While he worked for just about every New York comics publisher under the sun (and certainly some under a rock), let’s note that he displayed and gleefully indulged his flair for the macabre at Harvey in the 1950s, and his versatility while Illustrating the Classics for Gilberton, tackling for instance Poe’sThe Cask of Amontillado, Cooper’s The Prairie and Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment.
Palais kept a low profile during most of the Sixties, but turned up at Gold Key and Charlton around 1967. For the latter, he crafted his final work in comics. Between 1967 and 1974, he sporadically turned his hand to a handful of short tales in the western, war and mystery genres. As far as I can tell, his comics œuvre respectably concludes with the quite amusing Cry for Tomorrow, in Many Ghosts of Doctor Graves no. 46 and The Last Cruise of the Princess III in Ghostly Haunts no. 39 (both July 1974, Charlton), the latter also featuring some of Mike Vosburg‘s earliest pro work. As one door closes…
“Man is a rope stretched between the animal and the Superman–a rope over an abyss. A dangerous crossing, a dangerous wayfaring, a dangerous looking-back, a dangerous trembling and halting.”
– Friedrich Nietzsche
Superheroes come in all shapes and sizes, and for every successful superhero remembered throughout the ages, there’s probably about a hundred forgotten characters of varying degrees of goofiness. Periodically, some artist or writer digs up one of them from the deep recesses of time, dresses him in a new frock and plugs him into the modern era of Internet and cellphones, with almost universally lacklustre results.
I like to contemplate these bold strangers in their natural habitat — Golden Age comics! And for a 40s superhero, there is simply no better way to demonstrate super powers and a nimble brain than a friendly tussle with a cephalopod.
The Black Owl, clad in a red-and-blue costume with some odd leopard-print swimming cap… oh, sorry, that’s his blond hair:
The Sandman… oh shoot, which one? Remember we have both feet firmly planted in the 40s in this post. This Sandman is Wesley Dodds, created by artist Bert Christman and writer Gardner Fox. Accompanied by his sidekick Sandy, this superhero-cum-detective wielded a special gun that could put criminals to sleep or act as a sort of truth serum.
You’re not convinced that those are tentacles? Shame on you. Take a gander at this:
The next superhero (technically with no super powers, but managing beautifully all the same thanks to his lightning-fast reflexes and superior fighting skill) is my personal favourite Green Turtle, a Chinese superhero who fought against Japanese invaders in WWII. Unfortunately, the publisher wouldn’t let creator and artist Chu Fook Hing make his creation obviously Chinese, so the Green Turtle was never seen without a mask. It’s okay, we can read between the lines!
Magno the Magnetic Man has, believe it or not, magnetic powers (though I imagine it’s not helping him much in this particular skirmish). He’s irresistible to women (maybe they have metal parts?), impervious to harm, and is accompanied by his side-kick Davey, whom he periodically magnetizes to ensure that the little whippersnapper also has access to magnetic powers.
« Tentacles lashing wildly with pain… the squirming squid releases a sudden gush of inky-black liquid… »
Just look at that… yet another Tentacle Tuesday has come crawling (unless it prefers to travel by jet propulsion) out! Today our handy time machine brings us, once again, to the Golden Age of comics (1930s to 1956), when war was very much on people’s minds, and tentacles were very much part of every decent comic artist’s repertoire.
During WWII, it was not unusual to find the Axis powers represented by an octopus in caricatures and political cartoons. As a matter of fact, as The Octopus, a Motif of Evil in Historical Propaganda Maps argues, the octopus, scrawled onto all manners of maps by caricaturists, has represented the spread of evil since the 19th century. I highly recommend at least glancing through the aforementioned essay – aside from being fascinating from a historical perspective, it also has tentacles galore. Anyway, the following comic eschews any subtlety and depicts Hitler himself as the Octopus of Evil:
There’s a great essay about Blue Circle Comics on Four Color Glasses. To quote, « Enwil’s “flagship” title was called Blue Circle Comics. It was a fairly common for publishers to use a color in conjunction with a shape or symbol for their comic book titles: Blue Circle, Red Circle, Red Band, Red Seal, Blue Ribbon, and Gold Medal were all titles from the Golden Age. In the case of Blue Circle Comics, though, the title did actually feature a character called the Blue Circle. » Read it here!
A recurring theme of octopus adventures is that there’s some treasure involved. I bet the lady would prefer to stay with the octopus troupe and their tender nuzzles than to be rescued by this odd assortment of cut-throats in sailor costumes… The chick en question is Harvey Comics’ Black Cat.
The title story turned out to be nothing but text… Though for readers with a decent imagination, a “score of octopi” and “bubbling moans” is definitely more than enough.
I bet you’re wondering how all this ends. Well, « Still, the octopi flopped forward!! CAPTAIN FREEDOM yanked the controls and the ship’s whirling airscrews roared into the octopi, sharp blades ripping tentacles from their bodies with murderous force! » Goodbye, trained octopi (which is not even the correct pluralization of an octopus).
« They were like octopuses — they scurred along on huge rubbery tentacles, and their bodies were nothing but huge heads in the midsts of these. Monstrous squawking beings coming at us from all directions! » Lovely writing, isn’t it? Nevermind that “scurred” is not an actual word. The title tale is actually an illustrated text story titled « Octopus-Kings of the Lost Planet », scripted by W. Malcolm White. Well, “scripted” is a bit strong.
Airboy, a.k.a. David Nelson, has been in some truly bizarre scraps in his time, so a fight to the death with tentacled monsters who want (as usual) to take over Earth is strictly routine. Created by writer Charles Biro and artist Al Camy, Airboy not only used his expertise in aviation to fight off Nazis, but also all manner of fantastical monsters. A quick look through the covers of Airboy Comics will reveal crazy scientist machinery, rabid tigers, gladiator fights, giant amœbas, pterodactyls, minotaurs, insect-shaped aliens, an invasion of man-eating rats, and so on. Pure entertainment! Airboy’s most memorable (and prettiest, by far) foe (and love interest) is Teutonic aviatrix Valkyrie, who eventually defected to the Allies’ side. She barely seems like a Golden Age creation – with her blouse splitting until her navel and her skin-tights pants, her costume leaves little to the imagination.
She was sexualized further in later incarnations – Dave Stevens’ version of her for Eclipse Comics is probably the hottest – but the Golden Age Valkyrie is more charming and earnest (IMHO), devoid of the nymphomaniacal arrogance appended to her personality in later years. Anyway, back to the topic:
The title story, « My Home… », scripted by Al Feldstein and drawn by Joe Orlando, is emotionally manipulative… and succeeds very well in breaking the readers’ hearts (or pissing them off, depending on your temperament). Read a synopsis of the plot, if you wish, or read the whole story here – who am I to give spoilers to those who don’t want ’em?