Treasured Stories: “The People vs. Hendricks!” (1964)

« Programmed for love, she can be quite tender
Treat her unkind, nothing offends her
She vacuums the carpet and doesn’t complain
She’ll walk the dog in the pouring rain.
» — Was (Not Was), Robot Girl

Today, on the occasion of his birthday (this would be number 112), we celebrate the great writer and editor Leo Rosenbaum (1909-1974), Potentate of Pseudonyms. If you know of him at all, odds are it’s under his nom de plume of Richard E. Hughes, pioneering chief writer and editor of the American Comics Group (ACG, 1943-67), and then perhaps under one of the numerous colourful aliases he adopted to conceal the fact that he was doing most, if not all, the company’s writing. In alphabetical order, meet Pierre Alonzo, Ace Aquila, Brad Everson, Lafcadio Lee (a salute to the Irish-born writer of Japanese ghost stories of Kwaidan fame, perhaps?), Kermit Lundgren, Shane O’Shea, Greg Olivetti (probably inspired by the brand of his typewriter!), Kurato Osaki, Pierce Rand, Bob Standish and Zev Zimmer.

Early in my comics collecting days, I spent a lot of time consulting Robert Overstreet‘s The Comic Book Price Guide (a practice I’ve utterly abandoned) gleaning random bits of trivia and dreaming about potential acquisitions. One item that greatly piqued my interest was this note:

From the 12th edition of The Comic Book Price Guide (1982, Overstreet Publications).

Well, I did eventually get my hands on a copy, and I must say wasn’t disappointed. And since I was taught to share with the other kids, here’s the story in question.

While “The People…” draws upon familiar elements of The Bride of Frankenstein and say, Inherit the Wind, I daresay that its heart-rending conclusion is its very own.
And here’s the cover. This is Unknown Worlds no. 36 (Dec. 1964 – Jan. 1965, ACG); art by Kurt Schaffenberger.

As for the artist: Johnny Craig (1926-2001) had been absent from the comics field most of the decade that followed EC Comics’ near-total collapse and the advent of the Comics Code, when he suddenly turned up at ACG (he’d been toiling in advertising). He would later do some work with Warren, Marvel and DC until the early 80s, at which point he more or less retired. Craig’s always been near the very top of my favourites at EC. Since he was, artistically-speaking, painstaking (‘slow as mollasses in February‘, my art school drawing teacher was fond of saying) and quite self-critical, Gaines entrusted him, as he did in the case of Harvey Kurtzman, with some editorial and scripting responsibilities to make up the income shortfall and keep him around and happy. And so the Craig-edited-and-led Vault of Horror is easily the finest of the company’s horror trio, largely thanks to Craig’s solid writing skills, not to mention his inspired artwork. Craig’s stories provided a much-needed breather from Gaines and Feldstein’s often powerful, but also formulaic and overwritten tales.

Interestingly, while Craig’s art style is overall understated and full of spit and polish, he created several of the company’s most transgressive images (such as this one and that one). Editor-writer Hughes knew precisely what he was doing (as any editor worth his salt should) when he conceived this story and assigned it to Craig. It plays superbly to the man’s strengths, if you ask me.


Hallowe’en Countdown V, Day 9

« I don’t know what the hell I published.
I never read the things.
» — Stanley P. Morse

In the sinister wake of Warren Publishing‘s success with Creepy, Eerie and Vampirella, old-school fly-by-night 1950s comics publisher Stanley P. Morse (Aragon Magazines, Gillmor Magazines, Medal Comics, Media Publications, S. P. M. Publications, Stanmor Publications, and Timor Publications…) dusted off some of his old pre-Code chillers in the late 1960s and early 1970s in black and white magazines such as Shock (15 issues), Chilling Tales of Horror (11 issues), Ghoul Tales (5 issues) and Stark Terror (5 issues). It certainly wasn’t all junk: after all, Morse had published Weird Tales of the Future and Mister Mystery, with their Basil Wolverton and Bernard Baily classics…

Unlike Eerie Publications’ grey-toned and blood-and-gore-ified reprints, these are, as far as I know, unretouched, not to mention decently printed.

This is Shock Vol. 2 no 5 (no 10, November, 1970). Edited by Theodore S. Hecht.

Maybe it’s just me, but isn’t Kurt Schaffenberger just about the unlikeliest pick of cover artist for a pre-code horror anthology? Sure, he fit in nicely with ACG’s gentle moral fable aesthetic, but aren’t you just expecting the Man of Steel or The Big Red Cheese to swiftly sweep in, catching the damsel-in-distress before the A Train smooshes her?

To wit: one of Kurt’s fun ACG covers, this is Unknown Worlds no. 43 (Oct.-Nov. 1965, ACG).


Wacky Animal Antics on Parade!

I really enjoy the madcap world of Golden Age funny animal comics, and they’ve often made it into various Tentacle Tuesdays. Yet not everything fits into the somewhat narrow scope of tentacles (shocking, I know!), so I am pleased to take this fun gallop through some favourite covers that are quite devoid of cephalopods. Doing so involves going back some seventy, eighty years… a difficult to grasp concept for those of us who were not around back then.

This one-shot comic from Famous Funnies featuring a sweet cover by Dave Tendlar may not be-laugh-out-loud funny, but makes up with charming innocence what it lacks in the hilarity department. This is Dover the Bird no. 1 (Spring 1955, Eastern Color Printing).

My thirty-something colleagues consider movies from the late 90s to be ‘ancient’, so I can just imagine what their reaction would be to a comic from, say, 1942! Yet I feel emotionally close to these covers (whether artistically accomplished, entertainingly weird or just plain drugged-out) – humanity has not changed nearly as much as we tend to assume, and albeit some sources of humour require an historian’s explanation, others are every bit as funny and entertaining now as they were back then. As for talking animals, that goes back to the dawn of human history (Aesop’s fables readily come to mind, and Aesop was surely not the inventor of this concept!)

One could dedicate a whole lifetime to digging through this particular slice of history – I’ve tried to go for some variety in this post, but of course I am (happily) constrained by my own tastes in the matter. Here, then, are some Golden Age covers featuring funny animals that have amused, entertained or puzzled me.

Animal Comics no. 1 (December 1942, Dell), with a cover by H.R. McBride, is an amalgam of details both adorable and creepy – the harrowing expression of the fish contrasts wildly with Madame Crocodile’s peanuts-pilfering offspring and her flirty cocktail parasol, while her crocodile-skin purse makes me think of Disney’s Three Little Pigs cartoon (1933, Silly Symphonies). In case you’ve never noticed it, the third pig, the one with the brick house, has family pictures on his wall… for example, a string of sausages labelled “Father”. Black humour, indeed. Animal funnies are often dusted with a good sprinkling of the gruesome, as when a talking duck eats chicken legs for dinner.

The insides have two Walt Kelly stories, including the first appearance of Pogo Possum and his friends!

Fast forwarding four years, we fall into pleasantly loopy territory of Fox Features’ Nuttylife no. 2 (Summer 1946, Fox Comics). Despite it being number two, this is technically the only issue, issue number 1 having appeared as Krazy Life, and issue number 3 and onward becoming Wotalife Comics. I can’t find credits for the cover, but the insides contain Pat Adams with Ellis Chambers (“One day a little goil went to her Grandma’s joint…”), Tim Howe and Cy King. Ellis Chambers by himself definitely deserves a separate post – take a glimpse at Eddie Elephant – 1946 Hallucinogenic Funny Animal Comix by Ellis Holly Chambers, for example.

I couldn’t very well leave Felix the Cat out of this post! I won’t go into the complex history of this character, but suffice it to say that this is one gorgeous cover. Clearly I’m not the only one to admire this image, as it was used for the cover of Craig Yoe‘s wonderful anthology Felix the Cat – Greatest Comic Book Tails (2011, IDW), which I highly recommend. This is Four Color no. 135 (February 1947, Dell Comics), with a cover by Otto Messmer.

The American Comics Group is responsible for many a goofy plot, source of my long-lasting affection for some of their titles (see Tentacle Tuesday: ACG’s Adventures Into the Tentacles). ACG’s Ha Ha Comics are a riot, all right, but I have two favourites among the 88 issues released. The first is Ha Ha Comics no. 11 (August 1944), with a cover by Ken Hultgren. A joke doesn’t have to be elaborate to be funny – something about the expression of the indignant man-eating lion and his wild mop of hair cracks me up!

The second is Ha Ha Comics no. 78 (Dec-Jan 1951), cover artist unknown. I like porcupines in general, but here we are presented with a truly bizarre situation – a porcupine who tears out his sweetheart’s quills one by one to figure out whether she loves him… (unless she’s just a friend helping out, and he’s in love with some other porcupine). Kinky, whichever way you look at it.

Going a few years back, we take a little inter-planetary voyage with Coo Coo Comics no. 38 (March 1948, Pines/Standard Comics), with a cover by (possibly) Vince Fago. I am very fond of this purple-green monster who looks like he’s suffering from a bad hangover (or terminal cretinism). Coo Coo Comics is credited with having introduced the first funny animal superhero (in its very first issue, published in October 1942). That little guy was Supermouse…

The insides contain some Frank Frazetta stories, in case anybody is interested.

… but the other contender for this title was Terrytoons’ Mighty Mouse, also introduced in October 1942 (under the name of ‘Super Mouse’) in the theatrical short The Mouse of Tomorrow. That’s enough to get anybody confused in all these mice! This is Terry-Toons Comics no. 1 (October 1942), with an Ernie Hart cover that hints at the influence that funny animal comics had on the underground comix artists:

~ ds

Tentacle Tuesday: Gardening Woes

This year, since I am currently working from home and spending a lot of time on the balcony, I decided to take another crack at planting a few things in containers and taking a chance with the local squirrels’ tendency to root through soil and munch on whatever’s planted. Still, for all my adorable-yet-annoying rodent problems, I have to admit that I have it much better than some folks: there are no tentacles in this garden, thank you very much.

If you should ever see something of this sort emerging from the pot, run the other way!

ACG’s Adventures into the Unknown can always be relied upon for an octopus or two (or ten) – just see Tentacle Tuesday: ACG’s Adventures Into the Tentacles, for example. Tentacles of the plant variety also make a frequent appearance, of all shapes and sizes and degrees of grabbiness.

The Plant That Lived, illustrated by Harry Lazarus, was published in Adventures into the Unknown no. 38 (December 1952, KenACG). What happens when a young woman is forced to tend to a plant’s roots against her will?

It all starts with a dog in a botanical garden.

An interesting plot point, revealed at the end of the story, is that the plant’s fervent desire to become human is explained by his love for Phil Benson, the young botanist. I kind of want to see a follow-up story about that couple and the problems a plant-man pairing would be confronted with. And the classy blonde? She can find somebody else to hang out with.

A very similar blonde in a red dress was featured on the cover of an earlier issue, Adventures into the Unknown no. 32 (June 1952, ACG). It may not explicitly feature tentacles, but it is close enough in spirit for me to happily welcome it to the fold!

Cover illustrated by Ken Bald.

Another plant-tentacle offering from ACG comes from The Garden of Horror, illustrated by Lin Streeter, published in Adventures into the Unknown no. 48 (October 1953, ACG). This somewhat wordytale concerns itself with an archeologist who comes upon some strange seeds in a ruined temple in an unspecified ‘remote corner of Africa’. Arriving home, he plants them, and – surprise, surprise! – gets a little more than he bargained for. A dog is also involved, though this time it does not escape unscathed.

Carla gives her unscientifically-minded beau (strangely unconcerned with the killed dog, and later in the story, a similarly-dispatched burglar) an ultimatum: either he destroys this evil plant, or it’s all over between them! He chooses the plant – what the hell, she was a nag, anyway.

A subsection of mansplaining is giving directions that are not needed – I think Carla had the idea of ‘cutting the coils’ long before Roy told her to.

Continuing the theme of the strangulated man and the tentacle-throttled dog, we have two pages from a The Vision story (without a title) published in Marvel Mystery Comics no. 26 (December 1941, Marvel). A scientist finds some strange seeds and plants them. Does that sound familiar?

The tentacled creatures look like they’ve just woken up after a long night of partying with a terrible hangover. I love it!

Fortunately, the brave doggo that gets trapped by tentacles is saved in the nick of time by the Vision. Aarkus, aka The Vision, was created by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby (much like all roads once led to Rome, sometimes it seems that the latter has had a hand in creating nearly everything), as an alien enforcement officer from a dimension called Smokeworld. I stand by the side of any alien who saves braves doggos from a ‘horrible fate’!

This is neither here nor there, but The Vision has been repurposed by Roy Thomas in the late 1970s as part of the Avengers. I quote: « A great fan of Golden Age heroes, [Roy Thomas] first thought to bring back Aarkus, a 1940s hero who had been called the Vision due to his spectral appearance and smoke-based abilities. He discussed the matter with Marvel editor Stan Lee, who enjoyed the idea of a new member, but didn’t want it to be an alien or visitor from another dimension. After he suggested creating a new character entirely and that it could be an android instead, Thomas compromised by creating a new android character who resembled Aarkus and also called himself Vision. » Err, how is using the same name/moniker and a differently-coloured, but otherwise very similar costume considered “creating a new character”?

Glancing at some previous Tentacle Tuesdays, I realize I’ve actually built up a healthy nursery of plant instalments. If you’re still in a horticultural mood, here are some of them:

Tentacle Tuesday: Tender Tendrils of Vernal Bloom

Tentacle Tuesday: A Child’s Garden of Carnivorous Plants

Tentacle Tuesday: Plants Sometimes Have Tentacles, Too

Tentacle Tuesday: Spring Has Sprung… Its Snare!

Tentacle Tuesday: Tropical Foliage!

Tentacle Tuesday: The Hungry Greenery

~ ds

Tentacle Tuesday: Tender Tendrils of Vernal Bloom

« Is the spring coming? » he said. « What is it like? »
« It is the sun shining on the rain and the rain falling on the sunshine… » | Frances Hodgson Burnett, The Secret Garden

Having been meaning for a while now to concentrate on tentacled plant life, I was hitherto stopped by the idea that it’s somewhat unseemly to talk about flora when most of our readership is buried in snow and ice. But now, well! – today was the first day of the year suitable for wearing shorts, and green shoots are popping up wherever one’s gaze happens to land.

We have waited for quite a long time before co-admin RG managed to get his hands on this issue… and it turned out that the insides vary from ‘lacklustre’ to ‘wow, that’s ugly!’ Still, the wonderful, striking cover makes it worth owning, I believe.

Horror: The Illustrated Book Of Fears no. 2 (February 1990, Northstar). Cover by Mark Bernal.

ACG got its tentacle parade in Tentacle Tuesday: ACG’s Adventures Into the Tentacles, but as usual, some material didn’t quite fit the theme, and I saved the following cover for a more appropriate occasion. This, I do believe, is the moment.

Adventures into the Unknown no. 48 (October 1953, ACG), cover by Ken Bald.

Speaking of adventures, let’s delve into Strange Adventures for a bit. The following story has a rather peculiar plot – « Star Hawkins is down on his luck and has to pawn Ilda, his robot secretary. Luckily, Star is hired to locate a fugitive who’s thought to be hiding on Vesta, an asteroid mining settlement, in the Red Jungle. But with a little tracking skill and the help of the creepy vegetation of the Red Jungle, he nabs the fugitive, gets his prisoner, and gets Ilda back from the pawn shop, promising never to pawn her again. »

Page from The Case of the Martian Witness!, scripted by John Broome, pencilled by Mike Sekowsky and inked by Bernard Sachs, published in Strange Adventures no. 114 (March 1960, DC).

Here’s another Earthman (who has dreamed of this moment, by his own admission!) struggling with some coquettish plant tentacles that just want to be friends.

A page from Super-Athlete from Earth!, scripted by Gardner Fox, pencilled by Gil Kane and inked by Bernard Sachs, published in Strange Adventures no. 125 (February 1961, DC).

The next thing after adventures is, naturally, mysteries. If they’re strange, puzzling mysteries, even better… what’s that word I’m looking for… ah, yes: baffling! Another day, yet another ravenous man-eating plant.

Baffling Mysteries no. 19 (January 1954, Ace Magazines). Cover is presumed to be by George Roussos. I think strangulation is not even the worst option here.

One more happy tromp through the jungle? Sure, why not!

Kona no. 12 (October-December 1964, Dell). Cover by Vic Prezio. This giant ant-crab (?) is but one in a long line of supersized animal threats Kona has had to defeat.

The following image was originally created as a cover for House of Mystery no. 251 (1977, DC), but was nixed in favour of another, Neal Adams-penned illustration, which we’ve already featured in a previous post (Tentacle Tuesday: Plants Sometimes Have Tentacles, Too). I prefer this gruesome version (complete with skeleton being digested!… also more detail, more dynamic layout and better anatomy of all involved), pencilled by José Luis García-López and inked by Bernie Wrightson.

Happy gardening to all! And have a look at last spring’s tentacled plant post Tentacle Tuesday: Spring Has Sprung… Its Snare! while you’re at it!

🌱 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

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! »


Hallowe’en Countdown III, Day 6

« Spine-chilling tales of suspense, horror, and the supernatural—prepare yourself for Adventures into the Unknown! »

This American Comics Group (ACG) entry is generally considered the first title fully committed to the supernatural genre in the history of US comics. And this arresting, Isle of the Dead-styled tableau graces the cover of the title’s second issue (December, 1948). Art by Edvard Moritz. Most of the stories were scripted by horror legend and H.P. Lovecraft disciple Frank Belknap Long (read his The Hounds of Tindalos and forfeit your soul!) Speaking of which, the entire issue’s contingent of chills and thrills is available right here for your pleasure and leisure.

This is Adventures Into the Unknown! no. 2 (Dec. 1948 – Jan. 1949, ACG).

As I was saying, Arnold Böcklin‘s Isle of the Dead painting, in its original version… of several.

This painting also inspired a quite fine Val Lewton / Mark Robson / Boris Karloff motion picture bearing the same name (1945). Watch the trailer, why don’t you.

« Kill, puppets, Kill! » — Turgot, the Puppet Master, never one to mince words.

– RG

Tentacle Tuesday: Mangled, Pulverized and Slashed Tentacles

« Men!! They are a worse menace than any octupus [sic] or shark that ever swam… »

Oh, poor octopuses. Authors use them as a (not very original) symbol of a terrifying, all-powerful force, and then get them (not very creatively) destroyed. An octopus is lucky to “just” get stabbed; everything seems to be fair play in this violent spree – dynamite, torpedoes, even freakin’ nuclear weapons. In most cases, the problem is definitely Man: man who enslaves sea creatures and makes them do his bidding with varied gadgets, man who intrudes on the octopus’ territory, man who sticks his nose where only tentacles should be.

« I only have to give him the claws of the killer lobster… the teeth of the tiger shark… and the heart of the barracuda! That is all! » Because any normal doctor has this stuff just lying around his operating theatre, obviously.


Spectacular, deadly monster created? Next thing to do is to rip an octopus to shreds, in a particularly gory eyeball-wrenching, tentacle-mincing scene.

BlueRibbon Comics#3-EddAshe
Seriously, just look at that eyeball getting pulled out by toes… Page from “Devils of the Deep”, scripted by George Nagle and drawn by Edd Ashe, published in Blue Ribbon Comics no. 3 (January 1940).

Next up, your standard slashing-at-tentacles-with-a-kitchen-cleaver. The guy must have been stashing it in his swimming trunks; there’s really no need for wearing an actual diving suit. That sap getting squeezed by a tentacle wore one… and look at all the good it did him.

Slam-Bang Comics no. 4 (June 1940), cover by Gus Ricca.

Don Winslow of the Navy no. 36 (July 1946). Created by Lieutenant Commander Frank V. Martinek as a newspaper strip, Don Winslow was meant to underline Naval courage and inspire American youth to orient their career paths in that direction. I dunno, maybe this particular issue was responsible for a new generation of oceanographers.

I love the idea of an eight tentacled obstacle, and shall aspire to insert that phrase into completely irrelevant conversations.

Don Winslow of the Navy #36-withthemarines
The story is called “With the Marines”, artist unknown.

I have to admit that Don Winslow (not the author) is the kindest octopus handler we’ve seen today. It must be part of those Naval traditions and courage Martinek insisted on. (He was quoted as saying “Since Don Winslow of the Navy is approved by the Navy Department, I cannot allow him to do anything that is contrary to the ideals, traditions or motives of the Navy.“)

Don Winslow of the Navy #36-withthemarines2
Blinding the beastie instead of stabbing – you go, Sir.

It takes cold, raw courage to step up to… This is the grandfather of all octopus… or is it octopi…?” Only a true hero starts fretting about the properness of his English while in proximity to a giant octopus. Are you wondering why that octopus looks distinctly fake? He’s actually made out of rubber, as Don Wallace, a.k.a. Torpedo Man discovers when he punctures the counterfeit cephalopod.

Blue Bolt Weird Tales of Terror no. 112 (Feb 1952). This is a page from “Strange Tale of the Sea Monster”.

In the 1950s, “atomic” was distinctly a cool word, which clearly inspired the creation of this Atomic Submarine (nuclear powered, that is) and its Atomic Commandos… a crew of, like, four people. To quote Toonopedia, “The real atomic sub was apparently a bit more complex and challenging to deal with than the comic book one. Commander Battle’s got along with only four men aboard — Bill Battle (the boss), Champ Ruggles (“the most powerful man on the American continent”, and maybe even the other American continent as well), Doc Blake (the scientific genius) and Tony Gardello (only mildly ethnic).

Commander Battle and the Atomic Sub no. 2 (Sept-Oct 1954), Cover by Ogden Whitney and Sheldon Moldoff.

The atomic commandos didn’t know that the way to the island was barred by an awful defender… by a gigantic nightmare creature that staggered the imagination! They didn’t see it as it rose from the depths behind them, flaring tentacles ready to pounce, clutch…” The octopus went from red to green – is that for better camouflage?

Commander Battle and the Atomic Sub #2-SheldonMoldoff2
Panels from the rather lengthy, 2-part story titled “Fight for Survival!”, drawn by Sheldon Moldoff.

The weird threat from the center of the earth is actually a nation of sea-dwellers who demand humans cease using atomic weapons, threatening to burn Earth’s surface if this is not done (and unleashing their almost-indestructible octopus, as well). When Commander Battle triumphs at the end of the story, all the “giant attackers” die from a radioactive cloud.  “And so it came to an end, this civilization of titans at the center of the earth… for now, not a single on was left alive! Let it be said that they were not evil! Destiny had willed it that they cross man’s path...” In today’s Tentacle Tuesday, this story takes the cake for its number of gratuitous deaths.

As for the octopus, he gets blown to smithereens…

Commander Battle and the Atomic Sub #2-SheldonMoldoff3

~ ds

Tentacle Tuesday: Ha-Ha and Coo-Coo With Frolicsome Animals

The Golden Age of comics proffered quite a lot of anthropomorphic animals to its readers. The stuff on offer ran the gamut of different definitions of humour, from inane slapstick to pleasant goofiness, all the way to batshit surrealism. There’s at least one common streak running through this zoological revelry – tentacles!


Our first exhibit is a charming comic from the 40s. Land of the Lost was a radio series broadcast from 1943 to 1948 on Mutual Broadcasting System and ABC, written, produced and narrated by Isabel Manning Hewson. Each episode started with the line « In that wonderful kingdom at the bottom of the sea… », and presented a new under-the-sea adventure of Isabel and Billy, two kids lucky enough to have an adorable avuncular fish for an underwater guide. (The fish was called Red Lantern, and was most notably voiced by Art Carney.) You can listen to an episode from 1945 here.


Coming back to our beloved cartoons: in 1946, EC Comics started publishing Land of the Lost Comics, a series that lasted for 9 issues. Hewson remained the writer, and the art was handled by Olive Bailey (not the Olive Bailey who helped crack Germans’ Enigma cipher machine in WWII.) The result was impressive: these comics are delectable, combining beautiful art with inventive plots that may be goofy, but have a solid internal logic. Hewson gave her sea-creatures vibrant personalities, and it’s so much fun to dive (not pun intended) into this world.

Land of the Lost Comics no. 3 (winter 1946), cover by Olive Bailey. Read the whole issue here…  and then read other issues, too. Somebody needs to publish a collection of this stuff.

The following panels are from “Jack Frost“, scripted by Isabel Manning Hewson and drawn by Olive Bailey, published in Land of the Lost Comics no. 3.

Squidlet goes out of control, like all young octopuses are prone to doing.


Thank you, cool ladies, for all the fun!


Land of the Lost also became an animated cartoon as part of Famous Production Studios‘ Noveltoon series: Land of the Lost (1948), Land of the Lost Jewels (1950) and Land of Lost Watches (1951). I find the animation to be definitely subpar to the comics or the radio show, but I’ll let you judge for yourselves. (Jack Mercer is in it, albeit briefly!)


Did you know octopuses love to box? This implausible situation is definitely part of the lazy artist’s roster. To wit:

Ha Ha Comics no. 66 (June-July 1949), cover by Dan Gordon. It was really hard to find a scan of this issue in decent condition (thanks to co-admin RG), and comicbookplus doesn’t even have it in its database (you can read pretty much all the other issues of Ha Ha Comics, though).

Ha Ha Comics, a sister anthology of Giggle Comics, was published by ACG. (With issue #100, Ha Ha became Teepee Tim, going from animal hijinks to young Indian shenanigans for all of… three issues.) It’s quite a the playground of anything goes, but upon careful inspection, one easily finds good art shining among the dirt-pile of mediocrity, and diverting storytelling among hackneyed yarns.

Coo Coo Comics no. 48 (November 1949), cover by Carl Wessler. Published by Standard Comics under the imprint of Pines (from Ned L. Pines, publisher).  Read the issue here (no tentacles whatsoever, though).

How many arms does the fellow up above have, nine? I suppose that’s why he’s the champ!


Comic Cavalcade went all funny-animals only with issue 30 (Dec-Jan 1948), when superheroes faded from popularity (oh man, that’s hard to imagine now, isn’t it?) It lasted until 1954, by which time it shrank from its original 96 pages to 76, however retaining its 15-cent cover price.

Comic Cavalcade no. 59 (Oct-Nov 1953), art probably by Rube Grossman. Read it here.

Dinky Duck  no. 10 (July 1954). WTF is a Dinky Duck? Terrytoons’ answer to Daffy Duck, says Toonopedia; or, tout simplement, a smaller-than-average duck. The poor duckling never caught on, but the cartoons did result in a comic series, published by Pines and then St. John.

Atomic Mouse no. 25 (February 1958), cover by Maurice Whitman. Atomic Mouse was created in 1953 for Charlton Comics by Al Fago, their first animal superhero. The series was published for ten years (!), between 1953 and 1963, so it must have had at least a modicum of popularity.

That’s all folks!

~ ds

Hallowe’en Countdown II, Day 30

« I hate war, Steve! I hate the people who cause it and I hate them with very atom of my being! So I pretend to respect the enemy, even like him. I try to minimize him with love! » — Gen. Maximillian R. Hart, The Zanti Misfits

Feast your rheumy peepers on Bernard Baily‘s (co-creator, with Jerry Siegel, of The Spectre) famous cover for issue 4 of Gilmore Publications’ Weird Mysteries, April 1953. The cover’s creepy promise was squandered, since Baily’s friendly lil’ fella never appears within the issue.

This one also contains a classic, though rather thin, Basil Wolverton story, « The Man Who Never Smiled ».

A few years ago, the cover’s original artwork was auctioned off for the tidily respectable sum of $33,460.00.

It fell to the American Comics Group (ACG) to follow up on the notion, about a year later in the pages of its Forbidden Worlds No.30 (June, 1954) and the cover-featured « The Thing on the Beach! » by the unknown scripter, and artist Harry Lazarus (not the Harry Lazarus, but one of the three Lazarus brothers working in the comics industry in the Golden Age.)

« It started with brutal murder… until nature decreed a weird revenge! »

Rogers was a right mother from the start, but when his captain had his fill of his homicidal shenanigans, dropping him off on a remote island to cool him off, a funny thing happened. He found nothing in the place save ants, which had made short work of the unlucky goat population and the local flora. So what did the crazy bastard do? He gobbled ants. For weeks. And became a giant ant himself, it follows. You are what you eat, right?

Anyway, Rogers has got to be the most pragmatic villain ever, quite content, in the end, to be The Thing on the Beach!

Which brings me back to where I started: some say (okay, well, I do) that Baily’s WM4 cover may have inspired The Outer Limits’ ultra creepy The Zanti Misfits. Or maybe they’re just oddball products of the same era.

You be the judge.

One of the carnivorous, Don Knotts-headed creepy crawlies in question. Incidentally, The Zanti Misfits was shot in one of the most popular filming locations of all, Vasquez Rocks. Check out which of your favourites were set there!

In 2014, the extraordinary William Stout created a series of drawings showcasing some of the most memorable Projects UnlimitedBears” from The Outer Limits.