« … a radical series of crappy jokes & trashy art mopped out of the Bowery’s least washed lavatories. Fueled on bologna sandwiches, black coffee & cheap cigarettes, these are the ugly buttons that scream ‘America‘ to an America that has forgotten itself. » — a tasty bit of hype from Goblinko
Fabled pulp illustrator Norman Saunders (a definite favourite around these parts) is legitimately appreciated for his body of work, but I do believe he isn’t sufficiently lauded for his humorous work. After all, he could hold his own against the likes of Basil Wolverton and Wally Wood, and how many of his peers could lay claim to such a lofty achievement?
A passage from his son David’s definitive monograph, the simply and fittingly titled Norman Saunders:
Ugly Buttons came out in 1967 to exploit the popular trend of protest buttons with witty sayings. The macabre humor of Ugly Buttons reflects their Halloween release date as well as the morbid comedy of popular TV shows like The Addams Family and The Munsters. Norm Saunders created half [ eleven, actually ] of the twenty-four images in this set, while Wally Wood created the other half.
Collectors find this set very difficult to complete. Although the series was a popular success in 1967, the buttons appear to have rarely survived. This is perhaps attributable to the design of the tin back pin, which was made in Japan with a hair-trigger clasp that instantly popped open and fell off.
By the way, I don’t know just how sanctioned these reissues are, but the cool cats at Goblinko have made these lovely buttons available once more, presumably sturdier and certainly at a perfectly reasonable price (forty times the original, I’ll grant you… but you do get to pick).
« Then — when O’Flaherty turned on the light, his blood crystallized! »
Its classic cover aside, this Fawcett one-shot is barely worth reading, save for the utterly bizarre Footprints on the Ceiling.
The gangsters O’Flaherty and Flitcher train a revived dead dog to be a trick dog on stage. But they have to fight off hordes of skeletal zombies coming after them to bring the dog where it belongs – in the province of the dead.
Who came up with that scenario? (it’s not merely a rhetorical question: no one seems to officially know). Might its loopiness have in some small way inspired Bob Burden’s gonzo Flaming Carrot epic The Dead Dog Leaped Up and Flew Around the Room? It’s not such a stretch, given that Burden is no stranger to Golden Age comics, having been a-dealing in such goods, with a marked (and healthy) predilection for the oddball. Obviously.
And after all these dead dogs, what do you say we enjoy the sight of a curious and healthy live one?
I say, the year’s first Tentacle Tuesday is a big responsibility! That’s why I’d like to start with some slimy or furry, squirming or pitter-pattering, whimsical or gnarled, skittish or spine-chilling, drooly woolly creepy crawlies with toupees and bloodshot eyes. After all, the 2020s decade is sadly guaranteed to be full of ’em… but of a significantly less cute variety than the lot that I’m featuring today.
Topps‘ Ugly Stickers have a lot going for them: excellently drawn, tongue-in-cheek monsters in various states of putrefaction. If there’s one commonality between them, it’s that most of them showcase teeth any dentist would be thrilled to drill through. Many of them have far more appendages that a regular creature needs… and a lot of these appendages are distinctly tentacular, which is of course where we come in! And they’re all cute as a button.
«In 1965 Topps released Ugly Stickers. This set was initially based on the grotesque drawings of Basil Wolverton, but when he demanded copyright control, he was paid off for his first twelve images and then fired. The rest of the creatures in the set were designed by Norman Saunders and Wally Wood.
The creatures that appear on the display box, the wax wrapper, and the giant twelve-piece puzzle were all designed by Saunders. He also painted all 44 Ugly Stickers. These were so popular they were reissued in four later versions and even spawned a line of rubbery toys called Teacher’s Pets.»
So what’s the break-down? Out of the original 44 stickers, Wolverton designed 10. The rest were the handiwork of WallyWood and Norman Saunders. The total set numbers 164. Not all cards were repeated in the re-runs, which is why the numbers don’t compute, for those of you who multiplied 44 cards by 4 versions and obtained 176, not 164; there were 4 groups of 40 cards + 4 non-repeated cards.
In some print runs, the creatures did not have names, doubtlessly leaving that part to the reader’s imagination. Most cards, however, do have names, with genders shamelessly swapped, making guys into gals and back into guys again. Take a peek at the full list of name changes over at this very instructive website, Bubble Gum Cards.
Does s/he look like a Jacqueline to you? Or maybe an Edward? I vote for the former; such an elegant name for a bug-eyed, displeased brain-thing, Just look at the flair with which she wears that pink tuft of fur underneath.
Joseph and Evelyn (or Stanley and Renée, or…) were previously used by my co-admin RG in his Hallowe’en Countdown III, Day 24 post, but they distinctly have tentacles, so I believe it’s worth running them again.
As a little bonus, here’s a lady from Topps’ 1966 Ugly Name Stickers series who asked to be included. Her name was… Donald, Sylvia, Angelo, Phyllis, Barney, or Rosemary. “Barney” is really pushing it!
« Now, Carlos — put that gun away! »
« Why, Fernando, I thought I’d start the show with a bang! »
That guy in the audience with the irritating donkey laugh is finally getting his. This unforgettable cover is the work of the peerless Norman Saunders, whose long and prolific career blazed its way through pulps, comic books, slicks, men’s adventure magazines, paperbacks, trading cards… you name it!
This is Ziff-Davis’ The Crime Clinic no. 11 (actually its second issue, September-October 1951). And for once, the inside story kind of matches the cover mayhem.
You’ve likely noticed it already, but people getting attacked by tentacles tend to be dressed in red. Now, red will not make a bull enraged (as a matter of fact, bulls are colour-blind to red – there, you learned something new today), but what effect would it have on an octopus? None at all, as it turns out, as red light does not reach ocean depths. One might want to wear red to become near-impossible to spot at a depth of a hundred metres or more, but that doesn’t explain why tentacles would persistently seek out red targets. Crap, there goes my theory.
Nevermind; we can still feast our eyes on some fetching mam’zelles and monsieurs clad in red, theories be damned.
Music aficionados will notice that this cover is a tribute to something quite outside the comic field, namely this album art:
After Alien Encounters, we naturally move on to Alien Worlds. Admire the, err, tentacles on this cover:
It’s not just women who like to sport flashy red outfits, by the way. The men’s costumes might cover considerably more skin, but the vermilion remains!
One more for the road and I’ll conclude this vernissage…
You’ll no doubt want to see what an electric octopus looks like, so here you go:
Let’s commence Tentacle Tuesday on a ticklish note (tentacles are itchy, you know, especially when they’re crawling up one’s leg) with Rip Off Comics no. 23, “the rip-snorting science fiction issue!”
If a tentacle creeps out from the pages of a book you’re reading to gently prod you, you know you’ve made the right choice of reading material.
Sometimes tentacles masquerade as waves, but we know better! Dunno why some sea god would want a cyborg chunk of metal, though.
Rom the Spaceknight was a toy created by three men (Scott Dankman, Richard C. Levy and Bryan L. McCoy) in 1979. His creators called him COBOL (a programming language), but he was renamed into ROM (« read only memory ») by the executives of Parker Brothers, the company that bought rights to the this « beeping, thinking toy » (which Time predicted would « end up among the dust balls under the playroom sofa »). As part of a promotional effort, Parker Brothers promptly licensed him to Marvel. Rom the toy was a commercial failure, but Rom the comic book went on to last 75 issues, beeping its last bleep in 1986 (not counting the comic’s revival by IDW in 2016).
The comic may have passed from Marvel’s hands into IDW’s, but the description still seems to have been written by a hyper-ventilating lummox flinging spit everywhere as he croaks: “WE’VE BEEN INVADED AND ONLY A SPACE KNIGHT CAN SAVE US! Now the ongoing tale of ROM begins in earnest! Christos Gage, Chris Ryall, and David Messina kick off the wildest new series of the year as Rom’s war with the DIRE WRAITHS hits close to home in ‘Earthfall, part 1!’ ‘The long-beloved and even longer absent space hero returns at long last! First, we brought back MICRONAUTS! And Now… ROM! As if Rom’s return wasn’t enough, wait’ll you see how this one ends!” Brr.
So far, the tentacles featured have been rather on the tame side. Let’s have something properly terrifying…
Oh well, terror petered out today. I guess this Tentacle Tuesday is not going to scare anybody witless. There’s always next time!
Greetings. Today’s theme: purple tentacles! (No, that’s not a euphemism.)
First up on our list is this beauty of an octopus, the Octo Rod.
This intrepid purple fella is part of Topps’ 1980 series, Weird Wheels, which had 55 cards in all. The credit for the gorgeous artwork is split between Norman Saunders and Gary Hallgren; nobody’s quite sure which artist worked on which card, and whether Saunders actually painted the images himself, or just retouched paintings by somebody else.
Sadly, Weird Wheels just didn’t sell all that well, so you can still purchase them for fairly cheap today. You can see the whole set here (and please do feast your eyes on them, they’re quite stunning).)
Speaking of David Saunders and his dad, here’s a quote from “Norman Saunders” (a book written by David in 2009):
« In 1980, at the age of 73, with failing eyesight, cataracts, and advanced emphysema, Norman Saunders defied doctor’s orders and went back to work on one last card set. Weird Wheels are painted with full control of his creative powers, but with a morbid humor that reflects his attitude towards mortality. When reprimanded by his son for risking his life on low paying work, the artist said, ‘It’s fun! I gotta keep working! What the hell else am I gonna do?!‘ »
Saunders passed away in 1989, at 82, after a remarkably prolific and varied career.
Moving on, here’s a thrilling scene of purple tentacles vs Nemesis:
I would also like to mention that Nemesis *is* wearing pants (well, shorts, at any rate), but his costume is still gosh-darned stupid. You try wearing a hood under water and see how far it gets you. I’m normally a fan of ACG‘s Adventures, but Nemesis is by no means a favourite character of mine.
Further developing the theme of violaceous violence, here’s another:
“Sewer Patrol”, the cover story, is also illustrated by Abel, with an excellent script by Nicola Cuti – it’s a story about people who dump their pets (and still-alive food) when they don’t want them anymore… and where and how these pets end up. (The answer to that, of course, is “mutated, gigantic and in the sewers.”)