« In YOUNG LOVE, how can people talk when they kiss? My mom can’t talk when she’s kissing. Can you? I am nine years old. » — Mary K, an astute young reader
It’s recently occurred to me that, in a year-and-a-half of posting, I’ve utterly neglected to feature one of my favourite artists, Nick Cardy (1920-2013); I suppose he’s been easy to take for granted, as he was DC’s main cover artist during most of Carmine Infantino‘s management years (1967-1976).
Much has been made, in various forums, of Cardy’s covers for Aquaman, the Superman titles, The Teen Titans, the Mystery books, and so on. I figured I’d have to dig a bit deeper. Cardy, ex aequo with the even more underappreciated Bob Oksner, was arguably DC’s primo portrayer of feminine pulchritude, and what I’d seen of his artwork for DC’s romance line was pretty stunning. It just turned out that there was far less of it than I had assumed.
DC’s romance books were sadly treated as the proverbial Siberia of the company’s roster. How else might one explain calling upon top illustrative talent, the likes of Jay Scott Pike, John Rosenberger, Ric Estrada, Werner Roth … then taking these fine men’s work and slathering it with wall-to-wall Vince Colletta… finishes. We’ll return to this topic, naturally. This time around, we’ll showcase the sentimental side of Mr. Cardy. He seems to have produced fewer than thirty covers for the romance line (not counting a handful of gothics he did), of which I’ve retained an even dozen. I’m reserving a handful for an eventual thematic post, plus one that Colletta “fixed” (in the criminal, rather than useful, sense.)
There’s some sort of Conan-mania around these parts. I’ve never understood the fascination with the Barbarian Hero (associated terms, in case you go barbarian-spotting: loin cloths or Pelts of the Barbarian, taut rippling muscles, oiled back, impressive weapons, the beard of a grizzly bear – or inexplicably clean-shaven at all times – and glorious manly manes), but clearly others go for sword-and-sorcery stuff in a big way. Conan sure puts the ‘sword’ in… err… well, he puts the sword into *everything*, slashing, hacking and dismembering his way through tedious comic after tedious comic.
He also runs into tentacled monsters, like, every 5 seconds. It seems that whatever tentacles existed in the Hyborian Age, they all made a point of appearing in concentrated clusters in whatever geographical area Conan was passing through. I understand, it’s difficult to come up with a decent monster for an Epic Fight Scene every month. Tentacles were clearly Plan B for days when nothing more exciting came to mind.
I’ve actually skipped some Tentacle Tuesday-relevant covers of this Conan the Barbarian series (275 issues published between October 1970 and December 1993) because they were just too ugly… or too boring. Can you imagine a cover with tentacles on it that’s boring?! Well, I can, now.
In the mood for more Conan? Visit another Tentacle Tuesday entry, the Savagery of Conan’s Savage Sword, for a gallery of painted Conan covers, replete with mostly nude cuties and of course a great heaping helping of tentacles.
*because it’s a direct sales edition, as opposed to a newsstand edition, which would bear a barcode.
« Won’t you have a little rest when they turn out the lights A nice cup of tea and you’ll be feeling alright Don’t fret, you’ll recover yet you’ll see So keep on sending dirty postcards back to me Back to me, back to me » — James Warren/The Korgis (1980)
London-born Donald McGill (Donald Fraser Gould McGill, to be more precise, 1875-1962), was known for his risqué seaside postcards, sold mostly in souvenir shops in British coastal towns.
He painted the usual figures of fun in the noble tradition of British titillating humour: attractive young ladies, obese men, respectable drunks in the throes of a midlife crisis, cantankerous old ladies, religious personnel, courting couples (a lot of courting couples!), and so on. He painted well, he was prodigiously prolific… and he was not afraid of making jokes so off-colour they could possibly make a sailor blush. (I only have a vague idea of what sailors were like back then, you see.)
McGill ranked his own work according to its vulgarity, classifying it into “mild, medium and strong”. It goes without saying that the “strong” category sold in far greater numbers! Unfortunately (but not surprisingly), McGill’s postcards got him into trouble with upholders of the Moral Good (spoilsports!), culminating with McGill being dragged into court in 1954, when he was almost 80, for breaking the Obscene Publications Act of 1857. The result of this hearing was a hefty fine for McGill, and disaster for the companies producing saucy postcards, with several smaller companies going bankrupt as sales plummeted, cards were destroyed and retailers cancelled orders.
McGill very much died in the saddle: he continued to work until his death in 1962 (and with cartoons for 1963 already prepared). He certainly recycled some jokes, but I think it’s safe to say that he was not about to run out of material. The “king of the saucy postcard” is estimated to have produced around 12 thousand (!) paintings during his career, resulting in the sale of around 200 million postcards… and no royalties for McGill, mind, just his earnings of three guineas per design.
These days, he’s credited with an astute power of social observation and impressive artistic skill. He’s worthy of that praise, but what touches me most is that McGill gave people who surely needed some cheer in their lives a reason to smile, giggle and perhaps even daydream. Hell, some of these postcards made *me* daydream.
Okay, enough theoretical discussion! On to the indecency. I’ve roughly sorted these out by degree of (increasing) “vulgarity”. I honestly didn’t think the jokes would go beyond the “not indecent, but suggestive as hell” category, as per a definition my college best friend coined for something else altogether, yet some of them make surprisingly direct references. Isn’t it lovely to know that our great-grandmothers had their minds in the gutter, too?
You can also take a gander at some sketches, which were unearthed in someone’s attic in 2015. As the article explains, « drawings feature fat old ladies, big busted women and lusty men. » While you’re at it, brush up on your Brit slang for the bedroom (entirely unnecessary for the current post, but fun!)
« There’s no room for professional jealousy around the graveyard, chums… life is too short, as they say… but what comes after that short life may stretch into all eternity! »
I could carry on endlessly (or so it would seem) on any number of obscure topics, but it’s healthy, every once in a while, to take a deep breath, empty one’s mind of its flotsam and jetsam, and reach for an old favourite.
I hadn’t yet written anything about Steve Ditko‘s passing, as I figured it would get lost in the mad shuffle of tributes. That base was well-covered. Still, while I’d known all along the day would come, it was hard to imagine a world without that reclusive genius, likely my very first artistic inspiration.
I didn’t see much of Ditko’s 60s Marvel work until the late 70s pocket book reprints (the period equivalent of watching a movie on one’s cellphone), but the Charlton ghost books grabbed me at a tender age. And so…
As my candidate for Steve Ditko’s finest cover run, at any company, I submit issues 22-27 and 29-30 (curse you for the interruption, Joe Staton!), from January 1972 to March 1973, final year of Ditko’s peak period, imho.
That just about wraps it up. For further reading on the topic, I recommend you check out Ben Herman’s perspective on some of these very stories, and on Ditko’s spooky Charlton work of the 70s in general.
« Blackhawk is helpless! He’s being drawn up by that suction tentacle! »
When my co-admin learned that today’s Tentacle Tuesday is all about Blackhawk, he wanted the answer to an important question. Did I know who created the character? I did not. As some of our readers may be in the same boat, I’ll share what I gleaned.
Blackhawk, the leader of the Blackhawk Squadron, was supposed to have been created by Charles Nicholas ‘Chuck’ Cuidera with assistance from Bob Powell and Will Eisner. Why “supposed”? As with a lot of series that came into existence some 80 years ago (the first appearance of the Blackhawks Squadron was in a Quality Comics issue published from 1941! Holy crap!), and human memory and human’s desire for recognition being what they are, there’s a lot of squabbling about who actually did what.
« Will Eisner has at times been considered the characters’ primary creator, with Eisner himself acknowledging the contributions of Chuck Cuidera and writer Bob Powell. Over the years, Cuidera became increasingly vocal that he did much more work on Blackhawk than Eisner and that he had in fact already started creating the characters prior to joining Eisner’s studio. According to Cuidera, he and Powell fleshed out the concept, deciding on everything from names and nationalities, to the characters’ distinguishing traits, uniforms, and the aircraft they would fly. » |source|
In 1999, Eisner addressed his view of the matter during a Comic-Con panel:
« It’s not important who created it… it’s the guy who kept it going, and made something out if it that’s more important. Whether or not Chuck Cuidera created or thought of Blackhawk to begin with is unimportant. The fact that Chuck Cuidera made Blackhawk what it was is the important thing, and therefore, he should get the credit. »
To me, that sounds like yet another confirmation that Eisner was a really classy guy. At any rate, all we can say with certainty is that Eisner worked on early Blackhawk covers with Cuidera.
Oh, right, we’re here for the tentacles. The Blackhawks have fought a variety of bizarre war machines in their time (and by “bizarre”, I mostly mean preposterous). You can read quite a lot of the DC-published issues (up until no. 273) here, though I’d only recommend it for those of you who don’t mind *really* suspending disbelief while reading a story. If you’re one of those fuddy-duddies who actually insist on plots that make sense, move along!
On a more positive note, the art is usually quite nice. (However, there’s also usually *a lot* of dialogue – peppered with French and German exclamations, as The Blackhawks are an international crew – obscuring the nice art.) The full team consists of the following braves: Blackhawk (American), Olaf Friedriksen (Danish), André (French), Chuck Wilson (American), Hans Hendrickson (Dutch), Stanislaus (Polish), and Chop-Chop (Chinese… seriously, guys? You couldn’t come up with a better name for him?) Oh, and I should probably also explain that events unfold during WWII, and that the Blackhawks are fighting on the Allies’ side (well, obviously).
One of the rare cases where tentacles are promised *and* delivered inside:
I have to admit that while looking up stuff for this post, I grew rather fond of the Blackhawks. It’s fun to follow their adventures in completely improbable situations, to eagerly anticipate the introduction of yet another asinine machine hellbent on destruction. I also enjoyed the international flavour of the team – and Chop Chop, despite his ridiculous name, isn’t treated differently from his teammates.
Y’know what the Blackhawks look like these days?
It’s important to update the image of old heroes so that new audiences can relate. Now let’s go rinse our eyes out with acid.
Signing off before I melt into a big puddle – this post comes to you courtesy of RG’s help cleaning up the images, and of my heavy cold which made me unusually verbose 😉
« Be silent in that solitude which is not loneliness — for then the spirits of the dead who stood in life before thee are again in death around thee — and their will shall then overshadow thee: be still. »
— Edgar Allan Poe (1829)
It was on this day, two hundred and ten years ago, that the great writer, poet and posthumous master of all media Edgar Poe (Jan. 19, 1809 – Oct. 7, 1849) was born in Boston, Massachusetts. I’ll spare you the usual biographical details, widely available elsewhere, and we’ll concentrate on his unflagging ubiquity in the medium of comics.
Classics Illustrated publisher Gilberton was first out of the gate with Poe adaptations, at first tentatively with a pair of poems (Annabel Lee, then The Bells)**, then more substantially with The Murders in the Rue Morgue, in Classic Comicsno. 21 – 3 Famous Mysteries (July, 1944), sharing the stage with Arthur Conan Doyle and Guy de Maupassant. Read it here. Pictured below is Classics Illustratedno. 84 (June 1951, Gilberton), cover by Alex A. Blum. Read the issue here.
The world of tentacles is colourful and varied – and very much multi-lingual. For those of our readers who have no access to comics in French (or any idea where to start looking for them), we present this gallery of Gallic comics. For an earlier peek into ze tentacules, visit part I – Tentacle Tuesday: The Franco-Belgian Edition. In case you’re wondering what the heck are Franco-Belgian comics, An Introduction to Franco-Belgian Comics gives a good overview.
Sans plus tarder…
Caza draws tentacles often and with pleasure. You can keep your Moebius.
Going into slightly less obscure waters, we have a page from Joann Sfar‘s « Petit vampire» series, its 7 volumes published between 1999 and 2005. I deem it somewhat less obscure because part of it has actually been published in English, and that’s how success is measured these days, right? Only the first 3 volumes of Little Vampire have been translated, but that’s better than nothing. In France, Petit vampire is pretty popular, so much so that it has been made into an animated series.
The following page hails from Volume 4: Petit vampire et la maison qui avait l’air normale, or Little Vampire and the House That Seemed Normal, published by Delcourt in 2002.
Speaking of Sfar, I’ll mosey along to the Donjon series (Dungeon in English), created by Sfar and Lewis Trondheim. The latter is another not-to-be-missed artist on the Franco-Belgian comics scene, at the very least because he’s one of the founders of L’Association. To explain:
« L’Association is a French publishing house which publishes comic books. It was founded in May 1990 by Jean-Christophe Menu, Lewis Trondheim, David B., Mattt Konture, Patrice Killoffer, Stanislas, and Mokeït. L’Association is one of the most important publishers to come out of the new wave of Franco-Belgian comics in the 1990s, and remains highly regarded, having won numerous awards at the Angoulême International Comics Festival. They were among the first to publish authors such as Joann Sfar and Marjane Satrapi, and also are known for publishing French translations of the work of North American cartoonists like Julie Doucet and Jim Woodring. »|source|
Excerpt from Donjon Zénith: Cœur de canard (Delcourt, 1998), written by Sfar and Lewis Trondheim and illustrated by Trondheim.
I only stumbled upon Donjon, a sort of tongue-in-cheek parody of role-playing games, recently. It has a sprawling structure consisting of 5 sub-divisions into stories tied by a common theme – originally the authors were aiming to release 300 volumes (with the help of many contributing artists floating around L’Association), with 36 volumes published so far. It’s more than a handful for someone who’s just starting to read the stuff… but the world is compelling, with a rich array of appealing (if flawed) characters and a complex mythology. It may technically be a parody, but the stories are poignant and imaginative, the language is delightfully playful. Some of the themes are surprisingly dark… this is far from being another dumb Dungeons and Dragons spoof.
Page from Donjon Zénith: Coeur de canard (Delcourt, 1998), written by Sfar and Lewis Trondheim and illustrated by Trondheim. This volume is full to the gills with tentacles, thanks to the Cthulhian overlords (in pointy red hats) who want to take over the Dungeon.
« I am Octo! The chicken-octopus ninja!!»
Our last entry is from Valérian and Laureline, the stunningly influential French comics series created by writer Pierre Christin and artist Jean-Claude Mézières that director Luc Besson besmirched, besmeared and befouled. It can also be noted that a variety of movies “borrowed” from V & L’s rich science-fiction lore, most notably the Star Wars franchise. Should I be happy that more people now know about this series now that a shitty movie “based” on it came out? Nope, sorry. Besson claims to have fallen in love with Valérian et Laureline when he was 8 years old, but with Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets he demonstrated quite thoroughly that he doesn’t understand the characters in the slightest and is only capable of seeing science-fiction through the lens of chintzy special effects designed to wow idiots.
To which I’ll add that Valérian kind of transcends the science-fiction genre – or perhaps I should say that it’s science-fiction as it was originally meant to be, as an exploration of the possibilities of external and internal worlds. (Technologically upgraded cowboys shooting each other with laser guns in primitive, shallow battles between good and evil? We’ll leave that to crappy movie directors, thanks.) Its plots are elaborate (but they never defy their own internal logic), its characters complex but immensely likable.
In 2007, the series got renamed Valérian and Laureline for its 40th birthday, and I’m glad they renamed it, as Laureline is an integral part of both its appeal and its popularity. She’s every bit as intelligent and determined as her companion, and is certainly no maiden in distress, often sizing situations up quicker than Valérian and subsequently pointing him in the right direction.
« According to statistics, millions of Americans read millions of the most carefully written crime and crime detection stories in the world! Expertly told… and prepared, after exhaustive research — the best of these are, in effect, lessons in crime and criminal psychology!Yet could you, sitting in the trolley or bus or subway at night, pick out the killer sitting opposite you? » — The Killer (Dec. 8, 1946)
Welcome to the fourth entry in our chronicle of the variegated ambulations of the former Denny Colt. Begin if you will, as we did, with his time at Quality, then follow his path through Fiction House, then on to Harvey, Super and Kitchen Sink; at that point, you’ll be all caught up.
Okay, now that we’re all here, let’s pose and answer the next burning question: how did The Spirit come to make landfall at Warren Magazines? Thankfully, we’re spared the motions of idle speculation in this case, since Jim Warren himself revealed all in the course of an interview with Jon B. Cooke, published in The Warren Companion (2001):
JW: « I would have mortgaged everything I owned to publish Will Eisner — to be involved in anything Will Eisner was doing. I called Will and said, ‘Mr. Eisner, I’d like to take you out to lunch.‘
I knew Will was talking to Stan Lee about The Spirit and that DC was interested in his company, American Visuals. I also knew that Harvey Comics had done a couple of Spirit reprints and that they might be interested again. I had to move fast.
So I took him out to lunch, sat him down, and said, ‘There’s no possible way that I’m going to let the great Will Eisner escape. You are someone I have revered since 1940, when I saw the very first Spirit section in the Philadelphia Record with that splash page that changed my life. Do you think I’m going to let you go to Stan Lee, whom I ‘hate’ and ‘despise’ as a competitor? Do you think I’m going to lose you to that unrepentant sociopath? You’re just going to be a computer number to Marvel; they have a factory, where they cookie-cut comics, turning out 400* titles a month!’
And I saw the expression in Will’s face — he had his pipe in his mouth at the time, just like Commissioner Dolan — and I could see that I had him. »
Let’s have a look at some covers. Most of the sixteen (plus the colour Special) are terrific, but I skipped a few of the lesser ones: issue one is a not-quite successful Eisner-Basil Gogos painted collaboration, and issue two is just okay. Issue 11 is another Ken Kelly painting over Eisner pencils, and 12 to 16 are composites using inside panels. Fine, but facultative. And now, on to the gems!
In closing, this final, telling exchange from the Jim Warren interview:
Jon Cooke: Do you recall dealing with Denis Kitchen about The Spirit? Jim Warren:Will had given his word — and his word is his bond — for Denis to reprint The Spirit (this was before Will and I negotiated a deal). Denis had spent money on preparing the reprints. Will said to me, « It would be a nice gesture if you would reimburse Denis, who is a good guy, for the material he’s already prepared. » I think Will looked on me kindly when I said « Absolutely. » (What Will doesn’t know if that if he had asked for me to give Denis a Rolls-Royce, I would have driven it to Wisconsin myself!)
*an exaggeration, of course, but a pointed one. At the time, Marvel *was* doing its worst to flood the market in order to starve its competitors.
« Savage plants, monster mutations, human vultures… »
George Wilson (1921-1999), prolific cover illustrator for Dell Comics and Gold Key from the 1950s through to the 1970s, is such a ubiquitous figure for anyone interested in comics of that era that it’s almost like he’s taken for granted by comic aficionados. “Oh, yes, another gorgeous George cover”, we say and move on to something else. Let’s not, shall we? We can admire his trademark bright colours, eye-popping attention to detail and impeccable compositions *and* celebrate Tentacle Tuesday. And there’s all kinds of tentacles in these covers – organic or motorized, animal, mineral, or… plant-like. (I refuse to use “vegetable” as an adjective.)
Mighty Samson was created by writer Otto Binder and artist Frank Thorne, and involved a heroic barbarian-type sword-and-sandaler loitering around a dystopian, post-nuclear disaster world that has reverted to something resembling the Stone Age. One thing that amused me – not only is our dashing hero blond, but so is his love interest (apparently recessive traits help survive radioactivity). The evil temptress-cum-scientist is a dark-haired femme fatale, obviously. You can read each and every issue of Mighty Samson here.
Doctor Solar, created by writer Paul S. Newman and editor Matt Murphy, was fairly humble at first, despite his somewhat ponderous moniker. (« The Man of the Atom »!) Originally clad in a normal lab-coat, he acquired his red costume in issue #5. The source of his super-powers? A nuclear disaster, of course. It’s difficult to be impressed by that when everyone and their auntie is getting exposed to radioactivity. I try to keep in mind that Doctor Solar was one of newly-formed Gold Key’s first publications, and in 1962, a nuclear war seemed imminent whatever side of the continent you were on… but I’m still bored. There’s a list of Atomic Superheroes with 27 items in it here, but it only includes public domain characters.
All of Gold Key’s Doctor Solar run is available here. How much time do you have on your hands, anyway?
This two-issues “series” features « adventures based on the cartoon about the Combined Miniature Defense Force (CMDF) with Jonathan Kidd, Erika Lane, Dr. Guru, and Busby Birdwell. » Clearly, nobody cared about the comic. Maybe someone cared about the animated TV series the comic was based on.
Speaking of boring… I haven’t yet encountered *one* issue of Ripley’s Believe It or Not! that wouldn’t cause me to yawn or start rolling my eyes. However, painted covers are often worth dwelling on, and the inside art is also occasionally quite nice (especially when it’s by Luis Dominguez).
There’s an excellent (and suitably sarky) review of this one issue of Microbots on Gone & Forgotten. Here’s a little taste: « Superstitious, parochial, and frequently eaten alive by mutated elephants, the people of the future world have turned their backs on technology. » Bet you’ve never seen *that* sentence before. Or — « The Microbots are the creation of Dr. Norman Micron (of the Connecticut Microns, I presume), a scientist living in the dire times of a world succumbing to man’s pollution. ‘Mankind had ample warning that he was destroying the world around him’ he muses, standing by a window with a highly-desirable garbage view. »
The crew of the Starship Enterprise keeps running into tentacles, it seems. (Presumably, they couldn’t do it as convincingly on the TV show, as the visual effects weren’t quite up to snuff.)
Gail O’Brien shared this snippet on a forum about Wilson’s art, sadly a fairly typical story: « You might be interested to know that George’s widow (a friend of mine) has had no income from his paintings as they “disappeared” from his estate at his death while they were separated. She is presently living on small retirement from teaching. I’ve tried to influence her to seek legal advice to acquire her share of George’s sales, but she feels it is impossible… hope there is a lawyer who enjoys George’s work, who would want to go on a 50/50 basis to acquire what is rightfully belonging to my friend. » |source|
Look at more (less tentacle-centric) George Wilson art here.