Call Of The Wild

Charles Biro and Bob Wood rightfully deserve credit for creating – and perfecting – the crime comics format that swept through the latter half of comics’ Golden Age. Jack Cole, however, kicked the genre into another gear altogether with his contributions to Magazine Village’s True Crime Comics title.

Of all of Cole’s crime comics, “Murder, Morphine And Me” from True Crime Comics #2 is easily the best remembered thanks to Dr. Fredric Wertham (there’s that name again) and the infamous “injured eye motif” panel. That selfsame issue, though, contained other tales that were just as outrageously brilliant.

As an example, here’s Cole’s take on the legend of Sawney Bean, a mass murderer and cannibal who led a 48-member clan that reportedly terrorized Scotland in the 1500s. Cole admittedly plays fast and loose with the “facts,” but his characteristically breakneck storytelling skills and genre-bending art that somehow balances out humor and horror creates an unforgettable story that would stand out in any era of comics.

From True Crime Comics #2 (Magazine Village, May 1947), here’s Jack Cole’s “Demons Dance On Galloway Moor.”

True Crime

True Crime 02-26

True Crime 02-27

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Murder, Morphine And Me

Jack Cole’s “Murder, Morphine And Me” could well be the most notorious comic-book tale in the history of the medium.

Fans these days get all hot and bothered when a super-hero hires the personification of evil as a divorce attorney, but Cole’s feverish morality play was so outrageous for its day that it became the central attraction of Dr. Fredric Wertham’s infamous campaign against comic-book “depravity.”

The scene shown at the top of this post is so powerful and disturbing that it has achieved iconicity. Such notable comics creators and scholars as Art Spiegelman and Chip Kidd have expounded at length on the story’s artistry, which retains it’s visual and narrative power to this day.

The story originally appeared in True Crime Comics #2 (Magazine Village, 1947), but the following pages were taken from Eclipse Comics’ 1986 reprint, Mr. Monster’s True Crime #1. The Mr. Monster collection was compiled by cartoonist Michael T. Gilbert, who hired Ray Fehrenbach to recolor the contents.

Now that’s a pre-Code comic!