« Even as a youngster reading 2000 AD from its first issue in 1977, it was clear that Brian’s artwork was special. It was the perfect mixture of American-inspired dynamism, a British sense of the absurd, and avant-garde European SF imagery, rendered in meticulous, almost inhumanly perfect linework. It was a deeply seductive style… » — David Roach
As far as I can tell, everyone loves Brian Bolland‘s (b. 1951) work. It’s sophisticated in design yet direct, highly detailed yet clean as a whistle *and* neat as a pin, technically adept, varied but unfailingly his. As a sequential cartoonist, he can be a bit stiff, but as a cover artist, he’s pretty untouchable. For about a second and a half, I was tempted to spotlight his work in our Hot Streak! category, but that would have been absurd, such is Bolland’s high level of consistency and volume of work. So I’ll “merely” feature an even dozen of his Animal Man covers (out of a total of 64, 1988-1993).
After Alan Moore made an unexpected splash with his work on Swamp Thing, the folks at DC scrambled, in ‘have you got a sister?‘ fashion, to strip-mine the UK’s writerly talent pool. In came Grant Morrison, Neil Gaiman, Pete Milligan, Jamie Delano, Garth Ennis, Warren Ellis, and so on…
For the cockiest of these writers, the typical bravura move was to prove their commercial acumen by revamping the most obscure existing character they could think of* (typically, characters DC’s then-editors had never heard of); in Gaiman’s case, it was Sheldon Mayer’s Black Orchid**, and in Morrison’s, Animal Man. As minor characters (a lesson learned from Alan Moore’s Watchmen), these heroes could be subjected to numberless and unceasing torments and humiliations at the writer’s whim.
*To be fair, their first eighty-five choices likely had proved unavailable.
**Mayer had asked that his 1970s creation, The Black Orchid, never be given an origin or have her mystery dispelled. Gaiman just aped what Mr. Moore had done (but brilliantly) with Swamp Thing… and made her a literal plant. Bah.
Hello, cephalopod aficionados! I have some lovely tentacles for you today, all wrapped around voluptuous women (my favourite kind of cephalopod content, I admit). There is a lot of ‘that kind of thing’ going on in the rivers of the comic kingdom, but most of it, alas, is distinctly ugly. I have accumulated a few covers not suffering from that particular scourge (quite by accident, most of them use a green-and-red palette), and I invite you to enjoy them with me!
The first is a Judge Dredd cover that had somehow previously escaped my attention, despite WOT’s affection for the former and my personal affection for Judge Anderson (lackaday, ill-handled once out of the hands of creator John Wagner and writer Alan Grant – and preferably drawn by Brian Bolland, of course).
The following cover presumably has something to do with DC’s Star Rovers series, which ran between 1961 and 1964, but I wasn’t able to find more about this particular comic, the company that published it (Comax), or the equally mysterious cover artist, Butch Burcham. A comic-savvy friend described the latter as ‘a low rent Frazetta knock-off artist‘. I have no opinion about that part, but I do like this cover and its lushly coloured maiden with her completely impractical suit.
Finally, we have a surprisingly tasteful (albeit a bit stiff – so would you be, barely perching at the very edge of a chair like that), girl-next-door Vampi cover. And look, she actually has enough space for internal organs! I like that the tentacles seem like a friendly presence, almost guarding her (as opposed to getting a quick grope in). In case you want more Vampirella, head over to Tentacle Tuesday: Warren and Its Many Tentacles, Part II.
Pip pip cheerio and toodle-loo, and see you next week!
« It is not Frank Hampson’s original creation from the 1950’s Eagle, far from it. This is a different beast, featuring a harder man in a harsher world, a long way from the good-natured stoicism and stalwart, stiff upper lip of the original… »
(Garth Ennis in his introduction to Dan Dare: The 2000 AD Years)
Dan Dare, sort of the British answer to Buck Rogers, took his earliest space flight in the pages of the very first issue of Eagle, a now legendary British children’s comics periodical. He was created by illustrator Frank Hampson. From the day of its inception, Eagle was meant to perch on a high moral ground. Its founder, reverend John Marcus Harston Morris, an Anglican vicar, devised the Eagle in collaboration with Hampson (one of his parishioners, and a budding artist seeking fulfilling work) with a specific purpose in mind: a magazine that would hold itself to high standards of art and printing, but would stay away from violence and depravity, instead offering children wholesome characters they could use as role models. Aligned with that vision, Hampson’s Dan Dare stories were meticulously researched, based on a wealth of models (space ships, suits, and even a complete space station) and reference materials, including the services of Arthur C. Clarke as a science and plot advisor in the early days of the strip. Dan Dare‘s complex plots, witty dialogue and full-colour art guarantee that British children who lived through the 50s cherish their memories of this character.
1959 was the year of change – Morris resigned from the editor’s seat after bitter disputes with the bean-counters from Hulton Press (Eagle’s publisher at the time). Shortly after, the Eagle was taken over by Odhams Press, with the new owners objecting to the complexity of Dan Dare stories as well as the cost of Hampson’s studio. Hampson could not compromise his lofty standards and pursuit of perfection, and left. Things were never the same after that, with Dan Dare strips varying in format and quality until the series ended in 1967.
Fast forward to 1976. « A punk who has always written outrageously violent, scabrous satirical and often hilariously funny attacks on authority and the establishment» – which is to say, Pat Mills, a British freelance writer and editor – set out to create a science-fiction themed weekly publication, 2000 AD. With the aid of John Wagner as script advisor, presided over by John Sanders, the publisher, he decided to 1. develop a horror strip, which later became Judge Dredd; 2. revive Dan Dare, so that at least something about 2000 AD would have immediate public recognition. Oh, there were plenty of other strips in there, too, but that’s a topic for another conversation.
« 1976. I realize that the science fiction comic I’m creating, 2000 AD, needs a space hero. I think about bringing back Dan Dare – the publisher, John Sanders, is agreeable, he tells me not to worry about the original fans. I study the bound Eagle volumes. Artist Belardinelli submits a wild version on spec. At least it’s exciting and eye-catching and – most important – helps us over the poor quality paper. 2000 AD appears, it’s a success and Dan Dare is popular – about 3rd or 4th in the popularity charts. I don’t recall any critical letters apart from things along the lines of « my dad doesn’t like it, but I do ». And, sometimes, « my dad likes it, too ». Lots of criticism in the press, however, but we don’t care about annoying them. In fact we quite like it. » (From an article by Pat Mills, published in Spaceship Away: the Dan Dare Fan Magazine)
Okay, now that we have the backstory over with, on with the tentacled show!
Dan Dare’s early 2000 AD adventures were drawn by Massimo Bellardinelli, who seems to take great delight in adding tentacles hither and thither. Are we expected to believe that every alien and every alien’s ship is be covered in them? Yes? Ah, okay. Please carry on.
This cutie from Hollow World also wished to say “tally-ho!”:
Belardinelli’s style is often described as “hallucinatory”. Despite Pat Mills’ portrayal of his art as “eye-catching” (although even Mills thought that he made “the hero look awful”), his work on Dan Dare was not very popular. It’s also possible that readers were still sore about Dare’s sacrilegious resuscitation. All I can state with certainty is that it’s not really *my* cup of tea – I prefer my cuppa strong and dark, without excessive flourishes or hallucinations, thank you kindly. For those of you who agree, more… grounded times were coming: with Programme 28, Belardinelli switching over to drawing Harlem Heroes while Dave Gibbons took over Dan Dare, with an occasional hand from Brian Bolland.
Oh Dan, where is your moral compass now? While I love the guys from 2000 AD to bits, I have to grudgingly admit that taking someone else’s character and modifying his raison d’être beyond all recognition is a tad uncouth (and certainly anti-authoritarian, which is, after all, Pat Mills’ leitmotif). Can you imagine how this trigger-happy Dan Dare apparition, some 25 years later, ruffled the feathers of readers who take their heroes seriously? (If we have any readers who have lived through this themselves, please chime in!)
« Indeed, the reader may be forgiven for thinking that the Lost Worlds sector is soon going to be a very quiet sector indeed, just because there’s not going to be much left of it. The frequency with each our heroes resort to violence – sudden, crushing, all-consuming, high-velocity violence that utterly obliterates whatever it’s unleashed upon – – is really quite spectacular. Unidentified species of dodgy appearance? Play safe, fry ’em. Giant-sized aquatic life form? Got to be worth a torpedo or two. Alien intruder? Give it loads. If things get sticky, just do the whole ecosystem. And you know those planet-busters we’ve got in the tail-fins…? »
The sprawling Servant of Evil (scripted by Tom Tully and drawn by Dave Gibbons, published in Programmes 100 to 126) was the last Dan Dare story, one that wasn’t even finished. Was it too complex or morally ambiguous for readers of 2000 AD, or simply too rambling? Dan Dare’s exit was probably caused by the confluence of several factors – Dave Gibbons was leaving the strip to work on UK Marvel’s Dr. Who Weekly; the failing comic Tornado needed a new home within an established title, so 2000 AD needed to make room for it by pushing something else out; and let’s face it, Servant of Evil was dragging on, even though fans still bemoan the lack of closure from having all those plotline threads severed so abruptly.
Do you have a couple of hours to spare? You can actually read the full collection of 2000 AD Dan Dare strips here.
« Or… uh, huh… with the severed neck of a dead ostrich… Yow! Tentacles! Long wriggly tentacles! Woo-WOO! »
Ah, Brian Bolland, the British artist that generally comes to mind when one mentions Judge Dredd. This was certainly *my* introduction to him, and my so-called initiation went over with a bang! (Which is to say, I fell in love with his art instantly. It took me a little longer to learn to appreciate Judge Dredd stories illustrated by other artists.) His crisp line adorns many, many comic titles, and I’m not going to enumerate all the pies he’s had his fingers in. I can, however, kill two birds with one stone by combining Wonder Woman Tentacle Tuesday part 2 (part 1 can be found here) with Bolland tentacles along other lines.
Actually, DC’s 1987 Wonder Woman series is a treasure trove of tentacles even without Mr. Bolland. However, some of these covers are frankly too ugly to feature here (I have high standards, in case you hadn’t noticed), while he can be relied on to always provide us with eye candy and an engaging composition.
Bolland is reputedly fond of his work on Wonder Woman covers, marking that it was “one of the few occasions he actually sought work rather than being sought for work.”
A bonus WW illustration as a special treat, albeit a follicular extension of the definition of a tentacle, I confess. Well, it *is* Movember.
Moving on from the powerful, intrepid Wonder Woman to smaller crawfish, we have this maiden in an incredibly silly costume, which Bolland managed to somewhat redeem, mostly by hiding the stupid bow and differently-coloured boot on her left leg.
The maiden’s name, by the way, is Looker (!), presumably because the team who created her (Jim Aparo and Mike W. Barr) couldn’t think of a better moniker for a woman who went from a mousy bank teller to a cocotte (oh, sorry, I meant “coquette”) with superpowers. Pardon me going off-topic, but I really must illustrate: here’s what her costume looks (oh, har har) like in its full frontal glory.
And a last piece of balderdash:
« Her original costume was manufactured from a material unique to Abyssia; one way fabric, which was invisible from one side. This allowed her to keep her costume handy but not visible. She would turn the clothing out to make it visible. »
Moving on to classic Bolland with creepy-crawlies, fatal beauties and grotesque sub-humans, we have this delightful poster:
And a last madcap entry, amusingly full of non-sequiturs:
As I pointed out during my initial foray into the tangled relationship between superheroes and tentacled creatures (Superheroes in Octopus Land), even heroic stock characters with extraordinary powers get bested by the occasional octopus, be it of oceanic, mystical, or outright intergalactic origins. Some of these monsters are aliens from proverbial outer space, some swam out from the depths of the sea for reasons they alone comprehend; some are plants, some are mammals – animal, mineral, or vegetable in form and content.
Our first entry is someone who’s faster than a speeding bullet… but requires a passerby’s help to get rid of some pesky plant tentacles. None too impressive for someone of his calibre, the first superhero that comes to mind for most.
That’s enough bumbling. I’ll move on to someone who can *really* handle tentacle problems!
“High atop Slaughter Mountain, where the rain never stops, stately Stearn Mansion stands silhouetted against the blood-red moon. This is the home of Dr. Strongfort Stearn, known throughout the world as … Mr. Monster!! From this lofty perch, Doc Stearn peers unflinchingly into the black abyss below. For it is Mr. Monster’s mission to search out evil — and destroy it!” Today Mr. Monster is fighting a cute octopus with googly eyes. Sometimes monsters look most innocuous, you know.
And this is the way it was published:
« Since the first simple life-form crawled from the pounding turf, the sea has been laced with legend! From the daring men who faced the raging waves in primitive wooden craft to those who probe the hidden depths today in devices of plastic and steel, fables have been passed, secrets whispered from father to son… » And where there’s sea legends and fables of raging depths, there’s tentacles, you can be sure of that. Can the mysterious Phantom Stranger cope with them?
Maybe saying that starfish have tentacles is stretching it a bit, but just look at the way their arms bend at the ends! Besides, they can “walk” using their tubed appendages, which look like tentacles to all but the most pedantic.
Starro, a.k.a. Starro the Conqueror, was created by Gardner Fox and Mike Sekowsky in 1960. He’s a mean, stubborn alien lifeform with an idée fixe to enslave mankind, which he repeatedly tries to do by scattering his starfishy spores (which grow into clones of himself) over large cities. And, yes, he has prehensile extremities; it’d be difficult to wreak as much havoc without them.
Technically, Medusa’s got hair, not tentacles, but she expressed the wish to be part of our Tentacle Tuesday line-up… and I am not going to argue with a woman with hair that can knock out an army.
Does anybody have an answer for catty Ms. Kyle? I’ll see you next Tentacle Tuesday – until then, keep away from hungry and horny octopuses.
Here’s a fetchingly morbid cover Mr. Brian Bolland crafted for Eagle Comics’ reprints of the dystopian cream of Mega-City One’s hard-working Judges Dredd, Child, Anderson, Smiley, Volt, Stalker, Priest, Fish, De Gaulle… and so on, citizen. Filmic adaptations have largely missed the finer points of this oft-excellent series by focussing on the radical mayhem at the detriment of the protagonist’s unflagging fairness. But then again, such is usually the fate of « badass » characters who are nuanced in comics… think early Jonah Hex, for instance.
This is Judge Dreddno. 3 (January, 1984), featuring Judge Death Lives, by John Wagner and Bolland, from the pages of 2000 ADnos. 224-228 (1981). These are Judges Death and Anderson; I leave it to you to suss out which is which.
Oh, and if you and your three best bros are looking for a high-concept Halloween group costume, why not terrorize the neighbourhood as the Four Dark Judges?