When you think of Jack Cole, what comes to mind? The genius behind the immortal character Plastic Man, perhaps? The good girl artist for Playboy magazine? The successful cartoonist who had just landed the brass ring with a syndicated newspaper strip titled Betsy and Me but then a few months later ended his own life in 1958?
All of those would be correct, but Jack also did some memorable work in the horror genre and when I say “horror” I mean capital H-type horror. You see, Jack Cole departed from comic books after making his mark, but his last comic work was for his old publisher at Quality Comics in the Web of Evil title. He produced material with chilling titles like “Orgy of Death,” “The Strangling Hands,” “Pact with the Devil,” “Monster of the Mist,” and “The Killer from Saturn.”
These stories contained superlative artwork by the great Jack Cole, but they could have given Edgar Alan Poe nightmares. Witness such mayhem as the severed arms featured in “The Strangling Hands,” or supernatural fare from the “Killer From Beyond.” Death came fast and furious from graphic depictions of hanging, electrocution, gunshots at point blank range and of course, strangling. Jack even depicted the walking dead long before they became a pop culture sensation.
The reprinted stories in Jack Cole’s Deadly Horror are from Web of Evil’s first 11 issues originally printed in 1953 and 1954, obviously preceding the Comics Code Authority, the self-policing, self-censoring board that the comic book publishers instituted in response to the outcry from Wertham and Kefauver over the way that comic books such as these were obviously warping a generation of youth beyond redemption.
Comic historian Craig Yoe has done a masterful job of giving the readers a background on Jack Cole and the times he lived in prior to presenting these old tales of terror. IDW has printed up a handsome volume, which is the fourth in the Chilling Archives of Horror Comics series.
On deck are 160 pages of fascinating material from days gone by, showcasing the incredible ability of a man who left an indelible mark on the industry. Craig Yoe’s respect for Jack Cole is apparent and he graciously offered the following comments about him:
“This book was actually a horror to work on. Maybe Cole was just a skilled horror comics artist and I read too much into it. But, I really had a feeling from dealing with the material how tortured Cole might have been the last few years of his life. Brilliant work, but it possibly came from a very bad place. It feels so grippingly sad to apparently see Cole’s pain played out on the pages.”
This collection is a must-read for fans of comics history and aficionados of the horror genre.