Standard’s third and last horror title
Chronological listing of all issues – with comments and annotations. We mention date of publication, cover motive and cover artist (if identified). Every issue has been indexed on the Grand Comics Database – the link will show you all available data, including cover shots and story descriptions.
Just click the underlined issue labeling.
A miniature splash page indicates that you can find this entire story in our “Stories” section. Just click to read it.
ADVENTURES INTO DARKNESS / 10 issues
ADVENTURES INTO DARKNESS #5
Cover: (Hobo detects corpse-robbing fiend) – George Roussos
“Murder Mansion” (Alex Toth + Mike Peppe)
“Drury’s Dream” (Art Saaf) – one-pager
“Death Follows Orders” (Jerry Grandenetti, signed J.G.)
“The Phantom Hounds Of Castle Eyne” (Alex Toth) – one-pager
“Horror’s Little Acre” (Ruben Moreira, signed)
“The Phantom Warning” (???) – one-pager
“Day Of Reckoning!” (John Celardo)
“Murder Mansion” features a hidden signature “Peppe” on a van in panel 1 on second page. Follow the link to read the recolored version from the 1986 reprint on Karswell’s fantastic blog „The Horrors Of It All“.
“Death Follows Orders”: Best Grandenetti horror story I’ve ever seen. Mind you: the famous “Dr. Drew” stories from RANGERS COMICS, THE MONSTER and GHOST COMICS are probably NOT by Grandenetti (although signed by him), but by the master himself – Will Eisner. I know it’s more than irritating, but Jim Vadeboncoeur, Jr. thinks so.
And here’s our invitation to compare. Have a look at a Drew story on our FICTION HOUSE HORROR! Section – and then at his work for Standard. Do YOU think this is the same artist?
First entry for John Celardo. Crisp and clean, effective style. I think he is just fantastic. Celardo starts out as early as 1940 with Fiction House, but leaves there in 1949. He does two fillers and two ghost stories for ACG’s ADVENTURES INTO THE UNKNOWN in 1950 and then contributes mostly to Standard books.
There were only two full horror stories (Reckoning/ Serpent) credited to him at Standard before we started our investigation. I’m happy to say we are up to 4 now! Sadly, Celardo does almost no comic book work from 1953-57, then picking up the chores of the syndicated TARZAN strip.
“Day Of Reckoning!” by the way is a crazy story about a bird-woman being avenged by their fellow birds after her husband has killed her. Sounds a bit like Hitchcock there (birds attacking people and killing them). The film “The Birds” is from 1963, but was based on a 1952 short story by Daphne Du Maurier (as so often with Hitchcock).
ADVENTURES INTO DARKNESS #6
Cover: (Wedding ceremony on cemetery) – George Roussos
“The Groping Ghost” (Jack Katz)
“Mystery Of Mu” (???) – half-pager after advertising
“Corpse Convention” (George Tuska + ?)
“The Thing From The Sea” (Ralph Mayo, signed)
“The Strange Cats Of Killough Heath” (???)
“The Phantom Horseman” (Murphy Anderson) – two-pager
Writing critique: Have to revoke my suspicion from above (“DARKNESS #5 is not that insipid any more; maybe third time’s the charm”). Alas.
“The Groping Ghost” is terribly boring and drawn-out (8 pages!); any other company would have handled this plot in 5 or 6 pages. Not Ace, though. Ace did everything in 7 pages, but would have added a twist. Not better is “The Thing From The Sea”, lacking any surprise as well.
“Corpse Convention” really is okay.
But only “The Strange Cats Of Killough Heath” is insane enough to prove entertaining. Artwork is a mystery here – a wild guess: could this be Jack Katz inking Rocco Mastroserio? Grand Comics Database speculates on Frank Giacoia, but I don’t think so. Giacoia was a DC regular at that time (but did the odd horror job for Ziff-Davis!). It’s not that far-fetched. Hmmmm.
The text story “Return Of The Thunderbird” (about a giant Indian demon roaming the skies and causing planes to crash) would have made for a nice, action-packed comic story!
ADVENTURES INTO DARKNESS #7
Cover: (Monster dragging bodies through swamp) – Jack Katz
“The Pit Of Horror” (Mike Sekowsky + Mike Peppe)
“The Dancer From The Beyond” (Nick Cardy)
“Bride Of Death” (Jack Katz, signed)
“The Ghost That Warned A King” (Vince Colletta ?) – one-pager
“Death Drum” (Art Saaf)
“The Origin of ‘He Kicked The Bucket’” (Jack Katz + ?) – one-pager
The Standard horror covers by Jack Katz are beautiful: shrill, strange and colorful. In my eyes, Katz is no good artist, but most powerful in his quirkiness. Very well suited for horror stories.
His absence of any kind of elegance enhances the madness lurking behind every excursion into the supernatural, the brutal powerlessness of the protagonists in the face of incomprehensible evil.
“The Pit Of Horror” is nice and shows Sekowsky probing further (artwork-like) into Toth’s territory.
“The Dancer From The Beyond” is a cheesy and uninspired dance-to-the-death-plot. Cardy is good though – and will get even better.
You can find it in our „Stories“ section, though.
“Death Drum” is another music-themed story (two in one issue, may be a record), but in no way groundbreaking and most foreseeable. Nice to see some 50s “beatniks” featured – and some heavy lingo as well (“That was cool. Man, I’m beat.”).
Let’s take a short and wondrous break for this issue’s weird one-pager.
Everything you always wanted to know about bucket-kicking but were afraid to ask…
ADVENTURES INTO DARKNESS #8
Cover: (Zombies with shovels entering grave keeper’s hut) – Rocco Mastroserio
“Mark Of Evil” (Rocco Mastroserio, signed)
“Creepy Crossword Puzzle” (???)– half-pager after advertising
“Death’s Bridal Gown” (Sam Citron)
“The House that Jackdaw Built” (Alex Toth + Mike Peppe)
“The Fatal Strands” (Charles Sultan)
“The Twisted Hands” (Alex Toth + Mike Peppe ?)
Good news: five long stories in this issue. Bad news: the writing still isn’t in synch.
Coloring mistake in “Mark Of Evil” on page 2: Ann is a brunette, but in panel she’s blonde all of a sudden.
Again I shake my weary head in disbelief how misguided the writing is.
Standard put a real effort in creating as little suspense as possible: the plot idea about a camera able to show the future ends in a pedestrian wrap-up (killer gets caught after 5-panel-flight).
Quality and Atlas romance artist Sam Citron tries his hand at horror (just this one time) in “Death’s Bridal Gown” and produces a real clunker: the artwork can’t deny its romance roots and the writing presents nothing new. For the sheer fun of it, it’s posted HERE.
So all hopes rest on another Toth helping: “The House that Jackdaw Built”. And deservedly so. This tale about a robotic house with an electronic brain is refreshingly modern (and a bit more science fiction than horror), but who wants to complain regarding the wonderful art?!
And it’s a second Toth story later on with “The Twisted Hands”: bland revenge story as usual, but depicted with intense panels of cruelty and remarkable for Toth’s brilliant art.
“The Fatal Strands” is the first (of two) contributions by Charles Sultan and a delectable one. A crazy, twisted tale about a janitor murdering the landlady – and in turn being murdered by the landlady’s hair! Too bad that this was NOT written by a Standard author.
The exact same story (janitor, floors, landlady, murder, mop made from hair, hallucinations, death by hair) was published first (with different artwork though) in THE TORMENTED #2 (September 1952), named there “The Face On The Floor” (and done by Mike Roy, after he left Standard). Obviously a clever writer sold his story twice!
Fun part comes now: Another murder-hair story from Standard (“The Wig” in OUT OF THE SHADOWS #11, see there) will be revealed as a make-over from a story out of Fawcett’s THIS MAGAZINE IS HAUNTED.
I’m a nut for stories about HAIR actively committing murder!
Going to post “The Fatal Strands” on my German website soon, remind me… Done. There it is.
Postcript September 2013: Special treat!
Jason Willis produced a 30-second animated trailer to promote this book – just for fun.
We show you the cover, you click it and will see the animation. Enjoy!
ADVENTURES INTO DARKNESS #9
Cover: (Man turning into werewolf and dropping drinking glass) – ???
“The Hands Of Don José” (Alex Toth + Mike Peppe)
“The Three Monkeys” (Rafael Astarita)
“Phantom Of Flushing” (???) – one-pager
“Flowers On Deborah’s Grave” (Mike Sekowsky + Mike Peppe)
“Ghost Of Raynham Hall” (???) – one-pager
“Nothing Can Save Her” (Nick Cardy)
“The Hands Of Don José”: THE classic Toth horror story.
Does not make any sense, but fascinates the reader with pages of pure (and dark) psychedelia.
Posted on Karswell’s fantastic blog “The Horrors Of It All”
“The Three Monkeys” is not that bad.
The western intruder raiding an eastern temple shrine does not kill the priests living there (usual procedure in these stories), but is held captive and deprived of his eyesight.
Artwork is by Rafael Astarita, a veteran artist from the late 1930s! How did he end up here, doing a singular horror job for Standard?
Fed up with the comics business, Astarita left the field – after doing three horror stories (one for St. John, one for Avon and this one for Standard).
“Flowers On Deborah’s Grave”: If my hair wasn’t already grey, it would turn an ashen color – pondering over Standard’s horror scripts. What is this even about?
An old hag stalking a grieving father who lost his daughter. My mind refuses to acknowledge these stories; not because they’re sick or crazy, but because they are ill-conceived.
Did the old woman not KNOW that the father grieved for his DAUGHTER (it says so on that gravestone, “aged 17”)?
Why is there no motivation to anyone’s actions? Aaaarggh.
And then there’s “Nothing Can Save Her” – a nice, straight and well-balanced (though not surprising) vampire tale. These books are driving me nuts!
ADVENTURES INTO DARKNESS #10
Cover: (Huge skeleton shadow frightening woman in green dress) – Ross Andru ?
“The Man Who Could Not Die!” (George Roussos)
“Weird Facts” (???) – half-pager after advertising
“Me, Ghost” (Jack Katz, signed)
“The Hangman Who Was Hanged” (Art Saaf) – one-pager
“Strange Footprints” (Rocco Mastroserio, signed “Rocke”)
“Angkor – City Of Mystery” (Art Saaf) – one-pager
“The Evil Cornucopia” (Mike Sekowsky + Al Rubano ?)
“Romance Of Death” (???) – one-pager
This issue puts me in a forgiving mood:
“Strange Footprints” is standard Standard lore, but done very effectively (again) by Rocco Mastroserio. Wrapping up the issue with a nice work not by Toth, but Mike Sekowsky: “The Evil Cornucopia” shows the influence of his colleague. On a highly speculative basis this could even be Toth mimicking Sekowsky (see our remark about the “bet” the two artists had going)…
ADVENTURES INTO DARKNESS #11
Cover: (Man retrieving golden locket from incinerated corpse) – George Roussos
“Mission From The Grave” (Mike Sekowsky)
“Rider In The Storm” (???) – one-pager
“The Finger Of Guilt” (John Celardo) – two-pager
“Trophies Of Doom” (Nick Cardy)
“The Bride Of Death” (Jack Katz)
“The Bread Of Madness” (Mike Sekowsky + Mike Peppe ?)
Celardo’s “The Finger Of Guilt” runs in the same vein of ghost apparitions which make you wanna yawn.
“Trophies Of Doom” may be seen as the book’s highlight, though it does not refrain from the clichéd phrase “If I can’t have you… no one shall!” (what rejected lovers tell their partners shortly before killing them).
Making matters complicated at Standard: There are TWO stories with “Bride Of Death” in the title, and both are drawn by Jack Katz! Typical editorial slip-up…
It’s “Bride Of Death” in DARKNESS #7 and “The Bride Of Death” in DARKNESS #11.
This one is just a three-pager about a woman losing her groom at sea. Told in a matter-of-fact style with a hysterical bride and a kissing Death – not that bad.
“The Bread Of Madness” is lengthy, but not boring. The mad baker is a nice touch unseen before. Yet, the sudden comeback of the witch doctor (on page 7) spoils the story and winds it up with a rather disappointing run-of-the-mill poetic justice ending.
All in all your usual Standard horror comic book. Not bad, but something is missing. A certain momentum. Got no oomph.
ADVENTURES INTO DARKNESS #12
Cover: (Devils attacking mine worker) – ???
“Serpent Of Doom” (John Celardo)
“The Spectral Sergeant” (Jack Katz) – one-pager
(scroll down, there is “The Last Dance” posted as well)
“Horror’s Scrapbook” (???) – half-pager after advertising
“The Living-Dead Of Kulatum!” (Gene Fawcette
(scroll down, there is also posted a “Weird Maze”, a “Horror’s Scrapbook” and the other short story by Fawcette, “Nightmare Island”)
“Conspiracy With Death” (George Roussos)
“The Last Dance” (???) – one-pager
“The Gypsy Curse” (Jack Katz + ?)
“Nightmare Island” (Gene Fawcette, signed) – two-pager
The cover (a great one, by the way!) is a mystery. Who did this?
Up to now no one could put his finger on it. Is it Cardy? Is it Andru? Sekowsky even?
When Karswell posted “Serpent Of Doom” on his blog in 2007, a big discussion broke out if this could be artwork by Alex Toth. We know meanwhile that it’s John Celardo. But here we see again that Standard horror went for a house style – close to Toth.
It takes practice and an overall look at all their horror books and artists to distinguish between Toth, Cardy, Andru, Roy, Celardo, Sekowsky, Mastroserio and Saaf. Took me weeks of intensive study (and woken up at night I still might get it wrong).
Let’s have a look at the only three long stories of DARKNESS #12:
“Serpent Of Doom” comes out of the gate like a straight variation of “The Thirsty Idol” in UNSEEN #10 (published half a year earlier). A woman killing her husband for a prospect of riches, promised to her by a snake god. But here the woman smothers her husband at night – in her lingerie! (This sent prices for the book roaring up at Overstreet’s…)
After that the story takes another direction. Lydia becomes a serial wife and has finally to pay the price by turning into a hideous snake. Nice one, executed brilliantly by Celardo (that man is to be discovered, folks).
“Conspiracy With Death” is a bit tedious again, concerning the writing and art by Roussos – but impresses with two “silent” panels (a goodbye kiss forever + woman impaled on a fence).
“The Gypsy Curse” (though standard fare) comes up with a surprise – an open end. The evil nogoodnik Lou is not punished by death, but has to ail in poverty and madness, surrounded by two alike-looking weird women. A fresh twist of the ol’ poetic justice!
DARKNESS #12 is quite an excellent issue and one of the best in its run.
ADVENTURES INTO DARKNESS #13
Cover: (Skeletons having a music session in graveyard) – ???
“Feast Of The Ghouls” (Mike Sekowsky + Mike Peppe)
“The Haunted Hotel” (Gene Fawcette) – one-pager
“Paid In Full!” (Gene Fawcette) – half-pager after advertising
“Satan’s Pawn” (???)
“The Monster In The Maze!” (Gene Fawcette)
“Let’s Go Mad” (???) –
one-pager about mathematical puzzles (!) – presenting (amongst other things) the “largest number in the world”
“When Hell Broke Loose” (Gene Fawcette) – half-pager after advertising
“The Unbeliever” (Mike Sekowsky + Mike Peppe)
I like that comedic cover with the skeletons making music on instruments they couldn’t possibly master – because they have no lips!
We don’t know who did it, in my eyes there’s a touch of Sekowsky, but he’s only credited for a handful of pre-code covers, but indeed two JOE YANK title pages (also published at Standard, one of them just two months earlier).
I applaud “Feast Of The Ghouls” for tackling a topic not that popular in horror books – cannibalism.
I regret that they present it as suspenseless as possible and mix it with vampirism (nightly transformations, eating no normal food). The splash (what is that weird looking pig doing in the foreground?) reveals a lot, too.
I assume they went for the change of the human cannibals into the plump, blue-skinned beasts because they wanted to take off the edge. What a waste. Keeping the cannibals human would have conveyed so much more impact. I guess that is asking too much of an old assembly-line produced comic book…
Mystery artwork in “Satan’s Pawn”. I wonder if this could be a sloppy job by Nick Cardy. His hasty inks? Then again, Cardy had left the outfit by the end of 1953 and returned to DC. A farewell favor on the run?
The story makes the same mistake as many other from Standard – by telling the reader in the splash how this is going to end! So we get a step by step reconstruction of the journey into murderous madness of yet another art painter. The balloons in the final panel are irritating though.
Doctor: “Too bad somebody didn’t kill him!” – Sounds gross and cruel to my liberal ears.
Reporter: “There’s a lot more like him on the loose!”
Huh?! Waddya mean, bubba? I can’t even draw…
And here’s a real shocker coming up:
“The Monster In The Maze!” (no connection to the above puzzle – or is it?) is a nice fast-paced 4-pager, moodily executed by Gene Fawcette. The aftermath scene in the asylum would not have been necessary, but adds a disquieting dimension.
And it’s a Sekowsky/Peppe double feature in this issue with “The Unbeliever”. Nothing new here. A witch’s evil plans are thwarted and everyone lives happily ever after. This is lame and tame storytelling. A sad affair.
ADVENTURES INTO DARKNESS #14
Cover: (Man gone overboard approached by rowing skeletons) – ???
“The Garden Of Evil” (Mike Roy, signed)
“Murder By Movie” (???) – one-pager
“Weird Watson” (???) – half-pager (funny feature) after advertising
“The Outcast” (Rocco Mastroserio ?)
“The Frozen Death!” (George Roussos)
“Horror’s Scrapbook” (???) – one-pager
“The Curse Of The Ancient Devil Gods” (Rocco Mastroserio)
“Part-Time Lunatic” (???) – one-pager
“Ghosts In The Sky” (Gene Fawcette) – half-pager after advertising
“The Corpse Candle” (Gene Fawcette) – half-pager after advertising
The cover motif is unique. A drowning man floating helplessly in the sea being rescued by skeletons? Almost unsettling. We’ve seen this artist doing other Standard covers, but don’t know who it is. So, this is the last (published) issue of DARKNESS, let’s have our look inside.
“The Garden Of Evil” (click picture to read) is again a signed Mike Roy contribution and it’s a marvelous five-pager!
The old artists-in-rivalry topic is cooked up once more, but (I dare say) never that brilliant, compact and self-contained. Hats off to Mike Roy’s artwork as well, looking here like a blend of Sekowsky and Mastroserio.
The art in “The Outcast” looks like Mastroserio, but then again it doesn’t. Hmm. I think he’s inking someone. And I keep suspecting Jerry Grandenetti. But that is just one of those follies you get sitting at your table wracking your mind over these Standard books…
Dutch fifties comics expert Ger Apeldoorn claims to have spotted a hidden signature (frankly, I don’t) in the splash saying “SA” and thinks it is Art Saaf. Saaf’s son Steve mentions two stories his father did for DARKNESS; “The Outcast” is not one of them. That again is proof how HARD these artists are to tell apart, especially at Standard (as weird as it seems).
The story about a killer in alliance with Satan is inventive as well, but I have to point out that it is a variation of the 1953 “The Scourge Of The Undead” from Ace’s BEYOND #18 – to be found HERE on my ACE HORROR website. Valid story nonetheless.
“The Frozen Death!” is the third straight and enjoyable story in a row. Either I’m getting soft or Standard is getting good at the last minute. The artwork here could be the beginning of a collaboration of Mort Meskin (pencils) and George Roussos (inks). As we’ll witness in the next issue.
Though here it looks more like a Roussos solo job.
“The Curse Of The Ancient Devil Gods” would be a second work by Rocco Mastroserio – please compare with the dubious “Outcast”.
Pretty close in my eyes.
I’d root for Rocco in both cases. And a big surprise to me: the And-then-there-were-none story about cursed adventurers in the jungle again is not a bit boring! This is the first (and I really believe only!) Standard horror comic book without a massive clunker concerning the writing!
The decision to pull the plug on the horror comic books must have been made in June 1954, after publishing DARKNESS #14. Given a two month in advance publication schedule, Standard put out a last UNSEEN #15 in July and the last SHADOWS #14 in August, because they were already in the printing pipeline.
The next issue of DARKNESS however, they killed in production. The original art of that #15 had been drawn already and emerged at the entrepreneurial Eclipse company in the 1980s.
ADVENTURES INTO DARKNESS #15
(unpublished at that time) –
printed for the first time in SEDUCTION OF THE INNOCENT 3-D #1 (Eclipse 1985)
Cover: (Underwater skeleton cutting off air supply of diver) – George Roussos
“Death Dives Deep” (Gene Fawcette, signed)
“The Evil Ones” (Mike Sekowsky) – one-pager
„That Stray Cat“ (Mike Roy)
“Charms” (Mike Sekowsky) – one-pager
“Gift Of Murder” (Alex Toth + Mike Peppe, signed “Scott”) – two-pager
“Harvest Of Death” (Mort Meskin + George Roussos)
“Do You Believe” (Gene Fawcette) – one-pager
“Tryst With Terror” (Mort Meskin + George Roussos)
The wonderful artwork of this issue has been COMPLETELY posted on Karswell’s fantastic blog “The Horrors Of It All”. Scroll down to see the one-pagers as well.
That would have been another title page by Roussos, which makes him the most employed Standard cover artist.
“Death Dives Deep” features beautiful art by Fawcette, the story (done by the artist as well!) is pure formula – and I dare say negligible.
„That Stray Cat“ is a rather bland, but fairly entertaining venture into cat horror. Can’t go wrong with cat stories – or stories involving women looking like cats. Or both, even.
“Harvest Of Death” really is a far gone story about a vineyard fertilized with human blood! The panels depicting how human bodies are dragged over the ground are nothing less than haunting.
“Tryst With Terror”, the other Meskin/Roussos collaboration is fun as well: The moody panels of the female killer robot disposing of its victims are highlights of the horror genre.
DARKNESS #15, the comic book that never was, allows us a peek into a parallel history. What if the Comics Code would not have happened? We would have gotten more of the same, surely, but still oftentimes enjoyable material.
We will include these stories in our artists’ page count, coming up:
|52||Mike Sekowsky||(mostly inked by Mike Peppe)|
|40||George Roussos||(14 with Mort Meskin)|
|31||Alex Toth||(with Mike Peppe)|
And bits and pieces by George Tuska, Jerry Grandenetti, Rafael Astarita, Ralph Mayo, Sam Citron, Charles Sultan, Ruben Moreira, Mike Roy, possibly Frank Giacoia and unidentified artists.