Posted in: Comics, Comics History, Heritage Sponsored, Sponsored, Vintage Paper | Tagged: fiction house, ghost comics, Matt Baker, maurice whitman
Early 1950s Fiction House series Ghost Comics rivals even EC Comics for horror, suspense, and adult situations in the pre-Code comics era.
In June 1953, an organization calling itself The Committee on Evaluation of Comic Books, which claimed to have 84 “trained reviewers”, evaluated 418 comic book titles which were then available on the newsstands of America. These reviewers placed the output of American comic book publishers into one of four categories: no objection, some objection, objectionable, and very objectionable. This evaluation subsequently became a part of the 1954 Hearings before the Subcommittee to Investigate Juvenile Delinquency during the mid-1950s moral panic against comic books. The 65 comic book titles which were placed in the “very objectionable” category are for the most part fairly familiar to modern readers. EC Comics titles like Haunt of Fear, Shock SuspenStories, and Tales from the Crypt; Fawcett title This Magazine is Haunted; and even enduring Marvel Comics titles like Strange Tales have all transcended the politically-motivated witch hunt stigma of the 1950s to be considered well-crafted classics in the modern day. But a few of those 65 comic book titles continue to be overlooked, and the short-lived eleven-issue Fiction House title Ghost Comics is chief among those nearly-forgotten mid-1950s gems. There are several issues of the rare Pre-Code horror series Ghost Comics up for auction in the 2023 October 19 The Fiction House Comics & Comic Art Showcase Auction #40235 at Heritage Auctions.
The “Very Objectionable” category as designated by The Committee on Evaluation of Comic Books was very expansive. The category could include:
- Grotesque, fantastic, unnatural creatures.
- Persons dressed indecently or unduly exposed.
- Any situation having a sexy implication.
- Stories and pictures that tend to anything having a sadistic implication or suggesting use of black magic
- Portrayal of mayhem, acts of assault, or murder.
“Implications” would seem to have been an operative principle for the Committee in the case of Ghost Comics, as the title is a fair bit less horrifically graphic than rivals such as Haunt of Fear or Tales from the Crypt. One suspects that the Committee drew its conclusions from the spectacular Maurice Whitman covers, which do indeed have “sexy implications”. That said, Ghost Comics featured sophisticated suspense that sometimes surpassed the comics stories of EC Comics and other rivals. The title manages to convey horror, suspense and sexual situations in a sophisticated way that is underappreciated to this day.
Some of the material in Ghost Comics originally appeared in the feature The Ghost Gallery which regularly appeared in Jumbo Comics #42-167 (1942-1953). The series followed the cases of a sort of John Constantine-style investigator of the supernatural named Drew Murdoch. Lily Renée‘s spectacular Werewolf Hunter from Rangers Comics makes some appearances here.
In addition to Maurice Whitman, a premiere Fiction House cover-artist who is deserving of much more credit than he has received, the title features work from notables such as Matt Baker, Jack Abel, Jack Kamen, Lily Renée, and perhaps even Will Eisner. A Pre-Code Horror series that is getting a lot more attention these days, there are several issues of the rare Pre-Code horror series Ghost Comics up for auction in the 2023 October 19 The Fiction House Comics & Comic Art Showcase Auction #40235 at Heritage Auctions.
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