Tentacle Tuesday: Notes on Anatomy

« Their bodies are mainly soft and pliant, with one major exception. In the centre of their web of tentacles lies a hard, sharp and murderous beak that resembles that of a parrot, is a tool for killing and dismembering prey… » (source)

When the story begs for an octopus intervention, artists can go the more-or-less realistic route, or take complete liberties with an octopus’ anatomy. Today I won’t talk about assorted tentacled zoological marvels one finds in comics – insert your choice of description into “… with tentacles”: dinosaurs, sharks, gorillas, robots, old hags, worms, bartenders, and so on. Yes, I can support my claims (email me if you want evidence… or just look through previous editions of Tentacle Tuesday).

Anyway, let’s say you want to draw a somewhat believable octopus – giant, sure, and plenty scary, but somewhat true to life. There’s a problem: frightening brutes generally have some sort of gaping maw, a set of incisors (preferably dripping with some revolting stomach acid), something they can visibly threaten the hero with. The octopus’ mouth is hidden under all that undulating mass of tentacles, pretty much where one would expect a normal creature’s anus to be, and definitely not next to his eyes. For that reason, in most octopuses sightings in comics, their mouths aren’t visible at all. But some artists, well, they want to have their cake and eat it, too. Here is a gallery of octopus mouths – we’ll start off with naturalistic ones, and make out way into that’s not how any of this works territory. I won’t include anything with a lamprey mouth, however.

Here’s the only clean attempt: the beast has a beak, there are no teeth in it, and the eyes are on the other sides of the octopus, where they’re supposed to be. Walter Simonson, you win this one!

Sword-of_Sorcery5-Walter Simonson
Sword of Sorcery no. 5 (Nov-Dec 1973, DC), cover by Walter Simonson. Fafhrd, is that you?

In the next image, an attempt is made at something vaguely beak-like, but that dentition is definitely wrong. The octopus has some tiny teeth on its tongue which it uses to drill holes or scrape things out, and some razor-sharp hooks/teeth on its suckers, but nothing like normal teeth, which is why no octopus has ever needed dentures.

UnderseaAgent6-Gil-Kane-DoomsdayintheDepths
Doomsday In The Depths, scripted by Garder Fox and illustrated by Gil Kane, was published in Undersea Agent no. 6 (March 1967, Tower).

The other approach one could take is drawing something that looks like an especially irate parrot, but with tentacles. It is not entirely illogical, as the octopus’ mouth has been described as “similar to a parrot’s beak” by several people in the know.

KubertFrontPageA
Tentacles of Terror was published in Front Page Comic Book no. 1 (1945, Harvey). This page is drawn by Joe Kubert, at at least the signature attests to this – I admit I would have never guessed. There are much nicer Kubert tentacles over at Tentacle Tuesday Masters: Joe Kubert.

Batman recently had a whole Tentacle Tuesday to himself – here he is again, fighting a squid with very unsquid-like features. At first, he looks normal, but glance at the bottom of the left corner – how did he suddenly develop a beak where there was none to be seen several panels prior?

1562812791523-1
An excerpt from Four Birds of a Feather, Batman no. 11 (June-July 1942, DC), script by Bill Finger, pencils by Bob Kane (take that particular credit with a grain of salt), inks by Jerry Robinson, backgrounds and lettering by George Roussos.

Continuing the beak-and-parrot theme…

The Phoenix #279- The Weekly Story Comic
The Phoenix no. 279 (May 2017). Can anyone identify the cover artist?

A final note to this conversation about octopuses’ mouths – should you locate an octopus, please don’t put it on your face (or any other body parts).

∼ ds

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