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Weirdo Wednesdays: Pre-Code Horror

Haunted Horror #1, reprinting cover art from Chamber of Chills #19 (Warren Kremer and Lee Elias)

,  Haunted Horror #1, reprinting cover art from Chamber of Chills #19 (Warren Kremer and Lee Elias)

Before Frederic Wertham’s Comics Code, horror comics were filled with violent imagery, especially murder and gruesome acts. For years these were really hard to find, but in recent years publishers have begun to collect these stories. One of the best collections is Haunted Horror. Published by IDW starting in 2012, each issue features selections from various pre-code horror comics like Black MagicBaffling Terror, and Journey into Fear. Come with me on a journey into these bizarre tales!

These opening splashes are incredible. (Art by CA Winter)

These opening splashes are incredible. (Art by CA Winter)

This story, “The Wage Earners,” follows a traveler who happens upon a woman (well, happens upon her with his bumper). She’s fine, but his life gets more complicated.

This poor lady. All she did was marry this guy.

This poor lady. All she did was marry this guy.

He marries this poor unfortunate lady for her money, and then he decides to murder her for it so he can meet his mystery lady in the swamp. And then, he gets his.

Yikes!

Yikes!

Whew, that one was rough! But it featured a guy who got his for being a heel, and the girl was the one doing the killing. What about the  next one?

Oooooh, an eyeball!

Oooooh, an eyeball! (Art by Bernard Baily)

This is your average, run-of-the-mill eyeball that follows a guy who murders another guy story. It definitely takes a page out of Poe’s book, except it’s an eyeball instead of a heart. (Although to be fair, there’s an eye in that story, too.)

Don'tcha hate it when a corpse bums a cigarette?

Don’tcha hate it when a corpse bums a cigarette?

So the corpse of his victim follows him everywhere, and it drives him a little crazy.

And then he died.

And then he died.

This collection even includes some early Jack Kirby/Joe Simon. Enter “Slaughter-House!”

I love the aliens in this story.

I love the aliens in this story. (Art by Jack Kirby/Joe Simon)

This is a story of an alien invasion, and how you should never trust a dame.

Women...such Judas Goats.

Women…such Judas Goats.

And on to the second issue.

Haunted Horror #2, with cover art taken from Weird Mysteries #1 (Basil Wolverton)

Haunted Horror #2, with cover art taken from Weird Mysteries #1 (Basil Wolverton)

The first story, “Doomsmoke,” tells the tale of a skull-pipe that drives a collector to violence just to get what he wants.

Smoking's bad, mmkay?

Smoking’s bad, mmkay? (Art by Ken Rice)

In this story, all of the visions he sees in the smoke of the pipe come true, and eventually he meets his doom by being electrocuted.

I love conventions, but I think I'll skip this one.

I love conventions, but I think I’ll skip this one. (Art by George Tuska)

This is one of my favorites. “Corpse Convention” centers around a couple who stay at a hotel on Friday the 13th, and they meet some odd guests.

Wild party? Yeah, right.

Wild party? Yeah, right.

So the guy’s wife gets captured, and she’s put in a trance.

I love this art. So good!

I love this art. So good!

She is compelled to jump out a window to satisfy their bloodlust, but her husband is able to stop her. They find out they’ve stayed in a different version of the hotel than people see every other day than Friday the 13th. Spooky! At least this one had a somewhat happy ending. You know, in that no one got dismembered or gruesomely met their fate.

Oh, this seems like a happy story.

Oh, this seems like a happy story. (Art by Lou Cameron)

This is your classic “I invented a serum to bring disembodied hands to life to do my murderous bidding” story. (That’s a thing, right?)

Faster, pussy-hands, kill, kill, kill!

Faster, pussy-hands, kill, kill, kill!

Eventually, as they always do, the killer gets his when he accidentally stares into a woman’s mirror pendant and the hands murder him. You know, that old chestnut.

Ooooh, a werewolf story!

Ooooh, a werewolf story! (Art by Jerry Iger)

“Her Lips Dripped Blood” is a werewolf story, which is very fitting for these types of comics. In this one, Betty and her husband travel to her ancestors’ homestead, where they meet Clara, the housekeeper.

I don't know about you, but I'd take one look at Clara and realize I had an emergency meeting at the exact farthest geographical location away from her.

I don’t know about you, but I’d take one look at Clara and realize I had an emergency meeting at the exact farthest geographical location away from her.

Surprise! Your grandfather was a werewolf!

Surprise! Your grandfather was a werewolf!

When they explore the graveyard, they discover that her grandfather was a werewolf. (This was before the days of Ancestry.com, where you could just look that stuff up on census records.) Then, strange things start happening. People start going missing, only to be discovered with savage wounds.

I wonder if lycanthropy skips a generation?

I wonder if lycanthropy skips a generation?

Surprise! Your wife is a werewolf, and she’s been murdering people. Time to end this with a silver bullet divorce.

Tonight on Heartline, a man brings his love back from the dead!

Tonight on Heartline, a man brings his love back from the dead! (Art by Manny Stallman/John Giuta)

So this one is kind of a Frankenstein story–a man brings the woman he loves back from the dead, and the heart he gives her not only gives her new life, but also new desire. Is it a desire for murder?

Awwww, zombies need love, too.

Awwww, zombies need love, too.

Nope. It’s the corpse from which the man took his love’s new heart. Apparently if you remove a corpse’s heart and put it in a lady, the corpse falls in love with the lady. Who knew?

Here's some nightmare fuel, just for fun.

Here’s some nightmare fuel, just for fun.

So if you take nothing else from this post, I hope you see how fun it can be to explore the gruesome world of pre-code comics. Many collections are readily available, including the comics featured here, and a book called The Horror! The Horror! Comic Books the Government Didn’t Want You to Read, which I highly recommend.

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