It’s Fungus Friday!

Did you hear the joke about fungus? You won’t like it, but it will grow on you.

As promised – though you folks may by far prefer tentacles to mushrooms – I am delighted to present this post about mushrooms both real and imaginary.

First of all why mushrooms? Those who know me are aware of my passion for fungus – it’s a gastronomic interest, as both co-admin RG and I love to cook with them, and also a platonic one, an admiration for their beauty and adaptability. In terms of aliens-on-earth, fungus is surely up there with the extraterrestrial octopus. We are currently on vacation, so this is the perfect moment to both admire some of our finds, and rediscover mushrooms in comics.

Usually people react in one of two ways to mentions of gathering wild mushrooms – ‘but how do you know you won’t poison yourself?‘ or ‘magic mushrooms! yeah!‘ The first question is pertinent, although there’s no need to take that horrified tone, and the second reaction is more than slightly one-track-minded.

Just like in real life, comics fungi come in all shapes and sizes: from cute appearances in the background of a cartoony comic, to psychedelic manifestations of the underground, to horror stories peppered with a slice or two of the deadly toadstool, and everything in between! I’ve tried to go for maximum contrast in this post, and include a little bit of everything. Dive in, like we dove in yesterday into our hedgehog-and-honey-mushrooms-pasta yesterday 😉

Four Color no. 50 – Fairy Tale Parade (1944-1945, Dell). Cover by Walt Kelly. This is kind of an anonymous mushroom of indeterminate species.
A cartoon by Emile Mercier, Australian cartoonist who is best remembered for his work for the Sydney Sun between 1949 and 1968. This particular piece hails from the late ’50s.

Speaking of Mercier, I love this anecdote: « One day, Claude McKay, the editor-in-chief of Smith’s Weekly, took a dim view of an X Emile Mercier had drawn under the upwardly extended tail on a cat. After a few stern words about “dirty gimmicks in cartoons”, the grim-faced McKay instructed Mercier to get rid of the cross. This presented Mercier with a challenge. He was someone who used to say you “have to think funny as well as draw funny” and he was not keen to let McKay’s prudish approach to his cat go unchallenged. Mercier’s solution was to draw a miniature roller blind under the cat’s perpendicular tail. He was in no doubt the blind would draw more attention to the cat’s anus than the X had. Fortunately for him, McKay saw the funny side of the addition and let the cartoon run. Not a man to push his luck too far, Mercier drew all future cats without an X at the base of their tails. »

A page from Re di Picche no. 1 (AGIS, 1969), an Italian comics series created by Luciano Bottaro. Re di Picche means ‘king of spades’, and refers to the protagonist of this series (also the title of the magazine it was published in). Inspired by Alice in Wonderland? You bet! This mushroom appears to be some type of Amanita, a mostly deadly but handsome family of ‘shrooms.
The Plot to Destroy Earth, scripted by Dave Wood and illustrated by Jim Mooney, was published in Strange Adventures no. 183 (December 1965, DC). A man who refers to what is very obviously a mushroom as a ‘crazy-looking plant’ won’t impress anyone with his knowledge of nature… but this fungus-as-parachute interlude is entertaining.
Dr. Dean Cleanbean Deals with Drug Difficulties, scripted and illustrated by Monte Wolverton (Basil Wolverton‘s son!), was the back cover of Dope Comix no. 5 (January 1984). Here we have the very prototypical magic mushrooms, which comes as no surprise.
I promised horror, didn’t I? This is a page from Chapter One, scripted by Mike Mignola and illustrated by Guy Davis, and published in, B.P.R.D.: Plague of Frogs no. 1 (February 2011, Dark Horse).
A splash page from The Mushroom Fan Club by Elise Gravel (2018, Enfant – Drawn & Quarterly’s children’s imprint). I wholeheartedly agree with Gravel – mushrooms come in such a variety of shapes and sizes, that it’s crazy to even consider them as the same thing. Note the mischievous bolete (center, brown cap), probably the King Bolete, a.k.a. Penny Bun – it has a feeling of superiority, and we agree.
Some of our mushroom crop this week. In the usual clockwise order: Lactarius Deliciosus; various Leccinums (or Bolete); Armillaria gallica (Honey mushrooms) and Hydnums (Hedgehogs).

~ ds

One thought on “It’s Fungus Friday!

  1. nealumphred October 8, 2021 / 13:18

    Love Love LOVE the Kelly cover on FAIRY TALE PARADE #50.

    I also like the Mercier cartoon (which I have posted on Facebook with a link to your site) and the Gravel illustration.

    Two books you might consider reading as a mushroom fan: Terrence McKenna’s ARCHAIC REVIVAL has a fascinating theory tying the development of human consciousness to our ancestors leaving the forest for the savannah in search of new foods and tripping over magic mushrooms.

    Lew Shiner’s DESERTED CITIES OF THE HEART, a novel that takes place in contemporary Mexico, is essentially a political thriller and if I even hint at why you might enjoy this story it would be a HUGE spoiler.

    Liked by 1 person

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