June 30, 2010
This is a panel detail from the mini-series Abe Sapien: The Drowning (Feburary-June, 2008), written by Mike Mignola with art by Jason Shawn Alexander. (Read a plot synopsis here.)
Abe Sapien is a central character from Mignola’s Hellboy comic and its subsequent spin-off title B.P.R.D.. He was originally a Victorian scientist named Langdon Everett Caull, a member of an occult society that revered the Babylonian deity Oannes. Caull was accidentally transformed into a fish man (“icthyo sapien”) in an arcane ritual gone terribly wrong. His comatose body was placed in a tube of water and sealed up beneath a Washington D.C. hospital at the outbreak of the Civil War. He remained in a state of suspended animation until being discovered in 1979. Having no memory of his previous life or identity, he adopted the name “Abraham Sapien” and was taken in by the Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense. Abe would eventually become a top B.P.R.D. field agent and learn the secrets of his mysterious past.
June 29, 2010
One of my current guilty pleasures is the History Channel reality show Pawn Stars. I was pretty sure I hated it, and then suddenly I found myself kind of addicted. The show focuses on the employees and clientele of the Gold & Silver Pawn Shop, a family-owned business in Las Vegas, NV. It is a lot like Antiques Roadshow, only with more swearing and tattoos. I try not to dwell on the depressing probability that most of the people bringing their valuable antiques and family heirlooms to sell are going to turn around and blow it all in a casino.
So anyway, I was watching an episode the other day, and I noticed that one of the shop’s potential customers (he was trying to sell a dome off of a WWII bomber that was used for celestial navigation) was wearing a black hoodie with an interesting octopus design. As you can see from the photo above, the arms of this octopus spell out the word “SOUL.” I’ve tried to find this sweatshirt online, but so far I haven’t had any luck. If anyone out there knows who makes this and/or where it can be purchased, I’d love to post that info here.
June 28, 2010
While I was wrapped up with Plush Week, the rest of the ceph-blogging community was talking about Paul, the so-called psychic octopus that has been accurately “predicting” the outcome of Germany’s matches in the World Cup. Now, I have to admit that I have paid very little attention to the most popular sporting event in the world. This is not because of some snooty American prejudice against football, I just don’t really care for sports.
Anyway, I have two thoughts on the matter:
1. I’m a skeptic, but if anything was going to have psychic powers, it would totally be an octopus.
2. Paul is a weird-ass name for a German octopus.
June 27, 2010
To close out Plush Week, here is, hands down, the coolest plush cephalopod in my collection…maybe the coolest plush cephalopod EVER MADE. Measuring over two and half feet long, Wild Republic’s Gaint Squid dominates the toy box. This awseomely anatomically accurate Architeuthis (although the tag claims it to be simply a “Squid”) was produced in 2005. I picked mine up from a vendor at Dragon*Con a few years back, but it is still available online. For example, Amazon.com.
In addition to its overall size, this toy has many other impressive details. It’s eyes are nearly two inches in diameter, it has a ventral siphon, and there is a well-defined collar separating the head from the mantle. If you part the fuzzy arms and tentacles, you will find a pointy black beak. The only thing this squid is missing are the suckers.
A week ago on Father’s Day, I said I would reveal the outcome of Kid Indie Squid Kid’s encounter with the plush Architeuthis. And the winner is…
Kid Indie Squid Kid clearly had the upper hand (or tentacle, as the case may be me) in this battle. Although he seems to have enlisted the help of a certain ursine ally.
June 24, 2010
I venture to guess that most people are at least tacitly familiar with Beanie Babies, the hugely successful line of stuffed animal toys by Ty Inc. Beanie Babies were first introduced in 1993, and they still being made to this day. At one time, there was a rabid collectors market for the cute little toys, but that has been in decline for some time. Over the years, Ty has produced three different octopus toys, and, as you will see, the accuracy of the reproductions increases over time.
Inky the Octopus (6/03/1994 – 5/01/1998)
Inky’s head is big and round
As he swims he makes no sound
If you need a hand, don’t hesitate
Inky can help because he has eight!
Inky was the first Beanie Baby octopus, and it was your typical cartoony representation that bears little resemblance to any actual animal. Three different variants were produced: two gray versions (one had a mouth and one didn’t) that were pretty rare, and a common smiley pink version.
Wiggly the Octopus (1/25/2000 – 3/27/2001)
Under the sea I travel with ease
I flip and flop – do whatever I please
Being a squid can be lots of fun
Because I swim faster than anyone!
Ty’s next octopus was a vast improvement over old Inky…it actually looks quite a bit like a real cephalopod! The poem quoted above (all Beanie Babies have a little poem printed in their tag) seems to claim that Wiggly is a squid, but it’s abundantly clear that he is, in fact, an octopus. Its coloration is a cool shimmery red with white marbling, and there are these two weird stubby bits protruding from either side of the mantle. I have no idea what these are supposed to be, and I’d like to think that I am pretty well versed in basic octopus anatomy! Still, Wiggly is fine little toy, and the only one of these Beanie Babies that I actually own.
Opie the Octopus (4/23/2005 – 3/27/2006)
I live in the ocean blue
Have eight arms and a siphon, too
I squirt black ink and have two eyes
My body fits to any size !
Lastly, we have Opie, the latest and most accurate Beanie cephalopod yet. I’ve never seen it in person, but from the dark vein-like markings, it looks like it might have been based on the Coconut Octopus (Amphioctopus marginatus). The common version (shown here) has blue eyes, but there was also a limited edition version with red eyes that was exclusively sold at the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History’s Ty Warner Sea Center.
June 24, 2010
Here we have another excellent toy from Wildlife Artists. It was produced in 1999, and, to my knowledge, it is the only plush reproduction of Vampyroteuthis infernalis ever made.
This little guy is 7″ tall/long, and its arms also span about 7″ across. The detail on this toy is fantastic! Not only is the color dead on (I love the eerie pale blue eyes!), but there are also a number of lighter spots on the mantle to represent the animal’s photophores. If you flip it over, its arms are lined with little dark marks to indicate the cirri, and it has a dark spot for the mouth/beak.
Like the plush cuttlefish (also by Wildlife Artists) featured earlier this week, I got this at the NC Museum of Natural Sciences in 2001. That year they had a cool special exhibit about life in the abyssal ocean, and the gift shop was full of cephalopod-y goodness.
I bet you didn’t think I’d be able to figure out a way to tie Plush Week to Wednesday Comics, but with the Internet all things are possible!
Kristin Hogan is the co-creator, writer and artist of a comic book called Dead Squirrel Girl. Squids play heavily into the story, so she came up with an idea to make squid dolls. Her squids are approximately 19″ long and made of a variety of materials in a variety of colors and patterns. “Batsquid” is made from a bed sheet featuring characters from the 1992 movie, Batman Returns. He costs $38 and there is currently only 1 in stock, so if you want it ACT FAST!
Find out more about the comic and Kristin’s art at www.deadsquirrelgirl.com!
June 23, 2010
I have always had a fondness for plush versions of animals that are not, by any reasonable definition, cuddly. I remember a particular stuffed toy vulture that I wanted more than anything when I was about 8 or 9, and one of my favorite recent non-cephalopod toys is an awesome plush horseshoe crab. Sharks, bats, armadillos…the less you’d want to snuggle up with the real animal, the more I want to see a plush of it. Cephalopods, of course, also fall into the traditionally non-cuddly category, and what kind of cephalopod could be less hugable than the most venomous octopus in the world, Hapalochlaena, the Blue-ringed Octopus!
This particular Blue-ringed Octopus was purchased at the Smithsonian Natural History Museum gift shop some time in the mid-90s. It was made by K&M International, Inc., a leading purveyor of nature toys, plush and otherwise. These days, most K&M animal toys are sold under the Wild Republic brand, but this guy was made in 1994, which seems to predate the name change. Once again, I’m using a pen for scale (yes, I took all these pictures on the same day), and the exact measurements are 11″ across and 5″ high—at least twice as big as the real thing. The tag text just describes a generic octopus, and I seem to recall that it was available in a few different colors and patterns. Obviously, I had to choose the one that could cause instant death. Fuzzy, adorable, instant death.
June 22, 2010
We interrupt Plush Week to bring you this awesome video by the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI). I’m virtually certain that the first few are Humbolt Squid (Docidicus gigas), but can anyone identify the rest?
In the comments, Linda Kuhnz from MBARI comes to the rescue. She says…
The squids featured in this video were filmed in Monterey Bay (except for the Piglet Squid, which was filmed in the Gulf of California) at depths ranging from 980 to 3,150 feet.
A) Black-eyed Squid (Gonatus)
B) Humboldt Squid (Doscidicus gigas)
C) Swordtail Squid (Chiroteuthis)
D) Market Squid (Doryteuthis opalescens)
E) Cockatoo Squid (Galiteuthis)
F) Swordtail Squid (Chiroteuthis)
G) Octopus Squid (Octopoteuthis)
H) Piglet Squid (Heliocranchia)
I) Swordtail Squid (Chiroteuthis)
I can’t decide if this shirt shows an octopus that loves his teddy bear, or one that just ate a child. (Although, I suppose there’s no reason it can’t be both.) At any rate, I tend to favor the sweet interpretation over the sinister.
This is actually a shirt that I own, but don’t have a good photo of myself wearing it (as is my custom for T-shirt Tuesday). Not yet anyway. I would have taken one today, but being sick for three days in a row isn’t particularly conducive to ones’ photogenic-ness.
“Octopus” is currently Sold Out in all sizes at Threadless, but I have a feeling they’ll reprint it eventually. Here’s the detail link so you can buy it when they do!
This design is also available as a Blik wall decal!