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!
Adventures into Darkness #14 (1954) Pines Publishing, Ross Andru
Ross Andru’s cover to Adventures into Darkness #14 is quite possibly the “weakest” of this month’s selection of Pre-Code horror covers — only because it isn’t particularly scary or gruesome. But, damn I love this image, so much doom and gloom! I mostly just associate Andru with his Silver Age super hero comic work like Wonder Woman and the Metal Men and even some war comics from that time rather than horror, so this is kind of an exciting discovery for me. Love the solid black sky broken only by a thin string of jagged clouds and a pale red moon. Strange thing to say, but I have always been a fan of how Andru illustrates waves and water and this cover only reinforces that for me — what excellent line work and weight! This image is so bleak that it is almost comedic, a drowning man gasping for air and safety, flailing in a vast dark ocean with the only possibility for refuge a dreadful ship with a literal skeleton crew. Talk about out of the pot and into the frying pan! For some reason I find myself enamored by the skeletons in the dingy. I feel like they are emoting more than your typical skeleton. The one on the left has sinister intent in its gleaming red eye sockets but also an air of apathy from its posture, like no matter what happens here, there is no rush, the drowning man’s fate is inevitable. The skeleton on the right seems to look upon the drowning man with something resembling pity, what an excellent pairing of the two! The drowning man looks only as scared as a person would be from drowning in the middle of the ocean, it’s like he doesn’t even see the dread ship approaching or the crew out to collect him for a fate far worse than drowning!