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!
Mister Mystery #12 (1953) Stanley Morse, Bernard Baily.
Even after all the time I have spent staring at this image, working on this write up, and I still find it hard to look at! Bernard Baily’s cover to Mister Mystery #12 (1953) is a prime example of “injury-to-eye” imagery found mostly in crime and/or horror comics, which Fredric Wertham singled out in his book Seduction of the Innocent. That sparked the Senate hearings which led to the formation of Comic Code Authority. What a piercing image (forgive me)! The composition and execution really takes this to the next level, with the extreme close-up of this terrible moment and the use of the white hot needle as the sole light source! The beads of sweat on the man’s face from the fiery heat of the needle is proof that whoever is thrusting the needle is taking their time, transforming the moment before the inevitable cruel act of violence into pure torture. The intensity of the man’s face is overwhelming, I half expect the eyeball to cry out in fear! The eyeball is bloodshot from the heat emanating from the needle slowly approaching, and a single tear abandoning ship. The tiny, fiery reflection of the burning hot needle tip in the man’s pupil may be my favorite detail of all (so good!). The thick and ruddy features of the man’s face are expertly rendered here, with bold black lines defining form and weight. The yellow, orange, and red coloring on the man’s face reflect the heat from the needle and paired with the thin black scratchy lines of the shading and beard stubble create a great sense of texture. Not only was Bernard Baily an accomplished artist, but during his career he also took on the roles of writer, editor, and publisher! Baily is probably most known for co-creating DC Comics super heroes Spectre and Hourman. He was also there back in 1938, contributing a “Tex Thomson” feature in Action Comics #1, the debut of