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!
Haunt of Fear #17 (1953) EC Comics, Graham “Ghastly” Ingels
It was SO difficult to just have two Graham Ingles covers for my Month of Pre-Code Horror covers but yowza, his cover for Haunt of Fear #17 is a horror masterpiece truly worthy of being signed “Ghastly”! The simple concept of the gruesome walking undead is executed with great skill and imagination in this composition. The colors of this cover are gorgeous and yet totally hideous! I love the sulfuric yellows and greens on the decaying zombies and how they pop against the purple of the background. The rotting corpses’ faces show no hints of malice or hate, just misery and mindlessness and a touch of hunger. This image is not disturbing for any real depictions of gore or violence. Sure, it’s gross, but it’s not like we see brains, or severed limbs, or even blood. It is the incredible detail of decomposition seen on the shambling corpses that makes us cringe and go “Ew!”. Ingles even illustrated this issue’s cover story “Horror We? How’s Bayou?” and is considered by many to be EC Comics’ best illustrated horror story! After the Comic Code was put in place, Ingles got little work in comics and turned to teaching art. In 1962, Ingles left his family and home and seemingly disappeared off the face of the Earth. It wasn’t until about ten years later he was found by fans, living in Florida and giving private painting lessons at his home studio. When contacted, Ingles refused to talk about his time in comic books and asked to never be contacted again. Though his tenure as a comic artist was short lived, Ingles left quite the impression. In 2011 the yearly Ghastly Awards were formed to honor artistic excellence in the Horror comic genre and took their name from Ingles’ nickname, “Ghastly” and, as you could guess, Ingles was the first inductee into their Hall of Fame.
John Foster used to be just a regular guy, but after reading 10,000 comics in one sitting, the resulting brain damage transformed him into something more. Now an adviser to the Overstreet Comic Book Price Guide (the single most comprehensive guide to comic collecting and appraisal for 46 years running), this mindless misshapen mockery of a man can usually be found at his shop, South Philly Comics, listening to surf tunes pricing old funny books. To fulfill a life debt to Liam O, Johnny has agreed to share his thoughts on comics, old and new.