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.


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!

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.

I want a Lovecraft vacuum cleaner. *hint, hint*
In this story, *everything*, animate and inanimate, sprouts tentacles.
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.

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


The Great American Comic Strip Catastrophe of ’78

« At last I will feast upon fried blob! »

If you’ll just bear with me, we’ll take a peek at a bit of an obscurity, one that’s struck a resonant chord in me. It’s called Bob Blob, and I first encountered it in the June, 1978 issue of Marvel’s Dynamite Magazine knockoff, Pizzazz (1977-79). “The Great American Comic Strip Catastrophe” had been part of the magazine’s lineup since its inaugural issue, but had pretty thoroughly failed to live up to the promise of its title. With issue 9, the magazine’s “First National Edition“, Jon Buller‘s Bob Blob oozed into view and relieved readers from the pedestrian ‘funny animal’ antics just taking up space and failing to bring about the announced, and hoped-for, comic strip catastrophe.

For its final four issues, Pizzazz adopted as its motto “Humor in the Marvel Manner“. If you ask me, that’s what dragged the magazine down: Dr. Doom knock-knock jokes? Er, no thanks. It’s when the humour veered away from said ‘Marvel Manner’ that Pizzazz acquired some actual pizzazz. Bob Blob was at once hi-concept and lowbrow, and one gets the sense that Jon Buller could have spun endless, increasingly surreal variations on his theme, but the magazine lasted but a scant sixteen issues, and ran only eight Bob strips.

Here they are, in order of publication and everything!


This particular strip anticipates Larry Cohen‘s cautionary horror satire The Stuff (1985).



According to Jon Buller, Bob was born… well, let him tell the story:

Read in full Jon Buller’s story in cartoon form, of which this is panel 8 of 13 (go ahead, it’s concise, splendidly told, and well worth your time)

Buller went on to illustrate countless books (sixty at last count!) written by his equally talented wife, Susan Schade. To name but a few: Riff Raff Sails the High Cheese, Anne of Green Bagels, Dracula Marries Frankenstein, No Tooth, No Quarter!, Baseball Camp on the Planet of the Eyeballs, Ron Rooney and the Million Dollar Comic

Check out their website: http://www.bullersooz.com/index.html

– RG

The Marauding Mushroom strikes again

November is pretty much the last month of the year when you can find some edible mushrooms around. We’ve been picking (and eating) all the wild mushrooms we could get our hands on, and it must have been through sheer luck that I haven’t encountered *this* guy yet…

This fearsome fungus comes to us from the talented pen of Ken Reid (1919-1987), a British comic artist and writer, who may have been ingesting a few mushrooms himself when he drew this.


Reid drew three sister series (World Wide Weirdies, Creepy Creations and Wanted Posters) for IPC, The International Publishing Corporation, one of the three largest comics publishers in Britain in the 20th century. I’d say he specialized in depicting ugly mugs… and their loathsome, grotesque bodies were a bit of an afterthought. After all, Reid’s the creator of Faceache, a comic about Ricky Rubberneck, the boy with a « bendable bonce » who could scrunge his face into anything! (By the way, « Faceache: The First Hundred Scrunges », the first and only collection of Faceache strips, is about to be released, and with an introduction by Alan Moore, to boot.)

Oh, heck, since we’re on the topic, let’s look at a snapshot of the other sisters.

Creepy Creations were displayed in all their colourful glory on the back cover of each copy of Shiver & Shake (an IPC magazine that ran from March 1973 to October 1974, a total of 83 issues), and were based on ideas submitted by readers, lucky bastards, who not only got to see their monster sketch re-drawn by the talented pen of a professional comics artist, but also got a 2 pound cash prize for their trouble).

Shiver & Shake was merged with Whoopee! in 1974, and Ken Reid continued in a similar vein with Wide World Weirdies until 1978. As for Wanted Posters, they were published in Whoopee, too, and were based on a similar premise (namely, readers contribute sketches for monetary compensation… though I suspect the kids were chuffed to have their work published even without the pecuniary prize).

Page from Whoopee! no. 5, March 6th, 1974. Er, guys… have you ever seen a cat before?


~ ds


On This Day: Boris Karloff Crosses Over

« What’s that noise comin’ up from the cellar?
It’s the restless bones of Boris and Bela* »

It’s a cinch that William Henry Pratt, back when he was eking out a living in Canada, digging ditches or driving a truck, never suspected that his name, his stage name that is, would still elicit shivers of recognition long after his passing. Here we are, a whole hundred and thirty years past his birth, in Camberwell, South London, on Wednesday, November 23, 1887.

From his ascent to stardom in the early 1930s until his passing in 1969, he certainly lived to see his likeness appear in a bewildering array of toys and games and bedsheets and mugs and a zillion knicknacks and gewgaws, a parade that continues to this day. But he was likely never represented more consistently and abundantly than he was in comic books.

Here, the Monster meets his… inspiration, in « Boris Karload, Master of Horror ». Dick Briefer‘s Frankenstein is a definite highlight of the Golden Age of comics. This is Frankenstein no. 11 (Jan.-Feb. 1948, Prize Comics). Read it here: http://comicbookplus.com/?dlid=39937 And if you, er… dug that, treat yourself to Craig Yoe‘s selection of Briefer’s rendition(s) of the Famous Monster. It’s a great package, and Mr. Yoe can always use the money… to unleash further wonders.

Here’s a gallery of cover highlights from Gold Key Comics’ long-running Boris Karloff Tales of Mystery (95 issues, 1962-80).

Before there was called Boris Karloff Tales of Mystery, there was, for two issues, Thriller, based on the by-then-cancelled NBC series. Gold Key were often quite slow in making their licensing moves. The TV Thriller was often terrifying (“Pigeons From Hell”, “The Hungry Glass”…), but the comic book never scaled such heights, even sans the emasculating influence of the Comics Code Authority.
« You know that one sideways glance from that bug-eyed banshee can turn your brains to prune-whip! » Boris Karloff Tales of Mystery no. 33 (Feb. 1971), Cover painted by George Wilson, illustrating Len Wein, Tom Gill and John Celardo’s March with a Monster.
« I’m being scorched by something that shouldn’t even exist! » A laser cannon-equipped Evel Knievel tussling with a badass reptilian nightmare? That’s the Seventies for you. Gold Key’s mystery comics were generally pretty tame fare, but their covers, such covers! This one’s painted by Saint George Wilson. Boris Karloff Tales of Mystery no. 34 (April 1971.) You just know that Dragondoom is written by Lein Wein, because its damsel-in-distress shares his wife’s name, Marvel and DC colourist Glynis.
A look at Mr. Wilson’s original painting gives us an idea of just how much was lost in the transition from brush to print. Sometimes it’s better *not* to know.
« Feast your eyes upon them, mortal! Do they satisfy your appetite for witchcraft? Hee Hee! » Wayne Howard conjures up some decent monsters inside, but Psychotomimetic George Wilson, who painted this mind-melting cover, shows how it’s *really* done. Boris Karloff Tales of Mystery no. 43 (Oct. 1972.)
« The car — being sucked in by this blasted fetid swamp! Goodbye car… goodbye, convention! » Roadside George Wilson strikes again! Boris Karloff Tales of Mystery no. 49 (March 1973.)


« These computer cards are wonderful… almost as if they were alive! They tell me everything! » Boris Karloff Tales of Mystery no. 62 (July 1973). Luis Angel Dominguez‘s painted cover depicts a scene from Arnold Drake‘s witty It’s in the Cards.

« G-g-get away, B-Bobby! There’s a living horror out there! » « Aww, gee, dad! I’m sorry about that! It’s just my sea monster! » Meet The Mail-Order Monster, a gem from an uncredited scripter (likely Arnold Drake, if the sparkling wit is any indication), and illustrated by Ed Robbins. It’s a fabulously wacky yarn, combining to fine effect good old Sea-Monkeys (brine shrimp, really) and a generous sampling of Ray Bradbury’s Boys! Raise Giant Mushrooms in Your Cellar! 
This is Boris Karloff Tales of Mystery no. 65 (Dec. 1975), edited by Paul Kuhn. Also within: Don’t Put It on Paper, another of the handful of jobs José Luis García-López did for Gold Key, before settling down at DC later that year. The plot is basically that of Clark Dimond/Terry Bisson & Steve Ditko’s The Sands That Change! (Creepy no. 16, Aug. 1967, Warren), but with a much gentler outcome.
« But — why would anyone create something so — so terrifying? » One thing you can nearly always count on in any given issue of BKToM: “scientific” experiments always go awry, and they nearly always yield rampaging monsters. Fitting! Luis Angel Dominguez provides this electrifying cover for issue no. 92 (July, 1979.) The man had such a peerless colour sense.

And remember, there’s far more to Boris Karloff than Frankenstein’s Monster: for evidence of his talent, check out The Body Snatcher (1945, directed by Robert Wise and produced by Val Lewton) or Targets (1968, directed by Peter Bogdanovich.)

Let’s reserve our closing words for the man (monster) himself: « Certainly I was typed. But what is typing? It is a trademark, a means by which the public recognizes you. Actors work all their lives to achieve that. I got mine with just one picture. It was a blessing. »

– RG

*Ships Don’t Disappear In The Night (Do They?) by 10cc (1973)

Farewell to David Cassidy, pop star… and Charlton Comics hero

« One of these days, some driver will run me off the road… just because his chick recognizes me! »

You may have heard the news… sorry to be the bearer of sad tidings if you haven’t. David Cassidy, who rose to fame as The Partridge Family tv show’s Keith Partridge in 1970, has passed away on November 21, 2017, at the age of 67. If this makes you want to pull out your old PF records and read some comics while grieving your lost innocence, let me help you with a word of warning: Charlton published two separate series based on the exploits of the acclaimed teen idol and his boob tube kith and kin, and they’re hardly in the same league. The Partridge Family (21 issues, March 1971 – November 1973), was utter dreck, the handiwork of infamous photo tracer and corner cutter Don Sherwood. The other, David Cassidy (14 issues, February 1972 – September 1973), was an altogether racier breed of cat, thanks to the lush artwork of the truly underrated Turkish-born master Sururi Gümen (1920-2000), who toiled anonymously for many years on the long-running Kerry Drake comic strip (there’s a special pit in hell reserved for folks like Alfred Andriola), but also produced some very fine work for Charlton. More on that later!

David Cassidy no. 4 (June 1972, Charlton Comics.)
A sample from This Was Paradise from David Cassidy no. 3 (May 1972, Charlton Comics), presumably written by Joe Gill and definitely illustrated by Sururi Gümen. According to his son, illustrator-filmmaker-actor Murad, «… it was Charlton – and David Cassidy comics – that sent my sister to college.»
A moody one from David Meets His No. 1 Fan!, the other story from David Cassidy no. 3 (May 1972, Charlton Comics), also scripted by Joe Gill and illustrated by Sururi Gümen.

A full set of Mr. Cassidy’s solo book (including no. 3) are generously and conveniently available gratis for your mourning purposes: https://movieandtelevisioncomics.wordpress.com/2015/07/06/david-cassidy/

– RG

Tentacle Tuesday: Educated Cephalopod Seeks Damsel in Distress

This is the slimiest, creepiest day of the week: Tentacle Tuesday. Hurrah, hurrah, all hail the Chthonians.

It would be a long post indeed if I tried making an exhaustive list of comics in which buxom females are being groped by grabby tentacles. Still, let’s make a (small) dent in this category. Here’s three candies with sweet fillings of adventure, fun, and sex.

Let’s start things slow (but entertaining) with this playful octopus from Virgil Partch‘s madcap pen.

Liberty Magazine, 1946. Frankly, I think she’s better off with tentacles than with the unshaven and blasé Mr. Smeech.

Next up, we have Brenda Buckler who seems to be rather enjoying her captivity. Tous les goûts sont dans la nature!

« It’d been a long time since anyone touched Brenda. As the dry, scaly tentacle encircled her body, it touched something deeper than flesh… »  Eerie no. 60 (September 1974), painted cover by Ken Kelly (a gallery of his paintings can be found here).

Plot spoiler: the tentacled monster is actually her husband! Ain’t nothing wrong with bestiality as long as it’s sanctioned by the holy institution of matrimony. Brenda is the protagonist of the cover story, “The Man Hunters”, written by Gerry Boudreau and illustrated by Wally Wood (with colours by Michele Brand). Don’t worry, though: there’s a happy ending in store for her (aside from the whole “watching your shipmates eaten alive by a giant monster” thing). Moral of the story, never underestimate the erotic potential of “filth-encrusted tentacles”.

A coloured (and quite colourful) version of “The Man Hunters” was reprinted in Warren’s Comix International no. 2 (1975), and you can read it here: http://diversionsofthegroovykind.blogspot.ca/2010/02/ec-in-ya-wood-and-crandall-in-color.html

The wrap-up for today is scanned from a comic series I just finished reading, The Rocketeer: Hollywood Horror by Roger Langridge as author and J. Bone as illustrator. It was published in 2012, and collected as a paperback and hardcover in 2013. Aside from the healthy helping of tentacles it serves its readers, this comic features some top-notch writing from Langridge and some nice art. I don’t pretend this stuff is deep, but it’s a pleasurable romp with pretty girls, evil scientists, and a goofy-but-lovable hero. Recommended for some fun reading (although I admit I spoiled it a bit by featuring two of the main action pages)…

I like a girl who can admit when she needs rescuin’.
Am I the only one that feels sorry for the monster, even if it *is* a robot?

Tentacularly yours,

~ ds

In Memory of Mike Sekowsky

Sekowsky, born on November 19, 1923 (it was a Monday), was another of those precocious, tireless, versatile pioneers of the comic book industry, such as Joe Kubert, Carmine Infantino and Alex Toth. He started out with Timely Comics in 1941.

I’ve always enjoyed his mature style most, as it became more eccentric and more distinctive, without sacrificing an iota of storytelling and compositional ability. We’ll come back to the topic with some examples in tow, but for the present, here’s a select gallery of his covers over the years. I stayed away from the more obvious choices… we hardly need to revisit his introduction of the Justice League of America (Brave and the Bold no. 28, March 1960), for instance.

I’m reminded of an old joke (usually) told about Beethoven: « A tourist is sightseeing in a European city. She comes upon the tomb of Beethoven, and begins reading the plaque, only to be distracted by a low scratching noise, as if something was rubbing against a piece of paper. She collars a passing native and asks what the scratching sound is. The person replies, ‘Oh, that is Beethoven. He’s decomposing. » This jazzy Mike Sekowsky / Mike Peppe (attributed) cover tableau sadly doesn’t turn up in any of the inside tales. Typical. This is lucky issue 13 of Standard/Better/Nedor Comics’ Adventures into Darkness (Dec. 1953.) And if you’re in the proper mood, the whole thing’s available for your reading pleasure right here.
« Sorry, old buzzard! Pick on someone your own size! » One of the last new supermen of the Golden Age, the absurdly well-endowed Captain Flash came along just before the Code did, in November 1954. Captain Flash’s adventures were published by tiny Sterling Comics, which released a handful of titles in 1954-55 then vanished. Bad timing. Captain Flash gained his mighty powers through accidental exposure to cobalt rays, if you must know. Thrill to his heroics right here: http://comicbookplus.com/?dlid=17682
« Blazes! And if I remember my Bat-lore, that’s the flying bat-cave he’s using to charge that bank! Hit the brakes, stoop-skull! » Bob Haney and Mike Sekowsky bring the wacky to this issue of The Brave & Bold no. 68 (Oct/Nov. 1966), with the saga of “Alias the Bat-Hulk“! Script by Haney, pencils by Sekowsky, cover inks by Joe Giella and story inks by Mike Esposito. Gotta love the cackling peanut/rogues’ gallery!
I’ve always had a soft spot for Gardner Fox and Sekowsky’s JLA, but no-one else’s, really. Especially late in their run, when things got increasingly bizarre. This is Justice League of America no. 61 (March 1968). Cover by Sekowsky and Jack Abel.
Ah, the always fun “screw you, hero!” cover theme. This is Green Lantern no. 66 (January, 1969), pencilled by Sekowsky and inked by Murphy Anderson, an unusual but effective combo. Within, «5708 A.D. — A Nice Year to Visit — But I Wouldn’t Want to Live Then!» is scripted by John Broome, pencilled by Sekowsky and inked by Joe Giella.
The final issue of the Atom as a solo book. He would team up with Hawkman for a few issues (with gorgeous Joe Kubert covers), but all in vain. The Atom no. 38‘s (Aug./Sept. 1968) « Sinister StopoverEarth! » is written by Frank Robbins, pencilled by Sekowsky and inked by George Roussos. Cover by Sekowsky and Jack Abel.
While newly-ensconced editorial director Carmine Infantino seemed to have boundless faith in Sekowsky in the late 1960s and early 1970s, pretty much every one of his creations and revamps turned out to be box office poison… but they were often bold, and certainly different. His take on Bob Kanigher and Ross Andru‘s Metal Men was odd, at times baffling, invigorating… and, at six issues, quite short-lived. This is Metal Men no. 38 (June-July 1969).
« Do we dare follow? Keep your distance now… don’t let it know you’re there! »
Nick Cardy crafted the majority of DC’s The Witching Hour’s gorgeous early covers, some of his finest work. But… *this* understated beauty was pencilled by Sekowsky and inked by Cardy. The picturesque results are set in the selfsame 1930s Universal Studios backlot Balkans of the mind so dear to several generations of monster-loving artists and kids. This is The Witching Hour no. 3 (June-July, 1969.)

– RG

Where everybody knows your name, like it or not.

« I’m usedta dealin’ with stiffs! I spotted the maggots crawlin’ outta yer mouth the minute you opened it! »

Just another Friday night happy hour at Ginger’s Joint, watering hole of Duke “Destroyer” Duck and his put-upon pal, the Little Guy.

Written by Steve Gerber, pencilled by Jack Kirby, inked by Alfredo Alcala, coloured by Steve Leialoha, lettered by Tom Orzechowski. An eye-popping feast!

The local fauna is gathered in this splash from Destroyer Duck no. 1 (Eclipse, 1982). In case you didn’t know, “the book was published as a way to help [Steve] Gerber raise funds for a lawsuit he was embroiled in at the time, in which he was battling industry giant Marvel Comics over the ownership of the character Howard the Duckwhich Gerber created for the company in 1973.” It was an alarming account of the (not-fictional-enough) Godcorp conglomerate’s incalculable greed, its unchecked power, and how « It’s Got the Whole World… in Its Hand! », which, as true as it was then, is discouragingly even truer now.

« You all right in there, Walt? … say, what happened to all my beer? »

– RG

Louie Reads Some Ghastly Comics

In the heart of every grown-up tyrannized, exploited, henpecked cringing little milksop lives an enthusiastic kid. (Or at least I hope so.)

Mild-spoken, well-mannered, and easily intimidated, Louie was created by British cartoonist Harry Hanan (who, it is told, rather resembled his creation). Louie was a perpetual victim of life’s vexations – bullied by a towering wife, mocked by colleagues, abused by neighbours, bitten by pets, let down by uncooperative furniture… Hanan described his character as “the anti-Superman”.

For once, poor Louie gets to have some fun. March 19th, 1972. Note the ever-so-slight smile on his face in the last panel… sweet.

However, Louie (and his creator) clearly had a sense of humour, if buried under layers of cowardice and mouse-like timidity. That’s what makes the strip so endearing, these occasional flashes of spirit and naughtiness. Hanan confessed to a having a « mischievous streak » in a 1952 interview with Erwin Knoll, admitting that « whenever he saw women with feathered hats he had to suppress the urge to snip the feathers off ».

This pantomime strip, syndicated by Chicago Tribune Syndicate, debuted in 1947 in The People (a London weekly tabloid). H.R. Wishengrad, head of Press Features, decided to export it to the United States and that’s how the strip crossed the ocean. Since it was silent and so needed no translation, it also appeared in more than 100 publications in 23 countries, including Turkey and Japan.

~ ds


On This Day: November 16, 1902

A cartoon appears in the Washington Post, prompting the Teddy Bear Craze, after President Teddy Roosevelt refused to kill a captive bear tied up for him to shoot during a hunting trip to Mississippi.

Boy, American presidents sure were different back in those days.

The history-making cartoon by Pulitzer Prize–winning cartoonist Clifford K. Berryman (1869-1949), who worked with the Washington Post from 1891-1907, then with the Washington Star from 1907-1949.

Which brings us to Teddy Bears (as they became known henceforth) returning the favour of protecting the vulnerable and innocent.

The earliest instance that comes to mind is Johnny Craig and “Ghastly” Graham Ingels’ holiday charmer, Shoe-Button Eyes!, which appeared in The Vault of Horror no. 35 (Feb.-Mar. 1954, EC), wherein a blind, put-upon little boy gets a new set of peepers… the hard way.

Post-Code, this sort of harsh poetic justice had to be handled very gingerly, if at all. The vengeful bear turned up again in Nicola Cuti and Jack Abel’s elegantly-told The Teddy Bear, in Haunted no. 15 (Nov. 1973, Charlton.)

Quoth the plush companion: « I was sent to you to protect you and I will! » Spoiler alert: the butler did it.

A couple of years down the pike, “Grisly”* Tom Sutton took up the gauntlet with his «Terrible Teddy!», from Ghost Manor no. 23 (May 1975, Charlton). Here it is, presented in its glorious entirety (including Sutton’s gnarly painted cover).



– RG

*perhaps more appropriately “Grizzly”, in this instance.