The Danse Macabre of 1952's Horrific #1, Up for Auction

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"Allen Hardy Associates, Inc… needs the unusual, says the August 1953 edition of Writer's Digest. "Artists and writers who don't have a hackneyed approach to comics. "Art Director Jerry Feldman says, "If you got it — you get it." Better known today as Comic Media, Allen Hardy Associates did indeed have an unusual and deceptively sophisticated approach to comic books during its brief lifespan.  The publisher is remembered for its stand-out and notorious horror and romance output, as well as the character Johnny Dynamite. One of its most infamous covers among vintage horror comic book collectors was published on Horrific #1 in 1952, and Jerry Feldman got exactly what he was looking for with both that image and the story behind it. There's a Horrific #1 (Comic Media, 1952) CGC FN 6.0 Cream to off-white pages up for auction at the 2021 June 17 – 19 Comics & Comic Art Signature Auction coming up from Heritage Auctions.

Horrific #1 (Comic Media, 1952)
Horrific #1 (Comic Media, 1952)

Comic Media was founded by former Harvey Comics circulation manager Allen Hardy, whose primary artists Don Heck and Pete Morosi had also come from the Harvey Comics production department.  While a number of Comic Media's most noteworthy horror covers were done by Heck, the artist of the cover of Horrific #1 is unknown.  It is presumed to have originated from the Iger Shop, and the two interior stories upon which it is based are also presumed to have come from that same comic production studio.  The story "Iron Doom" contains ghoulish figures who are very similar to the conductor and musicians on this cover.

But Horrific #1's cover image is primarily based on the interior story "The Dancer of Death".  This story is a creepy twist on the Danse Macabre or Dance of Death concept, in which people are escorted dancing to their graves by a personification of death (typically depicted as a skeletal figure).  In the case of this comic book story, the dancer of death is a ballerina who kills her dance partner and lover during a dance.  Art director Feldman may have been intrigued by this concept, as when the Horrific's title was changed to Terrific for what was to be its final release in issue #14, the concept was revisited again with a ballet theme in "Dance of Death" by Rudy PalaisHorrific #1's "The Dancer of Death" story has some very general similarities to the Gore Vidal crime thriller Death in the Fifth Position, which would have hit bookstores in 1952 around the time that the comic book story was being created.

According to Heck, publisher Allen Hardy came to a tragic end. "Allen was an alcoholic. He was a member of AA but he went off the wagon. While he was in this way, I could not leave him," Heck was quoted in later years. "I stayed until I cleaned up the stuff for Allen Hardy who, by that time, couldn't do anything. He had to go back for treatment. Not too long after that he died. I heard the story he was smoking a cigarette and it dropped and he burned himself to death. I liked him! He was a good guy as far as I was concerned."

This is a difficult comic to get in anything above low grade. The CGC Census has 12 listings above CGC 6.0, and none higher than 8.0. There's a Horrific #1 (Comic Media, 1952) CGC FN 6.0 Cream to off-white pages up for auction at the 2021 June 17 – 19 Comics & Comic Art Signature Auction coming up from Heritage Auctions.

Horrific #1 (Comic Media, 1952)
Horrific #1 (Comic Media, 1952)

Horrific #1 (Comic Media, 1952) CGC FN 6.0 Cream to off-white pages. The great pre-Code horror cover and art are by the guys in the Iger Shop bullpen. Overstreet 2020 FN 6.0 value = $330. CGC census 6/21: 2 in 6.0, 12 higher.

View the certification for CGC Certification ID 262137010 and purchase grader's notes if available.

About Mark Seifert

Co-founder and Creative director of Bleeding Cool parent company Avatar Press. Bleeding Cool Managing Editor, tech and data wrangler. Machine Learning hobbyist. Vintage paper addict.
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