Comic Book Covers...
The comic book cover is the "brand" of the comic within. The cover is sex appeal, it's a high wire act, it's art. It's the publisher's best effort to get their book into your hands.
The strange dilemma of horror... How does the appalling appeal to us? Why do we buy something that may scare or disgust us? Is there some moral lesson imparted from these tales of fright that we need to hear for our own damned good? Will it put us on the path of righteousness? Or do fictional horrors serve to allay our own bed-time fears? Or just remind us to lock the door?
Perhaps we just like a good scare. Maybe all of the above and more.
So what makes a great HORROR cover?
It really is a case-by-case basis, isn't it? Let's consider perhaps THE most notorious comic cover in history, featured in Fredric Wertham's 'Seduction of the Innocent'... Johnny Craig's cover to Crime Suspenstories #22:
We could make the argument that this is a Crime comic, although William Gaines would disagree...
Senator Estes Kefauver: "Here is your May issue. This seems to be a man with a bloody axe holding a woman's head up, which has been severed from her body. Do you think that's in good taste?
William Gaines: Yes, sir, I do...for the cover of a horror comic. A cover in bad taste, for example, might be defined as holding the head a little higher so that blood could be seen dripping from it, and moving the body over a little further so that the neck of the body could be seen to be bloody...
OK, it's a Horror comic. And damn if Johnny Craig couldn't rock a cover!
There's just something about how the center is this guy's belly and your eye has to drift for a split second to put the elements together. The bloody axe, the half-shot of the woman's body on the floor and waitasecond... is that a severed head he's holding?! Whoa!
Right off the bat, you knew what kind of comic this was. Sure it ushered in the Comics Code Authority and destroyed comics for the next 20 years in America, but... whoa.
Next Up: Creepy #79