« Taking sartorial risks and not following other people is what makes you stand out. » — Zac Posen
I was planning a big commemorative post for today, but I got tangled up in my calendar and realised in time that I was a couple of weeks off. So instead, I’ll just blow off a little steam.
Some cartoonists are born character designers. Others, not so much. The Rhino, a Stan Lee-John Romita Sr. creation, first appeared in The Amazing Spider-Man no. 41 (Oct. 1966, Marvel), soon after Steve Ditko‘s abrupt but quite justified resignation. Isn’t that just a dog of a cover? (pencils and inks by Romita, colours by Stan Goldberg).
Somehow, Daredevil seems to wind up with more than his share of poorly-attired villains. It’s as if they know he’s blind and won’t judge them too harshly on sartorial grounds.
The Beetle first scurried into view in Strange Tales no. 123 (Aug. 1964, Marvel), tackling the Human Torch (and The Thing). Too bad it wasn’t Doctor Strange he was sparring with, since his threads would then have been designed by Mr. Ditko instead of by Carl Burgos.
He then went on to bug the aforementioned ‘hornhead’. This is Daredevil no. 34 (Nov. 1967); pencils by Gene Colan, inks by Bill Everett. Why does everyone on stage appear to wear a size 15 shoe? At least!
The costume of the Tarantula (a glorious Gerry Conway-Ross Andru creation!) is such an impractical conceit that they pretty much have to use him in the same position on every cover. The guy can barely walk in such, er — calzado, let alone fly at Spider-Man with such force. Just a lousy idea, on every level — tarantulas bite, they don’t sting, Gerry.
Poor Razor-Fist was created by writer Doug Moench and artist Paul Gulacy. How did he get dressed? How did he go to the bathroom? How did he feed himself? How did he get his head to bend that far back? (Perhaps he’s a Pez Dispenser).
« He was offered a sloe gin fizz in a pink frosted glass by a young woman who removed her glass eye and sucked on it while discussing the moral imperatives of the sponge boycott in Brooksville, Florida. » — Harlan Ellison, ‘Neon’.
In 1973, Marvel was trying all sorts of things to bolster its market presence. They even dared to tread where even the venerable Weird Tales had never quite succeeded. The Haunt of Horror was a prose fiction digest that strongly showed its comics roots. It offered a mixture of classic material (Fritz Leiber’s Conjure Wife, a piece by Robert E. Howard) and of contemporary genre practitioners: Harlan Ellison, Ramsey Campbell… featuring a score of illustrations slapped together by Marvel’s less superhero-limited alumni, namely Gene Colan, Mike Ploog, Frank Brunner, Walt Simonson and Dan Green. After two issues, Marvel called the whole thing off, licking its wounds, but soon revived the title as a b&w comics magazine, this time eking out five issues (May 1974 – Jan. 1975) plus a 1977 issue of Marvel Preview.
As for me, I picked it up for the rare short story by the nonpareil R. A. Lafferty, Ghost in the Corn Crib.
In the end, you might say that this short-lived publication is best known for a screwup: indeed, the notoriously disorganized Marvel Bullpen messed up the page order of Harlan Ellison‘s contribution to the first issue, Neon. Never one to let such things slide, Harlan made sure that a correct version was printed in the second issue. Score one for the good guys.
There’s some sort of Conan-mania around these parts. I’ve never understood the fascination with the Barbarian Hero (associated terms, in case you go barbarian-spotting: loin cloths or Pelts of the Barbarian, taut rippling muscles, oiled back, impressive weapons, the beard of a grizzly bear – or inexplicably clean-shaven at all times – and glorious manly manes), but clearly others go for sword-and-sorcery stuff in a big way. Conan sure puts the ‘sword’ in… err… well, he puts the sword into *everything*, slashing, hacking and dismembering his way through tedious comic after tedious comic.
He also runs into tentacled monsters, like, every 5 seconds. It seems that whatever tentacles existed in the Hyborian Age, they all made a point of appearing in concentrated clusters in whatever geographical area Conan was passing through. I understand, it’s difficult to come up with a decent monster for an Epic Fight Scene every month. Tentacles were clearly Plan B for days when nothing more exciting came to mind.
I’ve actually skipped some Tentacle Tuesday-relevant covers of this Conan the Barbarian series (275 issues published between October 1970 and December 1993) because they were just too ugly… or too boring. Can you imagine a cover with tentacles on it that’s boring?! Well, I can, now.
In the mood for more Conan? Visit another Tentacle Tuesday entry, the Savagery of Conan’s Savage Sword, for a gallery of painted Conan covers, replete with mostly nude cuties and of course a great heaping helping of tentacles.
*because it’s a direct sales edition, as opposed to a newsstand edition, which would bear a barcode.
« The other three players dropped out… I could feel the tension buzzing right out of their twisted bodies… »
Poor, naïve Lou Beltram!
I first laid eyes on this one when I visited, in the fall of 1976, a tabagie (a tobacco shop) at a recently-opened shopping mall. For some reason, they had a batch of comics dating from 1973. This was one*.
The cover feature, « The Strange Game », is a typical product of the early 1950’s horror boom: it doesn’t make a lick of sense, but it is fairly irresistible stuff, at least from the perspective of an 11-year-old. This wacky cover art, from this May 1973 issue, is the work of company man supreme John Romita Sr., Marvel’s heavy-handed art director of the period.
This time (sorry!) you’re getting the story right here, since… who else would get interested in such a boneheaded piece of claptrap, badly drawn to boot? (technically speaking… I do, however, find its primitive ineptitude quite charming). Suspend all disbelief and critical sense, and enjoy!
The tale in question, scripted by an unknown writer and illustrated by Marty Elkin (reportedly Gil Kane‘s cousin!), was reprinted from Atlas’ (what Marvel Comics were called back in the day) Strange Tales #9 (August, 1952).
Oh, and something was nagging at me about a particular panel… so I did a little digging, here’s what I found: while swiping from Jack Davis has long been a national pastime, here’s one of the earliest infractions not perpetrated by Howard Nostrand (who’s fine in his own right, but he did have that singular, corner-cutting vice).
I also suspect page 2’s second panel to be an early EC Joe Orlando or Wally Wood swipe, but I can’t quite nail it down… yet.