In the last ten years or so, I have really gotten into the old Charlton Comics of the 1970s. Although these books were printed very cheaply, and the creators on these titles received very low page rates, it was a rather popular company to work at. Aspiring professionals such as John Byrne, Joe Staton, Mike Zeck, Bob Layton, Don Newton and Dan Reed found Charlton an ideal place to hone their talents. Charlton also attracted more established creators, particularly Steve Ditko, who was drawn there by the prospect of very little corporate oversight, allowing him much greater creative freedom.
I recently wrote about E-Man by Nicola Cuti & Joe Staton, which originated at Charlton in 1973. Today, to celebrate Halloween, I’m going to take a brief look at some of Charlton’s other books, namely their horror anthology titles.
The horror comics that Charlton published in the 1970s featured some extraordinary creepy, chilling, atmospheric artwork. They also possessed clever & intelligent writing. Nicola Cuti contributed a number of great stories. One of the other prolific writers at Charlton was Joe Gill, who Ditko especially enjoyed collaborating with. Steve Ditko’s 160-Page Package is a collection of many of the artist’s great Charlton horror tales collected together by Robin Snyder in 1999. In his introduction, Ditko writes “The comic book story/script writer? It doesn’t matter who follows the first. That first choice is Joe Gill.”
One of the first Charlton back issues I ever read was Ghostly Haunts #23. The cover art is by Ditko. That is series hostess Winnie the Witch on the right side of the cover. Within this issue was some absolutely amazing artwork by Ditko wherein he utilized some extremely dramatic, effective layouts & storytelling to create a genuinely eerie mood. This was the point at which I began to reappraise my opinion of Ditko and became a fan of his work.
Here is the really intense, horrifying painted cover to Haunted #17 by Tom Sutton. He was an artist who had a real ability to draw tortured, anguished souls, which served him extremely well over the years working as one of the top horror artists in the comic book biz at several different companies.
The cover to Haunted #18 is a dramatic sci-fi/horror mash-up by Joe Staton, with a gruesome, unearthly monstrosity on the attack. Staton’s layout of this image is just so incredibly dramatic and effective.
This extremely striking cover to Scary Tales #12 prominently features series host Countess Von Blood. I believe that Staton designed that character, but I’m not sure if this particular cover is his work. Can anyone out there ID the artist for certain?
The next time you’re at a comic con, it is well worth taking a dive into the back issue bins to search out treasures such as these. You can find quite a number of the Charlton issues from the 1970s for pretty reasonable prices, especially if you don’t mind picking up slightly dog-eared copies. They’re a real bargain, with superb artwork and imaginative writing.
A big thank you to the Grand Comics Database, which is where I obtained these cover scans from. That website contains a huge wealth of information.
Hope that everyone enjoyed viewing these covers. Have a happy Halloween!