Tentacle Tuesday: Rahan to the Rescue

« Rahan n’a plus peur de la nuit, ni du feu, ni du tonnerre du ciel, ni des fleuves sans fin… »

(Rahan no longer fears the night, nor fire, nor the sky’s thunder, nor endless rivers…)

Even non-European readers will probably have some familiarity with handsome troglodyte Rahan, one of the heroes of the Franco-Belgian bande dessinée.

In 1969, Rahan made, to general acclaim, his début in the inaugural issue of Pif Gadget: apparently his escapades appealed to both male and female audiences. The series was created by writer Roger Lécureux and artist André Chéret, both seasoned comic pros by then. His adventures spanned years upon years of publication and spawned legions of rabid fans. To give you an idea of what “many years” implies, the last album – with new material! – came out in 2012; the collected series, which gathers material between 1969 and 1999 (30 years of the Lécureux – Chéret team), took up 26 handsomely-printed hard-cover volumes.

The following sequence is from La flèche blanche, originally published in Pif Gadget no. 90 (Nov. 1970), and reprinted in colour in Rahan no. 7 (Oct. 1973).





I first encountered Rahan on his home turf, which is to say in some old issues of Pif Gadget. I am not a big fan of the prehistoric genre, as it demands a more momentous suspension of disbelief on my part than I can provide. (The endless parade of clean-shaven blonde hunks accompanied by female nubile savages is a little too much for me.) Besides, Pif Gadget offered far more fascinating strips to focus on, so I happily skipped over the adventures of Rahan, just as I would gleefully ignore Les pionniers de l’espérance (same writer as Rahan) or the boringly handsome Docteur Justice (not the Marvel one).

However, I have to (grudgingly) avow that Rahan doubtlessly had great things going for it. Its strengths are also what seems to provoke some modern readers into dismissing Rahan with a patronizing hand-wave: aligning itself with the communist nature of Pif Gadget, Rahan espoused such values as justice and equality. He was also an immensely curious young man with a scientific mindset, which led him to discovering/creating useful tools, helped him to solve problems and shielded him from the superstitious nonsense others believed. One doesn’t often run into a caveman whose leitmotif is Humanism.

I did not grow up with Rahan, having only come to Pif Gadget in the last ten years or so (through the influence of co-admin RG), but these values are well known to me from growing up on Soviet science-fiction (Russian has a nicer word, fantastika, which is much more encompassing and also includes any forays into fantasy, prehistoric or otherwise). That, too, often gets thrown under the train of « childish, naive and simplistic », the holy trinity of a jaded cynic that’s currently en vogue as a role-model.

This seems especially unfair given that the series did not shield its mostly young readers from some harsh truths about life. Death and violence accompanied our hero wherever he went, and a lot of characters he encountered were, frankly, colossal assholes, as disinterested in fairness or egalitarianism as some modern poo-pooing readers. Not to mention Rahan’s curse of solitude – orphaned twice, he is never really accepted by the tribes he bumps into during his travels. He’s either rejected as an intruder… or venerated as a sort of a god, once he creatively extricates himself (and frequently the tribe) from some predicament. Oh, and this being a French comic, there are also bare-breasted women like it’s no big deal (and even some breast-feeding).

Original cover art from Rahan – L’intégrale Tome 16 (2019, Soleil).

Today’s post is dedicated to André Chéret, who died less than a month ago, on March 5th. He was 82.

A self-portrait of the artist, which originally saw print in Pif Gadget no. 81 (Sept. 1970).

You can read some Rahan stories here.

∼ ds

Robert Gring’s Wits-Sharpening Fun

« We do not stop playing because we grow old. We grow old because we stop playing. » — G. Stanley Hall

Despite the ubiquity of his work over several decades, very little is known of Robert Gring, at least online. Ah, but thankfully, ‘one reads books‘… and so I turned to Richard Medioni‘s indispensable ouvrage on the history of Mon camarade, Vaillant and Pif Gadget, L’histoire complète 1901-1994. About Mr. Gring (likely born in 1922 and died in 1995), we discover that he was for several years a press illustrator for centrist daily newspaper France-Soir, that he spent some time in a work camp during WW2, that, post-war, his work appeared in L’Almanach Vermot, Paris Match, Télé 7 Jours, La vie parisienne… and so forth.

That he was a reserved, bashful man who treasured his work above all else. And most admirably, that he was a man of great personal integrity and principles, as evidenced by the following anecdote, recounted by Mr. Medioni: « In parallel to his intensive work with (Pif-Vaillant), he occasionally works for Le journal de Mickey, but it ends on a sour note! In 1980, it is gently brought to his notice that his collaboration to a periodical associated with the French communist party is incompatible with his presence within the pages of Mickey. He must choose! Gring, who does not appreciate this type of pressure and has lofty ideas of honour, does not dither the slightest bit: he opts for fidelity. » I’m strongly reminded of Howard Prince’s valiant words to the House Un-American Activities Committee in The Front (1976).

Francs-Jeux was a long-lived kids’ magazine published from 1946 to 1979… 777 issues!), and Gring provided a number of its covers and several interior illustrations and strips. This is Francs-Jeux no. 390 (Sept. 15, 1962). See: even then, you had a couple of kids in black hoodies skulking to class.
This is Francs-Jeux no. 393 (Nov. 1st, 1962). The title feature, Le coucou qui ne voulait plus dire ‘coucou’ is the touching tale of a clock birdie who decides to make a dash for freedom, only to discover that life on the outside is intolerably uncertain and perilous. This is a France straight out of Jacques Tati‘s Mon oncle.
Another Gring specialty: Le jeu des bulles, wherein errant word balloons must be restored to their proper speaker. If you must know: 1-g, 2-j, 3-a, 4-f, 5-i, 6-d, 7-b, 8-e, 9-k, 10-c, 11-h; Published in Pif gadget no. 33 (Oct. 1969, Vaillant). Plots from the fables of Jean de la Fontaine, script by Roger Dal.
Gring could always be counted on to compose and depict complex but lucid crowd settings, and this is a fine example. It’s also a 5-in-1 game: 1) Find the five anomalies; 2) Find the hidden umbrella; 3) Spot the five differences between the nearly-identical Durant Père and Durant Fils boutiques; 4) Four objects appear three times apiece. Find them; and 5) To whom does the stopwatch on the pavement belong? Published in Pif gadget no. 71 (June 1970, Vaillant); game conceived by Odette-Aimée Grandjean.
No customers! « The café is deserted and the barman leans forlornly on his bar counter. This is abnormal, of course, but certains things are even more abnormal. » During our current state of all-around home confinement, it seemed sadly à propos. From Pif gadget no 143 (Nov. 1971, Vaillant).
From Pif gadget no. 185 (Sept. 1972, Vaillant). You wouldn’t see this sort of thing in an American kids’ publication, that’s for certain. The object of the game: find the anomalies.
« But he would attain fame in most unexpected fashion. In order to enliven the austere pages of the Méthode Assimil, he is called upon to illustrate a variety of idioms for the manuals. Not only does his drawing prove itself effective for the learning of English, German or Spanish, but it makes these volumes funny and user-friendly. » This undated gouache illustration Gring created for Assimil is scanned from the original, a prized part of my collection.

Here, then, are some excerpts from a couple of Assimil guides from my shelves:

1) « No smoking is allowed in here. » 2) « Personally, I’m really not hungry at all. » 3) « I love him, he loves me, and that’s what matters most. » 4) « All streets are exactly alike in these parts. » 5) « We’d always rather be where we’re not. » — from Le russe sans peine (1971, Assimil) and 6) « We’re headed to Dubrovnik by way of Zagreb. » — from Le serbo-croate sans peine (1972, Assimil). Thanks to Darko Macan for confirming that last translation!


Gring was also a regular contributor to Ludo, Le journal des amateurs d’énigmes. If you can read this, here’s the solution, which I’m afraid requires prior knowledge of Paris in the 1970s: « Pendant sa crise, le bonhomme a sans doute marché jusqu’aux studios de Boulogne. La scène qu’il a surprise se déroulait dans les décors de cinéma. » Incidentally, a quality hardbound collection of this material was published in 2013 by Les Éditions Taupinambour. under the title of Les énigmes de Snark & autres mystères.
In the 1960s, Gring illustrated a popular series of keychains for Norman dairy company Virlux, featuring the signs of the Zodiac. I’m still missing Taurus, Aquarius, and Cancer (thanks, Matt!) as you can see.
A rare photograph of Monsieur Gring (left), and one of his writing partner, Roger ‘Dal’ Dalméras, date unknown.



Tentacle Tuesday: Sailing Through Space on a Synthi-Biscuit*

« Take ’em from behind — best way to kill those slimy aliens! »

This Tentacle Tuesday takes us on a little trip to beautiful ol’ Albion, the land of Tharg the Mighty and « Harlem Heroes, an all-black sports team who played a futuristic airborne blend of basketball and football, obviously inspired by the movie Rollerball; Mach-1, a Six Million Dollar Man-style bionic hero; a revamped version of classic British stiff-upper-lip space hero Dan Dare; Flesh, in which time-travelling cowboys hunted dinosaurs to feed an overpopulated future society; and Invasion!, about the occupation of Britain by warlike Volgans from somewhere to the east, which played nicely into the growing fears of conflict with the Soviet Union. » (source: 40 years of 2000AD: looking back on the future of comic books) This may not sound like the Britain we know and love, but frankly it might be an improvement on today’s version of it.

The aforementioned Dan Dare got a Tentacle Tuesday all to himself, and I’ve used a couple of 2000 AD covers before, but these five are new to Who’s Out There (I don’t recycle material, other than in cases of dire emergency) – and watch out for the bonus inside story!


2000 AD prog no. 24 (August 1977), cover by Kevin O’Neill.
2000 AD programme no. 36 (October 1977), cover by Lopez.
2000 AD prog no. 255 (March 1982), cover by Ian Gibson.
Judge Dredd has quite a hard time getting rid of overly clingy admirers…  2000 AD programme no. 310 (April 1983), cover drawn by Mike McMahon.
2000 AD prog no. 1814 (January 2013), cover by Simon Davis. Retief, is that you? Click here to find more about what this cover is an homage to and what the original art looked like.

The following is from the story Food for Thought, scripted by Steve Moore and illustrated by Horacio Lalia, originally published in 2000 AD prog no. 26 (August 1977).



£ ds

* « You creeps must think I sailed through space on a synthi-biscuit! » (Judge Dredd in The Judge Child, Part 22 – Blind Hate!, printed in 2000 AD prog no. 177, September 1980.)

Quarantine Follies: Kashdan and Alcala’s “Freak Accident” (1975)

« Once you’ve lived the inside-out world of espionage, you never shed it. It’s a mentality, a double standard of existence. » — John le Carré (1931-)

Here I go again, featuring yet another 1970s Alfredo Alcala story. This time, Fate, writ large, has forced my hand, and it’s unofficially Contagion Week here on WOT?

I’ve always had a soft spot for writer-editor George Kashdan (1928 – 2006). While he wasn’t what you’d term an outstanding writer, he was the most consistent bright spot of DC’s mystery books in the late ’60 to early ’80s. As opposed to the other workhorses in the stable, one still found trace amounts of passion and personal quirks in his work. His recurring themes for simply more fun than his colleagues’: he loved Sinister gentlemen’s clubs, wild conspiracies, strange carnivals, pre-ordained, thematically-twisted deaths (think of those Final Destination movies)…

In a thoughtful obituary, Mark Evanier tells us: « In 1968, as part of a program of editorial restructuring, Kashdan was let go by DC. Several people who worked with him said it was because he was “too nice” and had occasionally clashed with management in arguing that freelancers should be paid and treated better. » Ah, another victim of the anti-union purge of ’68*.


This is The Unexpected no. 168 (Sept. 1975, DC Comics; edited by Murray Boltinoff), cover art by Luis Dominguez. Aside from the six hundred-pagers (issues 157 to 162), this seems to be the only time a multi-panel cover was used, and little wonder: it doesn’t really work, and would fare even worse with the intrusion (five issues away) of the dreaded bar code.

No-one comes off particularly well in this one, really: Croker the spy is an impenitent, petulant slime bucket right to the finish, and the military, for their part, have been conducting sloppy biochemical experiments… for purely defensive purposes, I’m sure.

While the Geneva Protocol has prohibited the use of such barbaric means of warfare since 1925, the US didn’t sign on until… 1975, just before the fall of Saigon, marking the end of the Vietnam War. Let’s not ever forget the US Armed Forces’ generous and indiscriminate dispersion of Napalm and Agent Orange upon troops and civilians during the course of that conflict.

Given the timing, perhaps that bit of news inspired Kashdan to pen this sour little parable.

The guard’s high moral stance, « No one has the right to endanger the whole human race! » may ring a bit hollow and ironic given the circumstances, but he’s still right.

On a smaller, but no less tragic scale, consider the real-life story of what happened when a fan broke quarantine to catch a public appearance of her idol, actress Gene Tierney.

One simply can’t afford to mess around when it comes to quarantines and contagion.


Incidentally, Alcala really seemed to have a yen for those flay-headed mutants of his. To wit, here’s the opening page of The Children of the Bomb, Part 5, from Planet of the Apes no. 10 (July 1975, Marvel), written by Doug Moench and illustrated by Alcala.



* « [In 1968] Fox had joined other comics writers like Otto Binder, John Broome, Arnold Drake, Bill Finger and Bob Haney, signing a petition to ask DC for more financial benefits, particularly regarding health insurance. Since the company regarded writers as expendable people they were all fired without mercy and replaced by more obedient newcomers. » [ source ]


Tentacle Tuesday: Dark Tendril of Contagion

« Morticoccus is overpoweringly large and sinister! In this new world he can live — only if he destroys all other life around him — kingdoms and empires would crumble to dust at his deadly touch! Morticoccus waits in his prison — he waits to get out — and breed!! »

I apologize, but according to co-admin RG (whose sense of humour is apparently more morbid than mine) this is Contagion Week on Who’s Out There? Well, I suppose tentacled microbes and germs are as good a topic as any right now…

Our first foray into germs is This Beachhead Earth, scripted by Roy Thomas, penciled by Neal Adams and inked by Tom Palmer, published in The Avengers no. 93 (November 1971). The Vision collapses, the Avengers send Ant-Man into his body to figure out what’s amiss. I made an earnest attempt at following the plot, but the bad dialogue made my head hurt. Did you know that the scream of an ant « is like the wailing of a forsaken child »?  The story includes gems like « frankly, my dear, I don’t give an hydroelectric dam» and « therein lies the only true superiority of the educated man — that he analyzes — dissects — probes — reconstructs ». Oh, the glorious mix of bad puns and pompous lines!



You can read this « paltry prologue to the most portentous Avengers saga of all! », the work of a fellow who’s just a little too fond of calembours and his thesaurus, here.

Continuing on a grand scale – this time, it’s the grandest scale there is! – we pay a visit to the aforementioned Morticoccus (sinister a’plenty, you shall surely agree), arguably the most fatal disease known to mankind, or at least the deadliest to spring from Jack Kirby‘s fertile mind (ouch) . As for me, I really like the giant, lethal bats.

Kamandi, The Last Boy on Earth no. 10 (October 1973). Killer Germ! is written and pencilled by Jack Kirby, and inked by Mike Royer, with whom co-admin RG has conducted an interview. 

Our third medical study is a little case of fungoid infection that even boasts a name. M’Nagalah had a rather complicated birth. Created by British horror writer Ramsey Campbell for his cycle of H.P. Lovecraft pastiches (to be more precise, the creature first appeared in the short story The Inhabitant in the Lake in 1964), it was soon adopted by DC Comics, after doubtlessly being bowled over by its puppy eyes while visiting a no-kill shelter of the Great Old Ones. It was first borrowed for Swamp Thing no. 8 (1974) and afterwards used as per the Russian idiom “a plug for every barrel“. Just look at this mess.

Challengers of the Unknown no. 82 (August-September 1977), scripted by Gerry Conway, pencilled by Michael Netzer, and inked by Joe Rubinstein, starts off with a just mild (if disgusting) contamination…


That fast progresses to the old “unspeakable, indescribable horror” (yawn).


Swamp Thing gets dragged in, and professor Mark Haley blooms prettily in the beginning of Challengers of the Unknown no. 82 (October-November 1977), also scripted by Gerry Conway, but this time pencilled by Keith Giffen and inked by John Celardo


It is soon explained that this is actually some Elder God trying, as usual, to take over the planet, blah blah blah.


Wishing everyone health and bon courage in these trying times, especially to our poor American friends who seem to be caught in the middle of the virus vortex… And a last strip to end on a more positive note:

Calvin & Hobbes strip from February 7, 1993. May our worst encounter with microbes be of the digestive variety!

Oh, all right, one more:

Page from The Incredible Shrinking Tightwad, published in Uncle Scrooge no. 359 (November 2006). Story by Don Rosa, of course!

∞ ds

A Hot Batch of Dan Gordon’s Cookies

« Take it easy, Shakespeare — TA-AKE it easy! Ya’ll dislocate an iambic, an’ THEN where’ll ya be? » — Cookie raises a fair point

It’s one of the field’s small, fortuitous victories that monumentally multi-faceted animator Dan Gordon (Superman, Popeye, The Flintstones, Huckleberry Hound…) happened to drift into comics from 1943 to the early ’50s, and his output from that period demonstrates he was having a ball as a solo performer, surely a break from the often frustrating assembly-line constraints of the animation world. While it certainly wasn’t the money that lured him to funny books (and his books *were* funny), this is no mere case of slumming or professional doldrums.

He mostly worked for Ben W. Sangor‘s American Comics Group (aka ACG), first on a profusion of ‘funny animals‘ features (Superkatt, Anthony the Rogue, Hubert Hound, Squirmy, Chickie, Scallawag Scottie, Huey Longears…) for such ACG anthologies as Giggle Comics and Ha-Ha Comics, but then…

« Gordon soon expanded his work with human characters when he created high school student Cookie O’ Toole. Marking his debut in the April 1945 issue of Topsy-Turvy Comics, Cookie received his own series of magazines the following year. Unlike the Archie comics that typified the teen humor genre in comics, Gordon’s Cookie stories possessed a strong vitality with a satirical edge. » [ source ]

Cookie’s introduction in the one-shot Topsy-Turvy no. 1 (Apr. 1945, R. B. Leffingwell and Co.) Read it here!

Gordon’s Cookie stories are full of vitality and knockabout visual effervescence. The very colloquial dialogue’s pretty titter-worthy also. And you know, you can read each and every issue of Cookie right here, thanks to the assiduous efforts of the kind folks at comicbookplus.com.

Today, however, I really wanted to salute Gordon’s Cookie cover art, which first drew my attention to his comics work. Here, then, is a gallery of my picks.

This is Cookie no. 4 (Dec. 1946-Jan. 1947, American Comics Group). Cover by Dan Gordon. The entertained birdie is a lovely touch.
I’ve always loved that joke, even if it makes very little sense. Here’s where I first encountered it, through Wesley Morse‘s 1962 version.
This is Cookie no. 5 (Feb.-Mar. 1947, American Comics Group). Cover by Dan Gordon. Incidentally, Cookie’s sweetheart is Angelpuss. With a name like that…
« Aw, ma! » This is Cookie no. 6 (Apr.-May 1947, American Comics Group). Cover by Dan Gordon.
This is Cookie no. 7 (June-July 1947, American Comics Group). Cover by Dan Gordon. « Well, I looked for support from the rest of my friends / For their vanishing trick they get ten out of ten. »
This is Cookie no. 8 (Aug.-Sept. 1947, American Comics Group). Cover by Dan Gordon.
This is Cookie no. 9 (Oct.-Nov. 1947, American Comics Group). Cover by Dan Gordon. Angelpuss is a singularly understanding lass, bless her heart.
This is Cookie no. 12 (Apr.-May 1948, American Comics Group). Cover by Dan Gordon. Design-wise, this one’s a particular standout. The totem gets a real workout!
This is Cookie no. 20 (Aug.-Sept. 1949, American Comics Group). Cover by Dan Gordon.

… and before you go, check out Gordon’s action-packed cover for Ha Ha Comics no. 66, which my partner ds featured one bright Tentacle Tuesday last year. « They say he can cook too! »


Tentacle Tuesday: Matchboxes and Woodblocks

Much like fish painstakingly climbed out of the water and became mammals aeons ago, humorous representations of life, artists’ flights of whimsical fancy or taut fight scenes from centuries gone by morphed, over time, into something that resembled more and more what everyone now recognizes as comics. Me, I like blurred lines, the point at which several trees become a forest. What fun is it to live in a world where everything is well-defined, sorted into tidy little piles? Today’s Tentacle Tuesday stretches this blog’s comics-bound raison d’être just a teensy-weeny little bit. But I believe that the kinetic energy hidden within the following illustrations, the jump-off-the-page personality of these octopuses makes them close cousins to their more modern counterparts who dwell in the seas of sequential panels and images.

Just mentally add a speech bubble or two, if you must!

First of all, I have three woodblock prints, all three from the Edo period (Edo being the old name for Tokyo). The latter term refers to the period between 1603 and 1868 in the history of Japan, and is of interest  because it was characterized, among other things, by a flourishing interest in culture, be it music, poetry, theatre, or, more relevantly to the current post, art. That famous woodblock print, the Dream of the Fisherman’s Wife, which I have no need to include because of its ubiquity, was not the first painting featuring a woman in the embrace of an octopus. Yet it’s probably the most influential one, precursor of the hentai now so entrenched in popular culture…. and it was created during the aforementioned Edo era by Katsushika Hokusai (who, incidentally, also brought into existence the ever-popular The Great Wave off Kanagawa, ensuring the relative immortality of his art.)

Collectively, the work crafted during the Edo era (not necessarily woodblock prints, although these seemed to predominate, but also paintings) is referred to as Ukiyo-e, which in Japanese vaguely means something like “images of a floating world”. Poetic as usual, the Japanese.

The fist woodblock print is entitled “Ryuko tako no asobi“, or The Fashionable Octopus Games. The British Museum (which seems to currently own this piece) describes it as « Octopuses re-enacting human amusements, such as the fight between Ushiwakamaru and Benkei on Gojo Bridge (top left) and sumo wrestling (bottom centre), dance, sword play, music, acrobatics, and other activities. » The artist is Utagawa Kuniyoshi.

Utagawa Kuniyoshi-OctopusGames

The second one, a triptych, is called One Hundred Turns of the Rosary and belongs to the One Hundred Wildernesses series, which shows « a procession of demons who appear throughout the night, offering a spectacular visual encyclopedia of supernatural creatures of premodern Japanese folklore » (description from the website of The Metropolitan Museum of Art). The artist is Kawanabe Kyosai.

Kawanabe Kyosai-one-hundred-wildernesses

My favourite is the following woodblock print by Utagawa Kuniyoshi, who had a great fondness for cats and inserted them seemingly everywhere. Visit this gallery of his cat-themed art over at the Great Cat blog, from which I’ll quote a paragraph for those who aren’t inclined to follow links:

« Utagawa Kuniyoshi was a great cat lover, and it was said that his studio was full of them. Often he could be seen working with a kitten snuggled up in his kimono. An apprentice, Yoshimune, reported that when one of Kuniyoshi’s cats died, he would have it sent to a nearby temple, and a Buddhist altar for his deceased cats was erected in his home. There he kept tablets with the cats’ Buddhist names on the altar. Kuniyoshi’s love of his felines spilled over into his art. Cats fill many of his compositions and he even began to give Kabuki actors cat faces. Kuniyoshi’s Ume no haru gjusantsugi was performed in 1835. A cat has shape-shifted into an old woman while a cat wearing a napkin dances while a cat licks the lamp. The cloth on the cat’s head represents the folk belief that cats would steal napkins and would dance together and howl “Neko ja!” (We are cats!). Cats often times licked Japanese lamps of the period because they were fueled with fish oil. »


I’ll doubtlessly howl “Neko ja!” at the next available opportunity.

Moving on, we have two illustrations from Japanese matchboxes.

First, a Japanese matchbox from around 1920s-40s. This little guy comes from a collection posted by Jane McDevitt, who’s passionate about matchbox art. I also really enjoyed her Eastern European matchbox label collection, which you can admire here.


Of further interest on this topic is this comic strip by Roz Chast about her predilection for collecting matchbox art, published in the April 4, 2016 issue of New Yorker Magazine. As it turns out, Chast rejects the hassle of actually owning them, preferring to keep her collection as digital files. I suppose I am a collector, for I definitely prefer “owning” the physical version of things that interest me, but to each her own!

And another matchbox octopus from the 1950s:


And it’s « goodnight from me »!

– ds

Stan Mack and the Delicate Art of Eavesdropping

« There’s nothing like eavesdropping to show you that the world outside your head is different from the world inside your head. » — Thornton Wilder

I’ve always been drawn to the more observational areas of cartooning, and Stan Mack (b. May 13, 1936) surely counts among the preeminent practitioners of the form, thanks to his long-running strip (in the pages of The Village Voice for a couple of decades!), Stan Mack’s Real Life Funnies.

Therein was to be found the cartoonist’s bold pledge: « Guarantee: All Dialogue Reported Verbatim ». Oh, it might seem easy, but I’m quite convinced it was anything but.

In point of fact, here’s some insight on Mr. Mack’s modus operandi, from the horse’s mouth:

« Carry a little pad and pencil. Dress to blend in quietly. Get to the destination with enough time to case the joint. It helps to be not too tall, not too short, not too dark, not too handsome, not too ugly, not too old and not too young.

When I arrive, if I find that everybody knows each other, I make a quick exit and forget it. Otherwise, the system continues: smile and keep your ears open. Find the men’s room (always good for a line), find coffee and food, which is very helpful unless you are trying to take notes. Look for a few convenient corners in which to hide. Learn to walk backwards in order to get closer to groups. Learn to stand in the middle of a mob and like it. And, finally, learn to change direction suddenly in order to follow a good line floating by.

Appear preoccupied. If you are engaged in conversation, pay no attention to what you are saying. Say anything. Fake it. You can’t listen and think at the same time. Float through the event. Each has its own particular current. Professional wrestlers and East Side gallery-hoppers move at different speeds.

When I start to draw a strip, I sit with my deadline approaching and a pad full of quotes and doodles. I try to draw the kind of people who actually said the lines.

I don’t know why some comments seem important and others dull, but I know that it isn’t until I begin to edit that material that the story emerges. It’s often a surprise.

It’s the unexpected that makes it work. Therefore it helps to approach everything with an open mind and no preconceptions, whether it involves policemen or transsexuals or frisbee addicts. »

« I hear words I couldn’t make up. I think, ”that’s something I would never have thought of. I’ll just write it down.” I work out of other people’s heads. »

Stan Mack’s Real Life Funnies, The Divorce (March, 1977, The Village Voice).
Stan Mack’s Real Life Funnies, An Art Sale in Suburbia (April, 1977, The Village Voice).
Stan Mack’s Real Life Funnies, Sex Accessories (October, 1977, The Village Voice).
Stan Mack’s Outtakes, The Sting (Adweek, 1983)
Stan Mack’s Outtakes, What a Bummer (Adweek, 1983)

« So, what’s he done lately? », you may ask. Well, you will nowadays find him in the pages of The American Bystander, where the cream of America’s extant cartooning geniuses gather to keep warm. Rick Geary, R.O. Blechman, Sam Gross, Drew Friedman, P.S. Mueller, Tom Hachtman, M.K. Brown… and these are just some of *my* favourites. Do them (and yourself) a favour, check it out!

Stan Mack’s Chronicles, Up His Alley (The American Bystander no. 7, Winter 2017).

Astute Mack-o-philes (and I’ve every reason to believe that they are astute) might point out that I neglected to bring up the artist’s splendidly surreal early ’70s National Lampoon feature, Mule’s Diner; fear not, its time in the limelight will soon(ish) be at hand, so stay tuned.


Tentacle Tuesday: Slidin’ Down the Cinema Sewer

Due to unforeseen computer troubles (are those ever anticipated?), the program I was planning for today is postponed, as I don’t quite have access to the needed files. It’s Robin Bougie (Canadian “artist, writer, publisher and general sleaze visionary“) to the rescue! His film (maga)zine Cinema Sewer boasts a panoply of fun covers by a sturdy cadre of illustrators. To this I might add that this naughty publication doesn’t nearly receive all the lovin’ it deserves, so I’m all in favour of (well-earned) hype.

In case you’ve never heard of it, here’s a review by Richelle Charkot of a random issue (no. 28, if you should ask), which is representative of the whole series in general:

« Robin Bougie does it again with another enthralling and disgusting chapter in the Cinema Sewer series. This set of fascinating essays on cult films, genre films, vintage porn and their attendant subcultures is meticulously assembled as usual, with hand-written text and amazingly sultry illustrations largely written, drawn, laid out and published by Bougie himself. Cinema Sewer is so readable that it could potentially be quite easy to burn through, but thanks to Bougie’s wealth of dirty knowledge, there is plenty to *ahem* chew on, so you won’t destroy the issue too quickly. The zine covers everything from the life of pornographic photographer Johnny Castano (of which Bougie describes his work as “an artform”), to Lili Marlene, aka ‘The Forgotten Anal Princess’, with dozens and dozens of alt-cinema reviews to peruse through. As with its previous installments, Cinema Sewer is definitely an acquired taste, and many may be offended by Bougie’s tendency to be incredibly crass and fast and loose with colloquial genital terms that might unsettle some readers. But for those who are not weak of heart and possess a desire to learn, let this series be your quintessential guide to the underbelly of film. »

Cinema Sewer no. 16 (2005). Cover by Danny Hellman, who not only has a peculiar sense of humour (it’s a compliment, Danny!), but is also an excellent tour guide through the wilds of Brooklyn.
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Cinema Sewer no. 17 (2005), cover by Mike Hoffman. This scene raises far more questions than could possibly be answered.
Cinema Sewer no. 22 (2009), with a cover by Sean Donahue. Her expression seems to be saying “ah, come on, you guys…” There’s some mysterious link between roller skates and tentacles – just take a gander at John Pound’s cover for Commies from Mars no. 3.
Cinema Sewer no. 26 (2013), cover by Canadian comics artist James Stokoe. I find his work (and colours) to be a bit hit or miss, but I loved his (currently unfinished) Orc Stain and quite enjoyed Wonton Soup.
Cinema Sewer no. 31 (2018). Cover by William Skaar, who clearly entertains a certain fondness for both tentacles and big-chested girls (just take a peek at his website or his Kickstarter project). Well, don’t we all? 😉

– ds