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

Guy Davis: Quietude and Cataclysm

« It’s a lot easier to draw rubble when deadlines hit. » — Guy Davis

Today, on his birthday, we seize the occasion to salute prodigious autodidact Guy Davis and to look upon his works, no despair necessary.

Born in Michigan on November 20, 1966, Guy Davis started out in comics in 1981 with a SF strip, Quonto of the Star Corps, published (he suspects his dad had something to do with it) in local newspaper The Clarkston News.

From there, he delved into sword and sorcery with The Realm (1986-1988, Arrow), then made significant strides toward his mature style with punk saga Baker Street (1989-1991, Caliber).

He then hit the majors, devoting most of the 90s to pencilling and inking the bulk of Sandman Mystery Theatre‘s quite respectable run (70 issues + 1 annual, 1993-1999, DC/Vertigo), Matt Wagner‘s darkly revisionist chronicles of Wesley Dodds, the Golden Age Sandman… pre-yellow-and-purple togs.

I must confess that I wasn’t, at this point, particularly fond of Davis’ style. His endearingly schlubby, potato-schnozzed characters had yet to work their charm upon me. But the writing was compelling, Davis’ storytelling was strong and clear, so I stuck around.

However, I’m not ambivalent at all when it comes to his subsequent work, wherein he ditched his often awkward cross-hatching, his inking improved by leaps and bounds in expressiveness, and he was at long last paired with a colourist that fully grasped his singular style.

This is The Nevermen no. 4 (Aug. 2000, Dark Horse). Cover by Guy Davis.
Page 22 of Nevermen no. 1 (May 2000, Dark Horse). Written by Phil Amara, pencils and inks by Davis, colours by Dave Stewart.
Page 8 of The Nevermen no. 4 (Aug. 2000, Dark Horse). Same personnel…
Page 15 of B.P.R.D. Plague of Frogs no. 1 (Mar. 2004, Dark Horse). Story by Mike Mignola, pencils and inks by Davis, colours by Dave Stewart.
Page 22 of B.P.R.D. The Dead no. 3 (Jan. 2005, Dark Horse). Story by Mignola and John Arcudi, pencils and inks by Davis, colours by Dave Stewart. Shot from the original art, courtesy of, er… the author’s collection.
And in case you’ve ever wondered just what a good colourist can contribute to the finished product, let alone the finest colourist in the business. Ladies and gentlemen, Mr. Dave Stewart!

Guy Davis on his collaboration with Dave Stewart:

I was never never happy with my work in color — I hated the idea of it — until [ Dave Stewart ] started coloring me in B.P.R.D. He had this textured brush look that was just perfect for my linework. My linework is not clean, and before Dave, everybody who’d color me would do a standard house style. They wouldn’t adapt for each artist, and that’s what makes Dave so amazing is that he adapts his style for the art as opposed to trying to shoehorn one style of coloring — which a lot of colorists do — into every artist’s style.

(from an interview conducted by Eric Nolen-Weathington and published in Modern Masters Volume 24: Guy Davis, 2010, TwoMorrows)

Page 22 of B.P.R.D. The Dead no. 3 (Jan. 2005, Dark Horse), by the aforementioned.
This is B.P.R.D. The Dead no. 4 (Feb. 2005, Dark Horse). Cover by Davis and Stewart.
Page 11 of B.P.R.D. The Dead no. 4 (Feb. 2005, Dark Horse). Note that Stewart doesn’t fall back on one go-to, characteristic colour palette; he has range. Muted, saturated, bright or dark… he uses what the situation calls for. That’s what a true artist does.
Page 18 of B.P.R.D. The Dead no. 5 (Mar. 2005, Dark Horse). Now *that* is a library.
With his love and mastery of period detail and the human proboscis, wouldn’t you say that Davis would have been the ideal candidate to depict legendary pulp hero The Shadow? A 2005 drawing excerpted from Guy Davis Sketch Macabre Volume 2 (Oct. 2006).

Frankly, I don’t think Mr. Davis ever received his due in comics; he remained an artist’s artist, reliable and productive, but relatively unsung. On B.P.R.D., he allowed Mr. Mignola to envision events and visions on a far, far grander scale than Hellboy’s creator could have realised by himself. After Davis resigned from the title and exited the comics field for challenges and well-earned success, artistic and financial, in the realms of film and video games, there simply wasn’t anyone able to fill the void he’d left.

Just check out that résumé

Happy birthday, thanks for everything and all the best to you, Mr. Davis!

-RG

p.s. In selecting artwork for this essay, I forced myself to exclude any and all instances of tentacles, and trust me, there were plenty. We haven’t made it official yet, but if anyone ever deserved the title of Tentacle Master…

Tentacle Tuesday: The Menace of the Mechanical Octopus

« The tentacles of  my followers shall seek you out and destroy your swiftly! »

If you like joyous nonsense, this post is for you! As if humanity wasn’t besieged enough by actual cephalopods, evil-but-brilliant minds insist on creating machines with tentacles to horrify and maim. Pain to some, amusement for us!

First, some definite eye candy. The following story is not only convincingly illustrated, but also makes some sense on a scientific basis. The Menace of the Mechanical Octopus was scripted by Ed Herron, and pencilled and inked by Jack Kirby. It was published in Word’s Finest Comics no. 97 (October 1958).

World'sFinestComics97-JackKirby-TheMenaceoftheMechanicalOctopus

World'sFinestComics97-JackKirby-TheMenaceoftheMechanicalOctopus2

World'sFinestComics97-JackKirby-TheMenaceoftheMechanicalOctopus3

Now we move on to that goofy-yet-fun series, DC’s House of Mystery.  I will readily admit that I’m not always a fan. At worst, some of the stories published within its pages have plots so random that amusement becomes irritated incredulity. But keep an open mind, and there are also very creative (sometimes “were these people on drugs?” creative) plots to be enjoyed and great art to be relished.

House-of-mystery-96
House of Mystery no. 96 (March 1960), cover is pencilled by Dick Dillin and inked by Sheldon Moldoff.

The cover story, The Pirate Brain, was illustrated by Lee Elias:

House-of-mystery-96-thepiratebrain

House-of-mystery-96-thepiratebrain-2
The ‘weird, giant seeds’ look remarkably like ice cream cones.

House-of-mystery-96-thepiratebrain-3

Our next stop concerns Robby Reed, the original owner of the Dial H for Hero gizmo, and his epic (of course) battle with… well, a whole bunch of villains. House of Mystery no. 156 (January 1966) is where he made his début, transforming into the Cometeer, Giantboy and the Mole. So many adventures, all in one (half) issue! This story was scripted by Dan Wood and illustrated by Jim Mooney:

House-of-mystery-156-Giantboy-comeeter-andthe-mole

HouseofMystery156-Giantboy-comeeter-andthemole2

From Giantboy we move on to Colossal Boy, more precisely to Colossal Boy’s One-Man War, scripted by Jerry Siegel, pencilled by Curt Swan, and inked by Sheldon Moldoff. It was published in Adventure Comics no. 341 (February 1966).

Adventures_341-theWeirdoLegionnaire

Adventures_341-theWeirdoLegionnaire2
A story in which everybody talks way too much, and only in clichés.

Skipping ten years ahead, we end up in Marvel territory –

Amazing_Adventures_31-Killraven
Amazing Adventures no. 31 (July 1975). The cover is by Philip Craig Russell with modifications by John Romita; the letters are by Gaspar Saladino.

The cover story, The Day the Monuments Shattered, is scripted by Don McGregor and illustrated by P. Craig Russell:

Amazing_Adventures_31-TheDaytheMonumentsShattered-CraigRussell
Not Russell’s best work, I think we can safely say.

As a final note, here are some indubitably mechanical, yet not-quite-tentacles – a worthy addition to this post, as far as I’m concerned.

Challengers11A
Challengers of the Unknown no. 11 (Dec 1959 – Jan 1960). Cover by Bob Brown, with colours and grey tones by Jack Adler. I love the perturbed flying dinosaur, whose hooves suggest that he has some cow ancestors.

FantasticFour-Unstable_Molecules2
Startling Stories: Fantastic Four – Unstable Molecules no. 2 (April 2003). The cover is by Craig Thompson.

FantasticFour-Unstable_Molecules2-2
Disappearing Acts is scripted by James Sturm and illustrated by Guy Davis with assistance from James Sturm. The Vapor Girl insertions (imaginary alien escapades) are by Robert Sikoryak.

If you liked this post, don’t forget to visit Tentacle Tuesday: Mechanical Tentacles, too!

≈ ds