Tentacle Tuesday: Convoluted Critters

Occasionally, I notice a comic book cover with a tentacled monster so peculiar that one starts wondering whether the artist was on drugs or just couldn’t give a shit. That is not a criticism, however: where grabby appendages are concerned, the weirder, the better. Even if some of these guys have a face (muzzle? rictus?) even a mother couldn’t love, or their anatomy defies all laws of biology, we’ll welcome them with open arms!

As usual, in chronological order.

First in our line-up is this little fella in a hat. At least he looks like he’s wearing a cap, although perhaps he just has a square head with a skin flap hanging over the sides. At first glance, his tentacles are hollow, although their flesh is probably just a dull shade of battleship grey. So what’s this “thing that waited”? Soviet soldiers who are actually alien invaders. Duh.

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Adventures Into Weird Worlds no. 3 (March 1952), cover by Joe Maneely.

This next cover is probably a little more standard for pseudo-octopus fare: a lady with huge, ahem, bazooms (Russ Heath liked ’em busty, it seems – seriously, just look at the size of those things!) threatened by some horrific monster who’s dispatching her companion as expediently as possible. Still, the somewhat Wolverton-esque, grave-dwelling aliens with pincers at the end of their tentacles are odd-looking enough to squeeze their way into this post.

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Spellbound no. 20 (March 1954), cover by Russ Heath.

This toupee-clad creature with evil gimlet eyes doesn’t look much like a pet, if you ask me. How are those grabby little arms attached to its head, anyway? Wait, who am I talking about, again? 😉

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House of Mystery no. 87 (June 1959), cover by Bob Brown.

“My Greatest Adventure” was a title that promised much, and it must have been difficult to live up to it every month. Witness the following “fantastic” creature – a furry slug with disturbingly fleshy lips and tentacles. I can’t vouch for my reaction had I been an excitable ten-year old, but to this blasé adult, the poor beast summoned by some psycho witch doctor (the jungles seem to be always overrun with them) is just begging to be put out of its misery.

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My Greatest Adventure no. 51 (January 1961), pencilled by Dick Dillin and inked by Sheldon Moldoff.

Our next exhibit finally features a proper alien, one who looks strange but at least makes sense as a unified, functioning creature. I love his sadly drooped whiskers, his dejected expression that’s strangely at odds with his pontifical speech.

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Tales of the Unexpected no. 66 (October 1961), cover by Bob Brown.

« Make him a werewolf! But in space! And give him tentacles! » Yeah, guys, that went over really well. A Marvel Masterwork, my ass. But wait: Black Destroyer! is an adaptation of A. E. van Vogt’s short story from 1939. And did Cœurl, the black cat-like creature, have tentacles in the story? Why, yes, he did.

« His great forelegs—twice as long as his hindlegs—twitched with a shuddering movement that arched every razor-sharp claw. The thick tentacles that sprouted from his shoulders ceased their weaving undulation, and grew taut with anxious alertness. Utterly appalled, he twisted his great cat head from side to side, while the little hairlike tendrils that formed each ear vibrated frantically, testing every vagrant breeze, every throb in the ether. » (read the full story here.)

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Worlds Unknown no. 5 (February 1974), cover pencilled by Gil Kane and inked by Frank Giacoia. Cœurl looks like he’s floating on top of the corpse – I don’t think the artists spent too much time watching an actual cat at work.

Read the comics version of Black Destroyer! here.

My last offering for today is the cutest, featuring an adorable blue varmint who gets my full sympathy and support. Weird? Sure, a bit – he’s got a tentacle sprouting out of his forehead – but beauty is in the eye of the beholder, right? This cover also proves that monsters are just as interested in tooth-whitening procedures as us humans.

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The Defenders no. 72 (June 1979), pencilled by Herb Trimpe and inked by Al Milgrom.

~ ds

Tentacle Tuesday: a visit to the House of Mystery

Welcome to the entertaining world of science-fiction/fantasy of the 60s! If you’re an admirer of extravagant creatures with improbable anatomy, or a fan of twisted stories that take questionable leaps of logic to arrive to an implausible conclusion, willkommen.

However, if, like me, you tend to root for strange creatures (most of which didn’t want to be discovered in the first place), tread gently.  If there’s one pattern in House of Mystery stories, it’s that the “monsters” (that fly in from space/emerge from the sea/crawl out of the depths of the earth/are born in fire/whatever else we can think of) get slain, more often than not, by well-meaning people… or not-so-well-meaning people who are afraid of anything that looks different. If they somehow manage to escape getting shot or bombed out of existence, they’re buried under a convenient avalanche or volcanic eruption.

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House of Mystery no. 99, June 1960. Art by Bernard Baily. Yep, the Beast gets killed by the military.  It’s sad to think that our reaction to a friendly shape-shifting alien would be “kill first, ask questions later”… but it sadly rings true.

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I know that it’s Tentacle Tuesday and everything’s possible, but… this? An octopus with spines on his tentacles (very conveniently placed, I might add) and the puffy eyes of a career alcoholic? A parrot-dragon with opposable thumbs?

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House of Mystery no. 113 (1961), pencils by Dick Dillin, inks by Sheldon Moldoff and letters by Ira Schnapp. Err, guys… I don’t think either of these two monsters is all that interested in you, seeing as they both seem to be screaming in horror/pain. If the octopus is Water-Beast, the parrot must be Land-Beast – such wit! I would have gone with “pink thing” and “green bird thing”.

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As Tentacle Tuesday continues, we are once again confronted with a situation where misunderstanding between species leads to needless conflict. Shoot first, sort it out later, is the mantra of any red-blooded man! I’m sorry, am I being a tad unsubtle?

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House of Mystery no. 130, January 1963. Cover by George Roussos.

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Some guys land on an island patrolled by creatures controlled by a beautiful woman. Well, there’s no need to quarrel, they can talk it out, right?

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House of Mystery no. 133, April 1963. Pencils by Dick Dillin, inks by Sheldon Moldoff, letters by Ira Schnapp.

Okay, the woman seems to be friendly. So far, so good.

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Art by Howard Sherman.

So perhaps everyone can go on their merry way and leave the island and its creatures alone? No, it’s not enough to just kill them. Oops! The whole fucking island explodes to smithereens when the guys detonate some explosives in a cavern and thus trigger an underwater eruption.  I mean, the real threat to these “nice” people was the evil guy trying to gain control of the beasts, but do they try to attack *him*? Nah, they focus on killing the octopus, instead! And the giant armadillo! And the furry rhinoceros!

« And soon, Beast Island sinks beneath boiling, steaming waters… », the omniscient narrator tells us. « The island is gone now – and so are the terrible things that walked on it, flew over it — and swam around it! » The power-grabbing asshole is okay, though – he escaped just fine!

There’s plenty more tentacles in House of Mystery – to which we will no doubt return.

~ ds