The Octopus reimagined

Warren Ellis set his readers to a task: to draw an old pulp comic book character, the Octopus. The Octopus had a stunning description.

One of the more outré of the pulp characters-and given the genre, that’s quite saying something, believe me-the Octopus was actually the villain of the piece in his single issue, The Octopus v1 #4, 1939, written by…well, it’s not exactly clear. It might be Norvel Page, or it might be Ejler and Edith Jacobsen. A rather over-the-top mad scientist, the Octopus worked from a big city hospital and plotted world conquest. His appearance might explain his desire to dominate the world; he’s sea-green, with four “suction-cupped weaving tentacles” set above “hideously malformed” legs. He wears a small mask, and behind it can be seen two enormous, luminous, purple eyes. He was the leader of the Purple Eyes, a cult bent on world domination and mass destruction. The Octopus’ chosen method was an “ultra-violet ray” which devolved men and women and turned them into deformed, life-hating monsters hungry for human flesh and glowing with “ultraviolet purple.” Against the Octopus was set Jeffrey Fairchild, a young millionaire philanthropist (he eventually stopped the Octopus, of course). He had three identities. The first was Jeffrey Fairchild, hospital administrator. The second was was kindly Dr. Skull, the old man who made a practice of helping the poor in the slums. (His good works didn’t help him when everyone thought that he was the Octopus, however) In his other identity he was the “Skull Killer,” who fought crime and left a skull-imprint, ala the Spider, on his enemies. Fairchild was assisted by Carol Endicott, Dr. Skull’s nurse.

There were a lot of submissions, but so far I like this one best:


I thought about cheating and just sending in a photo of myself, but darn it, my eyes aren’t purple.


  1. Ryan F Stello says

    Another reason why Warren Ellis is one of my personal favorite writers: support for the pulp greats.

  2. blf says

    I thought about cheating and just sending in a photo of myself, but darn it, my eyes aren’t purple.

    Gimp. or Photoshop. you gets the idea… and since you admitted it’d be a cheat, why not?

    (we’ll ignores the fact here that a photo of the Pee Zed would be an accurate representation, not a cheat. The purple eyes are a disguise to throw skulleater or whoever off the scent.)

  3. Mobius says

    “I thought about cheating and just sending in a photo of myself, but darn it, my eyes aren’t purple.”

    There’s always Photoshop.

  4. says

    How to get purple eyes fast.

    Watch Ray Comfort videos on YouTube.
    After each Comfort assertion, say in a loud, clear voice, “You’re right, Ray…I never thought about it that way before. It’s so clear…I don’t know how I missed it all this time.”
    Repeat until you can both feel your heart pounding in all ten digits, as well as hear it in your ears so loudly as to drown out any attempt at communication.
    Now look in the mirror! Purple eyes!

    Warning: Stop at purple eyes. Any attempt to continue past purple eyes may result in explosive release of pressure from…well…everywhere.

  5. eddie says

    The best bit of that picture, I think, is that the guy needs a photo ID badge.

  6. Sili says

    Ejler and Edith Jacobsen

    Funny how I seem to run into Danishness everywhere today.

  7. blf says

    Funny how I seem to run into Danishness everywhere today.

    Yea, I had one with breakfast today.

    Oh. Sorry. I thought you said Danish. Pastry.

  8. Sven DiMilo says

    You know, what made me think in that description was the (super)hero with three identities. I can’t think of any others. Why was that obvious extension of the standard tropes so underexplored?

  9. pcarini says

    It’s well worth it to follow the submissions link from PZ’s post and look around a bit — there is a lot of talented work on display there. In specific, I saw the larger version of the image above on page 6 (with a single frame’s worth of story), and beautifully done noir-style image done on page 4 (I haven’t gone very far into the thread yet.) The second from the bottom on page 2 was also pretty good.

    @Sili: Do you read In the Pipeline? I saw a post by either you or someone with your same handle there; I read it on occasion – partly to satisfy the amateur chemistry wonk in me, but mostly to read about amusingly volatile compounds like ClF3.

  10. Dirty says

    I had to read the first few lines several times before realizing you weren’t talking about Warren Ellis the violinist.

  11. MadScientist says

    Awesome, the original Doc Oc. I wonder if Stan Lee was influenced by him?

  12. says

    Hello, Paul Sizer here, the guy who drew this octopus for the Warren Ellis WHITECHAPEL forums. Thanks for all the nice words!

    Octopi are my favorite animals ever, so I felt I needed to really go all out for this image. And yes, many people liked the fact that this octopus in disguise felt the need to have a fake ID badge as well to conceal his identity.
    Thanks again, glad you dig it!

  13. Josh says

    Sad to say, Sven, I can think of a few superheroes with three identities. Batman, when he had an underworld “Matches Malone” persona. Wolverine, when he wore a mask in the X-Men to conceal his identity and an eyepatch in the Indian Ocean to conceal his other identity. Stephen Grant/Marc Spector/Jake Lockley/Moon Knight has four identities, but that’s ’cause he’s crazier than an outhouse rat. And the protean Martian Manhunter is said to have maintained several different human personae at various places in the world.