No words in the vernacular
Can describe this great event.”
—Moulin Rouge! (2001)
That song went through my head while reading both volumes of Wormwood: Gentleman Corpse. Actually, the song went “Tentacular, tentacular.” Ben Templesmith can draw some tentacles and Wormwood: Gentleman Corpse is either a showcase for his spectacular tentacular ability or he’s damn lucky that Wormwood encounters so much tentacled horror because the books are full of tentacles, effulgent with tentacles. The books are
farcical–broad, bawdy, and bursting with tentacles, a
burlesque spectacle, a Tentacular Tentacular.
Ben Templesmith is probably best known for his art for 30 Days of Night. Along with Ashley Wood, he’s given IDW Publishing its signature arty look. But I am particularly fond of the art in Wormwood: Gentleman Corpse:
Vol. 1: Birds, Bees, Blood and Beer (IDW Publishing, 2007) and Wormwood: Gentleman Corpse: Vol. 2: It Only Hurts When I Pee (IDW Publishing, 2008). Both volumes include pages of original art showing some of Templesmith’s process. And I
did enjoy those pages, mostly because I suspect his process is kind of crazy and I’m taken with how computer coloring and digital printing allow for so much more pencil work, stray lines and all. I enjoy Templesmith’s skritchy, handwritten sound effects. But mostly I like his tentacles, and his luminous living tattooes in these two volumes. In Wormwood: Gentleman Corpse, Templesmith the writer arranges situations for Templesmith the artist to draw tentacles. With the introduction of the Squidmen in the second volume, he creates a potential rivalry and whole universes of people with tentacled parts. It might seem like the tentacles would get old, become contrived, but they don’t because Templesmith is an
excellent renderer and colorist of tentacles.
Wormwood, the Gentleman Corpse himself, is a remarkably appealing lead
character who is a larva possessing a snappily-dressed corpse. In
volume 2, it’s revealed that Wormwood has a number of specially,
cured “meat suits” to wear. All have his signature rictus grin,
greenish tint and red inverted pentagram on the forehead. He is
accompanied by a shotgun-toting, clockwork drinking companion with
the fantastic name, Mr. Pendulum—who makes me think of what could
be in a cross-over with Mike Mignola’s The Amazing Screw-On Head—
and his bodyguard, Chloe, a former exotic dancer and current member
of a mysterious, extensively tattoed sisterhood who guard an
interdimensional portal. Beside the portal, Medusa, the sisterhood’s
leader, has set up The Dark Alley Club (“Sad Seedy Loners
I had flashes to other things besides
Baz Luhrmann’s Moulin Rouge! while reading. Of course, in its
day, the Moulin Rouge attracted its share of Sad Seedy Loners looking
to get their kicks. And I suppose Templesmith’s appearance at The
Dark Alley Club in volume 2 makes him a sort of Toulouse-Lautrec of
tentacles, leprechaun queens and pole-dancing guardians of reality.
Wormwood himself, though, is a little more John Constantine,
Hellblazer. Actually, now that I think about it, he’s downright
Whovian–David Tennant’s Tenth Doctor, sharply dressed, but rotting with a
rictus grin.* That is, if Dr. Who pretty much stayed on earth all the
time drinking at a strip club that guards an interdimensional portal and taking in illegal leprechaun cage fights.**
And if he regenerated by moving from corpse to corpse.
Like the Doctor, the Worm is
incredibly long-lived, despite having apparently been on the losing side of
every battle since ancient Roman times. Like the Doctor, he is
always at the scene when eschatological events occur and frequently
saves the world from an all-consuming or endlessly propagating
horror. In volume 2, he saves the world with a phone call from the
bar. Also, like the Doctor, he explains everything post facto. And like
the Doctor, Wormood is apparently on no mission other than to enjoy
himself with his friends and he has a particular fondness for the
It turns out that Wormwood:
Gentleman Corpse is, amid all the horribly distended stomaches
and torsos bursting with horrid, never-should-have-been demonic
fungal life, horny leprechauns, gunfire and even more tentacles,
a life-affirming comic. Yes, life in the here and now. Even
life at the Dark Alley Club for Sad, Seedy Losers. And Wormwood isn’t
the only paranormal being who feels this way. Medusa is far more
concerned with the Dark Alley Club than with her guardian duties.
Pope Not-So-Innocent is too occupied with his own onanism to try very
hard to get the Four Horseman of the Apocalypse to ride. And the Four
Horseman themselves are too busy enjoying the earthly pleasures of
cocaine, hookers, powdered cheez snacks and videogames to end the
world. So spectacular, spectacular or tentacular, tentaclar, life is
good. It’s just that being
fertilized by a fungal seed father is potentially part of life.
*Templesmith has gone on to write a series featuring the Tenth Doctor, Dr. Who: The Whispering Gallery
(IDW, 2009) with Leah Moore and John Reppion
**So sort of like if John Constantine laid his eggs in the regenerating body of Dr. Who and Wormwood hatched out just before the process completed.
Carol Borden likes cephalopods and is interested in mushrooms, but prefers for tentacles, spores and fungal creatures neither to impregnate nor burst forth from her anywhere. Thank you.