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!
Weird Tales of the Future #3 (1952) Stanley Morse Comics, Basil Wolverton
The most requested non-EC Comic artist I’ve had all month so far has been, unanimously, one man: Basil Wolverton the “Producer of Preposterous Pictures of Peculiar People who Prowl this Perplexing Planet” and here is his cover for Weird Tales of the Future #3. Wolverton, with no formal art training, two years out of high school, sold his first nationally published work and began making comic strips to try and sell to newspaper syndicates at the age of 20. His two early hits were “Spacehawk,” a science fiction strip appearing in several anthology titles published by Novelty Comics, and “Powerhouse Pepper” which also appeared in various anthology titles published by Timely Comics (early predecessor of Marvel). Wolverton really got his big break when he won an art competition from Al Capps’ newspaper strip “Lil Abner”. The contest was to draw “Lena the Hyena” the world’s ugliest woman, a character with a longtime running gag of never being shown, since the artist claimed she was actually too ugly to show in a family newspaper. The contest was supposedly judged by a celebrity panel consisting of Boris Karloff, Frank Sinatra, and Salvador Dali! Wolverton’s unique, lurid art style was coined “spaghetti and meatballs” due to its resemblance to the food (it sounds weird but it’s true!) and would help inspire future artists of the Underground Comix movement. We have here a very bizarre graveyard scene featuring your standard, early 1950’s comic damsel, blonde and in a red dress, sitting in front of a grave. Behind her, the ground erupts with a large crypt-corpse monster dispelling bones, dirt, and broken bits of tombstone into the air. The monster appears to be made out of the graveyard itself, including bodies, bones, dirt, and gravestones. It’s are eyes thin, sinister slits that are blood red as they look down upon the woman with foul contempt, as she stares back with bewildered unease. Nobody does ugly like Basil Wolverton and this creature is certainly a decent example of that! Seriously, if you are unfamiliar with Basil Wolverton’s art, google it!