Top Ten Terrifying Comics CoversA column article, Top Ten by: Nick Hanover, Danny Djeljosevic
It's Halloween but in lieu of intentionally terrifying comics covers we decided to uncover the unintentional Lynchian horror behind seemingly innocuous comics covers. I'm going to follow this up with a viewing of Eraserhead just to calm my nerves.
- Danny Djeljosevic
Shazam! No. 6
Nick Hanover: Because we don't want to give anyone a heart attack right off the bat, we've decided to begin with a relatively wholesome image. You know, just good ol' Captain Marvel hanging out with a couple corpse children. No big.
Danny Djeljosevic: C.C. Beck, meet Terry Gilliam. Jack Kirby is good at combining photo collages and comic art, but the effect is supposed to be otherworldly and psychedelic. This is meant to be cute and wholesome, but it ends up... remember how creepy Kirsten Dunst was in Interview with the Vampire? Kinda like that.
Nick: What people may not realize is that when photography was first becoming widespread, families would actually drag the corpses of their deceased children to photoshoots in order to commemorate their memories. And I'm almost certain that's exactly where these children came from. So, yes, totally cute and wholesome.
The Adventures of Jello-Man and Wobbly #1
(Kraft Foods we think, 1991)
Nick: Now that we've lulled you into a false sense of security, it's all straight up terror from here on out. And when you want to "accidentally" terrify children, a great, convenient go-to device is weirdly sentient bright red food stuffs and their pets.
Danny: Good lord, that is the most ill-conceived promotional item ever. I already don't eat Jell-O because I'm a vegetarian and the pronunciation of my last name forbids it, but now I REALLY don't want Jell-O. I want therapy.
Nick: All I want is a jell-o dog. It'd be easy to take care of, it would probably have a short lifespan, and once it had passed on, I could serve it at parties to unsuspecting friends.
Danny: "Ladies and gentlemen, there is now a little 'wobbly' in all of us."
Commando: War Stories in Pictures #1
(D.C. Thompson, 1961)
Nick: Hey Danny! Do you know what you can't do with a Jell-o dog? Or a Djeljodog for that matter?
Danny: Ride it through the dunes to safety? I'm going to guess "ride it through the dunes to safety."
Nick: Damn straight. If you find yourself trapped in the desert, you don't want some Jell-o dog that will melt on you within a minute, or one of those nasty, unkempt camels. What you want is a Nazi. Not only are they far more stylish than either of those beasts, they're also plentiful and wonderfully stoic. But be sure to avoid your friends, because the last thing you want is to be caught in an embarrassing iPhone photo where you're looking far too ecstatic to be riding a Nazi. Through the desert.
Danny: Now, Commando is a boy's action comic series, but this looks like something from one of those men's fictions mags that you can find dozens of covers of if you Google "Nazi bondage pulp" like I do all the time.
Nick: You keep telling me it's research but when I crashed at your place during SDCC and saw you riding around on a jack boot and khaki short clad young Raf Gaitan late one night, all I know is I was scarred for life.
At least now I know why you were screaming "Egypt, ho!"
Danny: That was just us shooting our music video for our aspiring novelty hit "Save Both the Horse and the Cowboy, Ride a Nazi."
Demi-Violet #6: L'Ile Des Mysteres
Nick: You probably didn't know this, but after his Bunnicula money dried up, James Howe turned to writing sleazy, "adult" stories involving his most beloved character.
Danny: Y'know, the French adaptation of Night of the Lepus is somehow not as sexy as the original film.
Nick: Well, at least the video for "Myxomatosis" is less creepy than "Lotus Child."
Danny: This is probably what a Christopher Nolan-esque adaptation of Bugs Bunny would be like -- a giant rabbit chasing after... well, that woman isn't frightened at all, is she? She's more playfully aware that there's a giant rabbit bounding after her as she fruitlessly sprints into the ocean.
Nick: Yeah, how stupid can you be? Everyone knows bunnies are champion swimmers, and friends of sharks.
Danny: Also, somebody posted scans of this comic just in case you were wondering what the content was like. It has lots of sex, fewer giant rabbits and more giant chickens.
Feature Comics #93
Nick: The creepiest thing about this cover isn't that a hero named "Doll Man" is about to be executed by a gigantic fucking pistol, but by the reaction of "Rusty Ryan" to the scenario. You'll notice that all of the other sidebar characters are suitably terrified. But not Rusty Ryan. Rusty Ryan looks simultaneously aroused and giddy. And that is why his face haunts me in my sleep.
Danny: The Rusty Ryan image makes you wonder just HOW MUCH blood he's covered in below what we can see, but that Doll Man scenario is actually pretty hardcore -- like a proto Saw where his escape means his death. Also, that banner over him seems completely unaware that our hero's about to have his head blown off.
Nick: I'm pretty sure my brother did this to his dolls all the time. Except I'm mostly sure that Rusty Ryan wasn't involved. Unless, of course, I have blocked Rusty Ryan from my memory and like some comic book version of The Ring, I've brought him back into my life with this list. Goddamnit.
Picture Parade #1
Nick: First we let the gays marry. Then the nuclear bombs fall. Then man-dog relationships become rampant.
Danny: I feel like the cover gives away the twist ending where it turns out the boy and the dog blew up the town so they could be in love THEIR WAY.
Nick: What happened was, the boy and the dog were just making out, minding their own business when some psychopath rode into town riding a gotdamn Nazi. I think nuclear artillery was totally justified as a response.
Danny: It could all have been avoided if only Doll Man weren't rubberbound to a revolver.
Nick: DAMN YOU RUSTY RYAN!!!
Danny: Hold up -- how sure are we that this boy doesn't grow up to be Rusty Ryan?
Nick: Oh shittt
Action Comics #434
Nick: Those don't look like kryptonite pliers to me, what's the big deal here? OH GOD THAT NURSE'S FACE
Danny: She can't even watch, and she's only got a view of the back of Superman's head!
Nick: Her lips look like they were clipped out of a different image and lazily slapped onto her face. She's probably terrified more of the fact that she is hovering slightly above the ground more than what's happening to Superman. In fact, given his infamous weakness to magic, I think she's the likely culprit here.
Danny: That's a great pained Superman, though, especially when paired with the "Mirror Mirror" universe Superman trying to pry a tooth out of Superman's mouth. And I really love the title "The Krypton Connection." It brings all sorts of '70s action thriller thoughts into my head involving Superman time traveling to Krypton to solve a crime that affects the future of Earth. Goddamn.
Nick: He hid the evil genius's plans in his molars.
Nick: I know those are supposed to just be costumes that Herbie is carrying but holy fuck do those creep me right the fuck out why does Spider-Man have a goddamn snout oh fuck me
Danny: It's clearly Peter Porker, the Spectacular Spider-Ham.
Nick: Your pig anatomy is all wrong, my friend. That is clearly an aardvark snout. Or some kind of man-aardvark hybrid. Maardvark.
Nick: Cerebus is Superior Spider-Man?
Danny: Sorry to blow your reveal, Dan Slott, but COMICS BULLETIN FIGURED IT OUT.
Action Comics #457
Nick: Look, I know what that caption says, but that boy's face, and those tears, and Superman's creepily smug posture and tussled appearance all tell the real story here. And what I want to know is: What the fuck was going on at Action Comics in the '70s??
Danny: You know, I've looked at this comic page a few times while we were compiling this list, and ONLY NOW did I actually read the word balloons. They're so secondary to the juxtaposition of the crying little boy and the weird, neutral, uncaring face of Superman that I didn't even notice them. Also this kind of reminds me of "It's Goofy Time."
Nick: Batman gets the bad rap as far as boy wards go, but I think what this proves is that Batman's just not as good at disposing of the evidence as the alien with heat vision.
Superman's Pal Jimmy Olsen #125
Nick: There are two scenarios here. The first is that Superman's Saddest Day is the day Jimmy Olsen caught him having his way with that boy. The second is some kind of The Nail scenario, where Jimmy Olsen has outpowered Superman and is forcing him to have his way with that boy. Neither scenario is good.
Danny: This is closer to a twisted romance comic cover than a Superman cover. Also, I can't believe this exists because it looks exactly like a parody of those Silver Age "ridiculous scenario" covers would be. Bravo, DC Comics back then.
Nick: You Eastern Europeans have a very weird interpretation of "romance," Djeljosevic. But that does explain the cover of the next issue, which functions as a kind of honeymoon:
The lesson here is that Jimmy Olsen and Superman are the world's worst friends.
Danny: A literal honeymoon. Jesus Christ.
When he's not writing about the cape and spandex set and functioning as the Co-Managing Editor of Comics Bulletin, Nick Hanover is a book, film and music critic who has contributed to Spectrum Culture, No Tofu Magazine, Performer Magazine, Port City Lights and various other international publications. By which he means Canadian rags you have no reason to know anything about. He also translates for "Partytime" Lukash's Panel Panopticon and you can follow him on Twitter at @Nick_Hanover.
Danny Djeljosevic is a comic book creator, award-winning filmmaker (assuming you have absolutely no follow-up questions) and Co-Managing Editor of Comics Bulletin. Follow him on Twitter at @djeljosevic or find him somewhere in San Diego, often wearing a hat. Read his comic with Mike Prezzato, "Sgt. Death and his Metachromatic Men," over at Champion City Comics and check out his other comics at his Tumblr, Sequential Fuckery. His webcomic The Ghost Engine, with artist Eric Zawadzki, updates twice a week.