While Marvel and DC had, for the most part, turned away from horror by the beginning of the 1980s, independent publishers were producing some truly frightening copper age horror comics that would attract the notice of fans then and collectors now.
The first independent publisher to introduce new horror comics in the 1980s was Pacific Comics. Releasing two horror anthologies in 1982 with Twisted Tales #1 and Alien Worlds #1, Pacific was able to take advantage of new printing technology to produce horror comics with glossy pages and bypass the Comics Code Authority by releasing their books directly to the swiftly expanding direct only market.
Featuring artwork by the likes of Al Williamson, Bernie Wrightson, P. Craig Russell, Richard Corben, and Val Mayerick, among others, these comics were incredibly brutal in their imagery.
Unfortunately, the publisher had a hard time keeping to a regular production schedule, and the books, though initially popular, suffered as a result. In terms of investing and collecting, Twisted Tales #1 has seen a recent spike, with 9.8 copies selling in the $140-150 range, up from the $85-95 range just a few months ago. Alien Worlds #1 hasn’t seen the same spike, with prices ranging from a low of $25 to a high of $125 over the past 18 months. This is a book that fluctuates a great deal; so, if you’re interested, watch for the dips.
Death Rattle & Gore Shriek
The mid-1980s were the peak of the black and white independent comics boom, and two publishers capitalized on this by producing black and white horror anthologies. Kitchen Sink Press released Death Rattle #1 in 1985, a revival of their 1970s series. The second volume of the series featured artwork by the likes of Stephen Bissette, Richard Corben, and EC alums Al Williamson and Wally Wood.
While the first five issues of the series were in color, Kitchen Sink was able to save costs by switching to black and white printing for issues 6-18. Death Rattle #18 is notable for its Frank Miller cover. Gore Shriek #1 from FantaCo Enterprises followed swiftly on the heels of Death Rattle #1, also releasing in 1985. Another black and white horror anthology, the most prominent artists on the series were Stephen Bissette and Greg Capullo.
Of the two first issues, Gore Shriek #1 has clearly caught the eye of collectors. With very few copies in the CGC census, a 9.8 last sold in 2020 for $700. Death Rattle #1 also has few copies in the CGC census but this is more likely due to this being a less desirable comic. The last 9.8 sale was five years ago for only $79.
Cry For Dawn & Evil Ernie
1989 saw the release of Cry For Dawn #1. Self-published by Joseph Michael Linser, with writing by Joesph Monks, the short first series – 9 issues in total – would become a cult classic. The main character was Dawn, a goddess of birth and rebirth, who would introduce the stories in the anthology series. Evil Ernie #1 was released by Eternity Comics in 1991.
Created by Brian Pulido and Stephen Hughes, the series features the psychotic character, Evil Ernie, who was brought back to life in a quest to kill everyone. Both of these series were notable for their original characters who are still in print to this day. It’s the originality of both series that has captured the eye of investors and collectors.
Cry For Dawn #1 has seen a steady rise over the years to the point where 9.8 copies have sold for $1,100 or more. Compared to Marvel and DC comics of the same time period, there are few copies in the CGC census. While there are far more copies of Evil Ernie #1 in the CGC census, prices of 9.8 copies of this book jumped into the $1,300-$1,400 range in 2019.
While none have been sold since, two 9.6 copies sold this year in the $1,200 range. It wouldn’t be at all surprising for a 9.8 to see a significant uptick the next time one goes up for sale.
More Horror Coming Soon
Hope you enjoyed reading about copper age horror from independent publishers. Success breeds imitation, and the success of these comics would lead to Marvel jumping back into the horror fray and would be instrumental in the launch of Vertigo at DC.
Glad to see horror getting some blog time!
Beware of counterfeit Cry for Dawn 1’s. I am sure by this time, most everyone knows that collect that title. I had one when I was a dealer. The dealer I bought from sold a lot of them. He did give everyone their money back.