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!
Horrific #7 (1953) Comic Media, Don Heck
Don Heck is a name you can’t miss when compiling a list of Pre-Code Horror comic covers this long. Horrific #7 by Don Heck is either my favorite, or close second favorite guillotine cover of all time (you’ll see the other contender later this month!). Heck has drawn pretty much every genre during his long comic career, and even co-created Ironman (whoever THAT guys is), but I’ll always associate him with horror. Just look at this cover, it’s pretty clear that Heck gets it! The look on the condemned man’s face is a caricature of the fear of death, and it is downright haunting. Death comes for us all at some point — it’s inevitable and unstoppable. This is the exact moment when that fear of death becomes real and manifest, and the rest of your life can be measured in mere seconds. His expression emotes that feeling in spades. The man’s gaunt face, stricken with horror, his mouth open, aghast, and lined with columns of spittle top to bottom. His intense eyes wild and wide, beaming inside those sunken dark eye sockets as sweat beads drip down his grayish face. The angle of this image is so dynamic and dramatic! The perspective is so extreme: the guillotine stretches way up into the inky blackness of the sky, and the imposing building with barred windows in shadow of the full moon, all bearing down on the doomed man just as the blade’s deadly edge comes down upon his neck. Underneath, we see the basket that will soon cradle his freshly liberated head. Love the color palette on this cover, and the full moon light source highlighting and casting shadows down on the condemned man’s face. And that purple (oh that purple!). The red across the tops of his eyes are a nice touch too. Heck even designed the “Horrific” logo for this series!