It’s Fungus Friday!

Did you hear the joke about fungus? You won’t like it, but it will grow on you.

As promised – though you folks may by far prefer tentacles to mushrooms – I am delighted to present this post about mushrooms both real and imaginary.

First of all why mushrooms? Those who know me are aware of my passion for fungus – it’s a gastronomic interest, as both co-admin RG and I love to cook with them, and also a platonic one, an admiration for their beauty and adaptability. In terms of aliens-on-earth, fungus is surely up there with the extraterrestrial octopus. We are currently on vacation, so this is the perfect moment to both admire some of our finds, and rediscover mushrooms in comics.

Usually people react in one of two ways to mentions of gathering wild mushrooms – ‘but how do you know you won’t poison yourself?‘ or ‘magic mushrooms! yeah!‘ The first question is pertinent, although there’s no need to take that horrified tone, and the second reaction is more than slightly one-track-minded.

Just like in real life, comics fungi come in all shapes and sizes: from cute appearances in the background of a cartoony comic, to psychedelic manifestations of the underground, to horror stories peppered with a slice or two of the deadly toadstool, and everything in between! I’ve tried to go for maximum contrast in this post, and include a little bit of everything. Dive in, like we dove in yesterday into our hedgehog-and-honey-mushrooms-pasta yesterday 😉

Four Color no. 50 – Fairy Tale Parade (1944-1945, Dell). Cover by Walt Kelly. This is kind of an anonymous mushroom of indeterminate species.
A cartoon by Emile Mercier, Australian cartoonist who is best remembered for his work for the Sydney Sun between 1949 and 1968. This particular piece hails from the late ’50s.

Speaking of Mercier, I love this anecdote: « One day, Claude McKay, the editor-in-chief of Smith’s Weekly, took a dim view of an X Emile Mercier had drawn under the upwardly extended tail on a cat. After a few stern words about “dirty gimmicks in cartoons”, the grim-faced McKay instructed Mercier to get rid of the cross. This presented Mercier with a challenge. He was someone who used to say you “have to think funny as well as draw funny” and he was not keen to let McKay’s prudish approach to his cat go unchallenged. Mercier’s solution was to draw a miniature roller blind under the cat’s perpendicular tail. He was in no doubt the blind would draw more attention to the cat’s anus than the X had. Fortunately for him, McKay saw the funny side of the addition and let the cartoon run. Not a man to push his luck too far, Mercier drew all future cats without an X at the base of their tails. »

A page from Re di Picche no. 1 (AGIS, 1969), an Italian comics series created by Luciano Bottaro. Re di Picche means ‘king of spades’, and refers to the protagonist of this series (also the title of the magazine it was published in). Inspired by Alice in Wonderland? You bet! This mushroom appears to be some type of Amanita, a mostly deadly but handsome family of ‘shrooms.
The Plot to Destroy Earth, scripted by Dave Wood and illustrated by Jim Mooney, was published in Strange Adventures no. 183 (December 1965, DC). A man who refers to what is very obviously a mushroom as a ‘crazy-looking plant’ won’t impress anyone with his knowledge of nature… but this fungus-as-parachute interlude is entertaining.
Dr. Dean Cleanbean Deals with Drug Difficulties, scripted and illustrated by Monte Wolverton (Basil Wolverton‘s son!), was the back cover of Dope Comix no. 5 (January 1984). Here we have the very prototypical magic mushrooms, which comes as no surprise.
I promised horror, didn’t I? This is a page from Chapter One, scripted by Mike Mignola and illustrated by Guy Davis, and published in, B.P.R.D.: Plague of Frogs no. 1 (February 2011, Dark Horse).
A splash page from The Mushroom Fan Club by Elise Gravel (2018, Enfant – Drawn & Quarterly’s children’s imprint). I wholeheartedly agree with Gravel – mushrooms come in such a variety of shapes and sizes, that it’s crazy to even consider them as the same thing. Note the mischievous bolete (center, brown cap), probably the King Bolete, a.k.a. Penny Bun – it has a feeling of superiority, and we agree.
Some of our mushroom crop this week. In the usual clockwise order: Lactarius Deliciosus; various Leccinums (or Bolete); Armillaria gallica (Honey mushrooms) and Hydnums (Hedgehogs).

~ ds

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.

Not Brand Echh Issue #11
I meant “entanglements” very literally. Story published in Not Brand Echh no. 11 (December 1968, Marvel); script by Arnold Drake, art by Marie Severin.

Unsane#15-L.B.Cole
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.

Comic-Cuts-Seaside-Holiday-Number-1923A
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).

WaltKellyFigmentality
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.

Jigsaw#2-MadhouseinHollywood-OttoBinder
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?)

Superman V1 #184
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: a Day at the Beach

I am on vacation! (Or I will be, by the time this post is published.) I have no idea what sort of beaches I will have the pleasure to encounter, but I doubt it’s the kind that’s depicted below.

And now, everyone to the beach! Orrore sulla spiaggia!

LarsonNudeBeachA
Page from Rich Larson‘s Haunted House of Lingerie, Vol. 2 (July 1999). I’m pleased to see that the octopus seems to have undressed the man as well.

Beach-Sukia89
This is the original art for the cover of Sukia no. 89. Art by Emanuele Taglietti, whose specialty was sex and horror! Sukia, already part of one T.T. roster (see Tentacle Tuesday: Euro Tentacles Unto Horror), was an erotic Italian comic that ran from 1978 to 1986, published, as is often the case for such things, by Edifumetto. Sukia’s alluring form is based on that of actress Ornella Muti, though it’s probably somewhat less obvious from this cover.

I’m getting carried away here with sun-tanning and babe-centric pastures and whatnot. People also go fishing on vacation, right?

AddamsFishingTentacles
Cartoon by Charles Addams.

Or just walking along the beach…

SantaClausFunnies#2-1943
A panel from “Lord Octopus Went to the Christmas Fair”, a poem by Stella Mead. Art by Walt Kelly; published in Santa Claus Funnies n° 2, 1943. Slightly unseasonal, sorry.

Or just flingin’ an octopus about… The local authorities might object, however.

WhizComics115
Whiz Comics n° 115 (November 1949), art by Kurt Schaffenberger.

A little knitting, perhaps? Don’t mind if I do!

Festival-tartine-n-54
Festival Tartine n° 54 (November 1971). Grand-mother Nonna Abelarda, created in 1953 by Italian Giulio Chierchini, came to France in 1956 and was renamed Tartine Mariol. This intrepid granny appeared in Presto and in Arc en Ciel until her popularity prompted the publishers to give her her own series in 1957.

~ ds

P.S. A little bonus, though only involving an off-screen sighting of an octopus:

beach-RobertCrumb-Aline
Cartoon by Robert Crumb, as if you needed to be told, featuring Aline Kominsky-Crumb.

How do you like *your* Christmas?

« Christmas, Christmas, Christmas, Christmas makes me happy
I love Christmas cold and grey, I love it sweet and sappy
Says crazy kissin’ Cousin Flo:
‘Let’s break out the mistletoe’ »

FourColor201, 1948
The heart-warming cover of that Four Color no. 201, 1948. Art by Walt Kelly. Check out the adorable moon-jumpin’ cow in the top left corner!

Dell's Four Color #302
This is the back cover of Dell’s Four Color no. 302 (Santa Claus Funnies), 1950. Such warm colours. Art by Canadian Mel Crawford, who worked on various Dell publications in the 1950s (such as Howdy Doody, Mr. Magoo, and Four Color Comics) to later become an accomplished watercolours/acrylics painter.

« Christmas, Christmas, Christmas, Christmas out the waz
Christmas, Christmas, Christmas, Christmas up the schnozz
Come all ye faithful, don’t be slow
It’s Christmas time, you can’t say no »

Creepy68-Christmas
Creepy no. 68 (January 1975), cover by Ken Kelly. “House’ and “about” don’t rhyme, but it’s the season to forgive. I like how Santa appears to be bawling in frustration.

VaultofHorror35
Vault of Horror no. 35 (EC, 1954), cover by Johnny Craig. Maybe open the lid of the coffin first, dumbass?

« Momma wants a kitchen sink
And daddy wants a stiffer drink
Grandma wants us to cut the crap
Grandpa wants a nice long nap »

Richard-Thompson-Christmas
Illustration by Richard Thompson. Who else wants some Festive Dietetic Crackers? I’d definitely sit with the mouse.

« Christmas, Christmas, Christmas, Christmas everywhere
Christmas, Christmas, Christmas, Christmas pullin’ out my hair
Shoppers lined up out the door
Traffic backed up miles and more
It’s Christmas time, so what the heck
Let’s go spend the whole paycheck »

MargeBuell-LittleLulu-Christmas
A Little Lulu cartoon by Marge Buell (Saturday Evening Post, 1944).

HilaryBarta-FelizNavidada
From the pleasantly warped mind of Hilary Barta with a fond tip of the Santa hat to old Uncle Salvador, obviamente. Да да да!

« Deck the halls, it is the season
We don’t need no rhyme or reason
It’s Christmas time, go spread the cheer
Pretty soon gonna be next year »

SensationComics38
Sensation Comics no. 38 (1945), cover by H.G. Peter.

LittleOrphanAnnie-Christmas
Original art for a Christmas card of Little Orphan Annie by Harold Gray. Just some 70 years ago, right?

Merry Christmas!

~ ds