Tentacle Tuesday: The Golden Age of Grabbery

For today’s Tentacle Tuesday post, I’d like to highlight some comic book artwork from the Golden Age, which is to say the period between the early (or late, depending on who you ask) 1930s and 1956, the year Showcase #4 was published, heralding the new era of superhero comics. (Our other TT post dedicated to the Golden Age was about Planet Comics; visit it here).

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Blue Bolt vol. 1 no. 5 (October 1940), cover by W. E. Rowland. The series was created by Joe Simon, who promptly enlisted Jack Kirby’s help. This cover story, «War in the Fourth Dimension»,  is by the Simon-Kirby team. Read the issue here.

The Blue Bolt gets tangled up in quite a few (crushing, of course) tentacles. Art by Jack Kirby.

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And a few pages later….

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It might be surprising to see the Shadow in the grip of an octopus, but there’s probably not that many creatures he *hasn’t* grappled with!

When a radio show was introduced in 1930 to boost the sales of Detective Story Magazine, the company (Street & Smith Publications) wasn’t expecting its freshly-minted narrator, The Shadow, to hog the limelight – but that he did, as listeners found this sinister character far more compelling than the stories he was narrating.

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Shadow Comics vol. 3 no. 6 (September 1943), cover by Vernon Greene. Just imagine the possible drama of this cover – the swordfish is actually the octopus’ friend, but he’s forced to become an instrument of his death by the merciless Shadow (only he would descend to the depths of the ocean to fight “devils” in full suit-and-cape regalia).

As his fans kept requesting copies of The Shadow magazine (which didn’t even exist at the time), Street & Smith obliged and The Shadow Magazine was born in 1931. The Shadow’s step-father is Walter B. Gibson, writing under the pen-name of Maxwell Grant. He wrote « more than 300 novel-length » Shadow stories to meet the demand of a public greedily clamouring for its hero, although at some point several writers were hired to lighten Gibson’s ridiculous workload. The Shadow soon slunk beyond the confines of pulp novels and into comics: a syndicated daily newspaper comic strip (written by Gibson and illustrated by Vernon Greene), preceded (by a month) by a comic book published by Street & Smith, which was supposed to attract a younger audience to pulp magazines (101 issues, from 1940 to 1949).

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Shadow Comics vol. 5 no. 5 (August 1945), cover by Charles Coll. Everybody is making puppy eyes at the Shadow, but will he choose the pretty girl or the pretty octopus?

Speaking of heroes, Wiki calls The Shadow « a film noir antihero in every sense »; now, I’ll concede the film noir, but I’ll balk at calling him an anti-hero, at least in this incarnation, as *that* term is defined as « a character who lacks conventional heroic qualities such as idealism, courage, and morality », all of which The Shadow has abundant reserves of. He’s a bit laconic and brusque with this conspirators, but that’s understandable when he had to destroy peace-threatening crime rings and bring brilliant crime-perpetrators to ruin at least twice a month.

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Who’s that handsome guy shooting commercials for Crackety-Wackett Cereal? Why, it’s Lars of Mars, the debonair Martian! In between fighting his communist arch-enemy (it was the 50s, what can I say?) and robots harassing women, Lars likes to relax by grappling with tentacled creatures.

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This lovely cover is Lars of Mars no. 11 (July-August 1951), painted by Allen Anderson (or Norman Saunders, according to another source, though Anderson seems likelier). What’s inside? Jerry Siegel scripts and Murphy Anderson art (and one story by Gene Colan). Yummy!

Lars of Mars was created by Siegel in 1951 for Ziff-Davis. There are only two issues (bizarrely numbered 10 and 11). The art for Lars of Mars, done by Murphy Anderson, is very nice indeed, but you don’t have to take my word for it. Feast your orbs on the first two delightfully nonsensical LoM stories on Pappy’s Golden Age blog.

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Now, is that any way to address a many-tentacled creature?

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« Scarlet’s adventures are never run-of-the-mill. Instead she enters into every phase of American life – whether on the baseball field or in a night club – always finding a way to help her clients, aid the forces of law and order… and bring plenty of thrills and laughs to her readers. »  Apparently « every phase of American life » includes being on the ocean’s floor, trying to stab an octopus with only 5 arms. Hmm…

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Harvey Comics Hits no. 59, 1952. Art (probably) by Al Avison. Interestingly, the fish is nibbling on the hand of the monster, when it could be partaking of the delicious flesh of the blub-guy. Tales of the Invisible reprints a bunch of Scarlet O’Neil stories from Black Cat, topped off with an introduction titled « Meet Russell Stamm » (the creator).

Incidentally, Invisible Scarlet O’Neil is supposed to be the first heroine with superpowers (well, one superpower: invisibility).

If I may be excused for going off-tentacle-topic,  « Blood of a Monster », the title story that takes up half of this issue, is surprisingly good (though it doesn’t really contain tentacles aside from a minor mention of cephalapoda at the beginning). The art (by the aforementioned Russell Stamm) is moody and quite unhinged in places.

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I enjoyed « Grave of Greed », the second half of the issue, even more, because it involves mushroom picking as part of the plot!

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Read the full issue here – it’s worth the detour, I think!

Stay tuned for our next Tentacle Tuesday post! In the meantime, visit our previous TTs (we’re getting to have quite a backlog) for your tentacle fix.

~ ds

Bang, bang, the mighty fall!*

« Now, Carlos — put that gun away! »
« Why, Fernando, I thought
I’d start the show with a bang! »

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That guy in the audience with the irritating donkey laugh is finally getting his. This unforgettable cover is the work of the peerless Norman Saunders, whose long and prolific career blazed its way through pulps, comic books, slicks, men’s adventure magazines, paperbacks, trading cards… you name it!

This is Ziff-Davis’ The Crime Clinic no. 11 (actually its second issue, September-October 1951). And for once, the inside story kind of matches the cover mayhem.

But don’t simply take my word for it, read it here: http://comicbookplus.com/?dlid=8545

-RG

*a fond tip of the top hat to the great B.A. Robertson.

Tentacle Tuesday: Carmine, Scarlet, Crimson Red

You’ve likely noticed it already, but people getting attacked by tentacles tend to be dressed in red. Now, red will not make a bull enraged (as a matter of fact, bulls are colour-blind to red – there, you learned something new today), but what effect would it have on an octopus? None at all, as it turns out, as red light does not reach ocean depths. One might want to wear red to become near-impossible to spot at a depth of a hundred metres or more, but that doesn’t explain why tentacles would persistently seek out red targets. Crap, there goes my theory.

Nevermind; we can still feast our eyes on some fetching mam’zelles and monsieurs clad in red, theories be damned.

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Alien Encounters no. 7 (June 1986, Eclipse Comics). Painted Cover by Corey Wolfe.

Music aficionados will notice that this cover is a tribute to something quite outside the comic field, namely this album art:

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Cover of 10cc’s Deceptive Bends album, designed by Hipgnosis, 1977. Where are the tentacles?! The girl’s dress is also somewhat more demure (though not by much).

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After Alien Encounters, we naturally move on to Alien Worlds. Admire the, err, tentacles on this cover:

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“If he had been watching his mistress as usual, if he had been at the controls instead of giving himself a lube job, the accident might have been prevented.” Moral of the story: no lube jobs at the wheel! That tentacled thing behind Princess Pam is actually Cynx, her guardian. The science-fiction comic anthology Alien Worlds, first published by Pacific Comics and then by Eclipse after Pacific went bankrupt, was edited by Bruce Jones, who wrote the bulk of the stories, and April Campbell. This is Alien Worlds no. 4 (Pacific Comics, September 1983), cover by Dave Stevens, with colours by Joe Chiodo.
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Mushrooms *and* tentacles *and* some pretty gams? Sensory overload! At first glance, the story (scripted and pencilled by Bruce Jones, inked by Dave Stevens, coloured by Joe Chiodo and lettered by Carrie McCarthy) is nothing but gratuitous cheesecake – a pretty, half-naked girl wandering around with her robotic servant – but it’s actually surprisingly touching. Check it out here. Fittingly, mushrooms save the day.

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It’s not just women who like to sport flashy red outfits, by the way. The men’s costumes might cover considerably more skin, but the vermilion remains!

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« The tentacles of a giant octopus emerge and grab him in a death grip. Almost as though the hideous creature has been standing guard over the treasure for all this time… » Of course it has! Any self-respecting octopus takes his job seriously. The Frogmen no. 2 (May-July 1962); the cover is by Vic Prezio, and the sumptuous inside art is by George Evans.
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There’s (also) an epic battle between a killer whale and the octopus in this issue (witness the aforementioned George Evans art).
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Of course he wants you, silly – who can resist a man in red swimming trunks? Nor octopus nor man. I retract my comment about men being more covered up. Do they have to tell their families, though?

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One more for the road and I’ll conclude this vernissage…

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“The bolts of current are merely absorbed by the rubber flesh of the octeel, which is part octopus and part electric eel!” Oh, for the love of puns. Weird Thrillers no. 4 (summer 1952, published by Ziff-Davis), with painted cover by Norman Saunders.

You’ll no doubt want to see what an electric octopus looks like, so here you go:

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“Tentacles of Death”? Sign me up, please! The gruesome cover story is drawn by George Tuska.

~ ds