Tentacle Tuesday: Tentacle Trek

veg·e·tal /ˈvejədl/

adjective:  relating to plants. “a vegetal aroma”

Today’s installment of Tentacle Tuesday provides us with another healthy dose of tentacles of a vegetal nature. With my co-admin RG’s blessing, I decided to be a little unorthodox and instead of my usual piecemeal approach, share one single story.

I must admit to having no rapport whatsoever with Star Trek – I did not watch the show as a child (or as an adult), and haven’t even managed to pick up characters, plot lines or cultural references from the surrounding atmosphere, aside from the stuff *everybody* knows.

But The Planet of No Return (published in Star Trek no. 1 (October 1967, Gold Key), scripted by Dick Wood and illustrated by Nevio Zeccara) is a delight for any keen child who’s ever been mesmerized by the notion of a carnivorous plant and has carried that love through the years into adulthood. I’ll hold my hand up there! It’s also right in the sweet spot of a Venn diagram, the riveting intersection of  “interested in Venus flytrap plants” and “fascinated with tentacles”. I’m not featuring the full story (you can read it here), preferring to tantalize my audience with the many tentacle-laden panels of grabby, aggressive human-devouring plants.

Incidentally, “cannibal plant” is a misnomer (shame on you, Pavel Chekov!) – cannibals involve individuals consuming individuals of the same species.

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It all starts with some strange plant spores sucked in through the ship’s ventilation system while it’s drifting next to an unexplored planet…

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The ship gets teleported to the planet to pursue their original exploration mission as planned… and get almost eaten by a tentacled “cannibal” (once again, not actually a cannibal) plant. A “giant plant tree”, strangely mobile, saves them from this worse-than-death fate… and turns out to have been Hunt, one of their teammates transformed into plant life by spores. No, I don’t know who Hunt is, either – he’s certainly not on the official Star Trek character list, introduced seemingly to be promptly killed after performing his heroic deed.

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Well, okay, if the plant tried to eat a tree, maybe it is, technically, a cannibal.

The now four-people team (the fifth one, Hunt the tree, dies after his epic battle with the Cannibal Plant) continue further into the wilderness… and stumble across a village of sentient plants, who don’t take kindly to intruders. Geez, can you blame them?

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After shooting at (and presumably maiming) various denizens of the plant village, the humans retreat to a cave and conclude that this planet is ugly. Sentient plant life is not amazing enough for them, apparently. I suppose being part of Star Trek makes one really blasé about such things.

Janice Rand has it coming for being annoying and whiny…

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At this point, we’re more or less done with tentacles, but I can’t leave you on this cliffhanger (especially if you don’t have some time to waste reading a comic of questionable taste).

Here’s how it ends:

What does this “bestial plant” want with Janice? It wants to put her into a cattle pen, of course! Aiming to rescue her from its clutches, our intrepid explorers break into the pen, and, observing the landscape, conclude that the plants are raising dinosaur-like creatures who consume vegetable-type plants. «The lower plant life on their social scale are used as fodder… food for the beast creatures! Vegetable food!» Oh, and «The vegetables are alive – they’re making sounds also!» So sentient plants are farming animals whom they feed on other sentient plants. (At this point, I was muttering “what is wrong with this comic?”) It turns out that the superior plants eat the animals, who eat the inferior plants, and Janice is now one of the cattle, about to be sent into the giant trees-cum-slaughter-houses to be transformed into food. During the climax of the story, the slaughterhouse trees are blown to smithereens by Mister Spock and his laser beam destruct ray (it’s automatic, it’s systematic, it’s hydromatic), and everybody is teleported back into the relative safety of the ship. The surface of the planet (a.k.a. “hideous little globe”) is then obliterated by laser beams – just in case.

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So how come only Hunt got transformed into a tree? Are we to assume that the other members of the team are immune?

If you’re craving more bold adventures of a carnivorous/cannibal plant nature, head over to A Child’s Garden of Carnivorous Plants, The Hungry Greenery, or Plants Sometimes Have Tentacles, Too.

~ ds

Tentacle Tuesday Masters: George Wilson and His Painted Covers for Gold Key

« Savage plants, monster mutations, human vultures… »

George Wilson (1921-1999), prolific cover illustrator for Dell Comics and Gold Key from the 1950s through to the 1970s, is such a ubiquitous figure for anyone interested in comics of that era that it’s almost like he’s taken for granted by comic aficionados. “Oh, yes, another gorgeous George cover”, we say and move on to something else. Let’s not, shall we? We can admire his trademark bright colours, eye-popping attention to detail and impeccable compositions *and* celebrate Tentacle Tuesday. And there’s all kinds of tentacles in these covers – organic or motorized, animal, mineral, or… plant-like. (I refuse to use “vegetable” as an adjective.)

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Mighty Samson no. 11 (August 1967). This might just be the most random menace (and the most ridiculous set-up) I’ve seen in a while.

Mighty Samson was created by writer Otto Binder and artist Frank Thorne, and involved a heroic barbarian-type sword-and-sandaler loitering around a dystopian, post-nuclear disaster world that has reverted to something resembling the Stone Age. One thing that amused me – not only is our dashing hero blond, but so is his love interest (apparently recessive traits help survive radioactivity). The evil temptress-cum-scientist is a dark-haired femme fatale, obviously. You can read each and every issue of Mighty Samson here.

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Panels from “The Swamp Rats“, written by Otto Binder and drawn by Jack Sparling, whose art is for some reason hated by many (the same many who have no trouble with bad art from other, more publicly accepted artists).

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Doctor Solar, created by writer Paul S. Newman and editor Matt Murphy, was fairly humble at first, despite his somewhat ponderous moniker. (« The Man of the Atom »!) Originally clad in a normal lab-coat, he acquired his red costume in issue #5. The source of his super-powers? A nuclear disaster, of course. It’s difficult to be impressed by that when everyone and their auntie is getting exposed to radioactivity. I try to keep in mind that Doctor Solar was one of newly-formed Gold Key’s first publications, and in 1962, a nuclear war seemed imminent whatever side of the continent you were on… but I’m still bored. There’s a list of Atomic Superheroes with 27 items in it here, but it only includes public domain characters.

Of special interest are the first two issues of this series because they boast glorious covers by Richard Powers. Go look at them. That’s an order.

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Doctor Solar, Man of the Atom no. 21 (October 1967).
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Doctor Solar, Man of the Atom no. 24 (July 1968).
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Page from “The Deadly Trio”, written by Dick Wood and drawn by Ernie Colón. That “monstrous master of the sea” is so freaking cute!

All of Gold Key’s Doctor Solar run is available here. How much time do you have on your hands, anyway?

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Fantastic Voyage no. 2 (December 1969).

This two-issues “series” features « adventures based on the cartoon about the Combined Miniature Defense Force (CMDF) with Jonathan Kidd, Erika Lane, Dr. Guru, and Busby Birdwell. » Clearly, nobody cared about the comic. Maybe someone cared about the animated TV series the comic was based on.

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Speaking of boring… I haven’t yet encountered *one* issue of Ripley’s Believe It or Not! that wouldn’t cause me to yawn or start rolling my eyes. However, painted covers are often worth dwelling on, and the inside art is also occasionally quite nice (especially when it’s by Luis Dominguez).

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Ripley’s Believe It or Not! no. 12 (February 1969).

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The Microbots no. 1 (December 1971). The tentacled monster was designed by Jack Sparling, who illustrates This Is the Way the World Ends and Day of the Juggernaut, but the cover art is by George Wilson.

There’s an excellent (and suitably sarky) review of this one issue of Microbots on Gone & Forgotten. Here’s a little taste: « Superstitious, parochial, and frequently eaten alive by mutated elephants, the people of the future world have turned their backs on technology. » Bet you’ve never seen *that* sentence before. Or — « The Microbots are the creation of Dr. Norman Micron (of the Connecticut Microns, I presume), a scientist living in the dire times of a world succumbing to man’s pollution. ‘Mankind had ample warning that he was destroying the world around him’ he muses, standing by a window with a highly-desirable garbage view. »

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The crew of the Starship Enterprise keeps running into tentacles, it seems. (Presumably, they couldn’t do it as convincingly on the TV show, as the visual effects weren’t quite up to snuff.)

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Star Trek no. 24 (May 1974). Gold Key published Star Trek comics between 1967 and 1978, for a total of 61 issues. They weren’t a rehash of the TV series, and featured original characters and stories, although later issues included sequels to a couple of episodes (which is pretty cool, if you ask me).
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Star Trek no. 29 (March 1975).

Gail O’Brien shared this snippet on a forum about Wilson’s art, sadly a fairly typical story: « You might be interested to know that George’s widow (a friend of mine) has had no income from his paintings as they “disappeared” from his estate at his death while they were separated. She is presently living on small retirement from teaching. I’ve tried to influence her to seek legal advice to acquire her share of George’s sales, but she feels it is impossible… hope there is a lawyer who enjoys George’s work, who would want to go on a 50/50 basis to acquire what is rightfully belonging to my friend. » |source|

Look at more (less tentacle-centric) George Wilson art here.

~ ds