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!
Unknown World #1 (1952) Fawcett Comics, Norman Saunders
I love painted covers and this one, for Fawcett Comics’ Unknown Worlds #1 by Norman Saunders, is a b-e-a-u-t-y! Saunders has pretty much worked for every major publisher, doing any and all genres, and was known not only for the quality of his paintings but for the incredible speed at which he could produce them. Saunders would paint around one hundred works per year (that’s almost two a week!) and was able to keep that pace up for years! Now honestly, I’m not entirely sure that I posses the ability as a writer, as of yet, to properly describe Saunders’ art but I am going to do my very best and enjoy every second that I have to look at this breathtaking image. In this cover, we have Saunders doing what he does best, using lighting to create mood, depth, and magic with his undeniably keen eye for detail and impressive technical ability. Here we have a fair maiden running away in fear from a spooky spectral skeleton in what could be some kind of haunted house. Pretty standard horror action here. Employing a classic “hot-to-cold” technique with the right side of the page composed of mostly darker, colder colors, and the left side lighter and warmer colors, creating the illusion of depth. This works because cooler colors seem to recede, while warm colors pop you right in the face! The ethereal effect of the phantom skeleton floating through the locked door is flawlessly rendered. In 1962, Topps came out with set of “Mars Attacks” trading cards that were developed by product developer Len Brown based on Wally Wood’s cover for Weird Science #16 and then designed by Wally Wood himself with Bob Powell doing the finishing touches, after which they were given to Norman Saunders, who painted all fifty-five of the now iconic trading cards.