So I’ve been spending some time recently studying the artwork of comics legend Bill Everett.
Everett got his start in comics near the end of the 1930s, leaving behind a struggling career in advertising to join the fledgling comics industry. Soon thereafter, he created the character he’s probably best-known for (and who’s one of my particular favorites): Prince Namor, the Sub-Mariner. Namor is generally recognized as comics’ first anti-hero, a dynamic figure who’s as much a threat as he is a champion.
Everett’s also known as the co-creator of Daredevil, and the guy who decided the character should be blind (he got the idea from his own daughter’s vision problems). He also had runs on characters like Dr. Strange and the Hulk, and in the 1960s inked many of the top talents in the business. His work inking Gene Colan on Black Widow, for instance, is kind of legendary, both for its beauty and for its, shall we say, rather enthusiastic portrayal of the female form.
But I’m not here to discuss Bill Everett’s contributions to super heroes (or blatant cheesecake). No, I’m here because I’ve discovered Everett’s horror comics work.
Starting during comics’ first horror boom, Everett turned in some really stellar work, from cartoonish grotesqueries like the one above, to monsters in the style of Basil Wolverton…
But he also did comedy, turning in this bit of macabre humor for the early iteration of Crazy:
This story was dredged up and repurposed 20 years later, during comics’ next major flirtation with horror, as the basis for an entire series: the black and white magazine Tales of the Zombie.
Tales of the Zombie wasn’t Everett’s only black and white 70s horror work, however. He also did some stuff for the short-lived Skywald line of horror comics. Getting into the market to compete with Warren’s black and white horror anthology magazines Creepy and Eerie, Skywald had series like Psycho and Nightmare. Working outside the bounds of the Comics Code, and catering to a slightly older audience, Skywald’s stuff had a terrific pulpy energy to it, and Everett got right into the spirit of things with the cheesecake horror of stuff like “Skeletons of Doom.”
But the Bill Everett Skywald work that really caught my eye was a series of pin-ups he did for them. This is very late in Everett’s career (he died in 1973), but these pieces feature heavy rendering and a kind of demented detail that seems very far removed from the smooth, open cartooning of his super hero work of the same period. So I’ll leave you with three pieces I liked in particular. Saving the best for last, and all that…
A post-script: If you’d like to see more of Everett’s 1950s horror work, you can find a ton of it (including the complete stories of “Il Duce,” “The Men From Mars,” and most importantly, “Zombie!”) at the following link:
Go check it out.