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!
Menace #11 (1954) Atlas Comics, Harry Anderson
This disturbing cover for Menace #11 was done by Harry Anderson, who is not to be confused with the other artist Harry Anderson, who also worked in the 1950’s, painting around 300 religious scenes including the famous “What Happened To Your Hand?” which depicts the figure of Jesus with some kids in a modern setting, explaining the origin of his hand wounds. This unsettling cover was definitely not illustrated by that Harry Anderson (and definitely not the Harry Anderson from Night Court, you wise guys!). Before his time at Atlas Comics, Anderson worked on mostly Romance, Action, and Crime stories. His most famous titles were “Nyoka the Jungle Girl” and “Lance O’ Casey” which he produced at Fawcett Comics, but when he eventually got to Atlas Comics his focus shifted to predominantly War and Horror. The creepiest aspect of this cover is the unnatural angle that the frightened man is being bent by the hairy, emerald creature. I love the point of view of this cover — we see what the creature sees, which is the fearful desperate face of trapped prey. We only see the creature’s green arms, covered in thick hair and with long yellow pointed fingernails, as it grabs the terrified victim by the face, bending him backwards as it reaches over the man with its other arm to fasten the lock and doom the poor man. The man’s face wears an excellent expression of fear: the mouth appears to be quivering or twitching, and the lower half of his face is in shadow, further emphasizing the man’s intense, bright-white, terror struck eyes which stare frozenly at his impossible attacker. It was difficult to find information about our Harry Anderson — the guy doesn’t even have a Wikipedia page! But I found this little tidbit interesting: late in 1954, Anderson was in the middle of an assignment when he just up and quit. He moved to California, never to work in comics again! When I have more time to dig around, I’d love to try and find out what happened.