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!
Mysterious Adventures #15 (1953) Story Comics, Dick Beck
Yeah that’s right, this is a bowling themed horror comic book cover you are looking at. You’re welcome! The real person to thank would be Dick Beck, the artist of this amazing cover of Mysterious Adventures from Story Comics. Beck mostly worked in the Crime, Romance, and Horror genres, doing interior art and covers for almost twenty years for a variety of publishers including Ace Periodicals, St. John Publishing, Story Comics, and ACG Comics. If you look at a lot of Dick Beck’s horror comic covers, especially the ones he did at Story Comics, you’ll notice a lot of skulls, skeletons, skull-headed figures, giant skulls, really just skulls everywhere. He’s cranked out quite a few gems but this one tickled me the most. I really enjoy the composition of this cover: the pins being hit and exploding across the page as the pale skull continues its course towards you, the viewer. The level of detail in the skull being hurled is incredible. The figures in the back are well drawn but horribly stiff. This is not totally a bad thing here, since it kind of enhances the campy charm of this cover, like the figures are just terrible at acting! The verbal exchange between the skull headed villain and the startled woman is fantastically campy and craptastic, but I love gags like this! This image makes me very curious about the story behind it, particularly about the origin of the caped skull-headed killer, clad completely in black. Is the skull head a mask? Maybe the result of some kind of curse? Or was this sinister creature just born this way? Also, what is going to happen next?? Is the woman also marked for death? Or is ol’ skull head just going to mosey away after a job well done? I really might have to track this one down when I have the time, just so I can read what happens in “Ghoul Crazy”!