« When I was a young writer if you went to a party and told somebody you were a science-fiction writer you would be insulted. They would call you Flash Gordon all evening, or Buck Rogers. » —Ray Bradbury
We’ve talked about newspaper strip Flash Gordon in Tentacle Tuesday: Lurkers in the Newsprint, and now it’s time for its comic book version! Although I normally have very little interest in FG, this is no second-rate Tentacle Tuesday: there is some prime tentacular material to be enjoyed.
We first concern ourselves with the Flash Gordon Charlton Comics run, which picked up the count where King Comics had left it in 1967. From 1969 until 1970, Charlton published issues 12 to 18, all of which but the first had glorious covers and cover stories by Pat Boyette, an absolute WOT favourite ( you can visit co-admin RG’s Pat Boyette — Hillbilly Makes Good* for a deeper exploration of his career).
The cover of issue 14 has an octopus shortage (a serious flaw affecting many, many comic book covers!), but the monster o’nine-tentacled-tails the ’emotionless killers’ encounter is a beauty. The following page is also a good example of Boyette’s imaginative page layouts, in which things are kept dynamic, but never engender confusion about who is doing what and to whom.
Then we come to a real bevy of Boyette tentacles a few issues later –
The Creeping Menace, the cover story, is scripted by Joe Gill and illustrated by Pat Boyette. I am including two pages (and a panel) because it’s too difficult to choose between them – all boast the aforementioned dynamic layouts and striking tentacles.
The publishing history of comic-book Flash Gordon was an interesting relay race: Gold Key Comics resumed the run with issue 19 (1978), and kept it up until issue 27 (1979); finally, issues 28 to 37 were published under its Whitman imprint between 1980 and 1982. The latter category offers two tentacled covers, and some inside goodies.
The cover story The Deadly Depths is scripted by John Warner and illustrated by Carlos Garzón. Oh, this thing is not hostile… just hungry.
The last Whitman issue also is of some interest, though on the cover Flash looks like he’s fighting caterpillars with an martini olive for a head.
Cover story My Friend, My Killer! is scripted by George Kashdan and illustrated by Gene Fawcette and features cute serpent plants that look like they’re wearing little hula skirts.
And that concludes our tour of Flash Gordon tentacles in the Silver Age (and with some forays into Bronze).
I wasn’t around in the 70s. (Literally, as in “I hadn’t been born yet”.) So when somebody – in, oh, say 2008 or so – handed me a copy of some ghost comics printed by Charlton Comics (I don’t remember what exactly), that was my first exposure to this publishing company. I wasn’t aware that I wasn’t « supposed » to like this stuff… and by the time some kind soul pointed out that it’s not exactly orthodox to seek out Charlton publications, it was too late to change my mind. Clearly, that’s how monsters with no taste are created.
Charlton Comics had the reputation for inferior printing (as one of my friends put it, « godawful colours and reproduction and paper ») and low quality control. I’d say that when one contemplates the variety of artistic styles and the dizzying panoply of artists published by them, the quality of the printing distinctly becomes a less important consideration. Charlton paid badly, sure, but since when do people decide what they like and what they don’t based on how artists are treated? (Just look around – companies that trample on creators’ rights are doing very well indeed.) It seems like a knee-jerk reaction; I often wonder if people who automatically react with sneers to the very mention of Charlton have actually read any of the comics this company printed. Or perhaps they’re scared by some of the artists’ styles which are just too wild, too squiggly, just not clean enough. (Sloppy line work! Anathema to any comic book lover worth his salt, right?)
Anyway, Charlton’s « loose editorial oversight » meant there was no house style to speak of, and artists with highly idiosyncratic styles could let their eccentricities shine.
You may notice some names are conspicuously absent from today’s post. Tom Sutton, exhibit A of the “chaotic, scratchy art” category, will get a Tentacle Tuesday post all to himself at a later date. Some beloved artists just didn’t draw any tentacles for Charlton (as far as I know!): Warren Sattler, Don Perlin, Sam Glanzman, Don Newton, Rocco Mastroserio, etc. Wayne Howard is already part of a Tentacle Tuesday (see Plant Tentacle Tuesday), as is Enrique Nieto (Tentacle Tuesday: Spunky Skirmishes).
« There’s no room for professional jealousy around the graveyard, chums… life is too short, as they say… but what comes after that short life may stretch into all eternity! »
I could carry on endlessly (or so it would seem) on any number of obscure topics, but it’s healthy, every once in a while, to take a deep breath, empty one’s mind of its flotsam and jetsam, and reach for an old favourite.
I hadn’t yet written anything about Steve Ditko‘s passing, as I figured it would get lost in the mad shuffle of tributes. That base was well-covered. Still, while I’d known all along the day would come, it was hard to imagine a world without that reclusive genius, likely my very first artistic inspiration.
I didn’t see much of Ditko’s 60s Marvel work until the late 70s pocket book reprints (the period equivalent of watching a movie on one’s cellphone), but the Charlton ghost books grabbed me at a tender age. And so…
As my candidate for Steve Ditko’s finest cover run, at any company, I submit issues 22-27 and 29-30 (curse you for the interruption, Joe Staton!), from January 1972 to March 1973, final year of Ditko’s peak period, imho.
That just about wraps it up. For further reading on the topic, I recommend you check out Ben Herman’s perspective on some of these very stories, and on Ditko’s spooky Charlton work of the 70s in general.
« That young fella must be the college kid who’s going to work for my paper! Those two prairie wolves will pick him clean… it’ll be an excellent lesson to him, I reckon! » — Max Cogswell, editor-publisher of The Boothill Gazette
Today marks what would have been the ninety-fifth birthday of suave Texan Renaissance man Aaron P. “Pat” Boyette (July 27, 1923 – January 14, 2000). The Golden-voiced Mr. Boyette was in turn actor, radio announcer, cinematic auteur and of course a far-beyond-fine painter and cartoonist. Ah, and if anything could speak more eloquently of his worth as a human being, he was best man at Gus Arriola‘s wedding.
Now, I could have focussed on any number of his remarkable projects: his 1966-67 run on The Peacemaker (« A man who loves peace so much that he is willing to fight for it! »), his tour-de-force fill-ins on DC’s Blackhawk (issues 242-43, from 1968), his lavishly-detailed work for Warren Magazines (1968-72), his brilliant, but admittedly controversial, run on The Phantom at Charlton (1970-73), his far-better-than-its-source adaptation of Hanna Barbera’s Korg 70,000 B.C., his intense The Tarantula for Atlas-Seaboard (with Michael Fleisher, 1975), his fun revival of Spencer Spook for ACE Comics in the 1980s, or any of his moody work for Charlton’s ghostly anthologies… but I won’t, at least not this time.
Instead, if you’ll bear with me, we’ll take a gander at a fine, fine backup series he co-created with Joe Gill for the pages of Charlton’s long-running Billy the Kid. Mr. Young of the Boothill Gazette (BTK 88, Dec. 1971, to BTK 110, Dec. 1974). Abel Young, bereft of sharp-shooting or pugilistic skills, is a true hero: a fool, an idealist, a stubborn cuss who acts nobly even when he’s scared spitless. His is a charming strip, full of graceful humour and humanity.
Here, then, is my selection: the series’ thirteenth episode, originally published in Billy the Kid no. 100 (March, 1973, Charlton).
Happy birthday, Mr. Boyette. The world needs more gentlemen of your ilk.
*so proclaimed the headline of a Boyette profile published in Creepy no. 33 (June 1970, Warren).
Tuesdays sure roll around quickly, but that’s okay – another week, another fresh batch of prehensile, slimy tentacles for our enjoyment. I’ll open Tentacle Tuesday with an “oldie but goodie”. (Speaking of that, I have an irrational pet peeve: comic shop owners who, upon seeing a customer carefully clutching a stack of 70s comics he meticulously unearthed from a grimy comic box stashed in the darkest corner of the store, say, with a slightly condescending grin, “oh, you’ve found some oldies!” The comment is no doubt well-intentioned, but there are nicer ways to start the conversation.)
First on the list for today is this painted beauty by Pat Boyette, from Haunted no. 19, December 1974. Just look at those shiny, healthy tentacles – just the kind to gently grab your ankle and drag you into murky waters. Their diaphanous keeper doesn’t exactly inspire confidence, either.
This issue is worth picking up for more than its cover. It remains excellent when one opens its pages: there are three stories, and they’re all worthwhile – the beautiful “The Unholy!” by Pete Morisi (PAM! PAII!) (written by his son, Steve Morisi, and therefore unfortunately not making a lick of sense), the moody “There Ain’t No Hell!” by Sanho Kim and Joe Gill, and, the cherry on the cake (and story on the cover), the quietly-elegant-but-with-tentacles “The Keeper”, illustrated by Boyette (and also written by Joe Gill).
Just like octopuses (who eat small crabs and scallops, as well as snails, fish, turtles, crustaceans, and of course other octopuses), I like a little variety in my diet, so number 2 is humorous rather than scary. How did this octopus manage to figure out which of its tentacles to stick into shorts? Who’s the happy little slug with chickenpox holding up letter “A”? Why does an octopus have beaver teeth?
This is Ha Ha Comics no. 66 (Jun – Jul 1949), published by American Comics Group, or more technically Creston, an imprint of ACG. This seems to be a rather rare issue, unavailable on Comic Book Plus although they have pretty much every other issue of Ha Ha. Thanks to an Ebayer selling this comic, however, I can state with some degree of certainly that this issue features – as advertised – an all-star cast, featuring not only the habitués Izzy and Dizzy (a pair of trouble-prone mice), but also Anthony & Cleopatra, the Impulsive Imps, Robespierre, Hard-Hearted Hannah, Wigglin’ Willie the Worm and Shilly and Shally. Doesn’t it all sound like some sort of battle of the bands? As for the artist of the cover, it’s Dan Gordon, storyboard artist and film director mostly known for his work at Famous Studios and Hanna-Barbera Productions – he did quite a few “funny animals” titles for ACG.
T.T. number 3 is colourful. It also leads to the question “vegetable, mineral or animal?” These tentacles seem to be rather plant-like… if plants had eyeballs attached by blood vessels.
Judging by the adventures of Space Family Robinson, most planets are inhabited by aliens with tentacles. One would think that they’d be very well prepared for this eventuality (not to mention kind of bored by it), but no, the tentacles always take them by surprise.
This is the back cover of Space Family Robinson no. 9 (Gold Key/Western, August 1964), which is just like the front cover minus the text. Painted by George Wilson, who has a nice sense of colour. (Hurray for saturated colours in this sepia-and-grey or orange-and-teal world.)
In the beginning, oh, long before that. When light was deciding who should be in and who should be out of the spectrum, Yellow was in trouble. Even then it seems that green, you know how green can be, didn’t want yellow in. Some silly primal envy I suppose, but for whatever cause, the effect was bad on yellow. And caused yellow to weep yellow tears for several eternals, before there were years. Until blue heard what was up between green and yellow and took green aside for a serious talk, in which blue pointed out that if yellow and blue were to get together, not that they would, but if they did (a gentle threat), they could make their own green. “Ooh”, said green with some understanding. Naturally, by a sudden change of hue, green saw the light and yellow got in. Worked out fine, yellow got lemons and green got limes.*