Friday, July 27, 2007

Number 165

Sex and Skeletons Part 1

Publishers have known since printing was invented that what attracts readers are images of sex and death. Horror comics of the 1950s were continuing a rich tradition. They had a lot of precedents to guide them, and by the middle of the 20th Century several of the comic book publishers had been involved in publishing pulp magazines--no strangers to sex and death--and some were even concurrently involved in publishing paperback books with lurid covers.

The cliché says you can't judge a book by its cover, but in reality you sell one by the cover.

I've picked out some of my favorite horror comics from the '50s, culled from places on the Internet, eBay, etc., even some from my own collection. All of these have something in common: they all show skeletons, since time immemorial the most common symbol of death, and an image that evokes a lot of reactions and curiosity. And speaking of curiosity, young kids looking over the comic covers in the '50s couldn't pass up the opportunity to ogle a sexy babe. Comics used the old damsel-in-distress motif a lot. They used bondage a lot and they used red dresses a lot, too. Not only were the red dresses eye-catching on the newsstand, they were also a symbol of a hot chick. They meant bad girl, a symbol for a prostitute, or at the very least, someone willing to have sex.

The covers also fell into sub-categories, looking for inspiration from other covers. Comic book publishers, or at least the artists, were looking to other artists and covers for inspiration; they swiped both ideas and artwork. Here are two sub-themes I've noticed while looking at my computer file of images. The Bill Everett cover of Atlas' Venus #17, dated December, 1951, appears to have been at least partially inspired by the cover of Chamber Of Chills #21 (actually, the first issue) by Harvey Comics' workhorse Al Avison, cover dated June, 1951.

I've found three covers of skeletons being married to "normal" folks. Adventures Into Darkness #6, is the earliest, from 1952, also the one to show a guy marrying a skeleton girl. In this case I'd say his bride went to some extremes to lose weight so her dress would fit! Journey Into Mystery #6 and Mysterious Adventures #17, both from 1953, reverse that, with a girl marrying a skeleton. These gals picked some real stiffs to drag to the altar! Since Pappy's is a high-class blog we'd never make a joke about these covers reminding us of wedding night boners. We could, but of course we won't.

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