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!
Tomb of Terror #3 (1952) Harvey Comics, Al Avison
This is probably not my favorite cover in this month’s selection of Pre-Code Horror covers, but it totally weirds me out and I think it’s funny coming from Al Avison, whom I mostly associate with Captain America* and as the co-creator of the Whizzer, the super speedster who got his powers from a mongoose blood transfusion he received after being bit by a cobra (don’t try this stuff at home, kids). But seriously now, what a weird scene! We have this odd jade-skinned ghoulish monster whose face is half green skull with thick, straw-like tufts of hair on its head, shins, and forearms. He’s clad in a torn purple robe, pulling on a metal chain that is wrapped around the neck of a blindfolded blonde woman wearing a tattered red dress and a pained look of distress. The woman, on one knee, is blindly groping the air in front of her, unaware that in the water just below her is a human hand reaching up out of the muck. Talk about bleak! But, the story behind the cover is titled “Cavern of the Doomed”. The woman is the only clean and bright thing on the whole page, and the thick bold lines that define her features really makes the figure pop off the page. Reasonably tame for a “bondage” cover, but the image is still very unsettling. One can’t help but wonder what, exactly, is the fate of the poor captured woman? Is she right about to be drowned after the man gives up the ghost? Or is the monster just toying with her, psychologically torturing her, with more on the way? It’s hard to say, and since the creature’s look is one of sadistic contempt — I could see it going either way. Fun Fact: Al Avison was one of the artists that contributed to the design of Mr. Met, the baseball-headed mascot of the New York Mets!