Death Panels, Part I: How Human Villains Murdered the Horror Comics of Yesteryear

Dr. Fredric Wertham

October calls for scares, and despite the very scary state of the world, there is still a desire for entertainment that frightens us. Here we look at the broad, deep legacy of horror comics in a series that delves into the genre's many variations and highlights from the 1940s to the present.

A parade of grotesque killers — human and undead — got horror comics in trouble during their heyday in the 1950s, but it was real-life parents and other uptight suburbanites, incensed by the popularity of the genre, who (temporarily) eliminated them from mainstream American culture.

Among the hundreds of horror titles available during the boom years of the 1940s and early 1950s were EC Comics' Tales from the Crypt (along with sister books The Vault of Horror and The Haunt of Fear), Eerie, Creepy, and This Magazine is Haunted. Recently, the genre has again become widespread and influential, with Mike Mignola's Hellboy universe and the continued interest in vampires and zombies leading the pack. But it was during the Golden Age that the horror anthology comic flourished. Although horror comics were ubiquitous and often disposable, key titles of that era continue to circulate in reprinted editions, inspiring new generations of readers and visibly influencing current work.

View Comments