Hallowe’en Countdown V, Day 16

« The whole planet reeks of mysticism without revelation. » — Dan Simmons

Last May, when I showcased Joe Maneely‘s Atlas cover art (see Joe Maneely, Atlas of Versatility), I intentionally left out his pieces for the horror titles, knowing them worthy of some attention of their own, an ideal topic for the Hallowe’en countdown. Besides, it took some pressure out of the selection process if I could save one whole genre for a rainy day — and today’s most certainly that day!

This is Mystic no. 7 (Mar. 1952, Atlas); colours by Stan Goldberg.
This is Mystic no. 15 (Dec. 1952, Atlas); colours by Stan Goldberg.

“Mystic” is evidently one of Marvel’s pet titles: the title was first used by Timely in 1940-42, then again in 1944-45; once more, most successfully in this Atlas horror series, for 61 issues from 1951-57. And lately in 2009 and 2011. I’ll bet that tradition’s not yet done with, but why on earth?

This is Mystery Tales no. 12 (June 1953, Atlas); colours by Stan Goldberg.
This one’s got it all! Here’s Adventures Into Weird Worlds no. 27 (Mar. 1954, Atlas); colours by Stan Goldberg.
This is Mystic no. 29 (Apr. 1954, Atlas); colours by Stan Goldberg. Maneely’s Atlas horror covers generally distinguished themselves by their goofiness.
Begging the question: What’s worse than having two left feet? Having three left hands, apparently. This is Riot no. 3 (Aug. 1954, Atlas); colours by Stan Goldberg.
This is Mystery Tales no. 24 (Dec. 1954, Atlas); colours by (need you ask?) Stan Goldberg. While I make no bones about my disdain for Goldberg’s work at Archie, he was a superb colourist in the 1950s. In terms of legibility, Atlas’ busy covers had to be quite a challenge to pull off, and he did it again and again.


Tentacle Tuesday: Convoluted Critters

Occasionally, I notice a comic book cover with a tentacled monster so peculiar that one starts wondering whether the artist was on drugs or just couldn’t give a shit. That is not a criticism, however: where grabby appendages are concerned, the weirder, the better. Even if some of these guys have a face (muzzle? rictus?) even a mother couldn’t love, or their anatomy defies all laws of biology, we’ll welcome them with open arms!

As usual, in chronological order.

First in our line-up is this little fella in a hat. At least he looks like he’s wearing a cap, although perhaps he just has a square head with a skin flap hanging over the sides. At first glance, his tentacles are hollow, although their flesh is probably just a dull shade of battleship grey. So what’s this “thing that waited”? Soviet soldiers who are actually alien invaders. Duh.

Adventures Into Weird Worlds no. 3 (March 1952), cover by Joe Maneely.

This next cover is probably a little more standard for pseudo-octopus fare: a lady with huge, ahem, bazooms (Russ Heath liked ’em busty, it seems – seriously, just look at the size of those things!) threatened by some horrific monster who’s dispatching her companion as expediently as possible. Still, the somewhat Wolverton-esque, grave-dwelling aliens with pincers at the end of their tentacles are odd-looking enough to squeeze their way into this post.

Spellbound no. 20 (March 1954), cover by Russ Heath.

This toupee-clad creature with evil gimlet eyes doesn’t look much like a pet, if you ask me. How are those grabby little arms attached to its head, anyway? Wait, who am I talking about, again? 😉

House of Mystery no. 87 (June 1959), cover by Bob Brown.

“My Greatest Adventure” was a title that promised much, and it must have been difficult to live up to it every month. Witness the following “fantastic” creature – a furry slug with disturbingly fleshy lips and tentacles. I can’t vouch for my reaction had I been an excitable ten-year old, but to this blasé adult, the poor beast summoned by some psycho witch doctor (the jungles seem to be always overrun with them) is just begging to be put out of its misery.

My Greatest Adventure no. 51 (January 1961), pencilled by Dick Dillin and inked by Sheldon Moldoff.

Our next exhibit finally features a proper alien, one who looks strange but at least makes sense as a unified, functioning creature. I love his sadly drooped whiskers, his dejected expression that’s strangely at odds with his pontifical speech.

Tales oftheUnexpected66
Tales of the Unexpected no. 66 (October 1961), cover by Bob Brown.

« Make him a werewolf! But in space! And give him tentacles! » Yeah, guys, that went over really well. A Marvel Masterwork, my ass. But wait: Black Destroyer! is an adaptation of A. E. van Vogt’s short story from 1939. And did Cœurl, the black cat-like creature, have tentacles in the story? Why, yes, he did.

« His great forelegs—twice as long as his hindlegs—twitched with a shuddering movement that arched every razor-sharp claw. The thick tentacles that sprouted from his shoulders ceased their weaving undulation, and grew taut with anxious alertness. Utterly appalled, he twisted his great cat head from side to side, while the little hairlike tendrils that formed each ear vibrated frantically, testing every vagrant breeze, every throb in the ether. » (read the full story here.)

Worlds Unknown no. 5 (February 1974), cover pencilled by Gil Kane and inked by Frank Giacoia. Cœurl looks like he’s floating on top of the corpse – I don’t think the artists spent too much time watching an actual cat at work.

Read the comics version of Black Destroyer! here.

My last offering for today is the cutest, featuring an adorable blue varmint who gets my full sympathy and support. Weird? Sure, a bit – he’s got a tentacle sprouting out of his forehead – but beauty is in the eye of the beholder, right? This cover also proves that monsters are just as interested in tooth-whitening procedures as us humans.

The Defenders no. 72 (June 1979), pencilled by Herb Trimpe and inked by Al Milgrom.

~ ds

Tentacle Tuesday: Have Tentacles, Will Space-travel

« When the blast of a rocket launch slams you against the wall and all the rust is shaken off your body, you will hear the great shout of the universe and the joyful crying of people who have been changed by what they’ve seen… »*

Greetings, dear astronauts! Today’s Tentacle Tuesday concerns itself with that “religious experience”, space travel… with tentacles in tow, of course. Some comics may announce their interplanetary theme by putting SPACE into the title of the series (and making sure it’s big and bold!), while others deploy a little subtlety and coyly refer to the unknown, or the unexpected. Either way, we’re in for a grand old time exploring space along with the brave men and women (err, mostly men) who found themselves exclaiming “ooh, tentacles!” while exploring some mysterious planet.

In chronological order, then…

Space Squadron no. 5 (February 1952, Atlas). The cover is *probably* by Joe Maneely.

Worlds Unknown no. 4 (November 1973, Marvel), (bad) cover by Dick Giordano. Some people have the knack for coming up with original and scary monsters, and some don’t. ’nuff said.

Star Hunters no. 1 (October-November 1977, DC), pencils by Rich Buckler and inks by Bob Layton. The green thingies may be snakes/dragons, not tentacles, but they’re doing a convincing impersonation.

The Unexpected no. 221 (April 1982, DC), cover by Joe Kubert. Now *there’s* a convincingly moody and frightening cover – no big pyrotechnics, just a strong hint of suffocation by a strangely-shaped cloud of ectoplasm. Shudder.

Pulp Fiction Library: Mystery in Space (September 1999, DC). Cover by Mitch O’Connell. This 228-page anthology features a bunch of reprinted stories (from the early 50s to the the early 80s) originally published in Real Fact Comics, Mystery in Space, Strange Adventures and Action Comics.

The Goon no. 11 (March 2005, Dark Horse), cover by Eric Powell.

Yeah Franky, what the hell are you doing?

Check out part 1 of this interplanetary tentacle exhibit here: Grabby Denizens of the Airless Void.

Incidentally, today I was given a nice gift at work: Buddha’s Hand, or the fingered citron, a type of citrus someone described as a “Monsanto-produced cross between calamari and a lemon”. How very appropriate for Tentacle Tuesday! Here’s a picture of my very own tentacled beauty:


« I have never listened to anyone who criticized my taste in space travel, sideshows or gorillas. When this occurs, I pack up my dinosaurs and leave the room. »*
~ ds
*All quotes by the great Ray Bradbury

Tentacle Tuesday: Grabby Denizens of the Airless Void

Aliens inevitably have tentacles. It’s a simple fact of life for any space explorer. Although I’m sure you wouldn’t dream of doubting my words, here are a few exhibits for your pleasure.

We’ll start off with a tentacle bonanza! This is what happens when you cross an octopus with a centipede.

Spaceman #6 (July 1954), cover by always-enjoyable Joe Maneely. “Speed Carter, Spaceman”  only lasted six issues, which is unfortunate – the stories are a lot of fun, with great art and intelligent-but-humorous scripts.

When “plant creatures” (who look remarkably like toothy goldfish) gone berserk deploy their tentacles to strangle you – in space, no less – , it must be Tentacle Tuesday.

Space Family Robinson Lost in Space #30 ( Gold Key Comics, October 1968). Cover by George Wilson, whose paintings are usually quite well executed (and this is no exception). The tentacle story, titled “Attack of the Plant Creatures”, is scripted by Gaylord Dubois and illustrated by Dan Spiegle. Incidentally, Space Family Robinson was an original science-fiction comic by Gold Key, and predates the Lost in Space TV series.

Seriously, who keeps stranding these vicious octopuses in space?

Space Ace #5 (1952, Magazine Enterprises), cover by Dick Ayers. I like these elegant space suits of the 50s, where naught but a small glass bubble and a tiny tank provided all the air one might need, and the costumes were tight enough to show off the guy’s muscles. The tentacle wrapped around the astronaut’s leg looks severed.

Just watch Solar-Brain nimbly dismantle an expensive piece of machinery with its tentacles. Tsk, tsk. These panels are from “The Living Gun”, a story from Metal Men #7 (April-May 1964) written by Robert Kanigher, pencilled by Ross Andru and inked by Mike Esposito.

Since I like pointing things like that out, please note that all the plot points of “The Living Gun” that concern Platinum (the only girl on the team) are fucking inane. She gets jealous when Doc Magnus is wooed by a beautiful model; participates in a beauty pageant while everybody else continues with their scientific research; attacks her team-mates when she’s disqualified from the pageant for not being human; quits the Metal Men in a huff and barely makes it into the epic battle pitting Magnus and his Metal Men against the murderous, power-grabbing Solar Brain. Girls will be girls… at least when a certain writer with the initials R.K. is around.

~ ds