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!
The Thing #7 (1952) Charlton Comics, Lou Morales
If Liam would allow it, all I would write for this one would be “YOOOOOOOOOOO!”. This cover for The Thing #7 by Lou Morales is completely insane and I love it. It is so violent, yet also delightfully bizarre! It helps to know that the cover story inside is titled “The Gorgon’s Claw” when figuring out what exactly is going on here. The transformation sequence of woman-to-gorgon is dynamic and imaginative and executed perfectly. Starting on the upper right side of the cover and swooping left and around, over to the center of the page, we see the woman change in three stages. It is depicted with just the woman’s head, before the final transformation into full on gorgon-form. The heads, disembodied and floating, not only move your eye across the page, but are also quite haunting. The final gorgon form is not quite like any depiction of a gorgon I’ve ever seen before, outside of the snakes, and I find it refreshing. I enjoy the combination of beak, pointed ears, and serpentine mouth with fangs, but maybe the best part is that the makeup survived the transformation. The idea of a terrifying monster wearing makeup sounds a bit silly but looking at this it really isn’t! Nothing funny about the gorgon as it stabs the man in the face with it’s claws. The two fingers going directly into the man’s eyes makes this especially unsettling. This cover definitely wouldn’t pass after the Comic Code was established as “injury to eye” images were specifically called out. Usually I talk a bit about the artist but I honestly don’t know much about Lou Morales other than that he did a bunch of work for Charlton Comics and a little at Atlas Comics, also that I have yet to see a drawing he did that I didn’t like.