Standard’s flagship 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.
THE UNSEEN / 11 issues
THE UNSEEN #5
Cover: (Gnarly monster tree ripping at male victim, skeletons lying around) – Ross Andru ?
“The Blood Money Of Galloping Chad Burgess” (Alex Toth + Mike Peppe)
“Spectral Ships” (???) – half-pager after advertising
“Shadows In Pawn” (Abe Simon ?)
“The Hungry Lodger” (Jerry Grandenetti)
“The Devil’s Stones” (???) – one-pager
“The Nine Horrors” (Ross Andru)
(click miniature splash to read)
Standard comes crashing out of the gate with its first horror comic book and surprises with brilliant artwork.
Three out of the four stories (plus two small “filler” features) are simply astonishingly beautiful.
Alex Toth’s first horror story ever is almost a milestone. And Grandenetti and Andru are keeping up with him in this issue. As will many of the artist working on Standard’s horror books.
The downside: the writing is bad and unbalanced. “Chad Burgess” is unmotivated and erratic, “Hungry Lodger” slips into a giant monster action stereotype, “Nine Horrors” works with a ridiculous assumption and “Shadows In Pawn” is just kind of pathetic. Wotta shame! Will they be getting better?
Looking closely at the splash page from “Nine Horrors” you will find that in the left corner newspaper clipping some artist names are hidden: „simon / perlin / peppi“ (=Peppe). We speculate this to be some inside joke from Andru (or the letterer) for his friends and colleagues. This is no hidden signature for the artwork, it is surely Ross Andru.
THE UNSEEN #6
Cover: (Car crash victim fleeing through swamp and being pursued by pale, bearded fiends) – George Roussos ?
“The Phantom Bus” (George Roussos)
“Ghost Portraits” (???) – half-pager after advertising
“Bayou Vengeance” (Jack Katz)
“Dr. Death” (Art Saaf)
“Mirror Of Hate” (Ross Andru)
“Peg Powler” (Alex Toth) – one-pager
“The Eerie Glen” (George Roussos)
Enter Jack Katz at Standard – looking a bit similar to Roussos in this early phase.
Again an interesting issue: a double feature by George Roussos, a crazy Jack Katz tale, the wonderful Ross Andru stays true to the UNSEEN and makes his second horror contribution – and we have here the most beautiful one-pager by Alex Toth: “Peg Powler”.
The scripts are okay (high point being “The Eerie Glen”) and even the two-page text story (“Death By Darkness”) is quite good, credited to a certain John Marvin.
THE UNSEEN #7
Cover: (Plane crash victim being stalked by pale, female vampire) – John Celardo
“The Betraying Hands” (Mike Sekowsky + Mike Peppe)
“The Ghosts In Blue” (Art Saaf) – one-pager
“Moon Madness” (Jack Katz, signed)
“The Smiling Man” (??? + Ralph Mayo)
“Vampires” (Jack Katz) – two-pager
“Time Is The Killer” (Ross Andru)
“The Betraying Hands”: O not, not again a mad art painter story! Standard leaves out no cliché. Guilty hands working on their own, getting amputated, coming back from the grave to strangle their evil owner… booooring… as seen in so many other stories of that time, and stretched into 8 pages, where 6 would have been enough.
“Moon Madness” starts promising, but dissipates into a formula huntdown of a werewolf. “The Smiling Man” is a crime story. It’s quite nice and fits well into its 5 pages, but it’s a crime story – without any supernatural element.
Highlight of the issue surely is “Time Is The Killer”, a mad tale about bodies stored in grandfather clocks. In his Standard overview published in TALES TOO TERRIBLE TO TELL, George Suarez was fascinated by the sheer ridiculousness of the ending. Two clocks moving around a house and entering an upstairs (!) bedroom. The story is posted on my German website – to see click on underlined title.
Enter Mike Sekowsky into the artists’ line-up. He seems to have comer over from Ace Magazines, where he contributed a fine lot of horror stories up to the end of 1952. Maybe he was lured to Standard by his friend Alex Toth. It is almost shocking to see how marvelous his artwork will bloom from now on. Sekowsky’s best horror work can be found in the books to come. He is partly mimicking Toth by the way.
Thereby hangs a tale: Jim Vadeboncoeur, Jr. (who loaned me books and advised me on the artwork) was a good friend of Toth. One day they were talking over the phone and Toth revealed to Jim that he and Mike Sekowsky had a bet going.
Sekowsky would do a story in Toth’s style and Toth would draw one in Sekowsky’s style! The atmosphere around Standard was playful and enthusiastic – as is mirrored in these graphically breathtaking first issues. Sadly Toth didn’t tell WHICH those stories were. They seem to have gone through with their prank. Maybe we will offer a candidate later on…
THE UNSEEN #8
Cover: (Giant skeletal hand reaching for horse-drawn carriage in flight) – Nick Cardy ?
“The Vengeance Vat” (Mike Sekowsky + John Celardo)
“Graveyard Of The Atlantic” (???) – half-pager after advertising
“The Phantom Train” (Ray Osrin ?) – two-pager
“The Accusing Fiddle” (John Celardo) – one-pager
“The Ring Of Horror” (Morris Marcus ? + Rocco Mastroserio)
“Blood On The Speedway” (Mike Sekowsky + Aldo Rubano)
“Satan’s Bullet” (John Celardo) – one-pager
Particularity in this issue: only three “long” stories (8, 8 and 7 pages) instead of the usual four. Plus three “short” ones (1, 1 and 2 pages).
“The Vengeance Vat” is a rather tedious I-killed-someone-and-now-am-being-driven-insane-by-hallucinations story.
Been there, seen that, got the t-shirt!
“The Ring Of Horror” is another bland tale not ending on a shocking twist, but more fading out in a way which makes the reader shrug his shoulders. Though it ends badly for all characters involved, it does in no way grip you.
“Blood On The Speedway” can be filed under “okay”. Straight story with a nice twist I didn’t see coming.
Best story of the whole issue is the two-page text piece (“The Eternal Stooge”): Aspiring actor Larry Simms ends up as stooge for comedian Mac Horton. They both go to hell and have to perform the same routine for all eternity – in front of an audience incapable of laughter. That would have made for a better comic story than the others!
And – a short intermission – we post a Standard one-page „quickie“.
THE UNSEEN #9
Cover: (Zombie carrying woman in yellow dress to her ready grave) – Art Saaf ?
“Your Grave Is Ready” (Mike Sekowsky ? + Ross Andru)
“Creepy Scrap Book” (???) – half-pager after advertising
“The Rat Man” (Jack Katz)
“The Wailing Woman” (George Roussos) – one-pager
“Till Death Do Us Part” (Ralph Mayo)
“The Bleeding Platter” (Ross Andru + Mike Esposito, signed “Mikeross”)
“The Phantom Hitch Hiker” (Art Saaf) – one-pager
On his index card for UNSEEN #9 Jim Vadeboncoeur, Jr. sees possible pencilwork by Mike Sekowsky in the first story (“Your Grave Is Ready”), which looks more like an Andru job. The story has been reprinted in Eclipse’s SEDUCTION OF THE INNOCENT #6 (April 1986). Therein Jim Vadeboncoeur, Jr. writes a foreword and credits the story to the team of Ross Andru + Mike Esposito.
First I thought: “Ah, the index card is older, and he revised it when looking at the stories for the Eclipse edition”. Then I noticed that he had corrected his own card with my red pen when we met in Paris – and let the Sekowsky hunch stand.
Welcome again to the hellish task of art spotting. I find it particularly difficult with Standard’s horror line. They encouraged a “house style” (based on the fantastic work of Toth) and in my mind the panels of Sekowsky, Andru, Saaf, Roy, Cardy, Esposito, Peppe, Celardo, Mayo seem to blend into each other. I relied heavily on Jim’s expertise here.
“Your Grave Is Ready”, the werewolf tale, is strangely anaemic – if you’ll excuse the pun. Though the art is again brilliant, we feel for none of the characters – and so did the writer(s).
A formulaic nothing. Even the girl’s grisly death (the whole of page 5!) leaves the reader bored and uninterested. Read it though on Pappy’s delightful „Golden Age Comics Blogzine“ (scroll down to second story!)…
“The Rat Man” is a refreshing five-pager for a change. Straight rat horror, thank you.
Again it’s Jack Katz who got assigned the most entertaining story. See it posted on „Fifties Horror!“.
“Till Death Do Us Part” (Click miniature splash to read): Siamese twin stories are never bad, this one is. How could they possibly pull off that ending? When it’s clear from the beginning that every twin shares the pain of the other? Which is of course the biggest nonsense of them all. Reminds me of the old Woody Allen joke: One twin took a bath – and the other got clean.
“The Bleeding Platter”: Got the feeling I’ve seen this story somewhere else… but can’t find where. It’s crazy, it’s absolutely fantastic (a bit too fantastic: a potter creating living pottery? How?!). And it feels trimmed and shortened (that’s why I’m hoping there is a longer version out there, a longer version which would make more sense than these five pages).
Postscript April 2013: Found something.
Not the hoped for longer version, but a different one – in Fawcett’s THIS MAGAZINE IS HAUNTED #12 (August 1953).
A society dinner, the lady of the house looking for exquisite pottery, a mad potter creating life-like pieces and the lady ending up as just such one on the dinner table. It’s all there, indeed making a bit more sense in this later version.
“The Store At The Cemetery” puts the pottery shop next to a graveyard; the potter is no beatnik here, but a rather sinister looking ghoul.
Postscript November 2014: There you are! Found that longer version I was looking for!
It’s called „Design for Death“ and (oddly enough) published one-and-a-half-years LATER (August 1954) in THE TORMENTED #2 – the second and last horror book from Sterling Comics.
Here we are treated with 7 instead of 5 pages. Same story, same personnel, same text in most places. But now rendered by Bill Ely, in a quirky and interesting way.
The book is online at Digital Comic Museum (click HERE if you like)… It’s fun to compare all three stories – and try to guess which version is the one the author imagined in the first place.
And presenting you the shocking finale of that dinner party, this time done with a three-dimensional head!
THE UNSEEN #10
Cover: (Living mummy forcing man into sarcophagus) – Jack Katz
“The Vengeance Of Mark Denton” (Art Saaf + Mike Peppe)
“Death Warmed Over” (Mike Sekowsky + Mike Peppe)
“R.I.P.” (???) – half-pager after advertising
“The Cup Of The Dead”
(Jack Katz, signed)
“Eyes Of Evil” (???) – one-pager
“The Thirsty Idol”
“Haunted Houses” (Rocco Mastroserio) – one-pager
Good news: Writing is getting better. Even if still a bit too long, “The Vengeance Of Mark Denton” surprises with charming character studies (the justice of the peace on pages 4 and 5!) and a gratifying twist.
Great artwork by Sekowsky/Peppe in “Death Warmed Over”, but the fast-paced story is totally out of balance and makes the reader wonder if this was meant to be some kind of murder mystery riddle. Bummer!
“The Cup Of The Dead” is another wasted story. Up to page 5 it proves quite fascinating (which will be the real “Cup of Death”?), but dissolves into a disappointing formula ending.
“Eyes Of Evil” is a one-page “filler” story which would have fitted into the line-up of fillers produced by Ace.
Glad to tell you that “The Thirsty Idol” is this issue’s gem: Six pages and none of them wasted. We get a creepy bloodthirsty idol, spousicide by a ruthless woman, a plane crash in the jungle, a treasure-laden temple – and lots of blood.
See it posted on „Fifties Horror!“.
THE UNSEEN #11
Cover: (Green monster fiend with lantern lurking over man held by jaw trap) – Jack Katz
“The Sealed Coffin!” (John Celardo)
“The Songs Of St-Saens” (???) – half-pager after advertising
“Fright Cry” (Mike Sekowsky + Mike Peppe)
“A Father’s Phantom” (Rocco Mastroserio) – one-pager
“The Wolf Dancer!” (Artie Saaf, signed)
“Revenge At Glamis Castle” (Jack Katz) – one-pager
“Interlude For Death” (Jack Katz)
“Two Deaths To Die!” (“Little Al”) – one-pager
Note for artist credit in the one-pager “Two Deaths To Die!”: Jim Vadeboncoeur, Jr. identified this as a man he dubbed “Little Al” – at loss for a real name. You will find 8 sightings of “Little Al” indexed on Grand Comics Database!
But let’s look at the “biggies”:
The writing is surely taking off into a more dark direction, as we’ll see in “The Sealed Coffin!”.
A misanthropic masterpiece about blasé movie stars not caring for human life. A boy’s death, a pillow smothering and a creepy disease create an atmosphere of slight nausea.
Hardly paralleled in any other Standard book, let alone by the products of the competition. In addition, Celardo shocks us with a (dynamically drawn) vicious beating of a lady on page 8.
Though nonsensical in the end (the toy locomotive showdown!), “Fright Cry” is moving and even unsettling (a woman trying to murder a child under her protection).
Another woman gets slapped deftly in the face (and shortly after that killed) in “The Wolf Dancer!”, making UNSEEN #11 probably THE most misogynist horror book ever…
This story is nothing special though; a dancer learns a wolf dance and turns into one.
Domestic violence also occurs in “Interlude For Death”, a story about a pact with death. Stalling his demise (depending on a potted plant, oddly enough) old Jethro becomes a mean and evil person. Not especially inspired is Katz’ artwork (I wonder if this is really a solo job, aren’t these Mastroserio inks?).
Underlined stories are posted on Karswell’s fantastic blog “The Horrors Of It All“ – to read click on titles.
THE UNSEEN #12
Cover: (Long, whitehaired zombie risings from swamp and frightening couple in rowboat) – Nick Cardy ?
“Edge Of Darkness” (Mike Roy, signed)
“The Screaming Skulls” (Gene Fawcette ?) – one-pager
“Weird Facts” (???) – half-pager after advertising
“The Beast Within” (George Roussos)
“The Helmsman” (George Tuska)
(reprinted in SEDUCTION OF THE INNOCENT #6, Eclipse)
“Grip On Life” (Alex Toth + Mike Peppe)
“The Thing In The Well” (Gene Fawcette, signed) – one-pager
“The Thing From The Dark” (George Roussos)
(Attention, Toth lovers! The Italian Gianluca Maconi runs a beautiful blog called “The Alex Toth Archives” where he has posted almost every story by this exceptional artist – in the best possible quality! To get there follow our link to “Grip On Life”.)
The last issue (UNSEEN #11) was a pleasant surprise in so far that the writing flexed muscles in an off-beat way. Promising. Let’s have a look what this Roussos double feature book has to offer.
“Edge Of Darkness” (a witch’s evil plans are thwarted) is so straight and telegraphing its outcome all along the way that it lacks any surprise or suspense. Mike Roy looks like a crossover of Toth and Roussos – with strangely cartoony witches on page 2.
Exactly the same criticism goes for “The Beast Within”, including a wild bear in attack mode looking astonishingly cute (last panel on page 6).
Highlight of the issue is the Toth 4-pager “Grip On Life”. A tight, compact and original story about a wife’s love for her corrupt attorney husband. There’s loss, there’s grief, there’s even a good dose of suspenseful crime in here!
“The Thing From The Dark” is highly delectable rubbish about a man caught in a cave-in and turning into a bloodthirsty mole (yes, mole!). A monster mole going on a rampage and finally killing the people who locked him in that cave. Made me laugh. Thumbs up!
As always: posted stories are underlined – click to see.
THE UNSEEN #13
Cover: (Skeletal groom carrying skeletal bride over the doorstep) – ???
“The Death Wish” (Mike Sekowsky + ?)
“The Accursed” (Gene Fawcette) – one-pager
“Scream In The Night” (Mike Roy, signed)
“The Get-Away” (Gene Fawcette) – one-pager
“Death Tolls The Bells!” (Gene Fawcette, signed)
“The Hole Of Hell” (Alex Toth + Mike Peppe) – two-pager
“A Shroud Of Vengeance” (Rocco Mastroserio)
“Retribution” (John Celardo) – two-pager
“The Dew Men” (???) – half-pager after advertising
“Werewolf Of Paris” (???) – half-pager after advertising
Welcome back to Standard hodgepodge with “The Death Wish”.
I name the ingredients, you make up a plot: A pilot in the jungle rescued by natives. A hidden treasure. Greed. Murder. Return to civilization. Vengeful spirits. ‘Nuff said.
“Scream In The Night” in contrast is simply gorgeous! Probably Mike Roy’s best work, a moody story told entirely by night – about a sadistic truck driver killing animals. You see the twist coming, of course, but it’s still a great six-pager.
And we have to mention a refreshing one-pager (see “The Get-Away” posted just below).
“Death Tolls The Bells!” makes use of some lines from Edgar Allan Poe’s poem “The Bells”. Thus claiming literary respectability for itself.
“The Hole Of Hell” is another (meanwhile rare) contribution by Toth and Peppe – and only two pages long. Too short to draw any interest and/or come up with a satisfying story arc (let alone an explanation for the “black monster”), but great artwork. We post it HERE.
Finally “A Shroud Of Vengeance” emerges as the issue’s baddie. A disfigured guy seeking revenge on a society that shuns him, Abel Brendon even dons a cape (!) on his mission to flood the town by bursting the dam.
Reminds me of two stories from Ace. A disfigured artist on a crusade against beauty (and also sporting a cape on his mission) in “Horror On Canvas” (BAFFLING MYSTERIES #6, January 1952) and the poor shunned goon wanting to flood the town in “Vengeance From A Restless Grave” (HAND OF FATE #9, February 1952).
There’s too much alike to count as coincidence. I dare say the Standard writers cleverly blended these two into their own “A Shroud Of Vengeance”.
THE UNSEEN #14
Cover: (Skull faced woman and skeleton waiter frighten man at dinner table) – ???
“Monsters Of The Deep” (Ralph Mayo)
“Grim Grins” (???) – half-pager (funny feature) after advertising
“No Rest For The Dead!” (Gene Fawcette)
“The Fifth Corpse” (Rocco Mastroserio + ?)
“Do You Believe…?” (Gene Fawcette) – one-pager
“Death Reaches Out” (Mike Sekowsky + Mike Peppe ?) – two-pager
“Skeleton’s Gibbet” (Rocco Mastroserio)
“Horror’s Scrapbook” (???) – one-pager
“Crime And Punishment” (Rocco Mastroserio) – one-pager
Color mismatch on the cover (see it posted below). The title logo loses itself in a reddish blur against that orange curtain. Why not black? Or a dramatic blue?
UNSEEN14 definitely is a Mastroserio issue. Two long stories and a one-pager. Note that he looks different in these two stories. I guess he’s solo in the second and inked by someone in the first. But who knows for sure?
“Monsters Of The Deep” has been credited to John Celardo. As much as I would like that, I revoke and put Ralph Mayo in his place. Who appears for a “cameo” after ten months of absence. The story about a cruel tribe of mermaids capturing a human is surprisingly good. Though the golden-age-old question remains how a human can be breathing underwater… tssttssssttss… ahh, we’ll never know.
“No Rest For The Dead!” is another delightful surprise: the story is told by no other than Death himself. What a perfect host for horror.
“I am Death” begins his narration about a sadistic undertaker killing the girl he loves and brings her back from the dead to be his zombie lover!
This tale runs in the same vein as “Bride Of Death” in DARKNESS #7, but is more elegant. “No Rest For The Dead!” is surely the best three-pager in Standard’s horror output.
The undertaker’s name by the way is Lethan Krewal – quite a brilliant tongue-in-cheek pun (lethal / cruel).
Next story up is “The Fifth Corpse”, told in that “You”-narrative I do like so much. Doesn’t disappoint. Though the twist is a bit over the top, but refreshing.
They are suddenly going someplace. This feels weird now. Three stories in a row – and not a clunker so far?
Even the text story (“Icy Fingers”) following now is fun entertainment. A young man is sexually harassed by an invisible ghost, loses his girl over this new relationship and ends locked away in the asylum. Creative, almost mind-blowing plot for a horror book. Again written with a deft touch of irony.
And then the old uninspired Standard writing returns in “Death Reaches Out” – but only for two pages.
So it all comes down to the last long story, “Skeleton’s Gibbet”.
It proves to be the small drop of bitterness for an else great horror comic book. The second Mastroserio job is not a bad one at all, even has nice touches (the gambling payback scene, the all-knowing servants), but is your usual murderer-is-haunted-and-punished tale.
There. I said it.
THE UNSEEN #15
Cover: (Man in barber chair encounters razor wielding skeleton) – Mort Meskin + George Roussos
“The Monsters of Harlow Caverns” (George Roussos + Mort Meskin)
“The Missing Man” (George Roussos + Mort Meskin) – one-pager
“Hand Of Glory” (Mort Meskin + George Roussos) – half-pager after advertising
“Stronger Than Death” (Mike Sekowsky + Mike Peppe)
“Date With A Corpse” (Mike Sekowsky + Mike Peppe)
“Cellini’s Night With The Demons” (Gene Fawcette, signed)
“The Curse Of The Undead!” (Rocco Mastroserio)
“The Man They Couldn’t Bury” (Gene Fawcette) – half-pager
“Masks For The Dead” (Gene Fawcette ?) – half-pager
“The Ghost Hunter” (Mort Meskin + George Roussos) – two-pager
The cover sports the signature “MR” which has been interpreted as either “Meskin & Roussos” or “Mike Roy”. We believe it to be Meskin and Roussos, because they used this signature in their stories for the (unpublished!) DARKNESS #15 (see entry there). They are teaming up now and will be collaborating sadly only for this UNSEEN issue, cause it is the last. For one more “MR” see SHADOWS #14.
“Hand Of Glory” is Standard’s best half-pager, posted right HERE.
Let’s make this short, people. This is one of the most boring horror books I’ve ever read. Except for the three-page short feature by Fawcette (beautifully done and posted in our „Stories“ section). And of course except for “Date With A Corpse”:
This surely would have made Dr. Wertham’s day. But it is July 1954, the damage is long done already. Straight necrophilic version of “Bride Of Death”, a story Jack Katz illustrated one and a half year earlier in DARKNESS #7.
No mad science, no life giving potions, just a sick gravedigger wanting to get his hands on a woman – dead or alive.
The deadly embrace of rigor mortis plays much more better here, even if it is the exact same twist ending as in the 1952 version.
“Date With A Corpse” (posted under this link on „Fifties Horror!“) is credited to Sekowsky + Peppe, but there is a definite touch and feel of Toth about it. The Prankster strikes again – Who knows?
The rest of the stories are so utterly run of the mill that the mill would protest if it could.
And on that fine note we shut the doors on THE UNSEEN and come to our artist assignment count.
Who did what and how much?
Because Standard story lengths range from a half up to nine pages, we won’t count the jobs, but the pages executed per artist:
|59||Mike Sekowsky||(mostly inked by Mike Peppe)|
|39||George Roussos||(11 with Mort Meskin)|
|15||Alex Toth||(with Mike Peppe)|
And bits and pieces by George Tuska, Jerry Grandenetti and unidentified artists.
That is surprisingly little Toth in THE UNSEEN and most stuff is done by trusty work horses like Sekowsky, Mastroserio and Roussos.