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!
Black Cat #50 (1954) Harvey Comics, Lee Elias
“Shocking horror radiates from… White Heat!” is a pretty appropriate tag line here. Harvey Comics’ Black Cat #50 by Lee Elias is easily the hardest to look at cover for my month of Pre-Code horror covers! In Fredric Wertham’s fraudulent anti-comics book “Seduction of the Innocent” Wertham uses four of Elias’ panels as examples of “depraved” and “lurid” comic art. Elias moved to the United States from England when he was a boy and after attending art school entered the art scene in comic books and syndicated newspaper strips. Elias did work for many publishers and on many different genres but his most notable works were science fiction strip “Beyond Mars” and “Black Cat” a comic book about a stuntwoman turned crimefighter. This comic cover is so shocking that even the character depicted in the picture looks shocked that this is happening, he doesn’t even look like he is in pain or maybe just hasn’t yet had time to register it. This is still a gorey cover for today’s standards but in 1954 I cannot imagine! Elias’ details here are equally horrific and unsettling as they are thorough. Those green innocent bunny rabbit eyes gazing in horror at his hands’ as muscle and skin warp and melt from bone. His face broiled and covered in burns, nose completely scorched off leaving a black hole, mouth blown wide open, lips totally nonexistent, teeth broken. I really can’t get over how scared he looks, that look in his eye is absolutely priceless and ultimately more frightening than any and all gore. I can’t image the sound of his scream right now coming out of his brutalized mouth. Ugh, the thought honestly makes me shutter. Elias enjoyed a long career in comic books and in the early 80’s retired from comics but continued to teach art at several schools.