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 of Terror Annual #3 (1953) EC Comics, Al Feldstein.
Al Feldstein’s Tales of Terror Annual cover is without a doubt my absolute favorite image featuring all three “GhouLunatics”, the hideous hosts of EC’s horror comic trifecta: the Old Witch hostess, of Haunt of Fear; the Vault-Keeper, host of Vault of Terror; and last and certainly not least, the most famous member of the GhouLunatics: the Crypt-Keeper! Host of Tales from the Crypt (formerly Crypt of Terror). Each title had it’s titular main host but also featured stories from the other hosts, with each trying to one-up the other hosts’ stories. They would sometimes even be featured IN the stories! This cover is a perfect blend of horror and humor, from goofy cartoonish grinning ghouls, to acts of sadistic torture. This picture reminds me what an excellent pairing comedy and horror truly are. The main focus, an anguished human stripped down to his underwear and tied to the rack, surrounded by creatures both silly and sinister, with each GhouLunatic issuing forth their own cruel form of torture. The Crypt-Keeper (in green), with an open mouth smile and a look of delight, about to sear the man with a red hot branding iron with the EC Comics logo. Then we have the Vault-Keeper (in blue), with a deranged look of pleasure, cranking the rack stretching the poor screaming victim. And finally the Old Witch (in red), wearing her usual demented blank smile while stirring her cauldron with a long, pale, bone while tickling the man’s foot with a white feather — perhaps the most diabolic torture of all in this situation! Al Feldstein came to EC Comics in 1948 as an artist but quickly began writing and drawing his own stories. Eventually, Feldstein became an integral part of EC Comics, when he shifted to mostly editing and writing. For several years, he wrote and edited 7 different titles while still contributing artwork for covers. Feldstein even published the first comic work of Harlan Ellison!