Tentacle Tuesday: Tender Tendrils of Vernal Bloom

« Is the spring coming? » he said. « What is it like? »
« It is the sun shining on the rain and the rain falling on the sunshine… » | Frances Hodgson Burnett, The Secret Garden

Having been meaning for a while now to concentrate on tentacled plant life, I was hitherto stopped by the idea that it’s somewhat unseemly to talk about flora when most of our readership is buried in snow and ice. But now, well! – today was the first day of the year suitable for wearing shorts, and green shoots are popping up wherever one’s gaze happens to land.

We have waited for quite a long time before co-admin RG managed to get his hands on this issue… and it turned out that the insides vary from ‘lacklustre’ to ‘wow, that’s ugly!’ Still, the wonderful, striking cover makes it worth owning, I believe.

Horror: The Illustrated Book Of Fears no. 2 (February 1990, Northstar). Cover by Mark Bernal.

ACG got its tentacle parade in Tentacle Tuesday: ACG’s Adventures Into the Tentacles, but as usual, some material didn’t quite fit the theme, and I saved the following cover for a more appropriate occasion. This, I do believe, is the moment.

Adventures into the Unknown no. 48 (October 1953, ACG), cover by Ken Bald.

Speaking of adventures, let’s delve into Strange Adventures for a bit. The following story has a rather peculiar plot – « Star Hawkins is down on his luck and has to pawn Ilda, his robot secretary. Luckily, Star is hired to locate a fugitive who’s thought to be hiding on Vesta, an asteroid mining settlement, in the Red Jungle. But with a little tracking skill and the help of the creepy vegetation of the Red Jungle, he nabs the fugitive, gets his prisoner, and gets Ilda back from the pawn shop, promising never to pawn her again. »

Page from The Case of the Martian Witness!, scripted by John Broome, pencilled by Mike Sekowsky and inked by Bernard Sachs, published in Strange Adventures no. 114 (March 1960, DC).

Here’s another Earthman (who has dreamed of this moment, by his own admission!) struggling with some coquettish plant tentacles that just want to be friends.

A page from Super-Athlete from Earth!, scripted by Gardner Fox, pencilled by Gil Kane and inked by Bernard Sachs, published in Strange Adventures no. 125 (February 1961, DC).

The next thing after adventures is, naturally, mysteries. If they’re strange, puzzling mysteries, even better… what’s that word I’m looking for… ah, yes: baffling! Another day, yet another ravenous man-eating plant.

Baffling Mysteries no. 19 (January 1954, Ace Magazines). Cover is presumed to be by George Roussos. I think strangulation is not even the worst option here.

One more happy tromp through the jungle? Sure, why not!

Kona no. 12 (October-December 1964, Dell). Cover by Vic Prezio. This giant ant-crab (?) is but one in a long line of supersized animal threats Kona has had to defeat.

The following image was originally created as a cover for House of Mystery no. 251 (1977, DC), but was nixed in favour of another, Neal Adams-penned illustration, which we’ve already featured in a previous post (Tentacle Tuesday: Plants Sometimes Have Tentacles, Too). I prefer this gruesome version (complete with skeleton being digested!… also more detail, more dynamic layout and better anatomy of all involved), pencilled by José Luis García-López and inked by Bernie Wrightson.

Happy gardening to all! And have a look at last spring’s tentacled plant post Tentacle Tuesday: Spring Has Sprung… Its Snare! while you’re at it!

🌱 ds

Tentacle Tuesday: Up From the Murky Depths

« Down metal snake corridors
Steely grey engines hum for nobody but me
No sound comes from the sea above me
No messages crackles through the radio leads
They’ll never know, never no never
How strange life in dark water can be…

Now that we’re finally enjoying proper autumnal weather – which is to say, grey, rainy and beautiful – my thoughts turn to the dark and the wet. Aquatic octopus scenes fit this mood beautifully: those mute scenes where characters are as if frozen in the clutches of a gargantuan octopus. In which overeager octopod grabbers get ferociously punished for their ill-advised enthusiasm, winding up, more often than not, on the wrong end of a sharp… implement.

Original art by Mark Schultz intended for the Subhuman paperback collection (which, as far as I know, never saw print):

A few pages from Richard Sala‘s Mad Night (2005, Fantagraphics):

This book features not one, but two epic battle scenes with an octopus!

A painting by Vic Prezio, created for the front cover of a 1962 issue of Man’s Escape:

– ds

*Al Stewart, Life in Dark Water

Vic Prezio at Warren, Part Two

« These dreams? Hallucinations… or whatever you call them! It was on a business trip… in the middle of nowhere… I’ll never forget it! » — Alex Colby, who swears he saw them.

When people talk about Warren magazines cover artists, the name of Vic Prezio is rarely brought up. Well, someone has to, and it might as well be me. It doesn’t help that he only painted a handful of covers for Warren, but hell, I love them all in their pulpy glory.

Prezio is better known for his over-the-top men’s adventure magazine covers and, to a lesser extent, his Magnus: Robot Fighter covers for Gold Key. Mostly anonymous work, though. It’s a filthy business.

In Part One, we looked at Prezio’s Creepy Covers. As it’s « age before beauty », Cousin Eerie now gets his turn to bow.

« Don’t you dare presume to tell me what I can and can’t do, Sheldon! » Some guys turn mean when their male pattern baldness spreads to their entire face.

An inspiring reminder of why you shouldn’t let the naysayers drag you down (even six feet under). Be all that you can be, on this side of the grave and beyond!

Eerie no. 13, Feb. 1968. This issue features an adaptation, by Russ Jones and Frank Bolle, of one of H.P. Lovecraft and August Derleth‘s posthumous (in H.P.’s case) collaborations, Wentworth’s Day, another emprunt from Christopher Lee’s Treasury of Terror (Pyramid Books, 1966).

Intrigued? Check it out here: http://thehorrorsofitall.blogspot.ca/2010/06/wentworths-day-hp-lovecraft.html

This alien encounter is *not* going to turn out all fuzzy-friendly.

Prezio’s painting conveys vividly the high paranoia of Archie Goodwin and Alexander Toth‘s The Stalkers, reprinted in this issue from Creepy no. 6, just a couple years old by then. Warren Publications were *not* in good shape at the time, having lost more of their key talent and left to the bare minimum of original material, including, thankfully, the covers. The out-of-left-field success of Vampirella would swoop in and save the enterprise in 1969. Close call!

Possibly the lesser entry amongst Prezio’s Warren pieces, but still an attractive cover, if not exactly terrifying. Somehow, it brings to mind Aurora model kit art more than it does a Warren cover (still, comparison to early-ish James Bama should hardly be considered a slag.)

« AAAAAAAAAGAH! What is it? » I’ve often pondered that very question myself, sometimes while perusing this “throbbing” issue.

Another striking (if a bit rushed-looking) Prezio cover, this time representing Slight Miscalculation by writer Bill Parente and artists Bill Fraccio and Tony Tallarico. The much-maligned Fraccio and Tallarico often worked together under the joint nom de plume of Tony Williamsune (it is said that Tallarico pulled most of the weight.)

Here’s a really nice job they created for issue 16 of Charlton’s Haunted (June, 1974.) I love the boldness of that heavy brush, swirly style: http://fourcolorshadows.blogspot.ca/2013/04/come-see-our-ghost-tony-williamsune-1974.html.

This time out, the cover story is H2O World by Larry Ivie, Al Williamson, and his Fleagle Gang acolyte and mentor Roy G. Krenkel, a reprint from Creepy no. 1 (1964).

The girl looks familiar, though…

JaneRussell_Underwater 1955A
From a 1955 film poster…

… itself swiping heavily from a 1954 Collier’s cover painted by Bill Baker. « You’ll find skin-diving now from Maine to California, wherever there is enough water for a person to plunge into. Divers, like the spearfishing pair on our cover, have made it America’s fastest-growing sport. » I’ll bet she’d rather dive with her husband, armed with a spear, than in the darkness with overly-friendly monsters.

Prezio’s final Eerie cover (he would paint a couple of beauties for FMOF the following year), this lugubrious tableau from the bone-chilling month of November 1969, is likely my favourite Prezio. It illustrates Bill Parente and Michael Royer‘s Head for the Lighthouse!

Warren seemed, at this point, without a decent in-house copy editor. Witness the cover’s “Scavanger” Hunt, and inside, a story mistitled « The Wrong Tennant ».

« Wrong Tennant? You don’t say! I’d read *that*! »

All tomfoolery aside, this wraps up our survey of Mr. Prezio’s work at Warren. Hope you enjoyed the ride!


Vic Prezio at Warren, Part One

« Stop that whimperin’, Emma — or I’ll lay into ya like a butcher in a cowpen! » — Raymond Marais, Rescue of the Morning Maid

The mysterious, but nonetheless well-remembered journeyman pulp illustrator, Vic Prezio, though chiefly associated with the infamous Men’s Sweat adventure magazines (« Weasels Ripped my Flesh! ») also produced notable work for Dell (The Outer Limits, Kona, Naza, Brain Boy, Frogmen…), Gold Key (Magnus, Robot Fighter) and Warren, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. I did say he was a journeyman.

In all, Prezio produced, for the Warren Magazine line, six covers for Famous Monsters of Filmland, some of them classics, four for Creepy and six for Eerie. And that’s not all: Prezio painted a pair of covers for FMOF companion title Monster World (no. 2, Jan. 1965, and no. 4, June 1965); these would have been his earliest Warren contributions. Thanks to eagle-eyed Michael Prince for bringing these last to my attention!

Today, we’ll admire Uncle Creepy’s dodgy wares, and reserve Cousin Eerie’s mouldy goodies for part two. The FMOF issues regrettably fall outside our purview, but for the record, these are numbers 35, 36, 38, 39, 67 and 68. Check ’em out.

Oh, it’s just your lousy luck: you finally get your best girl alone on your raft, then along comes this humongous critter to put a damper on the romantic mood. Prezio brings the scene to life for issue 18 of Creepy (Jan. 1968)… but I can’t quite shake the feeling that said scene looks sort of familiar…

Ah, that must be it. I see there used to be two snakes involved.

« I say, are you the chap that’s been short-sheeting my bunk every night? » 
Mr. Prezio’s nasty (in a good way) cover painting gives us a glimpse of Rudyard Kipling‘s (by way of Craig Tennis & Johnny Craig) The Mark of the Beast (1890), reprinted from Christopher Lee’s Treasury of Terror (Pyramid Books, 1966).

A look at the original painting, which thankfully survives. Can’t take such things for granted.

« Good Lord! » I wonder what that ‘one thing’ is. Prezio’s cover for Creepy no. 28 (Aug. 1969) is based on Archie Goodwin and Dan Adkins‘ story The Doorway, reprinted in this issue. Read it here, if you must.

Some editorial second-guessing went on, as evidenced by the most consistent colour scheme of the original painting. It’s a great piece, so it works all the same.

« Come back, baby! Sure, my saliva’s a bit… corrosive, but you’ll get used to it! »
Vic Prezio’s twist on the then-prevalent gothic romance trope of the gorgeous, scantily-clad damsel-in-distress running away from some castle or mansion. This is Creepy no. 29 (Sept. 1969).

Now, Vic’s original painting: the image was flipped for publication (as if you couldn’t tell), which was probably a sound decision. Left to right motion is more visually natural and dynamic.

Well, that’s it for now. Next time, we’ll check out Mr. Prezio’s Eerie covers, so stay tuned.