A pronounced collecting niche, especially among collectors of Golden Age era comics, is the risqué cover. Scantily clad women, bondage scenes and other salacious themes and situations depicted in comics, often tend to draw premium prices at auctions and on fixed price sales.
What famous artists are sought out for being salacious? Which genres tended to have the most risqué cover scenes? Let’s find out…
Obviously, a lot of the most egregiously offensive and risqué content was smothered during the early fifties. This happened as a consequence of the introduction of the Comics Code authority, basically a system of self-censorship organized in 1954 by the major comic publishers, following the Senate Subcommittee hearing on Juvenile Delinquency.
Collectors know that, before the modern era, comic publishers could get away with a lot. That’s again true today. What makes risqué themes on earlier books more interesting than modern risqué covers and content? This, I think, is based on two factors: 1) Golden Age comics had much wider circulation and were read by many more people; they were a genuine force of popular culture. 2) The risqué themes in GA books appeared in a seemingly more innocent time. The later especially, I wager, is the big draw among collectors who seek out older risqué covers.
A lot of people know that the crime and horror genres, especially EC titles like CrimeSuspen Stories, were actually singled out for their particularly graphic covers and risqué interior panels. But many other genres could produce risqué covers. In this post I’ll look at select adventure, humor and sci-fi titles. Future entries will deal with the crime and superhero genres.
A name that sticks out in the risqué covers history is Matt Baker. Probably best known for drawing the controversial Phantom Lady comics, Baker was born in South Carolina in 1921 and grew up in Pittsburgh, PA. He has the distinction of being one of the first African American comic book artists to work in mainstream titles. Baker was also was no stranger to depicting controversial scenes on covers. A great example, other than his Phantom Lady work (see picture at top of article) is his cover for Fight Comics #41. Published by Fiction House, Fight Comics was an anthology title that mixed humorous stories, with war and superheroes/adventure content. The cover of Fight Comics #41 by Matt Baker manages to convey an adventure scene but mainly screams bondage and exploitation since the most prominent imagery is the tightly bound young women at the front of the cover. With a total of only 30 copies on the CGC census, FC #41 last sold on February 27, in 7.5 grade in a ComicLink auction for $1,851.00.
Here’s another Matt Baker cover, or if it’s not Baker (information is scarce) it’s a great clone who has managed to perfectly imitate his style. This is a collectible cover in the Jungle book genre. Zoot Comics was published by Fox Feature Syndicate and is probably best known for giving the world Rulah the Jungle Goddess. Featuring politically incorrect neo-colonial themes, usually about civilized Europeans fighting the backwards jungle people, Zoot Comics #11 would even today be viewed as highly risqué. The natives seem intent on killing the shapely woman. Therefore, they carefully make her put on a bathing suit before tying her up very tightly in the jungle and placing a quiver of cobras at her feet! The rogues! 25 copies of Zoot #11 can be found on the CGC census. Most recent sale, a 3.0 on 08/31/2018 on ComicConnect went for $525.00.
Golden Age sci-fi also featured some risqué covers. One of the standout books in the genre was the title Planet Comics, published by Fiction House. You would think the cold void of space would necessitate space suits and other protective gear. You’d be wrong. In the Golden Age, going to space meant: put on skimpy mini-shorts and platform heels, especially if you were a beautiful young woman like Mysta of the Moon. Here a monstrous looking medusa haired alien has captured poor Mysta. The natural thing to do when finding an alien creature is to tightly bind them to a table and operate. Even Mysta’s hair has been tied down! It’s probably the astro-bondage cover that makes PC #41 so popular. 55 copies on the census, last known sale: a 5.5 copy on ComicLink sold for $397.00 on April 1, 2019. Just to be fair, it wasn’t always women who got tied up. In Planet Comics #46 (January 1947) – Alien Amazon ties Man, the tables are turned, now the alien Amazon who looks like Wonder Woman on steroids, has captured a man. 56 copies of issue #46 with its Joe Doolin cover can be found on the CGC census. Last sale: a 6.5 on ComicLink, sold on April 1, 2019 for $325.00.
You might not think of Archie when you think of risqué scenes, but in the Golden Age, Archie comics frequently dealt with young people and their desires. The writers and artists were not above using innuendo and double entendre as well as humor in this title. Archie #50 features a very filled out Betty on the cover drawn by Bob Montana. This comic is also known as the ‘Betty headlights cover’, I leave it to the reader to figure out why. Archie #50 is one of the more collectible issues in the original run. 104 total copies grace the CGC census. Of the many recent sales two stick out: a 1.5 graded copy sold on 04/29/2019 for $425.00 on eBay. The last 8.0 sold on Heritage auction for $6,572.50 on 05/10/2018. Actually, Archie is still at it. Not to be outdone by Betty, recently Vernonica #28 (June 1993) with a Dan DeCarlo bikini cover, has been selling on eBay for upwards of $190.00! Holy cow Batman, risqué covers can still fetch premium prices today!