Edgar Allan Poe: Immortality Is but Ubiquity in Time*

« Be silent in that solitude
    which is not loneliness — for then
the spirits of the dead who stood
    in life before thee are again
in death around thee — and their will
shall then overshadow thee: be still. »
— Edgar Allan Poe (1829)

It was on this day, two hundred and ten years ago, that the great writer, poet and posthumous master of all media Edgar Poe (Jan. 19, 1809 – Oct. 7, 1849) was born in Boston, Massachusetts. I’ll spare you the usual biographical details, widely available elsewhere, and we’ll concentrate on his unflagging ubiquity in the medium of comics.

Poe’s literary reputation was in tatters in America, thanks to a rash of hatchet jobs and dismissals, some of the most vicious from the pen of one Rufus Griswold, the very worm he’d named his literary executor (!), as well as such notables as Ralph Waldo Emerson and T.S. Eliot… while his renown was undimmed in Europe, particularly in France (in no small part owing to Charles Beaudelaire’s legendary translations), rehabilitation at home slowly came as the 20th century crept along, but it was likely the publication of Arthur Hobson Quinn’s definitive Poe biography, in 1941, that sealed the deal and opened the floodgates.

Top two tiers from page 2 of The Spirit‘s August 22, 1948 episode. Layout by Will Eisner, pencils and inks by Jerry Grandenetti. As Dave Schreiner puts it: « Grandenetti captures the asthenic look of Roderick Usher that Poe described. The man is a decadent waif; insular, fragile, high-strung, possibly in-bred. »

Classics Illustrated publisher Gilberton was first out of the gate with Poe adaptations, at first tentatively with a pair of poems (Annabel Lee, then The Bells)**, then more substantially with The Murders in the Rue Morgue, in Classic Comics no. 21 3 Famous Mysteries (July, 1944), sharing the stage with Arthur Conan Doyle and Guy de Maupassant. Read it here. Pictured below is Classics Illustrated no. 84 (June 1951, Gilberton), cover by Alex A. Blum. Read the issue here.

A relevant passage from Simon Singh‘s fascinating (if you’re into that sort of thing… and I hope you are) The Code Book: The Secret History of Codes and Code-Breaking (1999): « On the other side of the Atlantic, Edgar Allan Poe was also developing an interest in cryptanalysis. Writing for Philadelphia’s Alexander Weekly Messenger, he issued a challenge to readers, claiming that he could decipher any monoalphabetic substitution cipher. Hundreds of readers sent in their ciphertexts, and he successfully deciphered them all. Although this required nothing more than frequency analysis, Poe’s readers were astonished by his achievements. One adoring fan proclaimed him ‘the most profound and skilful cryptographer who ever lived’. In 1843, keen to exploit the interest he had generated, Poe wrote a short story about ciphers, which is widely acknowledged by professional cryptographers to be the finest piece of fictional literature on the subject. The Gold Bug tells the story of William Legrand, who discovers an unusual beetle, the gold bug, and collects it using a scrap of paper lying nearby. That evening he sketches the gold bug upon the same piece of paper, and then holds his drawing up to the light of the fire to check its accuracy. However, his sketch is obliterated by an invisible ink, which has been developed by the heat of the flames. Legrand examines the characters that have emerged and becomes convinced that he has in his hands the encrypted directions for finding Captain Kidd’s treasure. »
A page from EC Comics great Reed Crandall‘s exemplary adaptation of Poe’s The Tell-Tale Heart, from Creepy no. 3 (June, 1965). While Crandall’s work is outstanding, scripter-editor Archie Goodwin tried to ‘improve’ upon Poe by tacking on a tacky ending, a nasty habit he would indulge in again on subsequent adaptations, notably issue 6’s The Cask of Amontillado!. Read The Tell-Tale Heart. And don’t miss The Cask…, if only for the artwork.
In the mid-70s, Warren would devote two full issues of Creepy to Poe adaptations; issue 69 (Feb. 1975), featured The Pit and the Pendulum, The Fall of the House of Usher, The Premature BurialThe Oval Portrait, MS Found in a Bottle!, Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar; issue 70 (Apr. 1975) comprised The Murders in the Rue Morgue, Man of the Crowd, The Cask of Amontillado!, Shadow, A Descent into the Maelstrom! and Berenice
All stories were adapted, with far greater respect than Mr. Goodwin seemed capable of, by Rich Margopoulos, and illustrated by a host of artists. The project was edited by Bill DuBay, and the cover painting is by Ken Kelly.
Isidre Monés‘ fabulous opening splash from Creepy no. 70‘s Berenice. Read the story in full here.
« The rays of the moon seemed to search the very bottom of the profound gulf; but still I could make out nothing distinctly, on account of a thick mist in which everything there was enveloped, and over which there hung a magnificent rainbow, like that narrow and tottering bridge which Musselmen say is the only pathway between Time and Eternity. » In 1976, a peak-form Berni Wrightson got out his brushes and paint tubes for a heartfelt portfolio of Poe-inspired oils. A sensitive and subtle sense of colour was among Wrightson’s chief assets; it’s a shame we didn’t see more of it. I opted to feature my favourite piece from the lot, A Descent Into the Maelström, but by all means feast your eyes on the whole shebang.
In 1976, Marvel Comics set out to make their mark on the classics… with dubious, but predictable results. It wasn’t what their zombie readership had clamoured for. Here’s the best page (art by Rudy Mesina) from Marvel Classics Comics no. 28, The Pit and the Pendulum (1977), featuring three tales adapted by scripter Don McGregor, and including future superstar Michael Golden‘s abysmal professional début on yet another helping from The Cask of Amontillado, where he demonstrates how he believes wine is to be drunk just like Pepsi. See what I’m griping about here.
Think Poe’s all about the horror? Think again! You don’t become a household name by putting all your eggs in the same basket. Meet Edgar ‘Eddie’ Allan Poe, romantic leading man. “Based on actual records…” and sanitized beyond recognition. Given that Virginia and Edgar were first cousins and that they married when she was thirteen, you can see how absurd this strip is. Read the full tale of romance and pathos right here. The Beautiful Annabel Lee appeared in Enchanting Love no. 2 (Nov. 1949, Kirby Publishing). Writer unknown, art by Bill Draut and Bruno Premiani.
Kubert School alum Skot Olsen‘s cover illustration for the revised and expanded second edition (July, 2004) of Graphic Classics‘ Poe compendium.
As with, say, Elvis or H.P. Lovecraft, when both legend and œuvre reach a certain tipping point of iconic fame, one can bend and twist the concepts any which way and they’ll still be recognizable. Here’s a panel from Harvey Kurtzman and Will Elder‘s faithful-in-its-fashion take on The Raven, from Mad no. 9 (Feb.-Mar. 1954, EC).
Michael Kupperman strikes again. From Snake ‘n Bacon’s Cartoon Cabaret ( 2000, HarperCollins)
Hot off the presses! It’s Edgar Allan Poe’s Snifter of Terror no. 2 (Nov. 2018, Ahoy), featuring a collaboration between Rachel Pollack and the fabulous Rick Geary. Don’t miss it! Oh, and if the pose looks familiar, you’re thinking of this.

Whew — that’s it for now. In closing, I must bow and salute before the gargantuan endeavour accomplished by Mr. Henry R. Kujawa on his truly indispensable blog, Professor H’s Wayback Machine. Thanks for all the heavy lifting, Henry. I get exhausted just thinking about it.

Tintinabulate on, Mr. Poe — wherever you are!


*my thanks to Herman Melville for those words of wisdom.
**and thanks to the aforementioned Mr. Kujawa for that precious scrap of arcane lore.

How do you like *your* Christmas?

« Christmas, Christmas, Christmas, Christmas makes me happy
I love Christmas cold and grey, I love it sweet and sappy
Says crazy kissin’ Cousin Flo:
‘Let’s break out the mistletoe’ »

FourColor201, 1948
The heart-warming cover of that Four Color no. 201, 1948. Art by Walt Kelly. Check out the adorable moon-jumpin’ cow in the top left corner!
Dell's Four Color #302
This is the back cover of Dell’s Four Color no. 302 (Santa Claus Funnies), 1950. Such warm colours. Art by Canadian Mel Crawford, who worked on various Dell publications in the 1950s (such as Howdy Doody, Mr. Magoo, and Four Color Comics) to later become an accomplished watercolours/acrylics painter.

« Christmas, Christmas, Christmas, Christmas out the waz
Christmas, Christmas, Christmas, Christmas up the schnozz
Come all ye faithful, don’t be slow
It’s Christmas time, you can’t say no »

Creepy no. 68 (January 1975), cover by Ken Kelly. “House’ and “about” don’t rhyme, but it’s the season to forgive. I like how Santa appears to be bawling in frustration.
Vault of Horror no. 35 (EC, 1954), cover by Johnny Craig. Maybe open the lid of the coffin first, dumbass?

« Momma wants a kitchen sink
And daddy wants a stiffer drink
Grandma wants us to cut the crap
Grandpa wants a nice long nap »

Illustration by Richard Thompson. Who else wants some Festive Dietetic Crackers? I’d definitely sit with the mouse.

« Christmas, Christmas, Christmas, Christmas everywhere
Christmas, Christmas, Christmas, Christmas pullin’ out my hair
Shoppers lined up out the door
Traffic backed up miles and more
It’s Christmas time, so what the heck
Let’s go spend the whole paycheck »

A Little Lulu cartoon by Marge Buell (Saturday Evening Post, 1944).
From the pleasantly warped mind of Hilary Barta with a fond tip of the Santa hat to old Uncle Salvador, obviamente. Да да да!

« Deck the halls, it is the season
We don’t need no rhyme or reason
It’s Christmas time, go spread the cheer
Pretty soon gonna be next year »

Sensation Comics no. 38 (1945), cover by H.G. Peter.
Original art for a Christmas card of Little Orphan Annie by Harold Gray. Just some 70 years ago, right?

Merry Christmas!

~ ds

Tentacle Tuesday: Warren and Its Many Tentacles, Part II

Greetings, tentacle lovers! I’m here with a new batch of Warren-published tentacles – this time, some he-men macho types get tangled up in them, though damsels predominate as usual. Don’t forget to visit part I: Tentacle Tuesday: Warren and Its Many Tentacles.

One thing that can easily be generalized from tentacular covers is that women frequently have a lot more fun on them than their male counterparts. To wit:

Vampirella no. 39 (January 1975). Cover by Ken Kelly. The gal may not be Vampirella, but damn, she’s enjoying herself. I admit that having tentacle-shaped fingers would be… practical.


As for poor Vampi, she seems to encounter tentacles wherever she goes.

Vampirella no. 62 (August 1977), cover by Spanish artistEnrich, whose real name was Enrique Torres-Prat.

The cover story, Starpatch Quark & Mother Blitz (scripted by Bill DuBay and illustrated by Jose Gonzalez), contains some spectacular, spiky, nasty tentacles.

I tried saying « prasptam… hoodjum… billigam… POOT! », but no tentacled creature materialized. How very disappointing. I’d also like to know what kind of slap makes a « SPAKKT! » noise.
The non-librarian girl in question is Vampi. Her eyeballs get ripped out by some vengeful queen and get accidentally conjured onto the desk of some random girl with an abusive husband, during which time blind, suffering Vampi is kidnapped by aliens while a handsome youth uses his father’s psychic connection with Vampi’s eyes to watch through them as they are retrieved by a tentacled monster, and… oh, never mind. Go read the story yourself.


The original cover art of Vampirella no. 105 (May 1982), painted by Enrich. It was printed much darker, so one can barely see tentacles. Fuck that, I say! Let us admire the green creature in its full glory! (And its unfortunate slight family resemblance to Jabba the Hutt…) His gaze seems to be appraising Vampirella – “hm, I wonder if she would be as tasty a snack as she looks?”
The printed version of said issue.

The cover story sounds like fun… let’s take a peek.

I’m sorry, but that is not what “Blobs and Behemoths” made me think of. I was expecting something in the class of Cthulhu, not an overweight human walrus with tentacles! Panel from “Horrors of Heartache City”, scripted by Bill DuBay and illustrated by Jose Gonzales (apparently this team specializes in tentacles).

« You’re worried that little Orphee is thinking of making a meal of that luscious girl…? He’s turned down everything from the choicest prime rib to the slimiest of insects, which leads me to believe that he filters nourishment from the very air! »


So much for scientific theories.


I think I promised you some men fighting tentacles. Sigh, so be it.

Eerie no. 66 (June 1975), cover by Manuel Sanjulian.
Eerie no. 111 (June 1980), cover by Ken Kelly. What’s scarier than an old wizard with a majestic beard whipping in the wind? An old wizard whose head is attached to tentacles, obviously.
1994 no. 19 (June 1981), cover by Jordi Penalva. I am totally fascinated by the girl’s expression. Whatever the tentacles behind her are doing, they’re doing it right. As for the guy, he looks like a sanctimonious asshole, from his scowl to his hairy legs.

I had to know what the hell is “The Holy Warrior” about. “Godless commie heathens”? Oh, very subtle, 1994. Given the mention of kicking the living crud out of ’em, it’s tempting to assume that this is satire… unless the author has an amputated sense of humour. I couldn’t find any scans of the story online, but someone on a Very Creepy Blog kindly summarized it as:

“Third is “The Holy Warrior!” by Delando Niño (art) and John Ellis Sech & Bill DuBay (story). This story takes place in a future where there are Jesus clones. Our hero, the Holy Warrior, is seeking to rescue one, which is just a child, from communist enemies. He is able to do so, but the two of them are so hungry that he ends up killing the clone and eating him! Quite a bizarre and heretical ending for this story.”

And I thought that Vampi story was written by someone on drugs. Same author, mind you (Bill DuBay) – there’s definitely a pattern… of nonsense, balderdash and malarkey.

By the way, you can read a bunch of Warren publications online – for free! – here.

~ ds

Tentacle Tuesday: Warren and Its Many Tentacles

Welcome to Tentacle Tuesday! Today’s edition features beautifully painted covers from series published by Warren, and oh boy oh boy, are there are a lot of tentacles to be found there! To borrow a title from the first cover we’ll be ogling today, “THE SLIMY, CRAWLY SLITHERING GROPIES DO TERRIBLE THINGS TO PRETTY LITTLE GIRLS!” It’s a tad lacking in subtlety, but summarizes the state of things quite nicely.

On with the show…

1994 no. 12 (April 1980). The cover was painted by Sanjulián (his real name is Manuel Pérez Clemente), a Spanish painter who started working for Warren publishing in 1970. The girl’s demure pose coupled with her terrified eyes is quite striking.
1994 no. 20 (August 1981). Cover by Nestor Redondo, an exceptional Filipino artist.

I wouldn’t expect cephalopods to care for patriarchal, machismo standards of female purity, but apparently Lecherous Groatie (great nickname) wants his maidens virginous (which isn’t even a word, you guys). “Little Beaver!”, you say? Way to go in being offensive to both tentacled creatures *and* Indians. This issue also contains the story “The Russians Are Coming… All Over America!”, a title which I, for one, find hilarious.

1994 no. 25 (June 1982). Cover by Lloyd Garrison. Aaah, a rare silent cover. It’s clear enough: Ukranian Santa will surely rescue the maiden, if he doesn’t get too distracted by her ass or Chinese-takeout container-inspired undergarment.

Leaving 1994 behind (although technically we’re going back in time), and moving on to Eerie, we get to tentacles that look like worms coming out of a lumpy, squishy brain – the joy of any good anatomical pathologist.

Eerie no. 76 (August 1976). The cover the aforementioned Sanjulián, who has quite the talent for painting extremely realistic textures, as demonstrated by this rather unsettling cover.

One understands the guy’s desperate attempts to get free, but why is the woman so placid, serenely exposing herself to the creature’s grasp? I guess Tentacle Tuesday doesn’t have the same effect on everyone. Interestingly, Sanjulián seems to have tweaked his art  for the cover – here’s his original painting, in which the girl’s face is clearly visible.


Let’s visit good old Vampi and see what sort of cephalopod encounters she’s had.

Vampirella no. 101 (December 1981); art by Noly Panaligan (who, by the way, is another Filipino artist).

The tentacled creature in question is the “star-beast” advertised on the cover – an alien (suspiciously similar to an octopus) who, as usual, tries to take over the earth by breeding (which for some reason involves a lot of nude & nubile college students as sacrifices) and is killed when Vampirella crashes a car into it. Starting on an epic, inter-planetary scale and ending it all with a banal road accident is a bit of an anti-climax.

Is this Vampirella’s last encounter with tentacles, you ask? Don’t be silly – of course not. As the Russians say, « and yet again the little hare will go out for a walk. »

Vampirella no. 95 (April 1981), cover by Ken Kelly. “O Mr. Walrus-with-tentacles, please don’t hurt little old me!”

More? Well, okay, one last cover.

Creepy no. 67 (December 1974), cover by Ken Kelly (not one of his better efforts, to be honest). We’ll return to sweet ol’ Bowser on another occasion.

Could I continue? Yes, absolutely… so expect Tentacle Tuesday: Warren part 2 at some point.

~ ds

Tentacle Tuesday: Educated Cephalopod Seeks Damsel in Distress

This is the slimiest, creepiest day of the week: Tentacle Tuesday. Hurrah, hurrah, all hail the Chthonians.

It would be a long post indeed if I tried making an exhaustive list of comics in which buxom females are being groped by grabby tentacles. Still, let’s make a (small) dent in this category. Here’s three candies with sweet fillings of adventure, fun, and sex.

Let’s start things slow (but entertaining) with this playful octopus from Virgil Partch‘s madcap pen.

Liberty Magazine, 1946. Frankly, I think she’s better off with tentacles than with the unshaven and blasé Mr. Smeech.

Next up, we have Brenda Buckler who seems to be rather enjoying her captivity. Tous les goûts sont dans la nature!

« It’d been a long time since anyone touched Brenda. As the dry, scaly tentacle encircled her body, it touched something deeper than flesh… »  Eerie no. 60 (September 1974), painted cover by Ken Kelly (a gallery of his paintings can be found here).

Plot spoiler: the tentacled monster is actually her husband! Ain’t nothing wrong with bestiality as long as it’s sanctioned by the holy institution of matrimony. Brenda is the protagonist of the cover story, “The Man Hunters”, written by Gerry Boudreau and illustrated by Wally Wood (with colours by Michele Brand). Don’t worry, though: there’s a happy ending in store for her (aside from the whole “watching your shipmates eaten alive by a giant monster” thing). Moral of the story, never underestimate the erotic potential of “filth-encrusted tentacles”.

A coloured (and quite colourful) version of “The Man Hunters” was reprinted in Warren’s Comix International no. 2 (1975), and you can read it here: http://diversionsofthegroovykind.blogspot.ca/2010/02/ec-in-ya-wood-and-crandall-in-color.html

The wrap-up for today is scanned from a comic series I just finished reading, The Rocketeer: Hollywood Horror by Roger Langridge as author and J. Bone as illustrator. It was published in 2012, and collected as a paperback and hardcover in 2013. Aside from the healthy helping of tentacles it serves its readers, this comic features some top-notch writing from Langridge and some nice art. I don’t pretend this stuff is deep, but it’s a pleasurable romp with pretty girls, evil scientists, and a goofy-but-lovable hero. Recommended for some fun reading (although I admit I spoiled it a bit by featuring two of the main action pages)…

I like a girl who can admit when she needs rescuin’.
Am I the only one that feels sorry for the monster, even if it *is* a robot?

Tentacularly yours,

~ ds