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!
Tales from the Crypt #37 (1953) EC Comics, Jack Davis
Can’t do 31 days of Pre-Code Horror covers and not have at least one by EC Comics great Jack Davis, who illustrated every cover of Tales from the Crypt starting with issue #29 (1952) all the way until its final issue #46 (1955). Davis is known for his design of the Crypt’s main host, the Crypt-Keeper, who, by Davis’ hand, was oddly disproportionate, craggy, knobby, and constantly salivating. Now, I’m not saying that this is the greatest horror cover of all time, or that it isn’t, but I am saying it’s perfect. A classic “dead rising from the grave” cover, expertly composed and masterfully illustrated with a sinister edge — the corpse creeping up on an unsuspecting living victim. The level of detail in the cadaver is absolutely incredible! Even it’s ragged shredded clothing hanging off of its bones are impressively thorough in their execution, with keen attention given to the many wrinkles and folds. Then, of course, the meticulously detailed corpse itself showing various degrees of decomposition across its haggard body, raining down clumps of graveyard dirt. Between the rips and holes in the corpse’s clothes, pale bones and ribs are exposed. On the deceased’s right arm, bracing itself on the tombstone, we see patches of decayed flesh stubbornly clinging to bone. The head is gruesome in its state of rot — bits missing, putrid flesh fragile and foul, head shape warped with a brutal dent, and errant strands of hair, all add to the gross factor. My favorite part, though, is the full moon halo framing the corpse’s head as it rises from its grave, gripping a shovel in its hand with an obvious murderous intent! As the story goes, Jack Davis was ready to pack it up and move back home to Georgia and become a forest ranger or farmer, but stopped into EC Comics headquarters and ended up with a job instead. The rest is history!