Hallowe’en Countdown VI, Day 4

« I don’t know that there are real ghosts and goblins, But there are always more trick-or-treaters than neighborhood kids. » — Robert Breault

Here’s a page from The Western Publishing Company‘s 1970 Golden Memo Calendar, from the brush of skillful Canadian illustrator Mel Crawford (1925-2015).

What’s that? You’re not familiar with Mr. Crawford’s name? Well, perhaps his work will ring a bell. Take a look at some of his œuvre through this fine overview by historian Ivan Kocmarek.

In this case, Crawford was obviously instructed to hew closely to the style of Richard Scarry (my very first artistic hero!), who’d illustrated the earliest editions of the Golden Calendar.

For some sense of Crawford’s range, here’s an episode of Professor Harbinger, a speculative ‘science’ backup feature that regularly appeared in Doctor Solar, Man of the Atom. This, the inaugural vignette, saw print in the magazine’s second issue (Dec. 1962, Gold Key). It was scripted by the prolific Dick Wood; Crawford must have enjoyed the feature, as he stuck around to illustrate its first dozen or so instalments. He was succeeded by fellow Ontarian Win Mortimer.

It’s what’s happening, all right, but not for the stated reason.


The Quite Wacky Adventures of Cracky

Country Boy: What are you doing?
City Boy: Drawing.
Country Boy: Where are your guns?
— Submitted by Steven Feinstein, 7, Philadelphia, PA (circa 1965)

Cracky the parrot was introduced in the role of mascot for Western Publishing‘s general-interest kids’ mag The Golden Magazine (1964-71), which heavily drew upon the successful Jack and Jill (published since 1938 by The Saturday Evening Post Society) formula.

For much of its existence, The Golden Magazine thrived, having access to top creative talent from the Western publishing empire (Whitman, Gold Key, Golden Press, Golden Book Encyclopedia…)

At first, Cracky stuck to sharing reader-submitted jokes. Then, around 1968, he began to show up on covers, generally depicted by versatile Canadian illustrator Mel Crawford (1925-2015). This is one such case, from April, 1969.

In 1970, Cracky saw his old job expanded, branching out into two titles, Jokes by Cracky and  Pencil Puzzle Fun, the latter outlasting its parent, The Golden Magazine. This is Jokes by Cracky no. 2 (1970); Cover art by Mel Crawford.

Then, in 1972, it gets interesting: the lowly parrot mascot broke into comics.

As Archie Comics had their Christian-zealot madman in Al Hartley, so did Western in the person of Vic Lockman. A significant difference, however, is that Hartley, despite quite stiff competition, is arguably the very worst Archie artist; he’s certainly got my vote [Seconded! ~ ds]. Lockman (1927-2016), a prolific but often terrible scriptwriter, was a terrific cartoonist, blessed with a gorgeously fluid line and exemplary design sense, lively and detailed. Here, then, is a story from Wacky Adventures of Cracky no. 3 (June, 1973). Script and art, including his distinctive lettering, by Mr. Lockman.


During the run of his comic book, Cracky (and sidekick Mr. Kaws) wore many hats: detective, inventor (presumably giving Lockman the chance to recycle some of his rejected Gyro Gearloose scripts), ship’s captain, escape artist, sheik… And yes, he did encounter some choice tentacles, but I leave it to my partner to conduct her own investigation. Lockman beautifully handled the first ten issues of WAOC; the instant he stepped away, the thing dissolved into tripe. Avoid accordingly.

Lockman, who seemed a loveable, well-meaning coot, was also twelve kinds of batty. Biblical Economics, anyone? For as full a picture as can be reasonably assembled, read Mark Evanier‘s fine, thoughtful obituary of Lockman.

Lockman was also among those sadly deluded souls (hello, Chuck Dixon) who tried to lay claim to the title of most published comics writer. Let’s face it: the most likely contenders (Joe Gill, Paul S. Newman, Gaylord DuBois) toiled in anonymity for most of their long careers.

In 1971, The Golden Magazine was sold (to The Saturday Evening Post Company!) and renamed, becoming Young World in 1972. Young World, in turn, got incorporated into Child Life in 1979, but that’s a story for another day. Many of TGM’s features were retained but slightly… tweaked. For instance, see who inherited Cracky’s old desk?

« Moo! I say Moo! »


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: Domesticated Octopus Seeks Soulmate

Meet an old man’s pet, Poochy. Like most pets, he gets a little impatient and loud around mealtime, but forgive him – he’s just a healthy animal who needs his calories. Who’s a good boy?

It’s Tentacle Tuesday, and today’s offering is this barking mad (hehe) and delightfully nonsensical story with script and pencils by Jim Starlin and inks by Wayne Howard.

« The Hotel » is a mere 2 pages long, so here it is in its full and unabridged glory:


This is no plebeian octopus. This tentacled horror, this mutated dog-like atrocity, is a force for moral good, dammit, dishing out all the punishment these evil-doers deserve! (Or maybe it’s just hungry.)

This tale of woe comes from Weird Mystery Tales #4 (Jan.-Feb. 1973), with a cover by Jim Aparo. It re-interpreted the story somewhat, making the thug’s comeuppance a little more immediate, but it’s still the same basic plot device: there’s the Deus ex machina, and there’s what I call Sudden Tentacles. Don’t know how to wrap up your story? Bam! tentacles out of nowhere, and everyone forgets that your tale makes no freaking sense.


Continuing this rather disturbing theme of stay-at-home octopuses, we have another contender for someone’s beloved pet: this sweet little (metaphorically speaking) guy from « Dum-Dum’s Basement » (Boris Karloff Tales of Mystery #93, August 1979).

Art by Mel Crawford. Dum-Dum’s pet will soon want flesh instead of fish! (I also like how some people don’t give a shit about having a permanently flooded basement.)

Then we have the prototypical Sudden Tentacles and set at home, too: this panel from a chilling Tom Sutton and Nicola Cuti story called « Those Tentacles! » (inventive title), published in Ghostly Tales #106, August 1973.

“The tree branches remind me of those tentacles… those slimy, winding tentacles squeezing the life from Jake!”

There’s a scene in Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors (at 3:55) that quite terrified me as a kid – a girl reaches over a sink to turn the water on, and the tap sprouts… appendages… and grabs her hand. I wish Freddy Krueger was into tentacles, I would have spent fewer sleepless nights in my youth.

Wishing all of you peaceful nights of slumber… until the next Tentacle Tuesday rolls around – and it will.

Googly Eyed Stubby Squid
This itty-bitty octopus will haunt your nightmares.