Hello boils and ghouls, it’s yer ‘ol pal Johnny here, and boy do I have quite a treat for you! Every day of this frightful month, I will be posting and spooking — I mean speaking — about deviant “Pre-Code” horror comic covers. Pre-Code refers to anything published before 1955, when the Comic Code Authority was created in 1954 to censor comics from publishing “lurid and unsavory” stories and art, meaning things such things as vampires, werewolves, ghouls, zombies, ect could no longer be portrayed in comic books. As a result, good must ALWAYS triumph over evil and villains can never be sympathetic. Words such as “horror” and “terror” could not be used on comic covers. Dark times indeed. My selection for the month isn’t focused on those that are the most shocking (though a few are) but rather on the best of horror and terror (physical and psychological) and those which display a variety of classic horror images and settings. Over 20 different artists from over 10 different publishers will be featured. I hope you all enjoy!
Uncanny Tales #17 (1954) Atlas Comics, Bill Everett.
I chose this Uncanny Tales cover by “Wild” Bill Everett to open my month of Pre-Code horror covers not only for the quality of art but primarily for the vast amount of “classic” horror tropes Wild Bill was able to cram into this cover design. Let’s see what we got here: Full Moon ✔️ , Bat ✔️, Unconscious/Dead maiden being carried ✔️, Headless Corpse ✔️, Screaming Skull ✔️, Graveyard Setting ✔️. Doesn’t get much more Halloween than this! After admiring the creature carrying the maiden image, my eyes are immediately drawn magnetically to the screaming skull. The intensity of those bloodshot eyes and the aggravated mouth issuing its silent scream, paired with the angle of the skull that really make its gaze bore into you, makes an excellent contrast to its grim and mindless body. Love the limited and muted color palette, exemplified by the pale yellow full moon partly obstructed by a bat and whispers of black clouds against a dark blue matte sky and the graveyard dirt illuminated by moonlight casting dark shadows on the piles of soil around the shallow grave. The only bright colors come from the corpse’s ragged green suit and the woman’s dirty crimson dress. The cover design and execution are flawless here, really showcasing Everett’s immense talent for visual storytelling. Bill Everett was working in the comic industry for about 15 years at the time of this issue’s release, having been there in 1939 and contributing a 12 page story featuring his character Namor the Sub-Mariner for Marvel Comics #1 from Timely Comics (precursor to Marvel Comics) who became one of Timely’s most popular characters who is still being published to this day. Bonus Fun Fact: Bill Everett is a descendant of poet William Blake!