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The Ghoul Crazy Covers of Mysterious Adventures, Up for Auction

Mysterious Adventures is an important Pre-Code Horror title with some classic covers and a publisher who leaned into the controversy.

Mysterious Adventures from publisher Story Comics was as notorious as Pre-Code Horror gets.  Mysterious Adventures #18 was mentioned in the U.S. Senate investigative report into comics and juvenile delinquency in 1954.  Mysterious Adventures #20 was used by Fredric Wertham during the Senate Subcommittee hearings themselves that year.  Story Comics owner William K. Friedman was grilled during those hearings and gave as good as he got.  The series features numerous covers considered Pre-Code Horror classics, like issue #13, issue #15, and others.  A key Pre-Code Horror series from start to finish, there's a number of Mysterious Adventures issues up for auction in the  2023 July 13 – 14 Pre-Code Horror & Crime Comics Showcase Auction #40227 at Heritage Auctions.

Mysterious Adventures #13, 15 (Story Comics, 1953)
Mysterious Adventures #13, 15 (Story Comics, 1953)

Mysterious Adventures' publisher William K. Friedman, the owner of publisher Story Comics among other publishers, testified in front of a U.S. Senate Subcommittee on Juvenile Delinquency about another title he was involved in, Dark Mysteries.  And to put it bluntly, he was not having it:

Mr. BEASER. Have you anything to do with the magazine Dark Mysteries?
Mr. FRIEDMAN. Yes, but the magazine Dark Mysteries, I assist in the editing of the magazine.
Mr. BEASER. That is put out by─
Mr. FRIEDMAN. It is put out by a corporation known as Master Comics ─ that particular magazine is issued by a company known as Master Comics. I don't remember if I ever had any interest in Master Comics. At least I have no interest now.

Mr. FRIEDMAN. But from the evidence that I have heard before this committee, from the very vociferous witnesses who appeared yesterday, the publisher of a book, from the evidence that I heard yesterday, he had 3,000 cases before him in a period of perhaps 5 to 6 years, and if I remember his evidence correctly, he could not point to a single instance in which he said that the particular juvenile was caused to become a delinquent because he read any particular kind of comic magazines.

Mr. BEASER. Let me add one thing to your statement. As I recall Dr. Wertham's testimony, it related to the fact he could not find one single case that he could point to as having been caused by a crime comic, but he was testifying to the effect that it had a positive effect. But in the morning sir, we had Dr. Peck, of the Children's Court, here, who did testify that on an emotionally disturbed child these crime and horror comics would have an effect.

Mr. BEASER. Are you not engaging in semantics, Mr. Friedman?
Mr. FRIEDMAN. I am not. I am trying to be honest in your answers.
Mr. BEASER. Are you not trying to say you can't point to a comic book which is a direct cause of a crime rather than talking about whether crime and horror comic books may be a contributing factor in the total scene, in the total action of a child?
Mr. FRIEDMAN. I did try to say before, and I am not a psychiatrist, that from what I have heard it appears to me that everything is a contributing factor to a child who is a delinquent, whether it is a rainy day, whether he has 5 cents in his pocket, or has not got 5 cents in his pocket, but I would like to come back to what I was mentioning before ─ this other witness who was here this morning also indicated there was no single incident.

As Friedman's comfortable sparring implies, this was not his first brush with defending publishers against government censorship.  He was also a lawyer, and In 1934 he took on New York City over Commissioner of Licenses Paul Moss's actions in ordering 59 magazines off the newsstands there, including a number of pulps.  Among other pulp publishers, Friedman represented Harry Donenfeld, who would soon become the publisher of DC Comics but was then the publisher of pulps including Pep Stories, Spicy Stories, and Gay Parisienne.

A major Pre-Code Horror series with some spectacular covers, there's a number of Mysterious Adventures issues up for auction in the  2023 July 13 – 14 Pre-Code Horror & Crime Comics Showcase Auction #40227 at Heritage Auctions.


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Mark SeifertAbout Mark Seifert

Co-founder and Creative director of Bleeding Cool parent company Avatar Press since 1996. Bleeding Cool Managing Editor, tech and data wrangler, and has been with Bleeding Cool since its 2009 beginnings. Wrote extensively about the comic book industry for Wizard Magazine 1992-1996. At Avatar Press, has helped publish works by Alan Moore, George R.R. Martin, Garth Ennis, and others. Vintage paper collector, advisor to the Overstreet Price Guide Update 1991-1995.
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