« Moonshiners put more time, energy, thought, and love into their cars than any racer ever will. Lose on the track, and you go home. Lose with a load of whiskey, and you go to jail. » — Junior Johnson
Lee Marrs (b. 1945) is not your typical « underground » cartoonist, though to be fair — what would a typical undergrounder be? The movement’s whole raison d’être was ‘vive la différence‘, wouldn’t you say?
Hers is not a prolific career, perhaps, but look at the gloriously idiosyncratic path she followed: newspaper comic strip assistant (Hi & Lois, Prince Valiant, Little Orphan Annie…), underground (Wimmen’s Comix, Pudge, Girl Blimp, The Compleat Fart and Other Body Emissions), and mainstream cartoonist — well, even better: she was a regular contributor to DC’s justly-fabled (but yet to be reprinted, ahem) Plop!; she appeared in Marvel’s Mad knock-off Crazy; she even scripted, in the early 90s, a Viking Prince (yes, Kanigher and Kubert’s 1955 creation) epic, illustrated by Bo Hampton, and even a bit of Batman (‘Stalking‘, with Eddy Newell, in 1998). But that’s merely scratching the surface: here’s a more comprehensive rundown of her captivating journey.
And I’m delighted to report that the scintillating Ms. Marrs is still active today, her verve and talent undimmed and undiluted. By all means, check out her website for the undeniable evidence!
« That’s the conditions that prevail! » — Jimmy Durante
Today, we salute noted vaudevillian, piano player, comedian, singer, film and radio star, raconteur and unlikely comics legend James Francis “Jimmy” Durante, born on this day, February 10, in 1893 (as it was a Friday, the family presumably fasted or had fish for dinner). He truly was a master of all media, as you’ll witness.
« You know, the dog food that Billy Jack loves! » — The Firesign Theatre
Ah, September the 18th. Today’s the birthday of the staggeringly accomplished William Stout (born in 1949), master of ancient reptiles, bootleg record covers, friend of The Firesign Theatre, former Russ Manning assistant (none but the best would do!), and I’ll spare you the illustrious details of his career in cinema. Still, let’s look around a bit, shall we?
Speaking of ’74, isn’t that rhino a dead ringer for Swan’s oleaginous right-hand man, Philbin, from Phantom of the Paradise?
And that’s Bill Stout for you: stunningly versatile, but always himself. Could any artist strive for more?
As we’re currently in the blaze of summer (rocketing temperatures and crazy humidity, courtesy of global warming – this June was the hottest June ever, and we’re well on track for beating records for July), a Tentacle Tuesday post about plants seemed appropriate. Did I say “plants”? More like “plantacles”: these vines and tendrils snatch and grab, creep and reach, entwine and writhe just like their cephalopod counterparts.
So Blaze Barton encounters some vine tentacles, fine; but he also encounters ‘queer tiny plants‘ that swarm him and attack with what looks very much like octopus appendages. The delightful thing about Hit Comics and particularly Barton’s adventures is that the stories are goofy as hell.
The story continues in the same vein, merrily galloping into insanity… into an ‘evil-infested‘ lake that boasts man-eating weeds, once again complete with tentacles.
Continuing our grabby, carnivorous vines theme, a creepy little tale of a scientist who slightly oversteps his bounds:
Occasionally, an entire tree will decide that it’s more fun to strangle a human than to passively let itself be chopped down. Who could argue with that?
The cover story, Women of the Wood, is based on a short story by Abraham Merritt that you can read here if you’re so inclined. It’s an excellent creepy tale – though I can’t promise tentacles, I can definitely guarantee murderous trees.
« For all those hundred years there have been hatred and battle between us and the forest. My father, M’sieu, was crushed by a tree; my elder brother crippled by another. My father’s father, woodsman that he was, was lost in the forest — he came back to us with mind gone, raving of wood women who had bewitched and mocked him, luring him into swamp and fen and tangled thicket, tormenting him. In every generation the trees have taken their toll of us — women as well as men — maiming or killing us. »
Speaking of attacking tree trunks, I do believe this qualifies:
The cover story, The Phantom of Gamma-Ray Flats! (scripted by Peter B. Gillis, penciled by Don Perlin and inked by Kim DeMulder) is quite entertaining – and brimming to the gills with plant tentacles.
« My father had a lifelong interest in helping musicians. I even encountered his presence when reading the autobiography of Anita O’Day. She said that there was a real estate man in Chicago who always made sure her band had a place to stay. That was Pop. » – Justin Green
How did Justin Green, one of the Founding Fathers of the Underground Comix movement, wind up holding down a regular feature for a decade (1992-2002) in Tower Records‘ in-house magazine, Pulse!? The whole chain of events began with a strip about his dad’s drinking. Of course.
While Green isn’t a native virtuoso draftsman like, say, R. Crumb or Rick Griffin, and he’s only fair-to-middling when it comes to likenesses, he *is* a born storyteller, and that’s really what’s most needed for an endeavour of this nature. Compressing a lifetime, or at least a career, into a single-page strip (two at the most!) is remarkably tricky and demanding, and if it looks deceptively easy here, he’s succeeded.
In selecting strips for this post, I didn’t lean towards my own favourite musicians, opting instead for what I felt were the strongest pieces, regardless of topic. However, I’m reserving my very favourite for a special New Year’s Eve post. Hope you enjoyed these musical time capsules! If you did, you’ll be happy to learn that the fine folks at Last Gaspcollected the set in 2003.
We have just come back from a lovely vacation in Nova Scotia, one of Canada’s maritime provinces. In the honour of this all-too-short getaway, this Tentacle Tuesday is about Canadian artist Randolph Holton Holmes, who was born in Nova Scotia in 1942 and passed away in British Columbia in 2002, completely at the other end of this big country.
« Rand Holmes was Canada’s most revolutionary artist in his heyday, the star cartoonist at the Georgia Straight newspaper in British Columbia during the 1970s. His hippie hero, Harold Hedd, became the spokesman of the emerging counterculture as he avoided work, explored free love, and flouted drug laws. The Adventures of Harold Hedd spread across the globe in the wave of underground comix and newspapers of the era and Holmes became famous or at least notorious. While his comic character was bold and blatant, the artist was shy and quiet, well on his way to becoming a complete hermit. » (excerpt from Fantagraphics’ The Artist Himself: A Rand Holmes Retrospective)
Glimpsing through Holmes’ body of work, one quickly becomes aware that he displays a special affinity for drawing busty women… and (of more interest to this current post) that he loves to insert tentacles at the drop of a hat, especially if ETs of some kind are involved. A lot of artists use tentacles as a short-hand for aliens, and he’s not alone in that… much to my personal satisfaction.
As I mentioned Holmes’ story Killer Planet, here’s a peek at its manifold tentacles:
And lastly, for contrast with the cover of Slow Death and its throes-of-ecstasy coupling scene, there’s this: