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!
Web of Evil #5 (1953) Quality Comics, Jack Cole
Jack Cole, a rare and raw talent, is known mostly for the creation of the superhero Plastic Man and for his single page watercolor “Good Girl Art” cartoons for Playboy magazine. Cole’s cover for Web of Evil #5 is a particularly intense one, even for an electric chair cover, which could only be accomplished by a true master of cartooning. Cole’s unique rubbery art style is able to conform to whatever mood or genre he was trying to portray, and whatever it might be, take it to an extreme manic level. I mean just look at the condemned man’s horrific face: those wild crazy eyes, his face stretched and warped like a caricature of pure madness, those crooked teeth and gaping mouth laughing maniacally as electricity courses through his body, his cackling head tilted back framed in an electric halo. The level of detail here is masterfully choreographed on the page with the heavy shading and lighting on the face and the detail in the wood grain of the electric chair and those hands (those hands!) all put up against the vibrant orange flat background, which not only really hones the focus to the unsettlingly unsuccessful execution scene taking place, but also adds to the mood of the situation with the color of electric heat.The bewildered exaggerated figures of the fearful guards are also on point, demonstrating to the viewers the weight of this dread moment. Jack Cole was a cartooning genius but unfortunately, like so many other geniuses, he was also a troubled man. In 1958 he took his own life, much to the bewilderment of his family and of everyone who knew him. No one knows why and anyone who might of had an idea never talked about it. This is one of the biggest mysteries in cartooning history.