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!
Punch Comics #9 (1944) Chesler/Dynamic Publications, Gus Ricca.
This is by far the oldest issue in this month’s collection of Pre-Code Horror covers at 72 years old! This violent and silly cover is by Gus Ricca who, during the 1920s and ‘30s, primarily worked for various newspaper and magazine publishers. He eventually entered the comic book world around 1940, working for Chesler Publications, whose shop produced content for various comic book companies. By 1944, Ricca became the art director for Dynamic Publications, an imprint of Chesler, and during his time there he produced some fantastic covers, like this one! This cover depicts a bloody and strangled artist slumped over his drawing desk as four of the characters from “Spy Ring”, the comic he was drawing, perform various acts of violence on him. I appreciate how the characters from the strip are drawn cartoonishly, while the artist and set are rendered in realistic detail, emphasizing the surrealism of the scene. This cover is chock full of gems – let’s start with the frumpy hairy guy in the yellow shirt sitting on the back of the artist’s chair: wielding two large knives, bloodied from their plunge into the man’s back, and watching the artist’s face, almost as if he is waiting to see the moment that the artist’s life leaves his body. He can just barely be seen in the lower left panel of the page on the artist’s desk. Next, we have the tall blonde woman in red, standing erect with a gun in her hand. I love the satisfied look on her face, and really just her whole demeanor as she shoots the artist in the shoulder, leaving a crimson dot of blood on his shirt. She can be seen on the artist’s page in the top left panel. Positioned on top of the artist’s drawing table we have a military figure — let’s call him Herr General — putting his all of his weight into heaving on a rope that ends in a noose around the artist’s neck. He can be spotted in the artist’s work in the top left panel, sporting the same sinister open-mouth smile. Finally, we have the man with the shaved head and yellow shirt, who carries a very disapproving look on his cartoonish face. He is literally bursting from the comic page, with a blackjack in his hand, poised to bring it down upon the artist’s head. I like the detail of the phone in the artist’s hand — is it to show just how quickly things went south, or was he trying to call for help?