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!
Dark Mysteries #19 (1954) Master Comics, Unknown Artist
Here’s a great bondage and torture cover for Dark Mysteries #19 from Master Comics by an unnamed, unsigned artist. This was pretty common in the Golden Age for a variety of reasons, but I think this looks like it is by Hy Fleishman. Fleishman is not only is credited for the interior cover story art, but this issue is also sandwiched between a big chunk of covers he did for this series. He didn’t always sign his work and this does look like his style, but at the same time it could easily have been someone else. Anyway, here we have two robed skeletons grinning diabolically as they turn the crank and revel in the shrieks and cries of the helpless standard issue 1950’s blonde comic book woman. What makes this cover sing is the wonderful detail in the textures and shading. Everything seems worn and old: the wood grain, the scratchy walls, and of course the skeletons themselves. Also, I love when an artist can create expressive skulls without making them look too cartoony by warping their features. I really enjoy the blue robed skeleton’s curious demeanor as if it is studying his victim’s pain and finding joy in it. The Christmas garbed woman tied and manacled to the rack has a look of exhaustion and distress as she peers down at her sinister tormentors. My favorite part about the woman is that even though her clothes are ripped and dirty, and who knows how long she has been held captive, she still has on her red high heel shoes! I guess even when you are being taunted by evil sadistic skeletons and pulled apart on the “Rack of Terror” one would still prefer to look as fabulous as possible. Unless of course wearing the heels is part of her gruesome torture!