Saturday, 3 March 2012


I have blogged about horror comics in the past and I think it's time I returned to the subject as there are many first rate artists' work to be found in those pages.
The artists and comics mentioned are from my own collection and  are what inspired me as a teenager and what I feel are relevant to the course, and so this is by no means meant to be a comprehensive stroll through the twilight world of horror comics.

My favourite horror comic has to be DC's The Witching Hour, mostly because the early issues (#1 to #10 at least) contain the work of Alex Toth. Many. Many other great artists, Neil Adams, being one of them, produced work for The Witching Hour, but it was always Toth's work that stood out.

Toth's  intros to each story (each told by one of  three witches based on Macbeth's Weird Sisters:Morded, Mildred and Cynthia), were, for my money, the best art in the comics. Toth's work reminded me of Hanna Barbera cartoons of the day(which I was a huge fan of), which is not surprising since Toth was responsible for the look of many of those early productions.
Below are Toth's character designs for The Three Musketeers and Shazzan.

What I was (and still am)drawn to about Toth's work is his ability to strip down a drawing  to it's bare essentials to make bold, striking visuals. Also his  skill  in the layout and design of a page is still influencing comic book artists today.
Toth was also a very skilled storyboard artist, providing borads for many Hanna Barbera productions.
Some of these are practically comic book art standard themselves.

I am not going to claim to be very knowledgeable  about Toth (there are blogs out there who have already  posted  informative  reviews  of  both the artist and  his work and I would only be repeating their words so I will leave links to relevant blogs at the bottom of this post), I do love the guys work but I have found difficulty in obtaining good art books of his work as  most are out of print. Fortunately there are some recently published books out there which I will be sure to buy:

                                          Genius, Isolated: The Life and Art of Alex Toth

Genius, Illustrated: The Life and Art of Alex Toth

Toth's Witching Hour art is available in  black and white (probably the best way to view his comic art) in an  affordable collection  in The  DC's Showcase Presents:The Witching Hour volume1
 points of interest:

Here are some more classic Witching Hour covers

I think that Horror comics  of this era had some of the best cover art  around. The layout, lighting and style are absolutely solid and  put a lot of superhero covers to shame.

House of Secrets was another DC title that produced some really excellent cover art. Just looks at the composition and use of light against dark  on #88 by Neil Adams.

DC's Weird War was another interesting horror comic although I was not as big a fan of it as I was The Witching Hour. Joe Kubert produced some really neat cover art but  generally  Witching Hour had the stronger covers  (in my opinion).

I have posted about Bernie Wrightson (another fave artist of mine, plus a master of horror comics) already on this blog  and here  so I move onto my other of my  fave horror comic artist, Mike Ploog. Ploog's art drew me to #1 of The Monster of Frankenstein and  Marvel Spotlight #2, the first  Werewolf by Night comic and Marvel Spotlight #5 the first Ghost Rider comic (as a biker, not a horse rider). Ploog has a great eye for the macabre  and his art  is awesome. Great use of shadows and lighting. I some ways Ploog's art reminds me of Will Eisner's art in The Spirit comics and also Bernie Wrightson's art.
Ploog was also employed  as a concept artist on  Jim Henson's Dark Crystal and John Carpenter's The Thing. Below a is a small selection of his work but check out  his work collected on (which is also great for checking out other  artists work )
Werewolf By Night

The Monster Of Frankenstein


Dark Crystal concept art

The Thing concept art

Gene Colan was another artist  who  I became obsessed with as a teenager. I have blogged about him in the passed , here:

I first became aware of Colan's work in Tales To Astonish in which he provided art for The Submariner under the name of  Adam Austin. I later followed his art in Iron Man in Tales Of Suspense and later in Daredevil. I wonder if I would have picked up and followed Tomb Of Dracula if it  had been illustrated by any other artist? I cannot imagine it being so good even if Wrightosn or Ploog had drawn it, even though Ploog did draw Dracula in a Werewolf By Night (#15) crossover story.
Colan captured  the mood and tone for Dracula perfectly. I was hooked from the first issue.
Colan also produced some great art for sci-fi short stories in Unknown Worlds of Science Fiction, Slow Glass Mirrors was a particular favourite. 
Some samples of  Colan art below.

Other sources worth   checking out:
Good indepth analaysis of Ploogs cover art on this one

Alex Toth

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