whether Mr. Bulletproof Monster ever gets back with Rosie? Read Mr. Monster Attacks! no. 1 (Tundra, August 1992) here.
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Mr. Monster Attacks no. 2 (Tundra, September 1992), cover pencilled by Michael T. Gilbert, and painted by Dave Dorman.
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Back cover of Mr. Monster Attacks no. 2 (Tundra, September 1992), drawn by Bernie Wrightson and Michael T. Gilbert. Read the issue here.
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« Lair of the Lizard Ladies », written and laid out by Michael T. Gilbert, and pencilled, inked and coloured by Simon Bisley, was printed in Mr. Monster Attacks! no. 3 (October 1992).
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Kelly, Mr. Monster’s Girl Friday, has been touched by his noodly appendage in this story featuring murderous tentacle spaghetti. « Just Desserts », scripted by Janet Gilbert (wife of Michael T. Gilbert) and drawn by Tom Buss, was printed in Mr. Monster Attacks! no. 3 (Tundra, October 1992). Read the full issue here.

« Ulp! That reminds me. I’m late for my 4:00! There’s a giant man-eating eyeball about to devour Cleveland! So if you’ll excuse me… »

~ ds