ISSUE #80 – Something Wicked This Way Comes!

 

Welcome back to a fresh issue of Cover Tunes, my dear trick-or-treaters. Halloween is right around the corner and as we’ve led into it with some swamp creatures, vampires and Marvel monsters, we bring it to a close with this week’s topic: DC Horror from the Bronze Age.

As Pre-Code Golden Age horror books get further and further away from the budgets of most collectors, the market has begun to finally take notice of the late Silver Age/Bronze Age of DC’s horror titles. With some of the finest artists of the era working on them such as Neal Adams and Bernie Wrightson, it’s no wonder. The confusing part is why it has taken so long for these to catch on. The covers are largely very dark and, as such, nearly impossible to find in high grade condition. Furthermore, with DC beginning to focus their television towards this arm of the company (Lucifer, Swamp Thing and an upcoming Sandman series), I expect some of the keys to pop really soon. For more on those, check out Cover Tunes #29: Keys That Don’t Sell Like Keys for just a few of the issues I think are most important.  

This may be my favorite segment of the hobby to collect and I have been quietly amassing them for a few years, now. In so doing, even though they are fairly plentiful at shows and in shops, I’ve realized just how difficult these are to find in nice shape. Some of comics all-time best covers can be found amongst this era of DC and when I find one cheap, it feels like a little personal victory. Here are a few favorites. Hope you like them…

 

House of Mystery #256 (1951 Series)

PUBLISHED: DC Comics – February, 1978

ARTIST: Bernie (Bernard Albert) Wrightson

 

While definitely not the best or most masterful Wrightson cover in the world, I couldn’t do a Halloween issue of Cover Tunes and NOT include this cover. I am also a sucker for the Cain and Abel characters and this is one of Cain’s best covers. The best part of this cover (aside from the brilliant linework) is the lighting and the way the shadows are thrown from the jack-o-lantern onto Cain’s face and onto the children. I wish this one didn’t have the enormous “Dollar Comics” splash header, but I can overlook it for such a great cover. This late HoM is an easy get at $10 or less.

 

House of Secrets #88 (1956 Series)

PUBLISHED: DC Comics – November, 1970

ARTIST: Neal Adams

 

Quite possibly the most amazing cover from the Bronze Age of DC Horror outside of HoS #92, I’ve waited a long time to feature this one. A brilliant Adams cover with the common motif of “terrified girl runs away from haunted house” which was overly prevalent during this era. Adams, however, takes the idea and CRUSHES it. Every aspect of this cover has a hand in the emotion of it.

There is a fluidity and movement to it that evokes its tone well. This cover has a pulse and a life to it like very few others and the blue color palette make the woman in white become the focus. I’m a huge fan of the wash technique (it’s what makes Savage Sword of Conan and Vampirella mags so amazing even though they’re black and white). This is the cover that got me into collecting these Bronze DC horror books in the first place.

All of these years later, it’s still in my top 5. This one has seen a little rise in value over the past year or so, but decent copies should still be out there for $15 or less.

 

Witching Hour #12 (1969 Series)

PUBLISHED: DC Comics – January, 1971

ARTIST: Nick Cardy

 

The other, OTHER artist from these issues. So often overshadowed by Neal Adams and Bernie Wrightson, Cardy was often just as good or better (I know, strike me down with comic lightning for uttering such a sacrilege out loud, but it is true). I particularly love the pink monochromatic cover, here, and the sheer evil of the witch. So often on witch covers, they look silly and comedic. That is decidedly not the case on this one. The terror and action of this cover are really striking and the pink is just a bonus to make it all pop.  Amazing detail in the linework in the faces and incredible perspective. This is just a masterful horror cover.

 

House of Mystery #192 (1951 Series)

PUBLISHED: DC Comics – June, 1971

ARTIST: Neal Adams

 

I know I’ve already featured Adams, today, but this is such a creepy cover I could not resist it. I love that Adams managed to sneak in the kids up in the corner. Because of the comics code, DC artists were instructed to put kids on the horror covers so as to “lighten” the mood. In most cases, they make the covers even creepier since the idea of kids witnessing some of these scenes is downright awful. Anyhow, this cover feels very much like a pre-code Golden Age cover in that the scene is more violent in tone than most of the others during this timeframe. It is absolutely terrifying and a nearly perfect layout and composition yet again from Uncle Neal.    

 

[The] Unexpected #187 (1956 Series)

PUBLISHED: DC Comics – October, 1978

ARTIST: Luis Dominguez

 

This series is quite hit-or-miss when it comes to covers. There are a few excellent Cardy covers, but I prefer it when Dominguez takes over on this particular series. The one I’ve chosen here is a fantastic representation of his work; an artist who (like Cardy) is often overshadowed by the likes of Wrightson and Adams. I chose this one based mostly on the terrifying nature of the subject matter. Spiders really freak people out. The idea of being captured by one and spun up by it is truly horrifying. The intricacy of the linework is astounding on this one as is the perspective. A brilliant cover from an unsung artist.

 

The Phantom Stranger #22 (1969 2nd Series)

PUBLISHED: DC Comics – November, 1972

ARTIST: Jim Aparo

 

A cool character that sort-of, kind-of got a nod in the cancelled DCU Swamp Thing show. I REALLY wanted to feature #10, but it is so similar to Adams’ cover from House of Secrets I featured, above, I put it down in the quick hits, so check that one out, there. This one is a really classic treatment by Aparo and the mood is rendered impeccably through the mist and the multi-layering. The slightly askew angle is a really cool touch, as well. It almost gives it a “hand-cam” feel that has become synonymous with modern horror.

 

Ghosts #28 (1971 Series)

PUBLISHED: DC Comics – July, 1974

ARTIST: Nick Cardy

 

With the launch of a new 100-page Giant version of this title, this week (or a month ago if you shop diligently at WalMart), this title may appear back on folks’ radar. This is sort of the unsung gem of the DC horror catalog. Very few people ever mention this title, but there are some amazing covers in the run. I particularly love this witch-skull-ghost thing and the detail is fantastic. There are other awesome covers in the run, too. Check these all out if you haven’t already done so. All except the 1st issue can be gotten cheap. Even then, that one won’t run much more than $20-ish.

 

Dark Mansion of Forbidden Love #1 (1971 Series)

PUBLISHED: DC Comics – October, 1971

ARTIST: George Ziel

 

Yeah, yeah… stupid title, but DC agreed with that and after four issues, the title was changed to Forbidden Tales of Dark Mansion which is thankfully soooo much better (much like they changed Sinister House of Secret Love to Secrets of Sinister House, at the same time). This one has a VERY different style of cover that was more akin to those on horror and gothic romance novels of the era. As such, this one really stands out and is a very striking and macabre cover. I love the bold use of black and how it contrasts with the fire. Simple and brilliant in its darkness.

 

*****

QUICK HITS

*****

 

Swamp Thing #4 (1972 Series)

PUBLISHED: DC Comics – April, 1973

ARTIST: Bernie Wrightson

 

One of the mainstays of DC horror and arguably the only character that made the mainstream. I have featured #9 in the past and it is, to this day, still my favorite Swampy cover. However, this one is right up there, too. Over the past few weeks, I’ve beaten the swamp monster motif to death, so I figured I’d put it here in the quick hits.

 

Phantom Stranger #10 (1969 2nd Series)

PUBLISHED: DC Comics – December, 1970

ARTIST: Neal Adams

 

I just adore this cover. It’s easily one of my top 10, but because it’s so similar to other covers from the era and yet another Adams cover whom I’ve already featured many times, I put it here in the quick hits.

*****

 

As always, I could have chosen about 100 covers for this week, but these are a few of my favorites that I haven’t already featured in previous Cover Tunes issues. I hope you like my choices. Sound off in the comments and let me know your thoughts. Until next week, be well, thanks for reading and happy hunting.

 

 

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